Archive for September, 2011

Drain the Swamp

Swamp Thing #1

Alec Holland used to be a scientist, and he used to be Swamp Thing, and he used to be dead. And he’s not any of those things anymore. He’s lying low working as a construction worker, unwilling to return to his scientific work with plants and definitely unwilling to become a swamp monster, even though he never actually was the Swamp Thing, even though he’s got the Swamp Thing’s memories cluttering up his skull. And even more bizarre, plants still love him. They grow fast around him, they like to coil themselves around him.

He soon gets a visit from Superman, who asks him if he’s aware of the various species die-offs taking place across the country — Holland is, but notes that isn’t all that uncommon — large numbers of animals die all the time, sometimes for reasons of sickness, sometimes for no apparent reason at all. Superman wants to check to see if Holland is adjusting alright to his return from the grave. And Holland can’t really tell him everything’s all that great. He’s worked on his old bio-restorative formula, but abandoned it. And he’s having weird dreams about plants. And where no one’s aware it’s happening, some sort of monstrous abomination, part alive, part dead, is beginning a rampage.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I know everyone else seemed to love this one, but it just rubbed me the wrong way. It was creepy in places, but tried a little too hard to look like Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing stories. I was bugged by the lack of anything explaining Alec Holland’s current backstory — not all of us paid any attention to how Swamp Thing changed during the “Brightest Day” storyline. And I was really a bit irritated that Swamp Thing himself never appeared in the story ’til the last page. Sorry, but I just didn’t buy all the buzz.

The other interesting thing about this issue is that it’s just about the first place outside of promotional artwork where you can see what Superman’s new costume looks like.

And it’s not good.

Yanick Paquette is one of the best artists DC or anyone else has. You don’t see him drawing stuff that looks bad — pretty much everything he draws looks awesome. And if he can’t make the Man of Steel’s costume look like something other than a bucket of boiling crap, no one else is going to be able to do it either.

Morning Glories #12

We get introduced to a brand new character in this issue — Lara Hodge, the guidance counselor at the Morning Glory Academy. And she’s not happy with the way things are being run. Students are being killed, the head nurse is a sadist, the headmistress is only effective at terrorizing students. Hodge arranges meetings with most of the main cast of students, giving Zoe a gun, giving Jade some pills to help her sleep through her nightmares, and she tries to comfort Casey, who’s still grieving over her dead parents. But is Hodge just another sticky strand in the Academy’s web, or can she really do something to help the students?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lara Hodge is an interesting character, and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of role she’s going to have in the story. Other than that, plenty more intrigue and mystery, and all the things this series does so well.

Today’s Cool Links:

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International Super Teams

Justice League International #1

Well, the UN is putting together their own team of superheroes in answer to the newly-formed Justice League, and the diplomatic bureaucracy hammers out a group of mostly random misfits, including Booster Gold (as the team leader, because they figure he’ll be easy to control), Guy Gardner (who immediately quits the team because he can’t stand the idea of Booster leading them), Vixen, Fire, Ice, Godiva, Rocket Red, and August General in Iron. The UN specifically removes Batman from consideration, but he invites himself along anyway. Their first mission sends them to Peru to look for a missing research team — but what they find instead is an ambush by lava monsters! Can the team pull together to deal with this threat — and the far worse threat that comes behind it?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This one isn’t trying to convince us that the New Rebooted DC is the greatest thing since sliced bread. It’s just putting out a decent superhero comic — and these days, that’s unique and wonderful enough all on its own. Gotta admit some of the choices for the team are surprising — I like August General in Iron, but he seems even less likely than Guy to accept Booster Gold — or anyone else — leading a team he’s on…

iZombie #17

There’s an all-out zombie apocalypse taking place on the streets of Eugene, Oregon, and that’s the worst time for a knock-down, drag-out between the government-sponsored monsters of the Dead Presidents and the undercover monster-hunters in the Fossor Corporation. And even worse is the fact that Gwen, a zombie, and Spot, a were-terrier, are stuck in the middle of it. All this while mad scientist Galatea has a face-to-face meeting with Kovsky, a disembodied brain in a coffee maker, Ellie makes a new friend who just escaped from Galatea’s lab, Spot’s chimpanzee grandfather seeks shelter in the diner, and Gwen discovers an unsettling truth about how she died.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of action, lots of drama. The art by Michael Allred is, as always, outstanding, and Chris Roberson’s storytelling skills are still top-of-the-heap. Of course, the big problem for Gwen in all of this is that there’s a lot of fighting going on, and a lot of people who want to kill her — and she doesn’t really specialize in being able to fight…

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Friday Night Fights: Pain Calculation!

Ladies and germs, let’s get this sucker rolling right quick — it’s Friday night, and it’s time for FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Today’s battle comes from March 2009’s Birds of Prey #126 by Tony Bedard, Claude St. Aubin, and John Floyd, as the villainous Calculator tries to work up a plan involving a computer virus and a bunch of nanobots to neutralize the equally villainous Kilg%re:

As it turns out, Calculator gets better. A lot better. And after that, the Birds of Prey stomp his butt. Evil never wins, Calculator! Except in real life!

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Static for the People

Static Shock #1

Well, here’s one of the DC Reboot books I’ve really been looking forward to — the sole survivor of the Milestone Media characters acquired by DC.

Virgil Hawkins, the teen electricity-and-magnetism-powered hero called Static, has moved with his family from Dakota to New York City, where he’s gotten a part-time job working for S.T.A.R. Labs. After depowering a technician who was running amok while wearing an experimental plasma protection suit, Static is surprised when the man is shot dead by persons unknown. Turns out the man was stealing the suit for a criminal organization that’s decided that Static needs to die now, just in case the technician told him about them. We get some great character work with Virgil’s family and his new mentor, Hardware — but Static gets a nasty surprise when he’s attacked by an assassin called Virule.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great to see Milestone get some representation in the Rebooted DCU, and it’s especially cool to see that Hardware is going to have a strong supporting role in this comic. All that plus Static’s fantastic attitude and family come through just fine. I hope we’ll see more of Static’s old supporting cast here, too. Still not sure why the character had to be transfered to the Big Apple, but I’ll take it as long as it gets us some Milestone goodness.

Atomic Robo: The Ghost of Station X #1

Robo gets an urgent call on Tesladyne Island about a team of astronauts trapped aboard a crippled space station — and he and his team of mad-science geniuses are the only hope for rescuing them. After brainstorming furiously, they cook up a wildly improbable plan that could only work in a comic book or an action movie — and which is still going to involve colossal risk to the pilot — namely, Atomic Robo. All that plus a missing house in Britain, exiled scientists in Norway, and an experimental jet, and the plan can’t fail, right? Right?

Verdict: Thumbs up. But you’re going to have to be prepared for a very talky script. Of course, I think that’s a good thing — the best way to watch mad scientists brainstorm is with a few pages of mad scientists brainstorming their way through a bunch of mad science gobbledygook. Luckily, there are the jet planes and the insane science stunts, so that’s another bonus.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Good news! The sick are healed, the poor are comforted, war is ended! Surely that’s the only reason this Holy Dork has time to get pissy about Superman saying, literally, “GD” in a comic book, right?
  • This is a really excellent hidden-camera prank. It’s all in Spanish, but the prank is definitely universal.
  • Here is your disturbing but hilarious video for the day.

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Action Heroes

Action Comics #1

Here’s the comic that probably should’ve been the first out of the blocks last week for the DC Reboot — but of course, this one wasn’t being worked on by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, so “Justice League” had to go first. But this one is by Grant Morrison, so you can probably bet a decent sum of money that it’ll be better.

This is, obviously, a Superman comic, and it should be equally obvious that it’s not the familiar Superman we’re all used to. This is a young Superman at the beginning of his career. He wears blue jeans, work boots, a T-shirt, and a cape. He can’t fly, but he can leap tall buildings in a single bound. He’s not as strong as the Superman we’re used to, but he’s real strong, real fast, and getting stronger and faster all the time.

And hold on to your hats — the Man of Steel is a hardcore, unapologetic liberal with a mad-on for corporate malfeasance.

We get introduced to Superman after he charges into a skyscraper and terrifies a mega-rich corporate tycoon into confessing to his crimes by jumping off a building with him. The police are helpless to stop him, and Lex Luthor is working with General Sam Lane to figure out a way to capture him. After Supes prevents the demolition of a tenement filled with people and eludes the cops, he changes into his Clark Kent, crusading reporter, pays his rent, and tries to warn Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen (who are working for a rival newspaper? What the heck?) about going after a gangster. But when Luthor decides to crash a subway car, will Superman be able to save the day?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’ll admit — I was not actually expecting a lot from this. What we got was an interestingly different Superman and Clark Kent, with the same political sensibilities he had back when he was initially introduced in 1939. The action, as you’d probably expect from something called “Action Comics” is first-rate, but really, the thing that makes this so interesting is Superman’s personality — man of the people, infuriated by injustice and the way the law and the police work almost entirely for the advantage of the wealthy, and more than a bit arrogant about his powers, especially since he’s never run into anything that could seriously challenge him. This could turn out to be one heck of a cool comic.

Batgirl #1

And here we get introduced to the new version of Barbara Gordon — former Batgirl, victim of a spinal cord injury courtesy of the Joker — and a woman who had a miraculous recovery after three years in a wheelchair. Now back in costume as Batgirl, she takes down a bunch of home invaders, despite her lingering fears of gunshot wounds. She moves into a new apartment with a new roommate, but gets called back to action to help defend the leader of the home invaders from a villain called the Mirror — a murderer who specializes in killing people who have survived where they should have died — and he might have Barbara Gordon in his sights, too…

Verdict: Thumbs up. The “miraculous recovery” might be seen as a cop-out to get Babs Gordon out of her wheelchair and back into a bat-costume, but since there’s clearly something big that’s going to be explained at some point in the future, I’m willing to give it a pass. At any rate, I’m very glad to see this character being written by Gail Simone, who is one of the few writers I think can be trusted to do right by Batgirl, no matter what.

Today’s Cool Links:

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For a Muse of Eyre

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

This is a novel I’ve been thinking of reviewing for a while. It’s “The Eyre Affair” by a Brit named Jasper Fforde. It’s a really unusual book — the background itself is one of the best selling points of the book and the series, so let’s take a look at that in a little more detail.

The story is set in an alternate universe — it’s the ’80s in England, the monarchy doesn’t exist, the UK and imperial Russia have been fighting the Crimean War for over a century, the country is mostly ruled by an evil megacorp called the Goliath Corporation. Time travel is fairly common, as is cloning — dodos are now common pets, wooly mammoths roam the British countryside, and neanderthals are members of English society.

And the biggest change — literature, especially classic literature, is hugely popular. We’re talking popularity on the level of professional sports or long-running TV shows or major religions. People rename themselves for their favorite literary characters. People take pilgrimages to museums where the first drafts of famous novels are stored. Literary controversies are major elements of political elections. Book crimes are so common, there’s actually a branch of the police that investigates them.

Which brings us to our main character — a woman named Thursday Next, who is a member of the Literature Detective division of SpecOps. Her father was a former time cop, now erased from history but somehow still able to drop by for occasional visits. And her Uncle Mycroft is a mad scientist who specializes in inventing sometimes useless inventions that are nevertheless amazing and impossible.

Thursday has to help capture a supervillain named Acheron Hades after he steals the original manuscript of Charles Dickens’ “Martin Chuzzlewit,” but the raid goes bad, several SpecOps agents are killed, and Thursday is hospitalized. And soon, Hades kidnaps her uncle and aunt and takes Mycroft’s greatest invention — the Prose Portal, which allows people in the real world to enter novels. His ultimate goal? To kidnap Jane Eyre — from Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre,” naturally — and hold her for ransom. Can Thursday save British literature? Can she stop the evil and spectacularly powerful Acheron Hades? Can she get revenge on the Goliath Corporation? Can she survive entering the surprisingly dangerous world of “Jane Eyre”? Can she find true love? And what effect will all this lunacy have on her future and career?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Yeah, it has classic British literature as its focus point, but you shouldn’t let that fool you into thinking it’s a stuffy textbook. It’s amazing how much humor and action get packed into this one. It’s an extremely clever and engaging sci-fi/fantasy novel, with outstanding characters, dialogue, intrigue, and excitement, and it’s the type of thing that can get you addicted fast — which is a good thing, because there is a whole series of Thursday Next novels out there for you to enjoy. But you should definitely start with the first one, so go pick it up.

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A Dose of Awesome: MODOK!

Putting a solid definition on what precisely “awesome” means is one of the most difficult tasks out there. What makes a robot or a pirate or a shark or a chainsaw so awesome? As compared to lots of other very nice things? It’s really hard to say exactly. Ultimately, they’re awesome because they’re awesome, and that’s the only definition we can come up with.

But sometimes, things are awesome just because they’re so unbelievably weird and funny. That’s when you know we’re talking about MODOK.

So who is MODOK? He’s Marvel’s Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing. He’s got a giant head, a floating chair, tiny arms and legs, and a pompous attitude. He runs the evil science organization called AIM. Oh, and it seems he stole Steven Tyler’s mouth.

He has rare moments of badassery — deeply offset by truly spectacular failures — and this is mainly because MODOK is hilarious. He’s got an immense head and itty-bitty limbs! He’s ugly as sin! His minions wear yellow beekeeper outfits! And despite all the failure and humiliation, lots of people love the stuffin’ out of him, specifically because he’s so awesomely weird.

I actually think I trace the current MODOK renaissance to the great Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #9 in 2007, which featured the Avengers being temporarily turned into MODOKs. It’s one of the funniest issues of a deeply fun and funny series, and I think it was the first time I realized that I wanted to see more of MODOK just because he was such a schmuck.

In summation: MODOK: even adorably kid-sized, he’s still dorky, and he’s still awesome.

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Friday Night Fights: Silver Hammer!

Oh, sweet mercy! It’s finally September! It doesn’t mean autumn is here, but maybe, maybe it means we’ve got a chance of finally escaping from this endlessly long, endlessly hot, and endlessly dry summer. And that alone is worth celebrating with a little… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight, we’re going with November 1990’s Silver Surfer #43, by Jim Starlin, Ron Marz, Ron Lim, and Keith Williams, as the Sentinel of the Spaceways unleashes some whupass on a bunch of pesky robots.

Mmmm, silver, so nice and cool. I feel cooler already! Thanks, Silver Surfer!

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Fun with Freaks!

Well, I never read any of “Flashpoint,” so you won’t get a review of that here. And I’m not a big fan of Geoff Johns anymore — I don’t like Brian Michael Bendis at Marvel, so why should I want his new clone working at DC? — so I didn’t pick up the new “Justice League” either. But don’t worry — there were plenty of other comics released this week…

The Goon #35

A new issue of “The Goon!” And it’s written by Evan Dorkin! The Goon and Franky stumble onto a creepy circus called Brigadoon’s Dreamland Carnival — and the entire thing is run by sideshow freaks! The freaks accept both Franky and the Goon — because heck, why wouldn’t they? But while looking around the carnival, our heroes discover that the entire thing is geared around torturing and murdering innocent normals. That’s too rotten for even Franky to stomach, but can even the Goon survive the Midgets of All Nations, the Ossified Man, or the monstrous Ten-in-One?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Very good, very funny, and fantastic action. Evan Dorkin and Eric Powell should team up much more often, ’cause this was the most fun I’ve had reading a comic in ages.

Secret Avengers #16

So they said, “Hey, Scott, Warren Ellis is gonna be writing the ‘Secret Avengers’ comic.” And I said, “Yeah, sign me up for that.”

Our team includes Steve Rogers, Hank McCoy, the Black Widow, and Moon Knight. They’ve been sent on a mission deep underground, in one of the secret cities of the late and unlamented Secret Empire, because they’ve detected Von Doom Radiation — one of the radioactive emissions of time travel. They soon learn that a group called the Shadow Council has taken over the city and built a time machine large and powerful enough to annihilate the city above it — and any other city on the planet. Can four people stop an army and eliminate this threat to the planet?

Verdict: Ehh, kinda on the fence about this one. The action is good, the scale of the threat is impressive, and the dialogue seemed fine. But I just didn’t find myself as charged up about it as I expected. Maybe I got my hopes up too high?

Rocketeer Adventures #4

The anthology tribute to Dave Stevens‘ grand retro-pulp action hero wraps up with a trio of tales. First, Dave Gibbons and Scott Hampton take us beachside as the Rocketeer tries to save a champion surfer’s rare heirloom surfboard. Next, Joe Pruett and Tony Harris bring us a story of Cliff Secord’s trip under the sea as he takes on a Japanese submarine. And finally, John Arcudi and Brendan McCarthy introduce us to the Aeronaut, a Nazi rocketeer with a superior version of Cliff’s suit.

Verdict: Thumbs up. All the stories were a bucket of fun, with wonderful art and tons of outstanding pulp-hero action. My lone complaint about this issue — as it’s been with every issue of this series — is that we don’t get any of Dave Stevens’ classic stories to enjoy.

The Amazing Spider-Man #668

With tons of New Yorkers discovering their own spider-powers, Spider-Man is at a distinct disadvantage — his fellow superheroes can’t tell the difference between his imitators and the real deal! So the Wall-Crawler gets benched, but he still figures out a way to help — pretending to be just an ordinary New Yorker who’s discovered new spider-powers, he makes a video calling for other empowered New Yorkers to come help fight the bad guys. And of course they do — in droves. Swarms, even. Mayor J. Jonah Jameson deputizes everyone, and Peter Parker and his girlfriend Carlie Cooper get put in charge of weaponizing Spidey’s old high-tech costumes and later realize that the Jackal is probably behind all of this. How much trouble are they going to get into inside one of Miles Warren’s old hideouts? Probably a lot…

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story behind this seems to be developing pretty well. We get some great action, fun dialogue, and a lot of crazy superheroics. This one has been a lot more fun than I was expecting.

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