Archive for January, 2013

Let’s Talk about Sextillion

This is something that’s been bugging me for the last couple of weeks.

I was surfing around the Intarwebz and landed on this Wikipedia page that listed Superman’s powers. We all know that Supes pretty much hit the superpower lottery — he’s got just about everything, and he’s got more of it than just about anyone else. But there was this bit that bugged me:

After being saturated with yellow solar energy in All-Star Superman, his strength was tested as exceeding the force of 200 quintillion tons (or 2×1020 tons, in scientific notation, i.e., two hundred billion billion tons), enough to pull the Earth away from the sun. As of The New 52 reboot, his strength now exceeds 5.972 sextillion metric tons.

I’m willing to buy that for “All-Star Superman,” when, again, he’d been overdosed on solar energy — and the focus of the story wasn’t on his physical strength. But the New 52 bit just annoys me, partly ’cause they’re just trying to one-up Morrison’s story, and partly ’cause it’s just so stupid. Here, lookit this panel from the Reboot’s Superman #13:


And here are the panels, if that’s too small to read. First, the technician helping test Supes says this:



And Superman replies:


This bugs me, and not just for the arrogance the Man of Steel is flashing here.

Really, that level of strength is freakin’ unrealistic. Yes, even for a superhero comic book. Especially for a superhero comic book. Bench-pressing the planet is stupid — and I felt the same way when Grant Morrison had Superman, Wonder Woman, and Martian Manhunter do it all the time in the classic “JLA” series.

Being powerful enough to juggle planets may be a power fantasy (but I don’t know anyone who fantasizes about juggling a planet — juggling bullies, sure, planets, no way), but it makes for boring storytelling.

Where’s the challenge for someone who can juggle a planet? Got a comet on the way to hit Earth? Juggle the planet out of the way. Lex Luthor has a new robot? Is it heavier than the planet? Toss it aside. Lex Luthor got a chunk of Kryptonite? Swat it out of the solar system before it actually reduces your powers or causes you any serious harm. Or have Wonder Woman or the Martian Manhunter or Apollo do it for you, ’cause it’s been pretty well established that they’ve all got Superman-class strength.

Challenge comes from being able to be challenged, and the DC Reboot just prioritizes a few creators’ feeble egos and shallow fantasies above good storytelling.

Superman was a better character back when John Byrne was writing him in the mid-’80s — not just because Byrne was a better writer, with a better grasp of the Man of Steel’s personality and motivations, but because he understood that Superman was more fun to read about when he couldn’t juggle a planet.

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King Skull


Uncanny Avengers #3

Well, the Red Skull has done a bad, bad thing. He’s dug up the body of the late Charles Xavier, pulled out his brain, and grafted parts of it into his own brain to give himself powerful telepathic abilities. Now he’s using those powers to turn New Yorkers against each other, specifically by giving them the ability to sense mutants, then goading their bloodlust high enough that they’ll attack and kill anyone who they perceive as a mutant. And he’s got a pack of superpowered allies who are working to create even more chaos. Can the Avengers help? Well, yeah, except for Captain America having to fight through the Skull’s mind control to resist succumbing to mutant bigotry. And Wolverine losing his mutant healing factor. And Thor defecting to the bad guys.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Really ramping up the pressure on this one, and it’s all quite nicely done. Lots of hopeless situations and tension, which is exactly what a new series like this needs. John Cassaday’s art is great, of course — but I do wish his attention to detail didn’t mean that the series was already running behind. More issues should’ve been in the bag before the first issue was released.


Wonder Woman #16

Diana meets Orion and one of her new half-brothers, Milan, who can puke up an infinite number of bugs and see anything in the universe. Zola and Hera go out for drinks. And the guy who just got dug up in Antarctica (I don’t think they’ve yet said who he is — I’m betting on Prometheus) beats up a bunch of frost giants.

Verdict: Thumbs down. It was mostly pretty dull. The good stuff wasn’t particularly good, and the dull stuff wasn’t particularly good either.

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Friday Night Fights: Round Robin!

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your eyes; I come to bury the workweek, not to praise it. The evil that men do lives after the beer run; The good is oft interred with — well, also with the beer run; So let it be with… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from July 2012’s Batman Inc. #1 by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham, where Robin gets to do this:


One panel, multiple butt-whuppin’s. That’s a kid who knows how to live it up.

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Mask of the Medusa


Batwoman #16

Yet another issue of the most beautiful comic book on the stands. The Medusa and her monstrous minions are laying waste to Gotham City in an attempt to raise Ceto, the mythical Mother of All Monsters. We get a check-in — and sometimes co-narration! — with almost every character we’ve met since this comic began, including Batwoman, Maggie Sawyer, Wonder Woman, Cameron Chase, Director Bones, the Hook, Bette Kane (with an all-new costume!), la Llorona, Maro, and even the Medusa herself. It’s a mad, chaotic war zone as all the chessmen take their positions on the board…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Once again, the most beautiful comic book on the stands. If that’s not enough, it’s a really fun piece of storytelling, too. I love seeing all these characters coming together, with all their agendas and fears and ambitions playing off each other, all working up to something truly epic and apocalyptic. I only wish we could’ve seen Joseph Kane in here, too — he’s just about the only major character we don’t see here.


FF #3

Apparently, the only survivor of the Fantastic Four’s journey into outer space is an elderly Johnny Storm, with the others all victimized by Doom the Annihilating Conqueror, an amalgamation of Dr. Doom, Kang the Conqueror, and Annihilus. Scott Lang tries to persuade Darla Deering to return to the group — an effort that quickly goes all embarrassing when the Yancy Street Gang targets her with a whipped cream bomb and then snaps some photos of Darla half-dressed. Can Ant-Man convince Darla to rejoin the FF? Can the team figure out a way to save the seemingly long-dead Fantastic Four?

Verdict: Thumbs up. There’s spectacular energy in this one. From the mystery of John Storm to the effort to recruit Darla to the Moloids’ trip underground, there’s crackling excitement here. While we’d expect that energy in a chase down a skyscraper’s stairs, we also get it from a mostly static scene with Johnny and Wyatt Wingfoot. Yeah, Matt Fraction is writing a very fun comic, but this feels like a Michael Allred comic from beginning to end.

Today’s Cool Links:

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The Pure Wholesomeness of the Silver Age

From February 1966’s Batman #178 by Robert Kanigher, Sheldon Moldoff, and Joe Giella:



‘Cause the Silver Age was so very wholesome, right?

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Devil vs. Devil


Daredevil #22

Matt Murdock is out of a job and running out of money. Even worse, it’s rumored that he’s gone completely insane — he hasn’t, but that doesn’t stop Spider-Man from coming after him. But this isn’t the Peter Parker we’re familiar with — this is the Superior Spider-Man — Dr. Octopus in Spidey’s body, trying to be a hero and feed his own supervillain ego at the same time. Daredevil suspects something’s funky — Spidey’s not making with his trademark wisecracks. But before they can get into a serious fight, they discover that Stilt-Man is in town and preparing to rob a helicopter. And Stilt-Man has made some upgrades — to Spidey’s fury, he’s used some of Doc Ock’s technology to improve the reach, flexibility, and strength of his legs and his arms. Can Daredevil stop Stilt-Man, make nice with Spider-Man, and get his old job back? And what’s the dire secret Foggy Nelson is hiding?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good story, good art, excellent action and characterization, and some amazing drama at the end. I think this “Superior Spider-Man” nonsense is entirely garbage — part of the “any stunt for a sale” mentality that’s plagued comics for the last decade or two. But Waid sells it just fine while still giving Daredevil all the space he needs keep his starring role in the comic.


Ame-Comi Girls Featuring Power Girl #4

We get our introduction to the Ame-Comi version of Power Girl, who nicely fuses Superman’s “most powerful hero in the world” status and heroic attitude with Karen Starr’s entrepreneurship and public relations savvy. After rescuing Jimmy Olsen from pirates, she’s giving a product demonstration at her futuristic megacorp when she’s attacked by a mysterious armored figure who’s almost certainly a female Lex Luthor and a bunch of underlings wearing Silver Banshee powered armor. Can Power Girl survive Luthor and the Silver Banshee’s high-powered attacks? Who’s in the rocketship that just crashed at the Kent farm in Kansas? And why do the Manhunter robots want her so bad?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray wrote the best Power Girl series ever, so I’m not at all surprised that I enjoyed this. But what is surprising is how much this version of PeeGee differs from the one in her self-titled series. I love the way her personality takes a dash of Superman’s “I just want to help everyone” spirit, a pinch of Booster Gold’s “I just want to sell products” ethos, and turns it into a unique “I just want to help everyone by selling them products” attitude. It’s a very fun twist on her personality. On top of that, there’s plenty of action and humor. The art is a little bit funky, but it actually seems to match up pretty well with the style of the Ame-Comi statuettes that inspired the series.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Dearly Unloved


Batgirl #16

Well, the Joker wants to marry Batgirl, and he’s got a horde of henchmen holding guns on her to make sure she goes through with the ceremony. But once he pulls out a chainsaw and announces his plan to cut off her arms and legs, she thinks better of it and starts trashing his lackeys. And then James Gordon, Jr., Barbara’s psychotic brother, shows up, brandishes some hand grenades, and tells Batgirl that he’s already freed her mom. That leaves Batgirl free to really cut loose on the bad guys. Will she be able to keep herself from killing the Joker? Or is she about to get hit with a double-dose of betrayal?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent action, drama, suspense, characterization, so very many double-crosses, and a completely nerve-wracking cliffhanger. Is it any wonder why Gail Simone is DC’s most popular writer?


Freelancers #3

Val and Cass have discovered that the kung-fu orphanage where they grew up, the House of Little Fortunes, has been taken over by the unscrupulous Drachmann and their rival Katherine Rushmore, who’ve turned it into a fast-track ninja factory. Our heroes are outmatched — until Drachmann raises the stakes by telling them what happened to their old sensei…

Verdict: Thumbs up. The action is really good. The humor is really good. It may be a bit predictable, but to be honest, I didn’t mind too much. It’s a kung-fu epic — one does not expect the old sensei to make it to the final reel.


Captain Marvel #9

It’s a very, very busy day for Carol Danvers — and most of it involves perfectly mundane chores. At least until a crisis with dinosaurs on the loose derails her To-Do list, forcing her to reschedule everything…

Verdict: Thumbs down. I guess it’s a kinda cute “Day in the Life” story, but it’s really just a bit too mundane. And worse than that is the art. Ye gods, the artwork is horrific. I haven’t seen art this bad in a mainstream comic from the Big Two in a very, very long time. Bad form, Marvel.

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The Art of Storytelling


Womanthology: Space #4

This issue’s tales include a fable about imagination, theft, and storytelling by Jody Houser, Sally Thompson, Kathryn Layno, and Robbie Robbins; a mystery on a deep-space exploration ship by Devin Grayson, Lindsay Walker, Ronda Pattison, and Robbie Robbins; and a story about a strange being found floating, alive, in the vacuum of space by Christine Ellis, Elva Wang, and Robbie Robbins, along with a how-to article and some pin-ups.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent stories, fun art, and all-around enjoyable comics. Hope you’ve been picking this anthology series up.


Worlds’ Finest #8

Someone knows that Huntress and Power Girl are on the trail of something important and decides to stop them. That leads to assassins trying to kill Huntress — she manages to stop some and scare off the others, but she takes a serious gunshot wound and has to be rescued by Power Girl. And while Huntress recovers, Power Girl goes on a worldwide hunt for the people who tried to kill her friend.

Verdict: Ehh, thumbs down. There’s plenty of action, but not a lot of any sense that anything important is going on here. It felt like a placeholder issue, and not much more than that.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • I can hardly believe I, of all people, am having to do this, but if you’re tempted to believe any of the BS getting spouted by those Sandy Hook Truthers, read this Snopes article debunking their crap immediately. And if you’re still going to be tempted to believe them, I’m going to come to your house and beat you to death with Olympus Mons.
  • Is Barnes & Noble going to last much longer? Are they in the process of closing their stores down right now? And if so, what does it mean for the future of book publishing in America?
  • The people making the Atomic Robo comics are some of the smartest people working in the industry.
  • I kinda like the idea of a supercomputer that can’t stop swearing.
  • And speaking of swearing, Dame Judi Dench is possibly the most awesome person around.

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Guns n’ Posers


So, it looks like it’s time to talk politics again.

See, there’s this video from the crazy guy who plans to go out and shoot people, possibly randomly, possibly not, if there’s anything at all done about gun control. He started thinking all the talk on the news about him shooting his mouth off was just plain awesome publicity, ’cause he was somehow building an army of supporters who would help him wage war against the government and defeat tyranny. He probably has changed his opinion about all that publicity since then, ’cause his home state of Tennessee said, “Whoops, man, you’re completely crazy and a likely danger to other people, so we’re revoking your gun licenses.”

Here’s how I feel about gun control issues. I’m generally okay with folks owning guns. I know folks who live in the country or in the mountains — they own guns because they sometimes have dangerous wild animals come on their property, and because it takes a half-hour for the cops to come if they call. I know folks who hunt, and folks who like to shoot at the range, and folks who own a gun for protection (though I kinda suspect they’d be more likely to shoot themselves in a crisis). And I’m okay with them owning that stuff.

I don’t see any reason for people to own machine guns or armor-piercing ammo. And I don’t have a single solitary problem with banning those. It’s called a “well-regulated militia,” and “well-regulated” doesn’t mean “not regulated.”

But aaaaanyway, back to the crazy in the video. These guys actually amuse me a bit. The guys who talk about raising an army of gun fanatics to go out to fight the tyranny of the duly-elected black guy in the White House. ‘Cause real life is not a Stallone or Bronson movie. It’s not a John Wayne Western. It’s not “Red Dawn.”

Real life would, if he was lucky, see this twit shot down by the cops in about 30 seconds. If he was unlucky, he’d shoot a few cops, and then he’d get mowed down by the SWAT team and his family might spend a few years in jail for aiding and abetting. If he’s really unlucky, his War Against Tyranny would go bad wrong, and he’d accidentally shoot a mailman, or a housewife, or a preschooler, or a bunch of preschoolers, and he’d get mowed down AND he’d hit front page news and convince even more people to support gun control.

And if he’s really, really, really unlucky, he or some nimrod he or the NRA are encouraging will shoot at some politician. Then the feds will stick every gun-humping wingnut in the pen or Gitmo, investigate every NRA member down to the lint in their bellybuttons, shut down the NRA in a heartbeat… and they’d do it with the support of an overwhelming majority of the American people, too. ‘Cause Americans enjoy a little smacktalk, they like violent movies and games, they enjoy fantasizing about being the hero with the giant high-caliber hand-cannons defeating the bad guys. But they don’t actually like non-pretend violence. It freaks ’em out, and probably justifiably so. Pretend violence is fun in movies. Real violence leads to real people getting real dead. And people who run around inflicting violence on other people tend to become very unpopular and go to prison for a long time.

Ask the once-popular militias in the ’90s how they liked it when McVeigh blew up the Murrah building in Oklahoma City. The atmosphere got pretty damn chilly, and most of the militias closed up shop quick.

So yeah, the dude’s crazy, but he’s almost funny. He thinks he’s gonna overthrow the government with a half-dozen hicks carrying sawed-offs. You almost wanna watch him try — hillbilly with an AK vs. a bunker buster, place yer bets — if only it weren’t for the chance that he’d put a bullet in someone who didn’t deserve it.

Seriously, we comic geeks love heroic storytelling. We love stories about heroes, both super and otherwise. We read books and comics about superheroes, we play games about superheroes, we watch movies and TV shows about superheroes. But we generally have enough of a grasp on reality that we don’t try to fly off a building or bounce bullets off our chests. ‘Cause fantasy is fine… but you just don’t want to get it confused with reality.

And it strikes me that some of these gun fanatics think the real world plays by the same rules as “The Expendables” or “The Matrix.”

Again, I’m fine with probably 90% of the guns in the U.S. staying right where they are. I would, however, be much happier if the loons who think they can whup the biggest army in the world with a half-dozen pea-shooters, would siddown, have a spoon full of peanut butter, and start thinking of the world a little more realistically. It’s not good for the world when the comic fans are the ones with their heads screwed on straight when it comes to fantasy vs. reality…

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Friday Night Fights: Twin Twouble!

Citizens, gather ’round! If it is Friday (and it is!) and it is also night (ehh, close enough!) and if we are all highly anticipatory of looming comic-book violence (and we are!), then it must be time for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight, our noble organizer Spacebooger has insisted on a theme: doubles. Could be characters with double initials, could be double punches, but I’m going with the obvious choice — doubled characters!

So, from October 2010’s Supergirl #55 by Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle, here’s Supergirl taking on Bizarrogirl!





And remember to head out to Spacebooger’s place and vote for your favorite fight! Not just this week, but every week!

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