Archive for June, 2013

Friday Night Fights: Veil of Pain!

Well, it’s the last weekend of June, and we all know what that means. It means July is almost here. And it’s going to start getting even hotter and more miserable. But we’ll have to take whatever meager comfort we can get from the weekend and, of course, from… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from January 2013’s Avengers Academy #39 by Christos Gage, Tom Grummett, and Cory Hamscher. In the final issue of the series, Veil is left on the outside, the only member of the team to completely lose her powers. So she goes back to high school. And everyone knows how much high school sucks, right?




Those are what we call “Prepare for an Asskickin'” eyes.






Yeah, the great thing about being a superhero has got to be getting a crash course on how to beat the crap out of everyone in the world.

Y’all have a great weekend — stay cool while you can…

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Robots! Dinosaurs! Science!


Atomic Robo and the Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur #1

Huzzah! New Atomic Robo! And more Dr. Dinosaur! It’s the greatest day in history!

In the aftermath of the “Ghost of Station X” storyline, half the planet thinks Robo is an arms smuggler, even though he’s been cleared of all charges, and his population is way, way down. He hears about reports of cryptids sighted in Venezuela, realizes it’s near the site of Science City, where the Nazis ran their space program, so he takes a small team out to investigate. And while Robo is out of town, someone ships Tesladyne a nuclear bomb. Whoa, what? Someone’s trying to frame Robo! And in Venezuela, Robo and his team run into… DOCTOR DINOSAUR! (Not too shocking, since his name’s in the title.)

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s Atomic Robo! It’s Dr. Dinosaur! WHY IS THIS NOT SELLING BILLIONS OF COPIES RIGHT NOW?!?


The Green Team #2

While the Riot, a team of weird and possibly cloned villains, attack Mo Qahtanii and his new, incredibly wealthy friends, J.P. Houston slips actress Cecilia Sunbeam a technodisk that outfits her with a cybersuit similar to the one that Commodore Murphy is wearing. Unfortunately, neither Comm nor Cecilia has a clue how to operate a cybersuit. Cecilia and J.P. end up falling into the Hudson, and Comm ends up stopping his set of enemies with an old version of the Batmobile that he bought. Comm ends up crashing at Mo’s place, where he learns that Mo has been his primary rival for auctions of superhero gear, mostly in an attempt to learn more about Comm and how to become financially successful. And J.P. and Cecilia crash at a fancy hotel, where we learn that they’re secret lovers — and Cecilia learns something unfortunate about the cyberarmor’s effects on her.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Definitely better than the first issue. A lot more character work, even if what we learn is that Cecilia is shallow and rich, J.P. is headstrong and rich, Comm is idealistic, a bit stupid, and rich, and Mo is spectacularly innocent and naive and rich. Still, nice action, fun art, and a lot more fun to read.


X-Men #2

Arkea, John Sublime’s technology-possessing twin sister, has possessed the electronically-enhanced body of Karima Shapandar, the Omega Sentinel. She smacks Beast around but has a bit more trouble with Rogue. Kitty Pryde is sent after her, since she’d be able to phase through her and destroy the electronics of her body. Arkea makes a strategic retreat, and the X-Men take off in pursuit.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice action, beautiful art, fantastic characterization. Nice to see Rogue back as a superstrong bruiser, and mohawked Storm is just endlessly badass, even when she doesn’t throw a single lightning bolt the entire issue. And Jubilee is just amazingly grand. I’m really enjoying this one so much so far.

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The Reinvention of Francis Tsai

It’s been a heck of a long time since I did anything on all of the comic artists who have come from Lubbock — mainly because I don’t live there anymore, and it’s hard to remember to do them. But I found a good excuse to revisit the series…

Francis Tsai grew up in Lubbock — moved here from Hawaii when he was about six years old, but attended college at UT in Austin, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Physical Chemistry and a Masters degree in Architecture.


He’s done work in a lot of different areas. He worked on an ongoing story in Marvel Comics Presents called “Vanguard”. He also did covers for Marvel on different titles, including “Marvel Adventures Iron Man,” “Marvel Adventures Spider-Man,” “Heroes for Hire,” and a one shot called “Exiles: Days of Then and Now.” He also worked on a book called “Tracker” for Top Cow a few years back.

He was also a regular freelancer for the game company Wizards of the Coast, working on Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and other projects. He illustrated a cover for PCGamer magazine for an issue focused on zombie games, as well as a lot of video game design work, and published a book on designing and painting fantasy characters called “Fantasy Art Academy: 100 Ways to Paint the Coolest Fantasy Figures.” And he contributed art to a book called “Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology.”


Well, after that, things got rough. In 2010, he was diagnosed with ALS. And it barely even slowed him down.

He lost the use of his hands. So he started drawing with his toes. Then he lost the use of his feet. So a friend set him up with a computer program that would let him draw with his eyes. Here are a couple examples of the work he’s doing now.



I’ll assume that thunk I heard was the sound of your jaw hitting the floor.

Now Francis and some of his colleagues have put together a Kickstarter project for an art book called “RE:INVENT” dedicated to inspiring artists to reinvent themselves to allow themselves to escape from creative ruts and create the artwork they’ve always dreamed of doing. They’ve already gotten funded, but there are still 20 days left to go in the campaign. And if you like Francis’ art — both then and now — you should consider tossing them some coin. The artwork they’ve got so far is absolutely amazing, and the more money they raise, the better it’s going to get.

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Baby Boom Tube


Wonder Woman #21

With the monstrously powerful First Born and his henchwoman, the cyborg demigod Cassandra, prepared to kill Zola and use her baby Zeke to destroy the world, Wonder Woman and Lennox are having trouble slowing the villains down. Orion shows up to help, but he’s not managing to tip the scales too much over on the good guys’ side either. Orion drags all of them along into a boom tube to escape, but the First Born actually holds the tube open so he can get to them. Is there any escape?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great art from Cliff Chiang, fun writing from Azzarello. Excellent action, a nice cliffhanger ending for one character, and a modernized take on Jack Kirby’s Fourth World.


Uncanny Avengers #9

The Avengers are in disarray — while Wonder Man helped Captain America escape from Hydra, Cap also had a secret meeting with Kang the Conqueror, who revealed that the future of seven different timelines are threatened by current events. And the Apocalypse Twins revealed to Thor that Wolverine has killed dangerous mutants as a member of X-Force. As a result, Cap wants Logan — and any of his supporters — off the team. And it doesn’t help that everyone is still arguing about Havok’s controversial rejection of his mutant identity. And worse is on the horizon — the Apocalypse Twins have assembled a new quartet of the Horsemen — the ominously-named Four Horsemen of Death…

Verdict: Thumbs down. Ye gods, is this ever a talky comic book. There are so many word balloons in here, you could use ’em to float a house. The Apocalypse Twins talk to each other so they can provide exposition for readers. Kang does the same. Wolverine does the same. And Rick Remender lets Scarlet Witch function as his mary-sue mouthpiece so he can try to defuse the controversy he caused by turning Alex Summers into a self-loathing mutant. (It doesn’t work, by the way — Remender’s rationalizations are still insulting.)

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Friday Night Fights: Bane Pain!

We had a short break from the battles last week, but we’re back on schedule for this weekend. Break out the Funyuns and Yoo-Hoo, kids — it’s time for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from May 2009’s Secret Six #7 by Gail Simone, Nicola Scott, Doug Hazlewood, and Rodney Ramos. Bane has dosed himself with a little Venom, and he’s ready to party!





That’ll do it for me this week — see y’all on Monday morning.

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Crock and Roll


Batwoman #21

This might be the first issue of this series that includes less-than-beautiful artwork — but it’s still absolutely perfect for the story being told.

Our focal character is Killer Croc, most recently seen transmogrified into the Hydra by Medusa’s magic. After the defeat of the Medusa, he was taken in by the were-creatures of the Church of Crime, slowly recovered, and took a lover, a snake woman named Claire. After the death of Abbot, the Church wants a new leader, and they’ve decided the Croc can be their king if he kills Batwoman. Is the most brutish of Batman’s foes smart enough to kill Kate Kane?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I really loved the focus on Croc, and the characterization that has him mostly as a bruiser, but with unexpected depths of emotion and intelligence. The art by Francesco Francavilla is rougher than we’ve come to expect from this series — but Killer Croc is also a great deal rougher than our usual protagonists. It works out very well.


Captain Marvel #13

Well, this is going to end up getting awkward. This series is crossing over with “Avengers Assemble” as Carol Danvers tries to figure out who’s behind the attacks on her and what’s causing her strange brain disease. So we’re only getting half the story, unfortunately.

One of Carol’s old enemies, a Kree villain called Yon-Rogg is back, but Carol doesn’t know it. In an attempt to kill her, he’s activated a bunch of robotic Kree Sentries all over the planet. While she, her friends, and some of the Avengers, including Spider-Woman and Bruce Banner, try to brainstorm solutions to the various problems, the Sentries start roaming around and tearing stuff up, while the rest of the Avengers try to keep everything under control.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I just hate these crossovers. They never seem to make a lick of sense. And artwise, this series is still in trouble. The artwork has definitely improved with Scott Hepburn and Gerardo Sandoval working the pencils — but it’s still way, way below the quality that this series deserves. Once again, is Marvel trying to kill off this series with sub-par artwork?

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Little Green Man


The Manhattan Projects #12

Harry Daghlian knows that Enrico Fermi is an alien. Fermi doesn’t like hearing about that at all. So he transforms into his “drone” form — a large insectile monstrosity — tears Daghlian to pieces, and pitches him into space. Then he heads back to the moonbase to tear stuff up and ruin everything for the Projects. Can Feynman, Oppenheimer, Groves, Einstein, von Braun, Gagarin, and Laika save the day? Or is bad science done for good?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Fermi has been my favorite character in this series for a while, and it’s great to see him cut loose. It’s also interesting to see some of the plots that have gone on behind the scenes and right under our noses. Grand stuff — hope you’re reading it.


Batgirl #21

Barbara Gordon is going through angst city over the supposed death of her brother, but she heads off to capture the Ventriloquist and rescue her hostage as a little shock therapy. As seems to be the theme for all of Batgirl’s adventures, she spends most of the issue getting knocked around — by the new Ventriloquist’s telekinetically-controlled puppet and her dead parents — before she finally grabs her victory.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Mostly because I’m tired of seeing Batgirl get stomped on every issue. Barbara just isn’t that good at crimefighting. It’s a minor miracle that Batman hasn’t either ordered her to hang up the cape or started her on some sort of serious training regimen to keep her from getting killed by the next random jaywalker to cross her path…

Today’s Cool Links:

  • No one likes the Superman-Wonder Woman romance. And the Superman-Lois Lane romance is spotlighted and popular in “Man of Steel.” So of course, DC Comics — ever stupid — wants to do a new comic entirely devoted to the stupid Superman-Wonder Woman romance. I’ll retire to Bedlam.
  • And now Spider-Man has a brand-new long-lost sister. Mark Waid and James Robinson, this is stupid stuff.
  • You owe it to yourself to learn from the sad tales in the Sad Cat Diary and the Sad Dog Diary.

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Killjoys, Make Some Noise


The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys #1

See, there’s this guy named Gerard Way, and if y’all read comics, you know he wrote the “Umbrella Academy” series, which is completely awesome. And you probably also know that he was the lead singer of a band called My Chemical Romance, and their last album “Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys,” featured a couple of videos in which the band portrayed the Killjoys, rebels in a day-glo post-apocalyptic future, opposed by mask-wearing soldiers called Draculoids and a corporate assassin called Korse who looked just like Grant Morrison.

So what we’ve got here is Way’s continuation of the storyline from those videos. Years have passed since the Killjoys were murdered by Korse and his Draculoids, and the Girl they tried to protect is on her own, wandering in the desert with her black cat. She runs into some punks in the desert who alternately hinder her and help her. Meanwhile, in the slums of Battery City, a pleasure droid works to buy a new battery for her — sister? Coworker? Lover? Beats me. And Korse has been reactivated so he can capture the Girl and destroy anyone associated with her.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I can’t be said to be all that familiar with the Killjoys’ backstory, but what this comic has generally makes good sense and is fun to read — I was fairly concerned that the opposite would be the case. The script by Way and Shaun Simon is well-done and fun, especially the monologues on the radio from Dr. Death-Defying. And the art by Becky Cloonan is really nice, too.


Batman: Li’l Gotham #3

It’s Valentine’s Day, and the Joker just hates Valentine’s Day. He’s not a fan of love in general, and he really hates it when Harley Quinn gets all lovey-dovey. And then he gets some of Poison Ivy’s secret formulas on him, and suddenly every woman in Gotham City falls in love with him. Is there any hope for the pheromone-plagued madman? In our second story, Damian Wayne teams up with Katana and Alfred to track the snakey thief who’s stolen a valuable jade sword.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Adorable, funny, action-packed, and beautifully painted. Why can’t DC make some more all-ages comics that are this much fun?

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Bully has an interesting post on why he wasn’t able to finish the new Superman movie, and on why some depictions of comic and film destruction affects us more strongly than others.
  • If anyone needed to be thrown out of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, it’s definitely this freakshow.
  • I wish someone in our army was hardcore enough to say this.
  • This is a very, very good dog.

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Blood and Thunder


American Vampire: The Long Road to Hell

A new American Vampire comic! After much too many months since the hiatus began, too. I consider this a good thing, even if it’s just a one-shot.

It’s 1959. The guy on the cover is Travis Kidd, a vampire hunter who likes to wear a set of wooden fangs so he can “bite them back” before he kills vamps. But our main characters are Billy Bob Lee and Jolene Gibbons, a couple of hip kids who make their money going to dances in Nebraska and heisting wallets when no one’s looking. But they run into serious trouble one night when they both get attacked by the undead and turned into vampires. The local vamps want Billy Bob and Jolene to work for them as thieves, but they manage to escape, eventually picking up a little kid, an orphaned hitchhiker named Jasper who claims to be able to sense evil people. They bring him along so they can use him to find people they won’t mind killing, while racing to Las Vegas to find a rumor they’ve heard about a cure for vampirism. Can they manage to survive Travis Kidd? Will they make it to Vegas?

Verdict: Thumbs up. So very nice. Yeah, it’s extra large and it costs seven dollars, but I think this one is worth it. It’s a great story by Scott Snyder with great art by Rafael Albuquerque. It’s got great characters and action and dialogue and mood and suspense and romance and horror. You want to go pick this up, kids. Don’t miss out on the fun.


Freelancers #6

The final issue of the series sees Val, Cass and Katherine Rushmore fighting against almost all the gangs in Los Angeles to try to bring Drachmann, one of their former teachers at the orphanage, to justice. Can they handle overwhelming odds, betrayals, torn clothing, and inadequate weaponry to come out on top?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Mostly action, action, action, but it seems like the right ending for the series, which has worked really hard from the beginning to replicate your average high-octane action movie.


Worlds’ Finest #13

Huntress and Power Girl are on the run from Desaad’s minions, particularly his giant quasi-dog monster. Aaaaand that’s pretty much it.

Verdict: Thumbs down. So very not interesting.

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Working for the Weekend

I keep getting reminded of more great comics that have gone out-of-print lately. And it’s pretty depressing that this is one of them, because it’s one of my very favorite comics of the past decade.


JLA: Welcome to the Working Week

This little prestige-format book came out in 2003, written by comedian and actor Patton Oswalt and illustrated by Patrick Gleason and Christian Alamy. It came at the end of the Morrison glory days of “JLA,” while the writers who came after him were still working hard to keep the brilliance of the series running at a high pace.

Our story is deceptively simple. The Justice League responds to an alien invasion of Portland by teleporting the entire population of the St. John’s neighborhood into the Watchtower. Once the invasion gets handled, the population gets transported back home — except for Marlus Randone, superhero fanzine writer, who sneaks off and enjoys a week of roaming the halls of the Watchtower and watching how the Justice League handles its off-the-clock time. Oh, there are a number of crises going on — Flash stops a hacker from launching a nuclear weapon, Green Lantern brokers peace between alien races, Batman solves plenty of crimes, and we get a number of ominous hints that something terrible is looming behind the scenes — and the whole thing ends with an attack by a team of powerful alien supervillains.

But by and large, most of the focus is on how the JLA spends their time when they’re not fighting evil, as well as Marlus’ observations, speculations, and memories of the DC Universe’s superheroes. Batman’s obsessions, Kyle Rayner’s and Wally West’s everyman qualities, Plastic Man’s fun-loving nature — it all gets examined in varying detail. Most of the story is pretty light-hearted, but everything wraps up with a series of lightning-fast super-battles, excellent insights, and inspirational moments.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The whole story is just great fun all the way through.

It doesn’t mean there aren’t moments that’ll make you scoff at everything going on. I can’t possibly imagine the Justice League letting Plastic Man throw a giant rave just to capture one supervillainess. I can’t possibly imagine Wally West being unhappy that Batman has gotten one of the Rogues to reform. I can’t imagine Wonder Woman inviting Lady Shiva, Killer Croc, and Cheetah up to the Watchtower to spar. I can’t possibly imagine security on the Watchtower being so lax that a guy can hide out among the world’s greatest superheroes for a week without getting caught. But frankly, that stuff didn’t bug me too much. Plas’ party is hilarious, Wally’s unhappiness with Batman is not particularly significant, and Wondy’s battle is one of the best moments of the book. And it’s so much fun watching Marlus spy on superheroes, it makes me think they should let people hide out here more often.

And everything else in the book is just so very good. If you just can’t stand light-hearted superhero comics, you probably won’t like this. But if you don’t like light-hearted superhero comics, you’re probably Dan DiDio and shouldn’t be reading comics anyway.

Marlus Randone is such an amazing character — hipster cynic crossed with gleeful fanboy, always with a great quip and observation, with his own interesting backstory and motivations. It’s really too bad we haven’t seen more of him in the DCU.

And Patton Oswalt’s writing is just so very, very good. Some of the stuff he writes here — about the Martian Manhunter, about Aquaman, about Marlus’ father — stands out for me as some of the best expository writing in comics. There’s one page toward the end with Marlus wandering around the Watchtower’s trophy room, musing on the nature of being a superhero, that still strikes me as one of the best descriptions of the superhero phenomenon, both in-universe and out.

Why is this out of print? I really don’t know. Patton Oswalt is still a pretty popular guy, both in and out of the geek community. DC should be waving this book from the top of the comic shops. DC and Marvel should be desperate to have him write more comics. I really don’t know why they’ve let this comic languish.

You can still find it, thank goodness, and you won’t pay a fortune for it. If you haven’t gotten to read it yet, shell out a little cash and enjoy it for yourself.

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