Archive for July, 2013

Fear of a Black Planet


Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes by Adilifu Nama

Hey, it’s nonfiction time! I picked this one up a few weeks back and thought it was pretty fun — or as close as academic pop culture analysis gets to fun.

In case y’all haven’t noticed before, comic book superheroes tend to be an awfully pink bunch of people. Plenty of people wish that were different, and that comics more closely resembled our multicultural society… and unfortunately, a lot of other people seem to wish that comics were even more white than they are now. So it’s nice to see that someone has put together a history of black superheroes and how they’ve affected our culture.

The book starts out focusing on comics’ earliest attempts to address racial injustice, particularly in Dennis O’Neil’s and Neal Adams’ “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” series. From there, it’s on to the first important black superheroes — Luke Cage, the Black Panther, John Stewart, Black Lightning, and the Falcon. And Nama is very careful to note how they fit in with the comic companies and within pop culture — John Stewart as an outgrowth of O’Neil’s political-themed comics and Black Lightning as the first African-American hero at DC to get his own title; Luke Cage and Black Panther as reactions to blaxploitation films, and the Falcon as possibly the most important black hero — he shared co-billing with Captain America, got serious stories about race relations into the comics, and was the first black superhero to be able to fly.

There are, of course, plenty of other characters discussed and analyzed, as well as how they influenced and were influenced by pop culture, politics, and current events. There’s a whole chapter on black superheroes on film — but far more interesting is the lengthy discussion of the 1970s blaxploitation flicks — and how they often made the most sense when you thought of them, not as private eye or crime films, but as early superhero movies.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a solid and deeply interesting piece of analysis. This is the kind of material that gets short shrift in a lot of comics histories — usually confined to a few pages of the single “Oh yeah, here are the prominent black, Hispanic, and female characters of the ’60s and ’70s” chapter.

This is all really pretty entertaining stuff — the first chapter or two are very heavy on the academic language, and I was initially worried it’d be pretty dry and inaccessible. But once the book hits its rhythm, it really pulls you along. It’s a good, fast read, and it’s hard to put down.

If I’ve got a complaint about this book, it’d be that there are some really great characters who get very little to no attention. Milestone’s comics in the ’90s are discussed in only a couple of paragraphs — and dismissed as unimportant. Now I know — anecdotes aren’t data, but I’m a member of a Milestone Media fan page on Facebook, and everyone there sees Milestone as not just important historically, but inspirational as well — there are members there who loved Milestone’s books so much, they decided to create their own comics. That’s not an unimportant comics publisher — that’s a publisher that changed things.

Still, you got any interest in comics, history, diversity, and racial politics? You’re going to want to pick this one up.

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Dimension Dancing


Young Avengers #8

The team is pursuing the mysterious faux-Patriot through parallel dimensions to try to find where he’s kidnapped Wiccan’s brother, Speed. They run through a bunch of very, very bad parallel dimensions, where they’ve turned into monsters or conquerors or gods or corpses, and they run through very, very few that are any good. But when they run into Mother’s home dimension, and when they get separated while they’re there, that’s very, very, very bad.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Fantastic art, fantastic writing, frequently hilarious dialogue, frequently creepy images, and frequently awesome action. I’m loving this series so very much.


The Green Team #3

Commodore, Mo, and Mo’s bodyguard Abisha are, for whatever reason, hanging out with Deathstroke while he tries to execute a contract. Meanwhile, Cecilia Sunbeam is trying to cope with her new cyborg arm, while J.P. Houston watches out for the Riot terrorists attacking them. Once Comm and Mo ride down Deathstroke’s zipline and help him (kinda? maybe?) corner his target (all he wants to do is talk to the target, which is kind of a stupid thing to hire an assassin to do), everyone travels to Monaco, where they’re again attacked by Riot. But this time, Deathstroke helps capture one of them so they can find out what they want.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I really had so much trouble getting over the idea that these wealthy superhero fanatics would want to hang out with a murderous assassin. And I’d like to find out more about Cecilia’s cyborg arm, but apparently, that’s just going to be one of those things no one bothers to explain.

Today’s Cool Links: 

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Behind the Masque


Hawkeye Annual #1

Our focus in this new annual isn’t on Clint Barton, but on Kate Bishop, who’s finally gotten fed up with Clint’s self-pitying moronitude and caught a flight to the West Coast. Unfortunately, Madame Masque, who holds a grudge against Kate because she humiliated her in a previous battle, finds out she’s heading for Cali. Masque manages to get all of Kate’s stuff — her car, her weapons, her clothes, her money — stolen. Luckily, she finds a new friend — Whitney Frost, a wealthy socialite who offers to put her up for the night and also maybe to kill her. Oh, because Whitney Frost is also Madame Masque. How is Kate going to escape from a crazed criminal mastermind and her dozens of loyal stooges?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a fun, funny, action-packed story starring Kate Bishop, who is all kinds of awesome. This thing is full of fantastic dialogue, too. Can we talk art? Javier Pulido’s art is worlds of fun. Stylish and nifty and cartoonish and, like I said, worlds of fun. Y’all love Hawkeye, right? Of course you do. Go pick this one up, kids.


Lazarus #2

Forever Carlyle is her family’s Lazarus — an almost unkillable combat machine responsible for protecting the family members and their assets. And she’s started doubting her mission, at least partially because her brothers and sisters are all irredeemable scumbags who spend most of their time plotting against each other. But the Carlyle family is apparently under attack by the rival Morray family, her siblings want to go to war, and Forever has strong misgivings about all of this. Her father appears to share those misgivings — but he may be just as conniving as his children. He charges Eve with a secret mission, and she accompanies one of her brothers back to Los Angeles. While her siblings steam over what she’s up to, Eve takes a trip deep into enemy territory…

Verdict: Thumbs up. The dystopia described is still fascinating — and definitely check the sidebars in the letter column for this world’s history — and Forever remains a very deeply interesting character. Her siblings are all absolute scum, and I think we’ll enjoy getting to watch them all get killed eventually. The art is gorgeous, too. It’s just the second issue — there’s still time to get in on the beginning of this one, if you haven’t done so yet.


Uncanny Avengers #10

The Avengers are squabbling amongst themselves and splitting up to try to locate the Apocalypse Twins, but the twins are already several steps ahead — and they’ve created their own Four Horsemen of Apocalypse. But this time, they’re called the Four Horsemen of Death, because they’re all, well, dead. Banshee takes out Havok and the Scarlet Witch, the Grim Reaper goes after Wonder Man, the Sentry drags Thor to a planet on the other side of the galaxy, and Daken targets Wolverine.

Verdict: Ehh, it’s not that bad, but it’s also seeming more and more needlessly complicated. Of the resurrected characters, Banshee is the only one I’ve got any real affection for, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that they’ll somehow manage to keep him alive. But for the rest — the Grim Reaper was a nonentity, Daken was strictly there to be a psycho, and I’d prefer that the Sentry be erased from history.

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Biff! Bam! Pow!


Batman ’66 #1

This was not something I was planning on picking up. Just seemed more like a cry for help from the desperate-for-attention DC Comics. But honestly, seeing that Jeff Parker, whose work includes the brilliant “The Age of the Sentry” and the very best issues of “Marvel Adventures,” would be writing this title convinced me to give it a shot.

So here we are in the world of the campy 1960s “Batman” TV show starring Adam West and Burt Ward. The Riddler is on a robbery spree, stealing sculptures by an eccentric sculptor. He raids a civic event and steals the priceless Lady Gotham statue, making his escape in a stolen biplane. He leaves a riddle behind that leads the Dynamic Duo to a dance club owned by a kinda-sorta reformed Catwoman. After a fight and an attempt by the Riddler to blow them all up with a bomb, Catwoman joins forces with Batman and Robin, and they do some more research into the stolen sculptures. Can their detective work solve the case? Or has the Riddler outsmarted them all at last?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a clever story, full of more action than you’d expect, nice dialogue, and plenty of nods to the TV show, including the familiar sound effects, over-the-top narration, and a special guest star who Batman and Robin meet while climbing up a building. The art by Jonathan Case is nice, too — the coloring might be a bit too luridly technicolor, but it does the job of evoking the feel of the ’60s TV show and of old four-color comics.


FF #9

While Bentley-23 makes his own documentary about his undersea classmates, the Uhari, the entire Future Foundation pays a visit to Charles Cotta, C.E.O. of Julian Enterprises, who is hosting a pool party for everyone. Cotta reveals that he’s actually an immortal alien who pretended to be Julius Caesar in the distant past, and he’d like to repay a favor that the Fantastic Four did for him by helping the FF locate and rescue them. Meanwhile, a splash fight in the pool gets to be more and more epic and apocalyptic. The grownups are doing fine and preparing to go save the Fantastic Four — but the kids may have lost their innocence and friendship.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The splash war really is pretty amazing — simultaneously hilarious, frightening, and sad. It’s another great, weird issue.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Geek girls and the Doubleclicks have “Nothing to Prove.”
  • The original “Star Trek” series in the 1960s had a more progressive view of women than the reboot movies do. That’s not a good thing — that should embarrass the heck out of J.J. Abrams.
  • You need some baby ostriches in your life.
  • And to close things out depressingly: We live in a more and more insane country, where it’s declared racist to point out obvious racism, where murder is legal under the right conditions, and where the Cult of the Gun is elevated above everything else.

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Holmes in Harlem


Watson and Holmes #1

I finally started watching the BBC’s recent “Sherlock” series a while back — and I highly recommend it to everyone, like right now, go watch it — and it’s helped get me more interested in alternative Sherlock Holmes stories. Which brings us to this little work of glory, which sets Sherlock and Watson in modern-day Harlem. Jon Watson is a medical intern — not actually a doctor, though everyone assumes he is — in Convent Emergency Center in Harlem, while Sherlock Holmes is a dreadlocked, fedora-wearing private eye on the trail of a missing woman. Watson gets involved in the case when a witness is admitted to the emergency center after a severe beating. Can the duo track the clues through a maze of underground dance clubs, drug kingpins, mercenaries, and cell phones to find the truth?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Karl Bollers and Rick Leonardi do a great job with this one, with a great story, strong characterization, sweet art, and one of the best known fictional detectives transplanted into a setting I don’t think he’s ever been in before. I also love the hints at the other elements of the Holmes mythology — Mrs. Hudson runs Hudson’s Vintage Books and Vinyl downstairs from Holmes’ apartment, and the Baker Street Irregulars even make an appearance. If you’re a fan of Holmes, go pick this one up.


Wonder Woman #22

Wonder Woman, Zola, Zeke, and Hera have been transported to New Genesis — and they’ve been there three days while Diana recovered from her injuries in the fight with the First Born. Orion surprises them all by being much more submissive to Highfather than they expected. As the New Gods prepare to return Wonder Woman and crew to Earth, Highfather orders Zeke held on New Genesis, but Orion manages to return him to Earth. Once there, they find London besieged by the First Born, with Lennox apparently dead. Is there hope for anyone in this hopeless battle?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nicely done story — but I especially love Cliff Chiang’s vision of the Fourth World and New Genesis — clean, futuristic, architecturally and scientifically vast, but still distinctly Kirbyesque.

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Friday Night Fights: A Kraven for Punishment!

Awright, let’s do this — it’s Friday, we’re all ready for the weekend, and the only way to get things started is with a little random comic-book violence! It’s time again for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from September 2010’s Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes #4 by Paul Tobin, Ronan Cliquet, and Amilton Santos. Kraven the Hunter has been working as a mercenary bounty hunter, which means he’s mostly been keeping the Avengers from capturing Deadpool while endangering innocent civilians. Once the team finally has the Merc with a Mouth in custody, it’s time for Captain America to deal with Kraven.





That’s all we got for this week. See you mugs back here on Monday morning.

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Simply Red


Red Sonja #1

It has been an awfully long time since I read a comic from Dynamite. Honestly, I mostly think of them as just a shade above Blue Water Comics — mostly there to publish comics in hopes that they’ll become collectibles, always with lots and lots of variant covers. But hey, they got a comic written by Gail Simone? Sure, I’ll give it a shot.

So we got Red Sonja, She-Devil with a Sword, who we’re first introduced to as a just-released prisoner of the brutal Zamorans. A group of 80 prisoners were kept in the dungeons and forced to fight to the death — only Sonja and a woman named Annisia survived when they were rescued by an invading army. Years later, Sonja is called back to civilization by her rescuer, King Dimath — his kingdom is wracked by plague, his soldiers are dead, and the Zamorans have built up a mighty army of psychos and monsters. And Sonja is asked to train the remaining citizens to fight in a war. Can Sonja accomplish the impossible?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent writing — well, of course, it is Simone, and she tends to bring her A-game for almost everything. Good action and dialogue. Very nice cliffhanger. All in all, I approve. Nice work, Dynamite — always better to go with quality above variant covers…


Day Men #1

It was a pretty good week for new comics. This is a nice one, written by Matt Gagnon and Michael Alan Nelson, with art by the great Brian Stelfreeze. We’re focused on a guy named David Reid, a guy who works for the Virgos, a major crime family. Specifically, the crime they specialize in is drinking blood. Reid’s job is to take care of chores the vampires need done during the day, when they’re all stuffed in their coffins. His duties involve everything from running off suspicious mortals to cleaning up bloody crime scenes to paying off cops and informants. The serious trouble for David starts when he has to pick up Nybor, a family member who’s been on a drunken bender for a few days. Turns out he’s passed out in a room with the dismembered body of one of the Ramses family, a rival vampire clan. Can David get Nybor to a safehouse before the Ramses find out and start a vampire war? Probably not…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great art, fun story. We’ve got a nicely realized background, with the underground vampire gangsters coming out as a combination of brutal Mafia stereotypes and twisted vampire stereotypes. David Reid and his coworkers are nicely drawn, though I expect we’ll learn more complexities in their characters as the series goes on.


Batwoman #22

Batwoman and Hawkfire are working to track down clues to Batman’s real identity — which involves beating up Bane and then interviewing a bunch of supervillains, including Black Mask, Professor Pyg, the Mortician, and Fright. Meanwhile, Joseph Kane is continuing his training of Bette — while he and his wife worry that she’s not ready, the mercenaries he’s using to provide her fight training feel like she’s doing a great job kicking their butts.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Fantastic action all the way through. Man alive, so much ass-whuppery. And it’s great to see Bette turn into a great fighter. Really, this was an incredibly fun comic all the way through.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Here’s a really cool Wonder Woman fan movie. Why do people keep saying a Wonder Woman movie would suck? Are they paying no attention at all?
  • Hey, cool — I went to high school here. Loved watching the Eagles play hoops. This is why I still can’t believe more teams don’t run a full-court press during the whole game.
  • This is all the information you ever needed to know about the sea pig.

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Bully Pulpit


Daredevil #28

Matt Murdock is trying to get his life back together again. He’s putting his practice back in order. He’s helping Foggy Nelson get through his cancer treatments (despite the fact that his enhanced senses can pick up the nauseating scent of the chemotherapy drugs in Foggy’s system). And he runs into a new client — Nate Hackett, the schoolyard bully who made his life hell as a kid. Nate needs legal help — he used to be a member of the Sons of the Serpent — before they went 100% bad — and he’s been arrested and falsely accused of crimes that the Serpents actually committed. But Matt doesn’t really represent clients anymore — he trains them to represent themselves. Can Nate manage to beat the rap? Or is he in bigger trouble than he ever expected?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent art and writing, as always. Nate makes a great foil for Matt, and his attempts to operate in a court of law are both funny and inspiring. The cliffhanger is pretty nice, too.


Batman: Li’l Gotham #4

Our first story is set on St. Patrick’s Day as someone — possibly a leprechaun — is framing all the villains in Gotham City for a series of robberies. Can Batman figure out the lucky crook? And when did the Batmobile get such a roomy back seat? The second story is set on Easter — the Mad Hatter has capture Batman and Robin in a Mad Tea Party, and he’s hidden a bomb at an Easter egg hunt! Can Batman stop the Hatter and his henchmen? Can Robin find the bomb before it blows up a bunch of kids?

Verdict: Thumbs up. These fantastically cute and clever stories are great fun to read. Don’t know what else I can say but that…

Today’s Cool Links:

  • The 9th Art Award is a new graphic novel prize that’ll be awarded in Glasgow, and they’re doing a little crowdfunding for it. I know some of the folks putting it together, and it promises to be a pretty nifty award. Would you consider dropping a little money on it to help make it happen?
  • Anyone who tells you that a Wonder Woman movie would be impossible to make just isn’t using a single iota of their imagination.
  • This book by Mort Walker, creator of Beetle Bailey, on the secret language of cartoons, looks incredibly interesting.
  • Just for you — Rammstein’s brand of German industrial metal, as performed by a choir.

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Separating the Bat from the Girl


Batgirl #22

Barbara Gordon has a late date with Ricky, the former hoodlum she saved from Knightfall. But the date goes sour when they’re both ambushed by a gang that’s angry at Ricky’s brother. They manage to thrash the gang and derail their previous date plans to go visit Ricky’s family and go clubbing. The next day, Commissioner Gordon calls his daughter out to go shooting with him — even though Barbara is not a fan of firearms — because he’s fearful of losing her as he lost his son. Babs decides to give up being Batgirl, and Gordon has an angry confrontation with the Batman.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A really exemplary piece of storytelling. Batgirl doesn’t show up for a single panel, but it’s still a thrilling and enthralling story. Great work by both Gail Simone and Fernando Pasarin.


Hawkeye #12

This issue focuses on Clint Barton’s estranged brother Barney, who’s had a generally rotten life and has come to town to reconnect with his younger brother. He endures multiple beatings from the bros but gets to hand down a few of his own.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice story — the second in a row told from another character’s POV. Great characterization and action, too.


The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys #2

It’s another rotten day in Battery City. The outlaws in the badlands are preparing for war, and the Girl runs into Cherri Cola, an old friend from the Killjoy days. A pleasure android struggles to find batteries for her dying lover, and the assassin Korse — better known to us as Grant Freakin’ Morrison — is about to get put out to pasture because his kill percentages have been dropping.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A lot of this is still background material, but I’m still enjoying reading it. The background into Korse’s private life is cool, and the bit with the android trying to keep her lover from dying is really outstanding stuff.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Friday Night Fights: Blocks Busted!

Time for the weekend! And no time for cleverness! Because it’s time for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s bout comes to us from May 1979’s Justice League of America #166 by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin, and Frank McLaughlin, as Blockbuster battles the Batman!






That’s it! Go have a great weekend now!

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