Archive for July, 2013

Calling Dispatch


Astro City #2

Our focal character in this issue is Marella, who has just taken a call center job — but it’s no mere phone bank. This is a job helping run the call center for the Honor Guard, the world’s premier team of superheroes. She and her coworkers take calls and emails from all over the world from people who need the help of the world’s greatest superheroes — and Marella has to work to determine which calls really need the Honor Guard and which can be handled by more mundane authorities. Everyone who works there wants the glory of being the person to supervise an alert for a serious Honor Guard emergency, but they don’t come often. Luckily, there are perks — travel around the world, getting to meet the Honor Guard, and much more. But there are some serious dangers if you ever screw up on the job…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Fantastic story and art. A fun glimpse behind the scenes at how a major superteam would operate — monitor duty for the whole planet wouldn’t be handled by just one overworked superhero, but by a team of dispatchers keeping track of potential crises. And I’m still just plain charged up that we’ve got Astro City comics on the shelves again. So yeah, people, go read this great stuff, alright?


Young Avengers #7

The Young Avengers are still roaming around Earth and space, avoiding New York City and any contact with their parents — otherwise, Mother, the interdimensional reality-warping parasite, is able to attack them. They tangle with a bunch of Skrulls (or at least “Skrulls”). Hulkling worries that Wiccan may accidentally be mind-controlling him. We learn that Marvel Boy actually has mind-control saliva. And Prodigy seeks the team out to recruit their help in finding Speed, who vanished mysteriously last issue.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great story and dialogue. Amazing art and design. People, this comic is just plain crazy-fun. And it looks like we get to go alternate-dimension hopping next issue, so come on, let’s go for a ride!


Worlds’ Finest #14

Desaad’s forces are still moving against Huntress and Power Girl, burning up their safehouses and labs and hideouts to force them into a direct confrontation. And eventually, a direct confrontation is just what he gets.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a simple enough plot, but there are lots of things to like about it. We get some nice characterization and dialogue, lots of fine action, and Desaad being a twisted freak. I’m enjoying Paul Levitz’s work on this one just fine.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Superhero Girl vs. the World!


The Adventures of Superhero Girl

It’s always kind of a risky thing to recommend a book that collects all the episodes of a webcomic. Why should you buy a book when you can get the comics online for free? I reckon it’s a fair question. And we’ll get to it a bit later.

But first: This is Faith Erin Hicks’ tribute to the workaday college-age superhero, “The Adventures of Superhero Girl,” originally published online — but she’s put it on hiatus for now because she’s been getting a lot more work lately doing art for other comics. So Dark Horse put them all together in one nice hardcover collection for us.

Superhero Girl is a superhero — and a girl! We never learn her real name, but she patrols a smallish Canadian city fighting crime. She has fairly generic superhero powers — strength, invulnerability, laser vision, and super-jumping — but her costume is basically normal clothing with a cape and domino mask. She fights ninjas and giant monsters and the occasional supervillain. And she also tries to live a fairly normal life, with a roommate who’s irritated by her crimefighting, a nonexistent social life, and trips to the laundromat to wash her cape. She tends to forget to take off her mask, which makes her secret identity a bit of a non-secret.

So she rescues cats from trees — by uprooting the trees. She tangles with King Ninja, a hipster with a shrink ray, the Spectacle, the Marshmallow Menace, a bear with a monocle — and her nemesis, a guy who doesn’t believe she’s an actual superhero. And she also tangles with job hunting, knitting, sunburns, cape shrinkage, jealousy over her brother Kevin’s wildly over-the-top success as a hero, and much, much more.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a charming, funny book with Hicks’ awesome, emotive artwork. You get superhero battles and everyday hijinx, all wonderfully funny and all really fun to read.

Why should you get the book instead of reading it all for free online? Well, there are a bunch of reasons, honestly. There’s a really keen introduction by Kurt Busiek. All the comics are in color, unlike the black-and-white art online. It’s a great way to support an awesome cartoonist. And it’s easier to read in book form than it is online. Especially if you’re reading it in the bathroom. And if you’re one of those weirdos who reads a tablet computer on the pot — please, just stop. You’re making the world a worse place.

The best reason? It’s fantastic art and storytelling, and these days, we all need more great art and storytelling.

It’s a fun book, and you should go pick it up.

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In the Name of the Law!


The Law of Superheroes by James Daily, J.D., and Ryan Davidson, J.D.

So the crazy thing about comic books is how they’re not realistic at all.

And no, I’m not even talking about the stuff about people picking up automobiles and running faster than the speed of sound and flying and repeatedly dying and resurrecting. I’m not talking about the way the comics companies abuse the laws of physics, break what we know about science, and continually allow Brian Michael Bendis to write comic books when he’s clearly not up to the task.

What we’re talking about is stuff like this: When Batman finds a mugger in an alley or a bunch of gangsters breaking into a warehouse, and he beats the stuffing out of them and leaves them tied up outside the police station, what’s the most likely outcome? Crooks in jail, reduction in crime, grateful police and prosecutors? No on all counts — the crooks would go free, because getting beaten and tied up by a vigilante isn’t against the law. Besides, there’s no admissable evidence left behind, because who’s going to trust evidence given to the police by a kook in a bat costume unless he’ll testify in court — and if he testifies, he’d better be willing to take that mask off. Otherwise, the crooks walk.

Comic book law is basically a great big bucket of kookoo-bananas. Which brings us (finally!) to this book. A couple of comics-loving lawyers started up a blog called Law and the Multiverse to examine the pressing issues of how the legal profession would be different in a comic book universe, and they had enough fun with it, they put it all into a book.

So besides the question of how criminal law would deal with super-powered vigilantes, this book also covers topics ranging from civil rights for the X-Men to trademarks of superhero costumes to patents of mutated genetics to the insanity defense for supervillains to inheritance law for immortals to… well, you get the picture, I hope. There are a lot of thorny legal issues that would govern a superhero universe, and this book covers an awful lot of them.

Verdict: Thumbs up. We geeks do love debating over some of this stuff from time to time, and this is a pretty keen thing to have around, for just that reason. Are your friends arguing about whether Spider-Man could sue the Daily Bugle for libel? Haul this book out and settle the debate once and for all.

I don’t think it’d be too controversial to say that the law is a pretty dull topic, much of the time. Have you ever read much about limited liability companies? Tax law? Copyright regulations? Insurance law? It’s not a lot of fun. Adding superheroes into the mix makes things a lot more entertaining. Granted, what you learn here won’t be enough to let you pass the bar, much less defend yourself in a court of law — but making a dry subject like the law into something that’s less dry and dreary means you actually do learn a few things you didn’t know before. It’s a clever way to illustrate some of the more esoteric nooks and crannies of the legal system.

The other really neat thing about this book is how useful it can be for writers, especially writers of genre fiction. Marion G. Harmon, author of the “Wearing the Cape” series, has already mentioned that this book helped him make his novels more realistic — and more fun. And a lot of the legal issues and problems mentioned in this book could be applied to fantasy and science fiction, too.

It’s fun, at any rate, to own a book that cites both Supreme Court decisions and Silver Age Superman comics as equally valuable resources.

It’s a great book. Go pick it up.

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Friday Night Fights: All-American Dictator Punching!

Well, now, I hope y’all all enjoyed Independence Day yesterday. I hope you ate hot dogs and safely blew up firecrackers and enjoyed parades and randomly screamed “AMURICAAA!” as we USAnians are, of course, prone to do. But it doesn’t mean it’s too late to commemorate our national patriotism with a little… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s brawl comes to us from October 1941’s Fight Comics #15 by Dan Zolnerowich and an unknown writer. Here’s some cat calling himself Super-American beating up — I don’t know, Hitler? Mussolini? Hitlerlini? Anyway, FIGHTIN’ AHOY.





And if you don’t get a thrill out of watching a man in a gaudy costume beat up a fascist dictator, well, you best turn in yore Good American card and your Honey Boo-Boo DVD box set…

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Everyone Hates the Heretic


Batman Inc. #12

It’s pretty much fightin’ from beginning to end! Batman vs. the Heretic! Bats vs. Man-Bats! Nightwing and Red Robin learn that the people who kidnapped Jason Todd are actually on their side! But who is their mysterious leader? Nightwing and the Knight vs. the Heretic! Talia vs. the Heretic! Also Batman vs. the Heretic! It’s pretty much everyone beating up on the Heretic for 20+ pages!

Verdict: Thumbs up. Yes, it’s fighting all the way through, but it’s quite excellent fighting. There are still revelations we learn, and mysteries to be solved. And holy cheese, Chris Burnham’s artwork is just crazy-pretty.


The Movement #3

Katharsis tries to take down the police all by herself, and it does not turn out well for her. The rest of the team focus on fighting Rainmaker, and it mostly doesn’t go real well for them either. The cops who’d been “arrested” by the Movement try to get back at their captors, and the rest of the cops make plans to take down everyone else in town. And we may have learned who the serial killer is who’s been plaguing the city.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The action is quite good, and the characterization is improving. Of course, most of the characterization we’re getting are for Katharsis, who is unlikable, and Virtue, who is kinda not real interesting as a person. Mouse and Burden are still cyphers. I’d love to find out more about Tremor and Vengeance Moth — they seem to be the folks who most need some screen time.

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Shaggy Pizza Dog Story


Hawkeye #11

If you ain’t heard by now, this entire issue is told from the point of view of Pizza Dog, Clint Barton’s dog, which he rescued from his abusive owners, the tracksuit-wearing bros. So Pizza Dog roams the neighborhood, investigates the body of a murdered neighbor, tangles with the bros, tangles with an assassin, and goes on a road trip.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is just an astounding graphic and storytelling achievement. Word balloons are rare and often unreadable — Pizza Dog can’t understand a whole lot of human words. Most of his thoughts are depicted with simple warning signs, so for the most part, you can understand what he’s thinking and experiencing. It’s a fascinating read, and it’s amazing to see how Matt Fraction manages to get into a dog’s mindset. Even if you haven’t been reading Hawkeye — and you should, you know — go pick this one up.


Daredevil #27

Daredevil finally meets the mastermind behind all of the current misfortunes in his life — Bullseye. But it’s not the Bullseye we’re all accustomed to — he’s paralyzed, deaf, barely able to speak, confined to a metal tank to stay alive. He hired technicians and lackeys, created Ikari, and moved heaven and hell to get his ultimate revenge on Matt Murdock. With Ikari near enough to kill him, Matt is prepared to kill Bullseye, though it may mean the deaths of all his friends, including Foggy Nelson. Will Daredevil be able to keep Bullseye talking long enough to come up with a plan? Can he defeat Ikari? How can he stop Bullseye’s agents from killing his friends?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Amazing, tense writing from Mark Waid, beautiful art from Chris Samnee. Outstanding suspense and action, and thrilling revelations. It’s just a great, fun comic, and I loved reading it.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • I don’t do digital comics right now, but this is really big news: Image is going to sell their digital comics DRM-free. That means you own the comics you buy, instead of just renting them, which is what you’re doing with DC, Marvel, and everyone else — including books on your Kindle or Nook.
  • DC’s movie universe is bleak and nihilistic. Marvel’s is optimistic and hopeful. That’s why Marvel’s movies have been so much more fun than DC’s.
  • The people who think it’s too hard to make a Wonder Woman movie haven’t been paying attention, because it’s been done before.
  • You need some beautiful photography of abandoned places? Here ya go.
  • Here’s a nice little essay on memory, horror movies, suburbia, and more.

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Arise, Lazarus


Lazarus #1

The new series by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark is a dystopian sci-fi study on a woman who can’t die. Our setting is the future, when there are no more nations or states, just a handful of wealthy families that govern a small number of useful serfs and a far larger population of the seemingly useless poor, called the Waste. Our lead character is Forever “Eve” Carlyle, the protector of the Family Carlyle. She’s a genetically-engineered warrior known as a Lazarus who regenerates from all damage and is a specialist in all forms of combat. She’s not exactly loved by her family, but she has her duty and she’s willing to carry it out.

Our story starts as Eve is ambushed by some Waste looking for food. They shoot her and leave her for dead, but she heals up, tracks them down, and slaughters them. And it’s soon learned that a rival family invaded one of the Carlyle food compounds, shot a bunch of guards and tried to steal the seed vaults. How did they manage to get so far onto the family property? It’s suspected that they had help from some of the serfs on the inside — one of the technicians betrayed the family, and the family expects their Lazarus to find and execute the traitor. Does Eve have enough faith in her family to do the job?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Very, very nice work here. Excellent writing and art, very enjoyable world-building and characterization. Seriously, this looks like it’s going to be a very interesting story.


FF #8

The Future Foundation returns to New York City, and we get treated to an issue of shenanigans and wrap-up. Doctor Doom makes his move to force Alex Power to be his pawn. Bentley-23 and Ahura wage a Home Alone-style battle against all the other kids in the Baxter Building. Darla Deering gets a couple of rings to help her change into her Miss Thing costume more quickly, leading to a sequence designed to appeal to comic fans of my advanced age. Medusa and She-Hulk have a brawl over Medusa endangering the kids and Jenn’s refusal to treat her like nobility. The D.O.O.M.H.E.R.B.I.E.S. discuss Daft Punk, and some of the Fantastic Four’s greatest enemies prepare to make their moves against the Future Foundation.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a fairly humdrum issue, in a way — most of it’s devoted to fairly friendly slugfests. But the bits with the Thing Rings, Daft Punk, Doom, and a few other small but significant moments carry this one over the top.


Young Avengers #6

We check in with a couple of character who aren’t part of the Young Avengers team, at least not yet — Speed, a young speedster and kinda-sorta brother of Wiccan, and Prodigy, a former mutant who managed to absorb the knowledge of a huge number of people before he lost his powers, making him a super-genius in everything from science to combat. Both of them are working for a mysterious company — Prodigy takes technical support calls on every subject from bomb disarming to how to fight Elektra. Speed assembles electronics, doing dreary months’ worth of work in mere minutes. They discover that someone wearing the costume of Speed’s former teammate Patriot is sabotaging the company, and they decide to stop him. But whoever it is, it isn’t Patriot, and he has abilities they can’t counter. What the heck is going on?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A great couple of character studies, and I hope we see both of these guys on the team soon enough. All in all, a really nice, excellently designed comic book.

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