Archive for October, 2013

The Last of Batwoman


Batwoman #24

We know the background of this, do we not? J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman became the latest in a very, very, very long line of comics creators who announced they were going to leave their current comic because of ongoing, insulting, useless, and relentlessly dorky interference from DC Comics brass. While they planned to stay on the book ’til Issue #26, DC decided to go the childish and spiteful route and throw them out the door at Issue #24. Which is where we are now.

So the D.E.O. has decided they want to know who Batman is, and they’re going to use Batwoman to find out his secret identity. First they unleash a bunch of Gotham City’s supervillains on the city. After the Bat-family clears the villains out, Batman goes after Director Bones, and Batwoman steps in to fight the Dark Knight. Meanwhile, Hawkfire is invading one of the D.E.O.’s safehouses so she can rescue Kate’s sister, the former (maybe current) supervillain Alice. And it pretty much ends there, with no real resolution.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nah, I don’t blame Williams and Blackman for the fact that we may never learn how this was going to end. What we get here is good stuff. Lots of action and drama, suspense, two different fast-moving storylines, nice art from Trevor McCarthy, too. It’s a good comic, and I wish it’d been a good comic in the middle of the creators’ final storyarc, instead of an awkward ending. I don’t know if the storyline will be continued. If I were new writer Marc Andreyko, I think I might be tempted to just leave it unfinished, rather than screw with someone else’s story.

Anyway, this is the last week I’ll be buying DC’s mainstream comics. I’ve decided to keep reading Vertigo books — most of them are at least creator-owned — as well as “Batman: Li’l Gotham,” which has the benefit of being funny, cool, and starring characters from before the Reboot. But everything else, including some series I really enjoy, like “Batgirl” and “Batman ’66,” are being left behind. As I’ve said before, I’m tired of seeing creators, characters, and readers disrespected by this company, and I’d rather do what I can to reduce the monetary support that company gets from me.

Of course, I still picked up some other DC books this week, and I’m more than willing to review them while I still can…


Wonder Woman #24

Well, that’s certainly a nicely heavy metal cover, isn’t it?

Apollo has called the other gods together, and since Wonder Woman killed the God of War last issue, that makes her the new God of War now. There’s quite a lot of the kind of backstabbing intrigue we’ve come to expect from gods. The First Born is kinda pointlessly imprisoned right there in front of everyone, and Hera is all weepy over being mortal. There’s really not a whole lot that goes on.

Verdict: Ehh, it’s really not a bad comic at all. I enjoyed most of it just fine. It’s just — there really isn’t a lot that goes on, unless you really groove on gods playing mind games with each other.

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Funky Phantoms


Ghosted #4

Jackson Winters and his crew of heist-artists need to steal a ghost out of the notoriously haunted Trask Mansion, and they’ve hit on the idea of getting one of their number possessed by a ghost so they can walk the poor schmuck out of the house and then get him exorcised to hand the spirit over to creepy rich bastard Markus Schrecken. Unfortunately, the guy who gets possessed is Robby Trick, the only member of the crew who can perform an exorcism. Even more unfortunately, one of the reality show videographers, Joe Burns, has already been killed by the ghosts. And even more unfortunately, Anderson Lake, the security consultant, is working against everyone. And worst of all? The sun has set, and all hell is going to break loose.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent, spooky, hard-boiled stuff. Great characterization and dialogue, fun art, and an increasing sense of doom. Just what I need in my horror.


Batgirl #24

Barbara Gordon is in disguise trying to save her boyfriend, but he’s just been shot by Commissioner Gordon. She manages to escape, after beating the snot out of a couple dozen cops and soon learns that Knightfall is behind the increase of super-weapons in the hands of gangs — she lets the gangsters kill each other, then mops up the few who are left. And now Knightfall and much of Batgirl’s rogues gallery are after the Commissioner. How can Barbara stop them all by herself?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story is really keen, the art is gorgeous, and I’d love to see how it all turns out. Of all the mainstream DC books I’m going to miss when I drop them from my pull list in the next week or two, this is probably the one I’m going to miss the most.


The Manhattan Projects #15

We have only one character in this issue: Oppenheimer. Or rather Evil Oppenheimer, Good Oppenheimer, and their armies of alternate Oppenheimer clones, all waging schizophrenic war within the mind of Oppenheimer. The Good Oppenheimers are trying to control Oppenheimer’s mind through innovation, while the Evil Oppenheimers work to defeat them through assimilation. Which side will win?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A weird issue, even by this comic’s standards. But it’s excellent, it’s violent, it’s funny, and it’s going to make the future issues even weirder.

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Nails in the Coffin


Coffin Hill #1

Today, Eve Coffin is a heroic Boston cop who just captured a serial killer known as the Ice Fisher — until she has a run-in shortly after her great success with a furious former friend with a gun. And ten years ago, Eve was the pampered punk-rock daughter of the scandalously wealthy and notoriously rotten Coffin family. While her family preferred more mainstream debauchery, Eve had a fondness for the occult, which leads to her spending a dark night before Halloween hanging out with friends and reading from an old spellbook. But the next morning, Even woke up covered in blood and dead rodents to find one friend mysteriously vanished and another completely insane. And now, fresh from the scandal of being shot in the head by a friend, Eve has returned to her family homestead on Coffin Hill.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A cool story from Caitlin Kittredge and a wonderful shot of horror to start the Halloween season. A nice merging of misguided youth, wealthy decadence, and cop drama, too. And weird, weird, weird, so much creepy, low-grade weird, like a really quiet turn-of-the-century New England ghost story. Outstanding art from Inaki Miranda, too.


Red Sonja #4

While Dark Annisia holds the town captive and kills anyone who tries to escape, still insisting in her delusions that the town is afflicted with the plague and that vengeful ghosts offer her counsel, Red Sonja is being dragged back from the wilderness to be cured. But blinded by fever, will she be able to fend off an attack by sea-going savages?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent action, drama, artwork — just an all-around fun fantasy comic. Never thought I’d be enjoying this so much.


Watson and Holmes #4

Pinned down on a roof by a sniper, Holmes, Watson, and drug-dealing preacher Darius Rice are in deep trouble. But with the preacher dead and the final piece of the puzzle in place, Holmes must deal with a bit of brutal blackmail from the mercenaries who want the case buried. Is there any chance to both survive and solve the mystery?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Some more excellent twists on the mystery, along with plenty of drama and great dialogue. And I’m glad to see it looks like this series will continue — both of our heroes have set up shop in familiar 221B Baker Street and are ready to take on more cases…


X-Men #6

Grrrarr, crossovers!

It turns out the X-Men from the future are actually the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Wolverine gets stabbed in the stomach by a son he apparently had with Mystique — and his healing factor has gone bye-bye, so he could actually bleed to death. Future Jean Grey and Future Xavier brain-zap multiple X-Men, Jubilee goes vampire to fight ’em off. Psylocke bashes Future Iceman to pieces. Cyclops’ band of mutant supremacist X-Men show up with the real Future X-Men, and learn that one of them is actually Shogo, Jubilee’s adopted kid, grown to adulthood.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Grrrarr, crossovers! And I don’t believe that Molly Hayes would ever turn evil.

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Friday Night Fights: Don’t Feed the Plants!

If it’s Friday, and if it’s approximately evening, that’s enough for me to declare it to be time for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS! And if it’s October, that means I’ve got some nice monster-themed fights to share with you, too.

Tonight’s battle comes to us from February 1984’s Swamp Thing #21 by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, and John Totleben. The classic tale “The Anatomy Lesson” revamped the Swamp Thing’s backstory and served up a frightful buffet of creepiness and terror, as the venal General Sunderland suffers an unpleasant encounter with an angry plant monster.




Yeah, General, that is probably not the best choice of words to offer to an infuriated monster that’s just had his worldview flipped over on him.



Important lesson: Don’t shoot plant monsters in the head and expect that to kill them. Also, don’t leave important research papers around for swamp monsters to read. Come to think of it, if you have a swamp monster in the building, don’t hang around and wait for him to get angry about something.

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Team Rocket


Rocket Girl #1

Here’s a brand new series, funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign, written by Brandon Montclare and illustrated by Amy Reeder. Our main character is Dayoung Johansson, a 15-year-old rocket-pack-wearing cop from the far-future world of 2013 who has travelled to the distant past of 1986 to save the world from a timepocalypse. The problem is that the crime being investigated was apparently committed by Quintum Mechanics, the company that invented time travel and saved New York City from financial ruin. Can Dayoung survive the high-crime world of 1986 armed with just her rocket-suit and a head full of moxie?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Beautiful art by Amy Reeder, which is a good reason to buy the comic all by itself. The story is very cool, too — the weird time travel, along with the bizarre alternate-future/present Dayoung comes from, are both a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to seeing what other badassery she’s going to get into.


Astro City #5

I don’t know why you — yes, you. You specifically! — are working with the Broken Man. He doesn’t seem at all stable. He collects all these strange storytelling artifacts, and then he gets mad when you watch the stories that unfold. The monster-fighting G-men and their battles against the eldritch horrors all around us? He gets mad at you right when you get to the good bit. The strange tale of Lord Saampa, the Serpent’s Tongue? He gets mad at you right when you get to the good bit. He finally allows you to watch Dame Progress, steampunk crimefighter, as she pursues the terribly nimble Mister Cakewalk in pursuit of a stolen jewel. What does the Broken Man want with you anyway?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellently weird story, great art, fun characters. I’m really not sure I like the Broken Man at all, but his artifacts are a great way to tell a bunch of different stories. It’ll be fun to see how they all connect.


Batman: Li’l Gotham #7

Aquaman is in trouble. Oh, of course he is. And he asks Batman for help. So Batman gets a fancy wetsuit, Damian gets an underwater mecha. And Oracle gets an even bigger underwater mecha. In our second story, it’s the Fourth of July, and the Joker is organizing a party for all of Gotham’s villains. All they have to do is steal all the fireworks they can, and they’ll make the biggest boom ever. Can Batman, Robin, and Nightwing extinguish the party in time?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Very cute and quite funny. Babs Gordon driving a giant mech is muy cool.


Worlds’ Finest #16

Huntress is stuck doing a lot of crimefighting solo, because since her run-in with Desaad, Power Girl’s powers have been extremely unreliable. Who’s the mysterious energy-wielding acrobat who keeps setting fires at high-fashion events? What’s wrong with Karen’s powers?

Verdict: Ehh, I dunno. The art is pretty darn nice, but for the most part, this is just very by-the-numbers, uninspiring stuff. The series needs a lot more WOW moments, or a return to the fun character interaction, which has fallen off a lot in recent issues.

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Prepare to Read!


Prepare to Die! by Paul Tobin

I finished this one quite a while back, and I’ve just got such a huge backlog of books, it’s taken me this long to get a review written.

Y’all know Paul Tobin, right? He’s written so many comics. And here’s his superhero novel!

Steve Clarke went from 14-year-old rebel to first-rate superhero during a freak chemical accident. As Reaver, he’s superstrong, super-fast, and every time he punches someone, it literally takes a year off their life. But now, Reaver is one of the last superheroes on Earth, and after an encounter with the diabolical Octagon and his team of super-powered psychos, Steve gets beat down pretty hard. As the Octagon prepares his killing blow, he tells Reaver “Prepare to die!” So Steve says, okay, I’d like to have a month to prepare to die. He doesn’t get it — the Octagon gives him just two weeks to put his affairs in order, then he’ll be back to kill him.

So Steve goes back to his old hometown to find Adele, the girl he loved when he was 14. He starts up a (probably really short-lived) relationship with her, hangs out with Adele’s sister and her lesbian lover, and remembers all his old superhero friends, including Paladin, Steve’s best friend and Earth’s greatest hero, and Kid Crater, the sidekick who Steve failed. Can Steve face his death with dignity? Should he fight to survive? Will he be able to save Adele when the villains find out about her?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a good, fun book, full of humor, great characterization, absolutely terrifying action, at least one genuinely shocking plot twist, and a killer hook that’ll draw you in for the entire rest of the novel.

I loved the characters so much, and that’s what a good superhero novel needs. Steve is dark and conflicted… and depressed. He wanted so much to be like his best friend Paladin, and when he finds out that life isn’t all roses and glory for his friend, it breaks him pretty hard. Adele is a pretty great character, too, though I think I’ve got some quibbles about her, too. The Octagon and all the villains are amazingly scary — give deadly powers to a bunch of lunatics, and you’d get something like these guys. No wonder all the superheroes are dead.

The major quibble with this book is that it’s pretty neanderthal when it comes to women. Every woman Steve encounters, he either remarks on whether or not he wants to have sex with her — or he reminisces about previously having sex with her. Well, fine, Steve is a bit of a neanderthal anyway, right? Maybe so, but there are also a few weird things with Adele’s characterization — she apparently stayed obsessed with Steve after his accident and years-long coma, long after he’d completely disappeared from her life, to the point of becoming an alcoholic because she couldn’t stop thinking about him. That’s kinda sorta crazy, because most people get over even the worst heartbreak in time, especially heartbreak from when you were 14 years old. But the great male fantasy is that the girl you loved and lost would still love you today, right?

But there’s a lot of stuff to love about this book. The action is scare-the-pants-off-you good — Reaver is in over his head in almost every battle, and you’re always left wondering if even his healing factor will be able to keep up with all the damage he’s taking.

And I believe I’ve mentioned the plot twist already? I’ll mention it again. It’s very good. It’s very, very good. It’s really a bit of a masterwork of a plot twist.

It’s not at all bad, guys. Y’all should go pick it up.

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The Bandwagon Wants You!


The Movement #5

The wealthy plutocrats of Coral City are upset that the Movement has been as powerful as it has been — and that it’s inspiring similar uprisings of the underclasses all over the world. Now they intend to hire superpowered mercenaries to restore their preferred social order. Meanwhile, Virtue meets with Captain Meers — he tries to talk her out of holding a televised trial for Officers Whitt and Pena on the charges of being dirty cops. But the trial goes on — Katharsis is in charge of the prosecution, Tremor for the defense, and Vengeance Moth presiding as the judge. Mouse goes after the Cornea Killer, Whitt and Pena discover that Vengeance Moth has powers of her own, and one member of the Movement decides things have gone too far.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots and lots of things going on. There are plenty of comics with only a small number of events going on, and they still feel like they’re plodding. This one had a lot of stuff happening, and nothing felt rushed, and everything felt exciting and fun. This is probably the best issue of this title so far.


Lazarus #4

Forever Carlyle and Joacquim Morray, the almost unkillable Lazaruses of their rival families, have been ambushed by Forever’s renegade siblings. A Carlyle family hit squad prepares to execute them, but a Lazarus is very good at surviving and killing. Once the hit squad has been dealt with, it’s time to track down who the family traitor is — but the Carlyles are almost as good at treachery and intrigue as Forever is at killing people…

Verdict: Thumbs up. All around excellent storytelling — and don’t neglect to read the future timeline in the back of the comic. It has a lot of interesting details about how this world turned out the way it did.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • BLOG NOTICE: We’re having an unusually large amount of spam comments clogging the spam filter. So I’m gonna try to institute comment registration. Yeah, this is gonna be a bit trouble, and there may be some bumps. Hopefully, things will go fairly smoothly. If we have too much trouble, I may just go back to the old way, but I’d love to be able to frustrate a bunch of spammers…
  • An 18-part crossover? Eighteen parts? DC Comics can go hang.
  • Here’s a heart-breaking zombie tale for you.
  • There’s politics, and then there’s coup attempts. One is how the world operates. The other requires serious, serious punishments.

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Friday Night Fights: Drac Whack!

Why, hello there, October! You’re the best month of the whole year, yes, you are! The weather is cooler, the leaves are changing, and most importantly… Haaaaaalloweeeeen, the best day of the year! So what’s that got to do with Friday Night Fights, especially this early in the month?

Well, simply put, I like to plan ahead. So I went looking for a good fight to save for Halloween. And I found too many of them! Way, way too many. So instead of saving a whole bunch of them for future Halloweens, I’m gonna devote all of this month’s Friday Night Fights (and probably the day after Halloween, too) to monsters and horror. Shall we begin?

Tonight’s battle comes to us from September 2009’s Captain Britain and MI13 #15 by Paul Cornell, Leonard Kirk, and Jay Leisten, in which Faiza Hussain must face the vampiric might of Count Dracula himself!





Ya wanna hear something really, really weird? Something that’ll put the creep into your bones and make you question the nature of reality itself? Neither Faiza Hussain nor Dracula — two absolutely wonderful characters who appeared in highly acclaimed comics — are currently being published in any Marvel comic books. Oooo-weeeeee-ooooo…

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Give Me Liberty


CBLDF Liberty Annual 2013

I always look forward to the annual benefit comic for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, partly because it’s an easy way to support a wonderful organization, partly because it’s always a pretty high-quality anthology comic. This year, we have creators including Fabio Moon, Richard Corben, Josh Williamson, Paul Tobin, Tim Seeley, Andy Kuhn, and many others. And among our stories are a prosecuting attorney willing to commit murder to censor comics; agents of Thomas Edison determined to stamp out all non-Edison movie cameras; a horror host forced to go corporate; Captain Midnight trying to figure out blogging, newspaper commenters, and untrustworthy journalists; the tale of German comedian Paul Morgan’s persecution by the Nazis; a short history of Pussy Riot; a Hack/Slash story about a supernatural censor who kills people looking at forbidden things; and a story examining the question of “What if Wertham was Right?”

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent stories — no stinkers at all, this time, and only a couple that were just so-so. Good stories, good art, and all for an excellent cause.


Mighty Avengers #2

Well, we start out somewhere deep under the ocean, where the Blue Marvel has his sanctum sanctorum, monitoring the Earth for crisis situations. Meanwhile, in New York, Luke Cage, Spectrum, the Superior Spider-Man, and um, the Amazing Spider-Hero are fighting off a bunch of Thanos’ forces, led by Proxima Midnight. She manages to take out both Spectrum and Cage, but the citizens of New York lead a chant that gets Cage back on his feet. Thanos ends up calling Proxima off, but Monica is dying and something even worse than Thanos is rising up from beneath the city.

Verdict: Thumbs up on the story. It’s quite nice, with lots of action, characterization, and humor. Artwise, it’s a lot more of a thumbs-down situation, because they’re still letting that hack Greg Land work on this book, and there’s just no good reason to let this schmuck trace that many photos of Halle Berry.

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Dice Dice, Baby


Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It by David M. Ewalt

It’s a nice time to be a fan of pen-and-paper roleplaying games.

Granted, there aren’t quite as many games out there as I’d prefer. Too many great games are basically out-of-print, sustained only by online PDF sales. I can find more RPGs at the local used bookstore than I can at any other store selling games. There are a lot of my favorite games that I haven’t bought any new material for in years — either they aren’t selling, they aren’t producing anything particularly good, or they’re selling stuff on the down-low. The comic shops I go to sell some games, but not as many as the great game stores of the past used to. They have D&D and Pathfinder and Munchkin and board games — but no GURPS, no Call of Cthulhu, no Mutants and Masterminds, none of the greats. Heck, you gotta go a far piece just to find a store specializing in roleplaying games.

But it’s still a good time to be a gamer, because RPGs are having a minor renaissance, thanks to a combination of gamer nostalgia and more people realizing it’s fun to get together and play games.

So here’s David Ewalt (billed on the cover as a Level 15 cleric) and this cool book he wrote, essentially a bit of pop-sociology, examining the history of Dungeons & Dragons, and the culture of D&D players. Most of this information is not new — many hardcore gamers have known and memorized the history of how Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson created D&D, but it is very nice to have the story recorded in a nice mass-marketed book designed to appeal to gamers and non-gamers alike.

So we start in the ’70s wargaming scene, with Gygax and Arneson both adding interesting elements that moved gaming away from mass combats to a focus on individual characters — something that either freaked the grognards out or completely thrilled them. Gygax and Arneson had conflicting philosophies and styles that nevertheless merged neatly — if only temporarily — to create roleplaying’s greatest success. And for many years, times were very, very good — but good times never last forever, even if D&D might.

Scattered throughout the historical narrative are short profiles of regular gamers — some of them friends of the author, some of them just people he met while researching the book. We also visit a unique LARPing weekend event, watch the initial stages of the development of the new edition of D&D, get a short pilgrimage around the holy sites of the game’s creation, and much more.

Verdict: Thumbs up. There is so very much here that I never knew. Not just how Gygax and Arneson created the game, but how it was funded, how it was often not funded, how TSR came about, all the lawsuits that flew all around during the early years, how GenCon slowly grew.

And the whole thing never gets dry or boring or weighted down by historical facts. There’s tons of humor, winking nods to gamers’ obsessions and to the minutiae of D&D’s rules. We get to meet a ton of interesting people, watch them create their characters, play their games, and tell their stories, both in-game and in real life.

It has a few failings. Some of the darker periods of the game’s history, particularly the reign of RPG-hating Lorraine Williams at TSR, are given short shrift. And almost the entire focus of the book is on Dungeons & Dragons. Very few other RPGs are even mentioned. Magic: The Gathering is discussed a little, mostly because Wizards of the Coast ended up buying D&D.

For the most part, that’s okay — it’s a book about Dungeons & Dragons, not about every other RPG out there. But there were some points where other RPGs should’ve been mentioned — when the discussion is about how much people liked D&D version 3.5 and how many disliked version 4, it might be worth mentioning that Pathfinder was basically created as a way for gamers to keep playing 3.5, and that it ended up dethroning D&D as the most popular RPG as a result.

Still, those are mere quibbles. On the whole, it’s an outstanding book, well worth reading for anyone who grew up playing D&D and wishes they could return to the hobby. Go pick it up, read it, pass it along to your friends and family, if you think you can trust ’em to give it back. Hopefully, you’ll be able to expand your gaming group to a few more people.

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