Monday, December 31, 2007

Hello Cosmic 18: Infinity Abyss

[Another post in my look at Jim Starlin's cosmic work at Marvel. Today, it is Infinity Abyss #1-6. New posts Monday, Wednesday and Friday.]

The year is now 2002 and, if we're to believe the cover of Infinity Abyss #1, DOOMSDAY IS HERE! And, judging from the first page of the comic, I believe it. We've got An older, balder Adam Warlock bleeding, looking pretty fucking out of it and he narrates that he welcomes the "approaching doom." Jim Starlin is back doing what Starlin does best, people.

Not only is this Starlin doing what he will, he does the art as well, making it a true return to form as the last time he wrote and drew these characters was back in The Death of Captain Marvel. How weird is it to think that all of the '90s cosmic stuff was just Starlin on writing? [Edit: Actually, he wrote and drew that Warlock/Silver Surfer: Resurrection mini-series in the '90s. Still, it had been a while since he handled both duties...]

I have no idea what happened to Warlock, Gamorra, Pip and Thanos since the end of The Infinity Watch and I don't care, because, well, let's be honest, Starlin wasn't on the keyboards. I'm a bit of a purist with certain characters and despite the fact that all of these characters are Marvel characters, not Starlin characters, anyone other than Starlin handling them seems... not wrong, but not canon.

This series is actually quite clever as it plants the seeds for the next series, Marvel: The End right in the first page as Thanos is tracking some big energy source before being attacked by someone.

Adam Warlock is in a mental assylum, back in his cacoon and getting picked up by Pip.

Gamorra encounters followers of Thanos, all nihilists and devoted to Death--except this Thanos looks like a robot.

And the Thanos that kidnapped Moondragon to help awaken Adam Warlock just changed shape into a smaller, big-headed version of Thanos called X that's hanging out with a hulking Thanos that has Gladiator's symbol on his chest called Warrior, and a Dr. Strange-like one called Mystic. The robot-looking one is called Armour (and spelled with the U all proper-like). Now, I love me some Thanos clones, so...

Apparently, Thanos experimented with genetic splicing and created some clones that are part him, part other people (Xavier, Gladiator, Strange and Iron Man in the case of the above--although, I do wonder how Tony Stark's DNA would cause a robot-like, armoured clone, but that's me). They're going to end the universe, having not progressed beyond Thanos' old obsession with Death.

Starlin is up to his old tricks by bringing Dr. Strange and the other Defenders into the plot along with Spider-Man and Captain Marvel--mostly because these characters don't do much actually. Although, they do contribute more to the eventual soluation than the heroes used to. Mostly, they protect a little girl who is destined to be the next being that makes sure the universe continues to survive (or something like that). The goal of Team Thanos is to make sure she dies since the old guardian guy is dying and when he dies, the universe dies and nihilists love that shit apparently.

The heroes eventually stop the Thanos clones and Adam and Gamorra stay with the little girl until she becomes accustomed to her new role, creating a nice little family unit (finally Gamorra gets her man). But, there's still one Thanos clone left, the one called Omega...

Half Thanos, half Galactus.

Yeah. How fucking awesome is that?

Most of the last issue of the story is devoted to the group of heroes killing Omega as it is more powerful than Galactus and totally devoted to destroying the universe. They do eventually kill it--by destroying its ship, temporarily blinding it and then using a fleet of ships to blow up the planet it's on, which also happens to be mined all to fuck. God bless Thanos.

The story ends with Thanos back at his unknown energy source and leads right into Marvel: The End, but that's next time.

This series really is a return for Starlin, especially since he does the art as well (with Al Milgrom on inks). Warlock is put through the mental ringer per usual, including one scene at the end of issue five where he uses the Soul Gem to absorb the soul of Warrior in order to save the almost-dead-cosmic-guy-who-keeps-the-universe alive... and then promptly tell us, "WARRIOR'S DREAMS OF OBLIVION... / THEY ARE NOW MY DREAMS." Oops. This is after he agrees to help the cosmic guy and that nearly drives him insane. Thankfully, Starlin is kind to the character and has him find some peace and love with Gamorra.

Starlin's use of Thanos here is very well-done as he manages to give us every facet of Thanos in one series without Thanos himself having to represent it all at once. His former nihilist character? His clones. His semi-evil, mad scientist character? The existence of the clones. The new, semi-heroic Thanos? The one that saves the universe. It also reminds the reader how powerful Thanos is, while at the same time, showing that pure power isn't what makes him so dangerous. You would think a group of clones that combine Thanos with the likes of Professor X, Gladiator, Dr. Strange, Iron Man and Galactus could destroy the universe since Thanos alone nearly did it many times, but, in a way, there's a suggestion that combining Thanos with those others actually dilutes the threat. Yes, in raw power, they have much, MUCH more, but they lack Thanos' will, his intellect, his drive... his soul, if you will. Thanos is so fucking dangerous because of who he is, not what he is.

You also get a sense of the tragic nature of Thanos, that he could be a real force for good and improving the universe, but he's built up so much bad-will and hatred that he can only stick to himself unless absolutely needed. He's the guy that they hate to call upon, but know they have to. He should, at this point, be much more of a hero, but because of his own guilt and desires, and the mistrust of others, he's off analysing some powerful energy that will end up--well, the next series is called Marvel: The End.

On Wednesday, Thanos destroys the universe in an effort to save the universe and make sure Joe Quesada's word is law. Really.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Sunday Open: Astonishing X-Men Hardcover Vol. 1 and the Eternals

Alright, fuck, shit, I have got a headache, so this may be briefer than I want. I got a couple of Marvel hardcovers over the past week, so let's do this.

The Eternals

Yeah, yeah, what was the fucking point of this series and haven't I read this whole "gods tricked into being human until one of them remembers and begins gathering them together" stuff before? Yes, I did, in a little series called Journey into Mystery, which spun out of the then-cancelled Thor book when Heroes Reborn happened. And then it's happening again in the current Thor book. Fuck, people.

Astonishing X-Men Vol. 1

I read these comics when they came out and wasn't that thrilled. Seemed like Whedon was just playing to the fan(boy)s with various classic-type moments meant to push the right buttons, but not actually signify anything. The comic was cute and who gives a damn about a cute comic featuring the X-Men really?

I've got to say that the issues work better when read together like this, but not by much. Still cute and lovely and blah blah blah, but still not getting why it's so great (or so the people tell me). Geoff Klock has some great write-ups on the book and I reread 'em last night, but still not seeing it. But, I'm not loving All-Star Superman the way everyone else is either, so maybe I'm broken inside.

One thing that did bug me: the giant sentinel they encounter at Genosha--I thought it was made into that Magneto monument in Morrison's run. I could be wrong, I don't have Morrison's stuff here, but I remember it as that. Anyone else with me?

I would go on, but headache and apathy win the day.

Tomorrow, we jump right into some more Jim Starlin comics. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeah.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Joe Casey Comics: Deathlok #11

[The final post in my look at Joe Casey's Deathlok run. The series of posts examing books by Joe Casey will continue on the usual Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday schedule next week, most likely with Automatic Kafka unless (magically) his Incredible Hulk run arrives in the mail before then. I wouldn't hold my breath, so I suggest you get ready for an even weirder robot trip.]

First off, Newsarama has the entire Gødland #19 posted, so check it out and maybe think about buying the series. If anyone is interested, I have issues 1-12 that I'm willing to give away for free (having bought the hardcover edition collecting those issues). Just comment with your e-mail address and I'll get your details that way. First come, first serve.

Now, Deathlok #11, the first Joe Casey comic to get cancelled, I believe. (At least, it's the first one he launched that was cancelled. Get used to that happening.) However, despite its early conclusion, Casey wraps up the loose ends and finishes things off with an ending that, theoretically, could have happened whenever necessary.

The Clown aims to kill Martin Thraller aka the Ringmaster, who is on the verge of becoming president thanks to his hypnotic eyes. Truman is charged with taking Thraller now that Nick Fury remembers that Thraller is the Ringmaster and the man responsible for making him temporarily lose his memory. Except, Truman's brain isn't settling too well in the LOK prototype.

Things come to a head at the Utilitarian Party's convention where Thraller is primed to make his acceptence speech on national TV and secure the power he so covets. But, things are interrupted by the Clown and Truman who fight each other a bit. The Clown winds up getting a few shots off, injuring Thraller and allowing SHIELD to capture him, telling the world he died while he's in custody with Casey implying that they removed his eyes (although, the panel can also be read as them just blocking his eyes from being used--I prefer to think that Nick Fury made sure his magic eyes got removed because it fits into the tone of the series and character). Meanwhile, Truman lets the Clown go because, as he puts it, "I SUPPOSE IF I WASN'T WRESTLING WITH MY OWN BURNING SANITY, I'D JUST KILL OU FOR THE CLOSURE OF IT." The use of the word "closure" is key as it's both a psychological and fiction term, both meaning the same thing but in different ways. The series has been about psychology quite a bit, so killing the Clown would complete the mission for Truman and maintain the personality he's always had--but he doesn't, because he wants to grow beyond it (beyond the LOK prototype, which is the ultimate body for his profession). As well, Casey doesn't provide closure to the plot because killing the character would mean that he's off-limits from that point on and you don't give that sort of closure in commercial comics.

At the end of the issue, Truman finds Larry Young in a bar and uses his Tibetan mind trick to switch bodies, leaving Young in the LOK prototype and Truman to live a new life.

Leaving behind the LOK prototype is key, because, as I said, it represents the pinnacle of Truman's SHIELD career, in a way. With that body, he could be the best agent possible, lacking all of the usual human needs and weaknesses. However, when he gets the body, the loss of his humanity causes him to rethink his life and the sacrifices he's made for his career. The issue with his sister highlighted this particulary well where the connection there is gone, but also he only knows how to handle problems with violence. The series is not about the lose of his humanity, really, it's about how losing his human body makes him realise he gave up his humanity a long time ago and that that was a mistake.

Casey continues this theme in Automatic Kafka, where the protagonist is completely artificial and explores the boundaries of the soul, life and all that stuff. Plus, there are some more trips. Many more trips. That should begin on Tuesday. See you then.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Hello Cosmic Part 17: Warlock & The Infinity Watch #32-42

[Another post in my look at Jim Starlin's cosmic work at Marvel, except this post has nothing by Jim Starlin in it. Today, I'm looking at the final 11 issues of Warlock & the Infinity Watch post-Starlin. New posts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and Monday's post will actually involve Jim Starlin's work, I promise.]

Well, Jim Starlin is no longer writing Warlock & the Infinity Watch and has left the book mid-storyline. What do you do? Apparently, you do very Starlin-esque issues to finish the storyline, causing me to think that maybe Starlin was still involved in the writing process, at least providing a plan for where he was going to take the plot.

Issue 32, written by Richard Ashford, kicks off the two-part finale with the Infinity Watch teaming up with Darklore (who we all remember from Warlock Chronicles #1) to fight Count Abyss (who we all remember wants Adam Warlock's Soul Gem, because he sold his soul to a grass-eating fat junkie). I'm actually disappointed, in a way, that Darklore and his fairy sidekick have returned, because I rather liked the idea that the time Warlock encountered them was just a random thing with Warlock going one way through the dimensions, Darklore going the other, each heroes with their own quests. But, the fact that these two have to work together tells us how powerful Abyss is. As do the ways in which he takes out the entire Infinity Watch, Darklore and then takes Warlock's Soul Gem.

Issue 33 has new permanent writer John Arcudi conclude the story with some clever bits. Since Abyss now has the Soul Gem, Adam uses it against him by putting the soul of a good person inside Abyss, causing him to feel overwhelming guilt over all of his atrocities. This resolution stinks of Starlin because of the irony and psychological underpinnings. Abyss is defeated, Kray-Tor (the soul used--he was the judge in Magus' government that Adam thought was evil and then, upon sucking up his soul, realised was a good guy) is corrupted by the experience, Darklore and Maya are married to unite some kingdoms or whatever, Adam is heartbroken over that because of the love potion that made him fall in love with Maya, and the big fat junkie guy has no one to feed him his drug-grass. It's actually a bit of a downer, a little darker than Starlin usually delivers. Although, he is a fan of delivering resolutions that aren't happy endings.

The next two issues deal with Monster Island a little, the first of which is a nice Drax spotlight story. The strongest issues of this series have been the ones focusing on Drax and this one is no different. Feeling rejected by his teammaters, Drax begins hanging out with some of the Monster Island monsters and they form their own team. This, of course, leads to a crazy mix-up where Drax and his team interrupt a military drill, but the Navy guys all act like they did a good thing, because, well, Drax is a giant green guy who could kill them all.

Meanwhile, the Mole Man is upset because those monsters are his pets and their abscence allows Citizen Tyrannus to hold a little coup d'etat, because, seriously, Monster Island is frickin' awesome and everyone wants to rule it! The number of issues devoted to someone trying to take over the place is insane when you think about it.

My favourite bit in these issues is in the second one where Drax and his monster team are flying around, see some people on a beach, and he assumes they're castaways like on Gilligan's Island--and crashes right through their anchored ship when trying to land. He's then called back to Monster Island to help defeat Tyrannus, a story that is mostly kind of meh, but there is a nice moment where Tyrannus tries to convince Warlock that his replacing the Mole Man means things could be better, only to have Warlock bitch-slap him. Who doesn't love a good bitch-slap?

Issue 36 features guest writer Evan Skolnick and guest star Strange. Not Dr. Strange, oh no, this is just Strange, the masked, dark '90s version of the character. The less said about this issue, the better.

The next three issues feature John Arcudi on the script and return to some familiar themes: life-stealing and worshipping. Zakanus is some weird life-stealing guy who has killed Firelord and is now going to kill Adam Warlock, except the heroic actions of the Watch convince him that they're not evil and not deserving of death like his boss/king/whatever said. This makes him question everything he believes in and begins following Warlock's words without question, which makes Warlock uncomfortable. Firelord's body has been discovered on a planet and the inhabitants think him a deceased god.

Ultimately, there's a lot fighting and the good guys win, big whoop. The casting of Warlock in the saviour role again (if only for one character) is an odd choice and shows that Arcudi has no clear direction for the character, much like Starlin. Starlin did hint at a possible direction for the character, but very little was developed with the idea of Warlock becoming a full person, in a way.

In the next issue, Arcudi makes an attempt at giving Warlock some character, but in an odd manner. Gamorra finally has enough of Maxam and the two fight, which causes Warlock to side with Maxam (despite saying he isn't). He does it in a very cold manner, oblivious to Gamorra's feelings for him and this drives Gamorra to quit and Maxam to get the Time Gem. Now, this is obviously Arcudi wrapping up loose ends since the series ends with issue 42, but it is not the best way to do so. Obviously, he needs to wrap up the Maxam mystery and resolve the will they/won't they Warlock/Gamorra subplot, but he does so by keeping Warlock in a very cold, selfish place that shows no growth since issue one of the series. Warlock tells Gamorra that he's changed, but he hasn't, not really.

Oh, it turns out that Maxam is from the future or something and has to kill Warlock for the sake of humanity or something and he does it. But only in his mind thanks to Moondragon And the Infinity Gems disappear to the Ultraverse because Marvel bought Malibu and crossovers are fun.

The series ends in a very mediocre fashion, leading into "The Curse of Rune" and actually demonstrates why the series had to end. Without Starlin and the big cosmic crossover stories, the series lacked purpose and was just... there. No one, including Starlin, seemed to know what to do with the book and it's amazing that the series lasted 42 issues that way. The only times the book worked were during the Infinity War and Infinity Crusade stories when it did little focus stories to flesh out the larger picture. Or, when Drax starred in the story, strangely enough. I'm actually a little bewildered by how well the book worked when Drax was the focus of the story since you would think it wouldn't--but then again, Drax is basically just a good-natured Hulk in this series, so it's understandable how it works, in a way.

I think the most disappointing part of this series is that it kept hinting at a direction and purpose, but never got there. There was lots of talk of enlightenment and growth and knowledge, but none came. The Watch was put together to keep the Infinity Gems safe, but when the Living Tribunal ruled that they couldn't work together, who cares? I would have liked to see a few more stories along the lines of the Count Abyss one where the ultimate goal wasn't all of the gems, but one specific gem. "Blood and Thunder" had that, sort of, when Thor got the Power Gem, but that was unintentional.

I found this entire series to be very lacklustre and disappointing, for the most part. But, the good news is that we're getting to the last three books Starlin did for Marvel and all three are much better than this, particularly Marvel: The End, which is, perhaps, the best work Starlin has done for Marvel.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Joe Casey Comics: Deathlok #10

[The penultimate post on the penultimate issue of Joe Casey's Deathlok run. Saturday will finish up this issue-by-issue look at the series, which means, on Tuesday, I'll begin looking at another Joe Casey run. It will either be Automatic Kafka or his Cable run (depending on whether or not I'm able to find the last five issues of said run while out buying comics tomorrow).]

Before I get into things, I hope everyone's been having a nice holiday season. I just want to point you in the direction of a review I wrote of Charlie Wilson's War over at Geoff Klock's blog. I don't know if you read Geoff's blog, but it's a really great read, updated every day and is one of my favourites.

Joining Casey on this issue are John Buscema and Tom Palmer, which would be nice if it were a one-off story, but this is part three of four, so it doesn't work too well. Particularly how Truman was in his full-out robot look at the end of issue nine and here he is looking mostly human again with the odd patch of fake skin missing. I'm not going to blame Buscema for this as who knows what info he was given. The art is decent and does the job, but it just doesn't fit. While Casey is playing with old Marvel toys, he's doing it in a very modern manner and having an older artist on board here messes with that a little.

One serious misfire artwise is the character of Dennis Dubois, a new campaign strategist on Martin Thraller's team. He is obviously meant to be a James Carville rip-off, which is fine, because is there anyone more entertaining in politics than James Carville? If you want to know how fantastic Carville is, watch Primary Colors where Billy Bob Thorton's character is based on Carville (although, as always, allow for some dramatic license). (Fuck it, just watch Primary Colors, because it's a damn fine movie. It's probably my favourite political flick and would be my favourite politics book were it not for Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72. I highly recommend picking up those three items as soon as you can, especially Thompson's book. I read it every four years during the US election season--which we're coming up to!--and it runs down the primaries better than anything I've ever seen. Go get it. Spend some of that Christmas cash/gift cards on it. You won't be sorry.) The only problem with this James Carville rip-off is that he's drawn fat, wearing red suspenders, a blue shirt that says "New Orleans" and is mostly bald except for the red tuft of hair sprouting from the middle of his head. He's a fucking cartoon character and I don't know if this is Buscema's fault or how Casey described him, but it's horrible (I'm thinking that it's Busceme because in issue 11, Dubois' appearance is altered to look more like Carville).

The plot of this issue progresses the story, but not by much. Nick Fury and Truman fight the Clown, who eventually gets away. Thraller is on the fast track to gaining the power he wants, which includes brainwashing a reporter who accuses him of tax evasion. In the end, the Clown sees Thraller on TV and heads off to kill him, while Fury remembers that it was Thraller who wiped his memory, leading up to next issue where all of the loose threads get tied up.

Now, despite the art that doesn't quite fit, I really like this issue because of all of the politics. Little bits of speeches and behind-the-scenes stuff, I eat this shit up. The introduction of Dubois where he gives a speech to the campaign staff about how Martin Thraller is what America needs and blah blah blah is great, because you can tell, somehow, that he doesn't believe a word. He's a political operative who probably is in step with the message Thraller puts forth, but is too cynical to actually buy into the rhetoric too deeply.

There's a scene where Thraller does phone interviews and discusses strategy with Dubois and another staffer and you realise that Thraller has no personality. He's relying on his powers so much that he hasn't taken the effort to actually create a full persona, but has instead thrown together random bits of what seems like a good politician. He's boring, which is perfect, because it will (hopefully) keep people off his back.

To carry on with this type of personality, we're given a scene from an event where he's speaking and the crowd is dead--until he uses his powers. That's when he abandons the selfless talk and shifts into supervillain mode, demanding they serve him, except in a way that wouldn't seem out of place were you to read a transcript later. Casey really walks a fine line here and it works.

Next issue wraps things up and we'll see what's coming up next week.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Sunday Open: Pre-Christmas Books

Well, home for the holidays means lots of new comics. Before I get to that, I just want to mention that I won't be posting my usual Jim Starlin and Joe Casey stuff tomorrow and on Tuesday (possibly Wednesday either). Now, let's get to it...

The Immortal Iron Fist #11

"Hydra guy, Hydra guy, old lady, Hydra guy." I love Brubaker and Fraction's little bits of humour on this book. They manage to balance that stuff with things like the fight between Tiger's Beautiful Daughter and the Steel Phoenix, Davos' past, Jeryn's mom's ear, and the intrigue of the Thunderer and the August Personage in Jade. Plus, Heroes for Hire shit, too. Not to mention David Aja's fantastic art. I am really amazed that Marvel hasn't pulled him from this book and stuck him somewhere else, because this guy is fantastic and looks like he can draw anything better than 99% of the artists working right now. Well, maybe not 99%, but a pretty large number.

Mighty Avengers #6

Um, alright, that's it? That's the end of this story? Ares flies into Ultron and turns her back into Iron Man? Um, 'kay. There is the nice moment where Tony is told that he was turned into a girl, pauses and then checks to make sure everything (meaning his penis) is where it should be. I'm back on board with the thought balloons, too. Bendis seems to have gotten a better handle on what to do with them and they're working better.

Punisher War Journal #14

I like how Kraven calls Frank "Tiny Monkey." The ideas here are good, but something about the execution just isn't doing it for me.

Detective Comics #839

The finale of "The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul" is... this? Wow, some lame fights, some explosions, and then a retarded final scene where it's all "Forget about what just happened, because it's Christmas! YAY!" What the fuck? I am really glad neither one of the stores I stopped by had copies of the latest issues of Robin and Nightwing, because, fuck it, I don't want to know what happened in parts 5 and 6 of this piece of shit crossover. I am amazed--AMAZED--that these writers churned out such horrible, bland, mediocre crap. Eight issues where NOTHING. REALLY. HAPPENS. Holy fuck, I spent,like, twenty bucks on these comics. My god. My god. I hate myself right now. I really do.

The Death of the New Gods #3

You know what I loved about this issue? When Mr. Miracle bitch-slaps Darkseid with the Anti-Life Equation. The rest of it is kind of meh. I just can't get into the mystery here, because I'm betting the person responsible for killing the New Gods will be some character I've never heard of. But, I do love me some Starlin, so...

Green Lantern #25

I read somewhere that if I didn't love this comic then I probably shouldn't be reading superhero books. I guess I shouldn't be reading superhero books then, because I couldn't get through this comic. I'm sure that has a lot to do with not having read the previous ten parts of this story, but, seriously, I just couldn't get into this comic. I tried, but my mind kept wandering and I found myself skimming the dialogue and I just don't care. Fuck Green Lantern. I've never dug the character or the Corps or any of these idiots. And while I think Geoff Johns is a really nice guy, I can't get into his writing. Wow, there are now seven Corps and I should care why? I'm more disturbed by the odd rhyme in "The Sinestro Corps War." It weirds me out.

Also, having a horizontal double-page spread followed immediately by a vertical double-page spread is stupid. Just saying.

Black Summer #4

Probably the weakest issue of the series yet as little happens. The only thing of consequence is the introduction of a tactical group that can oppose the Seven Guns, but I suppose we won't see them until next issue.

What If...? Civil War #1

This issue contains two stories, plus a framing device by Ed Brubaker. The first story, "What if Captain America Led All the Heroes Against Registration?" had potential, but soon devolved into meaningless fights like the real Civil War. Also, I'm sorry, but the art is horrible. Horrible. My god, they published this art? It did give them an excuse to use that red, white & blue Iron Man armour, though. The second story, "What if Iron Man Lost the Civil War?" could be retitled "What if All of the Heroes Who were Good Buddies Before All this Shit Went Down Actually Talked it out like Civilised People, Not the Blood-Thirsty Morons that Mark Millar Seems to Think they are, Because Why Let Characterisation get in the Way of Fanboy Orgasm Moments?" In that story, things get talked out, the Registration Act stays, but is run by the Avengers, specifically Captain America and everyone is happy.

I'm actually mystified why Marvel would publish a comic like this, because the second story is so much better than what really happened. I mean, Captain America and Iron Man actually talking shit out--what a novel idea for two guys that are supposed to be great friends. Like I said above, the second story seems more aimed at showing why the original series made no fucking sense than anything else. Very, very odd.

Midnighter #14

Um, I thought Krigstein ended up working with the Authority. And the guy in the Iron Man suit went off to have his own life. Or, were those things retconned when the Wildstorm universe was rebooted (but only when it was convenient to the story at hand)? Or, how about taking control of his weird invisible bases in the middle of cities? Weird little stuff like this bothers me in comics, because, let's be honest, not many people reading Midnighter haven't read The Authority. So, come on, make sure it matches up.

As for the actual issue, there's a whole lot going on between Mindy and Jenny Quantum about Midnighter's past that doesn't make a whole lot of sense yet, because we haven't had the big reveal yet. Midnighter is offered a chance to join Anthem, but slaughters people instead. I did like the little bit with the British woman with the Union Jack on her face going "Bloody pathetic." Aside from the little continuity shit, I am enjoying this book. Giffen seems to know what he's doing and where he's going. Too bad the art is shit.

Deathblow #8

Yes, this book is still around, but not for long as issue nine is the last of the series. Can't say that I'm that disappointed. This series has been more fucking around than mindfuck and part of the problem is that Azzarello wasn't given an artist up to the task. Carlos D'Anda is one of those Wildstorm house artist types and, holy shit, I hate their stuff. I hate that style so fucking much.

But, I do love the dinosaur cyborg. This is a darker version of that playful Azzarello we all loved in Doctor 13. Here, the dinosaur gives us some weird rant about a dream where you grow breasts that your best friend wants to touch and you secretly want him to touch, too. The rest, though, is kind of meh. We'll see how it finishes and reads as a whole, though.

The Order #5-6

I had my reservations about this series after the first couple of issues, but it's turning out to be pretty damn good, you know? Complex characters, people trying their best to be heroes, giant radioactive lizards... awesome. My favourite scene in these two issues has to be in issue six when Henry, Pepper and Katie are questioning Mulholland about the Black Dahlias--if only because that has Fraction showing how well he does characters--and it leads right into Tony Stark being Tony fucking Stark. Fraction's Stark isn't quite like the Stark seen elsewhere, but it works. I don't know why, it could be the nature of the book, which is about this flashy, surface, celebrity type of world where Stark isn't Iron Man or director of SHIELD, he's a playboy billionaire. If there's a book that shows that Fraction will one day be writing the franchise books, it's this one.

Casanova #11

Why must I continually come up with new ways to say this book rocks my world? It does. Fuck it, that's all.

The Programme #6

Another book that I wasn't sure about at first, but I'm really digging on. Milligan seems to know what he's doing. That, and this issue is titled "The President of the United States is a Dangerous Psychopath," which is my favourite issue title of the year. Mark it down, rock and roll. There's also a fantastic moment where Max is looking for a clean t-shirt to confront the Russian superpeople in (after they'd been nuked by the US--that didn't work so much) and all that's left is a Steely Dan tee and his pure frustration/mortification that he'll have to save the United States from Russian revolutionaries in a Steely Dan t-shirt. If you haven't been getting this book, you should--or wait for the trade. Whatever, your call.

Iron Man: Enter the Mandarin #1-4

I really do love "Joe Casey fills in Stan Lee's plot holes" comics. This is the book for anyone who misses the Iron Man they knew and loved once upon a time. He's heroic and tough and noble and takes on evil. Plus, there's Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan being all original versions of those characters. These are some fun, well-written, well-drawn, just solidly awesome superhero comics. Eric Cante draws less like math here, more cartoony, but it's still great.

I want to take this chance to mention that I am looking forward to The Last Defenders. About damn time Casey's gotten another book set in the contemporary Marvel universe, even if it's only a six-issue mini. It should be good, so demand your retailer order you a copy of each issue right now.

The Pulse: Thin Air, The Pulse: Secret War, and The Pulse: Fear

Got these three trades for seven or eight bucks each and, well, they didn't do much for me. I think the problem is that the concept of Jessica Jones and Ben Urich teaming up for a weekly feature of superheroes for The Daily Bugle is great. Except. Except it never actually happens. I kept waiting for it to happen and it didn't, so fuck it. It seemed like a book designed at integrating Jessica Jones into the Marvel universe proper and not much else.

I did enjoy the Green Goblin stuff in the first arc, but not much else. Oh, there was the odd moment, but not much else. I did notice something that often bothers me about Bendis comics: layouts that extend over both pages, but are done in grids where you can't actually tell if it continues onto the next page or is just on a single page. This is especially problematic with Bendis' dialogue that jumps around so much that you can actually read these pages both ways and have them make around the same amount of sense. What the fuck?

I'm really disappointed with these books, because I'd been digging most of what Bendis has done so far, but these just did little for me. Ah well.


That about does it for me. Have a merry Christmas, happy holidays, whatever. I'll be back on Wednesday or Thursday.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Joe Casey Comics: Deathlok #9

[Part nine of eleven in my look at Joe Casey's Deathlok run. There are eleven parts, because that's how many issues were published. Had more been published, there would be more posts on the subject, but since none were, we're stuck with eleven. New posts on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

The march towards the end continues. Truman has infiltrated Fury's criminal gang! Martin Thraller is on track to become president! The Clown kills people!

Yeah, not much else happens, actually. A lot of shooting and robot craziness... and that's about it.

The only really interesting stuff is Martin Thraller as he makes his opponent reveal all of his wrongdoings during a debate. Or when Princess Python extorts money out of him to keep his Ringmaster past a secret--and he doesn't care, because it's only money and he's going for much bigger things.

Casey has some fun with Nick Fury as a criminal and his old Howling Commandos language. Joe Casey is one of those writers that you can tell he's just having a lot of fun when he's writing. In the end, Nick Fury regains his memory just as the Clown arrives to kill him. "TO BE CONTINUED!"

Next issue is a fun one where John Buscema and Tom Palmer provide the art. Does it actually work for the issue? Tune in next time!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Hello Cosmic Part 16: Warlock & The Infinity Watch #26-31

[Another in a series of posts examing Jim Starlin's cosmic work for Marvel. Today, I look at the final six issues of his run on Warlock & the Infinity Watch with issues 26-31. New posts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.]

I don't know why exactly Jim Starlin left Warlock & the Infinity Watch. The letters pages of the book hint that one reason was to do Breed with Malibu and to get his colour separation company up and running. I do know that him leaving happened at an odd time in that is was mid-storyline--and not just any storyline, a story he had been building to for over a year. I've mentioned Count Abyss a few times before and he appeared in between The Infinity War and The Infinity Crusade with the actual payoff not happening until issue 29 really. It just seems strange that he would leave in the middle of a storyline that obviously meant a lot to him and before wrapping up other stuff like the character of Maxam.

The first three issues of these final six are rather dumb. They build on the plot of a US senator pushing the UN to invade Monster Island--something that happened twice already with poor results. This time, he's hypnotised the Avengers and sent them to kill Adam Warlock with the hopes that they'll either succeed or the Watch will kill the Avengers, which will turn the world against the Watch and make taking Monster Island easier. It's a horribly inane plot that really just gives an excuse for the Watch to fight the Avengers. Say what you will about Jim Starlin, but he's a man who knows what people want (big fights featuring their favourite heroes squaring off against one another) and has no problem giving it to them. Eventually, it's revealed that the senator is really Man-Beast and it was all about getting revenge on Warlock.

Meanwhile, Maya (consort of Count Abyss) shows up on Monster Island with the spiked wine and is knocked unconscious by the Avengers. When she wakes up, she and Adam drink the wine (which she thinks she's taken an antidote for) and it causes them to fall in love. This is new territory for Warlock and it's actually smart of Starlin to push the character there as it adds to his overall project of rebuilding Adam Warlock into a fully developed person. He spent a lot of time deconstructing this character, breaking him down mentally and stripping him to the core as this emotionless guy who saves the universe, but has no real character to him. He tries to find himself numerous times but to no avail--because his past shows no real character. He was created by scientists and played into roles assigned by others to the point of mental collapse. In the one story where he had free reign to do as he wished, Starlin showed that he (Warlock--and maybe Starlin as well) had no idea to what to do as he drifted through the universe with no purpose. Warlock has always been motivated by external events and his character determined by his reactions to them with very little driven by himself.

Of course, this isn't actually all that different as Warlock's feelings of love for Maya come from outside himself as well. However, this pushes Warlock into unfamiliar emotional territory that could be built upon later (and is... although nearly a decade later). Starlin uses this love plot to highlight Gamorra's feelings for Adam and set into motion those two becoming a couple. For a powerful and seemingly wise character, Adam Warlock is quite naive and inexperienced in many areas of life. It feels like Starlin was just beginning to explore his education when he left the title.

Starlin's final issue of Warlock & the Infinity Watch gives us the origin of Count Abyss, a man who sold his soul for power. The reason he is so obsessed with Adam is Adam's possession of the Soul Gem as Abyss misses his soul and wants a substitute. Abyss receives his powers from this fat being that is addicted to this grass that sits in a dish just out of reach. Abyss has control over the being because of the grass. It's a really weird plot point that examines power structures and addiction and all of that, except not really.

Another reason why Starlin's departure seems to sudden and unexpected is that at the end of issue 31, the Watch teleports somewhere and seems ambushed by an evildoer of some kind, except in issue 32, the unseen "attacker" turns out to be Darklore from The Warlock Chronicles #1. He seemed like a throwaway character at the time, but it turns out that his quest was to fight Count Abyss. Of course, we don't learn that until the first non-Starlin issue. Despite Starlin's absence, the remaining issues of the Count Abyss story seem very much as if written by Starlin--again, making his departure all the more sudden and unexpected.

The art for these issues varies. Issue 26 is the standard bang-up job by Tom Grindberg, while issue 27 is also by him, but is much more rushed and sketchy. Issue 28 is by some guy named Jeff Moore and is pretty shit. Then, Pat Olliffe comes on as regular artist with issue 29 and just delivers some stellar work. I actually think that issue 29 is one of the best-looking comics Olliffe has ever done. His coming on board works very well with Starlin as he is more expressive than Grindberg, but just as stylised and clear. While I like Grindberg's work more, I think Olliffe tells the story better and, until his departure a couple of issues before the end of the series, delivers some fantastic work.

Next time, I will look at the final 11 issues of Warlock & the Infinity Watch, all Starlin-less. They technically do not fit into this series, but they build on Starlin's work and seem to contain many of his ideas, so fuck it, whatever.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Joe Casey Comics: Deathlok #8

[Yet another post in my look at Joe Casey's Deathlok. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

The beginning of the end, folks. The word has come down and Deathlok is just not popular with people. I hate you people. You rarely buy the comics I love and then they get cancelled. What's up with that? Do we just differ on what a good comic is? It's kind of annoying, you know.


The issue begins with Jack Truman sitting in a bar (and, the song "The Bar is a Beautiful Place" by Ryan Adams just came on and it is so the beginning of this issue--if you know the song, you'll no doubt agree) and he's doing that old "I'm trying to be a new person now, so I'm going to do nothing at all because that's the same fucking thing" routine. Luckily, Dum Dum Dugan shows up to give him an assignment: find Nick Fury. Truman isn't enthused, but we all know he's going to do it, so let's keep moving.

Big reveal time: Martin Thraller, the man running for the Utilitarian Party's presidential nomination is really... Maynard Tiboldt aka the Ringmaster. He's using his power of hypnosis to make himself president and is a perfect example of Casey's style--he takes a pretty retarded character, applies a little logic and presto, we have a lame-o supervillain running for president. You can see the roots Agent Wax from Casey's Wildcats work. The scene here with Thraller and his secretary is pretty much replayed in the latter work. Casey recognises one fundamental truth about men: if they had the power to make women have sex with them, you bet your ass they would use it (oh, don't look so surprised).

Apparently, there's a new guy stirring things up in the criminal world and guess who that is. Sure, the cliffhanger at the end of the issue is that it's Fury, but who didn't see that coming? Truman infiltrates Fury's group, while the Clown has been hired to kill him. If you'll remember, the last time we saw Fury, Thraller had hypnotised him and this is where he ended up.

The issue of mental control plays heavily in these final issues. Now, the fact that Thraller is a politician says something about the way they play and pander to crowds, influence people and, ultimately, gain control. They manipulate people into believing in and following them--and shouldn't we pay more attention to that sort of thing? It's scary to see how much people identify with politicians; I've seen huge screaming matches over personal opinions of politicians--not politics, POLITICIANS. Casey uses Thraller to show just how messed up the system is as Thraller is supposed to represent this third party, which is supposed to be built on specific ideas not dealt with by the other two. Except he is really in it for the personal power and glory, which he himself gets, not his ideas. He hypnotises people into following him--he can say whatever he wants. It is the cult of personality in an area where it should be about ideas, opinions and what is best for the country. Casey loves to mix these fictional power bases (superpowers) with the real power bases (politics, corporations, the media) and use the former to comment on the latter.

Until next time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hello Cosmic Part 15: Blood & Thunder

[In which I continue my look at Jim Starlin's cosmic work at Marvel with the winter 1993/94 crossover "Blood & Thunder," which he co-wrote with Ron Marz and spanned The Mighty Thor #468-471, The Silver Surfer #86-88 (both of those titles written by Marz), The Warlock Chronicles #6-8, and Warlock & the Infinity Watch #23-25. Posts in this series published Monday, Wednesday and Friday.]

Before I left Windsor for Christmas in London (and, just to remind everyone, this is Canada--specifically, Ontario--not England), I made up a schedule for GraphiContent posts, so that I would know what would have to be done while I was out of town. The schedule itself runs well into January as I figured out how long this series on Jim Starlin would run, along with the next title in the Joe Casey series (Automatic Kafka, just so you know). I had scheduled "Blood & Thunder" for two days because it's a 13-issue crossover and I figured it would warrant two days of discussion.

Um, no. No, it doesn't. I'm not sure it really warrants this day, but let's give 'er a go anyway.

"Blood & Thunder" is a story where Thor is insane. All of Odin's messing with his head with Donald Blake, Eric Masterson, etc. has taken its toll and now Thor is a little off his rocker. He sees a woman called Valkyrie and she tells him to destroy things. First, the Silver Surfer gets involved, then Warlock, then the Infinity Watch, then Dr. Strange, then Thanos and then, eventually, things get resolved. These are not good comics. The art is lacklustre, for the most part, the writing is poor, and the story is quite padded.

The ironic thing is that the last issue of the crossover, Thor #471 is the first issue of the series I ever got (for my birthday--because I had gotten Warlock & the Infinity Watch #25 with some Christmas money a few weeks previous) and it actually got me into Thor, a strange, irrational love that carries on to this very day. And now I see that the comic is horrible shit. Does that mean that Thor is horrible shit, too? Have I been wrong these past 14 years? Have I been living under an unhealthy dillusion that Thor was worth my time? Damn you, Ron Marz, for making me question myself. (Although, without this crossover, I would never have gotten my dad to buy the title for me, which meant I would never have read Warren Ellis' four-issue story on the title and may never have gotten into his work. Does that mean that reading bad comics can be good ultimately?)


The only art in this whole batch of books that doesn't disgust me is Tom Grindberg's work on The Infinity Watch #23 and 24, and Angel Medina's work on issue 25 of the same book. I mean, MC Wyman doesn't even draw the Power Gem correctly in his issues of Thor. He draws what looks like a more standard jewel with a square front and shit--instead of the round, jelly bean-esque look that the Infinity Gems have. These are just ugly comics, people.

As I said, the writing isn't much better. The only issue that kept my interest much was The Infinity Watch #24 where the entire group (plus the Silver Surfer and Dr. Strange) are captured by Trolls. Since Pip is a Troll as well, he isn't to be sacrificed like the rest without a chance to save himself through combat. According to custom, he can choose a surrogate to fight in his place and he chooses Warlock. The terms of the fight are that it is only strength against strength, which means no Soul Gem or anything like that. The opponent is the older brother of Ulik, which means a giant Troll that is all super-strong and looks like he will make short work of Warlock. Except Warlock beats the shit out of him, and anytime Warlock gets hit, it's because he meant to. Seems Pip has been freeing everyone else and Warlock was just buying time. In his own words: "I WAS AMAZED YOUR GOOD KING GEIRRODUR WOULD BELIEVE THAT I'D ACTUALLY GO ALONG WITH THIS RIDICULOUS SHAM! / NOT VERY INTELLIGENT, IS HE? / I SHOULD BATTLE A MAJOR SLAB OF BEEF LIKE YOURSELF--THEN, WIN OR LOSE, ALLOW MYSELF TO BE SACRIFICED TO AN OVERSIZED GARDEN SNAKE?? / YOUR GRAND RULER'S CROWN MUST FIT TOO TIGHTLY! / HE LACKS A FIRM GRASP ON REALITY! UNFORTUNATELY, OLIK, IT IS YOU WHO SUFFERS FOR HIS FAILINGS." Warlock's dialogue throughout the fight is in this bombstic, playful style and it works. You get the sense that since Warlock is just toying with Olik, he is almost having fun. Of course, it does make sense that the one issue that doesn't directly deal with the plot of the crossover is the one that reads well.

The basic idea of the story isn't bad and does work with Starlin's ongoing theme of mental stability and imbalance. He loves to have the real fight characters undertake be in their minds, but the execution here falls flat.

Issue 25 of The Infinity Watch features a die-cut cover that actually works. The primary image depicts Thor in chains with Thanos and Warlock as his captors. If you open the cover, Thor remains and we get him in chains in a great hall in Asgard surrounded by Odin, Sif, Beta Ray Bill, the Watch, Dr. Strange and the Silver Surfer. It's the third special cover I've encountered in this journey into the '90s and it actually works. I never minded cool covers as long as they brought something to the table other than being different. As long as the enhancement worked with the cover and the story, no worries. Here, it does.

I also like the trade dress for this crossover. The left side and top of the cover are taken up by the design, which includes a hammer in the top left, the words "Blood and Thunder" across the top and whatever part the issue is in the top right corner. It looks alright and makes it easy to tell that the issue is part of the crossover--and what part.

I feel like I should discuss the story more, but I don't have anything to say, really. There are lots of fights and lots of pseudo-Shakespeare speak. Thanos goes toe-to-toe with Odin, which is a pretty decent fight.

The Count Abyss subplot in The Infinity Watch advances as he prepares to send Maya, his consort to meet with Warlock and fool him into drinking some spiked wine. But, more on that next time. Figured I'd mention it so it doesn't come as such a big surprise.

Next time, I'll look at the final issues of Starlin's run on Warlock & the Infinity Watch. They're not that great, either.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Joe Casey Comics: Deathlok #7

[Part 7 of an 11-part look at Joe Casey's Deathlok. Posts every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

Last issue, Jack Truman quit SHIELD and now he's in LA to visit his sister. Eric Cante again provides the art and, for some reason, Truman's narration is in a different caption box than usual. It is only seen this issue and seem more technological. I don't know why the change for this issue.

This issue deals mostly with Jack's attempt to be human again, hampered by the fact that he doesn't have much fake skin left and his sister wants nothing to do with him. The reader is supposed to think that Jack's problem is that he's a man trapped in a robot, but that's not really it. His problem is that he doesn't know what he wants in life, because he's spent so much time and effort being a SHIELD agent that that's all he knows. He's not estranged from his sister because he's a robot now--he's estranged from her because he hasn't seen her in a decade. Casey just uses the LOK part of the character as a convenient excuse to explore this idea here.

Jack also confronts a guy named Puffy at a party--which he is at as a favour to his sister as her friend needed a date--who turns out to be a former member of the Serpent Society (same with the woman). Puffy and Jack immediately fight in the grand, destructive style they're both used to, not knowing how to deal with one another otherwise. The woman, on the other hand, has put her past behind her and is able to move on, providing an example for Jack (and Puffy).

The real question of the issue: how do you go back to being a normal human after a life of excitement and superheroics (and SHIELD agents are practically superheroes in the MU). Casey explores this idea more in Codeflesh and Wildcats.

In the end, Jack's sister wants nothing to do with him and he's off to try and find a life for himself. He doesn't--at least, not yet.


Alright, I wrote the above last Thursday or Friday. I was trying to get all of my posts for the next couple of weeks (or, at the very least, my Deathlok posts) done before coming back to London as I didn't want to bring all of these comics with me. But, this was the final post I wrote in Windsor, so we can all see what sort of work ethic I've got going for me. Just wanted to add a few things about this issue--and I know, most people would have just added them without saying something, but I like to distinguish between times I've worked on things like this.

I've been thinking about the men and women in this issue, and how the men fight, while the women... don't. Or, is it a divide between physical violence and emotional violence? Jack and his sister are violent with one another, but not in a physical way. Jack emotionally hurt his sister in the past and visiting her does so again by reminding her of the past pain. She responds by kicking him out and telling him that they're not family anymore. Whereas, Jack and Puffy just hit each other.

As well, there's a connection drawn between the two couples: Black Mamba and Puffy, and Jack and his sister. Both couples have shared pasts that they're trying to ignore and transcend, but only the first couple is doing so together, using one another for support. In fact, BM and Puffy are more of a family to one another than Jack and his sister are--is Casey commenting on the idea that biological family can mean less than created families? I know I feel closer to some friends than I do some members of my family--and I'm sure the same is true for most people, especially those in groups with lots of danger and violence like a supervillain group or a superhero team. This leads into Casey's hints at the dynamic of the $tranger$ in Automatic Kafka as one of a dysfunctional family (building on Morrison's Doom Patrol as therapy group).

On Thursday, we begin the final four issues and the last story of the series.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Hello Cosmic Part 14: The Infinity Crusade Part Three

[Concluding my look at The Infinity Crusade and continuing my overall examination of Jim Starlin's cosmic work at Marvel. Here, The Infinity Crusade #5-6, Warlock Chronicles #5, and Warlock & the Infinity Watch #22 are discussed. New posts Monday, Wednesday and Friday.]

If you looked up the definition of "useless event comic that did nothing to advance the story but fooled the reader into thinking serious shit went down," you'd get a little note that said "See The Infinity Crusade #5 (Oct. 1993, Marvel)." Nothing happens except heroes fight brainwashed heroes. And it works. It works and you don't even think to examine the use in the actual story--which I know is an odd thing to say since I noticed it right away, but that's only because I picked up on Starlin doing that over and over again.

We find out that the Goddess wants to destroy the universe because Warlock didn't recognise his feminine side enough. How about that character motivation, eh? And then the universe is saved when Warlock eventually sucks the Goddess into the Soul Gem where she's left as a ghost like the Magus since she's only an aspect of a soul, not a complete soul. Take that, Goddess!

The issue of Warlock & the Infinity Watch is a nice little throwaway story where the UN (or US army, I dunno) invade Monster Island again since they know the Infinity Watch isn't there, so the Mole Man and his army take them on. They win and then steal the soldiers' clothes. Take that, Mr Soldier Boys!

Thanos ultimately upholds his deal with Mephisto about the cosmic cube, but pulls the old "you didn't specified it had to be a functional cosmic cube!" gambit. Take that, Mephisto!

I haven't had a whole lot to say about this crossover (despite padding the examination out over three posts) because it isn't that good. There are some nice moments and Starlin is successful at telling this story through three titles with each having a specific focus. While the plot of the Infinity Crusade isn't the greatest, the construction is rather well done and other writers should use it as an example.

But, I'm always impressed with Starlin's overall structures, particularly the way he can take a simple story and build up meaningless plots around it and make it seem like those meaningless plots matter. I think the problem here was that he backed himself into a corner with the concept of Adam Warlock's good aspect being out in the universe and that as a problem. It would have worked much better to play her as a good influence. Starlin did attempt that, but not much. We got the odd scene where the heroes would stop and ask if the Goddess was actually right, perhaps.

And now, we move into the last bits of Starlin's work at Marvel in the '90s and... yeah, it's not great. Hopefully, I'll find something of interest in it. Otherwise, I apologise in advance.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

It's my mom's birthday, so let's celebrate with new comics!

It is indeed my mom's birthday today. Not really important to any of you, but there it is. I bought some new comics on Friday, so let's get to it.

Batman #671

So, this whole R'as al Ghul story is pretty shit, eh? I'm very tempted not to pick up the remaining three parts. But, as my roommate, Adam says, I'm a horrible completist, so I'll most likely do that this week when I buy comics here in London. Maybe it will turn out decent. Please?

New Avengers #37

Adam bought this comic, too, and hated it. I, on the other hand, enjoyed it. He didn't like Spider-Man's crack about his black costume and the art. I agree about the art--Yu has been not producing his best work on this title and I've gotta wonder what happened.

Criminal #10

I'm not sure about the ending. It works to set up more stories with Tracy Lawless, but I'm not sure it works as an ending to this story. But, otherwise, typical great issue.

The Boys #13

I also suspected Vlas of being a traitor, so Hughie shouldn't feel too bad about it. I rather enjoy this book and find myself always finishing an issue wanting the next one right away. That's a good sign, right?

Sensational Spider-Man #41

You know what? The Mephisto stuff doesn't read as bad as it could. When I read the spoilers for this issue online, I thought it was a pretty retarded idea--still do, actually--but the issue itself presents the idea in a better light than the spoilers let on. There's at least some logic at work here. Is it great? No. Not even good or average, but it's better than it could have been. That's what I took from this issue: better than it could have been.

Wolverine #60

This is one fucked up story--and not in a good way. I don't know what the point of this story is or where it's going. First Wolverine is fighting terrorists, then he's brain dead, then he's fighting an archangel, then he's getting revenge and then he's confronted by a dead man? Seriously, not getting it. But, there's something strangely compelling about this story. It's so odd and weird (in a bad way) that I can't help but see it through. I want to see if Guggenheim will somehow pull a rabbit out of his ass and make it all worth it.

Infinity, Inc. #4

Speaking of fucked up stories... Milligan got me with this issue. He's managed to sell me on the weirdness of these characters. The whole exchange between Kid Empty and his girlfriend was really fucking messed up. I mean, wow, that was some harsh shit right there. Milligan is starting to let the freaky shit come out and I'm loving it.

Omega the Unknown #3

An odd comic that is compelling in its own way. It reminds me of an indie film in a lot of ways. It exists in that strange, quirky little space that the yearly "indie success" occupies (Garden State, Little Miss Sunshine, Napolean Dynomite are all good examples of this). Strange to see Marvel publishing it, but it's a nice read.

That does it. Not much I wanted to say about these books, really, I guess. Next up is another week of Jim Starlin and Joe Casey goodness. Does anyone really care? Nope? Ah well, no worries, I'm going to do it all anyway.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Joe Casey Comics: Deathlok #6

[And we pass the halfway mark in my look at Joe Casey's Deathlok run. Posts on the subject published Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

Leonardo Manco has the issue off, so the art here is by Matt Smith and Richard Case. Their work is sort of a cross between Ed McGuinness and Eric Cante--and, like the Cante issue, works because of the self-contained nature of the issue. This issue isn't really self-contained as it furthers the overall story, but it tells its own story as Truman is put in charge of a unit of cyborg agents--or, freaks, as they call themselves.

We begin with Truman's attempts to seem human where he sprays on fake skin to cover his robot body, except it tends to flake off. But, because of this fake skin, his team doesn't know that he's a freak like them and, therefore, distrust and hate him. Especially Darwin, an agent who's lower body has been replaced, which, apparently, caused the break-up of his marriage.

The mission they're sent on is simple: go to some island, overthrow a dictator. The misson goes bad, people get killed and we learn that the dictator had been propped up by SHIELD until recently and it wasn't about taking out a horrible scumbag more than it was about revenge.

The plot is very typical and Casey seems to be using it as a means for Truman to confront others just like him. Darwin is an angry version of Truman, one pissed off at what has happened to him and ready to die. The other two seem better adjusted, more about just doing their jobs, because what else is there. In the end, Truman walks away from SHIELD, because fuck this shit. He also lets the dictator live.

At the end, the issue of Truman as SHIELD's property is raised, because his body IS SHIELD's property. It's their LOK prototype and his mind just happens to be inside it. At what point does it cease being LOK and begin being Truman?

I have no idea and I don't think anyone does.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Hello Cosmic Part 13: The Infinity Crusade Part Two

[Yet another post in the continuing examination of Him Starlin's cosmic work at Marvel. This time, I'm looking at The Infinity Crusade #3-4, Warlock Chronicles #3-4, and Warlock & the Infinity Watch #20-21. New posts Monday, Wednesday and Friday.]

Well, my latest eBay order arrived yesterday, so I now have the rest of the Starlin comics I need. Yay.

As for these issues, things progress but not really. We do get a lovely bit where Warlock interrupts Eternity and Infinity while they... have sex? They're melded together and in the shape of an infinity sign and seem very put out by Warlock showing up--who is also kind of weirded out by the whole situation. Jim Starlin is one weird guy sometimes.

I'll just stick to the important stuff, because, as I've said many, many times, Starlin tells these stories with around four plots, three of which are meaningless and go nowhere beyond providing readers the thrill of seeing their favourite Marvel heroes not shunted off to the sidelines like the useless bitches they are.

Warlock and Thanos are going to take on the Goddess, and Mephisto shows up, offering help--but only in exchange for one of the Goddess' cosmic cubes. Warlock says no, Thanos agrees. Warlock confronts Eternity and Infinity, learns what the Goddess' plan is, returns, and then slaps his Soul Gem on Thanos and has it absorb him. Thanos is a little freaked, but he quickly learns, through the Soul Gem, what the plan is. In the Soul Gem, Warlock fights the Magus, wanting his help against the Goddess, but the Magus refuses and the issue is pretty pointless beyond giving us a good fight.

Meanwhile, Pip jumps on the Goddess' cosmic egg thing and gains all of her power, so we get an issue of him wondering what he should do with it... again, Starlin just not taking this shit seriously--and it works here. He's eventually knocked off, so it was of no import, but a fun little issue.

Thanos takes charge and leads the unbrainwashed heroes against the Goddess and her religious fanatics. Nothing really happens. We do get a fight between Thor and Drax, which leads into the Blood and Thunder crossover that follows the Infinity Crusade. That issue ends with a sun going nova and... Drax and Thor dying.

Starlin demonstrates that he knows how to do big crossovers, especially running through three books as each advance the story, but different aspects. He also showed some ingenuity with the Goddess--apparently the good side of Adam Warlock, making her a religious zealot makes sense: someone doing "good," but in such an extreme way--too much good as it were.

Next week, I'll conclude my look at the Infinity Crusade and then get into Blood and Thunder, where Starlin is joined by Ron Marz on writing duties.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Joe Casey Comics: Deathlok #5

[Continuing my issue-by-issue look at Joe Casey's Deathlok run. Posts in this series published Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

And then things got a little trippy.

In this issue, Truman/LOK undergoes a procedure to rebuild his body with upgrades or whatever it is they do. Lots of splash pages and a flying elephant talking to Jack. Wait, what?

Yes, a flying elephant visits Jack during the procedure and there's a lot of discussion about his past and who he is and where he's going. Casey does stuff like this again and again. He did it in Mr. Majestic, Automatic Kafka, Gødland, The Intimates and Wildcats. He loves these little walks through his characters' consciousness.

The flying elephant does back to Truman's first appearance in the pages of Cable where the first thing he does is kill an elephant. The flying elephant here even has a bullet hole in his head. Casey goes back to the birth of Truman (in comic terms, at least) for his guide as this issue is about defining his character in preparation for his life as a robot agent of SHIELD. How will we truly understand his struggle with his humanity when he's trapped in a robot unless we understand his humanity?

I'm not sure we actually get a specific picture of who Jack Truman is. We get a sort of mental breakdown in his weird hallucinations and we get a literal history from Nick Fury, but nothing is spelled out--which is good, I guess. Maybe we just get a sense of him. A feeling. In our minds, we take these pieces and put them together to form an idea of Jack Truman.

Except he's a fictional character and he has no personality really. There is no Jack Truman and all of the weird trippy shit is meaningless because there is nothing profound here. No lessons learned, no enlightenment, no advancement. Just some weird hallucinations by a fictional character under the knife. Who cares. When Fury tells us Truman's history, he doesn't save the file, he deletes it because it doesn't matter. Truman is no longer that fictional character, he's the goddamn Deathlok now and not the Deathlok everyone knows, but one not even called Deathlok, because, let's be honest, it's a stupid name and no one in their right mind would call themself that. I mean, really.

There's also a bit where Nick Fury attends a party and is introduced to the Utilitarian Party's potential presidential nominee, Martin Thraller--a man Fury recognises, so Thraller uses his eyes to make Fury forget who he is (both of the men, actually). Setting up a future plot. Should I spoil who Martin Thraller really is? Nah.

Is there any real meaning in this issue? I don't know. Truman doesn't seem to think so. It's titled "Reconstructive Perjury," a play on "reconstructive surgery," which Truman undergoes (in a sense), but also a recognition that this comic is a book of lies. None of it is real and neither are the revelations.

Next issue: Truman leads a group of cyborgs to their deaths. But not really, because none of them are real, so don't worry.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hello Cosmic Part 12: The Infinity Crusade Part One

[In which I continue my look at Jim Starlin's cosmic work at Marvel and begin my three-part look at the Infinity Crusade crossover with The Infinity Crusade #1-2, Warlock Chronicles #1-2, and Warlock & The Infinity Watch #18-19. New "Hello Cosmic" posts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.]

We get two number one issues with special covers--one of which works. The Infinity Crusade #1 features the Goddess and floating heads of various Marvel characters. Out of her flows some lights, all of which is shiny gold and those caught in the light are the ones affected by her mental powers in the issue. It's all foil and shit, but it actually works into the story. The Warlock Chronicles featres a bumpy Warlock against a background of shiny silver with little star-like glowing things. It is bland and doesn't work as well. I get what they're going for, suggesting a cosmic feel, but it's not working for me.

The Warlock Chronicles is an interesting series as it is only eight issues, all of which tie into crossovers (the first five tie into the Infinity Crusade, the last three tie into Blood & Thunder--a Thor and Silver Surfer crossover). It is a book that doesn't live on its own or tell its own story really. It's the Jim Starlin's "Frontline" (especially as it goes over two crossovers).

The Infinity Crusade is not a good crossover. It is bloated and tells a mediocre story, often feeling like Starlin didn't know what to do here. I mean, the villain, the Goddess, is the embodiment of all of Adam Warlock's good--how do you turn that into a villain?

You do the obvious: make her a religious zealot bent on bringing about the destruction of the universe!

Oh. Wait. That's not obvious at all.

This crossover seems like a place for Starlin to attack religion (or, at least, the extreme versions of it). Now, I agree with his position about mindless followers, so it didn't really bother me. I could see it bothering others, mostly because Starlin isn't subtle. He is over-the-top, ham-fisted and... well, boring. While he critiques organised religion for how it tears people apart by putting them into two categories (saved and not saved), and how people follow it blindly, without thought--he doesn't actually say anything that meaningful. He skims the surface and nothing more. That's alright as, ultimately, these are meant to be read by children and I think raising these questions in a major Marvel crossover is ballsy (or, it was at the time--probably still is). I just wanted more.

The plot is simple: various Marvel characters are brainwashed by the Goddess into following her as she tries to do something. She dispatches with Warlock early on. And, strangely enough, Pip becomes the leader of the Infinity Watch (which is just him, Drax and Maxam by this point).

The story is told through the three titles, but Starlin does manage to tell the basic story in just The Infinity Crusade with Warlock Chronicles spotlighting Adam and The Infinity Watch spotlighting Pip, Drax and Maxam. The tones of each book are different, too. Crusade is the big event book, Chronicles is the introspective book, and Infinity Watch is the comedy book that doesn't take the story seriously. It's an interesting way in which to go about telling the story and, somehow, it does flow--it shouldn't but it does. That is probably Starlin's only shining moment here.

I actually found the first issue of Chronicles to be an interesting read as we once again get Warlock's past told to us as an unconscious Warlock is found in a weird Ditko-esque dimension by Darklore and his fariy companion Meer'lyn. The Soul Gem relates Warlock's past and then attempts to bond with Darklore, but Warlock wakes up and stops it. What I particularly enjoyed were the bits about Darklore we get as we learn he is a hero in his own right, not unlike Warlock, but in another dimension and he's undergoing one final quest before retiring. Here, Starlin both re-enforces Warlock's heroic nature by showing there are others like him, and undercuts it by showing there there are others fighting the same battles as him everywhere, so what does this one really matter?

Tom Raney does the art here and, wow, it has some horrible moments. The scientists who created Warlock are the most goddamn built scientists I've ever seen. These guys look like they could form a superhero team themselves. Raney's style is flashy in that '90s way that people must have loved at the time, but is really rough in a lot of spots.

As for The Infinity Watch, these issues are servicable and funny, at moments. But, I will offer one bit of information: Pipman. Yeah, Pip the Troll dons a costume and calls himself Pipman. Starlin was clearly not taking this shit seriously. The heroes, at one point, chase him down and give Pip a bath. Seriously.

However, issue 19 features Tom Grindberg on art and I love his work. He did a couple of issues previously, but he has a Mike Mignola thing going on that is really nice. Not as good as Mignola, of course, but it's much better than Tom Raney's work over on Chronicles.

And, as usually, Ron Lim pencils The Infinity Crusade and does his usual job. He tells the story, draws everything Starlin asks with skill and turns out six double-sized issues on time without fail.

On Friday, part two.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Joe Casey Comics: Deathlok #4

[Posts in this series are put up Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

Eric Cante provides the art in this issue and it vastly different from Leonardo Manco. Manco has a very fluid, almost sketchy style--while Cante draws very rigid and jagged--Cante draws like math is what I've said before. And he does. Eric Cante draws like math.

The change in art works for this issue as our star, Jack Truman/"Deathlok" doesn't appear. No, this issue is devoted to Nick Fury deciding whether the LOK prototype should be repaired or Truman should be allowed to die while he still has some human dignity. It also gives us a good look at the Clown as he kills people, steals TVs and fights robot repo men.

Casey does some interesting things with the Clown. A girl he used to see, a stripper, was injured in Vegas during the LOK prototype's rampage in the previous three issues. Now, this would normally make us think that the Clown is being set up as the main antagonist for Truman with a personal grudge against him. As does the killing spree of robot repo men, showing that the Clown has the abilities to take on not just one robot but many. Casey knows what our expectations are and plays with them. Here, he plays into them, creating hope for the ultimate showdown between a demented clown, who represents pure emotion and humanity, and a roboto, who represents (theoretically) reason and technology. Except, the robot is also really human and the Clown actually has no fucking idea who he is.

Nick Fury decides to let the Extechop people do what they will with the LOK prototype and Truman. Which we knew would happen as this is issue four and the main character isn't going to be killed off here. Although, I wouldn't put it past Casey.

This issue also showcases a trend in Casey's work: the issue(s) where the main character doesn't appear. Casey likes to highlight supporting characters a lot, often arguing they're just as important as the primary, title character. He likes to remind us that the protagonist is actually part of a bigger world where people either don't know him/her or see him/her as a minor character in someone else's story. We get a day for Nick Fury where he has to decide the fate of an agent under his command--NOT the fate of the starring character in the Marvel comic book series Deathlok volume 3. The Clown doesn't even know Truman and has only a sideways connection to the LOK prototype.

Cante's art works here because we're looking at the same world and characters, but from a different perspective. Leonardo Manco draws a comic where Jack Truman is the star and, here, Jack Truman is something discussed directly and indirectly--he's an object, a means, a topic of discussion--he is not the star.

Or, it could just be that Manco couldn't do the issue because of time constraints. But I like my explanation more. Although, since Eric Cante draws like math, you would think HE would handle the issues with the lead robot character, no? Something to ponder.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hello Cosmic Part 11: Warlock & The Infinity Watch #12-17

[Continuing my look at Jim Starlin's cosmic work at Marvel. Posts are published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.]

The first two issues have a two-part story where Drax remembers a little portion of his previous life, goes to New York, accidentally trashes stuff, is called the Hulk by everyone, which prompts the Hulk to show up and they fight. Strangely, these are two of the stronger issues of the series as Starlin balances heart, character and humour with a bit of action.

There's also a little bit of the Gamorra loves Adam who is in a coma subplot, which plays out a little more in issue 14 when UN troops show up on Monster Island. Gamorra tries to handle things with diplomacy, but the guy in charge of the invasion is a stereotypical asshole, so she beats the shit out of the soldiers. There's a nice bit where Pip and Moondragon bet on how long it will take her to beat them all up. The issue ends with a guy named Count Abyss wanting Adam's soul gem and a comatose Adam contacted by Eternity.

Issue 15 returns to Adam Warlock mental patient as Eternity forces him to face four aspects of himself: Him, the Warrior-Hero, the Suicidal Paranoid and the Magus. This is necessary for Adam to continue his role as guardian of the galaxy or something, which he recognises once he's merged with the aspects--but he's still pissed off. He comes out of the coma and has been given an orb by Eternity to help him out.

Count Abyss makes a move against Warlock and the Watch by sending shadows after them in #16. Not much there.

Issue 17 introduces Maxam, a man Gamorra has foreseen will kill Warlock and has no memory of who he really is. He fits into Starlin's love of mysterious characters and motivations. He seems to have the power of mass control. Despite warnings, Warlock agrees to let him stay with the Watch, figuring it's better to keep an eye on him.

All solid superhero comics. Only issue 15 resembles the Starlin of the '70s, but even then, it's nothing that spectacular. The highlights of this group are the Drax/Hulk issues.

Sorry, don't have much to say about these comics. On Wednesday, I'll begin looking at The Infinity Crusade, which is a 16-part crossover and the last part of the Infinity trilogy.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Four books, two of them superhero-related, none from the big two

Since the other six days of the week are taken up with Jim Starlin and Joe Casey currently, I figure Sunday is a good day to look at whatever is on my mind comic-wise. This week, I bought a couple of books: I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets! and Acme Novelty Library #18.

The first is a collection of Golden Age comics by Fletcher Hanks that are pretty damn weird. While I've since proven (to myself) that Hanks actually existed, I still can't shake the feeling that this book is really just a hoax. I don't know why, but something about it just has the feeling of a modern cartoonist doing a book that is seemingly a collection of comics by an unheard of cartoonist from the late '30s. Maybe I'm just distrustful and afraid of not being in on the joke.

The comics contained the volume are strangely what you would expect as they tell stories about bad men with little motivation trying to destroy civilisation and the good people with equally little motivation stopping them. The interest lies in the sheer odd ways Hanks goes about telling these stories. The "main" character (or the one with the most stories) is Stardust, a human-looking alien wizard that stops crime on various planets--but we only see him do it on Earth. He usually does it in a pretty stupid way where he knows ahead of time what the criminals will do, let's them do part of it and then fucks them up with oddly ironic and cruel punishments.

Fantomah is a blonde, white woman who protects the jungle. What jungle I can't say, but she turns blue and has a skull-like face when she does her thing. There's also a story about a lumberjack beating up other lumberjacks and another about space secret service agents.

The volume is edited by Paul Karasik who also writes and draws an epilogue about his search for information on Fletcher Hanks where he meets Hanks' now elderly son and learns this great cartoonist was a world-class scumbag.


I didn't even know Acme Novelty Library #18 was out until I saw it in the bookstore. I know #18 1/2 came out a few weeks ago, but when it did, I remember reading that 18 hadn't yet. I've yet to see much said about it online, but maybe a new volume by Chris Ware doesn't get much notice--if you like his work, it's assumed that it's great, what else need be said; if you don't, why pick it up?

Volume 18 breaks from the "Rusty Brown" story the two previous volumes told and begins another story about a one-legged woman who is very, very lonely. She has a job at a flower shop that she doesn't seem to mind, but doesn't seem to like either. She has a cat. She's only ever had one boyfriend. We get the story of that relationship and a job she once had as a nanny. It's a really depressing story in many ways.

But, I also found it rather engaging. Sometimes, Ware's style can be a little off-putting, especially with his intricately crafted layouts, but the story here is engaging. It's a lovely little character study and I liked it a lot. The fact that I was listening to a lot of Lou Reed while reading it seemed to help, somehow.

I'm a little disappointed that the wait for more "Rusty Brown" is even longer, but I'm also looking forward to more of this story.


This week, I also spent an hour during my time in the department writing centre rereading Eightball #23, or, "The Death-Ray" issue. I bought this a couple of years ago and this was my first time rereading. It's basically the story of Andy, a guy whose father messed with his genes, so he gets super-strength when he smokes and also has a gun that can make anything disappear (but only works for him). Most of the story is him as a teenager, hanging out with his friend Louie, the one who pushes him to be a superhero and get revenge of the people who pick on them.

There's obvious parallelisms to Peter Parker, right down to a costume that echos that of Spider-Man. The idea of power and responsibility is big, as well. Especially in the framing events that take place now where Andy sees his role as one benefiting society by eliminating assholes from the world. It raises the question of where the line is drawn for superheroes "protecting society." There's also a lot of teenage angst and difficulties--it almost reads as a what if Peter Parker grew up in the late '70s rather than the early '60s.

Something that's always bothered me is that in a year-end edition of "The Basement Tapes," Joe Casey and Matt Fraction discussed the issue and Fraction mentioned a panel near the end of the issue that can be read two ways, each that give the story very different meanings--and I don't know what panel or the two ways to read it. Damn you, Fraction, explain it. I've looked and looked and looked and I don't see it. Dammit.


Last Saturday, I bought the first issue of Dan Dare and it's a decent read. Nothing much to say beyond that. I have no experience with the character, so I can't compare it to other versions. Seems simple enough. It's a solid read and it's Ennis flexing muscles we don't often see used.

I also purchased the year-end issue of Wizard, but it really isn't worth discussing.

Until next Saturday.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Joe Casey Comics: Deathlok #3

[Continuing my issue-by-issue look at Joe Casey's Deathlok run. Posts are published Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

The main theme of Casey's Deathlok is probably the conflict between mind and body. Jack Truman's body was destroyed and rebuilt as the LOK prototype, but his mind remains intact. He transfers his mind out and it ends up in Billy, a six-year-old boy. Now, he has to put his brain back in the rampaging LOK body. Except, when he tries, LOK attempts to kill him. The body acting without control by the mind defends itself from a possible slavery, while the mind tries to reunite with a body that is alien and not right.

Zero Company is an elite group of SHIELD agents that bring to mind the unique elements of Nick Fury's Howlin' Commandos, but without the heart or grit. They are easily defeated here.

Larry Young continues his descent as he returns to the fray and attacks Zero Company.

Truman ultimately puts his mind in the LOK prototype and Billy is left injured and comatose. The LOK prototype is locked up and we don't know what's going to be done with it.

We get two more pages on the Clown, now in LA, and an assassin.

This is the weakest of the issues so far, but wraps up the initial story. Leonardo Manco's art is at its worst in places where the action becomes difficult to understand. Narratively, Casey eliminates Young's voice, focusing on Truman, LOK and the Clown. With the fusion of Truman and LOK, only two narrative voices will remain, the dictionary definitions a thing of the past.

To be continued on Tuesday.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Hello Cosmic Part 10: The Infinity War Part Two

[A continuation in my look at Jim Starlin's cosmic work for Marvel. In this post, I conclude my look at The Infinity War with The Infinity War #4-6 and Warlock & The Infinity Watch #9-11. Posts in this series are published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.]

First off, I love the cover to Infinity War #4 (what is it with issue four of these series as I loved the cover to Infinity Gauntlet #4 as well?). Sorry about the small size as this was the only pic I could find of the whole cover and my scanner isn't big enough to scan the entire gatefold cover:

Heroes versus doppelgangers. I loved that stuff so much as a kid. I spent hours just looking over these issues, studying the evil versions of the heroes, watching which hero fought which doppelganger... I've always loved alternate realities/futures and evil versions of characters we know.

The story continues and we find out what the Magus' plan was: force Warlock to gather the Infinity Gems and appeal to the Living Tribunal that they must be allowed to work together again to save the universe. Except, when Thanos and Gamorra go to the Living Tribunal, Adam is kidnapped by the Magus, so when Eternity agrees to drop his appeal against the use of the gauntlet, the Magus is the one with the power. Oops.

Ultimately, it comes down to the Magus and Adam as Adam places his hand on the gauntlet, sharing the power. The two battle until Warlock reveals the truth about the universe as Eternity is joined with Infinity and, somehow, the Magus is defeated. He ends up in the Soul Gem, but because he is merely an aspect of Warlock, he is a ghost there, unable to communicate or touch any of the other inhabitants. Warlock is left comatose. But, the universe is saved. Except, the good side of Warlock is still out there as the last page of the series shows us. Dun dun DUN!

The entire doppelganger plot as well as the actions of the heroes and Galactus are basically useless. They are pawns and distractions, padding the plot. In this way, Starlin does an interesting trick of decompressing the core story, but does so by throwing in several other plots, something more contemporary writers don't do. They take the main plot (here being Warlock and Thanos versus the Magus), stretch it out, but add nothing else to fill it in. Starlin passes off a small story about a man confronting his own evil nature as a giant, cosmic, intercompany crossover by throwing in every character he can think to--but they do nothing of consequence. I know I'm repeating myself, but I find it so amazing how well he does this.

The Infinity Watch issues here again fill in some blanks. In issue nine, Gamorra travels inside Eternity as a pawn of Galactus and we get some background on her upbringing by Thanos--and see a side of Thanos we don't often see. Issue ten features Thanos battling his doppelganger, which is just a lot of fun. They fight, they scheme, they fight again and, ultimately, Thanos turns his doppelganger into a butterfly and eats him, gaining new insights and knowledge about himself in the process. While the doppelganger isn't a direct outcropping of him as the Magus is of Adam Warlock, we get some foreshadowing of the end of the story here as Warlock, presumably, does the same thing (except he "swallows" Magus in the Soul Gem).

Issue 11 acts as epilogue to the story and an introduction to the Infinity Watch. Eternity and the Living Tribunal examine the case of the Infinity Gems and if the decision to keep them inactive when brought together is a good one. Nothing of real interest here if you know the characters, but a good place for newbies to get caught up.

In this story (and The Infinity War), Starlin furthers the mystery of the possessor of the Reality Gem where hints are given, but no name. Warlock has possession of it when they need to reform the gauntlet and Thanos is surprised. Eternity thinks the possessor is a horrible choice, but one that will keep it safe--that is, if he doesn't abuse it.

My biggest complaint about this story is the way in which the Magus is defeated. The revelation of Eternity/Infinity being two sides of the same coin, merged and showing itself/themselves is supposed to come off as profound and meaningful, but doesn't do a whole lot for me. Magus thinks he's stopped Eternity, but Eternity is bigger than the Magus thought and, therefore, he's fucked. Except, why didn't this revelation happen before this? Like when Thanos defeated Eternity in The Infinity Gauntlet and actually took his place? It makes sense, but seems too deus ex machina for my taste.

Next week, we return to Warlock & The Infinity Watch by itself briefly before jumping into the largest (and worst) of the "Infinity Crossovers": The Infinity Crusade.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Joe Casey Comics: Deathlok #2

[The second post in an issue-by-issue look at Joe Casey's Deathlok series. New posts every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

Jack Truman, a SHIELD agent is trapped in the body of a six-year-old named Billy. His body was severely damaged in a fight with Cable and rebuilt as a robot, the LOK prototype, which is currently rampaging through Las Vegas. Apparently, he used a Tibetian mind trick to put his consciousness in the body of a low-level SHIELD worker (Billy's dad) and he figures it must have bounced out into Billy at some point. He needs to get to Vegas and get his body back before SHIELD blows it up.

So, we get scenes of a six-year-old taking out grown-up SHIELD personnel. Because Jack Truman is just that damned good. We also get more of the air cav version LOK with them being held back by Nick Fury because fuck them that's why.

The issue ends with Billy in an air cav vehicle, heading for Vegas--and a group called Zero Company showing up to take out the LOK unit. Zero Company is full of punkish, S&M types, so we know they're hardcore.

A few things of special note:

1. The one-page introduction of the Clown, a supporting character for the entire series. We just see him escape from prison ala Shawshank. Not much, but enough.

2. Larry Young buying "a little confidence," leaving his men to contend with the LOK prototype alone. Oh, and he expenses it as it's work-related. A scene worth remembering for the end of the series.

3. Near the end, after Jack/Billy steals a flying car, there's one page that just shows him at the controls, while the narration is "a digression" about Jack's dad and cars. A strange little moment that steps outside the rest of the issue, but still works. It ties into what Jack/Billy is doing, but also gives some background on Jack. Strangely typical for a Marvel comic, but done in such an obvious fashion, which is very much like Casey. He doesn't just like to play with conventions, he likes the reader to know he's doing it.

With the Clown, Casey has four narrators this issue, adding to Jack/Billy, the LOK defintions and Larry Young. It all works as the Clown and Young scenes are a single page each, while the LOK definitions double as narration and dialogue, in a way. While we know the robot isn't SAYING this stuff, it's the only communication we get from it.

The use of definitions is also a way in which Casey plays with conventions, using captions that directly comment on what's going on. In a way, each definition tells us what's going on in the same way that thought balloons used to--but in a more abstract manner. Where thought balloons tended to be very literal in the "I'm punching this asshole with all I've got" while we see the hero punching the asshole with all he's got, these definitions are more vague. The definition of "plummet" is given as the air cav unit LOK is in crashes to the ground and then "consequence" as it leaps from the vehicle exploding.

Another dense issue that Leonardo Manco pulls off. His art here is really quite spectacular at times. His only problem is Billy, but it's hard to draw little kids--it's more that you can't tell how old Billy is just by looking at him. Otherwise, he handles very full pages with seeming ease.

On Saturday, the conclusion to the opening story.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hello Cosmic Part 9: The Infinity War Part One

[In which I continue my series of posts examing the work of Jim Starlin on Marvel's cosmic characters. In this part, I begin my look at "The Infinity War" crossover with The Infinity War #1-3 and Warlock & The Infinity Watch #8. The second part will go up on Friday.]

After five lacklustre (and two solid) issues of Warlock & The Infinity Watch, we get into the second of the three big "Infinity" crossovers of the '90s, The Infinity War--and Starlin's return to form. In this story, the Magus returns and he's going to fuck everyone up but good. Like The Infinity Gauntlet, Starlin throws a lot at us, but most of it is just decoy padding that gives reasons for characters other than Thanos and Adam Warlock to show up. Ultimately, all of your favourite Marvel heroes are useless and irrelevant. I think that little trick is one of Starlin's best as you don't really notice it until you look at the core story and the resolution.

Now, you may ask, "Chad, I thought the Magus was a future version of Adam Warlock that he killed by changing the timeline... how can he be back?"

In the second issue of The Infinity War, we (and the characters) learn that while Warlock had possession of the Infinity Gauntlet, in an effort to be a more fair, just and worthy god, he expelled all good and evil from himself--and the Magus is the embodiment of the evil part of Adam Warlock. And, if you're paying attention, you can see how Starlin already sets up the next crossover, The Infinity Crusade with that little revelation.

The plot here is that the Magus is doing something evil, we just don't know what. He has created an army of doppelgangers of the Marvel heroes and, in the first issue, we get a few fights between them. The doppelgangers begin by looking like twisted versions of the heroes, but then, in they defeat the hero, can absorb them and take their place. We see Iron Man absorbed, Wolverine and Spider-Man defeat their doppelgangers, and an unknown outcome for Reed Richards in the first issue. There's even a doppelganger of Thanos, but he looks identical to the original. Of course, Starlin is playing off the fact that the Magus is a doppelganger, of sorts, so if he's going to take on Warlock, an ally (well, sort of) of these heroes, why not have his own group?

There's also subplots with Galactus, the Silver Surfer and Dr. Strange as they hunt down the Magus (well, an energy source), and Dr. Doom and Kang who do the same. But, as I said, these plots don't actually matter.

Warlock & the Infinity Watch #8 expands on some of the scenes in The Infinity War #3 where Thanos and the Watch prepare to take the fight to the Magus, only to be ambushed by the Marvel heroes who think the group is behind trying to kill them--as they saw the doppelgangers of Iron Man and Reed Richards teleported away by Thanos' doppelganger and the Magus, who looks just like Adam Warlock, only purple. Again, the Marvel heroes act merely as distraction and delays for the real heroes of the story. The issue of W&TIW is used well--as they all are throughout this crossover--as Starlin picks a moment and expands on it, focusing on these characters in this large epic. There's a great bit in the issue where Thanos and Gamorra kill time by sparring, playing out the father/daughter relationship they have (something that's expanded on in issue nine). We also have Gamorra get a glimpse of the future thanks to the Time Gem, showing her Adam captured and put in a cross-like bond and the Infinity Gauntlet reaching out at him. Starlin uses this trick a few more times, again suggesting that Gamorra cares deeply for Adam, which is why the only times she is able to tap into the Time Gem is to see visions of him in trouble.

The Infinity War features Ron Lim on art, doing his standard great work. It's not the most flashy art in the world, but he can draw anything Starlin throws at him and tells the story well. The Infinity Watch issue has art by Tom Raney, who will be a consistent contributer for a little while. His art is rough and falls flat in some places, but shows promise of improvement (which he lived up to).

This story once again emphasises that Adam Warlock's greatest enemy is himself as he confronts everything evil that was once inside of him. It also casts Thanos in a more heroic light as he works to stop the Magus from doing whatever he plans to do. After his experience with the Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos is obviously moving beyond the villain he was into a more complex and ambiguous character. No longer driven by his obsession with Death, he is able to work to protect life--although usually only when his own is at stake.

Until Friday.