Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Random Reading: A Shitload of Books for Break Week Part 5 . . . MATT FRACTION!

See that, Bendis, Waid, Ennis and the rest of you fuckers? Fraction gets his own day. Jealous? I think so. Well, I finish off the five days of random readings for break week (which I probably should have begun on Monday, so it actually ran for the weekdays of break week, which are really the only days I get off technically) with five Matt Fraction comics. Why? Because he fucking rocks, that's why.

Civil War: Choosing Sides

Wow, first book of Fraction day and it's not really a Matt Fraction comic per se. But, considering the fact that I bought it ONLY for the Iron Fist story, which Fraction co-wrote, I'm going to say it counts.

Anyway, yeah, this wasn't worth the money. The first story, a Venom tale, does nothing really. The Ant-Man story isn't funny when it's obviously meant to be. The U.S.Agent story just reminds me that I think the character is a douche. The Howard the Duck story is kinda funny, poking fun at the whole registration thing.

That leaves only the reason why I bought the fucking thing: the Iron Fist story. The story acts as a solid prologue for the series and is good enough that had I not wanted to buy the series (and do in fact buy the series), I'd probably pick it up. Hell, it's the best story in the book. David Aja's art is typical amazing and the writing is decent. Not quite as good as what we see in the main book, but still above the other stuff here. Good news for people waiting for the Immortal Iron Fist trade is that it'll probably be in it, so don't bother hunting down this one-shot that only exists to fill the gap left by lateness on Civil War's part.

The Immortal Iron Fist #3

The last Iron Fist story continues apace and is worth buying almost exclusively for the page where Danny punches Orson Randall and the way David Aja draws Danny as he says "C'MON, OLD MAN. I'M NOT GOING DOWN WITHOUT A FIGHT." Solid work.

The plot progresses only a little, though, which is probably my biggest concern. I wanted a little more, I dunno. We do get Danny searching for clues and trying to stave off Hydra, Hydra doing its thing, and some more of Randall's past. Plus, some cool shit where two guys with the iron fist fight.


Punisher War Journal #3-4

In his column this week, Steven Grant says: "Speaking of burying characters and as something of a Punisher expert, his goofy newfound hero worship smacks a bit of desperation..."

Ever since reading that earlier today, I've been thinking about issue three of PWJ and wondering if it does fit the character. Would the Punisher really be so respectful of Captain America?

I actually don't know, but I think it works. Which, I guess means yes. I think it works--at least here. Fraction does a good job of making the Punisher's awe and respect seem realistic. He ties it into the Punisher's military past, which gives it a bit more depth (but not much, actually). If anything happens in issue three, it's that the seeds for Captain America surrending are put in place. It's a question of whether or not he can continue when that means having to work with guys like the Punisher--and realising that the only way to keep fighting his war is to work with guys like the Punisher, because, fuck it, he IS better than everyone else there. It doesn't explain everything, but it's better than that other shit.

I don't know what I can say about issue four that hasn't already been said. It seems to be the issue that gets talked about--even if it just came out. And rightfully so. One of the few non-Grant Morrison comics that is obviously and almost transparently about comics. The old days are gone.

My only beef is seeing characters from this issue show up elsewhere when the Punisher killed them all. Rhino? Dead. Armadillo? Dead. You could argue that they didn't necessarily die, but, yeah, they did. The Punisher done blown them up.

I'm looking forward to see where Fraction takes this book now since the first few issues (and even issue four) were all heavily tied into Civil War. The solicits tells us some, but I can't wait to see it for myself.

Casanova #7

I think I'm only going to do my initial thoughts right now and come back and write about all seven issues later this week.

First off, I'm not going to comment on Fraction's closing remarks here, because that is some heavy, personal stuff. I mean, goddamn.

Second off, I dug it. I fucking loved this issue. Tied shit up well, had the usual Fraction/Ba flavour, and a cool Japanese kid who schooled Casanova.

It also had Casanova being a fucking man for once. Right on.

And that moment when Zypher sees her mom . . . shit, motherfucker.

I wish, someday, I can write a comic this cool.

That does it for the break week random reading extravaganza. Fun, fun, fun.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Random Reading: A Shitload of Books for Break Week Part 4 . . . RANDOM SUPERHERO BOOKS!

Five comics. Four I’d get anyway and one randomly got to see what’s what. Oh, I live a wonderful life, don’t I?

Batman #655, 663

First off, I’m all kinds of happy that I found the first issue of Morrison’s run on the title. Okay, not THAT happy. But, happy.

Second off, I’m sure the issue would have been much cooler had I read it way back when it was released. I mean, Morrison begins the issue by having a fake Batman shoot the Joker in the face. And then the real Batman throws the body in a dumpster. Tres cool.

The rest of 655 is decent and, actually, better than the three issues that followed it. Seems Morrison blew his load on the first issue.

Call 663 “Arkham Asylum 2: The Clown at Midnight,” because it sure as hell feels like a follow-up to Morrison’s graphic novel of the 1980s. Except this time, it’s prose and instead of Dave McKean, we’ve got the uneven computer art of John Van Fleet. So, like any (pseudo-) sequel, it kind of sucks ass.

Morrison’s prose is . . . well, not the best. I was bored with it by the first page. Slogging through it was a chore, not a joy. It’s overwrought and bogged down in an overly verbose style that doesn’t work here. It’s a superhero detective comic, so you’d either expect a dynamic or noir style, but it reads more like something a high school creative writer would write.

The plot is somewhat interesting, especially Morrison further exploring the concept of the Joker being the next evolutionary step of humanity. Someone whose personality changes to suit the zeitgeist. It’s a shame that the new Joker’s personality couldn’t be explained or shown with more clarity; how is it different exactly? Maybe that will be shown at a later date, but it shouldn’t be. And I know, I know, it shouldn’t be so obvious, but when the entire issue is about that single point really, if I’m not coming away with at least some semblance of a what the differences are--or, more importantly, how it reflects the world as of right fucking now, something went wrong. Maybe it was me missing something in the horrid prose or maybe it just wasn’t that well-written.

And the art jumps between spooky and cool, and shitty computer rendering that reminds me of playing wrestling games on the N64.

Overall, a disappointment.

The Brave and the Bold #1

First issue time, so there’s really only one question that matters: do I want to pick up the second issue.


I think it was in a Newsarama review that pointed toward my problem with the issue. The reviewer said writers tend to write too much dialogue for George Pérez, but I think it’s more than that. I think they need to stop letting Pérez draw pages from Marvel-style plots.

And I just pissed off everyone, didn’t I? It’s one thing when I bash Jim Lee, but George Pérez? I’ve gone too far!

Seriously, it’s something I realised while reading this issue: I love Pérez’s art, but hate to read comics he draws. They’re so fucking cluttered. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Pérez can fill space like no one else, but every fucking page is so full of tedium that writers can’t help but fill it up with dialogue that doesn’t feel natural.

They wind up writing dialogue that seems decades out of date, because Pérez’s pages look decades out of date. Now, some may say filling the pages with seven or eight panels per page is great. Gives you more bang for your buck, fights decompression, and all that jazz, but I would disagree. It’s not more information or story, it’s excess story and, as I said, tedious details.

Maybe I’ve just grown accustom to modern art and storytelling techniques, and can no longer appreciate the truly great artists. Or maybe the art just wasn’t that good. I don’t know, flipping through it, the art doesn’t do much for me. From a purely storytelling perspective, it does the job excellently. Flip through it and don’t read a word and you get the entire story, which is what you want out of an artist to a point. But, Pérez makes the words so superfluous that he doesn’t give the writer a chance to do its job. I don’t know.

It just doesn’t work for me.

Gødland #15-16

You know, I really wish this series tried to make every issue self-contained. Maybe then we’d avoid this lagging subplots that are more boring, at this point, than anything else. Namely, the whole Triad thing. They first showed up in, what, issue nine? Ten? For an über-modern, super-hip title, that little plotline is moving so goddamn slowly. I don’t care anymore about them.

In fact, I’m finding I don’t care about any of the characters much anymore. Mostly because the book moves so slowly in general. Casey and Scioli try to give time for every fucking character that nothing moves forward. I would they would just focus a bit more and settle some things before introducing a new element.

Issue fifteen is pretty typical, while issue sixteen is meant to be a jumping-on point with a 60-cent cover price. Never mind the fact that issue thirteen was supposed to be one as well, in its own way, after the three-month hiatus the book took. The issue does its job in that it catches the reader up on everything in a clear and concise manner that actually fits into the story without seeming too contrived. However, it would have worked better if the previous issue had wrapped up a few of the plot threads like the aforementioned Triad.

Now, as my nature is that of one who prefers to bash the crap out of stuff rather than highlight the good parts, the previous paragraphs no doubt give the idea that I’m not digging on Gødland much, but I am. You see, I tend to bash out of both hate and love. Since this is a title I enjoy so much, I want to see it be better and am wont to highlight those areas in which I feel it is lacking. And I have no idea why I’ve shifted into a strangely pseudo-pretentious tone. Rather odd, that.

Basically, I enjoy Gødland a lot and wish a lot more people would read it, but I can see why some would be turned off with these never-ending plotlines. I would love to see the third year of the book shift very purposefully into a self-contained one issue, one story mode to see how that works. Maybe it wouldn’t suit the title, but I think it would be worth a shot.

Tomorrow: we finish our five days of break week random reading with Mr. Matt Fraction.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Random Reading: A Shitload of Books for Break Week Part 3 . . . RANDOM MATURE READER BOOKS!

Today, we get five books by four writers and two publishers, all meant for eyes a little older than the age I was when I first started reading comics (which was about far back as I can remember).

Deathblow #3

Seriously, I hate the art in this book. Brian Azzarello deserves better than standard Wildstorm studio shit. That’s one of the worst holdovers from the ‘90s: the continued use of cookie-cutter studio artists that look like bad clones of the original artist whose art I already think looks like ass. Top Cow has the same problem and when was the last time I bought one of their books? The answer is never, but that’s because Wildstorm at least has writers like Azzarello here.

That said, though, it’s not like this book is amazing or anything. But, I do trust Azzarello. Everything else of his I’ve read has been in trades and it’s always read well there because you can see it was obviously written with the larger story in mind. There’s enough here to see that Azzarello does have a plan. He’s got a direction. In fact, I think Deathblow is probably all about the world right now in a way that Civil War wished it was.

I just wish they’d get rid of Carlos D’Anda and get a proper artist.

Midnighter #4

You know how I mentioned that imitators of Warren Ellis always missed the point? Same thing with Garth Ennis. Like Ellis, Ennis’ work is full of humanity with all that violence and shit as window-dressing. And that’s what most of this story has been: window-dressing. Window-dressing for the sequence in this issue where Midnighter finally has his chance to kill Hitler and complete his mission.

The entire moment rests on the splash page of Hitler looking like a beaten-down wreck of man and the following page where Midnighter watches him walk down a corridor from the shadows.

Throughout the issue, Peter Snejbjerg does his best Chris Sprouse impression, but the sequence has all the touches of his art--and that’s what it needs. Sprouse is good, but I’m not sure he could fully capture the sheer pathetic frame of 1945 Adolf Hitler and the look Midnighter has in his eyes, watching from the shadows.

These pages are what it’s all about. Next issue will wrap up the story and it will have violence and quips, but it was really just about a sad, little man who’s not worth killing and why, oh why, do we always put our trust in sad, little men?

The Boys #6

Hughie is Ennis at his softest--at least, since Preacher. I find that funny in the book that’s supposed to out-Preacher Preacher. Hughie is a sensitive, decent guy who is still heartbroken because he finally found a little bit of happiness and it was torn from his grasp (quite literally). As much as that hurt, he doesn’t even have it in him really to want revenge. He’s too sweet.

And, in this issue, he kills someone.

While everyone is all up-in-arms about the fact that a hamster crawls out of the guy’s ass, why doesn’t anyone pay attention to the fact that Hughie takes care of it after? Why doesn’t people ever pay attention to that shit? It really annoys me. The same thing happened in the 1980s when everyone read Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns and missed the fucking point. DC missed the point here. They focussed way too much on the violence and sex and missed the humanity. Never mind the fact that I haven’t connected with any character they publish on an emotional level the way you can’t help but connect with Hughie.

They just miss the point, don’t they?

I look forward to reading the next issue whenever Dynamite puts it out.

Criminal #4

Here’s a book that’s all about people and the way they relate to one another. I don’t actually have anything interesting to say about it. I dig this book. I always have a hard time talking about stuff I like in detail. But, I dig the book. It’s good.

Hellblazer #229

A little one-off story by Mike Carey. I don’t know what to say here, because it’s a one-off Constantine story. Nothing gets changed, nothing really happens. John stops a demon and tells the story as a way to explaining to a friend why he’s not eager to just fuck with someone. It’s a decent read. It’s nice to read these little one-off stories from time to time, because it seems like every writer that takes over the book these days always does it with the intention of these long, three-year stories in mind. Which is all well and good, but it’s nice to read he self-contained stories. Even within those runs, the self-contained or two-part stories are ALWAYS a part of the larger story. Not here, though. It’s just a short little story about John and a demon split in two. The sort of comic I like buying. Don’t need to worry about anything else. Everything you need to know about this issue is there. I think it’s the only comic I bought this time that does that so completely. Sad, isn’t it?

Tomorrow: random superhero books.

comics censorship and the best class I've ever taught

I'm teaching my comics class again this semester, and just last week I had an hour of class that was, without exaggeration, the most interesting class period I have ever taught.

Every single student in the class had something to say--EVERY one of them. Those who teach know how rare a thing that is, especially in a 200-level course; heck, even if you've only been a student, you know that it's pretty rare for EVERYONE to want to comment. Usually you get more than a few that just sit and listen, even in the best classes. But this time around, every student had a comment to make.

And these comments came totally unsolicited. I didn't do anything but sit down in the front of the room and ask them what they thought of what they had read. They ran with it from there. I never had to pull more out of them, because at many points there were multiple hands up at once. They were feeding off each other's comments, letting the discussion flow.

AND the comments were not only relevant, but also insightful. They showed that the students had not only read the material but thought about it critically. They were taking the subject matter of the reading and applying it to the world around them. It was a great thing to see.

The subject of the conversation? Warren Ellis's shelved Hellblazer issue "Shoot."

It is understandable that, in the wake of Columbine, this story which focuses on school shootings was shelved, the feeling at DC/Vertigo at the time being that it might offend. However, to shelve this story indefinitely is an injustice. It is a story that explores the nature of violence in our society, how it pervades everything we do. It is a story that examines how, when faced with a tragedy, we always seek out causes from without rather than looking within.

It is a story that, frankly, we should be reading and talking about. And instead it's been permanently put on the shelf. And that is a shame. I had hopes that, when Vertigo released that Rare Cuts volume of Hellblazer a few years ago, it would end up being published in there, but alas it was not to be.

Based on the strength of this one class period, however, I'm going to include this story in my eventual presentation for an academic conference on comics and critical thinking, along with "Soul of a New Machine" by Grant Morrison and maybe one or two others.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Random Reading: A Shitload of Books for Break Week Part 2 . . . BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS AND THE NEW AVENGERS!

Another day, another five books. Today, we take a look at Brian Michael Bendis and that plucky little group of his, the New Avengers.

New Avengers #21-22, 26-27

“PEOPLE, FRIENDS OF OURS, OUR BROTHERS, ARE GOING TO GET HURT BECAUSE YOU WON’T PLAY BALL.”--Hank Pym, in conversation with Captain America, New Avengers #21

I haven’t read Civil War #7, but I’m thinking the fact that the reasons Captain America surrenders for were an argument used against him right from the get-go is a reason why people think it’s shit. Just saying.

Moving on . . .

I don’t know why, but I think I’m going to buy New Avengers and possibly Mighty Avengers from now on. I find it odd since the three issues of the series I bought, and reviewed here, didn’t really wow me. But, I feel compelled somehow.

I figured I would start by getting the two Civil War issues I missed. Especially since I only heard great things about the Luke Cage one.

#21, which features Captain America has Cap as a paranoid crazy guy, convinced the Falcon is going to kill him. So, obviously, once he knows that the Falcon is cool, he tries to recruit Hank Pym in Avengers fucking Tower. Because, you know, Captain America is a fucking retard.

One minute, he’s paranoid his sometimes partner is going to betray him and the next, he’s visiting the headquarters of the other side. He is a master strategist, of course.

In issue 22, Luke Cage makes the best argument against the registration act--namely that it has the government rounding up people because they’re different. Same argument used a shitload of times in the X-titles. But, rather effective here. Tony Stark is an asshole again.

The issue really only holds up for the first few pages before it becomes Luke Cage versus SHIELD. But, it’s a good issue.

Issue 26 answers the all-important question: where’s Hawkeye? I’ll tell you where: fucking an amnesiac Scarlet Witch. Hawkeye is the fucking man. You wish you were Hawkeye.

That brings us to post-Civil War New Avengers #27 where . . . okay, wait. This Echo lady is described as deaf, right? But then how come it seems like she can hear? She eavesdrops on Japanese gangsters and then understands Ronin while his mask is on (I did notice how Spider-Man lifted his mask, so you could make the whole lip-reading argument). So, she’s a deaf lady who can hear? Isn’t that like how Daredevil is a blind man who can basically see? Comics are fucked up sometimes.

Anyway, Echo was dressed up as Ronin and trying to take down some Japanese mafia shit and ends up getting killed by Elektra and the Hand. And then resurrected. While being brainwashed, the new New Avengers show up and rescue her. And Luke Cage kicks Elektra in the crotch. Because Luke Cage is hardcore.

The issue is decent. It’s got some nice banter (much to Iron Fist’s chagrin) and some good action scenes. It really just presents the question of who the new Ronin is. He/she has four lines. And according to the solicitations, we’ll find out who’s beneath the mask in a few issues. I, honestly, don’t really care. It’s someone who says “Yo,” though. And that’s how the internet broke in half.

New Avengers: Illuminati #2

Why is it that every time these guys get together, it seems like one of them is all “Hey, guys, we’re going to make sure Earth is safe” and the others go “But, that’s too much! We can’t do that! Who are we to do such a thing?”

This is the secret group that got together to do shit like this and then whines about having to do it every goddamn time. It’s the second issue (well, third, in a way) and I’m already sick of these assholes.

In this issue, they’re all pissed off because Reed has been collecting the infinity gems because he’s sick of some alien dickhead getting them together and making people disappear and shit. Um, doesn’t that sound like the smart thing to do?

I’m beginning to think that Namor is just a little whiney bitch. Every comic I see him in, he’s whining about something. It doesn’t matter what it is or who it is, he’s always gotta whine about how he doesn’t agree. "Whah whah whah! The humans are mean to the Atlanteans! Whah whah whah! The Atlanteans are mean to the humans! Whah whah whah! I don't fit in on the surface or in the ocean! Sue won't fuck me! The Avengers don't like me! No one likes me because I keep switching sides! Whah whah wha!" Namor is a fucking asshole and I’m surprised Reed hasn’t killed him yet. Seriously.

In the end, Reed has the infinity gauntlet and everyone, including the Watcher, is all “Reed, you can’t have that! No human should!” and like an idiot, he listens. Smartest guy in the fucking world there, people. Why not let him make a few things better while he’s God? That’s just me spit-balling here. Me using my brain.

Did enjoy the Watcher basically giving Reed the “I’m very disappointed in you” speech. Fucking take THAT, Mr. Fantastic!

And the issue ends with Professor X looking all ominous. Dun dun DUN!

Tomorrow: random mature readers books!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Random Reading: Shitload of Books for Break Week Part 1 . . . WAREN ELLIS!

So, I've got this week off from school, so I'm back in London. Been almost two months since I've been back and that means, almost two months of not buying my usual comics here. Needless to say, I dropped a shitload of money yesterday on a shitload of books. I don't really feel like discussing them all right now, so I'll pick and choose and spread them out over, oh let's say, five posts. Why? Because I got 25 comics and I'll do five per post. Today, we'll discuss Warren Ellis.

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. #12

It . . . it's over.

Fuck you, world, it's over.

And it ended in the funniest, most shocking way possible.

It also ended with two words:




newuniversal #3

People I know know I read comics. So, obviously, they assume that I must watch superhero movies and superhero TV shows--when, in fact, I tend to avoid them like the plague. Yeah, that's right: I've yet to see either of the Spider-Man movies. Didn't see Superman Returns either. And I'm not about to anytime soon. I think the only superhero movie of recent note I've actually seen is Batman Begins and that was only because it was Patrick fucking Bateman as Batman--which ever since seeing and reading American Psycho I thought was totally about Bruce Wayne, except if he went the other way. And, actually, I was totally underwhelmed by Bale's performance based on what he did in American Psycho. I'll probably see the next one, mostly because I genuinely did enjoy Batman Begins despite the fact that they ALWAYS have to give him a love interest. I don't see why. Most Batman comics I read have him only needing a teenage boy and an elderly man for companionship. That's the Batman I grew up loving, dammit. And what does all this have to do with newuniversal? I don't watch Heroes for the same reason I don't watch (most) superhero movies? I've got comics that do that stuff already--and they're done with words and pictures. To paraphrase (or perhaps directly quote) Harvey Pekar: you can do anything with words and pictures. Why the fuck would I watch Heroes, the product of a system where writers are lucky if 40% of what they intend gets shot, everything is micromanaged and churned out based on focus groups when I can read Warren Ellis' take on the idea? Seriously: Hollywood writers' room versus Warren Ellis. Who the fuck do you think I'm going to choose?

In this issue, more information is leaked to us--much more than I suspect I picked up. We got a lot of history here and now know just how many superhumans there are. Maybe. And what their roles are. Maybe.

Oh, and Eminem and Angelina Jolie appear. Does Heroes have them? No? Fuck Heroes.

Thunderbolts #110-111

Buying this book is sort of like acknowledging a debt I owe.

I was, what, twelve at the time? Yeah, twelve. It was the summer. I'd just come home from a week at camp and it was in my room. Thor #491 (or some other number, but I'm pretty sure it was 491). I was always interested in Thor. Liked the mythology. So, after my dad stopped buying the title for himself, he kept on buying it for me. And if you read the book around that time, you'd know it was shit and totally lacking direction. Thor hung out with weird animal people that the High Evolutionary created and wore a godawful-looking costume. Then, he wandered through a series of meaningless events that I remember vaguely--shit like fighting the Hulk or the Thing for no good reason other than to fight them. The issue before this one, Tom DeFalco wrapped up the whole Thunderstrike thing. And then #491.

Blew my fucking mind.

Thor is dying. He's mortal. He talks like a mortal, thinks like a mortal and going to die like one. He asks his dad for help. Odin is massive, frightening and just fucking mean. He tells his son to go to hell and then Thor is attacked by zombie viking warriors. And the Enchantress has a group of her boytoys rescue him. I don't actually remember where the issue ends, so maybe I got into the next issue a little there. But, the point is, is that it was NOT the Thor I knew. It was not the superhero comic I knew. I haven't looked back since. It was written by Warren Ellis with art by Mike Deodato, Jr.

So, yeah, figured I owe it to my 12-year-old self to buy this book as long as these two guys are doing it. The fact that Ellis is writing is would have been good enough, but the two of them together? Gotta do it.

And I like it so far. It doesn't blow my mind anymore, but it's decent. It's got that cynical Ellis feel to it. A bunch of supervillains protecting America or else they'll be killed? Come on, how could he not have some fun with it?

One thing I particularly like is how in #111 Jack Flagg ALMOST wins. He's up against superior numbers with superior firepower and, like you'd expect, he kicks the crap out of them. Except not really, because they're the heroes now and he's the villain. It's basically, the Avengers show up to capture a villain they know is hiding out and he almost wins, but the heroes somehow pull it off.

Some interesting dynamics being played with here and I look forward to see where it goes.

Fell #7

I've been enjoying Fell, but not loving it. While others have been praising it, I've been going "It's alright, but I've seen Ellis do better." I think my problem with the series is that Ellis has always balanced his optimistic, fight-for-right side with the horrible, cynical, things-fucking-suck side. And Fell has tilted a little too much towards the former. Yeah, Detective Fell has dealt with some fucking sick people, but he's won out. He's made the world a little better each and every time.

Except this one. This one, he fucks up. This one, his virtues fuck him over. And it's what the series needs, I think. Up until this issue, Ellis had been too nice to Fell. I don't mind the humanity and hopefulness in Ellis' work. Hell, it's what puts him above everyone who tries to rip him off. All those fuckers who just see the swearing and violence and think "Oh, that's so cool!" But, something else Ellis always done is evened it out. You climb up, you think it's going to be okay and then something knocks you right back down. And it finally happened to Fell.

That's not to say that I haven't enjoyed the book to this point and I have enjoyed it a bit more with each issue, but this issue clinched it for me. I moved from liking it to loving it with this issue.

The cover to this issue is my favourite so far, by the way. You don't even need to read the issue if you see the cover. It's all there, laid out for you by Ben Templesmith, who does wonderful, wonderful work here.

Tomorrow: Brian Michael Bendis and the New Avengers.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Schools--A Snippet

Figured I'll begin updating a bit more with non-reviews.

One of the classes I'm currently taking is a seminar on modern drama, specifically the avant-garde. This week's we're doing a little bit on the Futurists. Last week it was Symbolism or something like that. Each week, it's something different. And it made me think: why don't we see more schools/theories/whaever in comics?

Maybe they're there and I'm just not paying attention. And I don't mean the traditional superheroes vs. everything else division. I mean, strict divisions over the purpose of comics, the style of creating them, the motivation of creators, etc. As I said, that may be there. You sometimes see it pop up in what we love to call feuds between creators, but those always seem childish.

One reason I've been thinking you don't see it often is that a lot of comics are done on a work-for-hire basis, which would mean a lack of theory behind the work, the creator supressing its own desires in favour of those of the publisher. The same way you don't necessarily see strong theory divisions betwee TV shows, rather just different genres and styles.

But, I'm certain there has to be various schools, at least outside of the traditional North American mainstream. And if, somehow, there aren't--why the fuck not?


Written, like, five minutes after posting the above: Actually, a thought just occurred to me that there are different schools within the mainstream, they're just unstated. The one that springs to mind immediately contans people like Geoff Johns, Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross and Grant Morrison. The Silver Ageists, I guess you could call them. Now, each of those writers has a distinct style and all are very modern in their styles, but the sensibilities harken back to the Silver Age--or, basically, the comics they grew up reading. Of course, this ties very specifically into the characters they write--and, in this case, very specifically DC characters, although you can see certain elements in their work at Marvel (Marvels, the Earth X trilogy).

The example of this sensibility showing up in a specific comic that sprngs to mind is Infinite Crisis #2, which contains a long screed by Johns on everything wrong with the DCU, going back over a decade. It's the one issue of the series that I own, because when I read my dad's copy, it just jumped out at me. It was just a huge fucking rant right in the middle of a huge company crossover--and, pretty much, laid out the philosophy behind the series. And, as my review of Superman: Up, Up and Away! discussed, the first thing I saw done with Superman post-Infinite Crisis was a setting up of pre-1986 situations. I've heard similar things were done with Batman.

I just find it interesting that a lot of this stuff goes unstated--except for brief allusions in interviews or online columns or message board posts. I, personally, would love to see essays written by creators on stuff like this.

Warrants more thought, I think. Well, now I know what I'll be doing with my break.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Random Reading: Superman: Up, Up and Away!; Ex Machina Vol. 3; and Top Ten: The Forty-Niners

Before getting on with the good stuff, I must express my annoyance at the fact that one of my Incal books arrived today--the second one. So, I won't be reading it until the other one arrives, which could be anytime between now and April, apparently. Still no second volume of DMZ either.

But, on the bright side, the campus bookstore has its 20% off graphic novels sale on right now, so I picked up a trio of books yesterday. I may go back and grab something else, but probably not--especially since I'm heading back to London for a few days, which means getting a lovely stack of books from my shop there.

Oh, and see the lovely changes with labels and everything. Fun.

Superman: Up, Up and Away!

The first thing from DC's one year later I've read. And it didn't suck. It did work WAY too hard at re-establishing the pre-Crisis Superman universe. Hey look! It's the Kryptonite Man! Lex Luthor is a mad scientist! Clark Kent is a bumbling reporter that we're amazed still has a job! Jimmy Olsen has a signal watch! The Fortress of Solitude is back! Chad doesn't give a fuck.

The world we see at the beginning of the book with Clark Kent actually living his life was more interesting. Clark Kent the reporter? More interesting. The internal conflict? More interesting. I wanted more of it all. I wanted more Lois and Clark. We see a little and then it's pushed aside for the return of pre-1986 Superman! Yawn. Okay? YAWN. You know where I can go if I want pre-1986 Superman? PRE-1986 SUPERMAN COMICS. Move forward.

One thing that really bothered me is when Hal offers Clark a GL ring because his powers haven't returned. And he turns it down, which is cool, but why the hell isn't he handing out rings like mad to his fellow heroes? Why wasn't Superman given a ring when he had his powers? What, giving the ring to someone who isn't a weak, normal human seems stupid now? Because those rings NEVER fail. The GL ring should be the JLA's version of the Legion's flight rings. New member? Welcome to the Corps!

I mean, they gave rings to a jet pilot stupid enough not to wear his while flying a jet in unfriendly airspace, some random cartoonist, a gym teacher and an architect. I'm thinking Superman qualifies ahead of those chumps.

But, of course, having the entire JLA have GL rings would make it all so uninteresting and blah blah blah ignore logic blah blah blah Hal Jordan rules blah blah blah.

Oh, and after Lex kicks the crap out of Clark in an alley, why the fuck doesn't Clark call the cops? What a fucking idiot.

Ex Machina: Fact V. Fiction

So, apparently this comic kicks all kinds of ass.

You know what bothered me? On the first page of the first part of the "Fact V. Fiction" storyline, Mitch is in a comic shop that apparently only stocks Planetary and Ellis/Hitch-era Authority comics. And posters. Every goddamn thing we see is one of those. Hey, I know Wildstorm can only use stuff owned by Warner Bros., but, um, doesn't that include the DCU, Vertigo and, hey this is an idea, OTHER Wildstorm titles? Just saying.

Other than that, it was a good read. Good art, too. Although, the lady who yells about having a stroke, is saved and then gets pissed about the hero saving her before her kids? Total bitch.

Another thing that bothered me. The commissioner of police is trying to track down this robot vigilante that claims to be made by the former-Great Machine/current mayor. Has no luck, so she and some other cop follow the Great Machine's former support people as they hunt for it with the intention of both catching the vigilante robot and arresting the two guys for interfering with a police investigation. Um, when you spend all day following two guys all over the city while they do your job for you, isn't that being a total dick by planning to arrest them because they're better at your job than you are? Not a criticism of the writer, just me thinking the character? Total bitch. It's one thing when they actually interfere, but when they do it better--and you actually follow them, hoping they'll do it better? Not cool.

Hell, that's one thing I like about this comic, now that I think about it: people are assholes in that way people are assholes.

Top Ten: The Forty-Niners

A rather interesting take on the idea of super-people of all sorts actually fighting in a war. They fight in the war, come home and get forced into some weird city all together.

I don't know what to say because it's Alan fucking Moore and this book is just a fantastic read. I haven't read Top Ten yet, so I probably missed a bunch of cool little in-jokes, but I enjoyed the hell out of this book. Moore's ability to create characters that resonate with archetypes we know, but aren't just cheap copies is amazing.

And Gene Ha's art here . . . wow.

Buy the fucking book, it's a good read.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Random Reading: Testament: Akedah

I had planned to have more than just this book this week. I had pre-ordered DMZ: Body of a Journalist from (along with two Incal books: The Epic Journey and The Epic Conspiracy) and was informed this week, a week after the book came out that somehow doesn't have any copies. It's still "out of stock" and I won't get my copy until sometime in March. Could be sooner, I hope. I'm just amused by the whole thing. Usually, pre-ordering books mean you get them within a few days of them coming out. Unless, as I've joked to friends, the demand for this book was so great that they couldn't even fill the pre-orders and the book is sold-out from their distributor and Vertigo has on its hands a sell-out of a trade in less than a week. No idea what actually happened, but I doubt that scenario somehow.

But, the campus bookstore has a sale on graphic novels for 20% off, so I'll probably pick up two or three this week. Plus, my Incal books should arrive soon. Until then, you'll just have to be satisfied with . . .

Testament: Akedah

I don't quite know what to make of this book. It gives a lot of information, setting the series up, but also doesn't seem to give enough. I think part of the problem is too much time is spent connecting the dots between what's happening now and what happened in Biblical times. I know, I know, it's kind of the point of the series, but it seems too heavy-handed and rushed. Like writer Douglas Rushkoff is trying too hard to get all of the pieces on the board right away instead of letting it flow a little more naturally.

In a way, I found it too plot-heavy, which is a strange change of pace from most books that seem to be character-heavy and have little plot (an example off the top of my head would be the first American Virgin trade). I know everything that's going on and have a sense of where it's going, but the characters aren't there. I honestly don't give a fuck about them most of the time.

The basic plot is: the government, at some point in the past, put little tracking chips in kids to help prevent abductions and such. Now, they want every person under a certain age to have them so that they can be used to hunt down draft dodgers or something like that. And some people don't agree and form a little resistance.

Except all of the characters we see also correspond with someone from Biblical times, right now it's centred around the time of Abraham, so it's not like an all-star squad of Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, etc. That is a plus in a big way. A lesser writer would have did something like that. Here, the connections seem natural.

Liam Sharp's art is solid and reminds me of Frank Quitely's here. Much different from the last work I saw of his. It suits the material.

This is the first thing I've seen Rushkoff write, so maybe it will take him a little bit of time to grow into the style. There's enough here to make me want to pick up the next book and make my final judgement then.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Random Reading: Showcase Presents Shazam! (Part Two)

Continuing from part one of my look at Showcase Presents Shazam! vol. 1. Various highlights from issues 14-33:

* Dr. Sivana kidnaps Uncle Dudley, the weird old man who doesn't have any superpowers, but still likes to dress up like Captain Marvel and try to fight crime. He then hooks the old man up to some weird machine that makes his dreams a reality and since Dudley's been reading about mythology, weird mythological creatures with Sivana's head appear. So, the Marvels switch Dudley's book with a book about the Marvel family and suddenly, dream versions of the Marvel family appear and defeat the creatures. And then Captain Marvel destroys the machine and the dream Marvels disappear. Why didn't he just destroy the machine to begin with?

* An evil villain replaces the statue of justice outside the courthouse with a statue of injustice, so the judge begins acting like an asshole. And everyone just does what the crazy old guy says, including Captain Marvel, who goes to prison.

* The city promises some weird hippy guy with a magic music machine that makes criminals follow him into prison a million dollars for doing that service. Except once he does it, he's told the city doesn't have a million dollars, but will he accept $28 and a ticket to the policeman's ball instead? Fucking assholes.

* A prince was turned into a frog and when he gets turned back, it turns out he was so ugly he already kind of looked like a frog. The best part was how Mr. Tawny (the talking tiger) is the only one who can hear the frog talk. Gee, a frog who doesn't act like a frog, but only does so for one person--wonder where THAT idea came from.

* Dr. Sivana's son makes crippled news-vender Freddie Freeman forget the words "Captain Marvel," so he can't turn into Captain Marvel Jr. Except, Freeman can still remember "Captain Marvel Jr." so he just says that.

* Some alien kid uses a lightning-rod helmet to get Captain Marvel's powers and when Captain Marvel finally gets the kid turned back to normal, he gives him the spanking of his life.

* Some lame criminal thinks Uncle Dudley actually has powers. What a fucking idiot.

* A scientist recreates Ben Franklin's experiment with a kite and lightning, and it somehow turns him into three of himself. He then merges the three versions of himself and passes a superhuman detector test only to reveal he is a superhuman. Dr. Kilowatt is the same genius who invented the anti-gravity machine that no one wanted. Here, he is totally owned by this other scientist that proves his superhuman detector machine--bullshit. Total bullshit. Kilowatt is such a lame scientist.

* Sivana goes on a multi-city tour of crime, which is really an excuse for us to learn stupid facts about American history. Except Captain Marvel almost doesn't try to stop him, because Billy works in New York. BUT! Billy and Uncle Dudley get sent to these cities to film news reports, luckily.

* In Washington, Sivana steals the Capitol Building and every member of congress. And no one cares, which blows Captain Marvel's mind. It unhinges him so much, he takes to shaking his fist and yelling at TVs.

* In Philadelphia, Sivana gets various criminals from history to help him, including Benedict Arnold--who then betrays him.

* Sivana brings Black Adam back from the dead to help him become ruler of the universe--so Black Adam tells him to go fuck himself, because HE wants to rule the universe. At this point, I began feeling sorry for Sivana, because he keeps getting betrayed by his evil buddies.

* Captain Marvel apparently knows off the top of his head that "magarac" means "jackass" in Serbo-Croatian.

* Billy has tape over his mouth (again), so he makes fun of the villain, so he'll hit Billy so hard that the tape will come off.

* We discover there are Lieutenant Marvels: Fat Billy Batson, Hill Billy Batson and Tall Billy Batson. And when they all get together, they sing a song.

* Captain Marvel is shy around girls, so he needs a guy from World War II to beat them up for him.

* The cover to issue 32 has Captain Marvel sliding into home with an alien at batcatcher. The ump is yelling "YER OUT!" Except, Captain Marvel's foot is on home and the ball hasn't reached the catcher's glove. This ump sucks.

* In the same issue, Tawny tries out for the Detroit Tigers. And makes it. Genius.

* One word: Shazamobile.

All in all, a fun read. Some of the plot turns are horribly lame, but some? Genius. Pure fucking genius.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Random reading: Random books!

Another trip to the shop here and another pile of books chosen at random. Well, let's dive in!

Blade #5

Actually bought earlier this week at the bookstore because I thought "What the hell, I'll give the book another shot!" based entirely on the badass cover of Wolverine's claws running through Blade's head--and Blade smiling because he fucking loves it.

Yeah, the comic sucked compared to that cover. Too much space wasted on a cliched flashback subplot and not enough space devoted to a badass fight where Wolverine runs Blade through and then Blade is all "Motherfucker, that's the way I like it!" and then it's REALLY fucking on.

Teen Titans #43

"Hey, let's do a story where it's like an evil Teen Titans!"

"You mean like an Injustice League, but with the Titans?"



So, yeah, the real Titans get their asses handed to them by the evil Titans and I'm sure this matters to people who read this title and care about these characters.

Green Lantern #16

Green Lantern is an idiot.

That sums up this issue.

Apparently, to keep things separate, Hal Jordan, while flying in the air force, is dumb enough to NOT WEAR HIS MAGICAL RING THAT WILL MAKE SURE HE DOESN'T DIE! And the he got caught by terrorists and put the woman he loves in danger and caused an international incident and is being pursued by alien bounty hunters because the kid of that alien who died and made him Green Lantern now wants his daddy's ring. And if this idiot had just worn his ring to begin with, this would have all been solved rather quickly, but he's an idiot and we're supposed to feel sorry for him, except he's such an idiot we don't.

The Creeper #6

Yeah, I didn't see that this was issue six of six until I got to the end and it was the end.

I bet if I had read the previous five issues, I might have enjoyed this issue more. Except there's fun bits of dialogue like:


Said by the Creeper after punching Batman in the face.


Fantastic Four #542

I rather liked this comic. It reminded me of that episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine where Dr. Bashir and the group of genetically-enhanced people figure out using math that the Federation WILL lose the war with the Dominion no matter what. No hope. No chance. So why not surrender now and save billions of lives?

I always agreed with that choice and I find myself agreeing with Reed here. He's figured out the way to save the planet is to do shit like the Registration Act and he's going to make damn sure it happens no matter the cost.

I only hope that Marvel has the balls to see the story through where Reed is right. THAT would be impressive, I think.

But, they'll probably puss out in favour of the whole "siding with good will beat the odds" bullshit eventually.

Civil War: The Return

Oh, shut up, it wasn't that bad.

First off, it doesn't negate the death of Captain Marvel. He doesn't even come back from the dead really.

Second off, the Sentry story was kind of interesting--at least if you're a fan of the Sentry. It did more to explain his joining up with Iron Man more than Bendis' spotlight issue did.

Third off, it wasn't that great either, but I read worse comics THIS WEEK let alone in the past few years.

Fourth off, I do think that the Mar-Vell story could have worked better as a full-issue story. It was a little too compressed, especially when he returns, for my taste. Everyone seems to accept what's happened a little too quickly--they don't even ask WHERE he came from, they just go "Oh, you're here, run the prison!" Seems kind of stupid.

X-Factor #15

I'd heard good things and this issue was good. I've never been a big fan of Peter David's comic stuff--his prose has always done it for me--but this was good. Interesting characters, snappy dialogue and the funniest way of taking down terrorists I've ever seen--while being disturbing at the same time. I'm tempted to hunt down all the previous stuff for this series. (And I just checked with and I could get the Madrox trade and two X-Factor collections for a decent price, so maybe I will sometime soon.)

The Spirit #2

So, the Spirit gets his ass kicked and then later kicks the asses of those who kicked his ass plus a few more people without much effort? I can't stand it when shit like that happens. It's something that happens in shit like this and it takes me right out of the story. It's one thing if the hero comes up with a sneaky way of overcoming the difficulty, but when there is literally no difference in the two situations I just don't get it. (You COULD argue he does it so he can find out later what the real plan is, but I don't see why he couldn't have, I don't know, kicked a little ass since doing that and then leaving wouldn't have affected anything except how much pain he'd be in.)

But, this book is steeped heavily in such conventions and it adheres to them well. Not my thing.

Captain America: Winter Soldier Vols. 1&2 and Winter Soldier: Winter Kills

Well-drawn, well-written, well-conceived. They brought Bucky back and did it in a way that adds to the character. Never thought I'd see that coming. I do think had I read this without that knowledge, it would have been better. So sorry, I just spoiled it for you, but I figure everyone knows it by now. I don't know what to say. As is obvious, I'm not great at praising stuff, I'm much more of a "tear shit down" guy.

I did think the Jack Monroe interlude issue killed the pacing of the story a bit without adding a whole lot.

The Winter Soldier special had some touching moments, especially at the end. Am confused about how the trio of Young Avengers say they won't kill anyone, but then they knock out all the Hydra members before burning the warehouse down--did they carry them all out?

Come to think of it, Hydra has been popping up a lot lately in the MU. In that Spider-Woman issue of New Avengers, in Iron Fist, in X-Factor, in Fantastic Four, here. And in nearly every case (Iron Fist is the odd one out), they are getting their asses handed to them and losing large numbers of people and equipment. Kind of makes Iron Fist look like a little pussy, doesn't it? I'm going to have to think about that.