Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Sunday Open: Fourth Week of June 2008

[As always, these reviews are brief impressions, gut reactions if you will, to the books I got this week rather than proper fully-rounded reviews. Read them as such. If, at any point, you don't understand what I mean by something... well, that happens.]

A big week, mostly because Marvel decided to ship everything it publishes in an effort to crush Final Crisis. Not the smartest of strategies (and if it wasn't a strategy, it still wasn't smart) as it almost had me passing up a few of their books. But, whatever, let's get to it...

Captain America #39

Frank D'Armata's colours keep the art looking like that of Steve Epting's enough for my taste. I didn't notice that it wasn't Epting, Mike Perkins or Butch Guice on art for a couple of pages--and was surprised when I realised it wasn't one of those three. I guess it was bound to happen since Perkins and Guice are very talented and working as Epting's fill-in boys probably doesn't pay the bills. Still, it kind of sucks. But, I read that Luke Ross is coming on board and I like his art, so we'll all live. Oh, and the writing continues apace.

Final Crisis #2

I liked this book. While doing this week's column with Tim, I came to the conclusion that we may as well just be totally honest and rename the thing "Tim and Chad Read Comics Better Than You Do" because that seems to be the point half of the time... and we're arrogant fuckers. Strangely enough, I think I'm worse than Tim is despite his having more cause to be than I do. *shrugs*

Oh, my only complaint about the book: the colourist didn't colour Turpin's hair when he was buying his bus ticket. Sloppy.

The Immortal Iron Fist #16

For some reason, I thought Brubaker was co-writing this issue. I was wrong. Great art by David Aja. The first of our various Matt Fraction books for the week. A decent read, but that varied from scene to scene. The charity stuff was alright and a lovely thematic follow-up to Wildcats Version 3.0, but didn't really grab me. The stuff with Danny was fantastic and makes me miss Fraction already. I'm not sure about the new creative team, but I'll give it a shot.

The Mighty Avengers #15 & The New Avengers #42

Hey, yeah, isn't it great when two books by the same writer ship in one week and fuck up the timeline in a story where when someone was replaced by the Skrulls is actually important? In Mighty, we have Henry Pym replaced in England after the "new" Avengers form; in New, we have Pym already replaced when that happens and at Columbia University. Well done, sirs and ma'ams.

I did like the way New Avengers ended, though.

No Hero #0

I'd have rather gotten Black Summer #7 first, especially since No Hero #1 doesn't come out until August (the extra month there, I assume, to allow for people to pick up this issue and then place an order for the first issue). But, you know, let's ignore that.

An alright teaser that is all concept, no character. Which is fine since I like the concept. I'm almost disappointed that the main story won't take place back in the '60s. There will probably be all sorts of flashbacks, though. I do wonder how much of the info given in the backmatter will actually appear in the comics.

I'm on board, but did anyone really think I wouldn't be?

Thor: Reign of Blood

Much like the first Fraction one-shot, I really enjoyed the narrative voice employed here. Thor continues to play a small role until the second story, making the first half of the total story (since there will be a third one-shot, making six stories in total) very light on Thor--an interesting way to go about things. I'm looking forward to the third one-shot.

Thunderbolts #121

And so Warren Ellis ends his tenure on this book... It was really fucking good. Normally, when Ellis leaves a book, I shrug and move on, because that's what he does, but I'll miss him here. He wrote a mature book involving villains better than anyone else I've seen and really hammered home how stupid the entire idea was. He also managed to make Penance work and his Norman Osborn is fantastic. I won't be buying this book any further.

Young Avengers Presents #6

Almost didn't buy this because it was a big week, but Tim made me. It was rather good and made me care about a character I had barely encountered before. It also has great Alan Davis art, which is always a plus. Fraction's Clint Barton is pretty damn good, too. Although, I will say that that last page made the whole issue work and without it, I may have been a little annoyed. But, then again, Eli's rant while leaving the park at the beginning is one I've delivered inside my head many times, just never having the balls to say it aloud, so...

I hate the f-word. I really do.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats Version 3.04

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's Wildcats Version 3.0. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

"CONSUMERS. / THE EBB OF SOCIETAL VIEWS AND CURRENT EVENTS KEEP THEIR COLLECTIVE INSIGHT IN A STATE OF FLUX... / THEY ARE RESTLESS, OPINIONATED AND EASILY BORED. THEIR CONSTANT CLAMORING FOR THE NEXT BIG THING HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE OPERATIONAL NORM. / WE ARE READY." Jack Marlowe begins this issue by saying that. Casey again starts an issue with the most important pieces of information, particularly about the nature of the series, what its views are, where it sees itself within the context of the comic book industry. In a way, this answers the question of "Why relaunch the title?" Because that's how you get the notice of the masses. How many books have we seen go from getting so much press and "buzz" that you can't read a comics site without hearing about it to cancellation by the end of its first year thanks to horrible sales? And things are worse now.

The scene continues between Dolby and Marlowe with Dolby giving Marlowe a key piece of advice: "YOU WANT PEOPLE TO TRUST THE BRAND... / ...THEY NEED TO TRUST YOU," which also speaks to the comics industry, particularly with regards to a title like Wildcats Version 3.0--despite being corporately-owned, by this point, it was treated like a creator-owned book. You want to launch a new title, one featuring new characters, you need to have a name that people know. Casey's approach to The Last Defenders has followed this idea as he's done a lot of press for the book over at Newsarama from the time it was announced well up until after the final issue comes out (I assume). Seems like common sense, but not always.

As well, this piece of advice relates to the concept of "Halo as a superhero," alluding to Superman and the positive press he received from The Daily Planet. People are suspicious of entities that seem altruistic or "too good to be true," so being as open and honest is a must. If Marlowe wants people to see Halo as a force for good, he needs to make sure that they see him, the CEO and owner, as a force for good. Marlowe is Halo.

The rest of the issue is devoted to the Grifter/Wax/CC Rendozzo plot. First, Wax uses his powers to get information out of Rendozzo. She wants to find the rogue FBI agent as a means to get to her son whose father is a fed and currently has the child after kidnapping him. It's all about family for her.

Ramon and Grifter do surveillance on the Nuclear Family and we get a look into the Mom and Dad's sex life as they have Agent Orange watch while they do some BDSM stuff.

The next day, Grifter poses as a delivery man and delivers a package with a smoke bomb or tear gas or something. When it goes off, the team rushes in to find the Mom and Daughter in masks, body suits and carrying big guns. There's a shoot-out where Grifter's legs are shot up to hell and the issue ends with him on the ground, looking up at Agent Orange.

Like previous issues, there's around three pages of content that's excellent and the rest is rather mundane in its own typical way. I've been trying to reconcile the two differing parts of the books and still haven't been able to pull it together. This book is supposed to be a step forward, but still revolves heavily around violence. Granted, it's violence for a different purpose than usual, but it's still violence. Are those other three pages enough to make this book stand-out, really?

We'll have to see.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Superman 2000 Pitch: More Anti-Supermen

[Another in my and Tim Callahan's look at the Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Mark Millar and Tom Peyer "Superman 2000" pitch. New posts by Tim on Thursdays and by me on Fridays.]

Since Tim discussed the Quartet's plans for Lois Lane and the "big storyline" of their run, I figured I'd follow-up on last week's post by looking at the plans for the three remaining villains. First, they had a few words on the villains in general:

In short, we have a new blanket take on Superman’s foes. We’ve recast many of them as cracked-mirror reflections of the Man of Steel himself, aspects of his character taken to a villainous extreme. Brainiac represents Superman’s alien nature without his human compassion. Luthor is the only man on Earth capable of being Superman’s equal but has squandered his unlimited potential on evil. Prankster fights for Truth and Justice in a demented way, and Bizarro...well, read on...

As I noted last week, the plan was for each to reflect Superman and his weaknesses in their own way, something which has popped up since as well, particularly in Morrison's All-Star Superman run where Superman continually encounters various versions of himself (although not just villains). The first of the three villains for this week will sound somewhat familiar because of Morrison's All-Star Superman as well... Bizarro:

Taking the already existing Bizarro character and spinning off from Peyer's 80-Page Giant story, we can restore the creepy, demented, unnerving quality of the old Bizarro World stories. A little funny still...but somehow, a lot more scary.

Imagine a living planet which hunts through space. The entire world is a sentient system and it preys on other planets like a cancer. This self-aware--but not particularly intelligent by our standards--macro-entity has learned to imitate its prey and does this in order to "sneak up" on a victim in a pleasing, non-threatening shape. Its method is to transform itself into a crude copy of its target, sail in close and then strike by launching self-replicating parts of itself.

Now it's coming our way and it's scanning for life as it prepares to imitate and destroy the juiciest planet in its path.

And the first thing it scans, the first living creature whose mental activity is as sluggish as the killer planet's Bizarro. Bizarro, whose diary, transmitted into the galaxy, attracted the killer world across the void.

And from its rough scans of Earth, combined with the flawed synthetic substance of Bizarro (who has crash-landed on its surface and found himself immune to its assaults), the planet recreates its entire form. It becomes a grotesque, rough-hewn cube with vast distorted continents and oceans in the form of our major continental landmasses.

Dull-witted synthetic creatures, using Bizarro as their model, form in the millions, billions. Odd, unfinished, cities rise. Things break easily and run down and go wrong...everything is topsy-turvy.

Bizarro has at last found his dream world and can't wait to show Superman.

The Bizarro Planet, the Cube Earth, attacks by firing parts of itself at its target world. These parts then infect any life form on the host world and reduce it to the same state of imbecilic hunger as the killer world itself. Plagues of Bizarros shuffle through city streets, making everything like themselves, reducing scientists to drooling halfwits, tearing down streetsigns and replacing them with dangerous gibberish. Suddenly the Bizarros are nightmarish, unstoppable plague carriers...who also happen to be a form of life which is only trying to exist on its own terms and which Superman knows he cannot simply destroy.

The Cube Earth shouldn't attack often, but we know it's out there and we can visit again with or without Superman. Bizarro #1 himself is the only one of the Bizarro creatures who is not himself a contaminant to humans. He is the Cube Earth's crazy ambassador.

The Bizarros should have a Cronenberg/Lynch quality of blackest humor and gut-wrenching dread, mingled with the sad, sinister charm that Tom's story worked to evoke.

I'm not familar with Peyer's story, but it's typical of the Quartet to build upon previous stories, to use what has already happened rather than simply start from square one. As well, at this time, these four writers were very friendly and often bounced ideas off of one another or did projects that led to one of the others taking over. Millar wrote the Zauriel mini-series, Peyer wrote Hourman after Morrison introduced him in JLA, Morrison and Waid came up with Hypertime, Waid was the go-to fill-in writer on JLA, Morrison and Millar wrote a year of Flash while Waid took a break, plus the various stories contributed to the 80-page giant books that were fashionable at the time. In a way, these four working together on the Superman titles would have been the culmination of years where they worked closely but separately.

This version of Bizarro is familar to anyone reading Morrison's All-Star Superman where he gave the concept two issues. The idea of the Bizarro World imitating as a means to pacify wasn't accomplished quite as planned, but the rest is there, pretty much.

For our next villain, most of his role is discussed in the portion of the pitch related to Lois, but the Quartet included a few more words on Brainiac:

Lex Luthor builds a green-flesh computer brain and body to house the dying Brainiac. The space-villain becomes Luthor's Frankenstein Monster, a heartless machine whose intellect and cosmic reach dwarfs even his creator's genius. Unlike Luthor, Brainiac hasn’t a shred of compassion and is the only enemy whom Superman genuinely fears.

Not explicitly stated, but the Quartet implies that Brainiac is what Jonathan Kent feared Clark would turn into in Elliot S. Maggin's novel Miracle Monday: a cold, detached superbeing without any compassion or morals, viewing all living things as specimen to be studied and used for his own purposes. Since Superman is defined by his compassion and devotion to life, Brainiac is very much his opposite number.

And that leaves us with Lex Luthor, Superman's arch-enemy:

We see Luthor playing chess with twenty grandmasters simultaneously while reading untranslated Il Principe and teaching himself Urdu via a Walkman he made for himself in five minutes back in 1962. Luthor is so smart we don't even have a WORD for what he is yet; calling him a genius is as insulting as calling him an imbecile.

Here’s a secret about Luthor no one yet knows. Despite his born ruthlessness, he was once salvageable, once redeemable--until Superman arrived. Though even he doesn’t consciously realize it, every iota of Luthor’s self-esteem was pinned to achieving that most lofty goal: to be considered the greatest man who ever lived. And he was on his way--until Superman appeared and outclassed him, triggering the scattershot sociopathic tantrum that is his criminal career.

Here’s another secret. Luthor's Lexcorp empire? All the corporate-baron stuff we see him doing routinely? Six minutes of his day, maybe less. He’s not the Kingpin. He only pretends to be. Luthor the businessman is the tip of the iceberg, a smokescreen generated to give the public and his enemies a false, easily digested persona which masks his true depths. In other words, Luthor conquered the financial world largely in order to project a "secret identity" designed to make people underestimate him. Lexcorp is but one of a thousand projects Luthor attends to every day.

In time, once Superman learns of Luthor’s depth, he will come to understand Lex as a tragedy of wasted potential. Though he realizes he could not have handled his earlier, formative encounters with Luthor any differently, Superman carries a new weight around in his heart. He knows now that Luthor, but for the path he chose, could have been his equal, his only true peer on this earth. And though Superman’s greatest priority will always be to stop Luthor’s schemes, his greatest frustration will be his continuing inability to rehabilitate Lex for the good of all mankind.

Not just Superman's arch-enemy, Luthor is also his foil: a superior being who never reaches his full potential because of emotional weakness. In Superman's case, his desire to be humble and fit in; in Luthor's, his desire to be the best. Both are limited by opposing desires related to pride, but Superman channels his to better the world, while Luthor focuses only on destroying Superman, the only obstacle to achieving his goal. There's an irony here, that he will team up with Brainiac who is not only more powerful physically, but mentally as well, to defeat someone who is only more powerful physically. There's no question that Luthor is Superman's better intellectually, but all he focuses on is Superman's physical abilities.

I'm actually not a fan of the idea that Luthor only spends "six minutes of his day, maybe less" on Lexcorp, but I've always found that aspect of the character to be far more interesting than Luthor as supervillain. One thing I thought the creative team of Jeph Loeb, Joe Kelly, Joe Casey and Mark Schultz did right was making Luthor president since that demonstrates the level Luthor plays on, which is one entirely different from other villains. He can attack Superman in ways no one else can, but I seem to be in the minority with my preference since the character has since reverted to wearing his green and purple armour and acting rather mundane. Even in Morrison's All-Star Superman, he isn't much more than a regular supervillain--which is where the character began, so there's just cause for that. Even in Morrison's JLA, he was a supervillain, but he employed means (particularly in "Rock of Ages") unlike those of other villains. Part of what makes him so frustrating is that Superman and the other heroes are the only ones who know the true Luthor, that he always walks away with a smile and clean hands.

The idea that Superman is trying to rehabilitate Luthor is fantastic and adds another level to their confrontations: the goal isn't simply to thwart Luthor's schemes but to make him see the error of his ways. This is almost similar to what Casey eventually did by turning Superman into a pacifist: since the character is one built on providing inspiration and hope, wouldn't Superman try and rehabilitate every criminal he encounters? Would that be a logical point of evolution in the character?

Until next week.

The Splash Page 21: Final Crisis #2

In this week's Splash Page, Tim Callahan and I discuss Final Crisis #2 and I discover that it and Secret Invasion are the same stories. If you don't believe me, go read the column and you'll see that they totally are. Sure, they're told in two completely different ways, but, really, it's the same story. Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

All that and more in this week's THE SPLASH PAGE!!!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats Version 3.03

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's Wildcats Version 3.0. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

This issue focuses almost exclusively on the CC Rendozzo storyline as we pick up where we left last issue: Grifter and Wax in the sewer, trying to track down a rogue FBI agent that's grown in a vat when CC Rendozzo and her muscle show up with guns out. Casey has some fun with the cliche nature of this exchange, having Wax say stuff like "THAT'S WHY YOU'RE HERE? YOU'RE A BUNCH OF THIEVES...? / ANOTHER CLICHE..." and, when Rendozzo points a gun at his head, he mutters "OH, FOR GOD'S SAKE..." while rolling his eyes. A lot of the dialogue is both sides posturing for the sake of the other; lots of "You think this is the first time I've had a gun pulled on me?" and "I know all about you and you're not that great." It's mildly amusing, but also points to situations like these being nothing but worn-out cliches that fail to entertain. How many times have you see Grifter shoot some guys? This book is supposed to be past that, but it can't move on because of convention--but it can mock the convention.

The stand-off is resolved by a sonic pulse. Grifter and Wax wake up on Rendozzo's compound with all problems solved--they'll all work together on this. They'll all track down the rogue agent and then... who knows? It's obviously a delaying action by Casey, but allows the plot to move forward.

We also get some insight into Rendozzo's little family with Ramon, her tech guy, a test tube baby who's now, like, ten and an obvious substitute for her son, who we'll get to in a few issues. Again, though, Casey plays with the family...

Including the "nuclear family," which is introduced in this issue. They have Agent Orange (the rogue agent and Grifter's favourite guy in the world, if you'll remember) and seem right out of a '50s sitcom. A stay-at-home mom, a dad who works in an office of some kind, two kids... it's all so nice. Their true nature is revealed in an issue or two.

Casey includes a two-page scene where Jack Marlowe walks off of the Halo building and ascends to space to ponder things while gazing at the world. Exactly what he sees we don't know. But, his next appearance in the issue is at a restaurant where Garfield and Dolby are having some drinks--and complaining about Marlowe (or, Garfield is). Marlowe shows up via holographic projection right in the middle of their table. Marlowe is bold and fearless it seems in showing off his abilities.

The issue ends with a commercial for the new Halo car battery. Things progress and the car battery is very important.

This issue advances a few things, but isn't spectacular, particularly with regards to the ideas I'm interested in. Still, some interesting things happen, I suppose.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Myriad #3

Issue three is back from the printers!
The story is entitled "Gone for Good" and it features artwork by Mike Murphy!

If you want a copy, contact me after Chicago this weekend. It's three bucks, plus another dollar for shipping.

OR if you're in the neighborhood, you can buy it AND the first two issues at my booth at Wizard World (table #3518 in Artists Alley). Just look for the guy in the avatar photo!

Or keep an eye out as you scan the tables for these issues!

(Curious kitty not included)
Mention GraphiContent and get a special discount!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats Version 3.02

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's Wildcats Version 3.0. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

The second issue kicks off with an important scene between Agent Wax and Grifter as Wax explains the importance of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. This speech/dialogue (mostly one-sided, but still) outlines one of the major concepts of the book. Wax discusses the role of the corporation in American history, how the Boston Tea Party was not just an act taken against the British government but British corporations as well, and how the rights of corporations were severely limited until the Civil War where corporations were able to take advantage of the political chaos to buy judges, expand, etc. Casey includes a quote from Lincoln that warns of allowing corporations to gain too much power. All which leads up to the 1886 ruling where corporations were granted the same rights as persons under the constitution, except since corporations have resources far beyond any person, they were really granted rights far above and beyond the average person.

This establishes a key concept: the corporation as superhero. If corporations are, in essence, persons in the eyes of the law, then what happens when a corporation tries to save the world? To use its advanced power to do good? Jack Marlowe's superhero guise is Jack Marlowe, his costume a business suit, and he uses Halo to advance his goals, to make the world a better place.

In this issue, he makes a few key moves: he dissolves Garfield and Dolby's accounting agency, moving the staff to Halo's building--and also gives both a chance to get ahead when he solicits their opinion--a chance Dolby jumps at, while Garfield refuses, preferring to be pissed off at Malowe.

Marlowe also learns that his attempts to "grow the brand" are failing because Halo doesn't have the relationship with ad buyers at television networks necessary to reach the masses effectively. This sets up the upcoming plot surrounding Marlowe's acquisition of Beljar Media.

There's also a meeting of characters as Grifter and Wax run into CC Rendozzo as all want to find the rogue FBI agent mentioned in issue one. The issue ends with guns drawn and everyone looking very serious.

A little bit lighter than the first issue, but the first three pages alone make this issue worth it as it has Casey explicitly stating what he's going for, what he's discussing and what the point of the book is, in a way. He also introduces a plot point (the media) that won't come into play until toward the end of the first year, and begins Dolby's ascent within the Halo ranks.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Sunday Open: Third Week of June 2008

[Yeah, this is a post of reviews of the comics I got in the past week. It is random (well, in alphabetical order, actually, but I meant random in what I have to say, not the order in which I discuss the books) and not any real attempt to review in any traditional sense of the word. Really, it's me looking through the stack and talking about what occurs to me. Not to be taken seriously by anyone.]

Anna Mercury #2

Not quite what I figured it would be after the first issue. Was expecting something along the lines of Grant Morrison jumping into a fictional world and shit like that. Not that this is worse, just not what I was expecting. It's an alright comic, but I strangely prefer the stuff in the real world to Anna Mercury's adventures on the moon or whatever. Backroom politics, secret government programmes... in this world, all of the G8 countries have stations like this, so I want to see them. I want to see the Canadian one, I really do. What?

ClanDestine #4-5

Rather enjoyed this series. It told a complete tale, but also didn't satisfy really. Mostly, I want to learn all about Vincent, I do. The end of issue five suggests future stories and I hope low sales don't kill that chance. Of course, I didn't get these last two issues until this week because the shops in Windsor are fucking sold out of the things. That happens with a lot of books I enjoy: can't find them here and can barely find them in London. Um, maybe some books are a little underordered maybe? (And yeah, I know I used the word "maybe" twice there.) Weird guessing game, I know, but when I'm not getting certain new books on Wednesday or Thursday... well, something isn't right. And, funny enough, big seller books tend to sit on the shelves, overordered. Not that I blame retailers, because who knows what people want really. But, yeah, good comics. When the trade if out, pick up the mini. Well worth your time, effort and money.

Doktor Sleepless #7

Things move to a head... hahahahahahaha... oh, I love horrible puns. Okay, I don't, but I didn't even catch that one until I wrote it. Ah well. Decent issue, we'll see what issue eight brings.

Ghost Rider #24

Motherfucker broke into prison and starts a riot indirectly. I love the brutality of the character here. Jason Aaron makes no attempt to give Blaze any redeeming characteristics, really. All we've got is a guy who got fucked over and wants revenge--and is brutal in getting it. Lovely comic.

Gødland #23

Alternate reality! Squeeeeeeeeeeeee! I love those alternate realities and about damn time one has shown up here. I am a little bothered that Adam can sense things are amiss since that's the oldest trick in the book, but he also has special cosmic superpowers, so... I love how goddamn selfish Neela is. Seriously, ever since issue one, she's just been focused on herself at the price of everyone else--and now she's rebuilt reality just so she's the hero and her brother isn't. That's messed up.

Guardians of the Galaxy #2

Gave this a second issue to win me over and it kind of has. Almost. Maybe. I dunno. It reads alright on the surface, just isn't getting me in my special areas is all. DnA aren't touching my special areas and that's a bad thing.

The Programme #11

The Russians are fucked. Fucking right. USA! USA! USA! will surprise us all I'm sure. A weird comic.

Punisher War Journal #20

Frank purposefully fighting unlike himself is a great touch. The rest of the issue was all kinds of meh.

Rasl #2

I strangely like this book. But, it does involve alternate realities, so... Alternate realities where Bob Dylan went by Robert Zimmerman and still somehow recorded Blonde on Blonde. What are the fucking odds? No, really, that is freaky. Since he wasn't called Bob Dylan, his life should be very different--probably still a musician, but even the time displacement of Zimmerman instead of Dylan should be enough to ensure that Blonde on Blonde never got made. Weird. But, yeah, good comic.

Scalped #18

Again, Tim, thank you.

Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust?

I got this for the Noh-Varr story and it wasn't the horrible piece of shit I expected. It wasn't any good either, but it didn't piss me off. Nothing here pissed me off because it all so stupidly unnecessary and bland. Really, was there a point here? Any point at all? Because I sure as hell can't see one.

Gotta love the title's throwback to Civil War, eh? While I'm thinking about that, why is that new mini-series by Christos Gage called Civil War: House of M when it should be the other way around? That makes it sound like it takes place during Civil War when really it's a civil war during House of M. It's fucking backwards, you morons.

Oh, and Marvel is releasing Marvel Boy in hardcover come September, which is... oh, around eight months late. They should have had that fucker out before Secret Invasion and Final Crisis to capitalise on both. Yes, use DC to move books, fellas. I'm probably going to buy a copy because I love that series and, well, I said I would in a Splash Page. But, still, Marvel's release schedule of trades is fucked. They really botched the whole Eternals thing as far as I'm concerned. For one thing, the Gaimain mini's trade should have came out BEFORE the new series began, not the week after. That's dumb. And don't tell me a printing issue moved things around, because it should have been out several weeks before--or, ready to be out weeks before, but purposefully shipped one week before. But, you know, whatever, not my company.

Tiny Titans #1

Finally found an issue of this series after reading Tim's praise for a while. It's a cute little comic that had a few moments that made me laugh. Especially Robin asking Speedy if he can run fast. That name makes no fucking sense. Good little book. If I come across more issues, I'll buy them.

War is Hell: The First Flight of the Phantom Eagle #4

I do hope everyone notices that most of this book is people talking. The fights are short, brutal and utterly without glamour. This book lives between battles. It's a bit more subdued than most Ennis stuff I've read. But, it's good.

Young Liars #4

...Sadie was a virgin? Jesus. Freddie is a bit of a douche. I'm enjoying this book more with each issue.

And, yeah, I got some trades somewhere in there, I think, I dunno. I know I got a cheap copy of Pride & Joy and it was good. I reread Mike Carey and Denise Mina's runs on Hellblazer and enjoyed them for different reasons. They're both still the weakest writers on the book that I've encountered--but, well, maybe my love of Constantine blinds me and makes me unable to dislike the books. Although, the weird one-off issue in the middle of Mina's run is fucked up.

This upcoming week is big just as money is getting tight. Fucking hell.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats Version 3.01

[Beginning my look at Joe Casey's Wildcats Version 3.0. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

Since the covers of nearly every issue of Wildcats Version 3.0 is fantastic looking, I'll be including them with my analysis--really, Dustin Nguyen and Rian Hughes do some fantastic work on this series. Actually, I should have been doing that for every book I've discussed, but let's ignore that, shall we?

So, we're here at the big relaunch of Wildcats after half a dozen issues of build-up and lead-in. The future is now they say.

For the first twelve issues, I'm using the two trades, Brand Building and Full Disclosure, and in both, they begin with a page of text discussing the concept of consumerism since that's a big part of this book. In the first trade, Casey (it doesn't say who wrote the text pieces, but I'm assuming Casey since it has his style) talks about how the book was focus grouped. Now, I don't know how true that is (I remember him saying that in interviews, too), but it raises an interesting point about the comic: it lasted 24 issues plus a tie-in issue... not exactly a rousing success on the sales chart, eh? A commentary on the difference between the "real world" and the comic industry, or a commentary on focus groups?


A lot happens in this first issue as Casey puts his pieces in play. We have Grifter in Vietnam taking down a sweatshop for Halo. We have Jack Marlowe exploring Otherspace and taking meetings about media sturation and "growing the Halo brand." He buys out all of the media consulting companies as well as an accounting firm where Dolby and Garfield work. Marlowe is a lateral thinker and does not adhere to standard business practices: if he needs something, he simply buys it.

Grifter's role is slightly altered from when last we saw him, but it isn't far off. We first see him at a party and handing out a business card that says he's a manufacturing scout for Halo. When next we see him, he's naked and just killed a woman who was trying to kill him. All he says is "JEEZUS... / ...REAL MATURE," which is Casey's sense of humour cropping up: the requisite violence as a part of the immaturity of the genre, in a way. Also, this is the first "mature readers" issue of his run, so a naked Grifter killing a naked woman by shooting her through a window finally happens on panel with all of the naughty bits (well, almost, since guy nudity is still a no-no) on display.

Agent Wax rejoins the National Park Service, but not as a field agent yet. He gets in trouble for delivering documents in person that could have been sent via e-mail. This begins his little feud with Downs, his boss. Wax has a rebellious spirit.

There's a rogue FBI agent that brings CC Rendozzo (from Wildcats #2) back into the fold.

Wax and Grifter have a nice little moment in a bar, showing that they are Marlowe's trusted lieutenants--but also that they don't get along either. We have three men who are all working together (or, rather, two are employees while the other is the employer) and none get along. Lovely dynamic.

The issue ends with a commercial for Halo batteries that supposedly last forever. The commercial is interesting as it includes the first appearance of Babytron: a little flying baby that looks like Ladytron. A now-dead (or, "inert") psycho turned into a cute corporate logo... genius.

The most important part of this issue is Marlowe's speech about brand building and his attempt to saturate the market with Halo, because if he wants to change the world, he needs the trust of humanity. He needs them to not just buy Halo products, but to love Halo. He recognises that corporate power is the only true power of the 21st-century and is what is needed to make things better. Hell, he puts batteries that last forever on the market... can you think of any corporation in real life that would do such a thing? In a world where I'm still convinced they make products to last only so long purposely... something that lasts forever and will never need to be replaced is insane. Only a superhero would do such a thing.

The thing here is that a corporate superhero is nothing new. Batman, Iron Man, (Arch)Angel... all owners of huge corporations, but what do they do to make the world a better place, really? Jack Marlowe's costume is his silver suit and his biggest tool is Halo.

Next issue, we'll learn just how powerful corporations are and why having one determined to do good is worth more than a hundred superheroes.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Superman 2000 Pitch: Some Anti-Supermen

[Another in my and Tim Callahan's look at the Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Mark Millar and Tom Peyer "Superman 2000" pitch. New posts by Tim Wednesday-ish and by me on Fridays.]

In exploring Superman's villains, the Quartet (as I call them) wanted a healthy mix of old and new--of honouring the history of the character while also moving forward. For Metallo, they wrote:

The Man with the Red Kryptonite Heart. STAR Labs’s experiments on a fragment of Green K result in it emitting radiation at a lower, cooler frequency. It turns red, and its new wavelengths temporarily cause weird, resonant changes in Kryptonian molecular structure. No gorilla heads, no silly transformations into a 1956 Buick. Instead, painful mutations. Frightening intangibility. An eerie expansion or dampening of the senses. Disturbing chemical changes in the brain’s communication centers. When Luthor learns of this new Red K and realizes its potential, he steals it to revamp the largely ineffective, one-note Metallo, exploiting his terrifying potential as a dangerous John-Carpenter's-Halloween-type Super-stalker.

They stay true to the character, but also bring back an old Superman plot point with the red Kryptonite while updating it. As they say, the transformations caused this time will really mess Superman up instead of leading to "wacky adventures." It also makes Metallo a new sort of threat and plays on the concept of Kryptonite a little. By giving him the red variety, it allows for something different, especially if they plan on bringing back the Kryptonite Man...

An evil, cagey rock-like monster with a body reminiscent of The Thing's, a primal green-glowing personification of Superman's death, the Kryptonite Man is, in reality and unknown to Superman or even to himself, a supporting cast member (Ron Troupe?) who turns into Kryptonite Man against his will in a Wolfmanlike transformation. It’s a rare event; kryptonite will never be used as a writer’s crutch. What won’t be a rarity is the writing team’s continual watchdogging to make certain the familiar touchstones of the Superman Legend are used as opportunities for creativity, not ways around it.

The original Kryptonite Man was a normal looking man who glowed green pretty much, but this again adds a new dimension to the character, giving reason for him to be evil. I remember Kurt Busiek and Geoff Johns created a new Kryptonite Man in their One Year Later arc and that version was alright.

Throughout the proposal, Ron Troupe is sort of the whipping boy for the Quartet, partly because he is the most notable supporting character from the previous era of the book. The four want to honour what came before, but seem critical of elements of the previous run... while trying not to. Of course, it's easy to criticise what just happened, especially if you didn't like it. Turning Ron Troupe, the key supporting character from that period, into one of Superman's opposites is both an insult and, well, a way to pay tribute, I suppose. He doesn't become evil, he becomes something he can't control.

The next two villains revolve around sunlight in their own way. If the previous related to Superman through his weakness, these two relate through his strength, in a way. First, Solaris:

The Tyrant Sun from DC One Million is back, fulfilling his destiny as one of Superman's most deadly and persistent foes. This will be his first appearance after One Million, returned from deep space, with a bad grudge, for his first-ever encounter with the Man of Steel.

Not much added here that we didn't already know, but I really do think Morrison's concept here is fantastic. If Superman gains strength from the sun, why not have him fight an enemy that can counter that? That can make sunlight deadly? For the new Toyman, it's more of a play on Superman's gaining strength from the sun:

The late Winslow Schott's spirit possesses a GI-Joe size figure which lies in a toybox all day and comes to life when the sun goes down. By day, he’s just another action figure in a kid's bedroom. By night, when the moon comes out and the kid is sleeping, Toyman wakes up and sneaks out of the house to run his criminal empire. Creepy, utterly ruthless, and in charge of an army of killer toys, Toyman's Achilles Heel is sunlight, which renders him motionless.

Note that where Superman is most powerful in sunlight, the Toyman is only powerful in darkness. A nice little twist on the concept, I think.

The new Prankster plays with Superman's beginnings:

He fights for Truth, Justice and the American Way in a manner diametrically opposed to Superman's. He's an anti-corporate prankster, like Michael Moore in TV NATION. He wants to show people the strings and wake them up from their blind acceptance of a S.T.A.R. Labs playing with DNA in the middle of a densely populated area, or a Watchtower on the moon monitoring our every movement, or a Lexcorp secretly taking tax breaks to build Bizarros. The Prankster stages elaborate, humiliating, destructive public hoaxes that mess with people's heads. As astute and perceptive as he is out of control, Prankster is the one earthman who actually worries Luthor.

Joe Casey played around with the Golden Age Superman in Adventures of Superman #612, but the Quartet does it here, too. When Superman began, he fought for the working class against corruption and those who would exploit them. Over the years, his mandate shifted towards the majestic and grand, from directly tackling problems to merely acting as an inspiration. This Prankster is built on the origins of Superman in our world, another tip of the hat to the character's past. The Prankster attacks Superman on an ideological level rather than a physical one.

Finally, Mr. Mxyzptlk who attacks Superman on a spiritual, psychological or emotional level:

A Loki-ish prankster who uses people's lives as his game pieces. Mxy employs his awesome, five-dimensional reality-warping powers to trap Superman in dangerous, unreal scenarios... a high-stakes upgrade of the Elseworlds concept. No longer content to make buildings sprout wings, Mxy warps the facts of Superman's life in a sustained effort to test and break the Man of Steel's spirit (because the imp's fifth-dimensional intellect rightly understands that Superman's pure soul is his true power). Sometimes aware that he's been thrust into warped histories and sometimes not, Superman can only win these games by rising above the Mxyworlds' temptations to be less virtuous, less positive, less dedicated, less effective than we know he can be. Superman's own inner strength is the key to making Mxy disappear.

I like how they reference Elseworlds and plan to integrate that idea here, perhaps building on the concept of Hypertime. But, it's also interesting that each villain attacks Superman through a different weakness that all get around his invulnerability and, many, get to the root of the character, what he believes, what he places his trust in. Clearly, each villain's role was thought-out.

You'll note that I left out two biggies: Lex Luthor and Brainiac, the two ultimate Anti-Supermen, each representing a different facet of the character. Well, Tim or I will get to them eventually, but since they're very important to the Major Plot, best to save them for that post.

The Splash Page 20: What is the Job of a Comic Book Critic?

On this week's Splash Page, Tim Callahan and I take it to B. Clay Moore after he said some things about creator-owned books, critics and his own work. Really, it's me doing my best to keep a civil tone while Tim does his best to present both sides of the argument. Several times during the writing of this column, I got up and ranted at my buddy in an effort to get rid of all of the crude language I wanted to use. This is about as ranty as you'll see me. Fun.

All in this week's SPLASH PAGE!!!

Myriad #3 to debut at Wizard World Chicago next weekend

The new issue of my comic Myriad will be released next week to coincide with my appearance at Wizard World Chicago June 26th through 29th.

This third issue features a longer story (22 pages) written by myself and illustrated by Mike Murphy of Chibi Comics. To check out his work, you can check out his Myspace page.

The story in this issue is another "relationship" kind of story, like the first issue. But it's a completely different storyline than what you saw in issue one. The story is entitled "Gone for Good," and I think you'll like it. It's about a guy and a girl on a road trip, and it features philosophical musings on the nature of memory and identity.

If you want a sneak preview of the issue, click this link. There are two preliminary sketches Mike did of the main characters, and I have posted a couple of preview pages as well.

If you're going to be in Chicago for the convention next weekend, swing by my table in Artists Alley (#3518) to pick up this issue (and the first two, if you haven't yet). If not, the issue will be available when I return. I'll post another blog with pics from the show and let you know about its availability when I'm back home on the 30th or the 1st of July.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats #28

[Concluding my look at Joe Casey's run on Wildcats volume two. Commentary on Wildcats Version 3.0 begins on Saturday with new posts every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

Joe Casey and Sean Phillips' Wildcats comes to an end right here. Before I continue, I should say something about Phillips's work on the title since I've been neglecting it for a while: it's good. It is really good work that perfectly matched Casey's writing here. Phillips can tell a story like no other (except maybe Steve Dillon--and, hey, they got him to draw two issues) and can make talking head scenes work like no other (okay, again, except maybe Steve Dillon). He can do the "fantastic" as well, but his style makes it look absurd and out of place, which is what the book called for. Take this issue, for example: Agent Wax uses his ability to make others do what he wants on Jeremy Stone and we finally get a full shot of him in full-on "Maul" form... and he looks utterly terrifying and stupid. Because a giant purple guy in tighty whities would look stupidly absurd beyond the intial terror. Another artist would flash it up, make him look heroic somehow, but not Phillips, because he knew the score. I've focused on Casey's writing, because that's whose work I'm interested in and have been discussing for quite some time. But, Phillips's contribution was essential here. That needed saying.

Now then, the final issue...

It is split between two events: the aforementioned Agent Wax/Jeremy Stone stuff and Pris's tutorial by the Daemonite where she grows new legs. Casey puts both Jeremy and Pris in the past here. He shuts the door on them after one last issue of them acting like superheroes in their own way: Jeremy gets his "Maul" on while Pris uses her abilities to heal herself. At the beginning of the issue, Jeremy looks at a picture in a cracked frame--it's the cover to WildC.A.T.S. #1 and he wonders, "WAS IT EVER SO SIMPLE...?" The issue is titled "Door Prizes," which is an interesting play on the phrase since it usually means prizes won upon entry or because of entry, while Pris and Jeremy get theirs by exiting... but also because they entered. It's an odd paradox. Pris is able to move on with her life by leaving the WildC.A.T.S. behind her, but only because her superpowers healed her even though she wouldn't have been injured in the first place if it weren't for her contact with Jack Marlowe, the android formerly known as Spartan and Hadrian who she met back in the WildC.A.T.S. Got that?

The Agent Wax stuff has him stalk Jeremy for a bit and then use his powers to learn all about the WildC.A.T.S. and Marlowe. Marlowe intervenes and teleports Wax away--the next time we see him, Marlowe's plan is already in motion and we don't find out what happened in between until issue 17 of Version 3.0. This leaves Marlowe and Jeremy where Marlowe refers to Jeremy as a "former associate" and then says, "WE'VE BEEN SEARCHING FOR SOMETHING... ALL OF US. I'VE FINALLY FOUND A PATH WORTH EXPLORING. / THERE IS ROOM FOR OTHERS. I CANNOT DO THIS ALONE. BUT YOU AND PRISCILLA HAVE BEEN THROUGH SO MUCH... [...] / THE DOOR IS ALWAYS OPEN. PLEASE LET HER KNOW THAT. BUT IT MUST BE HER CHOICE." Marlowe again recognises the bond between the former WildC.A.T.S., but tha it's a part of the past, too. He's finally grown and doesn't bury his past; he confronts it and allows it to choose if it wants to be buried or not. Instead of moving ahead alone, he gives his family a choice. Grifter chooses to go with him, while Pris and Jeremy do not.

The issue ends with Pris and Jeremy in an uncertain place, a possible romance but who knows. Pris has the final words of "BUT, THEN AGAIN... / ... WHO KNOWS WHAT THE FUTURE MIGHT BRING...?" The final image is a single picture separated into two panels of Marlowe teleporting away after standing outside of Jeremy's beachhouse. Very appropriate as this book has talked around the conception of the future, of moving forward, but little movement actually occurred. In fact, this book was more obsessed with the past, with how it keeps coming up when you least expect it. For all his bluster, Marlowe accomplished little here. But, he's reconciled himself with his past and everyone is moving forward--he teleports from that past, allowing it to move into the future on its own terms, while he does the same.

In a way, volume two was the transition between WildC.A.T.S. and Version 3.0, two books that are quite different. It's no wonder that fans of the former hated volume two, because it did its best to move away from that old book, particularly under Casey. Under Scott Lobdell, it was superficially different, but was really the same old thing. Casey pushed the book into a more thoughtful place, one that examined how people deal with their past and move on from it--and how, more often than not, it has a mind of its own that we can't control. He also explored the family dynamic of the team, of old soldiers without a war to fight, and even what happens after you give up being a superhero. The last two tie into that overarching idea of the past, acting as sub-themes in a way. The family dynamic is related to that since this isn't a traditional (re: biological) family, but one forged by experience, by the past. What ties these characters together is what most of them are trying to move past--with one exception in Grifter.

Grifter is the only character who doesn't let go of that past. In fact, when a big part of it, Zealot, is discovered alive, he obsesses over regaining that lost past. In the end, he also has to let go, but not before reminding Marlowe that the past isn't buried, it is accepted, integrated and built upon. You can't forget it or fight it, you accept it. Once Marlowe does that, he is also able to move on. Grifter reminds him of the importance of the past, and he reminds Grifter of the importance of the future. Together, they are the heart of the book, two foils that cannot stay away from each other--and they are the protagonists of Version 3.0.

Volume two is over. Version 3.0 begins on Saturday and continues for 25 issues.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats #27

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's run on Wildcats. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

The penultimate issue of Wildcats volume two continues the two-fold purpose of putting certain plots in the past and setting up Version 3.0--sometimes at the same time.

In that case is Agent Wax tailing Jeremy Stone who is doing freelance computer work--but uses his powers to shrink himself a little and make himself look like an old man. More about that next time, but Casey here is putting Stone in the past, while setting Wax up for the next series and his role there.

The majority of the issue has Grifter continuing his efforts to track down Zealot and... get back together with her? Have some questions answered? Who knows? I certainly don't know what Grifter actually wants, but I suspect he doesn't either. First, he meets her in a diner where she again tells Grifter to back off--but also explains that she is wiping out all of the Coda because she feels they've perverted the sacred teachings she brought to Earth.

This leads to Grifter and Zealot killing a Coda assassin who was hired to kill a man in the witness protection program. The Coda is killed (so is the target) and that finishes Zealot's job in America. Next: Europe.

We're left with Grifter and Jack Marlowe in that house. The talk sets up Version 3.0 and the continuing use of the two as a duo that act as foils for one another. However, this scene suggests that Grifter is moving into the future, putting the past behind him. Marlowe delivers another line about them being family, explicitly stating what's been obvious since the beginning. It appears the two will continue to work together (well, they will, which I know because I've read Version 3.0).

The issue ends with Pris waking up and finding the old beachcomber in her room. He's there to help. He's a Daemonite and it's time she learned about her heritage. The past resurfaces so she can have a future--well, sort of, I guess.

Next issue is the final issue of this volume. Then, on to Version 3.0.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Sunday Open: Second Week of June 2008

[Note: the reviews below are not full reviews. Nor are they objective. They are often intuitive responses to what I read and lack fully formed ideas. Why? Because I spend the rest of the week trying to be smart and sometimes I just want to talk about comics without worrying about that stuff. Sometimes, I just want to have some fun with comics.]

I spent a lot of money this week. Well, not that much, but more than I usually like to. Blame the bunch of Adventures of Superman back issues I picked up in an effort to complete my collection of Joe Casey's run (only need five more). Damn you, Joe Casey. Well, let's get to it...

Captain Britain and MI13 #2

Greg Burgas pointed this out, but right before that fucking awful Uncanny X-Men #500 ad by Greg Land that has polluted every Marvel comic this month by popping up right in the middle of each issue since it's a double-page ad, we get a two-page spred by Leonard Kirk that shows Land for the lesser talent that he is. Land's picture is bland, flavourless, uninteresting, and kind of creepy (I know, I know, the porn referencing has been beaten into the ground, but I'm disturbed that the newest teenage mutant, Pixie, is obviously waiting for someone to cum on her face... I don't want images like that put in my head, but it's so damn obvious...). Kirk's pic is dynamic, packed full of action and warrants some study to see how everything is laid out (as opposed to... holy shit, how can Storm's legs bend like that? What the fuck?). The writing on this comic is pretty good, too. The way Captain Britain dies is interesting, and the sense of doom is palpable. I really do think all of these characters are fucked and the Skrulls are going to win. Why wouldn't I? THEY HAVE THE GODDAMN MAGIC! I'm not worried about the rest of the Marvel universe, but Britain seems completely fucked and probably won't be around after "Secret Invasion." Shit, then who will star in this comic? Now, I'm really worried (and also know that this book won't survive past a year most likely, which is a shame because it's good).

Charlatan Ball #1

A new Joe Casey creator-owned title? And with an obvious Kirby influence? Oh my god, Gødland is entertaining it's final year? And Codeflesh is returning? What do you want me to say, really? It's a solid Joe Casey comics with some decent art. It's an interesting premise and contains that typical Casey protagonist of the down-on-his-luck-but-really-decent-underneath dude with some trippy shit. In particular, that trippy splash page where Weird Mind-Altering Shit Happens. This book gets bought every month. Hells yes.

Eternals #1

I discussed this a bit with Tim, but that was more a discussion about Jack Kirby, his work, his legacy, the molestation of his memory... this comic was more a means to that end. This was not a good comic. It was tedious, it was dull, it told me nothing, and contained cliche characters. Daniel Acuna's art is great (really, that Thanos panel... wow). I'm convinced Sue Storm didn't originally have a bathing suit or bra or whatever that is. Is that Lightray on the cover between Ikaris's left arm and thigh? Little explanation was given of the Horde. Where were the Big Questions, the Big Ideas, the Majesty? Where's the love?

The Last Defenders #4

I knew the problem was Nighthawk. Or, more importantly, Kyle Richmond. I believe Joaquin will become Nighthawk by the end of the series (hence the full mask on issue six's cover). Kyle Richmond can't be a superhero anymore and who better than the SHIELD agent whose father was a supervillain? But, yeah, the problem with each of these Defenders teams (and there have been three in the book so far) has been Kyle Richmond. He is a failure of a superhero. He is the problem ingredient, clearly. In the end, he must be excised from the group in order for it to survive.

I really enjoyed the scene between Richmond, Tony Stark and Henry Gyrich. A really great indictment of the Superhuman Registration Act and its corruption of heroic ideals. I'm really enjoying this book.

Narcopolis #3

Something about this issue didn't click for me. Maybe I wasn't in the mood for the language of the book. You need to be in the mood to read something like this and I don't think I was in it. Shit. I have not done Jamie Delano a service by reading this issue when I did. I should have just put it away and maybe waited for issue four and read the whole damn thing in one sitting. Waited until I was ready to embrace this world and its language. Because I do love the langauge of this book. It's a fun read in many ways. It's about a society that is both wonderful and shitty it's about love; it's about taking drugs, both illegal and legal. It is a reflection of our world, but only in the complexity of it. A lot of writers tend to ignore that societies are never all evil or all good. Things don't work that way. Yeah, a tyrannical dictatorship sucks for a lot of people, but it fucking rocks for others. Narcopolis is an agent of evil in many ways, but it's also a great place to live if you fit in and abide by the societal rules. And is there something all that wrong with wanting to do that? Gray Neighbour doesn't seem entirely sure--he's questioning the society, trying to see both the good and evil, maybe focusing a bit on the evil because everyone around him tells him the good. But, he is questioning and that is the key to this comic (maybe). No society is one thing entirely, but what matters is the questioning, the examination of what makes a society function, of the good and bad parts. Not simply believing one side of the story without question. Okay, maybe I wasn't in the wrong mood for this comic. Who knows.

newuniversal: Shockfront #2

A very effective issue. Ellis moves forward a few plots, including Phil Voight killing a superhuman in a rather clever way. He's talked about how he killed superhumans back in 1959 and now we see that he's still got it (and next month's one-shot will provide more background). The best part of the issue is the two-page explanation by Charlotte Beck (a new character) of the history of this world since 1960, allowing us to see exactly where it differs from our world. I love alternate histories, so two pages of a character just spilling details makes me happy. Things are pushing to a head it seems. Good stuff.

Red Mass for Mars #1

The third Jonathan Hickman-penned mini-series currently ongoing at Image and this one is just as interesting and unique as Pax Romana and Transhuman. I love how this issue begins with a few stock sci-fi doomsday plots and then discounts them. Basically, aliens are coming and they are really tough, so all of the superhumans need to pull together. In many ways, it's a typical superhero book; in many ways, it's not. The whole Lightbender monologue was rather funny as he exercises his racist, xenophobia by demanding English become the primary language of Earth again... and to prove he's serious, he defiled the Queen of England... three times... er...

The art by Ryan Bodenheim is decent. Like most Hickman books, this is pretty text-heavy, but the visuals work. Hickman is quickly becoming one of the few creators whose work I buy without question. Hell, he's already there, honestly.

I bought a couple of other things, but nothing I want to discuss yet. Or, stuff I haven't fully read. Either or. I dunno.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats #26

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's run on Wildcats. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

In a supermarket, Pris runs into an old man who knows all about her. Thus, that subplot gets a little bit more advanced in preparation for the final two issues of this series.

The rest of the issue has Noir's power play to take control of Halo by killing Jack Marlowe and Grifter. What's remarkable is how utterly conventional most of this issue is. Noir is the classic Bond villain: he sics a rebuilt Ladytron on Marlowe, one made giant and programmed to kill without question, while his flunkies take on Grifter... all the while, Noir gloats over his genius. As Ladytron beats on Marlowe, Noir could easily move forward with his plan, but he stops and says, "...I THINK I'LL TELL YOU WHAT I'M GOING TO DO. / I LOVE YOU THAT MUCH..." He is a relic of the past. His insistence on playing his part allows Marlowe to triumph. Noir, despite all of his bluster, is just a stock villain.

His plan is to use Otherspace to fuel Halo batteries that will never run out of power. His goal is the acquisition of money, like most good villains. He also wants power, which is why instead of simply telling his idea to Marlowe and being content with a high-paying job, he needs to eliminate Marlowe. Of course, upon revealing his plan, Marlowe uses his new Void powers to neuter Ladytron by teleporting away her various limbs. Noir, for all his bragging over his "genius," is caught unaware.

Meanwhile, Grifter killed the three French brothers. Because that's what Grifter does. Noir was doomed to fail because he attacked two men who are perfectly suited to repel such an attack: a man of violence who knows nothing but killing, and a man beyond violence who thinks on an entirely different plane.

When all of this fails, Noir tries to defeat the two through psychological violence, playing to Grifter's masculinity and homophobia, and Marlowe's "daddy issues." However, this fails, too, because the two simply ignore what he says. It's just talk, after all. In the end, Marlowe gives Noir what he wants: a trip to Otherspace... but without any protection.

The issue ends with Marlowe holding up a battery much like Noir did at the end of issue 24, but instead of a look of smug confidence, his eye (the other covered by shadow) filled with wonder and hope. Noir's plan may have been misguided, motivated by greed, but that doesn't mean that he was wrong. Marlowe is enough of a progressive thinker to not simply discount what Noir said because he was a villain. His has moved beyond the empty binaries of "good" and "evil," preferring a nuanced world where such abstracts are meaningless.

The synthesis of Noir's innovation and Marlowe's altruism lays the foundation for Version 3.0.

There's also a key line that ties this into Casey's theme of family. At the end, Grifter says, ">SIGH< / ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST. CAN'T SAY I'LL SHED A TEAR OVER THIS ONE," telling the audience that Noir was a member of the family, but not a true one. Unlike the other former WildC.A.T.S., Noir came aboard in volume two, making him a newbie, not a full member of the family--as his actions here prove, too. However, he was one of them. He was a Wildcat and, even then, he deserves some messure of respect and compassion... hence Marlowe's punishment: Noir gets what he wants, just not how he wants it. Maybe that's the cruel way to do things, but it's also fitting.

Two more issues of volume two left.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Superman 2000 Pitch: History

[Another in my and Tim Callahan's look at the Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Mark Millar and Tom Peyer "Superman 2000" pitch. New posts by Tim Wednesday-ish and by me on Fridays.]

In last week's post, I discussed the concept of cycles and how it not only informs some of the writing of Grant Morrison and Mark Millar, but also informed the approach taken by the two with Mark Waid and Tom Peyer in their "Superman 2000" pitch. Building on that and my discussion of evolution, I'd like to look at two sections of their pitch, "The Costume" and "The 'Lost Years.'"

First, the Quartet's take on Superman's costume:

We’d like to tweak the costume by finally getting rid of the red underpants. This gives us a new look which somehow recovers the more classic, Golden Age, "primal" Superman look and feels like an update. This move also has instant media appeal: Finally, Superman’s smart enough to wear his shorts UNDER his pants.

Now, the fact that Superman wears red "underpants" over his costume is a constant joke that everyone would like to rectify, but no one does. Obviously, it would be an evolution in his costume, a step forward, but note that the Quartet specifically references Superman's Golden Age costume in explaining this change. It is not just a step forward, but a tribute to the character's history. This is the only time I've ever seen someone argue for this change by citing the character's original costume and I find that connection inspired.

Continuing with that, the Quartet want to give Superman a different sort of Golden Age connection and tie his existence into the history of the DCU a little bit more during his "lost years":

During the "Lost Years" of Clark Kent after he left high school--if he still has any room left in there--we’d like to establish that he met and was given training by a member (or members) of the Justice Society, possibly Al Pratt, the Atom. Since Superman in our currently-operating timestream wasn't the first super-hero, we’d like to restore his prominence by reaffirming that he is most certainly the greatest. We see Doctor Fate, near the end of his group’s life, telling the JSA that their work is all but over. That the first age of heroes was but the prelude. That soon, the greatest hero of all will arrive from the stars and it will it will be the task of the entire JSA to find him and teach him about the world of the costumed crimefighters. This little addition to the past gives Superman a new grandeur, a fresh religious dimension, and ties him more directly into the development of superheroics in the DCU (although having said that, we want to keep Superman's adventures on the periphery of the Universe, in the sense that we don't really mention the JLA much or refer a great deal to other heroes. The JSA should be seen as some misty Olympian group of supermen from the past, guys who are now dead, gone or replaced by the greatest hero of all. At least in his own book, we want to reclaim that old feeling that Superman is the only super-hero). It also seems mythically right that Superman should, at some point before he dons the cape, meet his predecessors, his John the Baptists, who have awaited his coming and now have a few lessons for the fledgling hero.

This idea of Superman trained by Al Pratt adds a lot to the character by, firstly, putting Superman within the larger context of the DC universe and not simply acting as an independent agent. In the current continuity, the JSA came long before Superman, so it's only natural a young Clark Kent would seek out a member (or members) of the group and look for training. With that resource at hand, why would he simply jump into superheroics? As well, it gives him a parallel to Batman that the Quartet doesn't mention; since Bruce Wayne was taught to box by Ted (aka Wildcat), Clark Kent trained by Al Pratt gives the sense of these two fitting into the generational aspect of the DCU (throw in Wonder Woman's mother as a member of the JSA and the entire "trinity" is represented). Since the need for Superman to be young and relevent must be upheld, providing him with historical context only makes sense. There's a tip of the hat to the Superman from Earth-2 who was a member of the Justice Society of America, and keeping that connection alive.

The invocation of the religious and the mythic is nothing new, but this is a fresh way to further the concept of "Superman as Christ" by providing him with a group of prophets that act as harbingers for his coming. As well, I do enjoy the idea of both entrenching Superman within the DCU while, at the same time, moving him away from his fellow heroes (as a solo title should). It's a clever way to keep Superman's adventures focused on him, while still ensuring the reader recognises his place within the larger universe.

This attempt to fit a contemporary into the historical context of the DCU is fascinating, particularly as it acts both as a means to propel the character forward, to add new levels of meaning, and to tie him to his roots in older continuity. It certainly fits with a concept the Quartet mention at the beginning of the pitch:

The Superman relaunch we’re selling bucks the trend of sweeping aside the work done by those who came immediately before. Unlike the "cosmic reset" revamps all too prevalent in current comics, our New Superman approach is an honest attempt to synthesize the best of all previous eras. Our intention is to honor each of Superman’s various interpretations and to use internal story logic as our launching pad for a re-imagined, streamlined 21st century Man of Steel. The "cosmic reset" notion has been replaced by a policy of "include and transcend" with regard to past continuity.

As Tim mentioned in his first post, we can see this concept applied in Morrison's current Batman run, but it's great how it comes up in subtle ways throughout the pitch as the two cases above show.

The Splash Page 19: Molesting Kirby's Memory

In this week's Splash Page, Tim and I discuss Eternals #1 and how unsuccessful revivals of old Kirby books tend to be. The actual title of the column is "Molesting Kirby's Memory," but Tim doesn't like to offend and changed it for publication. I, on the other hand, don't care. But, Tim's a responsible family man and I'm... not. To spoil things, both Tim and I are against molesting Kirby's memory. Check out why in this week's SPLASH PAGE!!!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats #25

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's run on Wildcats. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

The extra-sized 25th issue of Wildcats is an odd one as it doesn't advance the overall plot much. It's more of a breather as Jack Marlowe and Grifter assist Captain Pacheco in taking down the Smack Fairy.

Subplots are advanced, though: Pris and Jeremy in Miami with a shot of the beachcomber we know to be a Daemonite. Noir and the French mercenaries, preparing for their hostile takeover of Halo.

But, the focus here is on Pachecho who is addicted to Hype, the drug that gives the user superhuman reflexes. The issue opens with him confronted with a drug test at the police station and him having a panic attack.

The actual takedown of the Smach Fairy is relatively simple as Marlowe once again avoids the typical showdown by using his newly acquired abilities to simply teleport the Smack Fairy and his goons elsewhere, most likely somewhere they will not survive or even arrive alive.

This issue is an odd one as I'm not certain how it fits into the overall framework of the series. It again puts Marlowe in a "superhero situation" where he acts against the convention, but is that all? What does Pacheco involvement and addiction mean? As far as I can remember, this is the last we see of Pacheco (I haven't read Version 3.0 since it first came out, though, so I could be wrong), so why use him as such? He reminds Marlowe of his responsibilities, of his obligation to help his community. Pacheco means Los Angeles, but Marlowe isn't even human or from Earth--his community is bigger and so is his obligation. His abilities suggest a larger responsibility than removing drug dealers. Perhaps, Pacheco is here to provide one part of Marlowe's inspiration for the future of Halo.

And if Pacheco provides one part, Noir provides the other. The issue ends with Noir making his move as the French brothers ambush Grifter and Noir has a newly rebuilt Ladytron attack Marlowe.

When Noir confronts Marlowe, he delivers a monologue that is almost explicit in where Casey wants to take Halo and Marlowe: "THE THING IS... I'V BEEN WATCHING YOU VERY CAREFULLY THESE PAST MONTHS... / ...WATCHING AS YOU'VE COMPLETELY SQUANDERED THIS OPPORTUNITY... FUMBLING ALONG IN SOME SIC LOYALTY TO A DEAD ALIEN MENTOR. / WHO, I MIGHT ADD, NEVER KNEW HOW TO EXPLOIT THIS SITUATION EITHER. / SOMEONE HAS TO TAKE THE REINS OF THIS CORPORATION... SOMEONE WITH VISION. / IT'S CERTAINLY NOT YOU." Noir throws Marlowe's past in his face--something Marlowe has insisted he's put behind him, buried. But, has he? For all his talk about the future, has he really done anything that progressive? He keeps getting caught up in these "superhero situations" like the one in this very issue--even at the expense of business like in the first part of "Serial Boxes." Noir is an agent of change for Marlowe--he is a typical supervillain, but the active nature of the villain is what Marlowe needs, what he will learn from.

But, that's next issue.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats #24

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's run on Wildcats. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

After the last two issues focusing on the dual interests/problems of Grifter and Jack Marlowe, this one takes a broader view and also brings the two together.

The issue begins with Captain Pacheco as we learn two important pieces of information: he's a drug addict of some sort and under lots of pressure at work to crack a case/make an arrest.

Then, it's off to Miami with Jeremy and Pris as he takes her home from the hospital. Again two pieces of info worth mentioning: the new house on the beach is being paid for by Halo, and Pris sees another Daemonite in the hospital, this time posing as a nurse.

The rest of the issue is mostly taken up with Marlowe and Grifter. First, Marlowe discusses business and Void's condition with Noir. Marlowe blames himself and Noir for what happened. He isn't aware of Noir's sabotage, but since Noir helped build the Otherspace exploration device, Marlowe "ASSUME[S] IT WAS SLOPPY WORKMANSHIP THAT RESULTED IN THE LAB ACCIDENT." As a result, he suspends all Otherspace exploration. Noir is not pleased.

Grifter arrives with news of Zealot being alive, while Marlowe shares the news of Void's injury. The dynamic between the two is interesting as they don't really like one another, like two brothers who took different paths--but the connection is still there. Grifter needs help with tracking down Zealot and Marlowe needs help with Void. Seems he wants to join with the Void entity, to provide a host body and needs Grifter to abort the procedure (and kill both Void and Marlowe) should something go wrong.

Before Marlowe steps into the energy container with Void, Grifter yells, "ADRIANNA'S GONE! SO WHO ARE YOU SAVING?!" To which, Marlowe responds, "THIS IS VOID. / HER LACK OF HUMANITY DOES NOT EXCLUDE HER FROM OUR COMPASSION. / SHE IS, AFTER ALL, ONE OF US." Again, this idea of helping one another because of a shared past--but they're part of the same "family"--arises. And that's all that needs said. Even though Marlowe and Grifter make a deal, it's implied that they would help one another no matter what, because that's how things are done. They are two brothers who don't get along, who don't see eye to eye--but, if the other needs something, they'll go to the ends of the earth (and probably further).

We get a page that includes a montage panel of Marlowe and Void joining with panels from old comics and a back-and-forth of captions by the two that contain Marlowe's android perspective on joining and quotes from Void's past. The page ends with Marlowe's shadowed face emerging from the energy and saying, "IT WORKED."

Immediately, we have him teleport into Pacheco's apartment, still in his suit, but now it is silver like Void was. His eyes glow pink. He has gone from simply an android to a superpowered android. While his abilities have always been above that of a human, he is now more powerful than his fellow androids. He has transcended them and finally become a post-android, a super-android, whatever term you want to use. In his efforts to move into the future, he becomes something from his past, basically.

We learn that Pacheco's case is to take down the Smack Fairy, a drug dealer from Alan Moore's first issue on WildC.A.T.S. and the current supplier of hype, a drug that gives the user advanced refexes--makes them superhuman. Marlowe is interested in helping.

The issue ends with Noir continuing his powerplay as he meets the Meurtre Brothers as LAX--three French mercenaries Noir has brought to LA to kill Marlowe and help him take over Halo. The issue ends with one of the most important panels in Casey's run on volume two: Noir holding up a battery and saying, "IT'S AN OLD AXIOM... BUT SO VERY TRUE... / HE WHO HAS THE POWER... HAS EVERYTHING." The battery is important as it will become the crux of Halo's operations--and the phrase is important as it will come back to haunt Noir since he does not have the power. Marlowe was already more advanced than him and, in this issue, becomes even more powerful. We're looking at a dead man who doesn't know it yet.

Until next issue.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Sunday Open: First Week of June 2008

I am buying far too many comics. Far, far too many. It's never a slow week anymore. But, whatever, because I got some good comics. Let's get to discussing them.

The Boys #19

It took 19 issues, but Garth Ennis has finally brought war stories to The Boys. Let us all take a moment to reflect on that. Okay. Someday, someone with more brains than I possess will do an excellent overview of Ennis's career, looking at his pet themes that crop up so obviously in everything he writes. And there's nothing wrong with that. Most great writers constantly explore the same ideas over and over again from different points of view in an effort to better understand it. I really enjoy watching Ennis do that, because he writes some damn entertaining comics. This issue is divided between Hughie getting a history lesson from the Legend, and the Seven meeting with the Boys (plus a bit on Lamplighter covered in his own shit). I did enjoy the moment where the Seven's "Aquaman," the Deep comes out of the water and the Frenchman sees this and begins laughing at how fucking stupid he looks. Because he looks really, really stupid. Yeah, this book is full of cheap shots against the superhero genre, but it does have an underpinning of ideas like friendship, loyalty, power, and the general goal of making life decent for most people. Frankly, stuff like that reads better with cheap shots and crude jokes--at least, in my opinion.

Cable #4

Oh, so that guy at the end of last issue was Cannonball. Totally didn't get that. Probably should have, what with the giant "C" on his chest. My favourite bit of this issue were the three panels depicting his aging as the "C" changes shapes and sizes. Costume evolution, people. There's also a fuck-up in this issue where Cannonball calls Bishop "Nathan"--or, it was a Freudian slip. I would love to see Swierczynski see the mistake and then make it a Freudian slip, because that's much more interesting. Kind of a meh issue that would have been better had Cable not just reversed his entire position on the last page for no real reason. This book still lives on the edge of "Not buying another goddamn issue." The last book that lived there and didn't make it back was Midnighter, which was cancelled soon thereafter. Coincidence?

Criminal #3

Speaking of coincidence, the essay for this issue discusses a Sydney Pollack film a couple of weeks after he died. Weird.

This comic is depressing and sad, but real fucking good. It gives us the story of Danica and doesn't even cover the heist that winds up killing her. A little curveball from Brubaker as we all expected at least some of that story since it's the connecting event of the first three issues--but, no, we get none of that. Why? Because this gives us all we need. We get the background and Danica's role in the heist is pretty easy to figure out. It was explained in the first two issues a bit, but Brubaker also relies on the reader to fill in anything else. An easy job considering the fantastic work here.

Duostar Racers #1

...what the fuck? No, seriously, what the fuck? Normally, I defend Ashley Wood's work, but this... what the fucking fuck is this shit? I didn't understand a goddamn thing in this comic and I'm sure that's my fault somehow, or Wood's art has become so obtuse and flat-out impossible to understand that it actually makes no sense. I miss Lore. That was a fucking good comic. Maybe I'm missing stuff, but is Wood just jumping from half-finished project to half-finished project these days mostly? If I see issue two on the shelves (which, knowing Wood, who knows), I'll probably pass.

Holy War #2

Again, I refuse to recognise the full title as the rest of the fucking title is retarded. I'm sorry, but "Holy War" is a million times better than "Rann-Thanagar Holy War." It's true, Dan Didio. It's true.

This is one fucked up comic as our beloved heroes continue to try and build an anti-religion ray--seriously, they're letting Jim Starlin do a comic like this? His last book had him killing gods and now, the main thrust of this book is about how religion fucks everything up for everyone. I love this man. Oh, and then a dinosaur shows up. EVERYONE FIGHT THE DINOSAUR! WHOO!

Ron Lim's art continues to underwhelm me. It's still decent, just not as good as I've seen elsewhere. But, it's also a 30-page comic, which is nice. At first, I thought it was just Starlin's style of storytelling that seemed to take longer (okay, it still does), but then I counted: 30 pages. Awesome.

This comic isn't that great, but I enjoy it as a fan of Starlin. Some may find other reasons to like it, but Starlin doing a comic about building an anti-god ray is enough for me.

Infinity, Inc. #10

This book ends with issue twelve, sadly. This comic is one of the weirder ones on the shelves and never really found that right balance. Personally, I've really liked Millgan's off-kilter approach that pays the most superficial of tributes to the genre conventions while throwing as much fucked up shit as possible at the reader. But, come on, did anyone think a comic from DC about how superpowers fuck you up would sell well? Really? Even Pete Woods couldn't save this title from the axe.

In this issue, the team fights against small town cops and hicks--who are working with an evil doctor that hurts people with a pen. And people are surprised this isn't selling to the hardcore fanboy crowd? Really?

Damn, I really like this book. On the plus side, I'm accumulating a nice collection of books that lasted a year or less that I can devote some nice long posts to. Guess Infinity, Inc. goes in that pile now.

The Invincible Iron Man #2

Matt Fraction is totally in love with Thor. At first, he didn't like Thor, but, now, he has a huge man-crush on Thor--and who can blame him? Take a look at that blonde hunk of man-meat and tell me you could resist his charms? Oh, sure, first it was just a "one-shot" and then Fraction planned to never see him again, but that "one-shot" soon became a couple more and then a three-issue mini-series tying into "Secret Invasion." Now, Thor is showing up in Fraction's brand-new Iron Man title and totally rocking our collective worlds. I wouldn't be surprised if he shows up at the end of the current Punisher War Journal arc, taking down Jigsaw--and then, when Casanova returns, a suitable substitute is introduced there. Maybe an appearance at Danny's birthday part in the next Iron Fist? Or a quick trip to SF to team-up with the X-Men in Uncanny? Fraction has got the Thor love disease and there's no cure. Nor would anyone want one.

Omega the Unknown #9

The Mink fights his giant hand to the death. This comic just blew my mind.

Secret Invasion #3

Okay, can the Young Avengers actually do shit in a fight? I've seen these young losers exactly twice: now and during Civil War where they got their asses handed to them by Noh-Varr. Or, are they just utterly helpless against aliens? Really, shouldn't someone have stopped these kids from pretending to be superheroes until they were properly trained in not getting their asses handed to them all of the time? These guys are shit. I'm glad they're dead, because at least they served the goal of filling up a big chunk of this issue and making Nick Fury seem even more hardcore. See, that's him on the last page with another bunch of young superpowered people who he actually trained to kick ass, not just die in the middle of Manhattan like a bunch of losers. The lesson: the world needs Nick Fury to train superpeople. Or, is it? We haven't actually seen the new Howlin' Commandos in action, but guess what? They have a little Greek god that's going to make the entire Young Avengers squad want to vomit at the thought of costuming up again, because if a seven-year-old can fuck Skrulls up better than the entire team put together... christ, those Young Avengers suck. Hell, the Initiative sucks, too. They show up and the Skrulls kind of shrug and then begin executing heroes in the street while saying "He loves you" in their weird Skrull language.

Oh, and Tony Stark may be a Skrull. At least, that's what the Skrull queen says. And we should trust her. She hasn't been lying about stuff since forever, right? Right?

It may not be apparent, but I enjoyed this comic. Even notice how these posts degrade over time--with initial reviews having a point and maybe some logic... and then later ones has you wondering what the fuck have I been drinking/snorting/popping/injecting to come up with these insanely retarded "reviews"? The answer, dear reader, is nothing. Nothing.

Trinity #1

I'm not buying another issue. This wasn't bad, it just wasn't good. I couldn't even read the back-up story all of the way through, because of the inane dialogue. Oh, and the "Trinity" discuss their dreams over waffles or pancakes, whatever's easier. Great. Really, I'll admit, I went into this issue thinking the whole "these three heroes are somehow linked and important" idea is kind of stupid--I left it thinking the whole "these three heroes are somehow linked and important" idea is really stupid, because what's linking them together? SCARY DREAM THAT DOESN'T FEEL LIKE ANY ORDINARY SCARY DREAM! Nothing here that makes me want to learn more. I just don't care.

"But, Chad! Chad, you can't just judge this comic based on one issue! That's not the way things are done these days!"

No. I'll give books the benefit of the doubt when there's something that has me--this book had nothing. Good for you if you liked it, I'm happy for you, really I am, but I'm out. I don't need to buy a book I don't like four times more a month than normal. That's just stupid.

Hellblazer: Rake at the Gates of Hell

Garth Ennis ends a run like no one else. I've read a lot of his stuff, but only two major runs completely: this and Preacher. In both, he somehow brings it all together in ways you don't expect but seem completely obvious at the same time. He does have a habit of getting into "greatest hits" storytelling in many ways, but he makes it work. The conclusion to his run on Hellblazer is nearly perfect in the way he ties the entire thing together, dovetails John's story with another, somehow has John come out on top, but not without paying a heavy price and feeling like a complete ass as a result. Ennis knows how to play with a reader's connection to these characters better than any other writer in comics. No other writer has even made me laugh so hard or feel so shitty. While I'm enjoying The Boys quite a bit, I know a part of me is reading the book just for that final arc, because Ennis will fucking bring it. He always seems to. This is a very, very good trade and should only be gotten if you have the rest of his run on the book. I'm sure it would read alright without knowing what came before, but why chance it?

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats #23

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's run on Wildcats. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

Last issue, I said that Casey purposefully has Grifter and Jack Marlowe's stories parallel one another as the two are foils. Then, Grifter wallowed in his past relationship with Zealot and his role as the "guy with guns" in the WildC.A.T.S., while Marlowe denied his past, focusing only on the future. In this issue, the pairing continues as both face problems.

The issue actually begins with two pages of Agent Wax as he quits the National Park Service and we learn he has a superhuman ability to control people with his voice. He plays a major role in upcoming issues (mostly Wildcats Version 3.0).

Grifter's story in this issue has him hunting down Zealot via local Coda dens. When he finds her, she is standing over the bodies of dead Coda warriors and attacks him. The fight between them is an odd mix of violence and sex as she dominates him--in both pursuits. In the end, she leaves him with an arrow through his right shoulder and a warning not to come looking for her again. After last issue's revelation that Zealot is alive and Grifter is so close to recreating that past he wishes still exists, it's taken away again.

As for Marlowe, last we saw him, Captain Pacheco was firing a gun at him. We find him unharmed--a hole in his suit is all. Pacheco still wants Marlowe to become part of his Crash Squad, to serve the community. While Marlowe attempts to transcend his superhero past, Pacheco pesters him to resume that role.

Their discussion is interrupted by a problem with the Otherspace probe. Some of the machinery has malfunctioned and Void is trapped--and only Marlowe is able to withstand the pressure and save her... maybe. Again, a member of his family is in danger and he automatically resumes his "superhero" role, rushing into danger at the possible cost of his own life. While Grifter cannot recreate his past, Marlowe cannot deny his. He saves Void, but she is critically injured.

The issue ends with Noir talking to the injured Void who is in a containment tank as he gloats over sabotaging the timing mechanisms--and how he's got big plans to take things over.

Next issue: Marlowe becomes even more powerful.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Superman 2000 Pitch: Cycles

[Another in my and Tim Callahan's look at the Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Mark Millar and Tom Peyer "Superman 2000" pitch. New posts by Tim on Wednesday and by me on Fridays.]

Grant Morrison and Mark Millar are both big believers in what Warren Ellis calls their "joint theory of industry cycles." In the interview with Millar where that description is taken, Millar says, "I'm a political buff and have watched with interest as the Western parties have swung from left to right every fifteen years in the 20th Century. Comics seem to work in twenty year cycles and Superman always seems to get popular when they're at their lowest ebb. Maybe we just turn to the more inspirational and outlandish characters when things are in a slump."

Later in the same interview (which, by the way, is taken from Warren Ellis's Come in Alone, which you should all own), Millar adds, "Imagine the industry as a human-life span. The Golden Age Boom was our crude infancy. The Silver Age Boom was the playfulness of childhood. The Dark Age boom was angst-ridden, sexually fucked-up adolesence where we were embarrassed about the physical stuff. The next boom is maturity/adulthood where anything goes. What comes next is death and transformation."

Now, this "joint theory of industry cycles" even made it into a Morrison/Millar comic, The Flash #134, which focused on Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash, who was filling in for an injured Wally West. In one scene, Jay and Wally are having lunch with Nightwing, and wind up discussing these "heroic ages" that we've used as convenient labels for periods of comics as real things. It's really quite interesting that this concept is applied directly to the world the heroes live in by Millar and Morrison with Wally explicitly stating that the ages last twenty years "ACCORDING TO JONES AND JACOBS" (Gerard Jones and Will Jacobs--referencing their book The Comic Book Heroes, I believe).

However, at the beginning of that conversation, Jay says something that I think applies to what Morrison, Millar, Waid and Peyer were trying to do with "Superman 2000": "THE SUPERHEROES WHO ARE ALWAYS GOING TO BE IN DEMAND IN THIS BUSINESS ARE THE ONES WHO KNOW HOW TO ADAPT TO THE MOOD OF THE TIMES." At the very beginning of their pitch, the quartet discuss cycles and state their intention to have Superman "adapt to the mood of the times," basically:

Historical record tells us that every fifteen years or so, Superman is re-imagined to address the wants and needs of a new generation. Fifteen years ago, John Byrne recreated Superman from the ground up. Fifteen years prior to that, Julie Schwartz and Denny O’Neil engineered the biggest shakeup since Mort Weisinger began bringing in all his familiar lore fifteen years previous.

That fifteen year cycle is upon us again. With all due deference and heartfelt thanks to the creators of all the fine work done since the Byrne revamp, it seems that many of the social trends and historical currents which made those comics so appropriate and so successful in the ‘80s and early ‘90s have now been replaced by newer, different trends and currents. Sadly, sales would seem to reflect our contention that new times demand fresh approaches.

We believe that the four of us understand the new face of Superman: a forward-looking, intelligent, enthusiastic hero retooled to address the challenges of the next thousand years. The ultimate American icon revitalized for the new millennium as an aspirational figure, a role model for 21st Century global humanity.

What I find interesting is that the comic book industry apparently operates on a twenty-year cycle, while Superman operates on his own fifteen-year cycle. Why is that? Millar claims that Superman is never more popular than at industry low-points, which would mean that those low points don't necessarily occur at the same point in every cycle. For instance, "Superman 2000" would have came at the end of the so-called "Dark Age" and the beginning of what people seem to be calling another Golden Age. But, if these cycles continue as discussed, the low-point woul happen five years before the transition from one age to another. Of course, this isn't really scientific in any real way, but still interesting that the cycles don't quite match up.

Now, a "generation" is usually around 15-20 years in rough cultural terms, so the concept of cycles there makes a lot of sense, as does the idea of reimaging Superman "to address the wants and needs of a new generation" every 15 years. And Superman alone doesn't operate like this, of course, most enduring characters do, as Millar and Morrison had Jay Garrick point out: it's about adaptation and evolution--something I discussed in my first post on "Superman 2000." Really, the idea of cycles is secondary to the idea that Superman must continue to adapt if he is to remain relevent, something which the Quartet recognised enough to state at the very beginning of their proposal.

But, I do find it very interesting how, during this time period, this "joint theory of industry cycles" played a big role in not just how Morrison and Millar (along with Waid and Peyer here) approached books, but also became an explicit part of the DC universe in The Flash #134. One wonders if a similar commentary would have shown up in the "Superman 2000" books.