Monday, August 29, 2005

Quick question.

As previously mentioned, I only read JSA in trade, and maybe this has been covered there. How come Spectre's not going after Black Adam? Or, I don't know, any other member of the Marvel Family besides Cap? Mary Marvel was seen being taken down (in one panel, yet) by two OMACs last week, with nary a mention of this War on Magic, and Black Adam's been, well, everywhere lately. He's not really keeping a low profile. Freddy Freeman (who I will never, ever refer to as "CM3." Well, not after that time right there) hasn't even warranted panel time. All of them share the same power, all of them are equally dangerous, and each one becomes more powerful if the other siphons on the Power of Shazam are removed, so you'd think it'd be a priority to knock them out.

Is it just one of those things I shouldn't think about because it will hurt my brain? I think it might be. But, still, if anyone knows, I'd be grateful.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

I was reading the DC messageboards again. I don't know why,

Rampant It Is Coming Up On Three AM and I Just Made a Pie theorizing follows.

Anyway, somebody linked to a picture (the cover for Infinite Crisis #1, apparently) as proof that Lex Luthor would be the new Spectre. This based on the fact that Luthor didn't appear on the cover.

Others argued that it's Max Lord, who'd engineered his death at the hands of Wonder Woman to springboard him into a position of ridiculous power in the Great Beyond*. This based on the fact that he's died recently. Which puts Rocket Red Number Seven (EDIT: Sorry, Four. I don't know what I was thinking, and I'm surprised no one called me on it. Seven was a Manhunter. Boo, bad me.) in the running, too, but it's clearly not him, as Spectre lacks his hilarious beard.

Still others argued Ted Kord. Again, the recent death thing.

A few mentioned, as I have, the Jim Corrigan running around in Gotham Central, but I still fear that's way too easy and far too enticing a red herring.

Anyway, the Spectre in that picture is all full up of birdies. Doesn't look to be a girl Spectre, so I'm ruling out Raven. But Geoff Johns offed Extant (well, Atom-Smasher did it, but Johns is one of the architects of all this nonsense). Extant who was Hawk. Hawk who was a hero-turned-villain. Hawk who has a weird habit of popping up in the middle of important stories.

I hope to God I'm wrong, I really do, but I can't see a reason George Perez would throw in all the birds unless it was some kind of silly clue.

(Also, Spectre's sporting a really weird collar in that picture, isn't he? All the sudden, he noticed he lacked a ubiquitous Mysterious Metal Bangle with which to hold his cape on?)

*It has been made alarmingly clear that God (excuse me, "The Presence") doesn't pay much attention to the Spectre's doings, so maybe he doesn't do a job interview for the gig.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I shot a man in This Week's Reviews just to watch him die.

Four real DC books, one DC book I'm convinced is some kind of experiment to see how much DC can fuck with me before I swear off comics and start reading freaking romance novels instead and one of the few Marvel books that isn't subjecting me to a worldwide illusion.

Runaways #6: Oh, God, if you'd ever told me I'd be reading a book about Darkhawk, Ricochet, Turbo, the Phil Urich Good Guy Green Goblin and a kid from Power Pack, I'd prick you with a needle for lying. Because I am a Victorian grandmother. My punishments are byzantine and ridiculous, but my rule is law.

Anyway, this issue focuses more on the ridiculous former stars that make up Excelsior (and reveals their shadowy mentor, a character who makes such perfect sense I feel like a moron for not guessing his identity months ago) than the Runaways, and it's still a really good read. There's also a nice sense of Marvel continuity, something I feel like I haven't seen in a long time, unless it's another rehash of Crap That Happened to the X-Men When Claremont Still Occasionally Made Sense.

Good read.

JSA Classified #2: The last page... oh, God.

I'm superglad the Legion appearance last month panned out differently than where I thought it'd go. I'm confused as to why the DEO (and Checkmate. The Hell?) is showing such a sudden interest in Power Girl's origin (coincidentally at the same time as everyone else, even though her origin's been up in the air for a Hell of a long time).

Superman sure does take other people's mental problems with a grain of salt, considering all the crap he's been doing lately, though. I mean, who accused him of being drunk when he beat the Hell out of Batman last month?

Oh, whatever.

Day of Vengeance #5: Hooray, things happened. Next issue's touted as "The Death of Magic" which, one assumes, is employing some hyperbole.

The Beetle amulet thing from Countdown makes a really brief appearance here, by the way. I hope you're ready for an all-new, all-different Blue Beetle... eventually. He's sure to set the world on fire, just like the new Dr Fate that spun out of Zero Hour.

OMAC Project #5: Things certainly look grim. Brother Eye utterly gives up on subtlety and stealth in favor of worldwide escalation. And the first causality is a guy that I honestly thought died last issue.

I kind of enjoyed the threat levels Brother Eye assigned to various super heroes (Fire's only an epsilon-level, but Mary Marvel's alpha). I didn't really enjoy how Guy Gardener was incapacitated by being blinded (the ring works on freaking willpower, not sight. Kyle Rayner had trouble if he was blinded because he was so dependant, as an artist, on his eyesight, but all a Lantern needs to do is will the ring to blow a guy up and up blows the guy, as I recall), and I totally don't understand how the OMACs managed to drum up magic lightning to turn Mary Marvel into Mary Batson (tricking a Marvel into Shazaming is comically easy. Magic lightning probably hits Kryptonite all the time, given how Goddamn prevalent both things seem to be).

And, hey, Max Lord really miscalculated when he hired a Bat-sidekick as his second-in-command, huh?

Pluralizing "OMAC" feels wrong to me, what with the "One Man" implied by the acronym. It's like pluralizing "Lone Ranger."

...oh, Jesus, an Airheads reference.

Adventures of Superman #643: Superman is angry at Wonder Woman for killing somebody! Even though Superman's killed people in more or less the same situation before! Batman sure is recovering nicely!

Funny how a lot of the interesting OMAC stuff is happening in other titles, even though Rucka's written most of the tie-ins.

Teen Titans #27: The Comics Code approved this, the heartless bastards. They should exist to prevent things this poorly drawn from making it into the hands of children. If seeing boobs or murder at a young age can truly warp fragile little minds, then seeing art by a guy that can't draw characters at consistent heights between panels has to be unhealthy. I don't know if Kestrel's supposed to be gigantic or if his power involves sometimes growing or if Robin and Wonder Girl have really tiny heads or bloody what.

I'm not even making fun of Liefeld because it's fashionable. I'm doing it because it's that bad. God, there's a page where the Titans are bowling, and Kid Flash is shown hitting a strike. Only he had to've thrown the ball freaking overhand for his pose to make sense. Cyborg has literally two facial expressions the entire issue. Robin looks about sixty. Everyone is gritting their teeth.

But, hey, my prediction that this issue would make last month's dull effort look better by comparison was dead on. I miss that issue now. I want it to come through the door and give me a hug. It will make everything all right.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Oh, come on, Superman's way gayer than Batman.

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Gallery told to drop 'gay' Batman

I especially like the photo caption, about how Batman was "revived" by Batman Begins, like the character hadn't seen the light since '97, in spite of at least two cartoons and a really awful live action TV series since then. And, you know, the comic books.

The best part, though, is the last line:

"Two years ago an artwork featuring Kylie Minogue's bottom was pulled from the Royal Academy's summer show after the singer's lawyers complained."

Because straight people get mad at art, too.

You know, if I learned anything in art school, it's that I hate studio art. The kind of stuff that exists to befuddle rich folks into funding sketchy guys who only have one name and/or cause ridiculous controversy.

Hack art, on the other hand, like, say, newspaper illustration, is where it's at.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Wow, what an odd week.

I don't think anything shipped that I actually read besides Ultimate X-Men, so I ended up getting two issues I'd missed due to the vagaries of shipping and selling out.

JSA: Classified #1: This one sold out a couple weeks back, so this here's a second-printing with a fairly spiffy penciled cover. My comic shop guy told me it was an "unannounced Infinite Crisis tie-in." I figured there'd be, like, an OMAC at the end or Dr Psycho or something, but I just got another twenty pages of Power Girl not knowing what her origin is followed by a two-page curveball that'll probably end in some Hypertiming or, at least, a busy Mark Waid.

Speaking of characters that've gotten recent retcons, anyone else see John Bryne's internet lackeys working themselves into a lather over the references to the pre-Bryne Doom Patrol in Action Comics? Seems JB didn't want Superman bringing up Shrapnel's past as a Patrol villain, going so far as writing a note on his penciled pages about it, but editorial ran with it anyway, because I'm pretty sure they're going to can this current DP run and drop a gigantic Cone of Silence over the whole failed experiment soonly.

Point is, so far as I'm concerned, the original Doom Patrol blew themselves up to save a small town. It's too good a story to change just because you really like writing Negative Man or have a weird grudge about fans remembering things. But that's just me.

Anyway, Johns has been dangling obtuse hints to Power Girl's origin for so freakin' long, it's nice to get some resolution, even if it's outside JSA. It really feels like Classified should be used for, say, flashback issues with the old Society and this should be a back-up story or a subplot, but Amanda Conner turns in some nice art, so I can't rightly complain.

Iron Man #4: Cute how Marvel's given up on putting the publication month on their covers. When the Hell'd the third issue of this one come out, anyway?

In case you're just joining the title with this issue, Tony Stark's Iron Man, but no one knows it (which is odd, given that... everyone knew it when I was last reading Avengers regularly, back during the Johns/Copiel or Kolins run. Anyone know if there was a reason given for the change, or was the editor too scared of Ellis to correct him?). He's friends with a girl who'd developed a variant on the (Goddamned) Super-Soldier Serum which was, of course, stolen and ingested by a crazy person who beat the Hell out of Iron Man and is now (slowly) moving on Washington.

Alright, I love Ellis, I really do, but this story's taking way too long. I don't know if it's just because it's taken so long to give me four issues (which'd be Adi Granov's fault) or if it's just that this story's three parts stretched to six. I suspect it's more the latter.

I mean, read that summary I just gave. A solid third of that paragraph was a bullshit aside, people. There's not much there. That's the first five pages of a Roy Thomas story, and he'd've worked in seven or eight really horrible statements about women somewhere in the middle. And Rick Jones would've been involved.

JSA: Lost: Yeah, I read JSA in trades. I'm one of those bastards ruining the industry for the rest of you. Like the Flash, JSA's good old-fashioned superhero nonsense, and I'm glad it exists. I like to read the occasional story where no one questions how stupid it is to be dressed like, say, Wildcat. Plus, this book has the decency to sum up the prior trades right at the beginning, which is great for those hypothetical 'new readers' out there, even if the rundown seems to have World War 3 confused with Crisis Times Five, but you'd have to be a total nerd to even be bothered by such a thing.

...and I am just such a nerd.

Ultimate X-Men #62: Well, I think this marks the first time Magneto's ever made a direct allusion to Macolm X, which means that any subtlety's now out the window.

One more thing:

In the comic shop today, a man was browsing the racks with his two young sons. The boys couldn't have been older than four or five and they were looking, furiously, for Thor. THOR. How in the Hell does a five year old know Thor?

It was weird, is all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Favorite Costumes, Day Four

The Creeper. Another Steve Ditko creation, another collection of really weird things. Yeah, I know I rejected the Spectre because, aside from his cape, his outfit's just gloves, booties and underoos, and Creeper's got pretty much the same thing going for him. But Creeper's cape, well, it's a big pile of fur.

He's wearing a giant red wig, you see. And his gloves and boots are fur-trimmed. And his underoos? Striped.

Creeper's pretty much the Joker, if the Joker could rein in his proclivity towards murder and decided to go kind of straight. And that's cool.

Besides, look at that guy. He hangs out with Batman, and he's dressed like a Mardi Gras float? That's awesome.

Honorable mention: The Question. More because he's one of my favorite characters ever, because when you get down to it, he's dressed like the Spirit wearing The Blank's mask. It's a good look, and it's super-memorable, but as Ditko costumes go, this one's better.

(A slight aside: Spider-Man won't be on the list, even though he's got one of the best outfits ever, mostly because I think everyone on earth would pick Spider-Man, Batman and Superman for their top three, and that's too easy for me. And Wolverine won't make it because his costume is really, really stupid for a secret agent. Seriously, bright yellow? It's no wonder Canada is a total nonentity, if that's how they're dressing their supersoldiers.)

Monday, August 15, 2005

Favorite Costumes, Day Three:

Doctor Strange. The weird cape fixation continues unabated. Imagine, if you will, someone actually wearing that thing in real life. The collar is a solid head and a half taller than the master of mystic arts, here, it'd be brushing the tops of doorjams.

This is the first Steve Ditko outfit to make the list, though probably not the last, since most everything he designed is this sort of oh-my-god-what-was-he-thinking kind of cool. Look at Mysterio (who almost snuck in here, prior to me stopping the self-medication kick I've been on thanks to a totally ironic cold during the three hottest days of the summer). Mysterio's wearing a Goddamn fishbowl on his head, and it still looks kind of cool.

Apart from Strange's giant cape, what else makes this costume great? Reed Richards gray streak? Check. Mysterious Metal Bangle holding his cape on? Check. Little girl skirt coupled with a belt made from a length of fabric? Hells yes. Black danskins instead of pants? You better believe it. A chest logo that looks like an angry ghost referee signaling a successful field goal attempt? Double check.

Seriously, I have no idea what that thing on his chest is meant to be.

Anyway, this getup's really a collection of baffling things so atypical in the world of superheros that it's always been a favorite.

There's also the fact that Strange picked up Spider-Man's throwing-up-the-horns webshooter finger salute thing as his trademark magic spell shorthand, I guess because Ditko really likes drawing people doing that. The devil sign always helps.

Honorable mention: Dr Fate. Probably the best helmet ever (well, maybe second-best. That mask Hawkman had when Rags Morales was drawing him circa Black Reign was pretty cool, if just because his eye holes were in the open mouth of a bird face, like he was a mascot or something), but his costume's kind of forgettable, to the point at which it's been changed into three or four variations on the same theme over the last sixty years.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Favorite Costumes, Day Two:

Dr Doom. You'll notice, over the next few days, that I have a thing for silly capes.

In particular, I like the ones held on by either rope or Mysterious Metal Circle Things, a Jack Kirby staple. Capes of this style are weirdly commonplace, especially over in the DC Universe, where capes were handed out alongside superhero code names. Look at the cover to the trade edition of World War 3. Tell me Howard Porter wasn't thinking "how many absurdly caped characters can I work into this image?"

Seriously, Hourman and Spectre are rocking the hooded cape with the pointy shoulders, Martian Manhunter's got the same sort of mysterious metal bangles holding his cape up that Doom has, same with Alan Scott and Mr Miracle, and Captain Marvel and Red Tornado both have capes with collars held on by lengths of rope. It's amazing.

I'm curious what Red Tornado was planning on doing in space. Just seems to be a lack of foresight on his part, going to a place with no air.

Marvel characters were less likely to get capes than their DC counterparts. Thor had one, Black Panther occasionally had the tiny little Captain Marvel-style half-cape, Magneto had one, and Doom had one. Only the really regal guys rated capes.*

Doom's got a classy medieval knight look going for him, what with the armor and all, but it's the creepy hooded cape that makes the outfit. I'm willing to overlook the fact that he's wearing a skirt because of the hood.

Honorable mention: The Spectre. Doom's cape, but the rest of his costume's little booties, a pair of gloves, and green underoos, so Doom wins. By the way, if there's a reason there's a cop named "Jim Corrigan" in Gotham Central other than the fact the Spectre needs a new home, it's the meanest damned red herring in ever.

*Yeah, yeah, Black Knight and Melter had capes, I know. That kinda shoots a hole in my "regal" theory.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Favorite Costumes, Day One:

Old-school Iron Man. More or less the fourth suit of armor he wore, after the gray bulgy-suit, the gold version of his original number, and the one that looked like this but had a pointy hat. This is the point where Iron Man artists realized it's no fun drawing armor that looks like armor, and just went with shiny spandex.

It's also from the period where every damn thing Iron Man did was transistorized. I don't really know what Stan Lee thought transistors did, but in the hands of Tony Stark and his awkward facial hair, it was apparently everything. His repulsor rays were still magnetic beams that (somehow) caused people to do somersaults in mid-air over and over again or deflected all manner of projectiles, up to and including, I think, Thor's freaking hammer, at the time easily the most useful tool in the history of ever.

Back to the costume, though. It's more or less your standard Marvel union suit (honestly, it's just Captain America's costume with pointier shoulders and weird circles on the hips. And the, you know, palette swap), but it's made of metal. I'd wager it was iron, but I'd really like to think it was made of whatever Destro's mask is made of, allowing uncharacteristic flexibility. Also worth noting: I'm a huge fan of belt buckles that aren't attached to any belt I can see.

Sure, his costume still kind of looks like this, but this one's the most streamlined of the bunch.

Honorable mention: The Beetle. Iron Man's aforementioned pointy-hat armor variant plus a big, silly wing backpack, the traditional villain color scheme and, occasionally, gloves with doofy dangly fingers? Brilliant.

Friday, August 12, 2005

When I see the phrase "organic webshooters," I block my ears and go "LA LA LA"

JLA Classified #10: I had to use the damned internet to get this because it was all sorts of sold out a couple weeks back. While I love Warren Ellis, the man can apparently only write editors that sound like they're yelling at Spider Jerusalem. Perry White threatening to drink the blood of his prize reporters is a little off-putting. Other than that, the banter between Lois and Clark is snappy and strangely cute, though Lois does turn into Typical Ellis Protagonist when rolling out the exposition on the a-plot, all conspiracy-buffy and given to overuse of words like "weird" and "strange." That said, it's nice to read a JLA story that doesn't involve moral questions raised by plotlines left dangling during the Nixon administration, and I love seeing Batman being a damned detective after the last few months of Batman being a whiny bastard. Thank God this book's out of continuity, so I don't have to think "Batman sure is healing up nicely" or "isn't Hawkman dead and/or on Rann right now?"

Spider-Man/Human Torch - I'm With Stupid: This was one of those books I'd meant to pick up while it was, you know, getting published monthly, then I saw that it was getting reprinted in Marvel's Weird Little Digest Format (once again, who are these things aimed at? Barnes and Nobles shelves them as Young Adult Series, and I can't think of too many people reading, say, A Series of Unfortunate Events who also know enough insane Marvel backstory to get fruit pie crime-stopping jokes). Anyway, mathing it out, Weird Little Digest Format = Cheaper Than Buying Back Issues, so here we are.

Basically, it's a fun little ride, especially the issue about the Spider-Mobile (the Superapes are in there. I love the the notion of communist apes getting ridiculous superpowers, but not learning to talk, like every other supermonkey in comics. I love that this forces the Red Ghost to do all the monkey's customary self-narration. They're great).

The whole thing harkens back to a time when Marvel had continuity. When everybody knew each other, when, say, Thor's absence from an Avengers meeting would be explained by an asterixed box telling me that he's off fighting his evil half-brother Loki in distant Asgard, and that I could read the whole senses-shattering fight over in this month's Thor, on sale now, signed Smilin' Stan Lee, or something.

Y'all have no idea how much I miss little asterixed boxes. And all-caps comic book fonts. Sigh.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

God, more like the Rann-Thanagar Bore, am I right?

Action Comics #830: Dr Psycho's kind of neat, and I'm glad that Wonder Woman's enemy in this current reverse-League isn't freakin' Circe or Cheetah. I also rather enjoy that Black Adam has a way higher profile than Captain Marvel right now, mostly because one of them is interesting and the other is Captain Marvel. John Bryne's pencils are a ton more likable when he's inked by someone who isn't him, and not doing everything on a given book gives him time to, like, draw backgrounds most of the time, which is nice. I'm really glad that the Superman/Black Adam fight is going to be in this book next month, instead of, say, Adventures next week or something, because I'm a lazy man and I'm getting sick of having to pick up books I don't normally read just to make something make sense.

Oh, hey, I almost forgot, Gail Simone makes the most obvious Three Doors Down joke in history here, and I still laughed.

Rann-Thanagar War #3-4: At the very least, I recognize all the players here. That's a step up from Day of Vengeance, anyway. The problem is that I don't care if some silly plot point planet gets blown up. Tamaran's been blown up, what, four times in twenty years? Thanagar's just a great big continuity fuck-up that everyone's better off just not thinking about. Throneworld should've been put in the lockbox with Jack Knight and never screwed with again. As for the actual story, Onimar Synn was beaten by love last time I saw him. Love. He got the Mark Waid Flash/Neron cop-out ending. (By the way, I re-read Black Reign last night, and I love how every time the Justice Society gets in a major fight about half their members need to be incapacitated in some stupid way because otherwise, they're too powerful. So Fate ends up fighting with his hat, Marvel gets Batson'd, Stargirl busts the cosmic rod, and Alan Scott forgets about nine-tenths of his powers. When they fought Synn, I think he'd stolen Fate's voice and Flash's frictionless aura so neither one could use their powers, because, seriously, who couldn't Dr Fate beat in about two seconds?)

Point is, I bought these to bring my total to over ten bucks so I wouldn't be throwing a six dollar purchase on my debit card. I checked my watch while I was reading the 4th issue, I swear to God.

Villains United #4: Apparently, Queen Bee's taken over HIVE. That, or she's going to quite a bit more trouble to theme her lackeys than she did the last time I saw her, since they now have cute little bee suits that don't seem to protect them from much of anything. There's a whole thread on the DC message boards about how Chesire having unprotected sex with Catman is sending the wrong message. Not the ten pages or so of everyone on the team brutally murdering the crap out of a bunch of faceless bee-drones, no, it's the unprotected sex that'll warp the minds of children.

Like kids read comics anyway. Like there's a kid alive that's thinking "I loved Deadshot in Suicide Squad!" Like anyone reading a comic about a freakishly absurd world domination scheme is looking for role models.

My God, people are dumb as Hell.

That said, one facet of the Society's plan is revealed and probably foiled, and the Firestorm's Been Kidnapped! plotline was resolved in, what, a week? Nice to see things get wrapped up in neat little packages.

JLA #117: I don't think the current League lineup has showed up in its own book in three months. I don't even know who's on the current League, now that I mention it. I'm rather impressed that anyone remembered that Hawkman lopped off Matter Master's arm a couple years back. That's the type of thing I'd expect to see screwed up, just so I could hear guys in the back of a comic shop coming up with logical explanations for the mistake on the off chance that DC starts handing out no-prizes any time soon. And, hey, they remembered that when Despero gets dressed in the morning, he thinks "do I have my cape? Is it attached to a little metal thing melded to my sternum? Yes? Good" and never "where are my pants? Or my genitals?" Anyway, this issue's got a textbook example of what I expect from all the Infinite Crisis minis: a rundown of who I'm looking at. There's no need to tell me who the Flash is, but they do anyway. They give me a name and a head shot on the main villains, which is nice, as I'm pretty sure the Wizard hasn't worn that outfit in my lifetime. This is because, I think, Geoff Johns does not want me to have a Goddamned stroke trying to remember who that guy with the thing is.

I'm a freakin' professional artist., New London, CT

Hey, go look at that. I got paid to draw. Thaaat's right. My stupid degree is almost good for something after all.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Hey, some reviews!

Wherein I get one quarter of a story I'll never read the rest of and get hit from both sides by Mark Millar, like Chinese fingercuffs.

Batman #643: Oh boy, a Batman crossover. Because we haven't had enough of them. No, I didn't read part one, over in Detective, mostly because I haven't read Detective since Rucka was on it, and, even then, I stopped reading somewhere around the point where it crossed over with whatever Superman book Ed McGuinness was penciling. Mind you, I'm not sure why I stopped reading it. I was probably just broke. Anyway, this story's a sequel to last summer's War Games, of which I gave so small a damn that I can't even come up with a decent end to a sentence about it. I'll remind you that I love Bill Willingham as much as a straight man can love another man he's never met, but, Christ, man, I don't care about Black Mask. I won't ever care about Black Mask. I almost liked Stephanie Brown, and now offing her seems slightly more meaningful (Bats needs a dead Robin to bitch about now that Jason Todd's alive and all evil. He'll kill and Batman won't! It's edgy, I swear!), but, God, I don't need another damned story about it. On the upside, this is a million times better, both art and story-wise, than last month's effort. Part two of that story seems to have been relegated to the back-up slot in Detective, because I think DC realized that I'm the barometer for fan interest in fucking Killer Croc stories.

Yeah, let me have my delusions of grandeur.

Look, I feel pretty confident that I can duck the other three parts of this story without any major repercussions if solely because Batman's sure to stew about them in all his titles for a couple years to come. "I can't ever trust anyone because they'll either turn on me or die or some wacky combination of the two blah blah blah." Please, just let the guy chase villains around for a while. Let him punch the Riddler in the face without a bitchy internal monologue about dead Robins or paralyzed Batgirls for like three months and see how things go (slight aside: I just got a Riddler Minimate the other day. While I wish he was wearing a cool green suit instead of his massively gay Superfriends get-up, it did net me the tiniest bowler hat ever, so I mark it in the Win column).

The Ultimates 2 Annual #1: I've actually kind of missed annuals. It's like how I miss diapers: it's more out of a misty-colored sense of nostalgia and not a desire to be mired in my own feces, because, really, did anything good ever come out of them? Sixty-four pages of back-up features and d-list creative teams and the occasional incredibly crappy Marvel super-crossover (Atlantis Attacks!, oh my God, Atlantis Attacks!. I mean, DC isn't innocent of pulling the same gimmick, but I'm almost certain no one wants to hear about, say, Armageddon 2001 or that bit where all the Gods fought. Because You Demanded it: Mercury versus Hermes!) were pretty much all they offered. And DC used to pull that themed annual shtick, with, like, Legends of the Dead Earth and Year One and Bloodlines. Annuals kind of sucked, really. On point, though. Forty-eight pages. If Hitch drew it, it'd be coming out around Christmas. As it stands, while we get an in-continuity Ultimates story, it centers around the Reserves, sort of back-up Aveng...Ultimates made up of some Rocket Red-looking cats in third-string Iron Man armor, a handful of Giant Men, the Four Seasons (hey, I think those might be original characters! In an Ultimate book! But how will the writers know how to make them modern and edgy when they don't have an existing version to work off of? What a quandary!) and a guy who took that Goddamned Super Soldier Serum.* One gets the feeling that they'll be seen in the background of crowd shots when Galactus shows up (scheduled for whenever the Hell Ultimate Secret finishes) and no one will care when they are blown up by space lasers or evil space bacteria or whatever the damn Warren Ellis came up with at the pub one rainy afternoon. No doubt they will die entertainingly.

Look, if you want to part with four bucks for a Nick Fury story and a bunch of vague background information on some characters that look a whole bunch like cannon fodder, be my guest.

By the way, has there been an Ultimate Red Skull or Zemo yet? Maybe in Ultimate Marvel Team-Up? (I never read Team-Up. I kind of feel like no one else did, either.) I just kind of miss Cap having a, you know, point. He's fun and all, but without Nazis to punch, Millar's kind of painting him as more of The Old Douchebag You Don't Want To Talk To than as a man out of his time. And I'm kind of worried that he's going to end up being the Ultimate mole (not the, uhm, Ultimate Mole, who was exactly no different from the Standard Mole, but the spy in the Ultimates who capped Hawkeye last month).

Hey, I'm not invisotexting things that happened a couple weeks ago. If you're waiting for the trades, I'm sorry. Eh, actually, I'm not really all that sorry.

*If the Ultimate Universe cranks out one more plot point based on the Goddamned Super Soldier Serum (the "Goddamned" has become affixed to the front end of that forever in my head, by the way), I'm going to... I don't know, write an angry internet thing about it? I don't have any power here, but, Jesus, what isn't tied into the GSSS over there? I bet somebody pitched the idea that mutants were caused by secret public GSSS testing in drinking water at some writer's meeting at some point.

Ultimate Fantastic Four #22: Oh, thank God this story didn't go the way I thought it was going. I mean, it turned into a freakin' zombie movie, but that's still better than my fear of Normal Marvel and Ultimate Marvel crossing over and lameness ensuing. Greg Land's art is freaking astonishingly nice. Also, the fact that this is a three-part story is making my life, people. I'm so sick of six-parters "paced for trade" that read like two part stories with forty bonus pages of people in dumb outfits bantering wittily at each other. Not that witty banter doesn't have its place (see Kirkman on Marvel Team-Up or Invincible or Gail Simone on anything), but if the story ain't going anywhere, I grow weary.

The DC Comics Encyclopedia: Because I didn't want to be stuck in a position where I was all "Who the Christ is Jim Rook?" ever again. It's kind of interesting to see who gets listed and who doesn't. For instance, John Constantine doesn't get an entry of his own. He's mentioned in the Greatest Team-Ups supplement thing (teamed with Swamp Thing) and in eight or nine other places, but he doesn't rate a blurb of his own. Hell, Sandman's in, so it can't be a blanket "No Vertigo" clause, and that's without mentioning that Agony and Ecstasy made it. Hell, their first appearance was in Hellblazer. On the other side of the coin, a couple members of the Goddamned Demolition Team get their own entries. I mean, seriously, the group entry wasn't enough? Steamroller really needs a paragraph to himself? I was sort of hoping Hardhat would get one just to see if they'd mention the one time he was beaten in two panels by Hope O'Dare in a random issue of Starman.

Seriously, though, there're some weird choices made here. For instance, remember that one summer all the DC annuals featured all-new, all-pretty-much-crappy-and-forgettable international characters ("international," by the way, means "really stereotypical" in this case)? They all seem to get entries. They were one-shot characters in damned never every case, but they're all in. If you were judging solely by this book, Superman Annual #12 is one of the most important books in the history of the DC Universe, spawning like a half-dozen shitty South American nobodies. Oh, and characters whose names start with an "El" are listed under "E," which a bit like filing The Flash under "T." The Spider is listed under "A" for "Alias the Spider."

Some entries are sorely lacking when you consider current events. For instance, Maxwell Lord's entry doesn't exist. You're directed to Lord Havoc's, even though the rest of the book seems to regard Formerly Known and Justice League as in-continuity (beating the crap out of Captain Atom is mentioned in Mary Marvel's profile, for instance, and the Superbuddies are mentioned by name in at least Fire's, I remember offhand). I can appreciate that most of this was written in, let's say, 2002 or '03, but I'd think that Max was important enough even without all this Checkmate nonsense to warrant an entry that was actually kind of about him.

Don't get me wrong: the book's totally worth it. Even in light of some of the weird editing decisions, it's at least handy for a character's backstory if they pop up randomly. Nice Ross cover, too, even if it does show his weird fetish for refusing to accept that characters might have changed their outfits since Superfriends was canceled (Batgirl's clearly Barbara Gordon, Flash has the Barry Allen metal-wingy-head things, not the Wally West point-lightningy-head things and Supergirl's in one of her older suits, though not the Crisis get-up she died in, thankfully).

More tomorrow. And soonly a rundown of my favorite costumes ever, because I made the bold declaration that I really like that kind-of-hideous Zoom get-up.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Reviews for 8.05.05

Wherein I remember that I don't read too many things that ship the first week of the month.

Gotham Central #33-34: Every couple months, I buy Gotham Central and think "I should get this every month." Then I forget about it for a while. I don't know why I don't just keep buying it, because it's always been one of the most interesting books on the stands, and this story's no exception. The Gotham PD finds a dead kid in an alley, but, to complicate matters, said kid's dressed as Robin. They've got no way of proving that he isn't Robin (Batman pops up, tells them that Robin's in Bludhaven and then leaves the scene, telling them "not to get in [his] way," but they're not supposed to trust Bats anymore). It's clever enough that I'm surprised it's never been done before, and both issues end on solid enough cliffhangers that I'll probably actually remember to buy the damned thing next month.

Marvel Team-Up #11: Nova, Doctor Strange, the freaking Rhino, a long discussion about how uncomfortable it is to be carried by your armpits (sure, Kirkman did the same bit in Invincible once before, but it's still funny), spiffy Paco Medina art, and the Hulk getting his ass kicked so hard, he actually turns back into Bruce Banner? Like I'm not going to like this. If New Avengers was like this (you know, fun), I'd still be buying the damned thing.

Justice #1: Blah. It's the most violent, talky Challenge of the Superfriends episode you've ever seen, and, holding true to cartoon form, Aquaman manages to get captured in the early going.

One more thing: since Zero Hour, Batman's supposed to be an urban legend, right? No one was supposed to be sure he existed, up until he sauntered out of a high school carrying a dead Robin-girlfriend during War Games. Every now and again, somebody would be talking to, like, Superman and say "so you know Batman? He's real, right?" This is stupid for any number of reasons. First off, the Batsignal. The guy has a fucking light on the roof of the local police station with his logo on it. Second, it's not like the JLA keeps a low profile. There've been occasions where they had billboards with their damned pictures on them (a random story where Martian Manhunter organizes a Secret Society of Super-Villains meeting to round up stupid criminals, and that Prometheus one-shot from New Year's Evil, at least) and I know they've given press conferences. Plus, Robin's a member of the Teen Titans, Nightwing's in the Outsiders, and both teams are in the public eye often enough to discount any rumor that Batman's some kind of boogeyman. It was bugging me when I was reading Gotham Central, is all.

Monday, August 01, 2005

From the DC Message Boards:

"Maybe there could be some type of Space Wars mini-series where the heroes of various planets like Rann (Adam Strange), Thanagar (Hawkwoman), and Gavyn's home world (Will Payton) could team up to thwart some intergalactic baddie. Perhaps throw in the remaining Omega Men to make things interesting. Any ideas?"

This from February of 2004. Goddamn eerie, ain't it? This cat can see the future.