Thursday, January 26, 2006

You say it's your right, well, it's mine, too. You say you go out every night, what's a This Week's Reviews?

Light week, especially compared to the last couple.

Jonah Hex #2-3: Almost bought both of these every week since they've come out, but it's been weirdly heavy lately, so they fell by the wayside. I saw that they're selling out freaking everywhere and snagged the last copies of each one my shop had. Glad I did. This series captures the atmosphere of a Clint Eastwood-style mysterious gunman punishes evildoers western perfectly, and done-in-one stories are a nice change of pace. But everyone on the damned internet's said that already in a more timely manner than I, so I'll move on.

Catwoman #51: Lot of random plates spinning here, and it feels like a whole bunch of them will hit the ground next issue, what with the pending One Year Later gap. I can't imagine Black Mask making it to One Year Later without somebody beating the bejeezus out of him, especially after this issue. I'd prefer Tim Drake to be the ass-kicker, but Jason Todd, either Bradley, Catwoman, Jason Todd or Bats himself are all safe bets. For such a long-time d-lister, he's done too many high profile bad things lately to skate away scott-free. And I can't wait, because God, do I ever hate that guy. He's just preternaturally lame. Lame from a lame past, where lame dinosaurs walked the lame earth, only to be lamely wiped out by a lame asteroid.

Nextwave #1: So ridiculously over-the-top, it's impossible not to laugh. There's a flying submarine, for God's sake. HATE, SHIELD's weird kid brother, uses an enormous telephone, lowered over their commander's head, as a Cerebro-style communications device. Their headquarters is a flying submarine. They're owned by one of the terrorist cells they once tried to destroy. They dig up Fing Fang freaking Foom, whose motivation is explained. It involves his lack of genitals.

It's funny as Hell, I swear.

Dear Cartoon Network:

For the past couple nights, you've been running a bump advising me that I should be "spankin' it" to a character from Freshmen, a comic co-created by TV's Seth Green. Please stop.

It's bad enough that the freaking Irish are getting JLU ahead of us without you guys telling people to buy a comic book as masturbation fodder.

Thank you.

--Jon.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Alan Scott wants your respect

I figure, sooner or later, someone's going to have to kick Earth-2 Superman's ass. Normal Superman is too much of a wuss to do it, but I'm pretty sure that's the point of this story. Clark'll hang up his training bra and start acting like a freaking superhero again after manning up and beating the living crap out of Superman-2. I hope.

But, you know who could really kick Earth-2 Superman's ass?

Alan Scott.

It's true. Earth-I-Guess-It's-1-Again Kryptonite may not work on Superman-2, but I'd have to think magic can still put a whammy on him, and with Nabu out of the way and a nascent Spectre, who's the most powerful magic-user out there? I guess Zatanna could just say "NAMREPUS OG FOOP!" and that'd be the end of him, but that's not very dramatic, is it?

Green Lantern knows from drama. He's got a dead wife who'd turn into a plant-themed vigilante without knowing it, a daughter who is, by most accounts, the lamest Green Lantern ever (that's factoring for Ch'p, even) and a gay son who occasionally takes over the whole damned planet alongside a Legion of Super-Heroes villain and freaking Eclipso. And he's made entirely of magic energy, held together by his immeasurable willpower.

Unless Superman-2 beats him to death with a freaking forest, Alan's got the upper hand. This is a guy that stood up to an atomic-powered super-Hitler, for God's sake (in my head, The Golden Age is in continuity. I don't care if it has an Elseworlds logo on the cover), a gray-streaked crazy man in a Superman sweater isn't going to phase him.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Mystery Box: JLA Annual #2

DC had a thing for themed annuals in the nineties. They had Pulp Heroes and Legends of the Dead Earth and Bloodlines and... I don't know, some other crap. '98 saw Ghosts, wherein characters would run into the disembodied spirits of the dead for no apparent reason. JLA Annual #2 tied the whole thing up with a faintly ridiculous Felix Faust story, sending the League off to find three pieces of a magical tablet.

Green Lantern and Superman travel to the top of a mountain for their chunk, running into the ghost of Ice, who'd died fighting the Overmaster. Wonder Woman and Batman take a Wayne Industries submarine into a Pacific trench to find another piece, narrowly avoiding death at the hands of crushing oceanic pressures thanks to the aid of the ghost of Steel, who died when all the suck contained within him collapsed into a black hole and crushed him into a singularity of lame.

Oh, no, wait:
That's right. He died in such a way that people giggled when they read his obit. He was killed by Starro the Conqueror.

No matter how much street cred you build up over a superhero career, no matter how many people you save from fires or how many robberies you foil, if you're killed at the... hands? Extremities? Yes. If you're killed at the extremities of a mind-controlling starfish, that's all people are going to remember.

It's like dying in a whorehouse, is what it is.

'Course, I have no idea what the Hell J'onn's talking about, since I'm pretty sure Steel got beat to a pulp by Ivo androids and then killed off by Despero. Maybe the Martian Manhunter's making some kind of really weird space alien joke that I don't get.

Anyway, you might've read the above summary and thought "why would a League that boasts Aquaman as a member send Batman and Wonder Woman to the bottom of the Pacific?" It's apparently because Aquaman was the only one who could accompany the Flash to the bottom of a cave. Because there was water in there, see.

As soon as Flash's ridiculous headlight goes out, he's surprised by the most awesome ghost of all:

Yeah. It's Vibe.

I'd like to think that, upon my eventual return from the grave, my first thoughts would be of Aquaman.

After some blah blah blah expositioncakes, wherein J'onn explains that they can't find the source of Steel's transmissions and Arthur mentions that dance music is playing everywhere he goes (because Vibe rocks from beyond the ether, ladies), Felix Faust flips out, reveals himself to be possessed by the spirit of a dead magician he resurrected on page three that I didn't feel the need to tell you about and beats the Hell out of the assembled heroes.

'Til the ghosts of dead Leaguers pile on him, obviously.

Now, before I throw the climax up here, I feel it's necessary to mention that this is taking place on the Watchtower. So they're, you know, on the moon.

Not to question the wisdom of Vibe, but wouldn't you think causing a... well, I guess the term would be "moonquake" would be a fairly bad idea?

Whatever, though.

The true highlight here, and pretty much the sole reason I'm posting this, is that I've found a Vibe haiku that Scipio hasn't run yet, and that makes me feel like Prometheus, stealing fire from the Gods.

"You not the only
One who knows how to move en-
Ergy around, man."

Indeed, it is showtime, Vibe.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Mystery Box: Justice League America #75 or The Atom Has Awesome Dreams

As we open, Blue Beetle is still in the coma Doomsday put him in something like a year prior (our time. As you no doubt already know, a year in the DCU is about eleven years here, apparently), the Atom has similarly slipped into unconsciousness, Booster Gold is wearing a purple belly shirt and standing over both of them in a hospital, and the League is trapped in some kind of crazy alternate reality where good is evil and up is down and cliches like that are still acceptable.

At this point, the League is in pretty dire straights. The team in the alternaverse (Guy Gardner, Wonder Woman, the Ray, Agent freaking Liberty, Maxima, Black freaking Condor, and Martian Manhunter, who dropped his Bloodwynd disguise at the close of the prior issue) are being held captive by that world's League. And that world's League (the, uh, "Lightning League") is pretty well stacked, power-wise.

Atom, Black Canary, Green Arrow... they're not that tough, but, Hell, they could take Black Condor. I could take Black Condor. They've also got Red Tornado, their own J'onn, Flash, Firestorm and, well, the best damned thing ever: Hawkman with a Sinestro ring.

I mean, think about that for a second. Standard Hawkman's a fairly scary guy. Most gigantic, winged hardline conservatives are. But Sinestro Hawkman, well, he's a gigantic, winged hardline conservative with a power ring. Sure, he's more than likely just going to use the ring to create a mace or something, but still! Hawkman with a power ring! High concept!

Turns out the whole universe is nothing more than Atom's nightmare under the control of the amazingly crappy Dr Destiny, so Beetle projects himself on in there so as to spring the real JL of A, resulting in the following:
Yeah, that's right. Beetle gets the drop on a psychic and the Goddamned Flash. For a little while after the bwah-hah-hah era, Jurgens was doing his damnedest to put Beetle over as a competent, if slightly goofy, legitimate superhero, a thread no one really thought to pick up again until seventy pages before Max Lord put a hole in his head. Hell, Beetle took on Eclipso alone once. Eclipso! That guy killed b-list characters like his name was "Geoff Johns"! That has to count for something!

And he's right: that black Flash get up is pretty cool.

So Beetle gets his League out of their restraints and the fight begins in earnest. Maxima uses her stupid, stupid "mind-over-metal" powers on Red Tornado, beating him the same way Red Tornado always gets beaten: by tearing his entire body apart. Hawkman lays out Agent freaking Liberty and Blue Beetle with a giant yellow hammer.

And then Batman shows up.

Foreshadowing his current characterization by about a decade, Bats tells Green Arrow that the Lightning League's become a "collection of fascist maniacs" and sways Ollie to his side before kicking Carter in the jaw, announcing that "one way or another, this ends today!"

Now, normally, I'd give a Green Arrow/Batman v. Hawkman throwdown to Ollie and Bats. Carter's a tough guy, but how many arrows, batarangs and tiny themed grenades can one guy take? There's also the "Batman Cannot Lose" rule, which, in this case, has the added "Green Arrow Always Has the Moral High Ground Over Hawkman" corollary that exists solely because comic book writers seem to like to write Carter as a drooling savage more often than not whereas Arrow's more a lefty college professor type. How such a big liberal thinks it's okay to wear a mask and anonymously fight crime is beyond me, but, then, I never much saw the benefit of arming oneself with a bow and arrow to fight giant robots and Starro the Conqueror, so the character and I have never seen eye to eye.

Sadly for GA and Batman, this isn't Standard Hawkman, no, it's Hawkman with a Power Ring. Carter done brought a gun to a knife fight.

Now, this is the Atom's nightmare, but how many of Hawkman's dreams do you think end with that last speech bubble?

"My God! Hawkman just killed Oliver!" And then Carter wakes up, smiles and goes to get a bagel.

Friday, January 20, 2006

This Week's Reviews better last

The Flash #230: I'm going to go read the last issue of Starman and pretend that's what happened here. We learn that Wally's cool with people killing things so long as they aren't Justice Leaguers and that millions of years of living has made Vandal Savage into a total retard. Boring little happy ending seemingly undermined by Infinite Crisis #4. But get ready for a new Flash #1 "in a few months."

Ultimate X-Men #66: Aside from an incredibly misleading cover (if it says "Phoenix Rising" on the front of the book, I'm going to be looking for giant flaming birds somewhere inside), this was a fun little issue. I'm fairly concerned that Singer's run is going to suck terribly, so the longer that's held off, the better, as far as I'm concerned.

Justice League Unlimited #17: In my head, Adam Beechen read Infinite Crisis #1, saw what happened to the Freedom Fighters and thought it'd be awesome to put the characters over for the ten year olds that read this but don't give a damn about Earth-2. Two big highlights: John Stewart orders all metahuman personnel away from the League/FF fight, prompting Green Arrow to... just stand there and the Human Bomb/Superman face off. What I've seen of this book, I've liked, and I'm pretty excited about Beechen taking over Robin in a couple months.

Runaways #12: I rescind my complaints about this book. This issue was good stuff, with a wonderfully embarrassing New Avengers vs. a ten-year-old girl scene and my new favorite pre-ass-kicking line: "I hope your health insurance sucks." Still, I miss Excelsior.

JSA Classified #7: Damn it, now I kind of like Icicle. I swore I'd never do that. Whole story ended up just being a set up for the return of Johnny Sorrow and, probably, Icicle's eventually betrayal of same, but it was a decent trip to get there, even if we never did get to see Prometheus.

X-Statix Presents Dead Girl #1: Mostly a Dr Strange story and, even then, mostly set up. Nick Dragotta inked by Mike Allred looks a whole Hell of a lot like Mike Allred inked by Mike Allred, and that's a very good thing, even though Dr Strange's gloves lack those neat spotty-things they usually have. Thank God Milligan is revisiting the X-Statix, though. This should be a fun mini.

All-Star Superman #2: Superman's house rules. It's a quiet issue, but it's so full of ridiculous little throwaways to past events that it feels like I'm reading the six hundredth issue of a run on Action Comics that should have happened but didn't. Grant Morrison's brand of crazy works so well on a character that exists to punch the absurd into orbit.

Planetary #24: If this came out over the course of two years, I think it might have killed me. As it is, I've learned, over the years, to not anticipate new issues at all. If one comes out, it's like some kind of damned holiday, but not one you knew was coming. Like a snow day. Something fantastic but utterly unplanned. Anyway, as always, it's the best thing I read the week it came out and all my do-not-anticipate-new-issues blocks are falling apart.

Infinite Crisis #4: Hey, I actually enjoyed this one. If Planetary and All-Star Superman didn't come out around it, it might've actually been the best thing I read this week. With all the exposition out of the way, things start happening. Like, to a ridiculous degree. One of the more random threads from the first arc of JSA Classified is tied up, Superboy-Prime goes absolutely bugshit crazy and some z-list heroes find out firsthand how open the door between life and death actually is. There's one "death" that I'm certain will be undone pretty quickly, and Geoff Johns finishes off his Barry Allen trilogy. Pretty good stuff all around, I'd say.

Sadly, my whole "Psycho-Pirate made Batman into a dick, Wonder Woman in a neckwrecker and Superman into an ineffectual pansy" theory was shot down, which is a bit of a downer, because that means Batman really is just a dick, Wonder Woman... acts in a manner I think is actually appropriate, and Superman really is an ineffectual pansy. Darn.

Huh.

'Spider-Man 3' casts its web over Howard

Bryce Dallas Howard (you know, Ron Howard's kid. Played the blind girl in The Village? Yeah, her) is in talks to play Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man 3.

I still don't get why the Kirsten Dunst's character in the first movie wasn't Gwen. It's not like the general public thinks of Spider-Man and Mary Jane being a couple like they do Superman and Lois Lane or Batman and whatever utterly pointless character they tack onto the script so he doesn't look gay.

I assume Marvel didn't want those hypothetical people who see a movie and then rush out to buy the source material to be confused. Why, that's exactly why DC has Batman struggle with giving up his heroic nightlife every time he meets a nice girl! You know, to keep in line with the movies!

Anyway, if they haven't yet cast a character that the Hollywood Reporter tells me will be "the third part of a love triangle," how come pictures of Lowell from Wings dressed up as Sandman have already popped up? Or does he just dress like that normally? I know I'd wear that shirt if I had it.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

With apologies to Jim Lee

Bananaman, Jim Lee style. Because Kelvin Green left a comment about toying with the idea and I'm very, very bored, that's why.

Honestly, that is a costume that will never, ever need a redesign. It's themed to the hilt, done solely in primary colors and absolutely bad ass.

Hell, even if I did redesign it, I can't top the cowl with banana horns.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I've got Olympic fever

It looks like ringworm, but in the shape of the Olympic logo.

Anyway, Olympic mascots, by and large, are the weirdest damned things ever. They can't offend anybody, and offending people is remarkably easy to do, so they end up being incredibly safe bets that do nothing by provide fodder for terrible jokes and piles of unsold merchandise.

The mascots for the upcoming winter games are no exception, looking quite a bit like their designer thought to himself "what would the Cingular logo look like if his head was frozen... and he had a girlfriend?"

Their names are Neve and Gliz. They symbolize... the same crap every Olympic mascot symbolizes, I guess. Sportsmanship, maybe. Youthful exuberance. Pretending to give a damn about figure skating for a few days. NBC winning a week in the ratings.

Anyway, I thought to myself, "Jon, comic books don't have near enough ice-themed characters," because apparently my internal monologue is a smartass. I went on to say, "what if Neve and Gliz were superheroes?"

What if, indeed, self, what if, indeed.

Let's say Neve and Gliz are two middle Europeans. As children, they ran outside to play in a freak late April blizzard. A late April blizzard spawned by the Chernobyl disaster. Yeah, that's right: they were frostbitten by a radioactive stormcloud.

Finding that they were now perpetually subzero, they did what any self-respecting comic book character would do and decided to fight crime. Or commit crimes. It doesn't really make a difference, because they're utterly ridiculous.

But tell me they couldn't've made the ranks of Dr Mist's Global Guardians. They're overthemed, have foreign names and are simply too Goddamned lame to exist outside the context of a team that actually let Tasmanian Devil join.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Jon Has Too Much Time On His Hands Theatre

The current Starman, a strange amalgam of Will Payton and Prince Gavyn, popped up briefly in Rann/Thanagar War. He's rocking an outfit that looks vaguely like footie pajamas with a big star on the chest and an Invincible-style goggle-eyed open-topped cowl.

He's also worn a similar outfit in yellow and red which makes him look sort of like a superheroic, anthropomorphic McDonald's. With both costumes, he's worn giant bracelets that look unsettlingly like the ones Quasar has and carried a big ol' sheperd's crook, standing in, thematically, for the original Starman's Gravity Rod.

I don't much care for Gavyn's current look. I think it's a bit dull and it doesn't reflect his shared heritage with Will Payton. So I made a new one.

I figured the guy doesn't much need a mask. He's got Payton's subtle shapeshifting power, for one thing. Besides, he's the freaking king of his planet and his subjects know he's Starman.

The chest logo's a modified version of the one Payton used with the yellow star off the original Starman's outfit stuck in the middle. I kept the yellow and red scheme from Gavyn's old outfit, but used less of it, in a probably vain hope to keep the guy from looking like a fireman.

He gets one of those "the parts of me in shadow are starfields" things that the Starman from the future had going for him so as to further tie him into the legacy aspect of the character. And because it looks neat.

As for the sheperd's crook Gravity Rod, all it does is focus the powers he already has, and that, curiously enough, is the stated purpose of his Quantum Bands or whatever the Hell they're called. The bracelets were much cooler looking than a stick, so they stayed and the superfluous second power-focusing item is right out.

I dunno, I think he looks pretty keen.

Monday, January 16, 2006

"Ion" is maybe the worst name ever

Seriously. Why not just call yourself "Particle Man," you big dork?

Anyway, Kyle Rayner's new costume apparently looks like this. Honestly, I like it, especially compared to that weird white get-up he was wearing the last time he called himself Ion. And that dog-collar situation he's been wearing as Green Lantern lately. Of course, my opinion on it matters not. According to Ragnell, people are tripping all over each other to redesign this new one, and as we learned yesterday, I'm a total slut for draw-character-X memes.

And here we are. I liked Kyle's old, floppy haircut, so he got that back, but with an open cowl-kinda situation instead of his damned giant crab-looking mask or a standard Lantern domino number. He's also got the armor on the forearms because I figured something should carry over from the outfit he wore for the better part of a decade. He's not wearing gloves because, God damn it, if Alan Scott doesn't wear gloves, no Green Lantern should, I guess. The chest symbol's kind of a modified I. You know, for "Ion." Because having your initial on your chest never goes out of style in the DCU.

EDIT: ComicBloc has accused me of ripping off Invincible. To be fair, he's got a big I on his chest, too. And he has high-topped boots and fingerless gloves. But, honestly, Kyle's original costume did, too, and that's what I was really ripping off. As for the I, there's only so many ways to work one of those onto a guy's chest. Corey Walker did it better than me, sure, but I was more going for a Lantern symbol combined with an I.

Besides, Jesus, at least I didn't do mine in City of Heroes. You guys wanna fire up the Hero Machine while you're at it?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A Modest Proposal

Due to a really entertaining personal life situation I'm sure none of you give a damn about, I find myself with two copies of Fables volume 6. I do not need the second copy, so if anyone wants it, I'm willing to trade for it.

Seriously, let's make a deal.

Door number one has a goat behind it.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

I'm a sucker for a good meme

From the look of things, about three-quarters of LiveJournal drew Batgirl at some point in the last twenty-four hours.

And I did, too.

In my head, Batgirl wears a skirt. Couldn't tell you why.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Who's mostly goldie down to the tube sock, the same old pimp, This Week's Reviews, nothin' changed but the limp

JLA #124: If you find rich white guys arguing about their social clubs interesting, have I got a comic for you. By the way, when exactly did the Key become a white guy again? He's blue on the cover and was blue back when he dropped all of Morrison's League save Green Arrow, but he's just a crazy honky here, not Crazy Smurf (the Smurf that killed and ate other Smurfs. And maybe made smurfy jackets out of their skin). Next issue: a pre-One Year Later mercy kill.

The Hotlist This Week at the back tells me that Infinite Crisis was supposed to be, at some point, out this week. Good that they have the ship date on that one under control, huh?

Ultimate Extinction #1: Ultimate Galactus's methods of world-eatery are explained in detail, Misty Knight (excuse me, Ultimate Misty Knight) is hired to topple a cult and the world gets one step closer to an anticlimax. But, hey, Ultimate Silver Surfer shows up, so at least we're not straying too far from the source material.

Batman and the Monster Men #3: Came out last week and I didn't notice. Rectified that today because it was a terribly slow week. Kinda depressing knowing how damned near every bit character in this dies, but it's a fun ride.

Captain Atom: Armageddon #4: Cap takes on the Wildcats and proves that any time he's ever lost a fight in the past it's because the writer has no clue how ridiculously powerful the guy is. Next issue features the Authority, who will no doubt be better written than the last time I read them. Because Will Pfeifer is a better writer than that guy who wrote Authority Volume 2 #1, see.

She-Hulk #4: Hey, remember when Geoff Johns wrote Avengers? You know, back before he wrote a third of all DC's output? Yeah. At one point, he had Jack of Hearts siphon off some of Shulkie's gamma radiation, which, thanks to the vagaries of what I like to call "Geoff Johns Pseudoscience*," caused her to freak out and become Savage She-Hulk, at which time she destroyed a town. She didn't kill anybody because Hulks never kill anybody, but she still felt bad. And this issue is about how she made herself feel better, because Dan Slott was left picking up the pieces of that arc since Johns left the book before there was any decent resolution. And then Chuck Austen took over.

The highlight, though, is something I thought was a damned mirage at first.

Could it be true? Did I somehow steal a comic from the distant past? Was there an asterixed message from the editor?
There was! Hooray!

Anyway, less funny than usual, but Kolins turns in decent art. And there's also the return of a time-traveling Avenger. But it's probably not who you think. Unless you've already seen the cover of the next issue, in which case it's exactly who you think.

*Geoff Johns Pseudoscience: n. jeff jons soo-dough-sigh-ants: Utterly inexplicable, nonsensical, longwinded scientific explanations Johns routinely attaches to the kind of thing the Superfriends did every couple of minutes. See: the time Mr Terrific told Jay Garrick that one could return to their proper time after hitting light speed by "using Black Adam's energy signature as a tether." And it worked. Also, when several members of the JLA and JSA, trapped in Limbo, used two Flashes, Superman and Wonder Woman to accelerate the decay of a Fire Giant into a black hole that Alan Scott willed everyone through back to the JSA brownstone. The kind of thing where a simple "just run fast, you're the Flash," would do but we get a full page of exposition instead.

Facedown in the Gutters: Reading the DC Messageboard So You Don't Have To

Having gone to art school, I developed an absurdly high tolerance for the incredibly crazy out of necessity. Art students, by and large, are lunatics. I don't really mean that as an insult, really, it just seems that our line of work tends to favor the slightly insane. Years of being surrounded by genuinely crazy people has made wading through the internet and its comparative safety (one does not have to actually see or, God forbid, smell the maniac posting his thoughts on One Year Later online, after all) a breeze.

To that end, I'm currently knee-deep in madness and loneliness; that's right, I'm reading the DC messageboards.

Among the literally thousands of posts about Power Girl's boobs (not to mention theorizing on who could sleep with Wonder Woman and/or PG), incredibly stupid "Pick the Legion/JSA/JLA/Avengers (I don't know how they got here, either): Survivor/American Idol-Style!" threads, and rampant speculation on DC's no doubt fictional "purchase" of a Marvel character, there sits some honestly almost interesting commentary. Some of it is interesting like a car wreck is interesting, so perhaps "compelling" or "oh my God, how can this exist?" are better descriptors. This thread, for example, is a collection of "incomplete plot threads from the last two years" that the author thinks will tie into Infinite Crisis. Sure, he always uses the plural of the term "Crisis" constantly (or he can't spell a word that shows up hundreds of times on these damn boards, whichever way you want to look at it), but it's one of the few threads that doesn't devolve into "Booster Gold is a fag!" or "how dare they disrespect Hector Hall like that!" within ten or so posts. Some of the points made are downright clever, some betray the author's relative lack of knowledge of the DCU ("can Kid Eternity control all the dead, or just those he kills himself," for example), but overall, it's the best thing going there.

There's also been some degree of debate as to why Jay Garrick's suddenly a blond on the cover of JSA Classified #8, since he used to have dark hair that's long since gone grey. Granted, it could just be a coloring error, especially since I can't recall a time when Wildcat was quite so... teal, but it's inspired hypothesizing that Jay is going to somehow become younger again and it will be him taking over the Flash title, not Bart Allen. Which, actually, would be nice. A few people think he may have "switched bodies with Barry Allen," and I certainly hope not. I'd think it more likely that he ended up in the body of a younger Max Mercury, a blond speedster who's been trapped in the Speed Force thanks to Rival for some time now.

Or maybe it's just Alan Scott dressed up as his buddy. You never know.

Marvel Would Like Your Money Now

The new Spider-Man costume's been unveiled over on Marvel's website, and using all the clever contained within my enormous head, I have circumvented their ingenious "Right Click Doesn't Work" anti-theft policy to bring you exactly what makes comics blogging great: snap judgment editorial work disguised as content.

Get excited, it's a magical new era of Spider-Man that may or may not end in his new costume becoming his greatest nemesis. Or Spider-Man Red/Spider-Man Blue. Either or.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Apparently, it is something called "De-Lurking Week."

While I don't do Absorbacon-type numbers, there are a fair number of people who read this and don't comment. Evidently, the point of De-Lurking Week is to get you stragglers to post, which'd be nice. Though I do seem to have a fairly loyal stable of three or so regular comment-leavers, new blood is always appreciated.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

It's Been the Crappiest Year Ever in the DCU

DC continuity is a harsh mistress. Zero Hour came out in 1994, meaning a solid twelve years have gone by in the real world since. Now, take a look at the bottom-left panel, there. Rick and Rex Tyler, Hourman 2 and 1, respectively, are having a chat in a lab existing outside of time created by the third Hourman, a robot from the future. You follow?

Rex was plucked from time just before he was scheduled to die at the hands of Extant at the tail end of Zero Hour, and Rick could pay him visits by way of an hourglass full of theoretical tachyon particles and... wow, does that ever sound ridiculous when it's written out like that.

Anyway, that's not the point. The point is that this comic was published in 2003 and it has a character claiming that the events of Zero Hour took place "a year back in time."

Which means that Gotham City was infected with a deadly virus, leveled by an earthquake, declared federally off-limits and rebuilt in the span of one amazingly crappy year. No Man's Land, by the way, was littered with references to how long it'd lasted, clocking in at hair over a year on its own.

That's not even getting into, say, the founding of the current incarnations of the JLA and JSA and the events of Our Worlds at War, World War 3, Genesis and Day of Judgment.

So, yeah, busy, busy year.

The Many Faces of the Cosmic Rod

Speaking as an illustrator, some things are just a nightmare to draw. For instance, if I had my way, I'd never, ever have to draw another guitar. Apparently, Jack Knight's Cosmic Rod is your average JSA penciler's guitar. Or... something.

Seriously, the number of ways this thing's drawn, I'm surprised that it looks the same panel to panel, much less issue to issue.

Exhibit A:
1: The Cosmic Rod, more or less as originally designed. It's a tricky little thing to get right, and even Tony Harris, the original artist on Starman, would occasionally resort to drawing Jack holding a glowing yellow pipe with no ornate headpiece.

2: One of the first times the Star-Spangled Kid used the Rod, it looked like this for... some reason. Big hooked head instead of the usual looks-like-an-angry-chess-piece-kind-of head. This is immediately after Jack gave her the... I really wanted to type "after Jack gave her the Rod," but that's filthy, and then I wanted to say "after Jack gave it to her," but that sounds just as bad. Suffice to say, she'd only acquired the device recently, and there'd been no chance for a major redesign.

The handle's well done, though.

3: Jack using the Rod in the early going of JSA. The top of the Rod seems to have a minor weight problem here, no?

Exhibit B:
4: The Rod's well drawn here (and throughout Black Reign. Rags Morales is a damned good artist), but this is here because I find it funny that Jack managed to bum the damned thing around space and time for a year and not break it, but Stars had it for, like, a week and a half and gets it cut in half in one of two occasions where Nemesis actually uses her swords. And then leaves the pieces in a middle eastern country, apparently, because she's certainly not carrying it at any point for the remainder of the story. Maybe Atom-Smasher mailed it out later.

5: As near as I can tell, this is the sole occasion where the Mike McKone redesign of the Rod appeared outside of JSA: All-Stars. It's kind of cute, I guess, but the old Rod's much neater looking, and back within an issue or two.

6: Hee hee, lookit the tiny little head on the Rod there.

7: For some reason, the Rod was silver for the duration of an issue in the middle of Lost.

8: Goes back to gold the very next issue, but the head's all wrong and it's still missing the distinctive bend in the handle.

9: Curvy head.

Were I attempting to grab myself a fictional DC No-Prize, I would hypothesize that, perhaps, Courtney broke the Rod constantly, forcing her step-father, Pat Dugan, to repair it off-panel seven or eight times, leading to it looking different in damned near every appearance. Or it could just be a bitch to draw. Either one is equally likely.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Alfred Rules

There's much to be said about the importance of a supporting cast. Face it, most of the time, Superman's kind of boring. He needs a semi-retarded cub reporter with a signal watch gumming up the works or a girlfriend somehow finding herself strapped to a bomb again, or he'd take out damned near any threat in about two pages.

Some supporting cast members, though, serve nobler purposes than to simply get into inexplicable situations that require the aid of the Man of Tomorrow. Some are probably the best damned thing about the character. For instance, Elongated Man's a reasonably dull stretchy detective without his wife, Sue. The Avengers are a gang of pompous jackasses without Jarvis. The Shade's about a thousand times more likable than Jack Knight. And Batman would be dead a million times over without Alfred.

Alfred's great. He's one of maybe three people that can get away with pointing out how big of a prick Batman's being at any given time. He's smart, he's funny, he's apparently a great cook. He's a medic, he's occasionally a spy, sometimes he'd wear his glasses over a little mask and drive the Batmobile back in the sixties. And, one time, he shot the Predator.

Yeah, that Predator. Not the crappy one that lived inside Carol Ferris's head, shacking up with Star Sapphire and popping out to fight Eclipso and Green Lantern every once and again, but the one that fought off Jesse Ventura and his giant gun and... Danny Glover.

To put this in context, the Predator has already beaten Batman so severely that Bats has resorted to wearing a suit of armor in order to survive a rematch. In fact, for a while, even the GCPD thinks he's dead, leading to one of those great My God, Jim Gordon's Given Up on The Batman! scenes.

Of course, this means that Danny Glover is tougher than Batman. After all, even though he's too old for that shit, Murtaugh managed to take out one of those vagina-faced space aliens with only his wits and the aid of an angel in the outfield. Or something. I can't say I've ever seen Predator 2 any earlier than four AM, so my recollection may be shaky.

Anyway, Batman hits the Predator with the Batmobile and drives him back towards Wayne Manor where the fight inevitably ends up in the Batcave. Bats had Predator on the ropes for a little while, but that damn giant penny ends up on top of the Dark Knight, and it's looking like it's curtains for the Caped Crusader!

Earlier, we'd been treated to some delightful subtext, where Alfred comments on the barbarism of keeping stuffed and mounted heads as trophies in Wayne Manor (apparently, Bruce's grandfather was something of a hunter. And Alfred has an astonishing working knowledge of Oscar Wilde quotes). Bruce, in foreshadowing so heavy it could be called six- or sevenshadowing, tells Alfred to clear them out, but keep the gun.

So, to catch you up, Batman is trapped under a giant penny and there's a monstrous alien big-game hunter looking to finish the... damn, I've run out of common Bat-nicknames... paranoid douchebag off. What would Jimmy Olsen do?

Probably yell "golly" and turn into Turtle Boy or something. Luckily for Batman, his butler isn't Jimmy Olsen. He's a stone cold bad ass.

See? He shot a Predator! With a freaking muzzle-loader! While wearing his bathrobe!

Well, I guess it's more a smoking jacket, but the point remains the same. Obviously, this isn't near enough to off a Predator, so you'd think Alfred would be in trouble.

But Alfred stays tough. Because Alfred rules.

The Predator, sensing that he cannot hope to kill something as awesome as an Alfred, does not crush the butler's esophagus. He does not snap his neck like a twig. No, he tosses Alfred aside and walks off, knowing he's been beaten by the one weapon more powerful than those neat little shoulder-mounted laser thingies: Alfred.

The Big A then props the Goddamn Giant Penny up with a car jack, freeing Batman. The Predator is ritualistically offed by his own kind for losing in single combat with an elderly British manservant and award Bats with one of those keen extendy-swords, which I like to think he keeps handy in his Science Fiction Closet.

The point is, Alfred rules.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Internet is a Magical Realm of Both Lies and Untruths

"DC buys rights to a marvel character!!!"

Yesterday, my comic shop guy, as he is wont to do, started talking to me about all the latest weird rumors he'd heard since I'd last been in the shop. Mostly, he was citing stuff from the latest Wizard (by the way, if they make Ralph Dibny gay, I don't think I'll ever stop laughing), but, out of the blue, he said, as if quoting gospel, "Marvel's stock dropped, like, fifty percent and DC had to bail them out, so DC bought a couple Marvel characters."

Now, I'm not one to call bullshit on the guy that pulls my books, so I bit my tongue and headed home, at which time I promptly forgot about the whole thing until about twenty minutes ago. That's when I decided to put on my detective hat (a fedora. I truly am the Handsome Matt Drudge) and start roughing up the internet for information.

After breaking both of Google's pinkies and elbowing Wikipedia in the ribs, I came across the link above, a topic on the DC message boards. Therein, a newly registered poster declares:

Click to make with the bigness, but the gist is that DC bought the rights to a a freaking X-Man, who will "arrive during the Crisis."

The post after next is a guy saying that he's "heard [this] more than once now," therefore lending credence to the rumor. Granted, he has the exact same post count and registered at the exact same time as the guy who started the thread, but, Hell, he has a different username, so, even though neither one of them can cite a proper source, it must be true.

The funny thing is, in spite of the fact that the source of this rumor is Some Guy on a Messageboard who provides no evidence whatsoever, the thread keeps going. For fourteen pages. Some of the thread turns to a discussing about the whole Captain Marvel trademark thing (I'm always amazed at the number of comic readers who don't have a working knowledge of that one), the MiracleMan trademark thing (I'm always amazed at the number of times I can read about that and not have a fucking cerebral hemorrhage), some becomes an investigation into the background of the claim and some posters honestly bandy about ideas as to what characters it could be (mother of God, Wolverine? Not only would Marvel not sell the rights to a guy with two different namesake titles, but do you really like Wolverine so much that you need to see him fight Manhunters instead of Sentinels?).

Wizard #172 threw gas on the fire by mentioning that a "well-established character will make their first appearance in the DCU." I'd just assumed it'd be somebody from the WildStorm universe, or a reference to the Batman/Spirit crossover book, but rumor mongers will cling to anything, I guess.

Of course, the same article in Wizard mentions that somebody named "Supernova" will be appearing in the DCU, with the tease that it might be "a familiar face with a new look," filling me with dread that maybe the rumor's true and DC actually bought the rights to freaking Nova, of all things.

Ah, God bless the internet and its amazing ability to spread a nonsensical, virtually impossible permutation of the old "Marvel and DC are going to trade characters for a year after DC Vs Marvel!" rumor from the keyboard of some kid with too much time on his hands all the way down to a comic shop in scenic Connecticut.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Drinkin' for eleven, that's This Week's Reviews

Red HoodBatman #648: God damn it, can we get a better villain here? Two-Face? Penguin? I'll take Croc over Black Mask, even, and I hate Killer Croc. Black Mask is written like every damn Buffy villain ever, all evil-but-trying-to-sound-charming, and he looks like the freaking Red Skull, and how is he a physical threat to Batman or any Robin? I've actually liked this Red Hood arc, almost in spite of myself, but I'm now mentally replacing Black Mask with, Hell, I don't know, Hugo Strange.

The Alfred scenes steal the issue, by the way. Winick writes decent Bats/Alfred exchanges, and I can't take that away from him.

Batman and the Monster Men #2: Apparently came out last week and I missed it. This might end up being a better sequel to Year One than Long Halloween. We'll see how it pans out, but Long Halloween's forever tainted by Superman/Batman and the comparative crappiness of Dark Victory. Besides, Batman versus Science is one of my favorite kinds of Batman stories, right after Batman versus Mud That's Only Found in One Part of Gotham.

JLA Classified #15: Sure, it read like Warren Ellis talking to himself, but I kind of always pictured Batman as talking like Ming Himself anyway, so parts of it fit. And Superman actually doing, you know, super stuff is refreshing. Ellis, fittingly, writes Superman the same way he wrote the High back in StormWatch, so Supes uses his powers creatively instead of just punching things. The story got kind of dull in the middle, there, but overall, it paid off.

JSA Classified #6: Prometheus and Johnny Sorrow are namechecked but don't appear and the other Society shows up. That's three Societies in one issue, by the way. Justice, Injustice and the SSoSV (incidentally, if I ever start a ska band, the name has officially been changed from "Obi Wan Skanobi" to "The Secret Skaciety of Super Villains." Just so you know). I still like this story better than the last one, but I thought the point of this series was to do not-necessarily-in-continuity stories, not a bunch of stuff that'd fit in is a subplot in the main JSA book. I want some Hitler-getting-punched-in-the-jaw action.

Teen Titans #31: You know, I used to think Kid Eternity was sort of lame-looking. Remember? Blue? Glowy? Little round sunglasses? A cumberbun for some reason? Leather jacket with his logo on the back? Yeah. James Robinson offed him in the early going of JSA, but he pops up here, blue, glowy and still wearing a cumberbun, but looking totally different facially and with a different haircut. So now I miss the old-school Kid. Whatever, he's still got one of my favorite superpowers of all time, and he makes short work of Brother Blood's Titans West. And Captain Carrot got his groove back. In case you were concerned. That Zoo Crew story got really, really disjointed, by the by.

Oh, and one more thing: I call bullshit on Kid Flash not recognizing former Titans. The new Speedy's been a Titan all of twenty minutes and she's "read up" on freaking Aquagirl, but Bart, who memorized the San Fransisco Public Library has to ask who they're fighting? Shouldn't it be the other way 'round?

Gotham Central #39: Fallout from last issue. Good read, shame to see it go next issue, though, even with whatever random relaunch they have waiting in the wings.

Iron Man #5: Holy shit, Iron Man came out. It's like seeing freaking Brigadoon, for God's sake. Anyway, it's the best issue of the run, I think, though I only have vague, fuzzy memories of issues past, like remembering specifics of episodes of Transformers. Iron Man gets an updated origin and a legitimate upgrade to his powers. Ellis was a good choice to write the character, but whatever good he's done is going to be swiped aside by the fact that it's take a bloody year to get five issues out, and God only knows when the conclusion'll see the light of day.

However long it takes, though, the art is really, really good. Maybe not worth this book becoming a damned quarterly, but really good.

Day of Vengeance Special: Hey, now Day of Vengeance has an ending! Strike what I said the other day, because factoring this in, Day of Vengeance was the best of the IC minis. If Willingham's Shadowpact series is like this, I'm in.

Marvel Team-Up #16: You take X-23 out of this lineup, and I'd buy a team book starring the guys from this issue. Terror, Gravity, Dagger, Speedball and Darkhawk? (Arana, thankfully, gets The Big Squish a few pages in.) Say what you will about Darkhawk, but that cat's got a pretty spiffy outfit, and there's nothing not-funny about Sleepwalker and Terror. Sleepwalker provides his own narration! He's like a freaking Raymond Chandler novel. God, I love this stupid book.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Wait, Don't Start the New Year Yet!

Apparently, a year ended, which obligates all bloggers to bang out a year-end list. Having been drunk, drinking or at a funeral for most of last week, the staff here at Facedown in the Gutters (which is to say, "me") have been unable to write a Big Stupid List, so our year-ender comes on the second day of 2006.

Note carefully the use of the word "favorite" in place of "best." "Favorite" means you can't argue with me.

Favorite Use of Jamie Madrox's Ridiculous Powers: X-Factor #1. The Multiple Man calling ten of himself in as his Who Wants to Be a Millionaire phone-a-friend since he's technically only calling one friend is funny on its own, but the fact that the question is an absurd bit of trivia about Bewitched puts it over the top. The runner-up is Jamie making a human pyramid out of himself in his self-titled miniseries. Because that's just awesome.

Favorite Infinite Crisis Mini: Villains United. It's the only one that had an ending and it had Deadshot. Even though Blue Falcon and Birdman appeared in the Rann/Thanagar War, it was still boring as all Hell. OMAC Project had an ending that resolved absolutely nothing, as the central villain made it out of the series in one piece with enough troops handy to beat the self-righteousness out of the Amazons three months later. Day of Vengeance at least had a monkey, but still suffered from being a six-issue mini with almost no resolution.

Sensational Character Find of 2005: Tapeworm. Scoff if you must, but not every villain has to be a world-beater. Every universe needs guys veteran heroes feel okay about letting their sidekicks beat up on their own. Everyone universe needs a guy with powers so mind-numbingly ridiculous that he can go to a SSoSV meeting and make guys like Tar Pit feel better about themselves. Every universe needs guys that would fit in with the lamest Spider-Man villain you can think of. Tapeworm is taking that bullet. Tapeworm is terrible without apology. Tapeworm is the man.

Favorite Marvel Book: Marvel Team-Up. An unapologetic straight-ahead fun superhero book. It's not cynical, it's not jaded, it's not edgy. It's Spider-Man and Daredevil fighting the freaking Ringmaster. It's the Bizarro Ultimates. I'm glad it exists. She-Hulk's a close second.

Favorite Ultimate Marvel Book: Ultimate X-Men. Because Stuart Immonen is the man. And Vaughan made Longshot kind of cool.

Favorite Ultimate Character: Nighthawk. C'mon, he sprained his ankle leaping out of the shadows. Tell me you didn't feel bad for him.

Favorite Utterly Pointless Gimmick: Ultimate Gold Standard. It's just like the normal books, but there's gold!

Favorite Reminder that Ultimate Galactus is Coming (Besides the Two Miniseries Devoted to the Fact That Ultimate Galactus is Coming): Ultimate Vision. Way to set the Galactus thing a year behind the current books, by the way. Really keeps me in suspense as to who's going to die.

Favorite DC Book: Catwoman. Robin's decent, Flash's cancellation is feeling more and more like a mercy kill with each passing issue, and JLA has been regularly punching me in the reproductive organs for months now. Catwoman's fun every month and Hugo Strange is in it.

Favorite Book I Only Read in Trades: Close race, but the sixth Fables trade came out last week and knocked Invincible and Ex Machina down a peg. Y: The Last Man is good, but the trades don't cover near enough ground (and it must read in about two seconds as a monthly. Same with Invincible). The JSA trades that came out this year were decent, but catching Identity Crisis tie-ins a year after the fact is a bit disconcerting.

Favorite Coffee Table Book About EC Comics: Foul Play.

Favorite Comic Book-Related Toy: Mezco Direct Hellboy. It's like a crazy three-d Mignola drawing.

Least-favorite Single Issue: Batman #642. I feel like more people are going to hate the one from a few months later, when Leslie Thompkins went from Character That Merely Existed to Character Everyone Apparently Loved And Bill Willingham Should Be Fired Out of a Giant Gun For Destroying Her in the space of about nine pages, but, try as I might, I can't bring myself to give a damn. At least that issue inspired debate, however overblown and silly as it was. #642 was the issue about how Killer Croc hated Black Mask. At the time, I said it read like a fill-in issue they had in the back of a filing cabinet. Re-reading it, I stand by my original commentary. It just sucked beyond reason. Character assassination doesn't bother me if it looks like all parties involved were at least trying. #642 looked like a Goddamn giveaway book.

Oh, wait, shit, strike all that. I forgot about the two issues of Teen Titans Rob Liefeld and Gail Simone did. Batman #642 may have been about two of the crappiest Batman villains I can think of, but those issues of Teen Titans... man. I knew the art would suck, but Simone's story was a tremendous clunker. And the second issue was actually late! It was a fill-in arc, and an issue shipped late!

Flash #226 was also bad on a scale that can only be expressed in scientific notation. And I checked my watch halfway through Rann/Thanagar War #4.

Predictions About 2006 That Probably Won't Come True, But We'll See: The new Blue Beetle book will sell big for about five issues, and then everyone will realize that they didn't like the old Blue Beetle all that much until they had to complain about something on the internet right after he died.

Donna Troy will get her own series, which will be canceled because she suffers from something I call The Mister Miracle Syndrome. That is to say, people claim they want a book about a character but absolutely will not pay for said book.

Bendis will realize that no one could possibly like Spider-Woman as much as he does. He'll then take it upon himself to remedy this by changing the New Avengers lineup to feature every single version of Spider-Woman in the Marvel Universe. And it will still sell.

Spider-Man will return to his roots as a science-based jokester fighting glorified bank robbers and the occasional monster. Or he'll become a magical spider-creature fighting a sense of ennui while the Avengers hit on his wife. Whichever.

The X-Men will be plagued by inter-team drama and a villain that wants to rid the world of all mutants. (I had to put one on here that would absolutely pan out in my favor.)

That's that. You can officially start 2006 now.