Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Damn You, Immune System!

In the war between me and every single virus on Earth, my immune system has turned traitor and joined the enemy. All of which is a long-winded way of saying that I have the Sumatran Death Flu or whatever the hell it is that's going around, and so I won't be blogging as much as I had planned to this week.

Which really torques me off, but oh well.

Bullet point reviews for last week's comics:

  • Nextwave #1 = Excellent fun
  • Green Lantern Corps #4 = outstanding
  • New Avengers #15 = better than expected (very nice Warbird that Bendis writes) but still not good
  • Elk's Run #4 = finally got this. Still good.
  • Fallen Angel #2 = solid issue, but am still somewhat lost
  • Defenders #5 = nice job waiting until the last issue to produce a decent one. Awful series.
  • OHOTMU #1 = relentlessy pointless unless you're a relative of one of the guys who wrote this I guess
  • X-Men: Deadly Genesis #3 = a misstep here as nothing happens and the pace slows to glacial

More on my travails after I've healed.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

PS2 USM: BBS (Big Ball of Suck)

Maybe I'm becoming too cynical a blogger as my first instinct when I sat down to write this review was to find a way to blame Brian Bendis for the awful final product that is the Ultimate Spider-Man video game. Honestly, Bendis's contribution gets listed in the "good" column of the game's traits.

Like so many crappy entertainment experiences, USM is all style and no substance. The vastness of Queens and Manhatten alone, complete with recognizable landmarks both real (Empire State Building, Times Square) and fictional (Baxter Building, Latverian Embassy, Dr. Strange's house), makes the game worthy of a rental. The physics of Peter's webswinging is impressive and the dialogue (provided by Bendis) is amusing and adds a level of depth to the city. Swinging from rooftop to rooftop, you'll hear little snippets of conversations like, "Yogurt is for little girlies!" or "How do I look in this outfit?" that makes you feel like every day life is going on beneath you while you're saving the world.

Unfortunately, the world saving is where things go sour.

Supposedly, Spider-Man has a plethora of moves you can access in combat by pressing varied combinations of punch, kick, and jump. Regardless, you only need one: jump-jump-kick. Every fight against every major bad guy boils down to the same formulaic scenario.

Spidey finds out some villain is on the loose. You have to chase him through the labyrinthine city streets and alleys, making sure to keep within a certain distance lest he get away. Eventually, the bad guy will make a stand and fight. You jump around waiting for whatever opening is presented and jump kick him a few times until he throws you off. Repeat about twenty times until the bad guy is sufficiently hurt to run away again, then chase him to another place where he'll take another stand and you do the "jumping around waiting for the opportunity to attack" thing again.

Part of the problem is Spidey can only punch and kick, so when you go up against someone like Green Goblin, you have to punch and kick him roughly two-hundred times to defeat him. Compare this completely sarcasm free estimate with the fact Green Goblin throws fireballs (with miraculous accuracy) and jumps on top of you with his fire-engulfed body or that Beetle throws grenades and shoots a laser, both of which will kill you in about 8-15 hits.Take the battle against Rhino (or R.H.I.N.O. as the Ultimized version is known) as an example. It begins when you go to school and Mary Jane tells you she heard a news report about a big rhinoceros tearing up the city. You go hunt him down by following the path of destruction, saving people left in its wake. You finally catch up to him in a construction yard where you have to jump around, eventually landing on his back, and beat on him. He charges you and the your goal is to lure him onto the wet cement of a building foundation. Once he's stuck, you leap over to a crane with a wrecking ball and knock him out.

Only he isn't knocked out, he's knocked about two hundred yards down the road. You have to chase him again until he gets to a used car lot. This time, there are sparks flying from the hole you smashed in his back. He smashes up the cars and charges around while you jump and dodge him, waiting for the sparks to go away. When they do, you jump on his back and punch as many times as you can before the sparks come back. Then you jump and dodge him, waiting for the sparks to go away. When they do, you jump on his back and punch as many times as you can before the sparks come back. Then you jump and dodge him, waiting for the sparks to go away. When they do, you jump on his back and punch as many times as you can before the sparks come back. Then you jump and dodge him, waiting for the sparks to go away. When they do, you jump on his back and punch as many times as you can before the sparks come back.

Yawn... where was I?

For Green Goblin, replace sparks with firey aura. Beetle flies around out of your reach so instead of waiting for something to go away, you have to wait for him to show up. With Venom, if you stay too close to him for too long, you get a migraine and become vulnerable. There are variations, but the upshot always winds up being that you have to jump around and avoid the bad guy while they attack with a much more potent weapon than your fists and feet. Also take into account that when you get hit once, Spidey lays on the ground long enough to get hit at least once more.

Playing as Venom is fun. He's all about power. However, much as Spidey's only really effective move is the jump kick, when Venom is in a fight, anything other than a tentacle attack is a waste of time (which is a shame because the move where he grabs people by the back of the head and smashes them face first into the sidewalk is awesome). Unfortunately, the Venom sequences are always too short. They all involve some immediate threat, never allowing you to roam around the city as Venom, and as soon as you defeat that threat, you go back to being Spidey.

Overall, this game has a lot of potential to be great, but lives up to very little of it. Rent this; buy X-Men Legends 2.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Ten Random Thoughts

1. I may not care much for Michael Turner's bulimic Supergirl, but my inner Zombie cannot wait to get this cover in color. Ignore Millar's senseless hype and Cap's spindly legs. I think it's a great showpiece for kicking off Civil War, unlike the sleepy pastels of House of M.

2. Speaking of Civil War, I am very excited to see Not Bendis writing this event.

3. The other big event, 1985, looks downright awful, though.

4. If you haven't done so lately, go to Newsarama, find any article concerning a DC or Marvel comic, and read the responses. I swear, things haven't changed a bit --- going from the excellent, thoughtful, good-natured community that is the comicsblogoweb to reading Newsarama posts is like going from Shakespeare to this. There are a few who try to discourse rationally over there, but by and large it's "DC pwned Marvel this month, ____!" or "Infanate Crsiis is the ___!"

5. I've got a busy week next week; the Batman Elseworlds piece, a response to Chris Tamarri's analysis of All-Star Batman and Robin, a neat idea that I'm not telling anyone about yet, a couple more Marvel and DC Mailbags, and of course reviews a mile long. Should be fun.

6. Essential Dr. Strange, Vol. 2 is crazy good, even if it does have the silly issues where he changed his costume because Asmodeus stole his visage, so he couldn't get back to his dimension to get the Book of the Vishanti, so Clea and Strange use the Cloak of Levitation to escape the Sons of Satannish, and Nightmare uses the Winds of Watoomb to send Strange to the Dream Dimension, where the Ancient One and Sligguth....See what I mean? Crazy good. Definitely one of my top 5 Essentials.

7. I am not looking forward to getting three copies with variant covers of Red Sonja as per Randy's instructions since he's out of the country and having to explain that they're for "a friend".

8. What in holy hell is this? And how did they get Bart Sears, Bob Layton and Gene Colan, Master Of The Universe™ in on it? I'll be back with a report on this later.

9. I read somewhere that they shot the Hulk into space this week. While on general principles I think it's a fundamentally sound idea that should have been done years ago, I feel the need to ask...how does the Hulk breathe in space?

10. Flash OYL, Wonder Woman OYL, and Batman OYL are three comics I am curious about. The only question left: who's writing Olive OYL? HAR!

OK, I got nothin'.

What Would Randy Buy, 25/01/06

Or rather, what will Randy ask Chris to kindly ask the LCBS owner to add to Randy's box so Randy may purchase them from whence he returns from once again doing research on cricket and non-American football.

I liked 50 alot. I want to see where it goes. Looks interesting.

And when it was decent, they end it. Screw you DC.

I started this one, and since I like Doom, I"m sticking with it. I'm waiting for more of the mystical stuff. Bought a GN a long time ago w/ Doom and Strange, and it was REALLY well done. Good mystic stuff, so hoping that Doom will start that soon.

Hoping it has Elektra and Widow, but I doubt it. Now I just gots to see what happens though.

Because I'm dumb. I'm just hoping the new team that is supposed to start shortly actually has a couple more ACTUAL Avengers.

X-MEN #181
Chris, I think I forgot this one. I think that this is the one I buy. If its not, oh well, another $3 down the tube. But I think this is the right one.

Chris-- this wasn't on my pull list for you either. I'll send you more info, as I'm hoping that our LCBS gets the cover I"m looking for.

Chris- Please see the previous Red Sonja note.

And its Pakistan vs. India in cricket matches currently.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

What I'm Buying 1/24

I'm not above shamelessly stealing features from others. Plus, I'm lazy and need a column for Wednesday, so here it is. Oddly, only one DC book and quite a few Marvel, although two of them are final issues for me.


OK, issues 3-5 are usually where miniseries start to suck. The last issue of this deftly avoided that fate. Here's hoping this one will too. This is a really great series thus far, chock full o' Green Lantern goodness.

SEP051924DEFENDERS #5 (OF 5)$2.99

I hate, hate, hate this series. It's only funny in the same way that knock-knock jokes, puns, and spoonerisms are funny, i.e. not at all. It's lame. The art is serviceable. Unfortunately, I had it preordered already, and I'm not going to stick my LCS with the tab just because I backed the wrong horse. What a misfire. Inexplicably, a number of people seem to like this comic.

NOV051974NEW AVENGERS #15$2.50

This is it! This is the issue that sets me free! I promised myself that if this issue continued the trend of being sucky then I'd put down the crack pipe and stop buying New Avengers. I have no reason to believe this issue will be good....which is usually right about the moment that Bendis pulls something good out. So it's a win-win either way.

NOV051973NEXT WAVE #1$2.99

Reliable sources have informed me that this doesn't suck. This is probably my most anticipated book this week. I'll let you know what I think.

NOV052002X-MEN DEADLY GENESIS #3 (OF 6)$3.50

This series has surprised me so far by being good. Also very much looking forward to this.

NOV052988FALLEN ANGEL IDW #2 (OF 5)$3.99

So, the owner of the bar is supposed to be Hitler? I'm still not sure I have any idea what's going on in this book, and the art is waaaaay too close to fumetti for me, but still I'm intrigued. I wasn't in some opium-induced dreamlike tesseract when Peter David said this was now an ongoing, was I?

In addition, I've got two Essential volumes waiting for me, the Essential Handbook of the Marvel Universe, and Essential Avengers Vol. 5. Mmmmmm. Avengery goodness. Avengers-Defenders War, Thanos, Dormammu, and Loki. Yes, sah!

The lack of DC books this week means I've got a little cash left over for a couple books I'm not currently reading. Feel free to comment with suggestions as to what I might want to pick up that I'm not currently reading.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Nothing Today

I'm not posting today, at least not substantively. Instead, go read Chris Tamarri and Ed Cunard's breakdown of the 2005 Comic Bloggers Poll.

More Wednesday.

Monday, January 23, 2006

A Cliff By Which to Hang

Lately, I've been writing about stuff I found in Operation: Reorganize and Purge that had been tucked away in my long boxes for years, and I haven't talked much about the new stuff I've gotten in the last three or four weeks. I can't remember a week of comics that has so made me look forward to next month's offerings due to the proper usage of cliffhanger endings that actually grabbed my attention. In recent months, this is what's passed for "make sure to pick up the next issue" fodder:"Whoa! Morlun?!?! Holy shit, dude, this is gonna be epic!" What a big, steaming pile of "who the hell cares?" that is.

The fact is, more often than not comic creators rely on the completist in us to buy the next issue. God knows I should have dropped Daredevil about a year ago. I'd planned to drop it during the midget demon story arc, but the only reason I've continued to pick it up is the promise of Bendis and Maleev leaving. Knowing I was going to pick up Brubaker's run, I couldn't bring myself to have that seven to eight issue gap in my collection.

Granted, not every issue can end in a cliffhanger or the cliffhanger loses all meaning, just as the Silver Age comic covers that promised Superman killing Lois Lane or destroying Metropolis or revealing his secret identity on a monthly basis ceased to have any impact. Sometimes we need something as simple as "Next Issue: Ultimate Silver Sable!"--well, maybe we don't need that exactly, but you get the point--but when a good cliffhanger comes along, nothing makes you look forward to the rapid passing of the next 27 days more.

*** Spoiler Warning: I'm discussing the final panel of each book. ***

Things have slowed way down in this title, not meaning nothings happened, but rather that I just realized recently that the last six issues or so took place over the course of a week or so. Since the characters reached the prison, the carving out of a community, capable of sustaining them long term, has been the main priority.

That's led to an internal focus rather than an external one. Since the zombie threat has been largely held at bay by the prison fences, the stories have centered instead on cheating boyfriends and power struggles and the concept of law. I'm all for character development, but the book is called The Walking Dead so having it be largely zombie-free kind of defeats the purpose. Granted, I know the case has been made that the survivors of the plague or whatever it is are the ones who are the "walking dead," but people reading this book want the constant threat of a zombie chowing down on Glen and Maggie while they're gettin' it on as much as they do the debates over whether capital punishment should play a role in their new society.

One issue that hasn't been addressed in nearly a year is that of what caused all the people we've seen get zombified and whether this is a problem localized to the Southeastern United States or if it's a worldwide phenomenon. After twenty-five issues, we may be nearing an answer.A helicopter uses a lot of gas, so there's no way someone's been flying one regularly for the last six months, syphoning gas from abandonned cars whenever he gets low. A helicopter has to be a part of something bigger. Whatever it is will likely force them to make a decision between the new society they're building and the prison they've finally made completely safe or what the helicopter offers. That seems to be the format of this book, once we think we're safe things change.

As much as I like this book, I'm wishing Robert Kirkman would declare a finite end to it. I enjoy, for example, Y: The Last Man much more knowing the story is planned for sixty issues. Even if things slow to a glacial pace, I know each issue is steadily working toward the conclusion of the story versus something like Spider-Man where there is no overall über-plot to resolve, but rather a series of small stories that occur to the same character. When Spidey takes eight issues to fight Doc Ock where it could have easily been done in four, it makes me think Marvel just wanted twice as much money from me rather than that the writer had something specific in mind to set the tone for the entire series.

This issue treads some dangerous ground in addressing the Iraqi War circa February of 2003. It would be easy for Brian K. Vaughn to grant Mitch Hundred three years of hindsight, predicting there would be no weapons of mass distruction found or doubting the administration's promises that U.S. soldiers would be welcomed as liberators, but he avoids that, opting instead to have Mitch remain completely neutral.

The story centers around Mayor Hundred's decision to allow anti-war protesters to march on the United Nations while the majority of his constituents support the war. Hundred is seen as a peacenik in the press, though he tries to make it clear his job is to worry about New York, not national issues.

Journal, his Advisor on Youth Affairs, wants to take part in the march, but Mitch insists his staff remain neutral. In response, Journal resigns her post and marches, a decision she may not live to regret after a mysterious gas is released at the protest.If the gas hasn't killed her, she's going to be trampled. I can honestly say that if Journal lives through this, I'll be disappointed.

What kind of gas was that? Who released it? Terrorists? Pro-war hawks? How will Mitch react? What will be the public backlash?

Again, I have to acknowledge this series is much better than I predicted. Issue three is a quick read. The Punisher has the drop on Bullseye and Nico's gang so Bullseye figures out there's only one way out: killing a bunch of innocent bystanders.

From there, it's nothing but Punisher chasing Bullseye, who hijacks a bus and crashes it into a bar that serves as a mob hangout. The Punisher shows up and gets a little too involved mowing down goombas to search for Bullseye.

When the cops show up in full riot gear, Punisher is cornered and finds what he figures is the only way out. Crawling through the basement window, however, he leaves himself vulnerable and pays the price. Fortunately, Bullseye is too busy eluding the police himself to take advantage of Frank's temporary inconvenience, but someone else gets the drop on him instead.Okay, we can be pretty sure she's not going to pop him in the head in cold blood, but how's he going to get out of this one? Punisher won't kill a cop and he's not in any position to make a quick getaway.

While they may not qualify as "cliffhangers" exactly, the other two books I picked up also had strong endings that had me looking forward to next month (or, in one case, "next whenever the hell Ellis and Cassaday get around to putting out another issue").

Conan's finally feeling some heat for all his success. His daring robberies have the city's guards on high alert, making life miserable for the rest of the thieves. He slept with the city magistrate's wife, and his bragging about it is angering his girlfriend. By the end of the issue, everyone hates Conan and they're ready to join forces if that's what it takes to catch him.

I'm much more interested in the Conan tales of swordplay, stealth, drinking, whoring, and fighting than I am those of sorcery. This is building up to be a good, old-fashioned knuckleduster where Conan will either have to kill a lot of people or get the hell out of town. Maybe both.

For twenty-three issues, we've been handed pieces, usually just two or three a year if we're lucky. Finally, Snow is helping us put them together.

Drums, Snow, and Jakita go to the basement to discuss the purpose of Planetary. Elijah begins referencing everything we've seen thus far and giving it all a frame of reference. For the first time in a long time, I was actually more interested in the story than the art.

In the end, the remaining two members of the Four blow up the building our three plucky adventurers are in, killing hundreds of people and reducing everything to dust. The basement, however, is sufficiently strong enough to withstand the attack. When they emerge, it's clear we've entered endgame.

The only downside is that Snow references so many former issues and I can't remember most of them. I recall there was an issue that took place in Japan, but I couldn't tell you what it was about if you promised me $100 for every detail I recounted. Oddly enough, I actually do remember reading it while on the Stairmaster at my ex-girlfriend's apartment, which would mean it was 1998 or '99. I've promised to sit down and read all 27 issues when the title comes to an end, but until then I'm not going to attempt it.

Synopsis Review Before India

Yet another trip overseas means no comics for three weeks. THREE WEEKS!!!! NO spoiler posting please. Pretty Please?

So, I bought some DC comics last week too, but I did not get a chance to review them, so I'll do some quickshots on them. No photos. I know, boring, but I'm procrastinating packing my bags, so I have to pretend that I am at least trying to leave.

Red Sonja #4
This has been good stories so far, and good art. At least the women in this book don't look like stick figures. That must be some REALLY hi-tech material though to keep her what-little-clothes-there-are on her body the whole fight.
On a side note, I picked up some of the Conan too...it was pretty decent, though the art has started to go a little downhill.
3/5. Its fun.

Seven Soldiers:Mister Miracle Part 3/4
I don't mind the whole New Gods thing. Its different. But this book. This book sucked. Probably because I really do not like Shilo Norman. I miss Scott Free and Big Barda. Its the Multiple Man all over again. It gets really tiring after awhile with all the multiples. And boring. And OLD.
Terrible book. I am very disappointed in this mini. Its pretty bad when I think that the Bulleteer is better than this, and it ain't that good.
0/5. I could not stand this. It ranks right up there with that last Uncanny X-men.

All-Star Superman #2
Oh, this is sooooooooo far better than All-Star Batman I-Am-Frank-Miller-I-Am-Comic-God-And-Can-Trash-As-I-Please. Its very quirky. It sets Superman up as someone who is different and really is pretending to be "normal". It wasnt' the best book in the world, but it was fun. I thought the end was very goofy, much like the comics of 'yore.
3/5. It took me a couple of reads to get it all.

Exterminators #1
It was ok. I did NOT like the racoon scene. That was just wrong. Thats kind of like kicking a dog (see Chris's IC #4 review). It was interesting to read. But I don't care one bit about any of the characters. So I probably won't read anymore.
2/5. The characters are asses. Not worth my dime. Or three bucks in this case.

Manhunter #18
Its finally picking up some steam. I'm looking forward to this story arc to be over and I think it'll be a little more fun read. At least she's finally back in the suit after a few issues of non-suit action.
2/5. Its getting there. It does have some good history though. Just for that, I"m changing my rating from a 2/5 to a 3/5.

Firestorm #21
Important back story. New direction coming. He has a smart guy as a partner. That should help alot. I liked how it went. Looking forward to the next ish.
3/5. Solid storytelling.

JLA #124
Why do I still buy this crap? Oh, because only one more til the end. That's why. Why do I buy this crap still? Man, this is really bad. End this already.
0/5. Bad. WAY BAD.

Infinite Crisis #4
Good read. Flash stuff was great. Batman/Nightwing stuff was great. The Superboy stuff was great. Was nice to see who the new Spectre is going to be. Great shot at the end.
4/5. The next one looks even better.

That's it gang. My LCBS did not have any Sgt. Rock, as the shippers "lost it." So he gets them this week. I dont' get them until Feb 13.

Sux Rox.

Later all. I will still make fun and/or rude comments on Chris' posts though.

Chris' Reviews 1/18

Back with reviews for 1/18, kids! As always, Massive Spoilers Ahoy!


In this issue, Baron Bedlam and his Plastic People show up, kick the living snot out of Shilo Norman, and turn all of his friends against him, followed by Darkseid whispering the Anti-Life equation and Shilo being reduced to a burned and bandaged cripple who pees himself. Guest appearances by Granny Goodness, DeSaad, and Metron.

Start your flames now, because I'll admit right up front that I have no love at all for the New Gods, the Fourth World, or pretty much anything Jack Kirby did at DC. I didn't like it as a kid, and I don't like it now. Having said that, I absolutely understand why a lot of people do like that stuff --- it's whacked out, cosmic opera on a grand scale, and I can see that. It just inexplicably leaves me cold.

(Although to be fair, Harvey Jerkwater's post on why he loves Mr. Miracle was absolutely goosebump-inducing, and may have convinced me to at least reread some Mr. Miracle comics. Maybe.)

So there, I've said it.

And that probably explains why I'm not liking the Mr. Miracle chapter of 7S as well as I theoretically should. We're 3/4 of the way through, and so far it's been entirely a case of "Look how we make the New Gods look like normal people in this world". And that's fine as far as it goes, but it's not very compelling for me, and there's been ZERO mention of the overall 7S plot in the series (you know, the one where the mosquito fairies are taking over the world).

(I just realized that Grant Morrison has constructed a 30 issue series about mosquito fairies taking over the world. Sweet.)

Best Moment: The sequence of Shilo practicing an escape trick while having an unrelated conversation. It's very natural, and struck me as, "Yeah, that's exactly how Mr. Miracle would spend his off time."

Worst Moment: The panel where we're led to believe that Darkseid's men took a pair of bolt cutters to Shilo's yam bag. Ew.

Comic Book Goodness: 2/5 for reasons listed above, although those with a fondness for New Gods will probably enjoy it much more than I did.


This is the last issue of Flash until the relaunch, and that's probably a good thing. I'm tired of this Vandal Savage story arc (which I've helpfully retitled Wally West: Moron), which is clearly just filler until Infinite Crisis came along.

So in this issue Flash figures out how to beat Savage and the Summoner machine he's using to pull an asteroid down to Earth. Guess how he does it? No really, guess. Seriously. I'll tell you: by running really, really fast. I did NOT see that coming!

Then Vandal Savage shoots himself into space to be one with the asteroid, or something. No, it didn't sound very smart to me either.

But all that is prologue to the final scene in the comic, where Jay Garrick inexplicably harasses Bart Allen for two pages, sounding for all the world like the stereotypical Old Man Jenkins. Seriously. Jay expounds upon those wacky remote controls these days that don't have any words on them (!?!), video games, and Commie villains. I half expected him to bust out the "And get the hell off my lawn, hooligan! Dagnabbit!"

There's a final page where Wally expounds on family, raising kids, maybe his time as the Flash is coming to an end, blah blah blah, but it's way too heavy handed and rushed (HAR!), the art sucks throughout, and this so should have stopped with Rogue War.

Best Moment: "Please don't get the idea...that the Rogues Gallery holds a cattle call for rookies...Hey, this is a new one. It may get this guy a call-back." Sorry folks, it's the best I can do.

Worst Moment: That forced "family" scene at the end was so...bad.

Comic Book Goodness: 1/5, and that's being generous. Did I mention the art sucked cover-to-cover? Let's just pretend the last 4 issues of Flash never happened, mmmkay?


Joe Casey's miniseries continues as the Spymaster hires the Ghost to break into Stark International headquarters, a psychologist taps into the Living Laser's consciousness at Tony's behest, and Iron Man (or an Iron Man suit, anyway) and the Ghost throw down.

I enjoy the storytelling as done with snippets of text messages, emails, and instant messages as done by Casey here. It's a believable way to communicate the events we're seeing on-panel, and adds to the realistic corporate environment.

I also enjoy Frazer Irving's art the more I see it. It's totally grown on me, although the coloring and shading may be a little too idiosyncratic for some.

So why didn't I like this issue as much as I thought I would?

Well, mainly because not much happens. The talky-talk between Spymaster and Ghost is entertaining enough, but then we spend most of our time with the psychologist Tony has hired to rehabilitate the Living Laser, and she's just not very interesting. The battle at the end between the Ghost and a remote-controlled or automated Iron Man suit is too short and ends with a whimper.

Oh, and depressingly, this seems to be an official part of Iron Man continuity now, if several silent panels in this comic are what I think they are.

Don't get me wrong, this is still a decent Iron Man fix, and I still think the series will turn out to be very good. This was just something of a case of maybe too-high expectations on my part. Joe Casey's still in the will, though.

Best Moment: The opening 4-page conversation between Spymaster and Ghost, showing that Spymaster is clearly appalled with Tony's flaunting of superhero conventions and traditions and Ghost being the disinterested, arrogant asshat he's always been. Loved, loved, loved the whole scene, and the character poses depicted complement the words perfectly.

Worst Moment: Not a moment per se, but a comment: Irving is not at his best when depicting action scenes, as a lot of them are muddled, which seems strange because there's only two people fighting.

Comic Book Goodness: 3/5. Still a good read, with enough groundwork laid to get to the series proper. I really liked the storytelling method here, and it's still the best Iron Man around.


Hal and Ollie are back up to their old tricks in Coast City, as they engage in some friendly banter while saving some dude from falling to his death. Hal gets a call from the Corps to go fight Mongul since, you know, he's the one that made Coast City kablooey in the first place, and he and Ollie fall victim to the Black Mercy plant.

Along the way, we get Captain Exposition telling us that the power rings record events as "evidence", Despero's a mean guy, and Guy Gardner is a jackass.

Hal's also in full-on asshat mode, as he blows off his brother (who, I might add, relocated his family back to Coast City at Hal's request) when said brother asks Hal to drop in on the family and just spend a little quality time with them. What a jerk.

I'm going all self-referential in this post, but this comic is a perfect example of what I meant here. It's straight-line, perfectly serviceable, workmanlike, and...dull. Apart from the semi-neat reveal at the end (that we all saw coming anyway, thanks to it being telegraphed 3 pages in advance), there's nothing here that completely sucks or that rises above the average.

And for the record, I think they played the "Hey, everybody! Hal and Ollie are back together again!" card waaaaaay too soon in the relaunch. But that's just me.

Best Moment: "Ring. Ignore Guy Gardner."

Worst Moment: Hal's "I'm too busy to save the world to visit with my family who just relocated against their better judgment to a deserted city because I laid a Kilowog-sized guilt trip on my brother" attitude.

Comic Goodness: 2/5. Not horrible, but not much there. Next issue could be interesting, because of the Black Mercy plot device, and I'm a GL fan in general anyway, so I think this comic always has a shot at being interesting.


Well, well, well.

So, in this issue, Bludhaven gets gassed, Superboy-Prime fights a lot of people, Alex Luthor's plan comes to fruition as Earth-2 rematerializes, Crispus Allen gets a new gig as the Spectre, and we learn that Luthor's actual plot involves mastery of the entire universe, not just recreating Earth-2.


Damn you, Johns. Damn your cold, black heart, for pushing the fanboy buttons and delivering some really well done moments. And I mean, REALLY well done.

To me, there are three key components to this issue.

1. Superboy's childish, petulant rage and self-centeredness that ends up with him going "Kill Bill" on a few heroes, including him kicking Krypto the Superdog, and if you don't think there's a special place in hell for those who kick dogs --- much less Kryptonian Super Dogs --- then you, my friend, are sorely mistaken.

2. The destruction (I think) of the Speed Force. This happens when Wally, Bart Allen, Max Mercury, Jonny Quick, Jay Garrick and Barry Allen (yup) combine forces to drive the rampaging Superboy back to...somewhere. Anyhoo, it's a nice Speed Force family moment, and I was actually really, really sad when Wally said goodbye to his wife and kids. Then I was really, really touched when Linda and the kids decided that wherever Wally was going, they were going to follow. And they did. I thought that was just exceptional.

3. But the money shot in this book is the conversation between Batman and Nightwing, where Bruce basically admits that he's been a complete dick (HAR!) to those that matter, and goes with his hat in his hand to Nightwing. It's a conversation that has the ring of truth, the smell of foreboding, and the texture of forgiveness that only comes with unconditional respect and love. I freely admit that I actually got choked up over this. And I'm a 30 year old man who didn't even cry at my own wedding.

Overall, the series is still meh. Story be damned at this point; I couldn't care less how the series ends up, because I'll still be buying DC comics whether there's a multiverse or not (and DC knows it). Just keep giving me moments like these in comics.

Well played, Johns. Well played.

Best Moment:

Bruce: "The early years. I've forgotten if......they were good for you, weren't they?"

Dick: "The best."

Worst Moment: OK, I could have done without seeing Superboy decaptiate, dismember, and incinerate other human beings. Really. It was over the top.

Comic Book Goodness: 4/5. I don't care that I'm being shamelessly manipulated by corporate concerns. The moments absolutely made this book worth picking up, whether I care about the Infinite Crisis or not. Those moments push the book from mediocre to pretty good, though on an individual issue basis I'd probably still give the series a 3/5 overall.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Eh...a review or two

So here I am waiting for this beta game to download...and I'm like 566/618 in line waiting. What better to pass the time than a couple of reviews. I'll dig right in, and as usual, no or very few spoilers. I try for very few.

Ares: God of War
Part I of V

Lets just say that my Bachelors degree is in Classical Archaeology. Because it is. That may be one of those other reasons why I seem to be drawn to those books that involve mythos and gods and the like. So I did not pick up Ares the first week. Read a few things about it, and people seemed to like it. Alright, fine Marvel, here's my $3. Lets see how this one goes. (Yes, I WAS DUMB enough to be suckered to buy many of the House of M tie-ins.) HEY CHRIS- can you compare Iron Man- House of M and the Warren Ellis crap? Now yer talking. Anyways...ooops, 485 out of 748 in line now...progress.

Ares. It was decent. Was it too hyped by other readers? Yep. But it was a good tale. Some fun "history" reading on Ares. And then Oeming brings him to the now world, kid in tow. That will be a whole 'nother storyline at some point. I do love the little snippets and how-to's he passes on to his son. Must be Ares. It was a great setup for the rest of the series.

The art- oddly pastel. But that was fine. I didn't expect pretty for this. The beginning pages were very nicely done though.

And, as Chris references how "Ares will find a way to squiggle into the New "LameAss" Avengers", I disagree. I think that the way Oeming sets up Ares in this book, he has no place being in a group, being a hero or, even being in Olympus. But, he IS still better than lame-o Sentry.

I'll give the next one or two of this a try. Not like Ghost Rider, which I gave up after issue 2. That went south fast.

Overall Rating: 3/5. I thought about a 2. But it wasn't that bad. The first few pages really made the book for me. And the teachings to his son made me laugh.

415/810. Sigh. I'll get this downloaded eventually.

Uncanny X-Men #468
Deathmark: Grey's End
Part 3 of 3

I bought this book by mistake. I buy like one X-Men book. I thought this was the right one. It wasn't. Now, before I begin, to be fair, I don't buy this one. I don't know the storylines. This is a part 3 of 3. That said:

What a pile of shit. The writing was so bad I had to start skimming the pages hoping this crap would finally end. Sometimes, with an in-the-middle book, you could figure out what was going on. Enjoy some of the art at least. The most enjoyment I had from this book was: a.) putting it down & b.) writing up how bad this crap was.

Now, there were Shi'ar. There was a Skrull. So, my first question was, where are Earth's Mightiest Heroes? Oh yeah, that book doesn't exist. I have a bunch of Newbs. Shi'ar are cool, hell Skrull warriors are cool. They have no business being wasted in this book.

Now, I feel a bit bad for those of you dedicated readers who do enjoy this book, who like Chris Claremont, who do know the storyline.
The characters bored me, the cool aliens were wasted in this trash book and, from he who has nothing against Chris Claremont, seems a waste of talent.

Overall Rating: 0/5. I liked nothing in this book. I don't care that I wasted $3. I do care that I wasted 10 minutes of my life on this. Hell, if I wanted to waste 10 minutes and $3, I coulda at least gotten a book with like skimpy babes or something. Hmm....

247/799...I"m getting there.
I just realized I have no wine glasses. I have to drink my wine from a pilsner. Its just not right.

Son of M
Gene Pool
Part 2 of 6

This is the only Decimation series that I am actually buying. Chris has kindly let me read Deadly Genesis, which I have enjoyed. And, I am enjoying Son of M. Including this one. He's always been an ass. He always will be an ass. I'd like to say I can relate to that, but I'm not an ass....most times.

And, the Inhumans show up. I like the Inhumans. I can't explain why. They fascinate me I think. And, when Crystal was in THE Avengers, those were actually a pretty good read, though kind of a f'ed up team at that time. They were still THE Avengers at least. This book was Pietro at his usual, being an ass.

I like where the book is going. I do like how the Inhumans, rather some of their umm..technology fit into the scheme suddenly. The story flows well. The accompanying characters, here such as Luna and Crystal, really stand out.

One thing I did notice is that almost everyone has no expression, or the same expression, which goes back to none. Only Luna, the innocent child, has a smile in this entire book. Its kinda spooky.

Overall rating: 3/5. I am enjoying this series. And, I think its funny seeing Flash DVD sales on Marvel books. I know its not the first or last time, but its still funny. Ah marketing. We are all slaves to marketing.

That's all for the Marvel for now. Been very slow in the Marvel world for me in the last couple of weeks. Depending on where I am in line, maybe I'll get to pop on and do a couple of DC reviews.

140/836....soooo close...

And You Thought The Name "Spider-Man" Was Kind Of Hokey?

So, I recently acquired Marvel's Classic What If... TPB, Volume 2. As a kid, I remember loving What If stories (and to a large extent still do today).

In this volume, we get 5 stories of varying quality, mostly written by Don Glut, with a notable exception being a Jack Kirby written and drawn issue. Since I couldn't get my regular comic books today, I'll settle for reviewing one of the stories in this little gem. Apologies in advance to Dave's Long Box, which is the absolute apex of this particular kind of blog entry.

Anyway, on to the review!

What If...Someone Else Besides Spider-Man had been Bitten By The Radioactive Spider?

(Note: This is not the same thing as saying, "What If Someone Else Had Become The Amazing Spider-Man?". The reasons for me pointing this out will become clear.)

This leads off the book with Spidey doing his usual bitching and moaning about how nothing goes right for him, loneliness, et bloody cetera. He saves a Hispanic kid from falling to his death from leaning out a window, and said kid thanks "El Hombre Arana". Then the Watcher, looking like an irradiated baby, shows up to tell Parker to quit whining about how his life sucks, because if he hadn't become Spider-Man then...well...we'll get there. You'll see. It's a big cheat at the end.

Cue the What If... !

It's basically 3 vignettes theorizing about what might have happened if someone besides Peter Parker had been bitten by the Spider Heard Round The World, and it's impressive how freaking morbid the whole experience turns out to be.

First up is Flash Thompson, and Flash muscles Pete out of the way and gets chomped by the spider. So what does Flash do? First discovering his powers of spider strength, spider sense, and wall crawling, Flash proceeds to save his two girlfriends (who are cooing over him like vampire succubi) from being run over by an oncoming car.

Now there's out-of-the-box thinking! Instead of hurling the endangered Brides of Dracula out of the way, Flash chooses to throw an occupied automobile across the street.

Flash then decides that he's going to enter the wrestling contest against Crusher Hogan. While administering the sleeper hold, he breaks Hogan's neck and kills him. Whoopsie!

On the run from the police, Flash Thompson atones for his sins by using his powers to fight crime and do good as...Captain Spider! I am not making this up.

Two things about the panel above:

1. I seriously thought upon first glance that someone had lit Captain Spider's head on fire, until I realized that it was just a case of Flash's hair peeking out of the costume.

2. "...the cape makes it!" Yes, Flash. The cape makes it stupid.

Captain Spider enjoys a life of beating up the Chameleon, the Tinkerer, and other classic foes, until he decides that he's going after the Vulture.

Long story short: Captain Spider grabs on to the Vulture, Vulture takes flight, Vulture kicks Captain Spider off, Captain Spider falls 500 feet to his death.

For you see, True Believers...Flash Thompson was a spider without a web, never having been smart enough to develop webshooters or webbing of any kind. This particular vignette is notable for Peter Parker's man-crush on Captain Spider as he watches from afar, even crying like an angry, psychotic lover at discovering the corpse at the end:

Next up is Betty Brant, who gets the her mojo on as Spider-Girl after she's bitten. She confides in Pete, who helps her realize the nature of her powers and who, perhaps having had nightmares about the heartbreak of losing a certain Captain Spider, graciously develops webshooters for Betty to use.

Betty takes the next logical step, which is designing a trampy costume:

"He may even pay a few extra bucks for the 'leg-art' angle!"

Apparently the Daily Bugle, in addition to having a News, Sports, Life, and Money sections, has a Sunday Porn Supplement?!? Yes, sah! That's just wrong on so many levels.

And, Betty, hon? That costume is...bad. My God, it looks like something you'd buy in the "Superhero Fetish" section of Sneaky Pete's Porn Villa.

(Um....let's move on.)

Pete acts as her accomplice, snapping photos for the Bugle and making sure her secret identity is kept concealed, all the while keeping the negatives safe until he can offload them to a publisher in the Carribean who pays up front for....never mind.

It's all steaming along merrily until Betty runs out of web fluid when a robber runs by her.

(If you don't see where this story is going right now, hand over your long box and proceed to the exit.)

Unable to stop him, the two head back to Pete's for a roast beef dinner, where they find Uncle Ben murdered...BY THE SAME MAN SPIDER-GIRL COULDN'T STOP! DUN-DUN-DUNNNNNNNNNNN!

Unable to handle the responsibility, Betty throws the costume in the trash and vows never to get involved with superheroing again. Presumably she'll live out the rest of her days as a carnival performer or government assassin. I know I would.

Now comes the weirdest story --- John Jameson, JJ's son, gets the bite. JJ hounds him into using his powers for national glory and triumph, and so is born Spider-Jameson, The Super Astronaut! Sigh. No, that's not me, that's really what they call him.

JJ ends up becoming the foremost champion for superheroes, is very proud of his son, and ends up blaming himself when Spider-Jameson ends up being the meat in a space capsule-and-mountain sandwich:

Like I said, weird. He actually refers to his son as "Spider" in his moment of shock and grief, like it's his new first name! This particular episode revolves entirely around how JJ used his son to sell papers, then ends up a better, more understanding and caring person after John gets killed.

The Watcher wraps things up by explaining that in all three stories, Peter Parker goes on to replicate the spider-bite by concocting a formula and doing naked shuttle runs wearing only his peach-colored socks:

So Peter ends up being Spider-Man anyway! In EVERY SINGLE REALITY! Apparently, there is no reality that existed where Peter Parker didn't end up being Spider-Man, which is a statement with some fairly depressing Nietzchean consequences if you think about it.

But I guess the main point is that:

A) Flash Thompson didn't have the brains.
B) Betty Brant didn't have the courage.
C) John Jameson didn't have the ability to withstand being smushed by a space capsule into a mountain.
D) Peter Parker has all the necessary traits to do whatever a spider can, up to and including naked shuttle runs in peach-colored socks.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Yesterday's News --- Today!

So, I was marveling (HAR!) at what a crappy week last week was in comics --- so crappy that I had only one come in, and didn't even bother reviewing it (Hawkman, and it was Rann/Thanagar nonsense).

When I realized that the April solicitations came out.

I stopped reading Previews awhile back, because I don't like spoilers three months in advance. But I'm going to try something here. Remember February's solicits? No, neither do I. But now that February is almost upon us, I figured I'd take a look at them, because I'm strapped for material and I need something for today because reviews won't go up until Thursday. What better way to fill blog space than to remember the Hype From Three Months Ago! And I'm doing it without cover shots, because A) it takes too damn long, and B) let's judge the prose on its own merits, hmmmm?

Warning: This is going to be a looooooooong entry, because of the meticulous copy/paste job I'm doing. So bear with me, or just faff off if you get bored two paragraphs into the darn thing. Don't worry, I'm not doing the ENTIRE Marvel solicits, just the ones that provoked a thought from me (insert joke here). Also, feel free to tell me in the comments section whether this is worth doing on a monthly basis.


"A guilt-ridden Reed Richards attempts to undo his greatest failure by using time travel to fix the snag that caused the teleportation accident which resulted in Ben Grimm's becoming the Thing. If it works, Ben will be Ben and the Thing will never have existed. And neither will the F.F. Be careful what you wish for."

I'm going way out on a limb here, but I'm guessing that Ultimate Thing never existing will result in Ultimate Thor becoming president. A perfect example of a crappy preview, because the arc title gives away the crux of the story, while the text attempts to make a mystery of it. Randy really likes this comic. I view it with mostly apathy.

"Doctor Bruce Banner. Mass Murderer. Responsible for the death of hundreds in New York City. Now, he wanders the globe in search of inner peace-in an attempt to never again unleash the monster within. Banner travels through Paris, Ireland, India, and finally to the hills of Tibet...where at last he finds Nirvana. And that is precisely when Wolverine shows up. To kill him. Let the games begin. Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof and superstar Leinil Francis Yu continue the fight of a lifetime!"

Didn't the game begin in issue 1? And how the hell are they going to make this last 6 issues? Issue 1 was OK, but I'm not really inspired to read issue 2. Which is a shame, because Ultimate Bruce Banner is one of the more compelling characters in the Ultimate U.

"It's a hot time in the old town as our young X-Men's romances flair up or fizzle out. And while Cupid is keeping busy there, a solitary Wolverine must face a dreaded foe from the past who comes back to haunt him with unbearable secrets that have been buried for years. Part 2 (of 3)"

Read that last sentence, the part where Wolverine faces a foe from the past who haunts him with buried secrets...zzzzzz....whoa! I'm awake! Really! Given that hoary plot, shouldn't it read "Part 176 of Infinity"?

"Clothes make the man. At least that's what Tony Stark seems to think. Transformed by his experiences during "The Other" saga, Peter Parker stands poised for the next chapter of his life. And to mark the occasion, Tony has got a very special present: a new Spider-Man costume that's certain to raise eyebrows!"

Hey, Tony's giving Spidey a new costume to "mark the occasion"! What are you doing to mark the occasion? I bet you had nothing planned, did you? Might I suggest pointing and laughing at those who buy this comic?

"Presenting "Weblog," an off-beat Spidey tale which starts at the very beginnings of Spider-Man's career and goes all the way through to the distant future...as seen through the eyes of a woman who is convinced that the web-slinger has been stalking her her entire life."

This actually sounds halfway interesting, since it's written by Peter David, drawn by Mike Wieringo, and sounds like a one-off not mired in continuity or Mega Event Foundation Laying(TM).

"The Hurtful Thing"
"Life seems to be going pretty good for Mary Jane, so naturally that means something has to come along and muck things up. This time, she has to contend with her newest girlfriend, Lindsay Leighton, dating her ex-boyfriend, Harry Osborn! Is Harry using Lindsay to get back at MJ, or is something far more sinister at hand?"

People tell me this is a good comic. Tell you what: take out the focus on Mary Jane, the 90210-like relationships, the manga-esque art, and teen angst. Then I'll start reading this comic. Until I have reliable reports of this happening, this just isn't my bag, baby. No offense to Sean McKeever, who's pretty good in his own right.

ARES #2 (of 5)
"Ares -- The God of War -- is missing. The Norse gods are dead. And now, Zeus, surveying his kingdom from the bloodstained walls of Olympus, finds the great warrior Mikabusi and his forces gathered below, swords drawn, bows flexed, vengeance in the air. The siege of Olympus has begun. And Zeus knows that if his kingdom is to survive, his greatest warrior - Ares - must return. At any cost. Even if it means kidnapping his grandson and lying to his son. You haven't seen wrath until you're standing between the God of War and his only child."

I'm betting Ares finds his way into Not Avengers (TM Kelvingreen) after this is all over. And I dimly recall this exact same plot from a Thor run some years ago. And shouldn't it be part of the job description that if you're a God Of Fill-In-The-Blank-Here that you're not allowed to just "go missing" without nominating a stand-in? What if the God of The Laws of Physics decides to go missing? Or the God of Oxygen? (I know, I know. It's late.)

"Two the Hard Way"
"To every King, a bride -- and that's exactly what The Black Panther is searching for! But first, he's got to travel down South for a rendezvous with Blade, Brother Voodoo, the Next Wave's Monica Rambeau, and an endless horde of good old boy vampires. Jump on board here, True Believer, as BLACK PANTHER revs up to an event of cataclysmic proportions."

Aside from stints with the Avengers, has Black Panther ever been even remotely involved in an event of "cataclysmic" proportions? Unless you want to call the suck-tasticness of the first 6 issues of the BP relaunch an "event". Still, the plot sounds entertaining enough.

Part One: "Kasserine Pass"

"Before he presided over S.H.I.E.L.D., before he ran with the Howling Commandos, Sgt. Nick Fury fought on the blood-stained sands of the Tunisian desert. It was here that he came face to face with the incomparable might of the 21st Panzer Division and its skilled warrior commander -- General Stephen Barkhorn -- and barely lived to tell about it. And it was there that he got a second chance at life...and revenge. In this gripping limited series, Garth Ennis (Ghost Rider, Punisher) and Darick Ropbertson (Punisher: Born) offer a never-before-seen glimpse into the soul of a warrior you only think you know."

Is this the same Nick Fury that Ennis so reverently depicted sleeping with 3 hookers in Punisher? Because I think I know enough about that Nick Fury now, thanks. Also, what the hell is a guy named "Stephen Barkhorn" doing commanding a Panzer division?

"Origins and Endings," Part 4 of 5
"The secret is out. Wolverine remembers. Everything. The entire blood-stained tapestry of his long, tortured life. And now that's it's been laid out before him in vivid detail, there's only one question: What's his first move? Well, whatever it is, it's brought him to Russia for an encounter with the legendary warrior known as the Winter Soldier. One thing's for sure -- they're headed for a major turf battle. Question is, can they find common ground?"

Because when you think of Wolverine's "turf", you think of Russia. And when you think of "legendary warrior", you think of Winter Soldier. Here's a wild guess: fighty-fight-fight-fight, followed by a standoff where they trade a few words about respecting each other as warriors and then wander off into the mists of what passes for continuity at Marvel. I just saved you all three dollars.

"Sometimes, your favorite super heroes just need a little love. Help us pay homage to the romance comics of yesteryear with five two-fisted, love-centric one-shots in the Mighty Marvel Manner. They're all perfect to share with that special someone this Valentine's Day."

I (MIDDLE FINGER) Marvel. None of these look even marginally readable.

"The Handbook from A to Z rolls on - including bios on Bedlam, Big Wheel, the Golden Age Black Widow, Blizzard, the Brood, Bruiser, Bug, Buzz, Captain Universe, the Celestials, Chamber, the Collector and more! While the Handbooks of the past two years focused on specific themes, this twelve-issue monthly series will extend the coverage to all Marvel's characters, teams, objects, events, and places - plus past, future and alternate Earths. The spotlight will fall on more than 600 profiles -including new characters, characters who never received a profile and those needing major updates."

I applaud Marvel for doing this, but I'll stick to my Essential version of this, and why don't they just do a damn encyclopedia like DC?

"Fan-favorite creators Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting bring the most talked-about Captain America story in 40 years to a heartbreaking conclusion. Cap faces down his personal demons, in a hand-to-hand battle with the Winter Soldier. But he's not just fighting for victory, he's in a struggle for the heart and soul of everything he's ever cared about, and the results will send tragic echoes throughout his life for years to come! Part 6 (of 6)"

40 years. Hmmm. So this is the most talked-about Cap story since 1966? Memo to Marvel: do not make Captain America just another tragic-partner-killing-asshat like Batman. Just don't. Captain America is ten times more interesting when he's not mopey.

"The noose begins to tighten as Iron Man's enemies are getting closer to acheiving their goal. As Tony Stark's experiments to save the Living Laser come closer to success, it also makes him a target for another industrial espionage assault on Stark International headquarters. It's Iron Man vs. the Ghost: Round Two!"

I just made Joe Casey a beneficiary in my will.

"Savage alien planet. Oppressed barbarian tribes. Corrupt emperor. Deadly woman warrior. Gladiators and slaves. Battle axes and hand blasters. Monsters and heroes...And the Incredible Hulk! Let the smashing commence! PLANET HULK BEGINS!!!"

OK, I'm positive this has been done before in Hulk. Or maybe it's just really bad fan fiction. Or both.

"Who - or what - is the Wani? And can Tako Shamara, latest in the line of men trained to combat the creature, stay its wrath? It's a question of honor as the Dragon Lord debuts in MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #5 (March 1980). Plus: A colorful new bouncing, brawling crimebuster bursts forth in in SPEEDBALL #1 (September 1988). Also featuring "The Man in the Sky" from AMAZING ADULT FANTASY #14 (July 1962) - the first Marvel mutant story!?"

I thought this was a joke. Seriously. I can only assume this is a "milestone" in the same way that getting your first felony conviction, your first sexually transmitted disease, or your first execution as a traitor can be considered "milestones".

"Here it is, True Believers! You knew we'd do it sooner or later! From the Venerable Vaults of Marveldom, it's the Mighty Marvel Handbook -- 1960s style! Just what is the 1960s Handbook, you ask? Imagine a Handbook written at 11:59 p.m. Dec. 31, 1969. The profiles within cover everything published by the hallowed House of Ideas up until that point. So if it's from a comic that has a December 1969 cover date or earlier, you'll find it in this magnificent mag! From the Acrobat to Zota -- with the Avengers, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Daredevil, Dr. Strange, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, the Silver Surfer, Spider-Man, the Sub-Mariner, Thor and the X-Men as they were in the 1960s, as well as '60s-era characters such as Factor Three, the Beasts of Berlin, Chili, the Infant Terrible, Mogul of the Mystic Mountain, the Painter of 1000 Perils, the Living Brain, Patsy Walker, the Blackie Drago Vulture, the Ringo Kid and more!"

This will either be a fun bit of kitsch or completely irrelevant and overpriced. I'm betting on it being both, but hell yeah, I'm buying it.

"A very special prologue issue introduces the biggest NEW AVENGERS arc yet! After the horrifying events of House of M the planet Earth has changed beyond description... and thus the Collective is born. That's right! Its a brand new Marvel threat for the brand new Avengers. Plus, this issue Guest Stars Alpha Flight... in their final battle!!"

"Very Special Prologue Issue" = Nothing Much Happens. You know, if there's a surefire way to spice up a boring Avengers book, it's to include Alpha Flight, in their 142nd Final Battle!! Stupid Marvel. And I'm assuming that "biggest arc yet" means 8 or 9 issues. The book gets dropped this month, because I can't pay for this train wreck anymore.

"This Wednesday, WEDNESDAY, Wednesday!! Witness the fight to end all fights!!! (Well, until next issue.) Aaron Stack (just don't call him Machine Man) takes on Fin Fang Foom in a knock-down drag-out slug-fest! While his robotic body digests in Fin's belly, the rest of the NEXTWAVE squad has to defeat the deadly Human Resource Department of their former bosses, the Highest Anti-Terroism Effort (H.A.T.E.)! PLUS: Things explode!! Pick up the comic that had Albert Einstein saying, "I haven't had this much fun since my college days at Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule!""

Please, please, please don't let this book suck. Please. The potential-O-meter is very, very high here, I think, and you can take that any way you want to.

SENTRY #6 (of 6)
"In order to come to grips with the madness that has been tearing him apart, the Sentry must trace the roots of his forgotten origin, to learn who and what he truly is!"

Didn't we do this already? Seriously. We did this already. It was in Not Avengers.

"One is a villain that has been plaguing civilization since the time of the Pharaohs. The other is the deadliest vampire to ever walk the earth. It's the battle to end all battles as Apocalypse confronts Dracula! Enemies since the Crusades, they've met again in 19th century London. It's four issues of Victorian mayhem, and it starts here!"

When this was originally solicited, someone on the comicsblogosphere said that this is either the best or the worst idea Marvel has ever had. Couldn't have put it better myself. If Marvel have any stones at all, they'll give Frank Drake or Rachel Van Helsing a cameo appearance.

"The Kree are one of the Fantastic Four's oldest enemies; the Shi'ar, one of the X-Men's oldest allies. But it's the Avengers who are caught in the middle when the two alien races wage a war to re-write Marvel's map of the universe! As two-legged WMDs land on Earth, the Avengers end up as alien invaders on wartorn worlds of wonder, both as a unit and individually! Featuring the Imperial Guard! Starforce! Deathbird! Thor vs. Gladiator! Super heroes from three galaxies and more clash in the first half of the story that shook the team to its foundations! Collects CAPTAIN AMERICA #398-399, AVENGERS WEST COAST #80-81, QUASAR #32-33, WONDER MAN #7-8, AVENGERS #345-346, IRON MAN #278 and THOR #445."

It's about friggin' time! This is some good comics. Read it and remember when the Avengers were, you know, cool.

Whew! Well, that's what caught my eye for next month. Again, let me know if this was worth doing at all or just rehashed pap. I'll probably do the same for DC next week, unless there's an overwhelming "I Say Thee, Nay!" in the comments section.

But It Always Lands Buttered Side Down

I made this point on the Marvels and Legends blog a few weeks ago in the comments section, but I feel it bears repeating. So Calvin Pitt can probably skip this entry. Kay? Kay.

Geoff Johns is a a piece of toast.

Let me explain.

I like Geoff Johns. I've never met him in person, but he seems a decent sort and obviously he's a good enough writer to be handed the reigns of comicdom's most venerable universe. He sells a lot of books, has a way with sorting out convoluted continuities and generally doesn't pee in the punch bowl while doing it.

Geoff Johns is comfort food.

See, let's say your stomach is rumbly. Something's not quite right. A little nausea, a little of the urpies. Maybe you've downed your fourth pizza today, maybe you're nervous because you have a big meeting at work to sell the CEO on the idea of the Bumper Dumper. Whatever. The point is, you need a calming influence.

So what do you do? You make some toast in an attempt to calm the rebels waging war in your lower GI. You eat the toast, and everything's better.

Geoff Johns is toast.

Here's the thing about comfort food: it's guiltless, and you generally eat it to make you feel better. There are times when you MUST HAVE comfort food, because nothing else will do. But you don't want to eat it every day, and you certainly don't make it for dinner if you're trying to impress friends. At the end of the day, toast has its place in your life, and it's a solid stalwart in times of need.

But comfort food is rarely outstanding. Toast alone does not a great snack make. But if you add a few ingredients to the toast, it can become nothing shy of culinary brilliance. A little butter, a little jam, maybe even a pickle and some cheese, and you've got a decent sandwich.

Geoff Johns writes competently, can tell a story, and does a decent job with characterization. I just don't think he's (so far) done anything worth raving about. (No, not even JSA. He's made it readable, not great, and those are two very different things.)

Let's go back to the stomach analogy. Let's say your tummy hurts. We'll call that "continuity" or "poorly written comic that should sell more because of the characters involved but doesn't". You eat some toast, which we'll call "Geoff Johns". After awhile, the tummy starts to feel better, returning to normal. And that's fine.

But you can only eat toast for so long before you'd like, say, a salad, or a hamburger, or something that has some actual flavor to it. (We'll call that Grant Morrison, Kyle Baker, or Mark Waid.) And you remember what it was like to eat something that really made you think, "Man, that was a good meal."

(On the flip side, Frank Miller has turned into the week-old meatball sandwich you left in the fridge but have convinced yourself will still be good after a few minutes in the microwave, then spend the next two days regretting it in a variety of stomach-content-expelling ways.)

There's a reason why Johns was handed the DCU but Morrison is Supreme Director of Ideas and Magick, or whatever the hell title they handed him. Johns I think is an above average writer, but hasn't taken the next step, which I think is taking chances, doing something different, and pushing the envelope. I think the dearth of great writing in Big Two comics today elevates Johns' rep higher than it probably should be.

And a lot of us who read comics like comfort food. I know I do. (Hell, that's why I read superhero comics from DC and Marvel). But I'm starting to feel sort of a rote, middle-of-the-road, groove to Johns' books that just tastes bland at this point. He needs to shake out of the groove and do something...else with his comics. I can't quite put my finger on it, and I don't want this to seem like a hatchet job, because I really do think he is one of the better writers out there. But when was the last time you picked up a Geoff Johns comic and thought, "Maybe something will take me completely by surprise?"

I think Geoff Johns has a brilliant story in him somewhere. Infinite Crisis will not be it, because Infinite Crisis is a giant plot device, as pointed out on Comics Should Be Good.

Personally, if I was DC, I'd take him off of everything after this Crisis hoo-ha is over with and give him Starman. I think his Golden Age sensibilities fit perfectly with the character. And the character's not so property-driven that he'd have to conform to merchandising rules or cautions about how the character is depicted, so that DC doesn't have to worry about kids carrying lunchboxes that depict a child-abusing paranoiac stalker. (URP---sorry, looks like that meatball sandwich is coming back for round 2.)


Maybe it's hoping too much to expect anything new from DC or Marvel, but that's the easy way out, and I don't believe that, either. So, come on, Geoff! You can do it, man! You're in as close a position as anyone at DC to write your own ticket at this point and take some chances!

And I'm really getting tired of toast.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Ye Olde Comick Booke Blogge

Due to its numeric nomenclature, 2 Guys Buying Comics is a bit restrictive to the number of writers we can add to the roster. This is Chris and Randy's party and I was always taught to leave a party before you're asked to. I was invited to fill in the second guy buying comics role while Randy was off to India, but now he's back, so I should take my cue to fade to black.


While I may show up here to contribute every now and again, my faithful readers--both of you--can continue to read my insights and (more likely) rants at Ye Olde Comick Booke Blogge. For the last month or so, I've been posting identical columns both here and there, so now I'm going to just post there and stop copying and pasting over here.

Feel free to bookmark it and add it to your links in the margins of your own blogs. See you there.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Let it go, Rob. Let it go.

Taking shots at Rob Liefeld is the comic blogger's equivalant to when TV reporters cover the "breaking news" that a lot of people go shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. It's not news, everyone else is doing it, you're pretty much a hack when you resort to it, but if you don't do it, readers/viewers wonder what's wrong with you.

I'd hoped I could put off Liefeld mockery for a while, but as mentioned in previous posts, until about two weeks ago, I hadn't organized my new comics in more than a year and a half and found several things I either have no recollection of picking up in the first place or that I can't believe I've held on to for this long. In that latter category falls Youngblood: Bloodsport #1.

First, I bought this at the 2004 San Diego Con while in line for a sketch from Rob Liefeld because there Rob was doing "free" sketches for anyone who bought at least ten dollars worth of Youngblood books. Semantics aside, his complimentary sketches were very nice, so I waited in line and bought a copy of Bloodsport and one of Genesis (which credits Kurt Busiek as a co-writer despite Busiek's insistance his name be removed from the book) both of which were a year old and neither of which had yet published a second issue.

I didn't even read the book until a week or two later when I was too lazy to get off the couch and find a decent novel or a magazine. It was bad--not that anyone should be too surprised by that review--and I'm not sure how it wound up back in a short box of "to be filed" comics instead of the trash. Anyway, a few weeks ago, I found it again and leafed through it. I remembered the overall plot, but had forgotten about Rob Liefeld's bitterness toward Marvel that oozes from the book. I explained it to Robby and Chris and when I realized they'd never seen the book, I wagered most decent comic fans hadn't unless they'd picked it up for the sole purpose of meeting a sawbuck quotato get a free Rob Liefeld sketch at a convention.

For those who don't know or don't remember, Youngblood members are superstars in their world. This book opens with Seahawk and Battlestone relaxing in a hot tub on the balcony of a penthouse apartment, snorting coke while surrounded by dozens of top-heavy bikini girls. Battlestone also informs us they are also getting their "cocks sucked by two up-and-coming super-teens." Seahawk, however, is bored.Yes, that subtle reference I've highlighted is exactly what you'd expect. In fact, just a few frames later, Liefeld makes sure anyone who didn't catch the written words doesn't miss out.Yes, Rob, we get it. Marvel's heroes suck your heroes' dicks. Very clever.

The next scene involves Shaft fighting the reanimated corpses of Dr. Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders who have stolen a strand of Supreme's pubic hair from the museum. It's enough to make even thirteen year old boys everywhere roll their eyes, and, in comparison, the secretary from Fell talking about her husband fucking the dog seems discreet and refined. Once Shaft defeats the bad guys and recovers the... sigh... pubic hair, he heads off to meet with Badrock before they go to a top secret meeting for former Youngblood members.

The meeting is held in a secret underground fortress beneath a porn shop, but not just any porn shop...... a porn shop run by Stan Lee and frequented by Ben Grimm! And what's the password to get in? "Great power requires great responsibility and all that shit, dude."

A short elevator ride later and they are reunited with Wolverine, Deadpool, Cable, Jubilee, Stryfe, shorter Cable, Domino, Firestorm, Domino without a spot on her eye, dark haired Cannonball, Sabretooth, Wolverine/Oberon, Bishop, Boom Boom, Psylocke, and the Thing (sans neck).Actually, to reduce confusion between the Youngblooders and the characters from whom they were ripped off inspired, convenient name labels are attached. Among the things that stuck out to me:
  • The girl I thought looked like Psylocke is named Psilence.
  • How much do you think the black guy in the wheelchair paid to keep his name out of this?
  • There's a Die Hard 2.0?
  • Are Seoul and Doc Rocket thrusting their bare ass cheeks toward one another on purpose?
  • Seriously, Rubble? I mean, how does Jack Kirby's ghost not go poltergeist on Liefeld's house after that?
The reason everyone's been called together is that the government has decided to pit them all against one another in a fight to the death. The ultimate winner will join a cross-dimensional super team that will keep a thousand Earths safe.

Seahawk refuses to take part and gets his head blown off, prompting Battlestone to call the government representative who announced the deathmatch a "faggot." It's not often you find a homophobe who's just hours removed from getting blow jobs from two guys, but that's the rich character depth you've come to expect from Youngblood.

The book finishes with a two-page ad for Bloodsport #2 and another ad pointing out that whichever cover you purchased, there are four others, because apparently someone confused the date of publication and thought it was coming out in 1993 instead of 2003. Interestingly, two of the alternate covers are made to look like they are Marvel Ultimate books.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Day the Powers Died

About halfway through Daredevil #79, something hit me like a Circle K 40-ounce mug full of ice water dumped over the top of the curtain during a hot shower. I had to stop, go back a few pages, and reread to make sure I hadn't deceived myself, but sure enough there it was.

A Bendis sighting. Issue 80 confirmed it.

Somehow, Brian Michael Bendis, the man who'd brought us some of Daredevil's greatest stories, the gritty and dark Alias, the complete reimagining of an icon in Ultimate Spider-Man, and the groundbreaking Powers, had overpowered the hack who's been soiling his good name by plastering it on every mediocre book churned out by the Marvel machine.

It got we wondering when the imposter had first began the ruination of a good man's reputation. What was the point where it all went south for Bendis? The answer was actually much easier than I'd guessed.The fucking monkey issue of Powers.

And for those of you who didn't read it, I didn't say "fucking monkey issue" because I had a negative opinion of the monkeys--though I do--but rather because the entire issue is about apes having animalistic sex with each other.The only possible explanation was that Bendis had been knocked over the head and tied him up in his own basement, kept only conscious enough to endorse the checks sent to him by Marvel. Fortunately, he'd already submitted several issues worth of Daredevil and Ultimate Spidey scripts to artists, allowing those books to remain high quality for months following the assault, preventing many readers from even noticing the change. Before long, though, the Doppel-Bendis to take the reins.

Soon, we had Jean Grey switching Wolverine and Spidey's brains into the others' bodies. Daredevil fought a infant-sized demon. Ultimate Spider-Man substituted new Ultimized characters for plot development. Powers moved to Marvel and Alias became the yawn-inducing Pulse. A secret war was waged over the course of nearly two years. Hawkeye got killed, Scarlet Witch gained the power to alter the entire universe, and the Avengers broke up. When they got back together, Luke Cage, Spider-Woman, Sentry, and Echo/Ronin stole the spotlight. All the world was turned on its ear as mutants became the ruling majority, and all the heroes could do about it was talk and talk and talk some more.Oops, sorry about that. My... uh... finger slipped on the mouse.

As I was saying, as difficult as this time has been, there's light at the end of the tunnel. I have seen the coming of the Bendis and He shall rise up, rub salve on our wounds, comfort us in times of unrest, maketh us to lie down in green pastures, and smite our enemies!Okay, I admit it wasn't a mistake that time. Look, all this monkey humpin' is going somewhere. Somewhere big. Somewhere grand. To a height no blog has ever reached before. You just have to trust me. And keep reading everything I write. If I charge you money to read what I write, you should pay whatever it costs to keep reading because, seriously, dude, if you don't everyone else is going to be talking about it and I'm going to win awards for it and you're going to be the only schmuck who didn't read it.

So you'll keep reading? Good because...... now that I know this is all it's going to take to keep you enthralled, I don't have to put forth any more effort than this.

What simian ugly-bumping taught Bendis...'s evil twin was people would put up with garbage as long as his name was attached. Why take the time to craft a good four issue arc about Peter Parker when you can stretch it to nine issues by adding Ultimate Dreadknight, Ultimate Man-Thing (not to be confused with Giant-Sized Man-Thing), and Ultimate Karkas? Why write an Avengers book about the Avengers when you can fiddle around with fringe characters of the Marvel Universe and have Cap or Iron Man make an occassional cameo? Why continue expanding the character Jessica Jones, one of the most interesting original characters to hit Marvel in years, when you can just make her pregnant and whiny? Why concentrate on turning out four high quality books a month when you can crap out fifteen-plus, crossover all your characters from one to another, and plot and write every major event for the company?

More than anything, if readers keep buying every one of those abominations as they get pooped out, what reason is there to respect the readers?

The answer is simple.See you next time, idiots! suckers! morons! True Believers!

In Honor of the Metropolis Dairymen

When you have a problem, where do you turn? 911? Your best friend? Jesus?

Maybe, but what if you have a problem and actually want someone to help you? Then there's only one place to turn:


These unsung heroes typically tend to their cows, pasteurize their milk, and deliver high calcium goodness to the people of the City of Tomorrow, but you'd be wrong if you thought the service they provide this world ends there. The dairyman's catalog is usually limited in our immediate thoughts to milk, cream, and cheese, overlooking such fine bone-fortifying treats as fruit on the bottom yogurt, sour cream, and cottage cheese. Likewise, the dairy farmer's contribution to saving lives, solving crimes, and generally making the world a safer place to live is overshadowed by the vitamin D richness of whole, 2%, and skim.

Finally, Frank Miller and Jim Lee have taken it upon themselves to make sure these everyday heroes are ignored no longer. Bravo, gentlemen. And bravo again.

Prior to All-Star Batman & Robin #3, we all assumed the best way to get Superman's help in a crisis, personal or universe-threatening, was to scream in terror and hope his super-hearing would pick it up and spur him to response. Instead, apparently the direct line to Supes is through his fridge.

Two issues ago, Dick Grayson's parents were gunned down and Batman swept him away, blowing up about fifty Gotham City policemen in his wake. How does Superman learn the child's gone missing?

From his milk carton of course.

Sure, it may seem like the not-yet-Dynamic Duo has only been driving, flying, and submarining around town for less than 30 pages, but more than fifteen hours have passed. As we can see, however, it took only minutes for the fine dairymen of Metropolis to deliver the news, printed on Superman's half gallon of moo juice.

Hell, even the Daily Planet, the DC Universe's most trusted source for breaking news can't beat the milkman.From what I can tell, Superman, being the all-American boy, starts his day each morning with thirty-two ounces of the white stuff (chocolate on Saturdays). To help him set his schedule and prioritize which of the world's quandaries he should solve, the dairies print a new carton every night, listing the most urgent troubles facing the planet. Someone either beams it up to the JLA Watchtower where whomever is on duty beams it back into Clark Kent's refrigerator, or Krypto comes by the dairy to fetch the carton and return it to Clark's apartment before flying home to Connner.

That carton saves countless lives, reunites lost children with their parents, and has extracted countless kittens from trees.

God bless the Dairymen!