Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Keith Giffen Would Like To Say A Few Things

...52 of them, specifically. You can read the whole 52-item diatribe over at Wizard's web site (I know, I know).

SEE! The barely-concealed disdain for Greg Rucka!

THRILL! To the self-deprecating insights about making Montoya the Answer!

GASP! At the revelations that Giffen dosn't particularly like Steel or Lobo (or Greg Rucka)!

SMILE! At the thin veneer of courtesy with which Giffen covers his shots at Mark Waid, DC trade policies, and 52 art decisions with!

Seriously, it's fascinating stuff. I like Giffen myself, and it's refreshing to see someone who's still putting out quality work make a relatively candid list of things that he likes and dislikes about a recent mega-project.

Cranky old man, or just 52-related burnout? Dick, get on the case!

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

New Joe Mondays 4/23

OK, everyone, New Joe Mondays is up at Atomic, and you can read the whole thing here:

New Joe Mondays 4/23

Also, things are a bit crazy this week, so you probably won't hear from me again till next Monday. Unless something mind-boggingly stupid happens in the world of comics... um... yeah, never mind. Until then!


Friday, April 20, 2007

Two Thoughts

Friday fun! And sorry, no reviews, check back Monday.

Meantime, two things:

1) Actual Depressing Conversation:

ME: Man, I'm starting to think someone could make a really good movie out of this new run of X-Factor.

KILLJOY: Yeah, but you just know they'd cast Dane Cook as Madrox.

ME: ...

ME: ...

ME: Let's not speak of this again.

2) Check the following upcoming Marvel cover image:

My three immediate reactions:

A) Oh please oh please oh please oh please let the Hulk turn the Sentry into a human exclamation point.

B) Is that sad drunk lady intended to represent a comics fan or a Marvel editor?

C) Oh, so that's how the Superhero Registration Act makes the world safer.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Limited Fun With Old Marvel Web Pages

I now present a post comprised entirely of me making fun of old Marvel web pages; join me, won't you, as we walk down the hallowed halls of the halcyon days of 2005! Or something.

The lesson: archive your web pages as they become outdated, or risk jackasses like me taking cheap shots at your expense.

Let's begin!

1) Did anyone ever win this contest? I checked IMDB for the cast list, and they all seem like professional actors to me. Bonus fun: download the PDF scripts and create your own Ultimates 2 #13 comic!

2) The beginning of the end. Noteworthy for the downloadable "Who's dead?" cheat sheet gimmick they're reusing for World War Hulk, and the charmingly Stan Lee-esque exhortation, "Marvelites, be forewarned, while you need not buy every single issue of this blockbuster, you will want to once you see how the events of any -- nay, EVERY -- issue will ripple through each of your favorite titles for MONTHS to come!"

3) Hey kids! It's Marvel Monthly Newsletters! For the truly dedicated comics historian.

4) Remember this imprint? Actually, Runaways, Young Avengers, and Livewires were pretty good. Didn't read Spellbinders (no interest), Arana (is that still going with one of those months-long hiatus between "seasons", or was it cancelled?), or X-23 (the definition of "inessential".)

5) Ah, er, ummm... yeah, not so much. In retrospect, the phrase "best martial arts action this side of Bruce Lee" probably should never, ever be used.

6) The Marvel event of the decade! Well, the third one, anyway.

Reviews tomorrow!

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Better Know A Hero: Phantom Stranger

2 Guys Buying Comics has been apprised of the fact that a good portion of our visitors are just getting back into comics. We now present the fifth installation of our weekly feature, Better Know A Hero.

Name: Phantom Stranger

Also Known As: MISTER Phantom Stranger, SIR!

Origin: This one's a toughie, because DC's never really come outright and given us a definitive origin; there was a Secret Origins issue some years back that gave us three or four possible origins if I remember correctly, but nothing ever really got nailed down.

The beauty of that is that you get to project your own origin on one of DC's uber-characters! Want him to be a fallen angel cast down from Heaven? Okay, then! Want him to be the physical embodiment of the insane consciousness of the last member of a dying race of sentient alien fire hydrants? Done!

(Side Note: Don't laugh. You can't tell me that hasn't crossed Grant Morrison's mind once or twice. Grant, if you're reading: call me. I have ideas.)

Powers: Pick one. Energy bolts? Check. Teleportation? Sure, why not? While we're at it, let's throw in telepathy, omniscience, intangibility, the ability to drone on for hours about "dark portents" and "cosmic order" and anything else that was required in any given issue he showed up in. I'm dead serious --- near as I can tell, the one constant ability dude has was the ability to scare the living shit out of someone by appearing unannounced right in front of them. (Which is still a really cool power.) The point is, PS can do whatever the writer needs him to do.

How's The Costume?: Oh, man, there is a reason the Phantom Stranger is inherently cool, and the costume's a big part of it. That cape! That fedora! That massively oversized gold medallion! And what sensible slacks! PS was a hustler pimp daddy, the original gangsta with an ice-cold stare made all the creepier by the lack of pupils and shadow eternally cast over his eyes. (No, it's not actually a mask. I know, I was surprised too.)

Alter Ego: Phantom Stranger doesn't need an alter ego, Mortal.

Home Cookin': PS is a rolling stone; wherever he lays his hat is his home.

Chillin' At The Crib: Sometimes he hangs out at the Oblivion bar with the rest of the DCU magicky types, but I prefer to think that he has a lushly appointed swingin' bachelor pad complete with shag carpet and a beanbag chair he made out of the hides of demons.

Can He Fight?: It's really not so much about the fighting with PS as it is the stern looks, ominously vague prophetic warnings, and reality-altering magic that mysteriously at the last minute he won't use for fear of upsetting some cosmic balance or rulebook or some twaddle like that. So, um, yes in the sense that he scares away 99% of would be combatants before the fight ever starts; no in the sense that we rarely see him throw down.

Allies: He's actually a member of the Justice League, believe it or not, (though he never brings the things he signs up for to the potlucks). Cassandra Craft, Zatanna, and the Shadowpact are his most recent cohorts. Back in the day, ran with Swamp Thing and John Constantine, Vertigo-style.

Enemies: Whoever he damn well decides is going to be an enemy. Mostly anybody evil or threatening to upset the Cosmic Balance of Destiny, Order, And/Or Fate™.

Symbol: Taking suggestions, although I'm partial to either his big ol' medallion or the fedora.

Family Matters: Your guess is as good as mine, although he did have a very brief dalliance with Cassandra Craft once upon a time.

Might Be Cool To: Have him materialize in your neighbor's kitchen and steal all the ham out of their fridge, then repeat this several times a week until the neighbor goes mad, raving about the Ham-Thief Ghost as he's carted off to the looney bin while you and PS enjoy some ham sandwiches gratis. Go bowling with.

Under No Circumstances: Refer back to that time not so long ago when Mr. Big Bad Phantom Stranger was turned into a mouse by the Spectre. Yank his chain, literally or figuratively.

Annual Performance Review: The last I saw of PS, he was rebuilding the Rock of Eternity with the Shadowpact and beating down the Spectre. Let's face it: people are afraid to use the Phantom Stranger in their comics because they Cannot Deal With The Power. He was my choice to be a regular recurring character (or at least a narrator) for the new Brave and the Bold series, but Mark Waid and George Perez certainly don't need my input, thanks very much.

What Makes Him So Special, Anyway?: I have always adored the Phantom Stranger. He's dark, mysterious, typically alone, with vaguely defined powers and conflicting backstories. The Stranger's look is an iconic one; there's just something commanding about a strangely sinister-looking nigh-omnipotent dude in a zoot suit.

He's part Shadow, part Doctor Strange, part Omniscient Narrator and Greek Chorus, and immediately increases the cool factor of any comic he shows up in, even if that comic is Gotham County Line.

DC has produced a magnificent Showcase volume, as well, so check out the original stuff by John Broome and Carmine Infantino, although personally I prefer the mid-80's appearances and his cameo in the Zatanna series in which he goes out to buy bread. Seriously.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Ell. Oh. Ell.

Can't believe I missed this.

Eric Canete may be my new favorite artist.


Chris' Reviews: Random Edition!

Afternoon, everyone! Since the usual Joey Da Q interview over at the 'Rama was even less substantive that usual last week, no New Joe Mondays this week.

And so, I give you these quasi-reviews:

IRON MAN #16 --- Garbled storytelling up front almost torpedoes the issue in which Tony and Maya try to go all CSI on a terrorist corpse, but things brighten considerably when a shackled Mandarin goes medieval on his would-be rescuers. Also, absolutely brilliant work by Roberto de la Torre, who really cuts loose in the Mandarin scene. A confusing beginning and a hackneyed end drag the whole operation down, though. CBG: 2/5.

FELL #8 --- The densest issue so far, told entirely through Post-It notes attached to each panel, which are themselves photographs taken by Fell on a night in Snowtown. It's a "day-in-the-life" issue, and one that wraps up kind of sweetly (well, as sweet as Fell ever gets, anyway). Still love the art, still love the atmosphere. CBG: 3/5.

DETECTIVE COMICS #831 --- A cute Harley Quinn episode that only further serves to endear her to me, as she teams up with the new Ventriloquist for some hijinks that aren't what they appear to be. Good character issue for Harley, which should come as no surprise seeing as how Paul Dini is the author. Also a good scene at the end showing us once again that the new OYL Batman is much more of a good guy than the pre- Infinite Crisis jerkwad. CBG: 4/5.

IRON MAN: HYPERVELOCITY #4 of 6 --- Attention, fans of Len Kaminski: this miniseries puts the science back in Iron Man, much like Len's run did back in the day. There's about 7,000 pounds of technobabble per page, but it moves quickly, has an interesting premise, and Brian Denham's art continues to amaze. Adam Warren has my thanks for delivering what's at once a bleeding-edge cyberpunk Iron Man and a near-textbook on what makes Iron Man cool. (Hint: it's not in continuity.) CBG: 3/5.

JONAH HEX #18 --- Wow. Not only a creepy cannibal story, but a damned depressing one, as Hex's sense of justice betrays him and tragedy ensues. A somewhat confusing chain of events and Val Semeiks' art seems disjointed at times, but quite frankly the issue is worth the price for the cover alone, done by legend Bill Sienkiewicz (who might be the best "modern" cover artist ever, now that I think about it). Check it:

Awesome. CBG: 3/5.

Tomorrow: Better Know A Hero returns!


Friday, April 13, 2007



The first picture of an actual suit from the Iron Man movie currently filming has hit the Interwebs. It's the first generation IM suit, the one he builds using spare parts and weapon scraps while a POW. Also known as the Refrigerator Suit and the Big Gray Water Heater Suit.

I have one reaction.

God. Damn. They got it. Perfect.

Yet more evidence that my long-awaited for movie realization may not in fact suck.


This Comes As A Surprise To Virtually No One

Thought we'd end our week here at 2GBC with a happy note:

In accordance with the prophecies, Gail Simone will be the next regular writer on Wonder Woman. Upon reading this, I immediately thought three things:

1) I will in fact be subscribing to WW when Gail takes the reigns, and if you thought otherwise then you haven't been paying attention.


2) The following exchange from the Newsarama interview made me want to send Gail lots of presents, but not in the creepy online stalker-ish kind of way:

GS: Of course, since she’s punching a monkey off a waterfall on page three, maybe that’s not the best example.

On second thought, no, it definitely is.

NRAMA: Monkey off a waterfall?

GS: Monkey off a waterfall.

NRAMA: You’re going to get letters.

GS: Bring ‘em.

Don't you just want to hug her?


3) This announcement kind of renders the next 8 or so issues of WW even less relevant than before, no? Did DC just unintentionally torpedo sales for the next 8 months? (Insert joke about Wonder Woman lateness/quality here.)


Anyhoo, the lesson, as always: Gail Simone rocks.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Off-Topic: More Bad News

It appears that Kurt Vonnegut has died.

I mention this because there are only 5 or 6 authors whom I really in my greatest moments of hubris like to think that I can count as influences.

Kurt Vonnegut was on the list, a solid #3.

If there's an afterlife, I'm sure he wasted no time checking into the hotel and is even now looking down on us and laughing his guts out at us.

RIP, Kurt.

More on this later.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Point of World War Hulk?

So, at first, after hearing about this upcoming event, I was quite excited.

Basically, its Hulk Smash those who pissed him off, shot him into space, blah blah blah.

Great! Who doesn't like to see Hulk Smash? I mean, that's what he is best at, right?

So, some slothed through Civil War, others read about it, some casually overheard about it, some outright avoided it (good luck with that if you are a Marvel reader.)

We had fight(s), and at the end, no real change other than:
1. Every fan and their mother basically thinking Tony Stark is a pompous dick.
2. Dead Clor, some other dead people, some now already ret-conned (or whatever the term is.)
3. A new law.

Anyone ever mentioned laws get challenged and sometimes thrown out every day? (I would like to claim that I am happy that years ago the state of Washington disallowed all airplane radar speeding tickets- and that was back in the 80's, so may have changed 89 times since then.)

Anyway, back to my point...

What the hell is the point of World War Hulk? Is anything really going to change? Does it matter that Hulk comes back and beats up some heroes, and, rumourly speaking, has heroes either lining up with him, or against him?

I mean, so what? Its not like Hulk is going to kill Tony Stark, or Professor X. Is all this just going to make Hulk "feel better" that he punched a bunch of people in the face?

Hulk comes back, smashes people, then its back to status quo for Hulk, et al. Oh boy!!

I mean, technically, can't we see this in any issue of Hulk? Oh no, Hulk meets Tigra in the Arizona desert, and punches her. OK, next panel.

I"m still interested in seeing what Hulk does upon his return, but I"m starting to lose the excitement. EXCEPT, if the rumour mill is also true, about the last ish being Thor vs. Hulk. Not Clor. But hopefully a segueway (ugh, spelling) into the new Thor series.

I seem to be choosing sides...the Hulk side...and didn't we all read some kind of ad about 'choosing sides' not too long ago on a whole 'nother event?

My excitement for this has suddenly lessened even more just now. I think I've had too many friggin months to soak this all in.

Any other thoughts out there on WWH?

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

On Origins

Sorry, folks, was at work a ridiculously long time last night, so you'll have to wait another week for Better Know A Hero.

However, something occurred to me on the way home that is sticking in my brainpan. One of the old "How Marvel And DC Differ" thoughts.

And suddenly I find myself thinking about character origins.

And then I realize that for me one of the attractions to Marvel comics is that they tend to not fetishize and dwell and obsess over their character origins the way DC does (or, at least, their current crop of writers do).

It just seems like I can't read a Batman story without there being a reference at some point about Bruce's parents, as an example. We just went over Hal Jordan's origin again in the most recent GL arc. Superman, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman are all in various states of "re-origin-ing" their origins, and I suspect you know what I mean by that. Supergirl's spent the better part of, what, 17 issues trying to sort out her origin? Even Jonah Hex makes reference every other issue about his disfigurement at the hands of the Native Americans.

(Side Note: I really loves me some Jonah Hex. Buy it. That is all.)

Conversely, I see (or at least I think I see) a lot less of that stuff in my Marvel reads. Maybe it's just me.

Anyway, I'm not slamming DC for this or anything, just an interesting difference that I thought about on the way home last night.

What are your thoughts?

More tomorrow.


Monday, April 09, 2007

New Joe Mondays 4/9

A bit shorter than usual because of the Easter weekend, but just as non-informative and ridiculous as usual.


New Joe Mondays 4/9 at Atomic Comics


Friday, April 06, 2007

Say It Isn't So, Gail

Alright, in perusing the boards and news out there in comicland, what do I happen to hit?

Gail Simone is leaving Birds of Prey.

I gave this book a whirl way back when, and was hooked immediately by Gail's writing.
And now, XX years and issues later, I am a diehard fan of Gail.

This book is her flagship. I hate to see her leave it.

I will give the new writer Sean McKeever a chance on the writing duties. It still has a great cast of characters, and many stories to still be told. It will still have Niccola Scott on art chores, so that is a bonus also.

What is that major, new, longly desired project that Gail will be working on soon?
Oh my, the rumours are abuzz already.
I've seen:

Wonder Woman
Secret Six

Any truth? Who knows. We'll see when we see.

I will say that Secret Six and the Blackhawks should stay as minis, or one-shots, or appearances in other books. I would hate to see them as ongoings. The Secret Six have worked wonderfully as they have to date, and I think an ongoing would spoil the "feel".

Wonder Woman writers currently appear to be short-lived (THANK GOODNESS) and Gail might be able to breathe some fresh air into a character that REALLY needs it!!

JLA: Chris' hopes lie here.

I will not offer speculation.

Gail, if you are reading- I hope you get a rocking project- you know that I"ll be on board! Hate to see ya leaving BoP, but its been a great run with you onboard.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Randy Reviews Week April 4

Greetings one and all

I do not have the plethora of books that Chris has this week, and I'm fine with that. Usually its the other way around. So TAKE THAT Chris!!

I have only a few books to review, and I will say that I was pleased with the entire group this week.

Without spoilers, and without further ado, here we go:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #2
The Long Way Home, Part II

This book is far better than issue 1. And no, its not just because I get me some Giles appearances. This one didn't just "BAM", here's where we are and what is going on. I have some backfill. This book really feels like the show. I have Giles. AND, we get the last page appearance. WHOA!!! is all I"m going to say to that. I lied. That was a GREAT last page. It made me very very excited for issue 3.
Quick summary-
  • we get some Buffy training girls,
  • we get Giles talking to girls,
  • we get Dawn and Xander chatting,
  • we get Amy doing her dirty work
  • we get the whole "soldier/suit" discussion about magic/slayers/missiles.
  • Then we get zombies.
  • Then we get the last splash page.

I was quite taken aback at the Buffy/Xander sequence- boy that threw me for quite a loop when I started reading. It did, of course, go straight downhill from there, for the gang, as usual.We are getting to see what we saw of much in the show- not just Buffy et all whooping up on dead/demon things, but the lighter touches of sister issues, relationship issues, and all that kinda jazz. I guess this would be called the emotional stuff.

Did not care for the Kenny appearance. I would like to see him dropped altogether and never used again- except for maybe demon food. With a dual cliffhanger, I am quite looking forward to issue 3-- I'm going to be extremely interested on who they bring in to "fix an issue." It also plays off some fairy tales, which makes me chuckle. And I really can't tell you why. It just does.

Rating: 4/5. Improving, engaging storyline. The appearances keep coming. The art is still on par. I love the covers though. Can't we just get Xander his eye back though. I keep seeing Nick Fury. Also, I am tagging this one as my Book of the Week.

Warbird #14
The Deal, Part 2 of 2

So, there is good, and there is not so good with this issue.Starting with the good.
  • It has a psuedo happy ending.
  • It packs an interesting plot twist near the end, involving Julia Carpenter, her parents and her daughter. One I was not expecting. And brings up a good point (one that I"m sure has been played out before, but I haven't seen it, so I liked it.) It made me think some.
  • Gives us why Julia Carpenter is in Omega Flight.
  • More AIM bad guys.
  • Warbird really kinda...plays the law into her own hands. MOre of, "I want this, so I'm going to do it." Real borderline there. Its basically Tony and Carol getting what they want, and finding the reasoning behind it. I like that. Gives her a little edginess.
  • I"m intrigued by her SHIELD team.
  • The last page reveal.

Now, the not so good:

  • Makes Julia Carpenter out to be a pretty much wuss. And she's joining a "super-group?"
  • Either use the sweet ass red-jacketed WonderMan, or just don't use him. Its not his book I know, but his appearances are kind of lame.
  • Tony and Carol basically setting precedents for law. Isn't this going back to "superheroes taking the law into their own hands" again? Yes, I almost mentioned this above in the good. Its a good and bad.

So, granted, there appears to be far more good than bad in this issue. I still say Warbird is far far far better after that lame CW thing. I"m actually, overall, enjoying the book again.

Rating: 3/5. I"m glad that the Julia thing is finally laid to rest (basically). And now we can get back to down and dirty, starring AIM, Warbird and...wait for it....MODOK!

Jonah Hex #18
I Walk Alone
NO Photo, because apparently no one can get it right.

And because I have no scanner available at this time. This has been my favorite Jonah Hex book to date. Wait, except for the carnival issue. This has been my second favorite Jonah Hex book to date. I was actually thinking of dropping this title, to save a few dollars here and there. But honestly, I just can't, or maybe I just don't want to. Its little one shot stories like these that make me want to continue reading. And, I think I can finally say, it was nice to see that even Jonah Hex can be wrong. That's all I'm going to say- read the book if you want to find out why I say that.
But hey, I have a question for all of you. Jonah Hex makes bundles of money on bringing in his bounties, right? So, what the hell does he do with all that money? We always see him out camping. He doesn't have 8 bags of clothes with him. Does he own a lumbermill in Canada or something? We never see him gamble. Ammunition sure as hell doesn't cost that much, even if he goes through that much in just a single issue. I was just wondering.
Also, it was great fun to read through the conversation that Jonah had with his campfire "friend." And the end of this tale, its a little twisted. All the more reason I liked it.
Rating: 4/5. As I said, one of my favorite tales so far in the Jonah Hex chronicles.

Welcome to Tranquility #5
Too Much for the Man

And this book just continues to roll out the punches. This one really packs a wallop. And we start to get to some of the "whodunnit" revelations. Not people I was suspecting.
We get an unfair fight, partially depicted on the cover.
And, we finally, finally get Hecatean!!! Oh the poor poor man finally finds the solution, and its pretty impressive. Not telling, because that would spoil some of the fun from the first few issues.
This is pretty much a "wham-bang-smash'em up fracas", all the while revealing all the plot twists. It was very well done. There were a couple of character shifts I was not expecting. Actually, I was pretty shocked. The hospital fight was good, and I was glad it had the ending it did. It only made sense that it should go that way anyway.
Also, I loved these lines of conversation:
"Police Brutality"
"Shut up Boy!"
"He touched my Heinie"
I just had to laugh. This has so far been a great book, never a slow moment, but it is not one that you can just pick up with an issue, say #5, and know what the heck is going on. If you haven't picked this up from issue 1, then wait for a trade, or go buy the back issues. But I think you'll enjoy it.
Rating: 4/5. A marvelous read. And almost any book with the next title of "Dogfight" showing a plane in it is also something to really look forward to.

Savage Tales
Issue #1
Am I a Red Sonja fan- yep. Am I a fantasy world fan- yep. Why then, wouldn't I buy Savage Tales? Heh, I did, and I enjoyed all the stories.
  1. Red Sonja tale was fun, as she ripped out an earring from a thief. Its nice to see that she can pass out in taverns too.
  2. The Atlantis tale was actually my favorite though from this book. The King has his ideals, his vision, and his lackeys feed him the tales of Atlanteans on the mainland in a way that only would please the king, but the drawings sure didn't depict it that way. That was really fun to read and decipher.
  3. A carryover story from the regular Red Sonja books, this involved the man-wolf-warrior (I forget his name) that revels in pleasing the older gods, and now has a sworn enemy in Khulan Gath. Even though he despises "the Red Devil", I can see them teaming at some point to rid the world of Khulan Gath.
  4. The last story is a native tribe, beset by aliens, both good and bad. I didn't care for this story too much, but nonetheless a decent read. It was the last of the bunch, so I muddled through thinking back to the previous three stories.

This was a pretty good book about "duping" the old pulp magazines of past: multiple stories, all parts of stories, that you have to tune in next month to read. I did get that vibe, and it was fun.
Rating: 3/5. Not all the strongest stories, but you won't always get that, and that's ok. The art was very pretty though, especially the Atlantis story.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Welcome, Citizens!

Holy crow, 9 books for me today, which might be the highest single week I've had in two months.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Anyhoo, just a post to let you know that 2GBC would like to welcome two more blogs to the ol' sidebar, and they're ones that you're probably already reading anyway, so yeah... go ahead and make your little jokes about how this is just a lame post just to have something up on a Wednesday, you ass.

In all seriousness, we'd like to welcome Siskoid's Blog of Geekery to the 'bar. Siskoid's life apparently revolves around Star Trek episode synopses, Teen Titans, Doctor Who, and old-school gaming. He's kind of like the perfect storm of geekery, and his blog is a nice daily dose of that.

Also, welcome to Comic Coverage, Mark Engblom's excellent blog/site/art showcase which is thirty-six different kinds of fun on any given day, and worthy of your traffic.

Finally, Tales From The Longbox's Comic Headlines is kind of the AP Wire of comics blogging; indispensable for seeing what the latest posts are, and where.

More later!


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Better Know A Hero: Beta Ray Bill

2 Guys Buying Comics has been apprised of the fact that a good portion of our visitors are just getting back into comics. We now present the fourth installment of our weekly feature, Better Know A Hero.

Name: Beta Ray Bill

Also Known As: Bill, That Awesome Horse Guy Who Odin Used To Teach Thor That He Ain't All That

Origin: The short version is that Bill was an alien Korbinite whose mind was transferred into the body of a bioengineered monster that the Korbinites built to guard their race as they fled from an alien race of demons and an exploding sun.

(Side Note: That last sentence right there? Sums up the awesomeness of 80's Marvel.)

Next thing you know, Thor goes to investigate, wacky Three's Company-like misunderstanding occurs, and ol' Bill winds up wielding Mjolnir. Odin takes a liking to Bill, elists him to defeat the alien demons and teach Thor a lesson in humility, and creates a hammer just for him. Cosmic ass-kicking ensues.

Powers: Pretty much everything Thor can do, and Bill's got a hammer named Stormbreaker. Also: it's worth noting that he's essentially a cyborg, which goes to prove that cyborg Thor ripoffs don't necessarily have to be lame (I'm lookin' at you, Clor).

How's The Costume?: Pretty badass, as if someone took an old-school Thor outfit and decided to make it entirely out of shiny metal. Plus, I'm a sucker for wings on the head, so make of that what you will.

Alter Ego: Simon Walters, an Earthling he's bonded with who carries a cane that turns him into Beta Ray Bill. No, they weren't trying particularly hard here, were they?

Home Cookin': Another day in the Marvel Universe, which means we're either in New York or outer space, although for the upcoming Omega Flight launch he's gonna be taking up residence in Canada. Don't look at me like that. It wasn't my idea.

Chillin' At The Crib: Reason #944 Beta Ray Bill is cool is that he tools around in a living space battleship named Skuttlebutt. It's one thing to be an alien horse monster with the power of a Thunder God. It's entirely another to fly around in a sentient battleship. You had me at hello, Mr. Simonson.

Can He Fight?: I mentioned he beat up Thor at least three times, right? Kay. Moving on.

Allies: Thor, Sif, the Asgardians in general, those yahoos that are going to be in Omega Flight, and the Thor Corps. (No, I'm not making that up. Check it, yo.) He was also a member of the Star Masters, which for the uninitiated was kind of the cosmic version of the Champions, only lamer.

Enemies: Demon aliens (the Surtur), any number of cosmic or supernatural baddies, and the first "iteration" of Bill created by the Korbinites but ultimately deemed too dangerous and psychotic to be their champion: his name, of course? Alpha Ray. I love comics.

Symbol: Pretty much one of the ten best covers EVER in comicdom, right here from his first appearance:

Family Matters: His home race, I guess. Other than that, he considers Thor a 'brother'.

Might Be Cool To: Drive around with for awhile, watching the faces on people as they think, "Hey, that costume reminds me of someoGAAAAAAAH! A HORSE DEMON WITH THE ABILITY TO WIELD MAGICAL BLUNT OBJECTS!"

Under No Circumstances: Refer to him as "Thorse". Attach a feed bag. Point out that really, no matter how hard he tries, it's Thor that gets the love.

Annual Performance Review: I mentioned he's in Omega Flight, right? We'll see how that turns out, but damn Marvel for making me want to pick up the first issue just to see how he ends up in Canada and whether or not he still has the wicked spaceship.

What Makes Him So Special, Anyway?: Quite frankly, Beta Ray Bill is one of those supremely Marvel properties, with cosmic wackiness and great visual design combined with a goofy origin and being a somewhat shameless rip-off of a well established hero. Bill's hugely powerful but was burdened with protecting his race, and he's got just enough pathos and courage to make him both sympathetic and balls-to-the-wall 'HULK SMASH!' cool. Also, it's interesting that he's essentially been able to retain his alien persona over the years, without humanizing him too much.

The magic, though is in Walt Simonson's Thor run that introduced Bill, and what a marvelous tale that was, indeed. It really shows A) the awesomeosity of Bill, Thor, Odin and the gang, and B) just how skilled Simonson was. You'd think a Thor arc that didn't really focus on Thor most of the time would suck. I offer Bill and this book here as evidence to the contrary.

I say thee YAY!

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Ptolus: City By The Spire Review

Issue 6 of Monte Cook's Ptolus: City By The Spire miniseries comes out this week.

And so, because we here at 2GBC are committed to providing the most in-depth objective consumer analysis... ha ha, no, I am kidding. Like 90% of all bloggers, we are just egocentric fanboys with access to the Internet.

Anyhoo, Special Guest Blogger Keith joins the 2GBC army (ok, it's more of a national guard) today! Keith works with us at Frobozz Software, is a gaming enthusiast, and is just the man to evaluate the Ptolus series thus far, as he's well acquainted with the source material and, um, actually bought the comics.

Take it away, Keith!


Before I begin with typing up a review I should probably explain who I am and what compells me to write a review.

I am a gamer. I am not what some people would call a "comic fan". Sure, I have dabbled a bit here and there, mostly flipping through the pages and looking at the pretty art, but very few comics even capture my attention, much less make me want to shell out some cash.

But when I learned that Monte Cook had done a comic series and the first 5 of 6 were out, I thought that was all sorts of cool and shelled out cash on the spot.

And it was cash well spent.

Finally, as I write my review, I tend to be nit-picky. Some people think that means I didn't enjoy what I nitpick. Some people would be wrong.

== The Review ==

Comic one starts with our Heroine standing on a hill top she identifies as the Noble Quarter and a brief lead in to her being hired for a job. In here starts a recurring line of issues for a casual reader. Basically, as you read this and the rest, a lot of characters and places and houses get introduced. And most get introduced in name only. For those that play a story significance (like here where she is hired by the house of Khatru) they lack an appropriate amount of structure to identify their importance. And in other cases, people or places are introduced and then never addressed again, so they seem out of place.

I made a mental list of the top three items that were the largest downfalls.

This in my top three offender list: Too much name dropping, not enough name definition

All that said, she does introduce the city and that she is a well-off semi-retired adventurer. It gives a nice two-page spread of the city elevation and thankfully, it stuck with the cannon city description, giving Dungeon Masters (DMs) (of the Table-Top D&D game) a great visual for their players too. In fact, if there is a quality to this comic that DMs are sure to enjoy, it is a great set of visuals for same of the places and people in the city.

Speaking of visuals, the artwork in all but #4 are top quality and have a great level of detail. I'll come to the #4 issue in a bit. (And - Oh it's coming - )

The colorwork is just beautiful. To show a scene on issue 2:


Moving onward, Sheva's (the heroine) best friend is introduced - a ghost named Parnell. They have an exchange of plot hooks and then the story moves on. This scene was a great introduction to Parnell - but it's not the only one - which becomes another top three offender: Rehashing the story inside the story.

Seriously - start the comic with a "What came before" section and leave it out. It is frustrating to the reader to read the same stuff that was hashed in one comic immediately in the next. It is an interruption.

Fortunately, at Issue 4, they *did* start printing a "what came before" section and that helped noticably in reducing repetition.

With the story exposition over, Sheva swings to action and starts her "job". The action from here on is very reminscent of a D&D module and I loved it. Put simply - it introduces obstacles and then takes care of them in very D&D manner. She sneaks past the city patrol, scales a wall, deals with guards, that sort of thing. And about the middle of the first issue she introduces one of the big plot devices - her sword - a blade of legendary power called a "hungersword".

Now, if the comic is guilty of not enough definition, this is one place where it becomes really apparent. The sword is named and that's it. Later (in a different issue no less) Sheva even remarks "I bet you know what it does to those it slays" to some foes. The big flaw here is that the reader is never told. While the Ptolus D&D game setting goes over hungerswords, I suspect not all readers will either remember the lore or even have been introduced to it.

So, while I am on that subject, let me shore it up. There are six hungerswords. Each has an adamantite blade and bone hilt. It is an unholy sword of the highest magical caliber core D&D has to offer. It can make it's weilder immune to immediate-death effects or it can unleash a death ray once per day. It can absorb spells that are cast by good-aligned characters and then use the absorbed energy to make the wielder able to more easily strike a foe with the weapon. It bestows negative levels to foes it strikes (meaning they get weaker until they just die outright). In the D&D material however, there is absolutely no mention that it's especially bad (moreso than normal that is) to actually be slain by one. And finally, the big deal with the swords is that there is a rumor that if a specific spell could be cast on all six at once, that spell would make them even MORE beefy (able to kill with any contact with the blade).

So yeah, that's pretty heavy. And unfortunately, the story just sort of leaves it unsaid.

Finishing off the first comic, one of the ignoble houses is more properly introduced (yay) and a sword battle commences. The end of Issue 1 is nothing short of yummy comic eye-candy. And ends with a cliff hanger.

Now, I know that cliff hangers are sort of the standard with comics (for marketing purposes I'm sure) but in the sense that these comics are written with a modular feel, it disappoints to be cliff hung more than it delivers. If each issue didn't have to finish the hangar from the last, it would be a self-enclosed story each time. In short:

Issue 1: Character is set up
Issue 2: Party gathering and info gathering
Issue 3: Infiltration
Issue 4: Build to climax
Issue 5: Climax and "To Action"
Issue 6: Denoument

But as it is, there is some bleed over from previous issues.

After Issue 2 closes out Issue 1, Sheva goes to the (D&D classic stereotype alert!!) inn to pick up some party members. She calls in a spell casty type and a nimble fingers / crafty type. The halfling (the nimble fingers) is great. His interaction with the party really goes a long way toward defining character in all three of the party cast. Plus - he's just plain cool. The invisibility scene is a classic.

In a manner that propels this comic, they waste almost no time getting right back in to the action breaking in to a warehouse in order to interrogate a person on a lead. In fact: this scene when you see it is so rewarding, that it feels wrong for all the right reasons:

Touche` Mr. Rogue. Touche`.

After the yummy action scenes, the issue leaves off with another cliffhanger. This one is the only one that is appropriately placed, I think, as the next issue starts with that cliffhanger and runs with it. Plus the transition from the two issues is pretty sharp.

From Issue 3, the protagonists research and hatch their plan for infiltration. In D&D stereotype once again, it involves mucking around in the sewer and a crypt. And for the part of them being in a sewer and a crypt, there is all sorts of ewww thrown in (appropriately).

In the middle of the issue for a few pages, the issue four artist makes his appearance. The style takes a sharp turn. Unfortunately, it is most apparent on the halfling. Frankly, his look becomes simply "goofy" for a few pages. To see what I mean, allow me to show you, the reader, a side-by-side of halfling "cool" versus halfling "silly". The other party members are similarly affected.

Now, the artist that did these panels and apparently all of Issue 4 is a better artist than I am but clearly not the skill and style as the original. While I do appreciate having a comic to read, it's a shame that it could not be done with the original artist. I am going to hereby call them "normal artist" versus "uber artist". Hopefully the labels don't offend anyone.

In a rare moment in comics (Chris affirms), the middle of this issue does launch in to a last minute get-it-open-or-we-die moment of the rogue picking open a lock. This two page stretch really expresses the value of rogues in D&D and does it very well. Put simply, the value of a trap finder and lock picker is unquestionable once this strip is over. And it too, works well.

The strip uses magic from time to time where the specific spell isn't necessarily known by a common reader but the fact it's magic is quite apparent. Magic makes an appearance a few times in this issue and each time, it's a minor but obvious detail and one that goes a long way toward establishing the mood of a magic-infused world. I must say that I really enjoyed it.

And then finally, we end at "The Lich".

Liches in D&D are usually one of the memorable battles. The Lich is played well in that his words and character are expressed well, but the fact that he is 100% drawn by "normal artist" is disappointing at best. This strikes me as one of those monsters that could have had a cool factor off the normal scale. He ends with simply "cool".

So, now that I've mentioned it a few times, top three offender list item: Clear artist change.

Yeah, it's that big of a difference.

In Issue 4, we got a nice introduction to the Necropolis and a new villain. That opening does tie up a loose end as well, but I am trying to leave a few things for the reader to experience on their own and that is one. Overall, well done, but once again, the significance of that person isn't really introduced. Being another player in the larger game, it can easily leave a reader overwhelmed by the cast of characters.

And then, the Lich fight. The fight makes wonderful use of magic and for the first time, the other character, the wizard, really shines through. In fact, the two (the wizard and the Lich) fighting magically is perhaps one of the best mage to mage duels I have read in a long time.

Which only amplifies the confusion I have over what happened between the Lich summoning his "Spell of Power" and a room in shambles... Seriously, did they miss a few panels or something? Why is the Lich all of a sudden just gone and the fight is over?

But it gets even more rediculous. This is the last time I will mention the artwork, but come on. A new character, the Iron Mage, is introduced. This strikes me as the extreme example of a "just give us some filler" that I have seen. It's pretty pathetic really.

Here is a three cell comparison - the first two taken from this issue, by "normal artist" and the last taken from issue 5 when we get back to "uber artist".

Night and Day.

"Bucket Head" to "OMFG Cool". Anyone who saw Issue 4 Iron Mage and was as disappointed at how silly he looked I hope made it to Issue 5 because in Issue 5 he becomes a character with - well - character.

In the finishing of this issue, Sheva finds an item she is looking for and a helpful character turns out to be a little less helpful than he originally appeared. Nice twist actually.

Unfortunately, much of this issue is low-action and feels like filler.

But where Issue 4 didn't deliver, Issue 5 delivers in mass quantity.

Issue 5 is best paraphrased as the action issue. Not only does it sum up all the efforts that came before but the turning of the tide during the battle scene (of which is pretty much the entire comic) back and forth is impessive to say the least.

In this issue, you find how just how much of a bad-ass some of the characters are. They need a new scale I think.

My only gripe with this issue is that apparently during the battle, two characters have a hungersword. The protagonist and one antagonist. Both drop their swords. One ends up being run off with. Based on the closing text (the "thriller text" that foreshadows the next episode) I have to assume that was the protagonists sword. But it's not clear within the comic itself.

But seriously, I look forward to issue 6.

Despite the shortcoming I listed, I really liked this comic series and for anyone either D&D fan or Fantasy fan I would recommend you purchase a copy.

Hell, after writing this up, I think I need to go back and enjoy them again.

And thanks for letting me blog here, Chris and Randy.


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New Joe Mondays 4/2

It's that time again!

This edition: What-Ifs, Ultimates 2 snark, and Joe Gets Peeved With A Reader!

(No, it's not me. But that day is a-comin', friend, believe you me.)

Go read the whole thing over at Atomic!