Thursday, October 23, 2014

Meanwhile, at Robot 6...

I've only got one piece at a website that is not this website this week, a review of Tim Hanley's Wonder Woman Unbound at Robot 6.

You can go read it now, if you like, and then come back and we can talk a little bit more about it.


Are you back?

Cool. So, as I noted over there, Hanley doesn't spend a whole lot of time on the post-Perez, "modern age" of Wonder Woman comics. In fact, here's pretty much everything he has to say about the Wonder Woman comic proper during the time in which I was aware of Wonder Woman comics (I didn't read the John Byrne run as it was ongoing—I think Phil Jimenez's was when I first picked up the title—but I do recall flipping through the Byrne run in my hometown mall's Waldenbooks, back when my hometown still had a mall, and there were still Waldenbooks):
John Byrne took over as writer and artist after Messner-Loebs left and largely ignored everything that had happened before. He moved Wonder Woman to the fictional Gateway City, gave her a new supporting cast, and even killed her for a few issues. The book wasn't terrible, but nor was it particularly good. By the mid-1990s, the series had settled into a middling quality with middling sales, and it never came back in any lasting way.

There were some good moments: Phil Jimenez's run on the book as writer and artist is very well respected; writer Greg Rucka was twice nominated for an Eisner, the comics industry's biggest award, while writing Wonder Woman; and Gail Simone became the series' first regular female writer. There were occasional sales jumps, but they quickly petered out. Another relaunch in 2006 lit up the sales charts briefly, but delays and a tie-in to Amazons Attack, a poorly executed miniseries in which the Amazons invaded America, soon dragged the book down. When Wonder Woman was renumbered to mark its 600th issue overall, J. Michael Straczynski came onboard as writer and sales rose initially until Straczynski abruptly left the book. Then sales plummeted again.
Hanley probably did DC a favor by not bringing up Jodi Picoult, which is still maybe the most mind-bogglingly self-defeating screw-up I've seen from the publisher. They scored one of the most popular and successful prose writers of the day, and then forced her to write some dumb-ass Amazons Attack tie-in instead of doing, say, anything at all she wanted to do (All-Star Wonder Woman, for example). He also probably does Brad Meltzer a favor by not mentioning the writer by name, despite spending a few paragraphs tearing apart Identity Crisis.

Still, I found it pretty astounding how much he skims over there, essentially reducing about 20 years worth of Wonder Woman comics into just two paragraphs.

After I finished writing my review of the book, I saw it still had a bunch of strips of press releases and the corners of empty sugar packets sticking out of it here and there where I marked something I thought I might want to mention in the review or follow up on here later.

Let's talk about those too, shall we?

First, I was really intrigued by this passage from Hanley's section of the book dealing with her 1968-1972 mod era, during which she lost her powers and costume:
For over twenty-five years, Wonder Woman had been kind-hearted and peaceful, using force only when her diplomatic solutions were rejected. This all changed with the mod Diana Prince; her anger perpetually boiled just below the surface and erupted with anysort of provocation. Violence was her response to nearly every situation.


In an issue ominous titled "Red for Death!" Diana traveled to China and ended up strafing Chinese fighter jets with a massive machine gun. Another story arc had Diana trapped in the interdimenstional kingdom of Chalandro, where she killed at least twenty men with blazing sword work before she was captured. Diana later escaped, joined a local rebel group, and taught them to make gunpowder. She and her fellow rebels then shot down the enemy's air ships with cannons,blowingup the gas-filled and heavily manned flying machines. Diana's solution for any problem was to hit it or blow it up or, more often than not, kill it.
I found it intriguing because I associate the hot-headed, violence-first, killing's-not-so-bad, ultimate warrior version of Wonder Woman with the modern age. I've long assumed it was a sort of unfortunate result of the popularity of Kingdom Come, in which she played a sort of Lady Macbeth role in Superman's decision-making process, pushing him to become a bad guy, who we could root for Batman to beat (And she does so in much more extreme fashion in the Injustice: Gods Among Us comics, which are heavily influenced by Kingdom Come).

There are other factors that may have contributed to Wonder Woman becoming  a violence-monger always willing to resort to deadly force, of course: The portrayal differentiated her from her fellow Trinitarians Superman and Batman, it played off of the concept of the Amazons as a Classical Age warrior race (instead of the utopians Marston re-created them to be), it seemed to fit in better with the mythological milieu that got increasing play in Wonder Woman comics and, finally, it helped serve as an over-correction for fears on the part of the writers, artists and editors working on her that a female character wouldn't be seen as a bad-ass enough character.

Hanley, however, traces this violent streak in Wonder Woman all the way back to the Bronze Age of comics. I guess Wondy's willingness to kill comes and goes...?

In a rather long section (for this particular book) discussing Wonder Woman and feminism, I found this passage quite striking:
It's quite impressive that [Gloria] Steinem and company were able to translate Marston's particular feminisim into something that resonated with a modern audience. It was a fascinating evolution of the character, and one that made Wonder Woman relevant for the first time in decades. While it may have been an inaccurate depiction of Marston's Wonder Woman, what's more significant is that Wonder Woman meant so much to these women and that they were able to remake her into a massively popular feminist icon. Authorial intent is important, but writing isn't a one-way street. What resonates with readers and what they see in a character is just as relevant, and Steinem and her friends saw a fantastic role model in Wonder Woman.
That bit about writing not being a one-way street is probably particularly important when it comes to Wonder Woman, as the feminists of the 1970s were hardly the first readers to see what they wanted in Marston's Wonder Woman comics, nor were they the last. A lot of people have their own personal Wonder Woman, and I often think that the "wrong" Wonder Womans are the ones that are embraced by the most people. Certainly the Wonder Woman of the TV show, of Superfriends and the Justice League cartoons, of Greg Rucka or Gail Simone's runs are more pervasive then Marston's version, despite the fact that he had what seems to me an unusual amount of control over his least compared to some of Wonder Woman's peers from around that time.

Marston was the only writer on any Wonder Woman comics for the first six years of her fictional life (at which point Marson passed away, and Robert Kanigher took over as writer/editor for a few decades).

Superman, Batman and Captain Marvel had several different men writing and drawing them during their developmental years, and in some cases they were rather forcefully and famously pried away from the control of their creators (Superman) or were a case of creation-by-committee from the outset (Batman). Additionally, those three supermen all spawned movie serials and radio shows that cross-pollinated their comics iterations, whereas Wonder Woman didn't have the same multi-media success during her formative years (and never would catch up to Batman and Superman in that regard; I think she's surpassed Captain Marvel by this point, her 1970s live-action TV show proving more popular than his, and her cartoon appearances dwarfing his, thanks to her Justice League membership).

It was likely circumstance as much as anything else—Marston being older and having more power relative to his publishers than Joel Siegel and Joe Shuster did, for example, or Superman proving more popular than Wonder Woman—but the original Golden Age Wonder Woman ended up being much more the product of her creator and her creator's collaborator, artist H.G. Peter, than many other heroes of the era.

Marston's vision of the character has been eclipsed over the decades, and, I'd argue, to the character's detriment. But, as Hanley wrote, writing's not a one-way street and, right or wrong, good or bad, Wonder Woman endures, having taken on a life of her own, one given to her by decade after decade of fans, who see what they want to in the character, rather than what she was conceived as.

I didn't post anything last night because I couldn't put Star Wars: Dark Times Omnibus Vol. 2 down.

Yesterday was Wednesday, and after reading a decent-sized stack of new singles from the comic shop, I would normally sit down and start reviewing them immediately for my off-the-cuff, typo-ridden regular feature "Comic Shop Comics." But a copy of Star Wars: Dark Times Omnibus Vol. 2 had just come into the library for me that day, and I thought I'd read a little bit of that before doing any comics blogging. Once I started, I couldn't stop reading though, and the damn thing was 450-pages.

I really liked those two volumes of that particular series of Star Wars comics, all written by Randy Stradley and mostly drawn in a beautiful, painterly style by Douglas Wheatley. They are set after the end of the prequel trilogy (Revenge of the Sith) and before the start of the original trilogy (A New Hope, or, as we called it when I was a kid, "Star Wars"), when there are a handful of Jedi knights still left in the galaxy, having survived the great Jedi purge at the climax of Reveng, and Darth Vader is still a hot, young, new super-bad-ass space wizard (as in the comics with Darth Vader in the title, he is crazy powerful in these, like Superman with a costume designed by Batman and Doctor Doom). The Republic is still transitioning into The Empire, so while they are the bad-guys, a lot of them aren't as bad as the generic villains they will eventually become.

Stradley follows a couple of these surviving Jedi, the crew of space-pirate types (all of them interesting-looking aliens save one female human, and they seem to be "new" aliens rather than one of the 10 or 12 different races that keep popping up in Star Wars stuff), and Darth Vader. Their paths all criss-cross in various ways, often directly, sometimes less so, throughout the 1,000 pages or so that make Dark Times. Stradley devotes the most attention to a character with the name Dass Jennir, a white-haired human Jedi who seems to change his look for each adventure.

I think that one thing that appealed to me personally was the simple fact that this time period wasn't completely alien to me, as some of the "Expanded Universe" stuff is (like, the stuff set centuries before the movies, or in the decades after Return of the Jedi), but it was also fresh and new, in that it didn't have much of anything to do with the lame plot-lines of the prequel trilogy, nor did it spend time constantly foreshadowing the original trilogy. In other words, it was new without being alien; it was a Star Wars that felt like a Star Wars, without being derivative of what I normally think of as Star Wars.

Stradley also really plays with the genre inspiration of the original conception of Star Wars. Large passages of the second volume read like they could very easily have been samurai movies, or westerns or sword-or-sorcery fantasies, only with, you know, aliens and robots and spaceships. Blue Harvest, the story arc that kicks off the second omnibus, would really only need to recast the aliens as Japanese guys to be a samurai story; they even all use swords—not light sabers, but swords—and, for the most part, dress like people from feudal Japan.

I also liked the droid character H2, a floating droid that, for much of his story arc acts like an asshole petulant teenager (a more amusing personality to R2-D2's pluck and spunk, or C3-P0's cluleless know-it-all-ism and prissy, easily shocked, scared or insulted sense of decorum).

And then there's that gorgeous Wheatley art. He's pretty damn incredible at every aspect of comics storytelling. I like his aliens, the humanoids and the wild animals and beasts of burden, many of which seem "new" to me. I like his fashion and ship design. And he draws really quite excellent action scenes.

As far as I can tell, these two collections represent all of the Dark Times material, and while it does seem to get a decent enough conclusion to several of the storylines, there are still threads left hanging and, one curious aspect of the Star Wars universe being that everything gets completely told eventually, I was sort of expecting there was much more to come. Perhaps the license for Star Wars comics moving from Dark Horse to Marvel has precluded that possibility.

I don't know. After reading these—And you guys know how hard I am to please, right? How demanding I am of even genre comics?—I actually felt a little, well, sad that Marvel is taking over Star Wars. With the projects they've announced so far, it seems like they will be pulling creators from the regular stable that handles all their superhero comics, albeit some of the bigger and most popular names. I do hope someone at Marvel has the good sense to hire some of these Dark Horse creators and/or editors to work on their Star Wars line with them though. Dark Horse has produced some pretty good Star Wars comics over the years. And they've produced some damn fine ones, too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Marvel's January previews reviewed

There are only five books that Marvel Entertainment plans to publish in January of next year that will sell for $2.99. Of those, three are non-Marvel Universe books tying in to mass media adaptations of other Marvel comics, and two of those are aimed at kids: Marvel's The Avengers #2, Marvel Universe Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors #3 and Marvel Universe Avengers Assemble Season Two #3. Of the the other two, one is She-Hulk, which is publishing it's last issue, and the other is Ms. Marvel.

All of the new books launching in February will carry a $3.99 price tag (or higher, due to higher page-count), so, come February of next year, Ms. Marvel will be the only Marvel comic not tied directly into a cartoon show for kids that isn't $2.99. It's take a few years to get here, but Marvel is now at the point where they've almost completely purged their entire line of $2.99 books.

In theory, DC should be kicking their asses then, but I'm afraid there is a quality gap between the output of the two publishers that makes up for the price gap between the two; that is, DC's advantage of publishing a whole bunch of comics that are as much as 33% cheaper than Marvel's comics is rendered moot by the fact that Marvel seems to publish more higher-quality books.

Of late, DC has launched a few quirkier books that don't look or read like anything else in their line though, so maybe that quality gap is going to be something the publisher becomes conscious of and seeks to close.

On the other hand, the Big Two are basically just multi-media IP farms now anyway, so who really cares?

Aside from us, of course. For Marvel's complete solicitations, click here; for my complete commentary on a handful of those solicitations, scroll down.

• THOMAS "TORO" RAYMOND emerges from his INHUMAN cocoon with new powers and new enemies. Can JIM HAMMOND, NAMOR and NEW CAPTAIN AMERICA SAM WILSON help their colleague through his dangerous rebirth?
• Guest Starring KILLRAVEN and the INHUMANS.
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

I recently read a trade paperback collection of The Torch re-read Invaders Now, my interest rekindled by All-New Invaders Vol.1.

I was a little surprised by the quite small All-New line-up of just Captain America, The Winter Soldier, Namor and the original Human the original Vision. At the very least, I would have expected to see Toro, who like Cap, Bucky and Torch, is now a man out-of-time...he's actually in worse shape than Cap and Bucky, who have at least been in the present long enough to make friends and find purposes in their lives.

Well, it looks like Toro's finally being introduced to the book, as are Union Jack and Spitfire (the latter two of whom played roles in Invaders Now). I don't know if I like the sound of Toro emerging from an "INHUMAN cocoon with new powers," as I'm not entirely sure what's going on with The Inhumans at the moment (And can a mutant be transformed into an Inhuman, the same way humans can...?).

Also, considering how the first story arc ended—with Cap, Namor and Torch deciding to continue to hang in large part because they like one another's company and forged bonds during World War II—I'm not sure how replacing Steve Rogers with Sam Wilson might effect the series.

I guess I'll find out eventually....

Damn, that's some cover for All-New Ultimates #12, David Nakayama...

Cover by Kris Anka
• You know your friends from growing up? The ones you went to high school with, and are to-this-day some of the people who know you best?
• Well, imagine there are only five kids in your high school, and you're all hated and feared by the world around you.
• Sometimes, it's nice to take a step back and realize that what you've been told is your "team" is really something much better—your best friends.
32 PGS./Rated T ...$3.99

So I'm pretty sure that this was the first time I finished reading a solicitation to a comic book and said "Aw" aloud to myself.

Looks like Bobby's reading Ms. Marvel, for what it's worth; he must have spent the $1 he saved by buying it instead of any other Marvel comic on that candy bar.

Cover by Mark Brooks
• Scott Lang has never exactly been the world's best super hero. Heck, most people don't even think he's been the best ANT-MAN -- and the last guy invented Ultron and joined the Masters of Evil, so that's saying something.
• But when the SUPERIOR IRON MAN calls with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Scott's going to get a chance to turn it all around and be the hero he's always dreamed of being.
• Sure he's been to prison! Sure he's been through a messy divorce! Sure he's been, um... dead. But this time is different! This time nothing is gonna stop the astonishing ANT-MAN!
40 PGS./Rated T+ ...$4.99
*Each variant will be a unique cover with Ant-Man at a different size and each cover will be numbered- Marvel will only produce as many as ordered. Check and upcoming Diamond Daily stories for more information on this special variant.

I don't really get the sad-sack, no-respect tone of the solicitation copy here, given Ant-Man Scott Lang's big-ass victory at the climax of FF. Nor can I really make sense of variant cover scheme mentioned above (and that is, of course, in addition to the four other variant covers).

This is one of those Marvel comics that I'd happily buy in single issue format—I like Nick Spencer a whole lot, and I like Ant-Men, particularly this one after FF—but, given it's price tag (which I assume will shrink to $3.99 with #2), I will likely just wait for the trade. And rather than buy that trade, I'll likely just borrow it from the library. And so Marvel gets no money from me for Ant-Man.

Michael Del Mundo does another fantastic cover for Elektra #10.

• ‘Nuff said!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

Based on everything I've seen about that "Spider-Verse" story so far, I think a SHIELD uniform is about the only costume Spider-Man hasn't worn yet. Give him a black Spidey mask with white eyes, and he's good to go...

A skull-mask to go with your skull shirt? Really, Frank? Jeez, get a pair of pants with a big skull on the crotch and you can be a snowman of skulls...

• The end of the Blue File...and the end of an era!
• But when one door closes, another one opens, and Jen finds herself face to face with her most important case yet.
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99

Well, that's one way for Soule to lighten his work load...

I'm really sad to see this one go, as it's been great fun so far, and it and the also-cancelled Superior Foes of Spider-Man were the last two Marvel books I was reading serially.

Awesome Silver Surfer cover by Mike Allred.

BLANK VARIANT COVER also available
Luke Skywalker and the ragtag band of rebels fighting against the Galactic Empire are fresh off their biggest victory yet—the destruction of the massive battle station known as the Death Star. But the Empire's not toppled yet! Join Luke along with Princess Leia, smugglers Han Solo and Chewbacca, droids C-3PO and R2-D2 and the rest of the Rebel Alliance as they strike out for freedom against the evil forces of Darth Vader and his master, the Emperor. Written by Jason Aaron (Original Sin, Thor: God of Thunder) and with art by John Cassaday (Astonishing X-Men, Uncanny Avengers), this is the Star Wars saga as only Marvel Comics could make it!
48 PGS./Rated T ...$4.99

I usually edit out the variant cover info because there's usually a whole bunch of it and also because I hate variants and think they are generally a very bad thing for the comics industry, particularly when they occur as frequently as they do. I just thought I'd leave them in for this one though, just to show how ungodly many of them there actually are on this issue, and to note the fact that I have no idea what things like "Party Variant" or "Teaser Variant" actually mean. Hopefully retailers have that sort of stuff explained to them before they have to order these damn things.

The image up top is the Skottie Young variant which, as far as I can tell at this juncture, is the sole good news to come out of Marvel getting the license back after Dark Horse's super-fruitful stewardship of it over the course of the last few decades.

I'm a little surprised at the particular time in Star Wars history they're covering, if only because that's exactly what the last big Dark Horse series covered (the Brian Wood-written one, also just called Star Wars), it's also the time period that the original Marvel Star Wars comics of the late 1970s and early 1980s covered and I assume that the "expanded universe" novels and suchlike are just lousy with stuff set then, but I could be wrong. While I just re-watched all seven feature films with a friend over the course of the last month or two, and I've been reading some Darth Vader comics (oh, and Dark Times Omnibus Vol. 1, which I didn't write about), I'm extremely inexpert about Star Wars continuity...maybe because I've devoted so much brain-space to that of the DC Universe and chunks of the Marvel Universe.

Wait a minute here. Long blonde hair, beard, shirtlessness, robot arm—Is Thor gradually turning into 1990s Aquaman?

Variant Cover by Arthur ADAMS
• Wolverine, Deadpool, Doctor Doom, Thanos: There's one hero that's beaten them all—and now she's got her own ongoing series! (Not that she's bragging.)
• That's right, you asked for it, you got it, it's SQUIRREL GIRL! (She's also starting college this semester.)
• It's the start of a brand-new series of adventures starring the nuttiest and most upbeat super hero in the world!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

Now this is interesting.

Marvel's been making a very noticeable effort to try new solo series starring female protagonists, some of which have sold surprisingly well (Ms. Marvel) and some of which haven't (She-Hulk). They've also been putting some effort into producing more off-beat series with their own identities (What Andrew Wheeler once memorably referred to as the "Hawkeyezation" of Marvel's solo titles at Comics Alliance).

This looks like it could fit into both categories, although if you look at the art style of artist Erica Henderson and note the name of the writer, this book seems to be almost a direct answer to he success of Boom Studios' Lumberjanes and other popular-with-everybody-books (North, after all, has been writing Boom's Adventure Time).

Also of note? Squirrel Girl is noticeably less Barbie doll in appearance, even in Arthur Adams variant cover, than she has been typically depicted.

I'm not crazy about the adjective in the title, since "Squirrel Girl" is such a perfect name for a character as is, and I actively hate the $4 price tag, the latter of which puts this in "Maybe check it out in trade if the reviews are good" category rather than something I'd read serially via pull-list.

• From the ashes of AXIS an all-new, all different Avengers assemble!
• The tragedy at the end of AXIS has left the Uncanny Avengers vulnerable, and someone is taking advantage of it.
• One of the Avengers oldest foes returns with a terrible secret that will, all hyperbole aside, shatter the lives of two members of the squad.
• What is Counter-Earth? What terrible secrets does it house?
32 PGS./Rated T ...$3.99

Well, it's not an all-new, all different Avengers line-up—Rogue and Scarlet Witch are still there. The concept of the "Avengers Unity Squad" seems somewhat muddied by the presence of Brother Voodoo, who was neither Avenger nor X-Men (or was he Avenger for, like, seven issues somewhere during the Bendis run...?), and without long-time, original line-up Avengers Wasp, Thor and Steve Rogers, and mutant revolutionary Scott Summers' brother Alex, the premise of the original series seems to shifting quite a bit.

But, having no idea what actually will happen in Axis, there might be a very, very good reason for that shift.

Not fond of the costumes, although everyone's certainly worn worse in the past. Rogue's hood-but-exposed cleavage never quite seemed right to me, like she's trying to hide her face and show off her boobs simultaneously. But it's just a single issue, and might include a zipper I can't see that Acuna just happened to draw more down than up.

UNCANNY X-MEN #30 & 31
BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS (W) • Chris Bachalo (A)
Issue #30 -
In the fallout from AXIS, the Uncanny X-Men return to the Xavier school to lick their battle wounds. But for some, the events that transpired may have left a deeper wound than anyone realizes. Wounds heal, but sometimes the scars become too much to bear, and the ruby glasses come off.
Issue #31 -
As the fallout from AXIS continues, the Uncanny X-Men seem to be searching for an identity. Viewed as terrorists by revolutionaries by teachers by their students. If odd ones at that. But some don't see the grey. For those whose world is black and white, the wrongs will add up...and they will see RED.
32 PGS. (EACH)/Rated T+ ...$3.99 (EACH)

Wow, that is some particularly, noticeably terrible writing in the solicitation copy for these books. The last sentences of each made me laugh out loud. Particularly that last sentence for #30, which has way too many metaphors going on.


Although one of the characters in the book literally wears ruby glasses, like actual glasses made of actual ruby quartz, so I guess maybe that's not meant to be a metaphor at all, nor is the bit about seeing red in the copy for #31...?

X-MEN #23
• The start of a brand new story penned by MS. MARVEL creator G. WILLOW WILSON!
• When a sinkhole appears under mysterious circumstances in the middle of the Black Rock Desert, the X-Men go to investigate...
• But little do they suspect that the phenomenon has connections to old allies...and enemies!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

Hey, check it out! That all-female X-Men team book that everyone was so excited about when it launched (but was actually super terrible), the one that was written by creepy old Brian Wood, is now going to be written by a woman. That's cool; Wilson's solo writing has been hit-or-miss for me (I haven't read Ms. Marvel yet), but Wood's run so bad, I can't imagine she could do much worse if she tried.

Oh, and hey, maybe it will have a female artist too, as it doesn't look like they've figured out who's drawing it yet. Better hurry guys; January's only a couple months away. Need ideas? Ask Janelle.

Monday, October 20, 2014

DC's January previews reviewed

This coming January DC will once again have a theme to their many, many variant covers, and it will be focused not by artist, as will be the case with Darwyn Cooke's December variants, but by subject matter: The Flash.

Next year is apparently the Scarlet Speedster's 75th anniversary, so DC is celebrating by having The Flash appear on variant covers throughout the month. Interestingly, the bulk of those covers seem to consist of The Flash running "on-screen" of a classic DC cover of some sort, essentially photo-bombing—or should that be cover-bombing?—famous DC covers.

In almost every single case, the version of The Flash that is depicted is the New 52 version of the Barry Allen Flash, with the zig-zagging seams of his costume emanating from his face and torso, making his costume look a bit like some sort of dark red citrus fruit that an be peeled in sections. By contrast, the characters he interacts with tend to be dressed in their original, mostly Silver Age costumes.

Take, for example, Michael Allred's awesome image of the original Teen Titans above (following Cooke's Teen Titans variant from December, which depicts that iteration of Titans as a rock band, that's two months in a row the original characters in their original costumes, appear on variant covers. Maybe that's the team that should star in the next Teen Titans reboot). Or Tony Harris' recreation of the famous Justice League vs. Starro image from 1960's Brave and the Bold #28, which features the other four characters in their Silver Age costumes, while The Flash is in his New 52 costume (also, they're fighting the giant alien starfish in the middle of a city, instead of at sea, for some reason).

The Bat-books seem to have had the most fun with the idea:

Aaron Lopresti, forgetting Babs' purse (and WTF is up with the the thumbs-up?)

Dave Bullock, who should really draw more comics.

Tony S. Daniel

Thinking of what Grant Morrison has his characters discussing in The Multiversity, regarding every comic book being a window to a different world, this really works for The Flash in a way it might not for other, non-Deadpool characters, as one of The Flash's Silver Age gimmicks is, of course, his ability to vibrate his molecules at different speeds in order to travel to different dimensions/realities.

Of course, it probably should be the Silver Age Barry Allen on the cover rather than the New 52 Barry Allen, but whatever. There are some nice images generated. (Although, now that I think about it, celebrating The Flash's 75th anniversary is a lot different than celebrating Superman's, Batman's, Wonder Woman's or Captain Marvel's, as "The Flash" isn't one character like the others, but those 75 years consist of years of Jay Garrick as The Flash, then Allen, then Wally West, then Barry Allen again...and some years where two or all three of them were The Flash;"The Flash" is a codename, color scheme and power set more than a character.)

Anyway, to see a bunch of other DC Comics covers—those featuring The Flash and those not featuring The Flash—you can check out the publisher's solicitations for their January-shipping books here. To see a bunch of words I wrote about those covers and solicitations, don't go anywhere.

Written by DAN JURGENS
Cover by IVAN REIS
On sale JANUARY 7 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Can the Others survive the combined onslaught of Cheshire, The KGBeast and The NKVDemon? Or will the sins of one member’s past finally destroy the team?

Did you bet a friend that a second Aquaman book, co-starring the lackluster super-characters Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis introduced in their second story arc on the main Aquaman book, wouldn't make it past eight issues? If so, then you my friend just lost a bet.

Written by PETER J. TOMASI
Art and cover by PATRICK GLEASON and MICK GRAY
THE FLASH 75 Variant cover by DAVE BULLOCK
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for more information.
The team of Batman and Robin are together again! But what is the new dynamic for this crimefighting duo now that Damian has super powers of his own?

So who were you guessing would be the next Robin? Carrie Kelly? Tim Drake? Harper Row? Duke Thomas? Stephanie Brown? Julia Pennyworth? A resurrected Damian? Chris Kent? Well, it is apparently one of them! (That link, and the next paragraph, contain spoilers, I guess...if the reveal isn't a red herring, of course).

And the one it turns out to be is...the most obvious one, at least given how much time Batman and Robin writer Peter J. Tomasi invested in devoting just about every issue of the book since Damian's death to Batman trying to get Damian back in one form or another. I've always assumed that Grant Morrison planned out his story with Damian dying at the conclusion, so that DC could essentially reset the Batman franchise back to where it was before Morrison took over the Batman title (that is, with Tim Drake resuming the role of Robin), but Morrison ended up staying a lot longer than he originally intended...and Damian ended up proving a lot more popular than one might expect Batman's long-lost, 10-year-old son would be. Hell, he even survived the New 52 reboot, which included a timeline so compressed that even with some super-science bullshit about a sped-up aging process still doesn't leave a lot of room for Damian to exist in.

This is the Ivan Reis-drawn cover to Batman Eternal #42, featuring the debut (not counting the flash-forward, actual debut) of Harper Row in her terrible, terrible, godawful, stupid-looking Bluebird costume.

For some reason, she fights crime using a big-ass, almost Cable-sized gun, despite Batman being completely 100% anti-gun.

Anyway, I just put that there to note that January should be the best-drawn month of Batman Eternal yet, as it will feature two issues by Joe Quinones, one by David Lafuente and another by Juan Jose Ryp. They are all talented artists...but I don't think any of them are talented enough to make the Bluebird costume look good. Perhaps it was designed to draw some of the criticism away from Red Robin's terrible, terrible, godawful stupid-looking costume...?

Written by TONY S. DANIEL
On sale JANUARY 28 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
Slade’s journey into his past takes an unexpected turn, leading him to Gotham City – and Harley Quinn!

Based on how surprisingly hight sales on Harley Quinn have been, maybe DC should have tried launching this book, the second stab at a Deathstroke monthly since late 2011, as Deathstroke/Harley Quinn. If Superman and Wonder Woman can share a book, why can't these two...?

Daniels's figure work on Harley and her extra accessories are cool, but I find it highly amusing that, not content with the weird angle of the rooftop to hid their feet and lower legs, Harley and Deastroke apparently also brought a smoke machine with them.

Art and cover by BRETT BOOTH and NORM RAPMUND
THE FLASH 75 Variant cover by HOWARD PORTER
On sale JANUARY 28 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The all-new, all-murderous Flash is posing as Barry Allen while the real Scarlet Speedster is trapped in the Speed Force!

Fun idea for the Howard Porter's Flash variant, although I'm not sure why New 52 Flash seems to be attempting to catch the girder instead of move the poor guy about to get squashed by it. Your power is super-speed, not super-strength, Flash!

Also, it's nice to see Jay Garrick, the version of The Flash who actually debuted 75 years or so ago, on at least one of these Flash variants, instead of Barry (who debuted in 1956, less than 60 years ago).

Written by TIM SEELEY and TOM KING
Art and cover by MIKEL JANIN
On sale JANUARY 7 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
It’s the battle you never thought you’d see, as Grayson goes toe to toe with the Midnighter!

Well given that I saw Grayson go toe to toe with the Midnighter in Grayson #1, I'm actually not the least bit surprised that they will be battling again in the book's sixth issue.

This is the regular cover to Justice Leaguer Dark #38, but Guillem March, who should stop drawing covers and start drawing more Batman Eternal interiors. When I first saw the cover from far away (i.e. before clicking on it to embiggen it), I thought the character at the center was some weird amalgamated version of Black Canary and Huntress, but I see that it's actually Zatanna's new costume, which mixes her original magician's assistant look with that of her later, lamer superhero costume.

Check out the line work on that...whatever it is that they're all swirling about in.

This is the Flash variant to that same issue, by Kelley Jones. I find it interesting not only because I love Kelley Jones (but I do love Kelley Jones...or his art, at least. Never met the guy), but because while Jones is one of the first artists I would consider were I picking an artist to draw Swamp Thing, he's also one of the last guys I would consider were I picking an artist to draw The Flash. So nice to see him do a Flash/Swampy team-up on the cover, then.

On sale JANUARY 21 • 80 pg, FC, $7.99 US • RATED T
The guidebook to the greatest adventure in DC’s history is here! With a detailed concordance featuring each of the 52 worlds in the Multiverse, a complete history of DC Comics’ universe-shattering “Crisis” events, a map of all known existence, AND an action-packed dual adventure starring Kamandi of Earth-51 alongside the post-apocalyptic Atomic Knight Batman of Earth-17 and chibi Batman of Earth-42, this 80-page mountain of MULTIVERSITY madness cannot be missed!

The MULTIVERSITY GUIDEBOOK contains everything you ever wanted to know about DC’s parallel worlds and their super-heroic inhabitants. Meet the Agents of W.O.N.D.E.R. The Light Brigade, the Super-Americans and the Love Syndicate! Meet the Accelerated Man, Aquaflash, BiOmac and more! Overflowing with today’s top artists and completely written by Grant Morrison himself, readers of the DC Universe can’t afford to pass up this oversized, sixth chapter of MULTIVERSITY!

This seems like the sort of book I don't see much any more, certainly not from DC, and, if Marvel still publishes them, I haven't noticed one since around Civil War or so. DC used to publish a line of over-sized comics they called Secret Files and Origins, generally about once a year for each franchise, and each big event got one too (DC One Million, Joker's Last Laugh, Our Worlds At War, etc). Those were usually a mixture of pin-ups with text about characters and a few short comics-format stories of various length.

The above solicitation makes it sound like it will have at least one comics story (the Batman team-up), and I suppose if there's anyone that can make "a complete history of DC Comics' universe-shattering 'Crisis' events" make a lick of sense post-New 52, Morrison would be the one.

The $8 price tag sounds insanely high to me—at that point, you're no more than $2.99 away from a 200-page collection of manga—but it's not really all that much more than the regular issues of Multiversity. The fact that this is all written by Morrison is certainly a bonus, and that's a damn impressive line-up of artists.

Written by WALTER SIMONSON and others
On sale MARCH 25 • 688 pg, FC, $75.00 US
Legendary writer/artist Walter Simonson takes on Jack Kirby’s Fourth World! These tales star the heroes and villains of the Fourth World as Darkseid seeks the Anti-Life Equation and Orion battles to stop him! Collects ORION #1-25 and stories from JACK KIRBY’S FOURTH WORLD #9-11 and 13!

These are some pretty damn good comics here, and some of the best New Gods comics not by creator Jack Kirby you'll find. I'm pretty sure you can assemble your own collection of these for less than $30 if you don't mind hunting back-issue bins (that's how I assembled my run of Orion), but then, I guess you're paying the $75 to not have to look in back-issue bins, huh?

Well, now I know what a Bryan Hitch drawing of Swamp Thing would look like, thanks to the solicitation for Secret Origins #9.

Written by GAIL SIMONE
On sale JANUARY 7 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
What is Catman’s strange secret – and how will it affect this new team? Find out in the second sensational issue of SECRET SIX!

Huh. That's strange. I simultaneously like and dislike this new Catman costume. It's a cool-looking costume for a cat-based villain, but it's a terrible costume for Catman, whose previous costumes—all of 'em, save maybe the out-of-continuity Legends of the Dark Knight one—are better. It certainly hints at a radically revised origin, as there's no hint of Batman inspiration to it, and no cape, which may mean he no longer has that magical cloth that his old cape was fashioned from.

That's a pretty striking cover image though; it's going to be one of those that, like March's Justice League Dark cover, you hate to see them put a logo, issue number and credits on.

On sale MARCH 4 • 400 pg, FC, $39.99 US
DC Comics celebrates the World’s Mightiest Mortal in this new collection starring Captain Marvel and his extended crimefighting family: Captain Marvel Jr., Mary Marvel, Tawky Tawny and more, plus villains Dr. Sivana, Mr. Mind, Black Adam and others!

Really looking forward to this...although I don't know how much they really need include after the Binder and Beck stuff...

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art and wraparound cover by JOHN ROMITA, JR. and KLAUS JANSON
On sale JANUARY 28 • 40 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T
An extra-sized special issue of the world’s greatest hero brings in the New Year with a new costume, new powers and new friends and enemies! The epic team of Geoff Johns, John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson conclude their first arc with twist after twist that will send Superman onto a new path and force Clark Kent to making a shocking decision! Plus: John Romita Jr. draws Batman!

"New costume"...? Could this be the long-awaited return of Superman's red shorts? Is he ditching the nanotech armor in order to start dressing like Superman again? It looks like we'll have to wait until January to find out, but even if this is just the New 52 version of the Electric Superman saga, it should still be worth checking out, if only just to see John Romita Jr. draw more DC stuff, like the fellow mentioned in the last sentence (And, honestly, the book has been pretty good ever since the new team took over).

You get two choices for the cover of Superman/Wonder Woman #15. One features The Flash impishly tying Superman and Wonder Woman up in her magical lasso of truth (note that this is a rare example of all of the characters in a Flash variant being in their New 52 costumes). The other features Superman impaled to a wall behind a sword-wielding Wonder Woman, with both character's feet hidden by rubble.

Unfortunately, while you may get to pick which cover you want, the contents of the issue will be the same underneath each, and presumably fall closer to that of the second cover than that of the Reis-drawn one.

THE FLASH 75 Variant cover by MICHAEL ALLRED
On sale JANUARY 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The fight for the soul of the Teen Titans continues as S.T.A.R. Labs and the team find themselves bonding over a new common enemy, just as the Titans bring in a new member: Power Girl.

Does anyone else think it's weird that we're only about three years into the deck-clearing, continuity de-confusing New 52 reboot, and we've already got two Power Girls, one of whom has already changed costumes at least twice (not counting her Supergirl costume, as she was Supergirl from a parallel Earth...or parallel Krypton, I guess)...?

So here's a pretty perfect illustration of how far Wonder Woman has fallen over the decades. In the Terry and Rachel Dodson Flash variant, we see New 52 Flash cover-bombing the classic cover of Wonder Woman #155 (not sure why he looks so damn serious in the close-up image, though). That's gotta be one of the all-time great weirdest Wonder Woman covers, of the sort it hardly matters what the story attached to it actually entails (Also? I kind of love the ballerina slipper-style foot-wear).

As for the regular cover, it is drawn by interior artist David Finch, and features Wonder Woman as the pupil-less Greek goddess of war (that's her war goddess get-up; she inherited the job after War died), splattered with bloody sword cock at the reader.

I like that Finch has seen fit to splatter her cleavage with blood too, as nothing says Everything Wrong With Comics to me quite as eloquently as the blood-splattered breasts of a superheroine.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

You know who would like Wonder Woman's new origin story? Wertham.

Diana has two mommies?!
I've been working my way through Tim Hanley's Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World's Most Famous Heroine (Chicago Review Press; 2014), and I'm currently on a chapter dealing with the way Wonder Woman was portrayed in the Silver Age, after her creator William Moulton Marston had passed away and Robert Kanigher took over writing her adventures.

In this section of the book, Hanley spends some time discussing Fredric Wertham's crusade against comics, the detrimental effects it had on the comic book industry (and, perhaps more importantly, the comic book medium) and how DC's post-congressional hearings superhero comics line conformed to the Comics Code Authority.

Wonder Woman, like Superman and Batman and Robin, were among the few superheroes specifically singled out by Wertham in his influential-at-the-time (and now much-ridiculed) Seduction of the Innocent, in which Wertham referred to Wonder Woman as the "lesbian counterpart" to Batman's barely-coded homosexual ideal. While Wertham's objection to the character as a sort of insidious recruiting poster for lesbianism—Wertham, like too many people of his day, thought homosexuality was in and of itself an unnatural and unhealthy thing—it turns out another thing he objected to was her origin story.

Her original origin story was told in 1941's All Star Comics #8, and repeated and refined elsewhere, as in the H.G. Peter-drawn panel from Wonder Woman #1 at the top of this post. It was this version, the only one the then still-young character had, that Wertham objected to. It went like this: Centuries ago, after their encounter with all-male hero Hercules during his famous twelve labors, Queen Hippolyte and her Amazons were led by the goddess Aphrodite to a hidden island, where they would be free of the violent, fallen world of men...and free to build their own advanced society and science. There, Athena taught Hippolyte the art of sculpting, and she made a little girl out of clay. Her patron goddess Aphrodite brought the little statue to life, and she was named after another Greek goddess Diana. The magically born girl would of course grow up to be the princess of the Amazons and, ultimately, Wonder Woman.

Writes Hanley:
Furthermore, Wertham decried the fact that "Wonder Woman is not the natural daughter of a natural mother, nor was she born like Athena from the head of Zeus." In 1954, the Golden Age Wonder Woman origin story still stood, and she was made of clay and brought to life by the gods. Her lack of a "natural" mother or father placed her further outside the maternal, familial norms than her fellow female heroes and made her the archetype of Wertham's narrow-minded deduction.
Wertham would therefor probably prefer the current origin story. While it has been revised before, including by Kanigher himself (although, somewhat amusingly, Hanley points out that Kanighter has no memory of altering Marston's original origin story, despite doing so rather drastically), the current version concocted by Brian Azzarello as part of 2011's "New 52" reboot gives Wonder Woman a much more "natural" origin.

In Azzarello's version, which is apparently going to be the one used in Wonder Woman's feature film debut, Wonder Woman was conceived of a sexual union between her mother Hipplyte and her father Zeus, king of the Olympian gods.
You just don't see the point of conception in too many superhero origin stories, do you?
The whole molded-from-clay thing was, in this new version, a pretty story her mother sold her to keep the truth about her demi-god status and familial relationship with the petty, bickering, often-at-war-with-one-another Olympians from her.

I suppose it would be petty and reactionary to blanketly state, "If Wertham would have liked it, then it's probably a bad idea" as some sort of rule for comic book-making, even when it came to Wonder Woman, the character he seemed to have the most trouble with for the least substantiated reasoning. But I'd be quite okay with comic book-makers having a poster on their office walls saying something like, "If Wertham would have liked it, let's give it a little more thought, just to be safe, shall we?"

Granted, much of Azzarello's soon-to-conclude run on the book has hinged on Wonder Woman being an Olympian, but his change in origin never sat well with me (the other bits of Wonder Woman's back-story he changed, like those concerning the Amazons kidnapping, mating with and then murdering sailors and then selling their male offspring for weapons sat worse still). That is, for the most part, because of how radical a change it was from Marston's conception of the character, which, unlike so many other superheroes, seems to get more and more diluted and generic the more writers work on her over the decades, rather than more and more complex and compelling. (For example, it's hard to find a Batman story that isn't at least as interesting as his first, Golden Age adventures, whereas it's damn near impossible to find a Wonder Woman comic as compelling as those Marston and Peter first crafted).

Friday, October 17, 2014

Comic shop comics: October 15

Batman Eternal #28 (DC Comics) The slug on the Clay Mann-drawn cover reads "TURNING POINT!" and it features an image of Batgirl Barbara Gordon turning away from the reader, her cape flapping in the wind so we can get a good view of her butt and also her terrible, terrible New 52 costume, with all it's joints and armor and ribbing. I wonder when her new, not terrible costume will show up in Batman Eternal, or if it will at all. It seems like some of the newer Batman series that will launch in the future—Arkham Manor, Gotham After Midnight—will spin rather directly out of the events of Batman Eternal and may, in fact, be set after Eternal concludes. Perhaps that's the case with the new Batgirl and the upcoming new direction for Catwoman, too.

I don't know if "Turning Point" is the best description of the events of this issue, scripted by Tim Seeley from Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV's story (no consulting writers are credited within, but some of their names to appear on the cover), but the issue does contain several criss-crossing plot lines and some big decisions from at least a few of the players in the ongoing super-crime melodrama, decisions that could potentially change their places in the story.

The book opens in a Gotham neighborhood I used to spend the most time in, a neighborhood so rough that no one messed with it during the city's post-apocalpytic "No Man's Land" hellscape phase (the warning sign festooned with the skulls of vampires probably had something to do with that, though) and a neighborhood that I think is making it's New 52 debut here (But feel free to correct me if I'm wrong). That would, of course, be The Cauldron, home of Noonan's Sleazy Bar, where Tommy Monaghan and his fellow hitmen used to hang out in Hitman, still probably DC Comics' all-time best comic book series (Or, at the very least, Caleb's all-time favorite DC comic book series).
It's only in four panels—two exterior shots, two interior—and only appears as what Starfire refers to as Jason "The Red Hood" Todd's "favorite Gotham bar," where the red-helmet rocking anti-hero engages in a bar fight with a couple of unarmed, generic white guys. No sign of any of the Hitman cast, which is for the best. I appreciate the shout-out to Hitman, but honestly hope everyone not named Garth Ennis and John McCrea steer far, far away from those characters and storylines.

From there, The Red Helmet Hood goes to say his goodbyes to Batgirl, the implication being that they formed some form of romantic relationship, or at least mutual attraction, during their shared adventures of late, but it seems to have been only implied. That, or I missed an issue.

He finds her still forcing Commissioner Jason Bard into a series of nonconsensual bungee jumps, and tells her that's not the way she operates, it's the way he operates, so he tries to kill Bard. Batgirl saves him, but not before maybe eliciting from Bard an Oh shit I'm about to die! sense of regret for his heretofore evil actions.

In the other plotline, Batman let's The Flamingo go in order to track him, and he leads him to an invite-only criminal underworld event where some guy named Bone I've never heard of is planning to beat a captive Catwoman to death in front of an audience. At least that was his plan, until first Killer Croc and then Batman intervene.

Catwoman too seems to be heading toward her turning point, as she ultimately decides to do what we've known she was going to do since before the book started—take over as the kingpin queenpin of crime in Gohtam City, under the belief that better her than someone worse.

Artwork this month comes courtesy of Meghan Hetrick. Her figures and rendering are all fairly strong, but there were several panels I didn't think executed very well, like this one where Batman is getting ready to trail The Flamingo, from what looks like only about ten feet away...
(Wow, Batman must be stealthy, if he can remain undetected from so close while talking out loud on the phone).

Or this panel, where I have no idea what Batman is holding or doing with his hands, exactly:
A tire iron, maybe?

I don't think the execution of this sequence worked quite right, either:
I know Batman didn't kill Flamingo, but just because I know Batman doesn't kill. That's a lot of blood to come out of a dude's head that you just wanted to knock out, isn't it? (Didn't Batman ever learn any nerve pinches or karate chops or anything?) I'm assuming the "Nuhh" is there to assure readers Batman did not just totally murder a guy.

No sign of Tim, Harper and the nanotech plot, or the haunted Arkham plot, the latter of which was sort of surprising, given that Arkham Manor, in which the Arkham inmates are moved into Wayne Manor, launches next week.

Earth 2: World's End #2 (DC) I thought this issue came with a rather huge drop in quality from that of the first issue. I think much of that had to do with the shorter page count, meaning the ever-changing art teams didn't hang around long enough to make their abrupt changes less obvious, and much of it had to do with the fact that the plotline didn't move very far from The Motley Superheroes of Earth 2 Continue to Fight for the Survival of Their Ruined Planet Against the Forces of Apokolips.

That's what happened in, let's see, every issue ever of Earth 2, so this book has thus far simply just more of the same, more often. Only much more poorly drawn than usual.

I do really like the logo though.

Oh, and Earth 2's Superman II Val-Zod's costume.

I wrote a bit about the nature of this series at Robot 6 this week, and I think I'm likely going to end up maybe reading the book in library-borrowed trade, should it get more interesting as time goes on.


By the way, I'm not sure what the fuck is going on with this stoner-humor ad for an upcoming special issue of Harley Quinn, and why it's appearing in T for Teen-rated books:
I've heard that one of the scents in the Scratch 'n Sniff Rub 'n Smell special will be that of marijuana, but man, that is one weird way to market the book. Particularly since it already outsells pretty much everything else DC publishes; does it need ads in the lower-selling books...?


The New 52: Futures End #24 (DC) Hey, check out the background of the cover. Look closely, and you'll see the/a Legion of Superheroes, Wonder Woman in her invisible jet and characters like Hawkman, The Flash, Kid Flash, Captain Marvel, Wonder Girl Donna Troy and Cyborg in old-school, pre-reboot costumes. I think cover artist Ryan Sook is using the red to represent The Bleed, the area between universes that the Stormwatch Carrier ship travels throuhg. The foreground shows what looks like it's shaping up to the be the new version of Stormwatch—Frankenstein, Hawkman, Black Adam, Amethyst, The Atom—versus the big-ass Brainiac monster.

Rather randomly, Mister Miracle and Fury, both Earth 2 refugees that were until recently interred on Cadmus Island and presumably under the control of Brother Eye, are given five pages. This is mainly random because they have only just barely-appeared in the series at all up until this point, and it is the 24th issue of the series (25th, counting the #0 issue).

Attention is also spent on Maddy's developing relationship with Ron Raymond, and Tim Drake's stalking of the former, Jason Rusch's work with a crazy doctor on teleportation device and John Constantine and company, who are confronted with the Parasite-looking robot, which shirtless, bearded Superman arrives in time to punch—but not in time to save one of Constantine's running crew from getting his chest somehow exploded from behind.

Stupid Superman; if only he was as fast as a speeding bullet or something, he might have been there in time to save the poor guy.

Jesus Merino draws this issue, and Dan Green inks it. It looks better than average.

Lumberjanes #7 (Boom Studios) Finally, a non-DC comic! An explain-much-of-the-weirdness issue (I think this was meant to be the penultimate issue, before Lumberjanes was upgraded from limited series to ongoing), the book finds the girls joining forces with Jen and Diana to steal, or maybe just borrow, an artifact from Rosie and taking it to a special tower full of challenges and traps that they had already defeated without knowing what they were doing.

Diana explains what they are really doing, and why they've been beset by strange, three-eyed creatures and mind-controlled boys in the earlier issues. It makes sense, given all the clues we've been given so far, but the Classical, Mediterranean mythology seems rather wildly out-of-place in the North American wilderness setting of Lumberjanes. I guess we'll see how much of the info dump proves to be true—at least one of the characters has her suspicions—and how it plays out.

Artist Brooke Allen does her normal excellent job of drawing everything, especially during a passage where Greek mythology is discussed (and the background gives way to Classical, vase-style art) and in a battle scene against giant lightning bugs, which can shock the girls the same way lightning can (and whose antenna are shaped like zig-zagging cartoon lightning bolts).

Check 'em out:
Those are some mighty fine lightning bugs.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


The perfect disguise! There an awful lot of funny moments in Simon Hanselmann's Megahex, which collects and contextualizes the cartoonist's strips into one big, awesome, epic story, but that's the moment that I first remember laughing out loud while reading. I have a short review of the book in this week's issue of Las Vegas Weekly, if you would like to go read that review. I'd definitely read the book though, were I you...and it's your cup of tea, which it may not be, as there's an awful lot of content that I think can best be described as—oh, what's the term...?—fucked up. That's the term!

Over at Robot 6, I wrote a bit about the opening issues of DC's new weekly series, Earth 2: World's End, which, like Futures End, stars a bunch off-brand, alternate versions of the "real" DC superheroes.

(While there, check out Tom Bondurant's piece about Firestorm and Cyborg, which serves as a sort of introduction—or re-introduction, depending on your familiarity—in light of the two character's maybe appearing in live-action TV and film in the near-ish future. I was surprisingly not the least-bit-interested in Warner Bros DC supehero movie announcement earlier in the week, perhaps because it seems like I've been hearing about all of these movies more-or-less forever now. The only one that really surprised me was that they were planning a Cyborg movie, since he's a pretty boring character for a superhero: He's half-man, half-robot and, um, that's his whole deal. I can't think of a single Cyborg-specific villain. If you were going to give a Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titan-era character a solo movie, you should at least go for Beat Boy/Changeling—at least his powers are interesting looking, you know? Maybe the Justice League movie will make him into a more interesting character, but, at the moment, Cyborg is maybe the last DC superhero I would want to see star in a solo feature film).

Finally, I have a pair of reviews at School Library Journal's Good Comics For Kids blog. The first one is of a neat little line of board books in which DC's super-people teach the littlest of kids about shapes and shit such. The second Snoopy's Thanksgiving, another of Fantagraphics' little, seasonal gift book collections of Peanuts strips.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Happy New Comics Day!

Did you guys get the latest issues of Throttle, Jab and Gouge...? What did you think of the new story arc they just started in Murder Comics? Did it seem a little derivative of the earlier issues of Murder Komix to you at all...?


Okay, I don't have a post for tonight, so please just admire this great single panel from an early Schulz Peanuts Sunday strip. It and about two years worth of great comic strips can be found in Fantagraphics' Complete Peanuts 1950-1952, now available in paperback.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Review: Tales of The TMNT #3-#4

The “Worms of Madness” story arc running through these two 2004 issues of Tales of The TMNT, the first multi-issue arc in the series, is at this point probably more interesting for who made it then the events that occur within it, although the events are a pretty big deal within TMNT continuity. The "worms" of the title are those that the Foot Clan mystics fed the remains of Oroku Saki, The Shredder, in order to “resurrect” him as an intelligent worm colony that thought it was The Shredder (That was, remember, The Shredder that attacked the Turtles and family in 1987's TMNT #10, and who they fought in the “Return To New York” story arc in 1989's #19-#21).

While "Worms" was scripted by Tales editor Steve Murphy, he co-plotted it with Rick Remender, who also penciled the story (with John Beatty providing thick, generous inks to those pencils). In 2014, chances are that a lot of comics readers know Rememnder only as a comics writer, given his various high-profile works for Marvel, including The Punisher, Uncanny X-Force, Captain America, Uncanny Avengers and the publisher's next big crossover/event series, Axis.

But here he is co-plotting a really rather minor story for a relatively little book in 2004, and providing the artwork for it.
The “Let me tell you a story” fronstpieces for the two issues are drawn by Eric Talbot and Scott Cohn, and feature a stitched-up Raphael with monster-fighting gear and a trying-to-outswim-a-shark Michelangelo, respectively. The story is set at the very end of “Return To New York,” with Rememnder and Beatty re-drawing the panel where Leonardo beheads “The Shredder” and the Turtles then burn his corpse on a raft pushed out into the river.

Meanwhile, an unseen Foot mystic narrates:
Pretty good narration, particularly the last two boxes.

I personally try not to think about the way the Turtles must smell—"the stench of human waste that clings to them like rancid yolk"—but yeah, spending the first decade and a half of their lives in the sewers of New York, they’ve gotta have a pretty terrible smell soaked into their bandanas and weapons and skins. Is there a secret ninja technique that allows a ninja to make his scent invisible as they sneak around? Because no matter how perfect they might be fading away, into the night, surely you would be able to smell them coming and going, right?

At the edge of the river, this mystic casts a spell to return the worms to life…sort of. Saki’s severed head is dragged through the black water by the dozen or so worms that emerge from his dead, open mouth. Until a shark eats it. And, at some point, the shark must have had some octopus. Because, another spell and another week later, The Shredder returns again...sort of.
The hybrid, amalgamated abomination makes short work of the Turtles—like, three pages short—before capturing Splinter and taking off.

Which is probably as good a time as any to ask: What the hell are the Turtles and Splinter even doing in the sewers of New York a week after their final battle with The Shredder and The Foot?

Splinter didn’t accompany them during their “Return To New York,” but stayed behind with Casey and April at the farmhouse. And, when we next saw the Turtles, it was...okay, well it was a few issues of Mark Martin's crazy stories, seemingly set before the events of #10 or "Return," but after that, in Rick Veitch's "The River" and so on, they’ve returned to the countryside. According to Murphy and Remender’s story, they followed their battle with “Shredder” and the Foot by returning to their old sewer lair to watch The Simpsons, and then hung around for a week, at some point being joined by Splinter...?
In the second installment, it’s revealed that the Shredder-monster did more than just beat-up the Turtles, it also somehow inverted their personalities, so that Raphael is a coward, Leonardo a completely irresponsible goof ball and Donatello is dumb. Michelangelo alone is unaffected, but it was unclear if that was simply because his irresponsible behavior was reversed too, and, while the others were worse off, he was simply made more responsible (In the earliest scene of this issue, Leonardo is razzing him with the same words he was taunting Leo in the previous chapter).

Mikey manages to find a spell in one of Splinter’s mystical books, summons a four-armed monkey god thing, and this being restores their personalities, teleporting the quartet to where the Foot mystic and the Shredder monster are, the rooftop of a factory on the edge of the river under a huge full moon—good place for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle battle.
This time, the battle goes in their favor, although it’s hard to discern a story reason, beyond the fact that this is the second issue of a two-part story. The monster gets bludgeoned and stabbed and eventually achieves self-awareness, realizing it is not The Shredder, but still lashing out at the mystic, the pair of them falling into the water and presumably dying.

Death seems to take for The Shredder worms this time around, while the mystic is transformed into a half-human, half-shark creature, “A new form of hate.”

Not the best story, and the wonky continuity doesn’t help—particularly because this is a story premised on being built atop existing TMNT continuity—but it was a real pleasure seeing Remender and Beatty’s art applied to characters so often drawn by so many different artists (Like Batman, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are characters I enjoy seeing drawn over and over by different artists, just to see the choices they make, and how truly flexible and fluid the initial designs have proven over the decades).

Both of these issues feature back-up stories as well. The back-up in #3 is by German writer Peter Liehr and German artist Peter Schaaff. Entitled simply “Green,” it’s a five-page, nothing-much of a story, in which narration boxes semi-meditate on the meaning of the title word as it applies to the goings-on, which are a fairly generic urban vigilante story staple: Attractive young woman running through an alley at night gets mugged by gang and is then saved by the hero.
Here that hero is Donatello, although it could be any of the Turtles. Or any one in green, I guess. It’s mostly of interest for Schaaf’s striking artwork, which defines places and characters in the simplest of terms (“New York," for example, is defined by the black outline of three tall buildings and sagull in flight) and the peculiar cartoonishness of the character designs.

The six-page back-up in #4 is produced by a more conventional TMNT team and is set firmly in continuity, but isn’t quite as interesting. Entitled “The Grape” and set in post-Utrom NYC, it’s written by Murphy, penciled by Jim Lawson and inked and lettered by Eric Talbot. In it, a police squad raids a crack den full of Utroms, although instead of crack they are all addicted to “menta-wave" alien helmets that expand their consciousnesses in a variety of ways, a side-effect of which leaves them so locked-up in their own minds that they can forget about their bodies, and die in their menta-wave dens.
Members of the New York Police Department fighting crime involving aliens like the Utroms is a pretty interesting premise—Law and Order: TMNT—but Murphy over-narrates, and has one of the officers over-explain on a page that beats out many of Bendis’ for too much verbiage. There’s an interesting twist at the end, as there always should be in such short stories, but I preferred the more simple, more elegantly communicated work of the German creators in the previous issue (The events of this Utrom-focused back-up will come into play in future back-ups, however).