Monthly archives: July, 2006

The Goon problem

I couldn’t resist…

Back when we did our best and worst of 2005, Jim Doom slapped a “most disappointing” on The Goon, the silly horror/mobster book by Eric Powell. I didn’t agree, first because there was some supremely crappy stuff last year and also because even though The Goon had slid a bit, I didn’t think it merited that serious of criticism.

Then came the past two issues (#s 17 and 18). And if we’re going to run primaries for best and worst of this year, well, I have my mind made up in one category.

When it was running at full steam (namely in the first few storylines), The Goon was a rollicking, ridiculous book filled with some of the most ingenuitive art (pencil shading! scans of Powell’s son!) and wonderful plays on the old horror archetypes of vampires, zombies and mad scientists. Then every once in awhile Powell would bring out a serious issue, namely the football issue, and show he could do more than be ridiculous.

Lately, few of those qualities have been on display. Issue 17 started out with promise, making a classic play on Hitchcock’s The Birds. Things quickly devolve into senseless fighting, which isn’t the problem. What’s wrong is a complete disappearance of the good ol’ Goon humor. Instead, we get at least seven jokes about incontinent elderly in just a handful of pages. That might’ve been a jab of a gag in earlier Goon books, but this time it’s pounded again and again. So when I finally read, “Lookout for the yellow snow!” I wanted to just put the damn thing down and read something funnier. Like this.

As if an assault of lame pee jokes weren’t bad enough, in issue 18 Powell decided that the best way to combat those nasty folks who’d planned to boycott the “Satan’s Sodomy Baby” issue of The Goon (which eventually caused Dark Horse not to publish it) would be to fill an entire replacement issue with lame-ass jokes as to how funny “Satan’s Sodomy Baby” is.

Though it’s hard to imagine how funny the “outrageousness” of that comic would be, I can’t help but think of the monkey sex issue in Powers.

As to the issue 18 that DID print… Well, there’s not a lot to say. A guy running a news stand shoots himself in the head, which goes over about as well as you’d imagine. Franky picks up a copy of “Satan’s Sodomy Baby” and makes so many insipid jokes about it that you’d think there wasn’t a bed-wetting old person in sight. And then there’s a Mike Allred-drawn backup story that isn’t even drawn well.

And, as always, there’s the four pages of letters in the back that continue to be unfunny in a truly inspired way.

Somehow, I’m still not ready to write The Goon off altogether. It was just too good before. Perhaps Powell’s efforts for Marvel have sapped too much of his time. But with The Goon on a bi-monthly schedule, that seems like a weak excuse. It just needs to recapture the glory. And if it does, there’s still enough time in the year to convince me otherwise on that “most disappointing” thing.

An appropriate adieu

Everyone remembers the shot heard ‘round the world. No, not the shot that killed Archduke Ferdinand which started the first World War. No, not the battle at old North Bridge, the first battle of the American Revolutionary War. I am referring, of course, to the moment Maxwell Lord shot Blue Beetle in the head, which began the countdown to Infinite Crisis.


It seems, though, that every single character in the DC Universe, along with every single creator working on a DC Universe book, sort of forgot about it already. Sure, Booster Gold was sad for a while, and maybe Fire too. And DC sure cashed in on the sudden name recognition of the Blue Beetle by launching a new series with a new character using the same name. And sure, characters still like to bring it up when they’re pointing out past failures as a way to really drive their point home. But no one seemed to even remember, let alone care, that one of their friends was killed in action trying to prevent the biggest crisis in the history of the DC Universe.

That is, until Birds of Prey #96 hit comic stores Wednesday.

If you love Ted Kord, you need to buy this issue. Do yourself a favor and just rip out anything after the seventh story page. Those first seven pages will finally give you a little closure. It seems there are a few people that remember that Ted Kord died trying to save lives.

Blue Beetle

And if the love of the character or the gorgeous art by Paulo Sequeira isn’t enough, maybe this line from page 7 will grab you: “They so cyber-did it.”

In a few pages it’s all over, but Birds of Prey #96 provides more closure on Ted Kord’s death than any other DC comic published in the 16 months since the character was killed and sparked an uproar among fans. Writer Gail Simone put it best in the caption that ends the ends this little 7-page story (an internal monologue by Black Canary):

Bye, Ted. We loved you. If we never said it, it was because you were making us laugh too hard. Hope they have huge laboratories for you up in heaven.

Week Twelve

It looks like we have another answer to one of the questions scrawled on Rip Hunter’s blackboard, folks. Who is Diana Prince? Why, she’s one of Cassie Sandsmark’s aliases. Ralph Dibny, ever the detective, figures it out while looking for the people who broke into his storage garage last week. Cassie and the Cult of Conner, obviously, did it. If you’re wondering what else happens in this week’s issue of “52,” prepare to be knocked onto your coal-mining asses.
52 week 12
Ralph discovers that Cassie and the Cult of Conner are trying to resurrect Sue Dibny as a trial run, stealing things that were close to her (Ralph’s wedding band, Sue’s jacket, etc), in order to do so. Rather than become upset by this proposition, Ralph asks if there’s any way that he can help out.

Meanwhile, Renee and the Question find themselves deciding that there’s really only one obvious answer to the question raised when they found out Intergang is infultrating Gotham last week. They’re heading to Kahndaq.

Speaking of Kahndaq, Black Adam takes his slave woman through a passage beneath his throne room that leads to (play dramatic music) the Rock of Eternity. Captain Marvel is already there, battling the Seven Deadlies in his head, trying to make sense of everything. One of my favorite moments of this issue is when we finally figure out where Black Adam’s leading Adrianna, when he gets to the bottom of the staircase and simply says, “Billy.” That’s so cool. Anyhow, Black Adam uses magic stuff to turn Adrianna into Isis, an ancient Egyptian goddess. Together, they will work for Black Adam’s cause against villains…after they find her brother.

Personally, I think this issue is pretty badass. I’m just a big fan of this series, and this issue, aside from a few GLARING editorial errors, does nothing to dissuade this fella. This is another advancement issue, though, where nothing really happens and we’re all left drooling for next week.

See ya in seven.

This week’s comics – July 26, 2006

It is rare that I actually get to read my new comics on a Wednesday, so here’s an actual timely review of the week’s haul to celebrate in the order I read them…

Astro City Special #1
Fantastic. Everything I read from the Astro City line is consistently fantastic. Like the inside front cover says, “What you need to know before reading this issue: Uh, nothing really. Dive on in, the water’s fine.”

So it has been with the other Astro City stuff I’ve read. I have the first trade, whatever it’s called. I bought that after starting to read the “The Dark Age” miniseries from last year and loving it. Busiek takes these archetypes, representing established superheroes, arcs or periods in cultural history, accepts them as known or understood, and then expands on them.

This story is about Samaritan, essentially Astro City’s Superman, having dinner with Infidel, providing the framework for Infidel’s telling of his origin. Busiek’s ability to define characters so smoothly and efficiently is greatly enhanced by Brent Anderson’s art. Anderson reminds me a bit of Neal Adams, only a little looser and more expressive in his inking. Definitely works as a stand-alone, but like The Dark Age did to me, it’ll likely hook people on the Astro City world.

Action Comics #841
I have mixed feelings about this issue. I was hesitant to even pick it up when I heard Fabian Nicieza was co-writing. Nicieza will always hold a place in my comics-reading memory as a writer who relentlessly tried to force in pop-culture references and new slang. I recall, not at all fondly, back in the early 90s when it seemed like every character in X-Force began referring to each other as “feebs.” Warpath’s music selections became the subject of banter. Bands showed up on t-shirts. Sadly, none of it came across like hip culture references.

So I was relieved to see that Nicieza only plotted the issue along with Kurt Busiek, and Busiek handled the script. Gone was the suspense wondering what new slang term would be uttered by Clark, Lois, Jimmy and Lex in the same issue. But suddenly there was this problem of everyone doubting Superman’s authenticity.

Was there an undercurrent of that in Up, Up and Away that I just missed, or is this arriving completely out of the blue? I’m not going to go back and re-read those last 8 issues, so simply going off my memories (which I imagine many other readers will do as well), this was startlingly new. Editorially, they had to know this was coming, so at least a few hints in the previous few issues would have served us well. (I do admit I might just be forgetting them, so if I’m wrong and that has been referred to, well then a big fat touche.)

What I loved was that Nightwing was treated like more of the Nightwing that was built up in Infinite Crisis in one page than he has been in over the past several months in his own title. I love the no-nonsense, heroic Dick Grayson – not the spandex-modeling, winy whore he is in his own book.

I don’t know if we’re supposed to know who this villain is at the end. I’ve never been that much of a Superman reader, so he was new to me. I yawned a bit at his slow over-the-shoulder / close-up-of-hands / big-splash-on-the-last-page revelation, but he’s here, okay. Let the fun begin.

Powers #19
I haven’t read an issue of Powers in probably 6 months. It’s still on my pull list, so I keep getting it, but I stopped reading it. Instead, I flip through, glance at the art (I still love Oeming’s work), and then maybe read the letters section. I’ve noticed a lot more nudity. Not enough to make me want to read the words in between. I always tell myself, “I’ll just go back and read them all at once.”

Well for some reason I read this one. No exception at all on the steadily increasing nudity. It’s a little unsettling with Oeming’s art – normally the comic nudity (or near-nudity) is in that standard post-Jim Lee style, to where it’s relatively Playboy-lifelike and it just seems like it’s designed to appeal to the 3 comic book readers who don’t have access to the internet. But with Oeming’s, it kind of feels like seeing Smurfette or one of those girl chipmunks from Alvin and the Chipmunks naked; it’s a little too Saturday morning cartoonish to be stimulating, which I suppose is a good thing? I don’t know.

Anyway, the jury’s out on whether or not I’ll bother to read the next issue or maybe remember to take it off my list. I honestly can’t remember anything about this issue other than lots of nudity, sex, cartoon people masturbation, and annoying witty banter in the middle of a fight with robots, and I just read it maybe a half hour ago.

Batman #655
An okay start, except Batman’s been back in Gotham for one arc after a year’s vacation, and he already needs a break to get out of town? Can’t really hold up like he used to, eh? Surely a mind like Morrison’s could come up with a less out-of-place reason to get Bruce on the road.

I’ve never been a fan of the Kuberts, especially Andy, for largely the same reasons I pissed off another second-generational comics talent last week – his character renderings always seemed pretty emotionless and interchangeable. However, I have to say that this issue seems to have a little more humanity and life than I’ve come to expect from his art, and that was a pleasant surprise.

And having a fake Batman shoot the Joker in the head seems to be a ridiculous waste of what could have been a great money moment wasted on some shocking “What has Morrison done?” first few pages.

I’m going to keep buying this because it’s Batman, but this was in no way a can’t-wait-til-next-month issue.

52: week 12
“And gathering together countries like chess pieces to consolidate a power base that only serves to threaten your people and the rest of the world.”

How does this happen? How does a big fat speech bubble like that end up in two consecutive panels? At first I thought that Adrianna was trying to make a point through some kind of parallel construction, but then I realized it was just a goof. I guess if an editorial goof is going to be excusable in any book, it’d be a book that comes out weekly. That is if an editorial goof is going to be excusable.

And on the topic of a book that comes out every month, I was thinking about how Keith Giffen does breakdowns for every book. I wonder what that’s like – drawing over someone else’s breakdowns. I wonder if John Romita, Jr has ever done that.

Anyway, I’ve been one of the folks sticking with 52, and I have no regrets. The Black Adam story alone has been great to follow, and I’ve still been given no reason to lose faith that the other stories aren’t going to pay off well.

Wolverine #44
I meant to take this off my pull list once that Decimation arc wrapped up, but I forgot. The big fat reason was the art. I absolutely despise anything in that Joe Madureira-esque style, where everything looks like it either belongs in Japan or Saturday morning. Nothing against Japan or Saturday morning, but to emulate a style for the sake of emulating a style often comes at the expense of the story (see all the X-Men comics that featured Joe Madureira on art).

The story has been strong enough to get me past the ridiculous new neck muscles that Logan has been arbitrarily sporting the past two issues. The idea of someone chasing Nitro is so simple that it’s effective and good. The idea of Wolverine fighting Namor next issue, however, is still up for debate.

New Avengers #22
It’s issues like this that only make the New Avengers net-trashing come off like so much misdirected Bendis hate. Bendis has a lot of flaws as a writer, but there’s also a lot that he does in amazing fashion. This issue is among the latter.

New Avengers is taking a well-defined route through Civil War of telling the stories of the assembly of Captain America’s band of rebels. This issue, illustrated by the magnificent Leinil Yu, tells the story of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. While I have no doubt that there will be plenty of folks on the web ripping this issue to shreds with various bits of nitpicking, if you’ve given up on this book and thought you might like to give it another chance, pick up either of the last two issues. If you don’t like those, you’re not going to like it, and fair enough. But issues like this make me glad I didn’t bail on this series, and it’s issues like this, supplementing Civil War, that are making it as powerful as it surprisingly has been.

On somewhat of a side note, I’m glad this issue addressed the aforementioned Daredevil problem. Daredevil is there, part of the posse, and several remarks are made about how he’s supposed to be in jail. This puts Civil War in the now, as opposed to a previous theory that it takes place after some undefined point in the future when DD gets out of prison…

Daredevil #87
Daredevil was the comic that got me going to the store on a regular basis back in 2002. The Bendis / Maleev run was unlike anything I’ve ever read (in a good way), and the handover to Brubaker and Lark has been seamless. Consistently the best comic out there, and every month builds anticipation for the next.

52: week 12

So that this review can be found with the other 52 reviews, I plucked it out of the week’s compiled reviews and gave it its own little home.

“And gathering together countries like chess pieces to consolidate a power base that only serves to threaten your people and the rest of the world.”

How does this happen? How does a big fat speech bubble like that end up in two consecutive panels? At first I thought that Adrianna was trying to make a point through some kind of parallel construction, but then I realized it was just a goof. I guess if an editorial goof is going to be excusable in any book, it’d be a book that comes out weekly. That is if an editorial goof is going to be excusable.

And on the topic of a book that comes out every month, I was thinking about how Keith Giffen does breakdowns for every book. I wonder what that’s like – drawing over someone else’s breakdowns. I wonder if John Romita, Jr has ever done that.

Anyway, I’ve been one of the folks sticking with 52, and I have no regrets. The Black Adam story alone has been great to follow, and I’ve still been given no reason to lose faith that the other stories aren’t going to pay off well.

The Eternals Challenge

I am issuing an open challenge to everyone who reads this blog (which thankfully is a relatively low number in case this backfires):

Eternals 1Go out to your local comic shop. Buy Eternals #1 and Eternals #2. Read them and enjoy them. If you don’t like them, send them to me and I’ll send you a check for $7.98.

It’s that good. However, in the midst of a deluge of new DC titles with high-profile creative teams on top-tier characters and Marvel’s Civil War and it’s thousands of crossover, Eternals isn’t getting the credit it deserves. Eternals is quite simply one of the best series I’ve read in recent memory.

I know what your thinking…the Eternals? You’ve probably never even read a story with the Eternals in it, or even read a story that mentioned them. That’s the same thing I thought when I heard Neil Gaiman was going to write a new series featuring Jack Kirby’s last creations at Marvel. Okay, so they mentioned them in the Earth X trilogy, albeit very briefly, but I certainly didn’t know anything about them. Other than the fact that Sersi is one and Cannonball used to think he was one, I knew absolutely nothing about the Eternals. Thing is, you don’t need to. Gaiman gives you all the backstory you need to know in the first issue, and there’s surprisingly little of it.

Eternals 1aOh, and did I mention Neil Gaiman is writing it? And John Romita Jr. is drawing it? Romita’s at the top of his game here, and Neil Gaiman always shines. And did I mention the first issue was by far the best book to come out the week it was released? That’s no small feat, considering Ex Machina, Justice, Astonishing X-Men, Ultimates 2 and Fallen Angel all came out the same week.

So what’s stopping you? Go out and buy Eternals. The second issue just came out on Wednesday. So take The Eternals Challenge. Doom DeLuise and Colonel Doom already did. You want to be cool like them, right? So do it!

Week Eleven

In Week Six, Booster Gold visited Rip Hunter’s lab, only to find that the good man has gone plum insane and has also vanished without a trace. Amongst his mad scribblings on his chalkboard, Rip has left a note reading, “Who is the Batwoman?” She’s been shrouded in mystery ever since showing up in the solicits some months ago (which I don’t read, but a friend of mine who does mentioned it to me), only to briefly make an appearance at the end of Week Nine. Well, now, she’s finally shown up on the scene, in aid of the Question and Montoya. She whips some serious Intergang butt, but, yet, the mystery doesn’t seem all that tough to solve. She’s got red hair. Kate Kane’s got red hair. Somewhere along the line, she learned how to throw a punch. Somewhere along the line, Kate Kane learned how to throw a punch. She’s got the same physique as Kate Kane, she attracts Montoya in the same way, etc. There are direct lines from Montoya’s internal monologue when meeting with Kate that are quoted word for word during the meeting with the Batwoman. Like I said, it doesn’t seem like much of a mystery to me.
52 week 11
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Several things happen in this issue, and they’re worth discussing. Most importantly, Ralph Dibny beats the snot out of some kids. They are walking around a park at night, wearing Cult of Conner shirts, so he jumps them, demanding answers, until he realizes they’re just kids. He gets a call that his storage unit’s been graffitied up, just like his wife’s grave, so he pays a visit. Anything missing? He can’t tell, but we’re shown that the Cult took a coat and put it onto some wicker dummy on an upside down Superman logo slab. Methinks there’s a gonna be’s a raisin’ of da’ dead! The main storyline, though, is Montoya and the Question finding out that Intergang is, in fact, targeting Gotham for a complete takeover. They’re shipping in weapons and people, which spells trouble for the city, naturally. There’s mention of Kahndaq, and Renee suspects Black Adam may be behind the scheme. I’m not convinced. Plus, obviously, the new Batwoman shows up and beats up some thugs.

I am really starting to like the way the series is slowing itself down a bit. Instead of juggling four or five stories in a single issue, they’re giving one story the majority of an issue with a page or two for a separate one. I mean, let’s face it, something exciting can’t happen to Steel or Booster Gold every single week. It’s just not realistic. Plus, those clowns are AWOL anyway.

I’m out.

See ya in seven.

Nightwing and a prayer

I don’t think it’s out of line to say that Nightwing is by far the worst of the One Year Later titles. It just isn’t very good. She-Nightwing, a villain that eats people and then craps them out in a cocoon, and albino mob twins, topped off with a steaming dollop of bad characterization of the former Boy Wonder. Those were just a few of the bad ideas that detracted from what could have been a cool Dick Grayson vs. Jason Todd storyline. What makes it all the more worse is the fact that I really, really like Nightwing the character, and I really, really wanted to like the series. Hell, Nightwing was the very first DC monthly title I ever started collecting. But Nightwing OYL was just bad. Very bad. Horribly bad. Reggie Hudlin bad.

Nightwing 125Thankfully, that could all change in October. Bruce Jones gets the boot in favor of the man that (kinda sorta) created the character two decades ago, Marv Wolfman. I haven’t read much from Wolfman, basically just the stuff he did recently with Infinite Crisis and the original Crisis mini-series, but I’ve got great hopes. New Teen Titans is considered one of the very best DC comics from the 80s, right? So he must be good, right? Please tell me he’s good. Please.

It certainly won’t hurt that Dan Jurgens is on art. Well, as long as they get him a decent inker. That seems to be the deciding factor between good Jurgens art and okay Jurgens art moreso than for any other penciller out there. But who knows if Norm Rapmund is going to mesh well with him?

So we have a writer with a good reputation whose stuff I’ve never read before and a penciller whose art quality rests squarely on the shoulders of the inker he’s working with whose work I’ve never seen before. Not exactly a recipe for success, but hopefully it’ll all work out to put Nightwing back on a level that it deserves to be.

Of course, it’d be pretty difficult to get any worse.

I don’t want to be the only one…

…so now that I’ve finally seen Superman Returns, here are some thoughts.

I thought what the movie did exceptionally well, first and foremost, to such a degree that the negatives didn’t bug me all that much, was present Superman as the lonely outsider. From his voyeurism to his silent hovering in space, the character’s relatively mute performance beautifully portrayed that. The fact that he was overcoming that, or at least moving beyond it, made the super-son tolerable because there was a reason for it. It made his 5-year departure reasonable, as opposed to a selfish, out-of-character moment someone earlier suggested it was.

As a spectacle, the movie was fantastic. I loved the cliffhanger scenes that were really just there to show how super and necessary Superman was, because they did just that.

I loved how Routh pulled off the difference between Superman and Clark Kent. I laughed out loud when Lois returned from her love flight, and there’s Clark with his mouth full and napkin tucked into his shirt.

The bad: I thought Lois was miscast. I didn’t like that the Kryptonite could render him so weak that Luthor could knock him silly, yet apparently willpower was enough to lift an island into space. It bugged me that apparently Superman was so close to earth at the end that gravity pulled him back, yet a massive stone island could drift away, unaffected by the earth’s pull. Stuff like that always yanks me out of a movie. But like I said before, the story was about the alien finding a place, and that survived.

I didn’t mind the continuation from the first 2 movies at all. When I heard about the faithfulness, I kind of rolled my eyes. But I would much rather have a movie pick up after two good movies than what Batman Begins did: try to reset the franchise, but horribly bogged down by the gimmickry of the movies it was trying to leave behind.

Week Ten

I think that may be my favorite moment in “52” so far. Granted, Black Adam has been nothing short of bad-ass throughout this thing, but that moment is absolutely brilliant.

That aside, here’s the rundown on this issue. Clark Kent is fired from the Daily Planet for not being able to secure an interview with Supernova. Clark jumps out the window, Supernova catches him, and Clark gets his job back. We knew he would, since he’s at the top of his reporting game at the start of OYL. The Question, Montoya, and Steel are nowhere to be seen. Black Adam is going to really let somebody have it, soon. He’s consolidating his power. Booster’s pissed out for losing prominence. The issue ends with Dr. Magnus showing Professor Morrow something he found that belongs to Doc Sivana. It’s a cocoon of some kind, and we’re left with the question, “Now what do you suppose hatched out of there?” Good question. Oh, and Professor Morrow was stacking books during the scene. The books? “Brave New World” and “1984.” I understand. I went through a fascist phase once, too, when I was younger.

Let’s talk about Supernova. He takes out an all-terrain tank with a beam of some kind that comes from his eyes. Clark vouches for him to Lois, saying he thinks the guy’s on the level. Clark also notes that it seems Supernova’s been doing this for awhile. So who is Supernova? The Atom? Rip Hunter? Somebody else? A supervillain trying to earn the trust of the good guys so that he can betray them? The possibilities are limitless. Let’s get back to that eye-beam. He takes out a chunk of pavement, literally, to ruin that all-terrain tank, right? He tells some kid that the hole in the pavement is very deep and to stay away. Who has that kind of power? A friend of mine thinks that Booster Gold’s going to die, after which, it’ll be revealed that Supernova is Booster from an alternate timeline, which might exlpain why he’s so much more humble. Maybe he learns his lesson after dying. Or something like that. I don’t really buy that explanation, simply because Booster’s never been that powerful, nor has he ever been able to vanish in a flash, nor has he ever shot eye beams. I mean, he’s a prick, but I don’t think they’re going to kill him off. Not unless they pull out the redemption storyline I’ve been hoping for for years.

Other than that, this issue really just flew past. I’m curious to see where they’re going with Dr. Magnus and Professor Morrow (Magnus’ interesting observation on Morrow’s speaking as if they’ll never see each other again is particularly important, I believe). Maybe they’re going to bring back the Metal Men. I sure hope they don’t do that. Not unless they appoint Steel as their leader.

That’s all I’ve got. This issue went by fast and not much happened.

See ya in seven.