Monthly archives: December, 2006

Weeks Thirty-Three and Thirty-Four

Happy holidays, everybody. I’m a week behind on my “52” reviews, and I could very easily claim that I’ve been traveling, stuck in airports, celebrating with family, etc, but in the spirit of the season, I’ll just be honest and let you know that I’ve spent the better part of the past two weeks drunk off my ass. In addition, I started a new job, which has eaten up a lot of my time. How do you mix those two excuses? Just barely. I still had a chance to pick up my comics, though, and I’ve finally gotten around to reading them and discussing the stuff inside. Let’s start things off with Week Thirty-Three of Fifty-Two.

Things open up with Ralph Dibny and Dr. Fate’s helmet touring the Flash Museum in Central City. Ralph notes that he donated most of his stuff to them after Sue died, and he takes a particular piece of memorabilia and pockets it. It’s labeled, “Anselmo Case 1995.” Whatever that means? Anybody know?

From there, we meet Nightwing, who’s giving an authentic Batarang to Batwoman, as a token of appreciation and whatnot for Christmas. Something tells me it’s not purely altruistic, as Nightwing knows exactly what he’s up against in Gotham, and he knows he’s going to need all the help he can find to stop it.

Later, we meet up with Lex Luthor, who’s still angry that he can’t be put through the Everyman procedure. He gives the new Infinity Inc. new cars for Christmas, and the lousy ingrates don’t even thank him. Luthor’s angry, and his anger is aimed at Supernova. Be afraid.

Elsewhere, Charlie’s dying, the Black Marvel family depowers to show they mean no threat, the Suicide Squad talks tough about bringing the Black Marvels in, and the entire DCU gets sentimental and sappy. (more…)

Worst to first: 12/27/06

After a week away, I’m back with a fresh run-through of the comics I picked up and whether any were worth a darn. Notably absent from this list will be the first issue of The Killer, but that’s only because I wrote a separate review of it here.

Also, I’m combining the past two weeks, which gives me a heaping pile of 10 good books to get through. While I only pick up the things I actually want to read (so no Civil War bull flop), I still thought this was an especially good bunch. Can’t beat that for a late Christmas present. Now, on to the run down, from bottom to top:

10: Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #6

This book has strong political undertones. Okay, I’m cool with that. What I’m not cool with is when it turns into an in-your-face postelizing like that Howard Chaykin reboot of Challengers of the Unknown. Even worse, the art on this issue wasn’t quite up to the normal excellence, the fight scenes were scattered and not nearly as epic as they should have been and the story isn’t progressing any more, just hopping from giant fight to giant fight.

On a good note, it had the line of the week. After new hero Invisible Hood joins the fight, the Ray comments that his name sounds like and extra sensitive condom. Hi-yo!

9: Justice League of America #5

Speaking of scattered, this book continues to not progress fast enough, almost entirely because there’s too much going on. I know a lot of comics fans bitched that they didn’t really care about Red Tornado (please, please can we ban the nickname “Reddy”?), but when his character was carrying the first few books, the story really moved along for me. Now that we’re into the full on Superhero Mystery Solvers part of the plot, the characters are falling to the side. There are nice bits of characterization, but not enough of a central pull.

Don’t want to sound like to much of a downer, though. This is a pretty natural resting/gathering spot in the storyline and the mystery just continues to deepen, so I’m expecting next issue will vault up the list.

However, I’m about ready to start mass-mail DC over these Michael Turner covers. My shop jacks the price up on the normal one, so I’m stuck with this crap. Freaking Michael Turner.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting8: Crossing Midnight #2

I really enjoyed the first issue of Mike Carey’s Japanese fantasy/thriller/horror book, but this issue was a bit of a step back. The dialogue (especially when the detectives are investigating the dog’s death) is just brutally bad and through much of the book the wheels just spin. Also, the art is so lifeless in places it looks like one of those airplane pamphlets that shows you how to put on an oxygen mask.

Luckily, there’s a good cliffhanger that’ll keep me on board another week.

A Look Back: Marvel 2006 Part 1

For Marvel, 2006 was all about Civil War. Nearly every comic Marvel put out set in the 616 universe at the very least mentioned Civil War. Caught at the center of the struggle was Spider-Man, who revealed his identity to the world at Iron Man’s behest. While many series devoted entire arcs to the crossover, many of the best series of the year steered clear of the crossover as much as possible. The X-Men line of comics in particular prospered in 2006, due in no small part to completely avoiding Civil War. Also in 2006, Marvel reinvigorated its once popular cosmic characters by launching Annihilation and sending the Hulk into outer space, and revisited several properties from its past in mini-series and specials.

Civil War

CW 1When Marvel launched Civil War in May, I was pretty pessimistic about the whole thing. After the crap that was House of M, I was uncertain of the current administration’s ability to pull off a major crossover. And how would anything at Marvel be able to compete with the sheer awesomeness of DC’s Infinite Crisis?

After the first three issues, I thought Marvel really had a chance to pull off what we’ve all been waiting for: a crossover that not only impacts the Marvel Universe in a meaningful, long-lasting way, but is a damn good story in and of itself. The mini-series itself was well thought out and well paced. Amazing Spider-Man was telling a great story featuring Peter Parker making the worst decision of his life. Fantastic Four told a nice story about how such a divisive issue would affect a close-knit group like the FF. She-Hulk, Thunderbolts and Civil War: Frontline were doing a good job of showing how the heroes that (ironically, in one case) weren’t on the frontline were choosing to deal with the Superhuman Registration Act. I even enjoyed the few issues of New Avengers I read.

Then came the delay, and the internet broke in half (and only a year too late!).


Beasts — Previewed

Some times, the books published by Fantagraphics are just too weird for me. The new books by David Sandlin are a good example (with luck, I’ll have reviews up soon on those too). But then, Fantagraphics puts out some things that are a wonderful addition to the comics world and some that make me wonder why I give a damn about superheroes at all.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingNot so strange as The Alphabetical Ballad of Carnality nor so transcendent as Ghost World, is the upcoming book Beasts!, a 200-page encyclopedia of mythical-type creatures that were once believed to exist. The entries are straightforward, without the slightest sliding of tongue into cheek. Here’s an example:

“Resembling a bulging, walking stomach, the Bautatsch-ah-ilgs lurks in the waters of Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne, which has long been considered a portal to hell by the Swiss. Although the Bautatsch-ah-ilgs is rarely seen upon the shores and hills surrounding this otherwise idyllic and photogenic lake, eyewitness accounts agree on the misshapen beast’s malevolent, firespouting eyes. “

The book (with a list price of about $29) is an interesting addition to the shelves of anyone with an interest in cryptozoology, but what puts it over the top is the art. For each of the couple hundred creatures, there is a full-page illustration. These range from completely ridiculous to comical to serious and threatening. For the Bautatsch-ah-ilgs, for instance, Jesse LeDoux drew a giant pink caterpillar with its tail wrapped around mountains and huge belches of flames pouring over the earth. (Of course, this being Fantagraphics, there is a nice drawing of the Boraro, apparently noted for their “enormous phalli”)

The art styles are so wildly varying (about 100 artists contributed to the project) that there’s something for everyone, and fledling artists will find plenty of inspiration and reference material. Oh, but don’t read it if you’re planning to visit Italy’s Aventine Hill. At least, unless you want forewarning of the three-headed giant spider that may or may not devour you.

The Killer crosses the pond

Apologies on this one. I’ve been swamped for awhile and haven’t had time to post a preview of The Killer, a French series on an assassin that’s now been translated and published stateside by Archaia Studios Press, who’re making a name for themselves with great content like Mouse Guard.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThe series, which originally ran from 1998 to 2003, has now come out with its first translated issue, which changes this to a review. My bad. Tardiness aside, I still have some thoughts. Mainly, this is an extremely cool series and I’m saddened it’s taken me this long to discover it. I suppose the Atlantic Ocean had something to do with that.

The series begins with the titular character hanging out in a hotel, waiting for his next hit to appear. Time goes by, the guy doesn’t show, giving the killer an opportunity to reflect on life, how he came to where he is. It’s a bit forced at times, and I wonder whether the narration (which there is LOTS of) became a bit stodgy during translation:

“A few more years, a few more hits. A few more guys to whack. All it takes is methodicalness, prudence and discretion. And cold blood. Chance does not exist. Leave no clues, trust no one.”

Well, I suppose it’s convenient the guy decides to spell out his whole modus operandi for us readers…

But that’s about the only complaint. The art feels like a frozen version of the animation from Scanner Darkly. The coloring, especially, is good. The few moments of action are surprisingly tense, and the artist, Luc Jacamon, lays them out perfectly to build suspense, even with a foregone conclusion.

Even better, though, is what doesn’t happen. This first issue simply familiarizes us with the antihero on the surface. But below, there’s a building dread as his hit continues to not show, and the feeling that All is Not Well and Stuff is About to Get Messed Up takes life.

What’s going to happen is pretty up in the air. But in books like these, it’s never good. And for us readers, that’s a mighty good thing.

A Look Back: DC 2006

DC had a huge amount of momentum heading into 2006. Infinite Crisis, their biggest crossover in 20 years, was at its halfway point. They rode that momentum into the One Year Later launch in March, and followed that up with the historic weekly series 52. And somehow DC managed to retain a cohesive universe throughout the whole thing. Towards end the year, DC focused its attention on the Wildstorm universe, relaunching the entire line with A-list creators.

Infinite Crisis

Infinite CrisisDC got it right. This was a major crossover that actually did matter. DC history was re-written after the end of Infinite Crisis. There was a major status quo change regarding the multiverse. Infinite Crisis reached every comer of the DCU and produced a damn fine story in the process.

I’m not going to lie and say the art thing didn’t bother me. The art quality was inconsistent and it did hurt the story. But as much as Tom Brevoort wants to use that as an excuse to justify Marvel’s screw-ups, it just wasn’t much of an issue in the grand scheme of things. The story was strong… so strong that it would have been good even if Rob Liefeld was on art. But if it wouldn’t have come out in a relatively timely manner, the impact would have been lost in the shuffle of the DC Universe moving on without it. Besides, DC even went back and redid some of the art for the hardcover they put out. Problem solved.

That whole “Superboy punched a wall” continuity catch-all that came out of all this could get pretty annoying if they go back to it too often, though.


Politics and comics: The NRA

I’ve long intended to start a series addressing the use of comics to promote political ideas. That never happened.

But at the very least, here’s an opportunity to at least share some links! got ahold of a leaked copy of the NRA’s as-of-yet unreleased graphic novel, Freedom in Peril: Guarding the 2nd Amendment in the 21st Century.

It’s a beautifully illustrated, horribly simple-minded, attempt to frighten the card-carrying (and dues-paying) members into loyalty and recruitment. Apparently it’s so over-the-top, NRA allies at the California Concealed-Carry Weapons forum rushed to dismiss it as a hoax (which was later retracted in a very responsible manner). Poor has had to go back and forth on whether or not it’s real or a hoax.

According to, the early rumor is that the artwork duties were handled by Chris Gall, who has done illustrations for the NRA’s magazine America’s First Freedom.

Rawstory has made the full graphic novel available here.

A Christmas moment

After waking up at 3 a.m. this morning in Denver, wading through lines of people, suffering insomnia while flying and exiting into the stench of cheap barbecue that permeates the Memphis airport, I wasn’t feeling much of a Christmas afterglow. My wife and I then had to move gates while we awaited our final connection to home, and at the new gate all the seats were taken, so we were stuck sitting on the hard and cold floor across from a woman reading a book titled: Elvis: What happened?.

Then, I turned to my right.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingA boy, maybe 5 or 6, sat on the floor nearby, playing with what had to be his new Christmas toys — a large beetle with menacing pincers and what seemed to be a Decepticon that could transform into an even-more-threatening T-Rex. These very evil looking toys held sway over the grounds and skies of Gate 34 as terrified (or tired) fliers sat and hardly moved.

But lo, what was that in the sky? A flash of blue. A blurred shadow. Swooping from the heavens came our saviors, Batman and Superman, held aloft by another boy of the same age. Into this deliriously dangerous setting they descended, straight into a battle of epic proportions that waged on and on, delaying the departure of Flight 577 to Little Rock. There was too much flying debris, of course.

With a rain of blows, DC’s finest prevailed, though the owner of the Transformer and beetle remained wholly unconvinced. “I pinched you,” he said, even as departing in defeat.

“Whoosh!” the other boy shouted, sending his own Christmas gifts on to their next adventure — a recon into the land of pink-clad Amazonians presided over by that most dangerous of enemies, the young girl.

Meaningless Awards of the Week- 12/20/06

Criminal MacabreBook with “Criminal” in the Title of the Week- Criminal Macabre: Two Red Eyes #1

Yes, there was more than one this week. Ed Brubaker’s Criminal also came this week, and was good enough to merit me buying another issue. Criminal Macabre, the continuing series of mini-series starring supernatural freelance detective Cal MacDonald, has also been inching its way towards the chopping block recently. In fact, Two Red Eyes was going to be the last mini I bought unless it turned out to be something great. And wouldn’t you know it, it turned out to be something pretty great. It was just the right mix of humor, horror and noir for me to really get a kick out of it. It looks like Cal’s even getting a bona fide villain this time around, instead of a having some non-specific monster/mobster as an antagonist like he usually does.

Line of the Week- The Thing, from Fantastic Four #541 by J. Michael Stracynski

“I’m okay [wiping a tear from his eye]. It’s’s just like the old days. Back when there weren’t all these conspiracies and you knew who the good guys were, and the bad guys were, and there wasn’t this…this…freaking Civil War!

Amen to that, brother.

Superhero/Lawyer of the Week- Manhunter

Edging out She-Hulk by a nose, Kate Spencer emerges as the top crime-fighting double threat of the week. I’ve read a grand total of three comics featuring Manhunter (the last two issues of Birds of Prey and the last issue of Manhunter), but she’s quickly becoming one of my favorite characters. In BoP #101, Manhunter stages another assault on the prison that the BoP infiltrated last issue, and looks damn cool doing it.

BoP Manhunter

Writer of the Week- Gail Simone

Every since One Year Later in March, Birds of Prey has ranked up there with Supergirl & The Legion of Superheroes, Superman, Detective Comics and Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis as the DC titles I most look forward to every month. The new direction Gail Simone’s taken the title (after she was assumedly ordered to remove Black Canary from the team so she could be in Brad Meltzer’s Justice League of America) has been great, especially since it spotlights non-A-listers like Judomaster, Big Barda, and the aforementioned Manhunter. Secret Six finally wrapped its 6-issue run this week, and was a really fun read. It certainly helps that more than one person on the team is quite clearly insane. Mad Hatter was a great addition to the cast, and I’m interested to see how he’ll operate as the villain in a future mini-series or maybe even an ongoing.

Sachs & Violens

Sachs and ViolensBy Peter David (W) and George Perez (A)

Cover Price $14.99. Published by DC Comics. Originally printed by Epic Comics as Sachs & Violens 1-4.

The Plot: Juanita Jean “J.J.” Sachs and Ernie “Violens” Schultz try to take down a crime ring involved in everything from snuff films to child slavery.

Strengths: While it might seem a little tame by today’s standards, Sachs & Violens pushed a lot of boundaries when it first came out in 1993. And unlike many titles nowadays, nothing is gratuitous about the nudity, violence and general depravity. Every “unseemly” aspect serves a purpose in the story, and it’s always done tastefully. Unlike say, NYPD Blue, which had nudity and coarse language simply for the sake of saying, “Look, we have nudity and coarse language! Watch us!” And no, that example wasn’t chosen at random.

It goes without saying that the creative team is very talented, but I’ll say it anyway. Peter David is at his best when he can right whatever he wants, be it a creator-owned title (Fallen Angel) or a title that isn’t high-profile enough for the publisher to really care what he does with it (X-Factor). And George Perez is simply one of the greatest comic book artists of all time, yet you get to see him here doing something you’ve never seen him do before.

Weaknesses: This trade is a great introduction to the characters of Sachs and Violens. It’s essentially the origin of their team-up. It introduces a mystery villain that’s pulling the strings behind everything Sachs and Violens are trying to bring down. At the end, Sachs and Violens are on the run from the police because they have to be bad to be good. It has the makings of a nice long series. Unfortunately, this is it as far as solo Sachs & Violens stories. We never know if Sachs and Violens find the mystery villain. We never know if they fulfill their mission.

Grade: B. Sachs & Violens manages to combine grim and gritty “real life” comics with the superhero genre in a completely unique way. It takes the fantastic elements of society that seemingly can’t actually exist (but do) and mixes in larger-than-life heroes and villains. If you don’t mind the overall premise of sex and violence, a funny and heartwarming story is waiting beneath.