Monthly archives: February, 2007

Doom and Gloom: The Multiverse

I am not a long-time DC geek. I say that because I want it to be clear that I’m not approaching this topic with a sense of entitlement, that “I’ve been reading DC for 20 years so they damn well better not mess things up…” If anything, my recent conversion into a DC fan (starting with Identity Crisis and increasing with Infinity Crisis and all the tie-ins) allows me to say what some might call heresy: The multiverse can go to hell.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI understand the purpose of the multiverse, the whiff of sci-fi that it brings into comics, the way it allows generational gaps among heroes and how nice an element of confusion it can be. But it’s a crutch, and always has been. It’s a way to explain incongruities amid continuity (which seems a bit ridiculous, since we’re talking about make believe men in tights). So it was that during Infinite Crisis (which was as well coordinated and dramatic of a mega-event as comics has ever seen), I almost felt relief to see the multiverse bite star dust. Good riddance to bad rubbish and all that.

But now, as revealed in an amazingly cipherable riddle from Dan Didio, we know the multiverse “still exists.” And this pisses me off.

I suppose, having said the above about the multiverse’s inherent worthlessness, I could simply say that the multiverse is needless crap and I’m annoyed to have it further meddling with my future enjoyment of DC comics. Just as any stamp of Civil War on a Marvel cover sent me running, I’ll be carefully looking out for hints of multiversial intrusion into my books. Any whiff of cross-dimensional mischief, and I’m gone. However, that isn’t what really annoys me about this news. That would be the very clear problem that any revival of the multiverse invalidates so much progress DC has made and stomps on the company’s defense of its mega-event. Bringing back the multiverse completely invalidates Infinite Crisis.

Booming business

Graphic novels are big business, in case you didn’t know. But further encouraging those of us who love the medium and want to break into it, ICv2 has announced that sales of the books increased to nearly $300 million last year. That’s not shabby. Here’s some info from a story in Publisher’s Weekly:

There were about 2,800 book format comics published in 2006, up 12% from 2005. Out of that total, 1,200 are manga titles and 965 are American genre comics. Manga sales continue to sell very well and represented about $170 million-$200 million of total sales. Griepp reported that general bookstores sell the most graphic novels and continue to show the fastest growth. General bookstores were responsible for about $220 million in sales and the comics shop market reported about $110 million in sales. Manga growth did slow a bit, and Griepp blamed the Musicland bankruptcy for contributing to the slowdown.

Griepp reported that sales of graphic novels passed comics periodicals as “the most popular format,” in 2006. He reported that 2006 sales of comics periodicals was about $310 million.

You can read the full story here.

Civil War was Pretty Good

Civil War is over. After ten months, multiple delays, countless tie-ins, plot twists, and online fanboy whimpering, the most popular crossover in comicdom over the past several years has come to its conclusion. Was it satisfying? Did it live up to the enormous amounts of hype behind it? Will it really change anything in the Marvel Universe? Maybe, probably not, and most definitely. Let’s talk about it. If you haven’t read it yet, I’m going to be fast and loose with spoilers, so be warned.

First off, from a sales standpoint, Civil War has been nothing short of a gigantic success. Even if people only bought the issues to cry about how poorly they characterize Captain America, Iron Man, and Spider-Man, they’ve still flown off the shelves. Last month, Marvel owned the top five slots in the sales charts, with three of them coming from Civil War and its tie-ins. Civil War #6 held the top spot, selling more than twice as many issues as Civil War: The Return, which took slot number two. Make no mistake: I hated The Return. People have started getting into comic books again because of this series. It’s gotten tons of main-stream media coverage, and, more importantly, it’s gotten comic nerds everywhere talking. This series and nearly everything with a Civil War logo on its cover, has profited a great deal for Marvel Comics. But, there’s much more to the success of a series than sales figures, so let’s ask ourselves the real question here: Was Civil War good?

Yeah, it was. (more…)

Book of Doom: The Brave and the Bold #1

It’s Book of Doom time! We buy it, we read it, we review it. You might buy it. You can read it. Saturday, you read what we said about it. This week, it’s the relaunch of The Brave and the Bold.

Written by Mark Waid; Art by George Perez and Bob Wiacek; Covers by Perez

The greatest team-up title of all time is back! A proud DC tradition is restored as writer Mark Waid (52, SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES) and legendary artists George Pérez (THE NEW TEEN TITANS, CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS) and Bob Wiacek (ORION) put Batman and Green Lantern on the trail of what could be the greatest weapon in the DCU!

The trail leads to Ventura, the gambling planet; wanna bet what’ll happen if they don’t get their hands on the weapon?

This issue will feature two covers by George Perez, Cover A spotlights Batman; Cover B spotlights Green Lantern!

Worst to first: 2/21/07

I had a bit of free time, so I read a decent number of books I would’ve otherwise skipped, mostly for curiosity’s sake. This wasn’t a good week. There were some interesting items, but lots on the “brilliant failure” end of the spectrum, more than memorable successes. Mostly, this was the week that Civil War heaved to a halt. And, on that note, the reviews…

Eight: Civil War #7

Advance warning: If you’re looking for something objective, then look elsewhere. I hated Civil War from the get go. Still, I figured maybe the concluding chapter would overcome what has been a very uneven event and muster up a grand finale. Instead, we get a truly fitting book end: an issue that’s all over the place, never quite sure where it’s headed and never transcending to the level of hype, much less approaching it. I really don’t understand the continued Steve McNiven love. He’s a great artist, but is a terrible fit for this book. He can’t convey massive battles. His characters are too still, convey too little depth and motion. He frames things too tightly. And while that was a problem, the utter lack of a meaningful conclusion was much worse. So, um, Clor is the big death? Or did Reed Richards die? I’ve already forgot.

At the very least, it’ll be interesting to see Captain America in jail. Oh, wait, we already saw that premise played out in the last arc of Daredevil…

Seven: Amazing Spider-Man #538

Aunt May is dead. Again. I guess Mary Jane had to live so that she could die of radiation poisoning from Spidey’s “fluids” in Spider-Man: Reign. Hey, someone let me know when it’s safe to read Spidey books again.

Six: The Spirit #3

I understand that Cooke and crew need to do a rehash of the origin for new readers to Will Eisner’s famed hero, but this was not the right way to do it. First, I like the idea of going retro, but the artistic design of the “flashback” scenes strike me as very 1970s. And, last I checked, the Spirit debuted a few decades prior to that. Also, the origin story was diddled with needlessly in some places (why does every villain have an uzi?) and the split-narratives were just too splintered. The result was an interesting idea that completely imploded, all forewarned by the series’ first weak splash page.

If I have to say something nice (I don’t, but I will), is I really liked how Cooke added more of Ebony White to the origin. I think they could’ve used his viewpoint for the whole story and winded up with something much more effective.

Five: The Immortal Iron Fist #3

I like the creators (Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and David Aja), I like the character and I like the idea, but so far things haven’t come together. I’m guessing the last few pages (in which the Iron Fists… Fistses… whatever… come together) will serve as a launching pad through the rest of the series. In other words, ask me next month.

Four: Birds of Prey #103

To All Comics Creators Everywhere: Having a villain who says things like, “The election’s over and everything I did was in America’s interests,” is played. Yeah, absolute power corrupts, even democracies engage in shady practices, the ends don’t justify the means, fascism is bad, etc. Kat is just the latest in a long line of bad guys (and gals) who rant this stuff and it’s taking the easy road to use that as a motivation. Gail Simone seemed like she was setting up her new villain to be a terribly complex person, then burnt it all up within a couple pages.

It’s a shame, because otherwise it was a good book. Still, if this newest Birds of Prey arc were a movie, I think everything that’s happened to now is like the cool intro at the start of a James Bond movie, where there’s lots of scattered action and you’re pretty uncertain of what’s going on. After three issues, I damn well hope we finally have reached the title sequence.

Three: Superman #659

Just a cool, pretty straightforward Superman story that didn’t try to reinvent the wheel, but still rolled along just fine. I may have to consider reading more of this book, since Action Comics is mired in Delayville.

Two: The Brave and the Bold #1

I think this is going to be our Book of Doom, so I’ll wait to post thoughts.

One: 52 #42

A nice moment with Montoya at the front, then a whole bunch of Ralph. And… wow. What a great conclusion to that piece of the story. Everyone’s favorite stretchy detective goes out on top after solving one of the biggest cases he’s come across. Sure, the conspiracy theorist inside me wishes this storyline would’ve tied into everything else going on, but I’ll take this gladly.

Book you should read: Robin

In December, about 30,000 people bought copies of Robin, which put it at about 70th according to Diamond’s numbers. I was not one of those people. I flipped through the thing, gave it serious consideration, but ultimately didn’t bring it home. My mistake.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingIn the post-Crisis universe, Batman is battling bipolar disorder (with the angel Paul Dini on one shoulder and the double-headed demon of John Ostrander and Grant Morrison on the other), leading to not a lot worth a damn. Nightwing has been uniformly terrible. Even Catwoman has been subpar. Something’s gravely wrong in the Bat-i-verse, in other words.

While all those other characters suffer such severe mega-event hangover, Robin has somewhat quietly turned into a really good book. No, I’m not ready to slap a “great!” on it yet. But that time may be approaching. Writer Adam Beechen doesn’t so much balance the Tim Drake and Robin sides of the story as meld them together. When Tim is on the page, his problems and successes as Robin are always underlying. Vice versa for when Robin’s in action.

And while Tim has had a lot of heartbreak in recent years (especially his father’s death in Identity Crisis), Beechen doesn’t drop too far into Morose-ville. This latest arc (of which I caught the last issue), featured a crossover with Klarion the Witch Boy and a battle against a cat-cum-hell-beast. Also, Robin’s nervous about a looming first date (which is the main plot point of the issue that hits stands this week).

It’s a book that could be called all-ages (if that didn’t have a stigma) and is, more than anything, just a fun hero book. In a world where Batman is too serious and Nightwing is battling creatures that poop out balls of goo, Robin is just right.

The Civil War Machine: The “End” is Here

Tomorrow, February 21, after nine and a half long months, Civil War finally comes to an end. Well, except for the 3+ months of specials about the fallout of Civil War that Marvel’s putting out. But the main story comes to an end tomorrow in Civil War #7 and Amazing Spider-Man #538.

Amazing 539Amazing Spider-Man will finally reveal whom Joe Quesada hates more: Mary Jane, Aunt May, or comic fans. It seems painfully obvious that Mary Jane is going to die in this issue, prompting Spider-Man to don the black costume while he mourns her death. So obvious, in fact, that I’m sort of expecting her not to die. Which is going to make it that much worse when Mary Jane does die. Because deep down in my heart I know Joe Quesada will not rest until that woman is dead. Even though she and Peter are together in the movies and Marvel is doing everything else in their power to make their comics identical to the movies that are based on them. By the way, Word said it should be “whom,” I’m not just a grammar nazi.

But the big story is in Civil War #7, which Marvel promises will feature the death of a major character. Because there’s nothing fans like more than when their favorite characters are killed. And now for the speculation:

There aren’t many major characters that aren’t already advertised to appear in comics in the immediate future. Iron Man, Wasp, Ms. Marvel, Wonder Man, the Sentry and Black Widow will be in Mighty Avengers. Wolverine, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange and Spider-Woman will be in New Avengers. Thing, Human Torch, Black Panther and Storm will be in Fantastic Four. The X-Men and Daredevil are steering clear of Civil War. Joe Quesada has stated in Newsarama’s New Joe Fridays that Captain America will not die. Hulk’s in outer space. Thor’s “dead.” That doesn’t leave a whole lot of major characters, unless you count Cloak & Dagger or Ultragirl as major characters. The way I figure, that leaves us four possibilities:


Doom and Doomer: Ghost Rider

Welcome to the first installment of Doom and Doomer, where Doom DeLuise and I take a back-and-forth look at comic book movies. Up first is Ghost Rider, starring Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes and Peter Fonda, which opened at #1 this past weekend.

JIM DOOM: Well let me say that I have lost all sympathy for Mark Steven Johnson. I watched Daredevil, thought it was entertaining but bad, but then I watched the DD Director’s cut where he talked about all these lame stuff that the producers wanted to add in to make it more “Hollywood.”

DOOM DELUISE: Like a plot?

JD: So I thought, here’s a guy who loves comics, wants to make good comics movies (which I thought the DD: Director’s Cut was a pretty good stab at doing), but got messed up with producers.

No, they added the DD / Elektra love scene (he wanted that to never happen), they took out the whole Matt Murdock as lawyer subplot, really, you should watch the featurette on the brilliance behind those awful decisions.

So anyway, after seeing Ghost Rider – which he has said in interviews is much closer to his original vision than DD was – I realize, this guy’s just a hack.

The Spider-Man movies, and the Lord of the Rings movies and numerous other “genre” movies have proven that you can make a successful movie about anything, as long as you make a good movie.

Ghost Rider seemed so embarrassed to be a comic book movie that it tried to be everything to everyone and ended up being nothing to anyone.

It tried to be cute for little kids, scary for adults, ironic for teen-20 folks, but make little comic references for the comic fans. Meanwhlie the kids are going to be freaked out, the adults are going to be offended at the moronic level of humor, and the comic fans are going to be like “Jesus, I used to read this?”

DD: Yeah, but you can’t put all of the blame squarely on the shoulders of one guy, no matter how big a “hack” he may be.

JD: Well, you can put a lot of blame on him, because he got sole writing, screenplay and directing credit.

DD: Yeah, but maybe the fact of the matter is that no matter how hard anybody would try, Ghost Rider is just a stupid character.

Ooh, the Penance Stare! Gimme a breaksville.

Meaningless Awards of the Week- 2/14/07

Astonishing 20Most Economical Characterization- Beast variant cover, Astonishing X-Men #20

This variant cover by John Cassaday tells you everything you need to know about Hank McCoy in one simple, two-toned image. First, he’s a big furry cat-like thing. Second, he’s incredibly agile. And above all else, he follows proper etiquette. Pinky’s up!

Best Twist- no one dies, New Excalibur #16

The latest arc of New Excalibur is titled “Fallen Friend.” Here’s how the issue was described in the solicits: “One of the team’s members suddenly succumbs to an all-too-real tragedy. The team must pull together and care for their fallen friend while their own lives fall to pieces.” As I’m sure most people did, I assumed someone was dying in the issue. As it turns out, the “fallen friend” in question didn’t die. Nocturne had a stroke. It’s not very often that a superhero succumbs to a real-life ailment and it’s treated like one. Superheroes die and come back to life every other month. They get limbs ripped off and live to fight another day. But in New Excalibur, Nocturne can’t move half of her body anymore. She can’t speak correctly. She can’t even remember the names of her friends. And it doesn’t look like things are going to get better any time soon.

Manhunter 28Best Pacing- Manhunter #28

The last issue of Manhunter ended with someone claiming to be Ted Kord showing up at Wonder Woman’s trial. With such a high-profile dead superhero, you might think it’d be obvious by the next issue if it was really him or not. Not here, though. He passed Wonder Woman’s magic lasso test and even submitted to a DNA test by Batman. This really seems like the Blue Beetle we all know and love. But DC wouldn’t do that, would they? We won’t know for sure until next issue, and by that time the suspense will be killing me.

Best Villains- everyone fighting Nextwave, Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. #12

The final issue of Nextwave starts with the team battling a robot in a white tuxedo and top hat. Then it’s revealed that the actual villain behind said robot is a baby MODOK. But it turns out that the baby MODOK isn’t the actual villain either. The person who’s been giving Nextwave so much grief isn’t a person at all…it’s Devil Dinosaur. Devil Dinosaur in a smoking jacket holding a pistol and a glass of champagne. ‘Nuff said.

DMZ: Body of a Journalist

By Brian Wood (W) and Riccardo Burchielli (A)

Published in 2007, comprises issues 6-12, Vertigo. $12.99

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThe Plot: Journalist Matty Roth is now established in war-torn Manhattan and has been there for almost a year. But things aren’t easy, as he’s stuck in essentially a third-world country stuck in the middle of a civil war. While the first trade served to establish the characters and setting, this volume serves as denouement. In other words, $*@% goes crazy. Matty finds that his situation is much more challenging and complicated than he imagined, as both of the warring sides try to coerce him into assisting them.

The Positives: Just like the first volume, this second addition has great art, a great story and is relevant to the current events going on around the world in several ways each issue. Wood does a really good job of filling in some gaps from the first five issues (in two pages he effectively explains the cause of the war and how things got to where they are) and also greatly complicates both the war itself and Matty’s role within the DMZ. Also, several weeks back we did a Book of Doom review of issue 12, which is a sort of Guide to the DMZ. As none of us were regular readers, we really came down hard on it. But it works very well as reference material at the end of this volume. Another extremely good thing is the price. Seven issues for $13!

The Negatives: This volume has a few more flaws than the first one. First, some of the references to current events are a bit jarring (mostly a Hurricane Katrina smack-me-over-the-head moment). Second, and this is a problem also shared with the first volume, the collection has no special features, which is something I’ve come to expect from trades. Third, the plot is complicated a hell of a lot, which is good, but then a ton of that is resolved. I wouldn’t have minded a few more loose threads to entice me into the next arc.

The Grade: A- Still, I’m sticking with this series. There’s too much good going on for a few little problems to sabotage a strong book.