Monthly archives: February, 2008

Countdown to Final Crisis: Nine

countdown 9Wow, what a great week for comics. Marvel had two really near criminally kick-ass issues come out from their Icon line; Captain America and Daredevil continue to prove why Ed Brubaker is my favorite writer in the comics industry; Superman and Earth-Man took to fisticuffs in the super cool Action Comics; Grant Morrison’s Batman finally started making a little bit of sense; and the greatest comic book today shipped, with the latest and greatest issue of the Goddamn Batman hitting comic shops nationwide. Reading through my stack was more fun today than it has been in months.

Until I read that stupid goddamn dumb Countdown issue.

If you woke up this morning and said to yourself, “Man, you know what I could go for? OMACs swarming around unsuspecting heroes who are really afraid of the swarm in spite of the fact that OMACs have never and will not ever kill a single hero,” well, then, buddy, this issue is for you! For everyone else, you know what I’m talking about.

This issue opens with Pied Piper encountering an angry Desaad, who demands Piper play a song on his flute to open up the Anti-Life Equation, so that Desaad can use it to rule Apokolips. Apparently, Desaad’s been planning everything with Piper and Trickster up to this point, somehow guiding them along on their journey. Here I thought Darkseid was behind all the metaphysical moving around of people, but I guess Desaad wanted to take some claim of the nonsensical action, too. Good for him!

They get separated for a time, but reunite at the issue’s close, when Piper plays a song that makes Desaad’s head pop. Grody! (more…)

The Doomino Effect for the week of February 20, 2008

Grendel: Behold the Devil #4 of 8 is the latest chapter in what has been a fun little story of the normally untouchable and unruffleable Hunter Rose losing his grip. He’s having problems with his empire of crime, and the paranoia is causing those problems to trickle down into the rest of his life. Meanwhile, the romantic duo of a reporter and a detective are inching closer to a discovery that at least one of them is a little afraid to make.

The pacing is a little slow, but overall I’m enjoying the way it’s unfolding. With the way the story is going, and with the excerpts from a future memoir interjected alongside the story’s events, I almost have the feeling like we might be in the middle of the last Grendel story.

Speaking of final stories, that leads me to Death of the New Gods #6 of 8, in which all the New Gods are still getting killed, like Orion. The cover says he’s “unleashed,” but maybe on New Genesis, “unleashed” is a synonym for “dead” or “exploded.”

I’d say this is probably the dumbest comic that I keep buying, but if nothing else, I give DC and Jim Starlin credit for trying to get rid of Jack Kirby’s stupid Fourth World in an honorable effort. You can tell they’re really trying to make these stupid characters and this awful mythology seem better than it is in order to try to make this sendoff mean something.

Last issue, we learned what The Source was up to. This issue, our big reveal is THE IDENTITY OF THE KILLER! I’m halfway tempted to go back and read the previous issues to see if there were any clues or if this was just out of the blue, but I quickly realized that my apathy toward this series and these characters outweighs my tiny, tiny shred of professional curiosity.

Regular readers of this column may have grown tired of the endless contrasts and comparisons between the Countdown to Infinite Crisis and the Countdown to Final Crisis, but tough.

Countdown to Final Crisis: Ten

countdown 10Holy smokes! I’m running a little late with the ol’ recap this week, but my exclamation is referring to the fact that this series is almost down to the single digits, and there still hasn’t been one good issue. This one is no different. It brings things closer to the end, sure, and brings several big “storylines” together, but it also commits two mistakes that seem to be staples of this series to date. First, the photo on the cover doesn’t have anything to do with what’s inside; and, second, one of the main plot points in this issue directly negates one of the biggest plot points of a different series that is supposedly taking place along the same timeline at the same time.


Let’s get right into it, shall we? Remember, everything is happening on Apokolips right now, so keep that in mind. Oh, and, remember, the theme this week is Crying. We start off with Mary and Holly and Harley, shooting stuff for reasons I don’t care to remember, eventually stumbling upon a giant burning door that apparently talks to Mary and tells her to say the magic word, even though she rejected Black Adam’s powers. She does, the door is broken, and the Gods are free (previously trapped by Granny Goodness, apparently). And they’ve given Mary Marvel her good powers back for freeing them. They then give Holly and Harley some powers and tell them to go kill Granny. (more…)

The Numbers: Week 39

Kind of a surprise turn since last month, as Countdown’s sales actually went up in January.

The motivation for this seems to begin with the introduction of Earth-51 Batman in Countdown 16. Sure, a new version of Batman – particularly a relevant Batman considering Jason Todd’s leanings and the various forces tugging at the guy over the years – can be credited with a little bit of a spike. This jump in almost 4,000 copies reversed the downward slope for a week, bringing sales back to the point they’d been with Countdown 24.

The clear surprise, though, is that nearly all of those readers came back. Countdown 15 drew only 44 fewer readers than the previous issue. With the exception of Countdown 39, which had increased sales of almost 16,000 (due to DC’s return policy), the difference between Countdown 16 and 15 marks the best reader retention DC has had throughout this entire series.

The Doomino Effect for the week of Feb 13, 2008

So get this. In the Marvel Universe, you can have antlers, but you’re not a mutant.

The crux of the current X-Factor post-Messiah Complex storyline is that there’s a new tension brewing in Mutant Town. The de-mutified mutants who look like normal humans are now called “PANS” – Pass As Normal. And people with “horns, bone crests, the odd tentacle … that kind of thing” are now called “Rems,” short for Remnants.

Here’s the thing, though. Wanda Maximoff didn’t say “No more powers.” She said “No more mutants.” Wanda didn’t take people’s powers away, she took the mutations away.

You know what? If you’ve got two horns growing out of your forehead, you’re a mutant. You know why? Because you’ve got a freaking mutation, man!

What are “powers,” anyway? They’re abilities that are useful, arguably beyond the abilities of non-mutants, right? Can we agree on that operating definition? Things like telepathy and super strength are powers.

Well you know what, if I’m stuck on a desert island with a bunch of canned food and no can opener, all of a sudden horns are a hell of a lot more useful than telepathy.

So we’re supposed to believe that all these people with tentacles, antlers, extra limbs, etc., are not mutants. If you an accept that stupid scenario, then you’re probably going to get really wrapped up in the drama of X-Factor #28. Accepting the stupid scenario, it’s not bad. But you have to just accept that they’re choosing to sell you a story based on a premise that makes no sense.

Speaking of stupid scenarios in the post Messiah Complex X-universe, I already moaned about it, but the premise of X-Force #1 just leaves me annoyed.

The problem with these things is that there’s nothing inherent about these stories that requires this nonsense. It’s just superficial drama. My big problem with X-Force is the philosophical situation set up in which Cyclops thinks he can keep the X-Men’s hands clean by having X-Men dress up in different costumes and call themselves X-Force. The leader of the X-Men is still ordering these hits.

It’s just like how the whole USA looks bad if the US government carries out black ops missions. Nobody says “Oh, well it’s okay, because the president used people who wore different uniforms!” (Actually, I should correct myself and say that some people do think that’s okay, but those aren’t the people to whom a moral justification needs rationalizing.)

Meaningless Awards of the Week- 2/13/08

Walking Dead 46The Dead Is Dead Award- The Walking Dead #46

People don’t stay dead very long in comics. Cable came back before the crossover during which he died had even ended. Professor X and Layla Miller probably won’t be dead all that long from their deaths in the very same crossover. Ted Kord, Green Arrow and Harry Osborn were all in comics I read this week, and all are recently back from the dead.

But when someone dies in The Walking Dead, they tend to stay dead. Or else, y’know, undead. Death in The Walking Dead isn’t a sales stunt, it’s just part of the story. And absolutely no one is safe. Case in point: SPOILERS!!! Tyrese, the second male lead of the series, was beheaded by the Governor with Michonne’s samurai sword in issue #46. It was a shocking, gruesome death, and it was a major character in the series, and things are going to be drastically different because Tyrese is not coming back. Unfortunately, that’s the exception to the rule.

The Why Do I Care? Award- Beautie, An Astro City Character Special

How is it that Kurt Busiek can write a story featuring a character I’ve never heard of, set in a universe I’m barely familiar with, and make me care about the story? Seriously, this was a story about a living Barbie doll, and Busiek had me hook, line and sinker the whole way through. Is he just that damn good?

Booster Gold 0The Too Good to Be True? Award- Booster Gold #0

Ted Kord is back. Despite the fact that his death was possibly the most meaningful comic book death of the last decade, I’m happy to see him back. I would have been fine with Ted staying dead since his death was so important, but from the very moment Max Lord shot him in the head, I’ve been hoping for his eventual resurrection. He’s just too awesome of a character to never see again. Sure, they could always do another Formely Known as the Justice League-type story out of continuity, but that’s just not the same as having Ted Kord back among the living.

But now, he’s back. Booster Gold and a trio of Blue Beetles plucked Ted out of the timestream right before Max Lord should have killed him. Everyone on New Earth still believes Ted to be dead. As long as Ted stays in the timestream and out of New Earth affairs (just like his old buddy Booster Gold), it shouldn’t be a problem. (more…)

Punish me once – shame on me. Punish me twice…

Screenwriter Kurt Sutter made news over the weekend by announcing Thursday that he was removing his name from credit arbitration for the upcoming Punisher War Zone film.

I didn’t want credit. My pitch, my vision, for the Punisher franchise was something much different. I tried to rip Frank Castle from the comic book world and place him in the real streets of NYC. Castle is the only superhero without powers. He’s a tortured, highly skilled soldier with a really bad anger problem. I always felt we should see Frank in some place uber-real and gritty…

To me, the Punisher deserved more than the usual comic book redress. It shouldn’t just follow the feature superhero formula. Apparently, I was the only one who shared that vision…

The final script, rewritten almost completely by Holloway and Marcum was the perfect comic book formula — simple story, very obvious dialog and the inclusion of as many characters from the anthology that a movie will allow…


Does Marvel require its writers to know anything about its characters?

Edited to correct a minor, insignificant error

Clearly, if I made the decision to purchase X-Force #1 I’m obviously a glutton for some kind of brain-dead punishment.


So Cyclops set up X-Force back during Messiah Complex, because he rationalized to himself that as long as they’re wearing different uniforms and going by a different name, he can order X-Men to be cold-blooded killers but there’s no blood on the X-Men’s hands because these guys wear gray costumes and they’re called X-Force. DUH!

What’s even better though is that X-Force is a SECRET! Nobody can know what’s going on with ‘Clops’ Black Ops, not even Scott’s girlfriend, Emma Frost!

So how does Cyclops keep this information from Emma, who is clearly one of the most powerful telepaths on earth?

He doesn’t tell her!


Countdown to Final Crisis: Eleven

countdown 11As we saw last week, all of the major players of Countdown were either given specific instructions to head to Apokolips, or headed there instead out of blind instinctual luck. They’re all parts of the biggest game of chess since Deep Blue defeated World Champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. Only, this game has cosmic influence, and, hopefully, this time around, the robot will lose. Wait, neither of the players are robots? Oh well.

So, who will win, if it can’t be a robot? Darkseid or Monitor Solomon? Did I even mention last week that they’re playing chess? If I forgot, which I think I did, yeah, they’ve been playing chess since issue 51, which I guess explains why all the characters on this shit series do and say things that don’t make any sense (they’re being manipulated by the cosmic chess game!).

Anyway, what goes down in this issue? In a nutshell, OMACs, Parademons, and Female Furies, oh my! Goddamnit, that’s the tiredest joke ever. I’ll make it up to you before this is over, I swear. (more…)

Reinventing Nightwing

nightwing 141It seems like it’s been forever since Nightwing has been readable. During the Infinite Crisis, he was built up as one of the bravest non-powered heroes, yet, after that, he was saddled with a downright awful story-arc written by the banally worthless Bruce Jones, only to have that followed by an equally offensive run by Marv Wolfman (with the biggest part of the story-arc to be continued in the pages of some other comic). Seems the dude just couldn’t catch a break.

Until now.

Peter Tomasi has taken over writing duties, and, after just two issues, he’s positioned himself as the only writer since Lord knows when that actually seems to understand the character of Nightwing, and, so far, his run on the book has been substantially better than anything I’ve seen in a very, very long time. Is it perfect? By no means. Is it engaging and promising and, well, fun? Oh hell yeah.

See, it’s all about the basics in these past couple of issues. When you read over the entire Nightwing series, you see that it started off with him moving to Gotham’s sister city, Bludhaven, to establish himself as his own man, far from the shadow of the Bat. He was given a new supporting cast, new villains, along with a loft apartment for a hideout and a motorcycle for transportation. The problem is, running up to the Crisis, and completing itself through the end before the One Year Later jump, all of his new supporting cast got killed, his villains were either killed or fled Bludhaven when it was blowed up, he lost his apartment, and he was displaced in New York City.

Since then, nothing’s really happened. He’s still Nightwing, but he hasn’t had any friends, hasn’t gotten any new interesting villains (the giant goo monster that eats people and shits them back out doesn’t count, nor does the iPod killer), and he still hasn’t established himself as New York’s new protector.

And, thanks to Tomasi, all of that has changed, in the course of two issues. He’s been given the basic elements that define a superhero again! His new hideout is a bell-tower attached to an old museum, which he has bought up and become the new curator of, thanks to Bruce Wayne’s pocket book. He’s also bought up a line of real estate (again, courtesy of Bruce) so that he can have an access through-line of safe houses from upper Manhattan straight down to the Battery. He’s acting like a smart tacticion who’s looking to, y’know, do superhero stuff.

Furthermore, he’s met a girl, been visited by the JSA and Superman and Batman and Flash (so that we remember he’s actually a respected member of the superhero community), and, best of all, he’s stumbled upon a rather intriguing mystery that only he has the ability to solve!

For the first time in a long time, I’m excited to be reading Nightwing, and I just wanted to tell everybody that it’s safe to come back into the water. It ain’t perfect yet, but, hell, I’ll take it.