Monthly archives: August, 2008

Trinity #13

13In the lead: The “device” Red Tornado, Green Lantern and Firestorm planted last issue was actually the All-New Atom. Superman confronts Ultraman, Owlman and Superwoman 1-on-3 and takes out the counter-Trinity single-handedly, then straps them to a bomb and blasts them into the void between universes. Meanwhile, Enigma teleports away after Despero confronts him about Counter-Earth, and the citizens of Counter-Earth devolve into chaos after the JLA defeats the CSA.

In the back-up: Oracle has figured out that the bad Trinity are after the friends, foes and foundations of the good Trinity, and that they just need Wonder Woman’s foe to complete the task. The heroes stake out a bunch of different WW villains and wait. Gangbuster and Hawkman are watching over Maxwell Lord’s gravesite when the bad guys teleport in and start digging. They fight, then the rest of the good guys show up, then that shiny guy blows up or something.

My take: Strangely enough, this issues started exactly where issue #11 ended, with Superman beating the crap out of Ultraman, Owlman and Superwoman. So why the hell did I pay for an issue in-between? To hear the harrowing tale of Red Tornado, Green Lantern and Firestorm shooting the All-New Atom into a Ray Palmer cameo? So Enigma could completely blow his cover and have Despero and Le Fey hardly notice? And the back-up from last issue, where the Riddler figures out Enigma is counter-Riddler, would work even better as a back-up to this story. I didn’t notice while reading it, because they usually pack a lot into 12 pages, but absolutely nothing happened last issue that needed to happen. I’ve been praising this series for its fast-paced storytelling, but maybe it’s not as fast as I thought.

So aside from that, this issue was good. Ignore last issue, and it’s even better. Enigma’s on the run, the JLA has a counter-world full of armed guerillas, Nazis and other bad guy types to deal with, and Superman is going off the deep end! And choosing Maxwell Lord’s corpse as Wonder Woman’s “foe” was sweet. Reminders of how sweet Infinite Crisis was are always welcome. Unless it’s another Crisis, of course.

I like that the back-up artists are going in shifts, with three or four back-ups being drawn by the same artists before they switch out. Scott McDaniel takes a little getting used to. Tom Derenick’s stuff here has been a lot better than it was in Countdown, but no matter how I phrase that it still kind of sounds like an insult. (more…)

Strange and Stranger:
The World of Steve Ditko

By Blake Bell
Published by Fantagraphics Books, 2008; 220 pages; $39.99

“Strange and Stranger” by Blake Bell is an intriguing biography in the life, career and politics of Steve Ditko, best well-known in the pop-culture world as the co-creator of Spider-Man, but also creator of several other characters like Dr. Strange, The Question, Captain Atom and the Ted Kord Blue Beetle.

Bell dives into Ditko’s early years in comics, when he scraped by doing whatever paying work he could get. In those days, before the Silver Age superhero boom, much of that work was in horror comics.

“I have a fondness for his pre-superhero Marvel material,” Bell told me. “Those 5-page, Twilight Zone-ending stories that just drip Ditko atmosphere.”

Around this time in his early career, Ditko was exposed to Ayn Rand and the moral and political philosophy of Objectivism that sprang from her work, and for much of the second half of the book, Bell illustrates how Ditko’s creative output would never be the same. A rigid outlook on right and wrong, producers and consumers and justice and punishment steered Ditko’s career into obscurity, and his comic creations ended up becoming a grotesque autobiographical document of the man’s descent into a harshly judgmental, self-imposed isolation.

A healthy sampling of Ditko’s early work is presented in the book, showing the evolution of his style as he built confidence and started developing some of his storytelling techniques.

“I chose every image because I wanted to comment on those images and have them represent the arc of Ditko’s career,” Bell said.

The visual aides are without a doubt one of the best parts of the book. True to comic form, the art functions as a story of its own as it also illuminates points Bell makes in his text. Given Ditko’s beliefs, it’s no small irony that much of this work is now in the public domain.

Superman Returns: Return Harder

superman six

Greetings, all. I recently sat down with infrequent poster “Doominator” to talk about some news on a potential relaunch of the failed Superman franchise. Here’s how it went. Enjoy:

Doom DeLuise: In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Warner Bros. Pictures Group President Jeff Robinov announced that the studio is going to be reintroducing the Superman franchise, in the same way that Marvel Comics has recently rebooted the Incredible Hulk and has a reboot of the Punisher slated for release later this year. The idea, according to Robinov, is to work off the success of Warner’s Batman relaunch by making the Superman character darker. What’s your reaction to this news?

Doominator: Since when do you read the Wall Street Journal?

Doom DeLuise: I was using it as a blanket in an alleyway the other night, and I happened to notice a headline that caught my attention. (more…)

Prince of Persia

By A.B. Sina (W)
and LeUyen Pham & Alex Puvilland (A)
Created by Jordan Mechner
Published by First Second, 2008; 190 pages; $16.95

Prince of Persia is a graphic novel inspired by the era, setting and general mythology of the video game series of the same name, though not directly starring or attempting to personify any characters from said games. It’s just an attempt to tap into that same world and the same sensations that inspired the original characters and adventures.

The story follows two parallel narratives — the triangle of a weak ruler, his bride and her brother; and a girl and exiled orphan who live in the resulting kingdom several hundred years later. One prince attempts to atone for the sins of another as various relationships intertwine, empires rise and fall and a whole lot of heads are lost. With prophecies and settings like palaces, ruins and secret tunnels, it’s fairly effortless to get swept up in a world that is very easy on the imagination.

The art is beautiful — scratchy, bold brush strokes and a palette rooted firmly in oranges and purples create an expressive, fantastic world that is far more violent and adult than the almost Disney-esque characters would suggest. The effect is not unlike Michael Avon Oeming’s work on Powers — the effect is magnified when gruesome things happen to “cute” characters. But at the same time, the art is abstracted enough to allow the reader to fill in plenty of the details, whether it’s the gore or the scenery.

Some Doomkopf in-house notes

• As you may have guessed from the image at the right, is now optimized for the iPhone and iPod touch.

Users will still have the option of switching back to the standard Safari view if they so choose, but otherwise iPhone and iPod touch users will automatically be greeted by a portable-browser friendly interface that still allows for all the reading, commenting and searching functions that regular full-size browsing visitors enjoy.

• Speaking of comments, commenters here may notice the option to reply directly to existing comments, so that replies will appear nested beneath their parent comment (sort of message board style). Previously, all the comments just piled on sequentially and it got kind of hard to follow who was talking to whom. No longer.

• Finally, we’ve been on myspace for a while, but Doomkopf is finally represented on facebook now too. As I write this, I believe we’re up to 7 fans.

Book of Doom: Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds

lo3wWell, it’s that time of the week again. Actually, it’s a day late, but whatever. This week, for the Book of Doom, we decided on the first issue of the new miniseries “Legion of Three Worlds,” a tie-in to “Final Crisis.” Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by George Perez, it focuses on Superman and the Legion of Superheroes of the 31st Century versus Superboy-Prime and the Legion of Supervillains. So, what’d we think? I’ll let the other guys flesh out the major points, and I’ll follow up at the end with my general reaction. Here we go!

Fin Fang Doom: So I think the question swirling in everyone’s mind after reading Legion of 3 Worlds is “What does this have to do with Final Crisis?” There’s no Evil Gods, no Japanese teen superheroes, no Monitors, no dogs/horses. Just Superman, the Legion, and the return of the totally-awesome-as-written-by-Geoff-Johns Superboy-Prime. So what does this have to do with Final Crisis? Hopefully nothing.

Legion of 3 Worlds continues directly from the Legion story told recently in Action Comics, involving the Silver Age Legion that was brought back by Geoff Johns and Brad Meltzer in the terrible Lightning Saga JLA/JSA crossover a couple of years back. Don’t worry, things have gotten significantly better since that storyline.

While this particular issue was mostly exposition, it did a really good job of setting things up and getting it out of the way, a lot like Johns did in another Final Crisis series, Rogue’s Revenge. We really know now all that we need to know for the rest of the series:

Superboy-Prime wants to prove he’s one of Superman’s greatest enemies, and he’s going to use the Legion of Super-Villains to do it. Superman wants to try to bring back the goodness there once was in Superboy-Prime, and he’s going to use the Legions from three different universes to do it. And all the while there’s this creepy guy in a purple robe that’s pulling everyone’s strings. (more…)

Trinity #12

12In the lead: Superman tries to take on the CSA all by himself, but ends up getting a little assistance from the Justice League. Superman gets mad and flies off in a huff for the second consecutive issue. Meanwhile, Red Tornado, Green Lantern and Firestorm sneak onto the CSA’s satellite HQ and plant a device of some kind. While under attack from the automated defenses, GL goes full binary.

In the back-up: The Riddler gets hired by a museum curator named Dick Grayson (yay, continuity!) to figure out who stole the tarot objects. After some investigating, the Riddler determines that only he himself could be responsible, so he sets off to prove his own innocence.

My take: Well that didn’t take very long. The mystery of Enigma’s identity is that he’s the Riddler, but not our Riddler. Assumedly Enigma is the E. Nigma of Counter-Earth, because he totally freaks out when Morgaine Le Feyand Despero contemplate taking over Counter-Earth instead of New Eart. But shouldn’t the Riddler from Counter-Earth be a good guy? Not so, because Counter-Earth seems to change based on changes on New Earth, and since our Riddler recently became good, their Riddler would have become recently bad.

Back when Trinity #1 hit, I wrote “I could have easily accepted Ra’s al Ghul (he did just break out of Arkham) or Deathstroke as a guy who could outfight Batman, or maybe even the “reformed” Riddler as someone who could outwit him, but not some guy I’ve never heard of in a stupid half-helmet thing.” Well, we ending up getting the Riddler, but the alternate universe thing sort of feels like a cop out. Enigma being from Counter-Earth also makes me worry that the CSA story is part of the evil guys’ plans, which is disappointing. Also, that “stupid half-helmet thing” I complained about earlier? It’s clearly in the shape of a question mark, but I never even noticed until now. (more…)

Green Manor vol. I:
Assassins and Gentlemen

By Fabien Vehlmann (W)
and Denis Bodart (A)

Published by Cinebook, 2008; 56 pages; $13.95

I won’t risk losing any readers by saving the verdict for the end — I loved this book and cannot heap enough praise on it.

A puzzling scenario opens the collection, as a psychiatrist arrives at a mental institution to speak with an inmate who believes himself to be the Green Manor Club personified. This introduction really only serves as a frame story to introduce several seeming stand-alone tales of activities within the club. I’d dismiss the frame as an irrelevant distraction if not for the fact that the close to the book suggests it will be advanced in the next volume, but either way, the self-contained short stories here are definitely enough to sustain a book on its own if they had to.

Each story revolves around some Club members planning, investigating or otherwise romanticizing a murder, and each story also includes an ironic twist at the end. In one story, an elderly member presents fellow club patrons with a murderous riddle they have to solve; in another, two club members attempt to plan the perfect murder. It’s like dark comic O. Henry, or the French origins and psychiatric issues involved might even indicate a nod to Guy de Maupassant. Regardless, the cast of characters are easily unlikeable enough for the reader to gleefully follow along as various characters meet their undoing.

The pattern becomes evident early on, but the fun is always not in what will happen but how it will happen. It’s enjoyable as fiction but at the same time very admirable on the craft level, as so few pages are required to tell such memorable stories.

The art is cartoony but perfect for carrying the ironic comedy; the darkness of the stories would probably be a detriment with a more realistic style. It allows for the right level of detachment to watch these despicable people humorously navigate themselves through this world they’ve created through their own arrogance.

The Grade: A+
Green Manor vol. I is fantastic. It’s a quick read but definitely worth revisiting. I can’t recommend it enough. Volume II, The Inconvenience of Being Dead, is due out next month.

The Doomino Effect for Aug 20, 2008

I’m going to pack two weeks of comics into this week’s Doomino Effect, but starting off is a new one from this week, Guardians of the Galaxy #4.

GotG has become one of my favorite series, even inspiring me to dig out my old ’90s Guardians of the Galaxy comics (and then quickly putting them back because they are crap and I only bought them because they were one of the few comics carried by my hometown drugstore) after the surprise return of Vance Astro.

I love virtually everything about this series — the writing is fantastic, as Abnett and Lanning immediately pinned down the personalities and the interplay between a cast of characters I knew nothing about, following a crossover I didn’t read, and they even made me excited about the return of a character from a series that I just mentioned was not very good. On the art side, Paul Pelletier and Rick Magyar have created what is probably best described as a beautiful synthesis of the best of Alan Davis, Paul Neary and Mark Bagley with none of the worst.

That said, this is a Secret Invasion tie-in, and I wish this series would’ve been able to go for more than 3 issues before falling victim of a crossover. I didn’t read any of the Annihilation stuff, and I know that there was a Super Skrull in that, so injecting Skrull business into this series isn’t entirely out of left field. And I thought it was handled pretty well here — there was the obligatory paranoia for a page (which gets old, but I think really is necessary to keep the Skrull threat elevated to the level it needs to be) as well as the very quick and effective explanation of why these Skrulls should be a reason for concern (Drax saying “A Skrull’s bad enough; a Skrull that doesnt’ want you to know he’s a Skrull is a seriously bad deal”). I’m also kind of contradicting one of my main feelings about big crossovers, and that is that they need to be felt across the entire universe in order to get over how significant they are.

So I guess I’m not really feeling disappointment, as this did feel like a natural progression and not like it was thrust upon the series abruptly. I think maybe the bad taste in my mouth is just that the first three issues were so good that I’m suspicious of anything that has the potential to disrupt that flow — and I like Secret Invasion.

Trinity #11

11In the lead: While Morgaine Le Fey’s thugs are stealing clay from a cave on Paradise Island, the Justice League is on Counter-Earth confronting the Crime Syndicate. With Jimmy Olson held hostage, the CSA convinces the JLA to a temporary ceasefire. After rescuing Jimmy, Superman goes over the edge and starts manhandling Jimmy. Turns out, this is Counter-Jimmy, who’s starpped to the gills with some sort of explosives. Wonder Woman’s lasso gets the btruth out of Jimmy, and Superman flies off in a huff. Batman and Wonder Woman have a heart-to-heart as the rest of the JLA tends to the abducted humans. The Trinity has been acting a little out-of-character lately, and Batman and WW realize it’s because they’re exhibiting each others attributes. But they figure this all out a little late, because Superman’s already used Wonder Woman’s warrior instinct and Batman’s aggression to take on the CSA all by himself!

In the back-up: Oracle sets up a couple of sting operations involving tarot objects to try to lure out the bad guys. The Outsiders day is quite uneventful, but Hawkman and Gangbuster get a hit. Le Fey’s goons show up, but it isn’t to steal the tarot object; they’re there to steal another object on display, the plane Superman saved in his very first public appearance. After a brief tussle, the bad guys make off with the object representing Superman’s foundation and another unexpected prize: Hawkman’s shield, which can be tracked thanks to the Nth metal inside.

My take: Man, things are moving along really fast. In issue #6, the evil Trinity first started accumulating tarot objects. By issue #7, the JLA had figured out the plan. In issue #9, the bad guys started stealing the objects personally related to the Trinity. In issue #11, the good guys have figured out that the bad guys have moved on. The good guys are hot on the tails of the evil Trinity, but Le Fey & Co. are still managing to stay one step ahead. (more…)