Monday, August 31, 2009

Disney Buys Marvel

Wow was this exciting news. Now I know that there is a strong chance that if all the details are worked out and the deal goes through that there could be zero impact to what is happening with Marvel Comics, because the deal is about the ability to exploit the characters and movies. Still you can not help but to think about what this could do as over time it would only make sense to look at the way things are done in the publishing side of the business.

The first thing that came to mind to me is what does this do to BOOM studios in the long run. They have just inked license deals to publish the duck books and they have the Pixar properties. Does Disney just leave that alone or do they look to let their own comic publisher handle it in the future. Do they decide to not wait in the future and make a bid to buy BOOM and put it all under one roof? Tons of possibilities and there has to be some guy somewhere who will start to think about this. Bottom line BOOM has to be concerned as this stuff appears to me to be a good source of income for them.

Next up is the distribution of the comics. Disney has their own retail outlets and I cannot see that they would abide having Diamond tell them what to do and what not to do with their product. Marvel Adventure books could now have a great outlet in the Disney stores and Disney could start to look at the content that comes under their banner and maybe they get worried about the Punisher and/or being the publisher of Kick-Ass and other harder edge books. If they make money, maybe they don’t care, but Disney has always been known to be conscious of their brand. Either way this could affect Diamond and therefore the whole industry. Remember Marvel is often 50% of the entire comic book market. Does Disney force retailers to buy Disney books to get Marvel books? All sorts of crazy thing might happen.

Of course short term this just means that Marvel maybe able to relax a little bit on the publishing side of things and be able to be more like DC is under the Time/Warner banner. Instead of every quarter having to show growth, Marvel Comics can be seen as just maintaining the copyright by publishing the characters. Plus I believe Sony owns the Spider-Man movie rights and Fox owns the X-Men movie rights so pulling all of that together (if they want to) will be a joy.

Short term I do not expect this to have any impact to what we see and I expect to hear the announcements out of Marvel that this has no impact and everything will continue as it always has. That will be true until Disney decides it is not true. Now with Disney having different publishing ventures, trying to achieve some synergy and cost savings is only going to be natural down the road. Plus the type of contracts will be reviewed by Disney’s legal department I’m sure as they need to ensure strong ownership of the properties they want to exploit. What this means is it will have some impact and create some changes regardless of what anyone says.

Should be an interesting process to watch and see how it plays out over the next few years. Remember this is all coming at the same time that the digital revolution is about to hit our industry.

For me I just want to see the Punisher versus Pooh caged death match on pay per view. It should be awesome.

What I’m Getting Wednesday September 2

Healthcare reform still seems to be the “big” topic of the day. I’m against the hodgepodge bull sh*t bills that are floating around now, but I’m not against healthcare reform. I mean the whole system we have does not make sense, from having a profit driven medical care system, to medical malpractice causing doctors to perform defensive medicine, to way too many Americans having to file bankruptcy due to medical bills. Allowing private health insurance carriers to run the system is done in other countries, but everyone is required to carry health insurance and providers cannot drop you or not accept you for previous conditions and other things. Plus payments are sometimes mandated to be made within a certain number of business days. The overhaul of our healthcare system is desperately needed and can be done in a way that will make it work, but we have to erase lobbyist from the equitation and tackle Medicare/Medicaid (do away with it), tort reform and outlaw for profit insurance companies. It is an enormous task and cannot be accomplish with one bill no one understands and cannot be shoved down our throats, but we need to do it and get it right this time. If we can ever mange to get this done, maybe we can start to reform the entitlement system in this country starting with the Charles Ponzi Memorial Organization, a.k.a. the Social Security System.

The books I’m looking forward to most this week are:

Agents of Atlas #10 – A bunch of books this week that I have listed as the most anticipated can be linked together by one term, fun. Comics should be a fun read, they can be every other type of adjective also, but the fun books are usually my favorites as they can brighten a bad day. Agents of Atlas has always been that type of book, with some great offbeat characters, strong scripts, tying into the MU continuity, but ultimately fun. The hype “There's no enemy quite like a former lover, is there? The gloves are all the way off as Jade Claw and her forces begin assaulting Atlas on every front! The Agents throw everything they've got at the Great Wall, but to no avail. Gorilla-Man is convinced only ONE member of the team can possibly stop the rain of pain...”

Chew #4 – Again, this book is flat out fun. Bizarre powered people, a crazy world where chicken is illegal and the FDA is into crime busting, wonderful characters and some great stylized artwork. On the menu for this issue “A senator with bloodstream full of drugs and a belly full of chicken is stone dead in the morgue, and the trail leads back all the way the Arctic, to a joint U.S./Russian space observatory that has been singularly focused on a single, distant, Earth-like planet. Tony Chu and his partner are about to discover whatever secret this planet holds does not compare to those being kept by the astronomers. Yeah, that weird stuff just got weirder, in a spacey story from Image's deliciously twisted new series about cops, crooks, cooks, cannibals and clairvoyants!”

DC Library JLA by George Perez HC Volume 1 – George Perez is almost all it has to say and I willing to buy it, but in addition these were some great JLA stories. DC really needs to do some collections with Curt Swan artwork. This volume contains “Written by Gerry Conway; The first half of artist George Pérez's 1980s run on JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA is collected in this new hardcover featuring issues #184-186, 192-194 plus Pérez's very rare JLA postcard set! Don't miss the team's battles with Darkseid and The Secret Society of Super-Villains, as envisioned by the artist of FINAL CRISIS: LEGION OF THREE WORLDS!”

Ghost Riders Heaven’s on Fire #2 (of 6) – I have enjoyed Jason Aaron’s run on Ghost Rider and hate to see it end and I hate being charged $4 a pop for the last arc, but it is a great read and has been an over the top madcap book. The word from on high “The quest to save the Anti-Christ continues, as Johnny Blaze, the Son of Satan, occult terrorist Jaine Cutter and the all-new Caretaker team up to battle the minions of the evil angel Zadkiel in the streets and corporate towers of New York City. And just what sort of dark dealings does Danny Ketch have in mind? And who's this guy with demons for arms? And is that a steam shovel with eyes on it?”

Immortal Weapons #2 (of 5) – Different creative teams tackling different weapons means each book is a mystery as to how good it will be. Since all the weapons are pretty cool I’m hoping for the best as we get the back stories on them. The great Buddha says “Her heart pumps the coldest blood imaginable…and she is host to horrors inconceivable to mortal men. The Bride of Nine Spiders is perhaps the most enigmatic of the Immortal Weapons. Yet men would risk life and sanity to plumb the mysteries of this porcelain beauty and the alien land from which she comes. When a disturbing relic surfaces at a most exclusive auction house, the Bride’s secrets are revealed in a tragic tale fusing martial arts mayhem and gothic terror!”

Irredeemable #6 – Mark needs to pick up the pace on revealing what is going on with why the Plutonian flipped out and went bad, but this is one of the top series on the stands, not a fun book. Tony says “The Plutonian's rampage continues as the Paradigm's dwindling members regroup and prepare to go on the offensive. Even with new information about the Plutonian's past, will it be enough to tip the scales against a mad god?”

Jersey Gods #7 – This is back to the fun standard. It really is Jack Kirby’s New Gods Comics meets Young Romance Comics and hilarity ensures. The pure passion and joy of these creators spills out on every page. Zoe says this issue is about “If you thought Barock had it tough on the battlefields of Neboron - just wait until you see him battling it out on the runways of Paris during fashion week. Zoe is in Heaven when Delia offers Barock his first modeling gig. But the dark and mysterious Hecticus has the lovers plainly in his sights - and now he's moving in for the kill!”

The Mighty #8 – Another Superman archetype is not what he seems story line that is not as overt as Irredeemable and makes him all the creepier because of the way he does it. Alpha One tells us “Written by Peter J. Tomasi and Keith Champagne; Art by Chris Samnee; Cover by Dave Johnson. Gabriel Cole's family has fallen apart, and Alpha One has a nuclear bomb! But Alpha's pride could be his undoing when Cole finds himself alone in the "hero's" headquarters…and his rage begins to lead him down a terrifying road!”

Strange Tales #1 (of 3) - Huge hit and miss book as Marvel lets the “indy” creators play with the toys in their house. Should be interesting and I’m expecting some great things and some things that I will probably despise. The company line “Written and Drawn by PAUL POPE, PETER BAGGE, MOLLY CRABAPPLE, JOHN LEAVITT, JUNKO MIZUNO, DASH SHAW, JAMES KOCHALKA, JOHNNY RYAN, MICHAEL KUPPERMAN, NICK BERTOZZI, NICHOLAS GUREWICH & JASONCover by PAUL POPE. At long last, the wait is over!! Marvel is proud to present the debut of this hotly anticipated three issue anthology showcasing Marvel's greatest characters re-imagined by the best and brightest talents working in independent comics today. Don't miss what's sure to be one of the most exciting collections of comics short stories ever produced!!! Every issue stars a stunning array of the best, most exciting cartoonists on the planet--showcasing the Marvel Heroes as you've never seen them before! Featuring the long-awaited Peter Bagge "Incorrigible Hulk" serialized over all three issues!”

The rest of the list:

The Authority #14Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Art by Simon Coleby and Cliff Rathburn and Drew Johnson and Ray Snyder; Cover by Simon Coleby. Kaizen Gamorra's assault on the Carrier catches the team unawares – and completely unprepared! Can they hold off his overwhelming forces without a key member? Looks like they'll have to since the Midnighter left the team in an attempt to find a cure for Apollo...and his journey will have massive ramifications for World's End!

Batman #690Written by Judd Winick ; Art by Mark Bagley and Rob Hunter ; Cover by Tony Daniel. Penguin ups the ante in his bid to become Gotham's top crook and enlists a few of Arkham's finest to keep Batman busy. Meanwhile a mysterious presence enters the scene to aid the Penguin – or is there another motive at play? And Two-Face takes a massive leap forward in uncovering one of Batman's greatest secrets.

Batman Confidential #33Written by Peter Milligan ; Art by Andy Clarke ; Cover by Jock. Batman learns that appearances can be deceiving in Moscow in part 3 of this 5-part story! Every mobster in Russia seems too terrified of the Tsar and his Bear to talk about the crime kingpin. But is Bear having doubts about his mission and his boss? Who can Batman trust in this unfamiliar city where nothing is as it seems?

Daring Mystery Comics 70th Anniversary Special - Marvel continues its historic anniversary celebration – as the Phantom Reporter leaps from the pages of THE TWELVE into his own solo adventure! By day, cub reporter…by night, relentless scourge of the underworld! But what could drive All-American collegiate champ Dick Jones to become a masked vigilante? Why does this high-society dilettante fight for the underprivileged? And what is the blood-soaked mystery that will take gun-toting terror from the swankiest Park Ave penthouse to the shadowed mean streets on the hunt for justice? Find out as Edgar Award-winning historical thriller novelist David Liss (A Conspiracy of Paper,) makes his comics writing debut and teams with artist Jason Armstrong (Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus) to tell the never-before-revealed origin of the Phantom Reporter! Plus: A classic reprint from DARING MYSTERY COMICS #3!

Dead Run #4 (of 4) - America has become a wasteland, leaving the few cities that remain transformed into impenetrable fortresses. Nick Masters is a driver. If you need something picked-up, delivered, or disposed of, Nick's your man. But when he fails to deliver, all hell breaks loose. The finale to the epic saga that redefines the science fiction action genre.

Final Crisis Aftermath Run #5 (of 6)Written by Matthew Sturges; Art by Freddie E. Williams II; Cover by KAKO. Science is not your friend! The Human Flame is about to learn this the hard way as he accidentally unlocks the terror behind the doors of the most secret facility at S.T.A.R. Labs. Mike's on the cusp of becoming one of the most powerful villains in the DC Universe! Or he may just be on the cusp of being horribly murdered! It's hard to tell with cusps sometimes.

Grimjack Manx Cat #2 (of 5)The Manx Cat adventure continues as GrimJack John Gaunt hunts for Darlin' Lil, running into celebrated old 'friends' like Blackjac Mac and Feetus along the way. As he begins to unravel the mystery of The Manx Cat, he finds himself held hostage by Darlin' Lil's astonishing origin and a lot of unhappy Cat lovers.

I am Legion #5 (of 6)Fabien Nury's World War II epic explodes with more intrigue and drama. With stellar art by John Cassady (Astonishing X-Men), the final arc of I Am Legion begins here!

Incognito #6 - THE HARD-HITTING CONCLUSION TO THE MOST TWISTED SUPER-VILLAIN STORY EVER! It all ends here. All of Zack Overkill's planning and scheming has brought him face-to-face with his own past, and now he's the one man left who can save the world...but does he care enough to even try?

Invincible Iron Man #17 - What happens when the world's smartest man starts making sloppy mistakes? With the finish line in sight, Tony blows it for everybody and now his whole insane scheme to destroy his own mind, evade Norman Osborn, and save the lives of all his friends who have tried so desperately to help him goes wildly off the rails. Nothing gold can stay, Pony-Boy.

Jonah Hex #47Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray; Art and cover by Cristiano Cucina. "Six Gun War" part 4 of 6! Hex, Bat Lash and Tallulah Black are off to find and kill Quentin Turnbull, but on the way, they run afoul of a dangerous band of banditos. And if that wasn't bad enough, Hex meets up with an old friend – but can he be trusted? Or is betrayal on his mind?

Justice League Cry for Justice #3 (of 7)Written by James Robinson; Art and cover by Mauro Cascioli. The team welcomes two new members as Supergirl and Shazam join the roster! And it's just in time, too, because when Prometheus is finally caught and his evil machinations are revealed, the League finds out they may be unable to stop him.

The Last Resort #2 (of 5)The madness continues as things go from bad to worse on Loramer Island! The survivors slowly realize that burning to death in a plane crash might be a welcome alternative to what waits for them on the island. Warning: this issue contains excessive violence, fiery death, rampaging zombies, and a boat of topless women! See? It ain't all bad.

Marvel Masterworks Black Knight / Yellow Claw Volume #123 - Written by STAN LEE, AL FELDSTEIN & VARIOUS Penciled by JOE MANEELY, JACK KIRBY, JOHN SEVERIN,FRED KIDA & VARIOUS Cover by JOE MANEELY. From the heroic times of King Arthur to the dangers of the Cold War, the Atlas Era brings you the greatest adventure stories from the 1950s. Presenting the original series of two legendary characters that have bridged the decades - all the way from the Atlas Era to the Avengers and Agents of Atlas - Black Knight and Yellow Claw are must-haves for every Marvel maniac! Sir Percy of Scandia may appear to be a foppish weakling, too timid to fight and the scorn of Camelot, but only Merlin knows the truth: Sir Percy is the gallant Black Knight! Come to drive Modred de Monfort from King Arthur's court, he wields the ebony blade against Norman invaders, dragons, imposters and usurpers to the throne. With the pencil of Atlas great, Joe Maneely, delineating the action,Black Knight is a sure-fire classic! Then comes Cold War tales of mystery, espionage and world domination from the pages of Yellow Claw! Illustrated by the incomparable trio of Joe Maneely, John Severin and --in a rare mid-50s Atlas appearance-- Jack Kirby, F.B.I. Agent Jimmy Woo's mission to capture the century-old mystic from the root of the Himalayas is packed with gritty crime and unimaginable adversaries, from mind-bending mutants and UFO the Lightning Man to Temujai the Golden Goliath and the Living Shadows! Collecting BLACK KNIGHT #1-5 & YELLOW CLAW #1-4. 256 PGS

Mystic Comics 70th Anniversary Special - “I am the destroyer of evil,” the haunting stranger intoned; “I’ve crossed the great cold into your world!” So speaks the original Vision! From a dimension beyond, comes an otherworldly force of retribution. His steely touch turns killers to ice, shattering them. His staggering gaze drives the guilty mad with terror. His unstoppable power never fails to punish the wicked! It is said only those approaching death can see him in his true form as…the Vision!

Northlanders #20Written by Brian Wood; Art by Davide Gianfelice; Cover by Massimo Carnevale. When we last saw Sven at the end of NORTHLANDERS Vol. 1, he was in exile on a remote island with a brand-new family and questioning if he truly managed to escape the dangers of the mainland. "Don't worry," his wife Enna had said. "There's no one coming." Well, after several decades pass, the epic story of "Sven, The Returned" is on the lips of poets across the land. And now a few mercenaries have decided to look him up...

Proof #23 - 'JULIA,' Conclusion The Julia arc concludes with a cold-blooded murder. Queen Victoria would have censored this issue.

Strange Adventures #7 (of 8)Written by Jim Starlin; Art by Jim Starlin and Al Milgrom and Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens; Cover by Jim Starlin and Rob Hunter. Comet versus the original Captain Comet! The old Captain wants to build a dangerous new utopia for the universe, and it looks like his younger counterpart is the only one who can stop him!

Supergirl Annual #1Written by Sterling Gates; Art by Fernando Dagnino and Raúl Fernandez; Cover by Renato Guedes. In SUPERGIRL #34, Supergirl took the new secret identity of Linda Lang. But how long until someone finds out her secret? Now, for the first time ever, witness Supergirl's initial attempt to live her double life in "Linda Lang: Day One"! Plus! The secret origin of Superwoman revealed! What drove Lucy Lane to become the superpowered threat known as Superwoman? How did she transform from Lois Lane's little sister into Project 7734's secret weapon? Find out here!

Sweet Tooth #1Written by Jeff Lemire; Art and cover by Jeff Lemire. From out of the deep woods and the mind of acclaimed indie cartoonist Jeff Lemire (THE NOBODY, The Essex County Trilogy) comes a new Vertigo monthly ongoing series like no other! After being raised in total isolation, Gus – a boy born with deer-like antlers – is left to survive in an American landscape devastated a decade earlier by an inexplicable pandemic. Even more remarkable is that Gus is part of a rare new breed of human/animal hybrid children who have emerged in its wake, all apparently immune to the infection.Enter Jepperd, a violent, hulking drifter who soon takes in Gus and promises to lead him to "The Preserve," a fabled safe-haven for hybrid children. Along the way they'll have to contend with science militias, deadly scavengers, rival bounty hunters, and hybrid worshipping cultists as they fight to make it to safety and solve the mysteries of this deadly new frontier. This bizarre and haunting new series is boldly written and illustrated by Eisner-nominated creator Jeff Lemire and elegantly colored by fellow Eisner nominee Jose Villarubia. A little boy with antlers, a big man with guns, a world without hope.

Wednesday Comics #9 (of 12) - Various Writers and Artists. WEDNESDAY COMICS, DC's new, 12-issue weekly series, reaches its incredible conclusion in September. Here are just some of the highlights of this third and final month: • In BATMAN, WEDNESDAY COMICS' weekly cover feature, Bruce Wayne digs further into a steamy murder mystery. It's a classic noir tale by the Eisner Award-winning 100 BULLETS team of writer Brian Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso.

A two hard cover week again, I really need to address my hard cover addiction. While I ‘want” many of them the companies are all producing so many I have to now start to really decided when I hit a saturation point on and then stop with that material. Marvel Masterworks are getting easy and easier to skip and DC’s archive series has done a few now that I had zero interest in, but then other companies produce stuff like Eerie and Creepy collections. It’s like trading one drug for another, like I quit smoking and started to sniff glue. It is actually making me want to cut further back on new comics more then anything else.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Melancholy and Health Care

I had something in mind, but then Ted Kennedy died, so I'll bump that idea for a bit.

It's not that I'm a big Kennedy fan, Teddy, Jack or Bobby. My father was a fan of Jack and Bobby. Some of the more treasured items I have are pictures of him when he went to DC in '63 for Jack's funeral. Coincidentally, my father also died right around this time in '92, so that adds a little more to the reflective mood.

Teddy certainly pursued many causes he believed would help Americans live happy, healthy lives, particularly in education and health. Whether he pursued the right course to achieve that end is a matter of perspective and debate. Like most people, he also had his failings in his personal life. And that brings me to the tools who can't let the dead, and their families, have a moment of honor. It took no time at all for me to hear Chappaquiddick raised as a sword, aimed at slaying any accomplishments the man, or even the entire Kennedy family, may have had.

Invariably, the Chappaquiddick obsessed fall to the right of the political spectrum. In part because the left is going to forgive one of its own more readily, but more so because it's so much easier to holler "Chappaquiddick, Chappaquiddick, Chappaquiddick!" than to make a substantive address to policies Kennedy supported. Why take the time to think and argue about the merits of health reform, education policy, labor policy or economic policy when you can just yell something irrelevant that makes a personal attack on a proponent of the opposing view?

Look at the town hall meetings on health reform. We have a former vice presidential candidate stoking the fires with an outright lie that government panels are going to decide who lives and dies, like some ersatz Logan's Run. We have viral e-mails laying claim that the government will collect personal information and have private businesses (or are they now an arm of the government?) laying surcharges for unhealthy buying practices. Never mind that corporations already have data on your buying habits and tailor their efforts to you based on those habits, nor the fact that the only efforts to keep your private information your business are the results of government laws.

So, in the midst of this vapid and scurious "information" we have the town hall meetings. Then what do we get? The allegedly liberal media coverage of idiots shouting down their representatives and those idiots being portrayed as somehow representing the majority. Uncritically, the mass media shows these incidents. The only time there's any upset in the media is when some of the more exteme idiots show up toting weapons. How are these idiots the majority if the representatives are elected by a majority in their district? Even in Maryland, a heavily Democratic state with a more than 2-1 registration advantage to the Democrats, the media portray a few extremists yelling at Senator Ben Cardin as representing some vast groundswell of opposition.

I'm not arguing that Obama's plan (which, by the way, doesn't actually exist. There are several possible plans percolating in Congress, none of which were put forth by Obama) is going to make health care available and affordable to everyone, including the government. Any one of the plans should make health care more available to everyone, which I think almost all would agree is a good thing. Whether it's affordable to the individual and the government (read taxpayers) is the more contentious issue. Except that issue isn't even being addressed. Instead it's just a bunch of lies and idiocy. I don't think that can be encapsulated any better than the fool who yelled at his representative that he didn't want the government getting its hands on his Medicare. How stupid do you have to be not to see the contradiction in that statement?

In the midst of this hooplah, I also read an article in Newsweek( about the dearth of doctors able and willing to perform third trimester abortions. These are rarely performed operations but are occasionally necessary to save the life of the mother or because some fatal flaw is discovered in the fetus. And I don't mean some shallow reason for aborting late in pregnancy. I mean the fetus, if it survives to term, will die within moments or days due to some uncorrectable flaw. These are not abortions of convenience but of medical necessity, arrived at after difficult discussion between a woman and her doctor. But they're increasingly hard to get, particularly in the West and Midwest, where there are vast geographic distances between doctors who can and will do it.

The reason for this is the self same opponents of health reform, at least as the shouters embody those opponents. These people who decry socialized medicine, government involvement in their personal health care decisions, and liken Democrats to Nazis are all too happy to step into a pregnant woman's health care. In fact, on the cultural conservative front, a woman more or less ceases to have any rights as a person the moment she conceives. From that point until birth or miscarriage, the fetus takes supremacy. Purportedly this is to protect the "innocent" fetus, thus elevating the fetus above the woman in value. It's an interesting value judgment that's part and parcel of the cultural baggage of virgin birth, but be that as it may, it's the government stepping in to make health care decisions for a private citizen. And let's not forget the travesty that was the Schiavo situation in Florida. There the state legislature attempted to intervene to prevent a husband from making medical decisions for his wife, who was without brain function, again in the name of protecting the "innocent".

Ah, me. I suppose it's unusual to find melancholy as a stepping stone to being fed up with political and cultural irritants. I y'am what I y'am.

So, we have a health system that leaves millions without the resources to get necessary care, preventive or reactive. That same system is not very cost effective for the remainder who do have care (or do you like high deductibles and/or limited choices in doctors through HMOs and a dollar cap on lifetime care?). Congressional Democrats, at the urging of President Obama, put forth plans to address these problems. They're not perfect. Cost is a big issue, probably the real issue that should be at the focus. What do we get from the GOP? Death panels. Socialized medicine. Nazis. Not an opposition based on the cost of the proposals. Not an opposition based on flaws in how the coverage might be brought to individuals (public, private, co-ops?).

The shame of it is, aside from the possibility that we'll be stuck with the same broken system for a lot longer, is that the GOP is digging its own hole deeper. Appeals to irrational, gut attacks on the opposition as somehow evil have a limited base. That base is shrinking and is on the short end of the demographic stick. That's wonderful for the Democrats, but it's not so wonderful for the US. A viable opposition with policies that propose rather than oppose is necessary for the health of the country. The only saving grace is that Democrats, to paraphrase Will Rogers, are not an organized party. Internal divisions will always make it difficult for Democrats to pass legislation of any radical nature. The status quo will never be in any danger. Hell, they have 59 Senators and a large cushion majority in the House and still can't just pass some health care plan for a president of their own party.

And that's the somewhat rambling "truth".

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Return of the Comic Purge

This week I ran into a massive amount of maintenance for my car. It needed to have new points and plugs, was due for a full check up, the air conditioner had died. The bill was rather extensive since I needed a set of tires and new brakes (including rotors). This caused me to have to decide to get a new car or just do the maintenance. The numbers played out that in the long run doing the maintenance is the best deal and should buy another 45,000 miles on my car without major work. This caused me to rethink all of my expenses and look for ways to shave down some of my bills and my entertainment bill is way too high. So I pulled out my extensive list of books and hacked away again. I’m still at around a hundred titles a month, but it is getting better and better and I hope to get it down even further as time goes by.

I thought I would share why I took off what I did and wonder if more and more fans may start to see things the way I do or if perhaps my over analytical and former CPA mentality is just my view of the world.

First up I dropped the Complete Dracula from Dynamite. It is an interesting project and a nice idea in how to adapt a novel into a comic book, but two things jumped out at me. First if I want to read the novel I should read the novel. My own mind’s eye can fill in the pictures. Second if this is a well done project I can “wait for the trade” as a novel would read better in that format. Therefore it was redundant to waste money on it and you know if I wait a year or so the Baltimore Comic-Con will have somebody selling it for half price as a trade.

Next up was Conan the Cimmerian. This was a hard one as I enjoy Tomas Giorello’s art and Tim Truman does a great job writing the stories, but I hit saturation points with certain characters. I notice this happens to me with Conan from time to time and I need to go away from this title and come back in a year or two and see what is going on at that time. Plus I have so many trades of the old Marvel run to re-read and therefore I have enough Conan for right now.

Another difficult one to drop was the “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” the 24 part reprinting of Phillip K. Dick’s work put to illustrations. This is a wonderful project, but it was pointed out to me by my retailer that I would end up paying $96 retail for a $7 paperback. Economically it makes no sense to buy this in this type of format. I hated to let it go, but the cost benefit did not work.

Firebreather from Image was another book I let go, but this was easy as I had never really gotten deeply invested in the character and based on the publishing schedule they may have cancelled this on me before I took it off my list. For a reader like me one way to fall off my list is to have an inconsistent publishing schedule. I can tolerate this with some creators on certain projects, but not for a series trying to win me over as a long term fan. See Chew, Jersey Gods and Proof for the way to do it right.

Unwritten from Vertigo is next. This went from being a great first issue to just losing my interest at record speed. Now I may decide to pick this up as trades down the road, but the book was not holding together for me as a monthly series. I think the reason was that this is a very different take on a continuing comic and the monthly format was not working for me as there was almost too much happening at once.

Poe from BOOM was also dropped. It only had two more issue to go, but it was just not working as the story went from straight crime to more supernatural and almost felt too modern for the time it was occurring.

Punisher Noir and Luke Cage Noir from Marvel was a double hit. Both of these books were a pure price point decision. They are both $4 for 22 pages of story and art. Both were good reads and interesting, but not worth $16 for a four part story. I have to keep reminding myself to multiply the price for the entire mini-series when making a decision on whether to keep getting a book. Sure it maybe a decent story, but I have plenty of other decent stories that cost less. In the grand scheme of things all of these price increases has caused me to actually spend more this year then last and I would be happy spending a little more, but now I want to spend the same or maybe a little less. I’m only one person but hopefully more and more people will not buy the $4 regular size comics from Marvel and they will stop producing them. Of course I have a theory that this is all a prelude to pushing people to digital comics down the road and cutting out the printer, distributor and retailers except for a small print run of books, which would then be $5 or more.

Anna Mercury 2 from Avatar. Some of Ellis’s series take way too long to come out and I will wait for reviews and the trade of this type of material. Plus a lot of these stories do read better as a whole.

Last is North 40 from Wildstorm. It was a story of a town overrun by a Lovecraft type horror theme and I realized that I read enough of this material also. I also realized that I should go back and read more of Lovecraft stories as they are very good and better then the derivative stuff from other writers.

As you can see this was not a major purge by dropping Marvel or dropping Superman titles or something like that, but I have made it a tougher game for books to stay on my list or even for me to try out a book. I’m skipping Red Tornado from DC and may skip the Torch from Marvel this coming week for different reasons then just money, but the dollars are certainly a factor.

Movies and Comics

Today some of us had a discussion about comic book movies. It was between myself, another comic book fan, and a non comic book reader. When both the other fan and I expressed our disappointment at the second X-Men movie it was unsurprising that our other co-worker enjoyed the movie and even made a remark about us comic readers being picky (and yes the third movie was even worse but we had been talking about Nightcrawler and got on the topic of his introduction into the world of film). It's only natural I suppose, we do after all have higher expectations of the movies going in... but part of it struck me as funny. After all aren't we the ones who continue to read comic books that constantly rehash the same old stories over and over again? And if they're written well we most likely enjoy said story all over again.

I mean sure, the movies have a lot of discrepancies... but really, so do the comics they originate from. Yes, in the X movies Rogue is jailbait (disappointing male fans everywhere I'm told) but so what? Does it really matter that much - is it really that people want to see an exact story form the comic books - or is it that they want to see their interpretation of the comic? Personally I could care less about the changes made to Rogue's character (although I thought they were stealing somewhat from Kitty Pryde's story when the Hellfire Club was out to get her, but only a bit). However I'll admit I've never been a fan of Rogue and thus have little interest invested in the character. When they changed Nightcrawler in the second movie though - I was pissed. So many people thought he was great in the movie (from what I can tell this came mostly from the opening scene in which he wasn't even acting under his own volition) but I couldn't stand his character. Why, you may ask? Well it's quite simply because of how much I love the Nightcrawler character. I felt gypped during his movie appearance. I don't know about everyone else but I always thought that while religion was a part of Kurt's character, that it wasn't the sole focus of his existence. I always hated the small point in time where he was crazy religious. Seriously I hope they fired whomever came up with the priest collar + spandex costume. To me Nightcrawler will always be this fun loving swash buckler who grew up in a circus raised by gypsies. X2 seriously let me down with that character interpretation.

My point here is that for those of us who have some sort of emotional attachment to certain characters and storylines it's hard to accept something deviating from out own vision.

I wish screen writers would realize this. If they stuck more closely with the comics themselves they'd probably do a lot better with the actual fans as opposed to just trying to make a buck. They'd also still make money in the process as in order for these stories to become popular enough to make it to the big screen they had to be popular with the readers first. If the actual characters and stories weren't worth anything in the first place why would anyone be making a movie out of it? I mean it's not too hard - the whole thing is already story boarded for heaven's sake! At the very least throw a What if? or Elseworlds into the title... that was us comic book fans don't expect the characters we've come to know and love and maybe we can enjoy the movies as much as the uninitiated viewer.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Jack Kirby’s OMAC: One Man Army Corps – A Review

Jack Kirby’s OMAC: One Man Army Corps

Publisher DC

Format Hard Cover Collection $25, 10 ¼” x 6 ¾”
with lighter paper that actually makes it a more accurate reproduction in some ways

Editor/Writer/Pencils Jack Kirby

Inks D. Bruce Berry & Mike Royer

Color Reconstruction Drew Moore

I just finished the eight issue collection of Jack’s OMAC book and have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. When Lee and Kirby split up I was never fond of what Kirby was doing and never really sat down to read it and appreciate it. What I saw back in 1974 was that Kirby’s work had become chunky and block like and the dialogue was stilted and unnatural. Now I was 18/19 years old at the time and more interested in who is that girl across the campus and when are we going out to get a beer, then I was focusing on what are all these interesting concepts in this book.

At a slightly older age and with a different perspective I sat down and read a very quick reading OMAC series and walked away wanting more. I know thanks to Mark Evanier’s introduction that Jack quit DC and issue #8 was given an abrupt ending in an effort to tie up the story line but it was very apparent that Jack had some great ideas for at least the next issue. The effort to try and end the story with one redrawn panel is in and of itself rather funny as the villain of the piece is destroyed because his equipment overloads.

Jack’s premise was this book was talking about “The World’s that is coming.” This was a look into a future that was some unknown amount of time down the road. It is actually a rather inventive series and realizing that Jack was producing 15 pages a week, you have to say it was genius. Included in this collection are a few pages that are just Jack’s pencils and the amount of detail and shading that he did was amazing. Remember Jack was not using all the cute toys that artist have to build building and add backgrounds into their drawings, this is all just pencils and Jack’s imagination.

It is very reminiscent of the early sixties work from Marvel comics in that it has so many ideas and concepts in it and the book flies by so fast, that someone could take the first issue and turn it into a six part story without breaking a sweat and it would still have five times the story in it that a Bendis six issue arc of Daredevil ever had in it. In issue number one we see that the future has created build-a-friend. This is where pseudo-people are made to order for people with money. The females are the most popular. Of course mixed in with all these really cool concepts is the oddball thing that they explode and kill their clients because they are murder weapons. Great concept, but poor use of that concept to a more modern viewpoint, but in Jack’s world it needed to be that so OMAC could fight against it.

OMAC himself was an artificial person for all intents and purposes. Buddy Blank was a “loser” in the corporate world who was selected by the Global Peace Agency to be OMAC. Brother Eye, a one of a kind satellite developed by a scientist, uses a beam that rebuilt Buddy into OMAC. Of course the scientist dies and OMAC is left to fight for Global Peace and you have the future Captain America story being retold in two short issues. Buddy is the frail Steve Rogers, the scientist is the scientist and Brother Eye is the super soldier serum.

Throughout the rest of the issues we have hokey names like Mr. Big, The Crime Cabal, Doctor Skuba and others, but again when you realize Jack was writing, editing and penciling 15 pages a week who had time to be that clever. In the span of these eight issues we have faceless agents of the Global Peace Agency (so that they could be from any nation), molecular manipulation, brain transplants, questions about what is OMAC’s identity (we never got into why Buddy Blank as opposed to someone else), movies that you can become the star of, test parents, advanced fighting systems, a water thief and even more.

For a future world with a hero that powerful we had no clue how this world got to be where it is. It never showed any positive side of being in the future as the only view we got of the real world was Buddy’s corporation and the people there were jerks and the jobs were mundane. Also this world has a lot of bad people, but seemed to be control by a single world government. So many concepts and so many ideas, that I’m surprised DC has not let a really good writer cut loose and explore all of these in depth with a new series based on the original OMAC. After reading this the idea of how DC brought back Brother Eye and the OMAC idea into the current DC was certainly interesting (if overused) and it had its moments, but the “World to come” is filled with great story ideas.

The corporate, political and social structure of that world to come would be a blast to expand upon and exploring who Buddy is in relationship to the construct that he becomes as OMAC has great potential. The story of Brother Eye itself would be a heck of a story. I keep thinking what is OMAC, is he just a construct and if so is he a different being then Buddy? Is OMAC simply a pawn of the Global Peace Agency or over time will he learn to question those who send him on missions?

The bottom line is that for $25 this is a nice package. You get all eight issues by Kirby, a great introduction by Mark Evanier, some great pencil pages of Kirby’s artwork and you get to see Kirby at his wildest and at times his best. Over the years I have realized that Kirby’s artwork was not as chunky as I thought and that often he suffered from heavy inkers. Since the inkers also worked under incredible deadline pressure and could in no way do his pencil work the justice it deserved they survived by almost just outlining Jack’s work with heavy lines and spotting blacks and loosing all the detail. Hell they would have had to hire a staff of inkers to keep up with the man. As for the writing, it is not always the best from a scripting standpoint, but the mountain of ideas inside these pages are incredible. I could write a two page proposal for at least a six issue mini-series from just the first issue and if I get to use issue #2 I could write a 12 part series and build a foundation for a long term ongoing book. There is some generic stuff in here and some of it is certainly dated, but when you look at the core of these books and realize how it was being produced the man truly deserves the title Jack “King” Kirby.

Overall Grade A – A wonderful trip down memory lane and a gold mine of ideas that could be capitalized on.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Incredible Hulk #601 – A Review

Incredible Hulk #601

Publisher Marvel

Incredible Hulk Lead Feature

Writer Greg Pak

Art Ariel Olivetti

She-Hulk Back-up Feature

Writer Fred Van Lente

Art Michael Ryan

Colors Guru eFX

I really wanted to like this book more then I did, I will still hang around for a one or two more issues, but I’m iffy on where I go from here with this book.

This week was going to be my getting back to a couple of Marvel books, with the Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk. Both books looked to be great jumping on points and as much as I have been a DC guy for many years, I started with Marvel and still have a desire to want to fall back in love with the characters. It is still too soon for Spider-Man, but you need to check out new starts on occasion to see what fits. The Fantastic Four was a great opening and I want to hang around with no hesitation. Thanks to GOOF for giving me the lowdown on how the art was done. (A quick aside, Hey GOOF what projects are you doing right now!) The Incredible Hulk missed the mark on a few levels, but had some good ideas so I will try to hang around to give it more then a one issue try out. Some books need a little bit of time to develop and win me over, but a $4 gets less of a chance.

There were so many things that missed that it almost hurts to enumerate them. The art was Olivetti at his worst. It was so computer driven that it looked like some of those early computer art books that were very plastic. The backgrounds were straight out of a computer and you can see that so much of this was not even his art, but was all stuff that was cut and pasted together or whatever you call in with photoshop or whatever program was used. It was like a bad green screen work done in a movie, where you know the actors are walking in place with the background moving. Almost everyone is using computers and most of the time I can’t even tell how they get the effects they do, this felt very old style computer art and it hurt the book. Bad artwork that totally misses the mark can make even a good script seem bad and this was not a good script.

The actual story was poorly done. I could not have been the only person who was jumping back into the Hulk with this comic, but boy did I feel like I missed the boat. I have no idea of what has happened to Bruce Banner other then he apparently can never be the Hulk again. I’m alright with that, but a little introspective caption or something could have helped explained what had happened. Also Bruce has this snotty attitude that I also have no idea where that is coming from. He displays some amazing chutzpah against a bullying father on a subway train and then later just out plays Reed Richards, Hank Pym and the rest of the smartest people on the planet. What was a cute tagline about Amadeous Cho being the eight or ninth smartest person on the planet has now become an annoying and overplayed line as all the smart guys in the Marvel Universe make self referential remarks to where they are in the smartest guy category. You know once it is funny or using for one character makes it that character’s tagline, but do it over and over and over again and it just becomes unfunny and diminishes where it was working.

Last but not least Bruce finds his son Skarr and recruits him to help him in an unknown task as he promises to teach him how to kill the Hulk, as Bruce knows he will return. At least with Skarr the writer did manage to give us information on his powers and a little on his background so a reader unfamiliar with that character (being me) could be brought up to speed. Again though what is Bruce’s agenda and was it detailed somewhere before or is this a mystery for all readers. I felt left out of the loop and I am the reader.

To summarize bad art, dropping us in the middle of a storyline, no real attempt to bring a new reader up to speed, Bruce Banner acting way out of character and tons of I’m the smartest guy here stuff. So why am I buying the next issue, because Bruce does have an agenda and I’m curious to see why he is doing what he is doing. Also we rarely get to see Bruce be Bruce and I enjoy that as a change of pace on occasion. Still I can’t recommend this book and it is $4.

To be fair for $4 we get a back up feature and a higher page count, but instead of it being a beloved or fan favorite character it is the new She-Hulk. Apparently she is some chick from an alternative reality who works for some government agency in charge of alternative realities. Look I never read the mini-series and again I can not be the only new person, this reads like I was suppose to have read the mini-series. Finally why do we need a second She-Hulk?

I’m really only coming back to try again because I want to like characters I use to love and I know if I abandon this comic it means I will have wait at least a year on more to find a new jumping on point.

Overall Grade – D, not a total failure as there is a sprinkling of some good ideas and I want to know Banner’s agenda, but darn close to an F.

Indies Preview Review for October Part 2 of 2


Heart Monster Press
Deformitory GN by (W/A) Sophia Wiedeman
This Xeric Grant Award-winning surreal graphic novel follows the misadventures of Delores, who works in an office. Her hands, tired from typing, transform into claws, complete with faces, cute eyes, and mind of their own. Delores, lonely in the city, becomes friends with her claws, talking to them on the subway, giving them coffee and food. But her new claws have something in mind for Delores, taking her to the Deformitory! $6.00 Visit Sophia’s website here and her blog here

Lee: We’re all about the Xeric here at Comics And…, even though Jim hates the award shows they have lead us to some great books such as Old Man Winter! And, keeping the tradition, this sounds great! If you google around you can see lots of early praise. This is worth looking into.
Jim: An award does not make a comic great or not, but a bunch of different people who like the book is a good recommendation. The more diverse the crowd who likes, the better chance I will also like it.

IDW Publishing
Bloom County Complete Library Vol. 01 HC by Berkeley Breathed (w & a & c)
Collecting every strip from December 8, 1980, through September 26, 1982, in chronological order, with a new cover inset by Breathed. Berkeley Breathed's Bloom County burst onto the American comic scene in December 1980 and it soon became one of the most popular comic strips of all time. The endearing and quirky denizens of the strip included Milo Bloom, Steve Dallas, Michael Binkley, Cutter John, Bill the Cat, and Opus the penguin. Bloom County was a strip that dealt with many issues relevant to the period. Occasional Context Pages are being added throughout this collection, giving the reader a greater understanding of the time. This is the first time Bloom County has been collected in a handsome hardcover library, five volumes in all. Each newspaper strip is reproduced in chronological order from first to last. Great effort has been made to ensure the highest production values are achieved. Most strips were either shot from printer's proofs or Breathed's own original art. This is the first of five volumes. FC. 288 Pages 11 x 8.5 $39.99

Lee: The only reason I’m not buying this through my local comic store is because I know the wife will get it for me at Christmas. Now I just have to wait for it.
Jim: Yikes yet another book I must have. This is my second favorite modern stip with Calvin and Hobbes still being my favorite. Breathed is a fantastic artist, very good writer and Opus is very, very cool.

Rocketeer Complete Collection Vol. 01 HC (deluxe ed.) by Dave Stevens (w & a & c)
The "basic edition" will contain: The Complete Rocketeer saga is collected into one handsome hardcover volume for the very first time, combining The Rocketeer and The Rocketeer: Cliff's New York Adventure into great book. Dave Stevens classic adventure strip is set in the 1930s and is an homage to the classic pulp novels of the time. Cliff Secord is a stunt pilot who happens upon a top-secret experimental Jet pack and meets adventure head on! Long considered a classic, the Rocketeer has been out of print for years. BUT the Deluxe Edition will feature everything in the regular hardcover edition but will be printed in a larger format (8 x 12 inches) and will contain more than 100 additional pages of sketches, preliminaries, layouts, and much, much more. A cornucopia of Dave Stevens art, many of these treasures have never been published before and will be printed here from the original art to ensure the highest quality reproduction possible. FC. 248 Pages 8 x 12, $75.00

Lee: Dave Stevens did very little comic work so any fancy hc of his material is a must buy for me. This is great stuff. The basic version is available for $30 but don’t skimp! This book will be worth every single extra penny.
Jim: Ouch. For a slow month this month is very expensive. Stevens work is nothing short of genius, it was a huge loss when Dave died so young.

Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary GN by (W/A) Justin Green
A lost classic of underground cartooning, Binky Brown meets the Holy Virgin Mary is Justin Green's autobiographical portrayal of his struggle with religion and his own neuroses. Binky Brown is a young Catholic struggling with all the usual problems of adolescence - puberty, agnosticism, and the fear that the strange ray of energy emanating from his private parts will strike a picture of the Holy Virgin Mary. First published in 1972, this is the controversial masterpiece that invented the autobiographical graphic novel. $29.00
Lee: It’s hard to believe the first autobiographical comic emerged from the Comix scene of the early 70’s. But, it certain inspired generations of cartoonist to tell the world about every trivial detail of their life. It’s supposed to be good but I’m not sure if I need more Comix in my collection than I already have.
Jim: Oh thank god a book I can skip.

Vatican Hustle GN by (W/A) Greg Houston
When a crime boss daughter turns up missing, who's he gonna to call? Boss Karate Black Guy Jones, that's who! The two-fisted, karate chopping, crime solving machine is kicking ass and taking names from the gutters of Baltimore all the way to the streets of Rome. No dog's too big for this cat to take down! Mimes, clowns, drunks, pizza, donkeys, pornography, gambling! Vatican Hustle has it all! $11.95 Visit Greg here
Lee: As far as I can tell, Greg Houston is an artist who decided to publish a comic book. And, I’m all excited about it. His illustration abilities are awesome so I’m sold. As an art guy, I have to get this because it’s going to look beautiful.
Jim: As a story guy I can pass. What's up with the old style linking Lee? Where are the hypelinks we all know and love.
Lee: Fixed!!! It was operator error when setting the post up.

Year of Loving Dangerously HC by (W) Ted Rall (A) Pablo Callejo
It's the 80's and Ted is in college in New York City and slipping. His pranks, lack of focus, and restlessness get him kicked out of school. Unable to find a job, rejected by his parents, he's on the verge of suicide. Instead he finds comfort in the arms of many women he meets casually and puts up a front for. It may sound like an ideal grift but the toll is much higher than one may imagine. Between acidly funny and disturbingly real, Rall pours out his guts on a hard turning point in his life. $18.95 Previews were hard to come by but here’s page 8, Page 9, Page 10, Page 11, and finally Page 12!

Lee: Ted Rall is actually an editorial cartoonist with many, many years of cartooning experience, so I’m surprised that he’s opening up like this. It makes it even more interesting that Rall has succeeded in life with all the problems that he had. Finally, Callejo drew Bluesman from NBM which was very, very good so I know the art will be top notch.
Jim: Let me know what you think as this is the type of stuff I have to hear is good before I will consider reading it or not.

Oni Press Inc
Stumptown #1 by (W) Greg Rucka (A) Matthew Southworth
Dex is the proprietor of Stumptown Investigations, and a fairly talented P.I. Unfortunately, she's less adept at throwing dice than solving cases. Her recent streak has left her beyond broke-she's into the Confederated Tribes of the Wind Coast for 18 large. But maybe Dex's luck is about to change. Sue-Lynne, head of the Wind Coast's casino operation, will clear Dex debt if she can locate Sue-Lynne's missing granddaughter. But is this job Dex's way out of the hole or a shove down one much much deeper? $3.99

Lee: Brand new Rucka without any of the editorial control of the Big Two. This should be great! Obviously, Rucka doing crime comics is a no-brainer.
Jim: I agree, but I have loved reading Queen and Country and Whiteout as graphic novels so much I'm tempted to wait for the trade on this, I probably will get the comic, but his stuff reads great as collected works.

Judge Dredd Mechanismo SC by (W) John Wagner (A) Colin MacNeil, Peter Doherty, Carlos Ezquerra
A new kind of justice is coming to the mean streets of Mega-City One! The Judge forces have been savaged by the bloody zombie war during Judgement Day. When there is a major cubebreak, it's time to call in Mechanismo. Wired for law and built to judge, the robo-enforcer soon becomes an unstoppable force! $24.99

Lee: It’s a light month so I’ll take the opportunity to plug some Judge Dredd. Rebellion’s trades collection some of the best Dredd material out there, so these are always worth getting. If you’re looking to experiment with Dredd, then start here.
Jim: I was heavily into Dreed at one period and still enjoy going back and reading his adventures. Jsut out and out pure fun.
Lee: While there were some interesting books, overall I have to say the month was a bust. There wasn't very much that was super-duper interesting. Oh well, this just lets me save some money for next month.
Jim: Saves you money??? Are you crazy with just the Gaham Wilson book this month was still expensive, slim pickens, but big dollars!

Batman and Robin #3 – A Review

Batman and Robin #3

Publisher DC Comics

Writer Grant Morrison

Artist Frank Quietly

Colors Alex Sinclair

I know this book was late, but after reading it I didn’t care, Morrison and Quietly are like pure gold wrapped in a cover. I know that the coming revolution with digital comics will change everything and may make books like this even more enjoyable, but g** da** if this thing is not one fine read. I mean sitting down in my favorite reading spot and flipping through this book was a joy.

We open with Batman riding the most impossible big four wheeled motorbike you would ever see and he is dragging a man with a flaming head down the street barely keeping him off the ground. Then we are treated to a few more panels of Batman scaring the crap out of this guy to get the information he needs to find Professor Pyg. It is pure Batman, but it is pure Dick Grayson’s spin on Batman. Where Bruce would hold him from the buildings, Dick is doing a more circus style act. Gordon calls Batman on what he did and asks him who is he to do that after he gave him the suspect to question. Dick’s answer is I’m Batman. It was just that easy and just that quick and it’s true.

Then we cut away to Professor Pyg who has captured Robin. Pyg shows off why he is as crazy as the Joker. I’m sure if I “google” some of the lines that Morrison has given this guy I will learn there is even more to this story and to what Pyg is saying. With books like these I sometimes wished I only followed 20 books or so and then I could really over analyze the book to dig out the additional meaning or references that I’m sure I’m missing, but this book is frelling awesome without it. When Pyg starts to dance and sing as he is mutilating his victims with these masks which become the people’s faces it is just out and out madness. Robin nails it as he slowly escapes from his ropes and says “You just redefined wrong.” It is such a great line and after seeing and listening to Pyg’s performance it was the perfect line.

Now at this point I have to comment on Frank’s artwork. I understand that his style is not to everyone’s taste, but there is no denying his ability to compose a page and this two page spread of Robin escaping and Pyg singing is amazing. Pyg puts his pig masked face up to Robin’s nose in one shot and the expression on Robin’s face says it all. The action sequence as Robin breaks free and is rather violent in his attacks against the bad guys is great and it shows that this Robin is still a very young boy, but also rather vicious. Again it is pure Robin, but it is pure Damian Robin. All throughout the book Frank’s design and page layouts make the book flow very easily and keeps the pacing of the story flying. I love Frank’s style and I’m captivated by the new vehicles he has given the Bat crew. Phillip Tan, the artist who is up next, has some big shoes to fill.

Dick and Damian are Batman and Robin. In my mind Dick is not “Bucky” Cap or any other such term he is Batman and Damian, for better or worse is Robin. The elements and the feel of these characters is true to the heart of Batman and Robin and at the same time the underlying actions and way they handle things still denote that it is Dick and Damian. Not once in this issue do they take off their masks, yet the feeling is that this is a new dynamic duo, same as it ever was, but still new and different.

From there we move on to Batman and Robin teaming up again, Batman saving Robin’s life, Pyg’s mad scheme to hold the city hostage or else he would infect the city with an addictive identity destroying drug being unraveled. To end the Circus of Strange we get Pyg being caught and put behind bars. Commissioner Gordon is accepting this Batman and not asking questions. We see Pyg behind bars but still as mad and crazed and a great addition to the Rogue’s Gallery. The sense of menace and pure evil craziness just oozes out of this character. This cannot be the last we see of him or his crew.

Then we get to the scene from the end of the story when Grant started the “Death of Bruce Wayne” story with a picture of Batman and Robin breaking in on Le Bossu which is sealing the deal for this team being a true partnership. Next we cut away and see that the Red Hood is back and you are not even sure if it is Jason Todd or not. I think that Grant has helped to redefine Batman and Robin and has taken what is DC’s best property and made it new again without diminishing what has come before.

Overall Grade A – It was an excellent book that hit on all cylinders and really pulled off an unbelievable task of replacing Bruce and Tim with Dick and Damian and making them Batman and Robin. Great book, great story.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Red Circle: The Shield – A Review

The Red Circle: The Shield One Shot

Writer J. Michael Straczynski

Pencils Scott McDaniel

Inks Andy Owens

Colors Tom Chu

JMS has done a fantastic job, in my opinion, with these four comics in bringing in the old Archie super heroes into the DCU. Each of the four characters was given enough of an origin or at least the hints of an origin to build a foundation for them going forward. He even added little ties from one to the other and ended the book where it began to bring it full circle, which was a little heavy handed, but still worked.

DC has been green lighting books like Magog, Red Tornado and Azrael and for the life of me I cannot imagine why. I will skip the Red Tornado and may skip Magog and Azrael also, but more likely I will at least check out issue #1.Even in interviews it was obvious with Magog there was no plan other then to give him a series. I don’t get it.

With these characters JMS was going to launch them via Brave and Bold and started down that path but ripped it up and re-did it as four one shots. It was the right move. None of these characters were that exciting to me and I really had little interest in what was going on with them, but now I’m anxious to read the two new series that with back up features will continue the stories of all four men.

The Shield’s story was that of a soldier who gets mortally wounded in a combat mission. In order to save him they try an untested procedure that melds nanotechnology with his body. The technology when activated via mental command by Lt. Higgins gives him a virtually indestructible layer of armor, limited flight, super strength and more. He is a super hero that is a Lieutenant in the army. The Army has made his identity known as he has no family that is alive. Of course his Dad is alive and working for the government but the Shield does not know that. Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens deliver their normal strong art job with a style that at times I love and at times it seems almost too loose, but it works well on this book. We get lots of great action scenes as the Shield is dropped into enemy territory and ripping up the tanks of the bad guys. It is funny how with all the wars the US has prosecuted in the Middle East, they are today’s generic bad guys lets Nazis of yesteryear.

It all sounds a little generic, but the point is that all four books are laying a foundation and starting a bible for the new writers to be able to build up from. Each character has a framework and each character has little things that are mysteries (with Inferno big mysteries) that can be played with. Lt. Higgins is now a super hero inside of the army. If they ever removed the nanotechnology he would die, so he is trapped by the technology that has saved him. He is unaware that his father is alive and has no clue why his father needed to disappear. These are lead to various questions like: What happens when James (The Shield) Higgins is not in accord with what the army wants him to do? Can he ever leave government service? What are his weaknesses? What happens when he is with a girl? Why did his Dad let him think he was dead? With the cost being so high they only could try it once, why was he picked? I think this makes it easy for the next guy to really flesh out the character and add the dry wall to the frame. I have carried the analogy too far, haven’t I? Anyway you get the idea and with the Hangman, Inferno and The Web JMS has given DC a start of what could be some exciting comics. Hopefully there is a bible on each character and a strong editorial hand to shepherd these characters going forward. They are not going to replace Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, but maybe they can be the next Green Arrow, Hawkman, Aquaman or Flash or Green Lantern.

Overall Grade A – That grade is not for the Shield itself, but for the whole introduction of the Red Circle Heroes.

Overall Grade B - For The Shield it had a solid story, was a good start and had decent art.

Fantastic Four #570 – A Review

Fantastic Four #570

Publisher Marvel

Writer Jonathan Hickman

Art Dale Eaglesham

Colors Paul Mounts

It has been a long time since I have gotten excited about an issue of the Fantastic Four, but this issue hit the mark. We all have favorite characters, groups or whatever and for me there has never been a book that I have not been willing to drop when it reaches some low ebb. The Fantastic Four was probably the book that hooked me into comics more then anything else. As a young kid I loved the Human Torch and thought it would be cool to have been him. Heck he can fly, flame on, raced cars and had great looking girl friends, what little hetro male wouldn’t want to be him. That was part of the hook, but the unreal adventures when the Frightful Four took their powers, finding the Inhumans, Johnny losing Crystal, Franklin being born, the Negative Zone, the list goes on and on. Over the course of the next 450 issues or so they lost me. There were some good times with John Byrne and I have the entire Waid run to read, but all in all I could never get back into their book and I wanted to. I also thought that the group had stagnated too much as Johnny is forever 25 or something, but Reed and Sue got older. I have that unrelenting desire for time to move forward for these heroes, but even with that handicap I still wanted to just read good FF adventures. It looks like Jonathan Hickman may be the man to make it work again. Heck if I like this run as much as I did the start I may go back and read JMS and Mark Millar’s runs on the book.

The books sort of picks up from what Hickman started in Dark Reign Fantastic Four mini-series, but it was all explained away with one or two sentences, Reed built a machine to see all the alternative worlds and is trying to use it to solve everything. That was all you needed and even that is explained in the actual comic. The actual issues opens with Reed as a child learning a lesson from his Dad that you have to be willing to try, you may fail, but you won’t succeed unless you try.

Then we jump right into the action as the FF is fighting some robots. They quickly discern the robots are made to fight each one of their powers. They change partners and win the day in rapid order. This happens too much in comics because many writers seem to think we don’t care about the action we have seen a thousand times before, but we are reading our billionth comic so a battle is okay. Still it is done quickly, but done well and we see Johnny show off an infrared red ability to see people’s heat signatures. I’m unaware if this has been shown before, but it was a nice touch. Reed pulls out a pocket transporter that leads him back to the controlling signal behind the human/robot creations of the Wizard and takes the Wizard down. The Wizard is ranting about how the world is coming apart and Reed knows it as well as the Wizard does as they both can read the math behind what is going on. The look on Reed face says that he agrees.

From there we cut to the Baxter Building and one of the strongest elements of this book is they are all family. In the next few pages that element is established very well, from putting the kids to bed, to Reed going to work late and Sue goes off to bed on her own, to Ben and Johnny paling around and being the friends that they have always been. It is the little touches that can elevate a book from being a good read to a great read. Part of what makes the FF special is the family dynamic and ignoring that turns them into just another super hero group.

The last few pages focus on Reed and he finds his way into an inter-dimensional nexus that is both outside and inside reality (or some other mumbo jumbo comic book science) and he is invented to join a council of alternative Reed Richards. We get a nice full page shot of a couple dozen Reeds from across the multi-verse. Reed is trying to solve everything and he is hoping for help from this group. He then meets the three founding Reed Richards who started the idea and each of them is wearing the Infinity Gauntlet. The all powerful gems that allow you to have god like powers. It was a great touch and a wonderful ending. You can just see that Reed’s desire to fix everything is founded on an altruistic principle, but is leading down a dangerous path. If you start a book invoking both Kirby and Starlin you have my attention.

Now why I love the story and need to have a great story to make it work comics are a visual medium and Dale Eaglesham did a beautiful job on this book. There is no inker credited, so I guess he inked himself and truth be told ever since DC teamed up Eaglesham with Nathan Massengill (I believe that is right) his work lost that edge it had when he started up the latest JSA book. It was great to see him on his own and I hope he can keep up a monthly pace. When I saw the preview I though his work might be too realistic to make this book work, but it really worked well. He showed off the entire FF using their powers in one single page fight against the robots and works well with the quiet moments. Dale was also able to depict the insane super science equipment that Kirby made a staple of the comic. The only minor complaint I have was that Reed and Johnny looked like they had been taking steroids and were way too heroically proportioned. A minor quibble in an otherwise stellar start for Dale’s run on this book.

Overall Grade A - A Fantastic Four comic that I can enjoy, it felt like I was coming back home and was welcomed with open arms. It had it all, family, action, adventure and cosmic story lines and it was $3!