Thursday, August 29, 2013

365 Comics...241/242: Superman Unchained #3 and Batman/Superman #3 (2013)

Really, DC, I've been trying to shed myself of your books, your editorially driven titles that are so obviously creatively bankrupt, with their '90's-style gimmicks and the ridiculous shenanigans that are merely there to drive sales, not so much fuel any creative itch.  I used to love you so much DC, I used to pour over your rich history and commit it to memory.  When I was a teenager I used to hope for an opportunity to be a DC historian and live buried in your back catalog, sorting out continuity flaws and learning as much as I could about DC's magic and mythology and technology.  But your actions of late are not those of respect or consideration towards your fans, your distributors or your creative talent.  You seem committed to alienating your strongest supporters and followers in favour of a fleeting collective who react fervently to gimmicks and hype.

I stopped buying into your hype over a year ago.  Candy coated bullshit is still bullshit and eventually the sweet smell fades, and the stink takes over.  There were a few slight exceptions to your hind-bovine-quarters-ejections in the guise of Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire and Brian Azzarello (Grant Morrison saw fit to jump ship after a year and a half, and I'm not optimistic about JH Williams III being around much longer after his Sandman stint is done).  These three guys somehow got the golden pass to do what they wanted in the New 52 without much in the way of monkeyshines from the editorial crew and their efforts have remained largely worthwhile.  Azzarello's Wonder Woman is the brightest, shiniest gem of the New 52, with the unified team of Cliff Chiang and sub-in Tony Akins still going strong on the book, it will wind up as a milestone run for the Amazon Princess without a doubt.  Snyder's Batman has equally laid out some landmark stories, revitalizing the character in the slightest of ways, even managing to shine without stepping on Morrison's more grandiose production.  Snyder and Lemire teamed to unify Swamp Thing and Animal Man, creating a surprising and engaging new plane of environmental fantasy, and though failing at Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE, and getting caught up in whatever that scallywag Geoff Johns has going on in his DC- architectureing  over in the Justice League books, he's still managed to take Green Arrow and made something interesting out of him that would appeal to old fans and the new fans of the TV show alike.

But with a solid roster of six titles left under my belt (WW, Batwoman, Batman, Green Arrow, Animal Man and Smallville Season 11) I wasn't looking to add any more support to your company that has wounded me and failed me so greatly.  I couldn't fathom that there would be anything else worth my while beyond the books that haven't yet alienated me.  But here I am, jotting two more titles down on the list, two Superman titles no less.

The Man of Steel movie let me down so immeasurably that it was really only mediated by the utter surprise of both Scott Snyder and Jim Lee's Superman Unchained and Greg Pak and Jae Lee's Batman/Superman.  Here have come two books, both dispensed at the right time in an effort to capitalize off of the sure-fire blockbuster Man of Steel, books that could have so easily been just cash grabs, cynical editorial-controlled efforts to have more Superman stuff glutting the shelves, books that could so easily have been more of the same stupid crap that most of the other Super books have been dishing out, and yet they're not.  In fact, with these two books we're getting the sure-fire antidote to both the glossy bullshit of the New 52 and the misguided, tone deaf Man of Steel. 

In Superman Unchained, Snyder and Lee are giving us a Superman who acts like Superman should, if a little more fiery than I remember, as well as a Lois Lane who can do shit and get shit done, and a supergenius Lex Luthor, and a distrustful military, and, oh, another alien under the military's sway that appears bigger, stronger, more experienced, more skilled, and more proactive than Superman.  This guy's not out to beat Big Blue in a fight, so much as to bruise his ego. 

Meanwhile in Batman/Superman, Pak and Lee have a young Clark and Bruce facing older versions of themselves on Earth 2, and it's as much a comment on how different the New 52 Superman and Batman are different than their pre-Flashpoint counterparts as it is a rollicking cross-dimensional adventure of self-discovery. 

Dammit, DC, I want to be rid of you from my life for the continual heartache you keep causing me, but these flowers and chocolates you give me along with the flaming bag on my doorstep are sending me such mixed signals.

Oh and screw your villains month.  I'm only getting two of those books, First Born and Count Vertigo, because Azzarello and Lemire said they actually mean something to their ongoing storylines.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

365 Comics...240: Batman and Nightwing #23 (2013)

Even though I think Pete Tomasi has been writing the hell out of this book, I've been teetering on the edge of dropping the title for the past four issues.  Mopey, sad bastard Batman is not my favourite Batman... in fact, he's my least favourite Batman.  I know his kid died, and as a parent I agree that is a trauma not easily overcome, but as a comic book fan, I a) still don't like Damian's death as a creative choice, b) don't like the "team-up" nature of helping Bruce deal with his grief, thinking it undermines the trauma and c) am still trying to understand the timeline of Damian's life...was he 10 or, really, only like 2 years old?  And really, wasn't he with Dick almost as long as he was with Bruce?

Anyway, it's fitting that Dick, Captain Sunshine, would be the one to help Bruce out of his funk through a smelly, bullshit Virtual Reality simulation that allows Bruce to keep replaying the climactic battle with Talia and co.  I hate Virtual Reality in modern day fiction.  It's so far away from being anywhere close to the promised land of the Holodeck that most feigns at making it seem like a believable technology always take me out of a story, even one where guys put on masks and capes and punch each other in the face for fun.  The Danger Room gets a begrudging pass, but I give that special props to being manipulated by super-geniuses and future-folk.  Other teams having a Danger Room-like place are BS.

That said, the final page of this book did cut me a little, I felt the tears welling up.  We've been dealing so much with Bruce's grief and guilt that we've seen none of Alfred's, or Dick's or anyone else for that matter (well, I don't read any other books, so it may have been handled over in Teen Titans or Nightwing). It's a beautiful scene, and nice to finally see Bruce thinking of someone else other than himself for a change.  Now, next issue, in 2 months time, is going to be the litmus for whether I continue reading.  Where does Batman and... go from here.  Carrie Kelly is fine but I'm not sure I need to be around for it

365 Comics...239: Itty Bitty Hellboy #1 (2013)

I still need to dive into Baltazar and Franco's "Aw Yeah Comics" over at Thrillbent (I'm still kicking myself for forgetting to support their Kickstarter, though they didn't need the help, really), but it's nice to see that DC's loss is someone else's gain.

Tiny Titans was an amazing comic for DC, both as a rare humour book and a rare younger readers book.  All the rumblings of late over DC is that they're not in the business of publishing comics for kids (and some could argue that they're barely in the business of making comics for anyone, rather than just being a concept and Trademark farm) and that kids books don't really sell well for them.  I believe it's a matter of priorities and focus.  Put any sort of attention into it and I'm certain they could sell, they just choose not to go after that market.

Baltazar and Franco were put onto the less appealing (though still enjoyable) Superman Family after the end of Tiny Titans, but that petered out after a year as well.  Itty Bitty Hellboy recycles the Tiny Titans formula of micro versions of the most famous Hellboy characters (good and bad) and puts them in a delightful backyard setting.  It's a structure they're obviously intimately familiar with and it feels like old hat to them.  Though they focus more on the bad guys than good guys, I'm hoping that in the coming issues they flesh out the personalities of wee Hellboy, Liz, Abe and company.  Roger the Homunculus as the weird kid is awesome.

Art Baltazar's style is becoming iconic particularly in the younger audience version of established characters.  With the Super Pets books on top of the other projects metioned above, it's only a matter of time before there's a critical mass of acceptance and appreciation of his work.  He's a truly unique talent worthy of Bill Watterson-level celebration.

365 Comics...238: Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions #1 (1982)

When I last wrote about Contest of Champions (365 Comics #59) I noted how the second issue of the series took me on quite a nostalgia trip.  So overwhelmed by the power of this nostalgia, the rest of the series (all 3 parts) went onto my list of comics to find, even though I knew that issues 1 and 3 were not going to have the same impact.  I never owned these issues afterall.

But delving into the first issue of this series, and once more a flood of sense memories took me over.  No, I did not own this comic, but my childhood best friend did.  As much as I poured over my meager comics collection again and again and again, so too did I go through his over and over and over, whenever possible.  He wasn't much of a comic fan, certainly not in the same way I was.  His favourite hero was Groo, and when it came to Star comics, he had Heathcliff instead of He-Man.  I liked going to his place, his parents were friends with my parents, his sister was the same age as my sister, they were like family.  I remember cherry cheesecake and the smell of their Lhasa Apso that permeated the household.  I remember playing G.I. Joes, and watching Commando in reverse on VHS (yep starting at the end and watching it holding the rewind button down for about 25-ish minutes).  Sleepovers and Commodore 64 games (press play on tape).  Crank calls and crab apples in the back yard.  Again, all this comes back, thanks to a comic book.

We don't talk anymore.  Sure, there was a falling out in grade school (an interloper in our friendship and my own damn stupidity to blame), but we reconciled that, although it was never the same, not bestest friends anyway.  We would see each other, and I even lived at his place for half a year while in life transition a dozen years back, but when I moved away, and then he moved away from the old hometown, communication just sort of fizzled.  My folks are still friends with his folks, so I hear updates from time to time.  Sounds like things are good.  I'm sure I'll see him again at some point, it would be good to catch up.

As for Contest of Champions, what a ridiculous comic.  Like 8 pages of superheroes getting zapped away by the Grandmaster, until all of them are together in an orbiting sports dome (in a gorgeous John Romita Jr. 2-page splash).  There we get another 3 pages of them hanging out and being confused and chummy until the Grandmaster and his companion (so obviously Death) arrive to explain just what's going on exactly.  And then there's 2 pages Grandmaster and Death picking teams.  Did I say ridiculous... what I meant was, this book is amazing.  Baffling, but amazing.  It's the product of Mark Gruenwald, Bill Mantlo and Stephen Grant, with Mantlo writing the script, and it's Basically superhero hangout club.  There's 0% action in this book and it's still a swell time.  There's theoretical stakes at play, but really it's a goofy little farce and the early JRJR art, with masterful inking by the great Pablo Marcos, is delicious. 

I'm sure he's just rubbing his eyes but it's a really unfortunate pose Falcon is in.

365 Comics...237: Showcase Presents... #94 (1977)

I found this ratty, tattered issue of Showcase presents #94 in a dollar bin at this year's Fan Expo, along with the two issues that close out its arc reintroducing the Doom Patrol (or introducing the all-new Doom Patrol, if you will...or, rather, almost all-new).  Interesting that this continues the numbering of the original Silver Age Showcase Presents (the very same that Barry Allen and Martian Manhunter debuted in some 20 years earlier).  Every now and then one of the big two will adjust a title's numbering so as to capitalize on a momentus publishing milestones, but you'd never see them relaunch a title many years later without starting at number 1.  Well, Showcase Presents... only lasted 10 more issues, a three-issue Power Girl arc, a 100th issue spectacular, and a three-issue Adam Strange/Hawkman/Hawkgirl team up (sounds awesome) and closing out with a single issue featuring four OSS stories.  

I love the Doom Patrol, pretty much all iterations of it except the original formation.  I've read most of the series, (except much of the original run and John Byrne's mid-'00's reboot), so I was super excited to find these books.  I'll talk more DP after I read the next issue though, because first, I want to highlight this...:

The back cover really caught my attention... in part because of the buzz around the revealing documentary Black Water,  but also because of this awesome image I found randomly on tumblr:

I was wondering about its origins but I guess that short-lived mystery is solved.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

365 Comics... 236: Action Comics Weekly #624 (1988)

I always find it surprising whenever l encounter gay-positive material from before the 1990's.  The 1980's gay male was your typical comic relief character like Michach Taylor's role in Mannequin or Bronson Pinchot in Beverly Hills Cop.  It was a step forward from the gay villain but not quite as advanced as the 90's gay best friend.  That melodramatic/ ambivalent queen stereotype was pretty much the major representation of the gay community at the time, which undermined the rather serious AIDS epidemic that was spreading.  It's almost like the mainstream didn't want the public to take them seriously.  But I'm really no conspiracy theorist.  The gay community was misunderstood in some regard, hated and/or feared in others, and was still awaiting the critical mass of support from within to show the world without that, hey, they're just people. 

It's so rare though to see a story from the 80's that treats a gay character as just another person, even more unusual to see it in a mainstream comic, never mind one of DC's flagship titles. 

As if I haven't written it enough already, but the Secret Six serial in Action Comics Weekly is hands down my favourite and the chapter this issue is easily its best.  The past few issues Tony (the deaf one) has been on the run, having carjacked model Shelley and effectively held her captive as he tries to find his way back to the team.  This issue Shelley, holed up with Tony in a hotel, puts the moves on him.  He rebuffs her, surprisingly, but explains himself logically.  Tony takes Shelley on a late night stroll on the beach and tells her a little of his history, which plays out in flashback, including how he lost his hearing (in an explosion while on a reporting assignment, his photographer saving his life at his own expense). 

When Tony finishes his story he gives Shelley the moral, which is basically that sex between them given the situation is a bad idea because it isn't love.  Tony seems like a good and moral dude, not taking advantage of this girl.  The flashback carries on beyond Tony's retelling to reveal that Tony is heartbroken, his photographer was his lover and he would visit his grave once a month to talk to him, and give fresh flowers.  It's a surprise reveal, sure, but not meant to shock.  Its just a quiet and beautiful, if tragic, epilogue.  It also speaks to the 80's attitude towards such things that Tony couldn't just tell Shelley he was gay... but much credit to Marty Pasko for this delicate and deftly executed sidebar.

I've snuck a peek at the 636 letter column and reaction to the issue was positive there.  I'll have to do a something search to see if there was any media on this at all or, like pretty much all of ACW,it just went under the radar.

The Great ACW Readers Poll:
1. Secret Six-- duhdoy
2. Black Canary -- a thoroughly disjointed structure has left me intrigued... plus more Randy Du Burke art.
3. Green Lantern -- Priest the writer uses Priest the character to explore GL's true power.  Hal Jordan is an ass.
4. Deadman -- im beginning to recall why l liked Baron/ Jones' Deadman mini series so much in the early 90's
5. Shazam -- Billy Batson infiltrates a hate camp.  It's actually not terrible but l see it's whole purpose was for Roy Thomas to reintroduce Captain Nazi.  Sigh.
6. Superman --back to being silly /boring

Monday, August 26, 2013

365 Comics... 235: Max Zing (2013)

I'm a big fan of James Turner's vector-laced digital cartooning (I don't even know what that means)as well as his equally cerebral and geeky sense of humour.  His first effort, the amazing Nil: A Land Beyond belief was brilliant enough to make me a lifelong fan regardless of what would follow.  Thankfully he backed it up with the differently amazing warrior librarian series Rex Libris.  His third major effort, Warlord of IO took me two reads to warm to it likewise but its a much different adventure with an appeal to a younger audience (but definitely not exclusively). 

Max Zing is a collected edition of Turner's comic-strip serial that features Zing, the titular warlord of can tell in the early strips Turner is getting used to the form but it takes him very little time to fall into the rhythm of the format and he's at his most successful when he builds the Dodecahedron of Doom arc which fills about a third of the volume.  His Warlord of IO characters are perfect fits for the three and four panel template giving a quasi Peanuts-meets-Calvin and Hobbs-meets-Flash Gordon feel.  I'll have to try and pin down the strips on-line (the Drunk Duck address wasn't working at the time of this writing) to see if there's more... this SLG collection says Volume One so the inference is there is more (or will be... that would be a good thing).

365 Comics...234: Action Comics Weekly #623 (1988)

Feels like I am constantly playing catch up but rather than my usual excuse of "I didn't feel like it", this time it was really a matter I couldn't for the life of me.  Three consecutive 10+ hours of Fan Expo plus a late night wedding anniversary celebration (six seasons and a movie) meant both no downtime and no energy to read comics (despite being surrounded by them most of my waking hours), never mind writing about them.

Two nights in a row I only got one story deep into my latest Action Comics Weekly.  Even getting through 8 pages proved challenging... but I've done it! Huzzah.

My ''Great Action Comics Weekly Poll" submission for this ish:
1. Phantom Stranger -- creepy demon baby + Jose Luis Garcia Lopez art = winner... seriously, that baby was effin creepy
2. Secret Six -- Ladonna the actress shows of her improv chops... the strangest action sequences yet!
3. Deadman -- exploring the reprecussions of Deadman using other people's bodies.  Wonderful.
4. Green Lantern-- Hal Jordan meets the alien called Priest.  Not long after this, James Owsley changes his name to Priest.  Can't be a coincidence.
5. Superman-- even this week's Superman is pretty interesting
6. Shazam -- in the process of stopping a hostage situation a bad guy is killed.  Billy feels bad.  White supremist subplot shoehorned in feels hacky. Next week "Welcome to Aryan Acres" as Billy infiltrates Hate Camp.

Cover by Murphy Anderson is an odd Superman on a Gargoyl shot normally reserved for Batman.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

365 Comics...233: Astro City #3 (2013)

The thing that's always been problematic for me with Astro City is the vastly divergent styles and tones between Alex Ross' generally vibrant hyperreality cover paintings and Brent Anderson's dark and scratchy interiors.  I like Anderson's work enough and l think he's a capable storyteller but I find the sleek promise of four-color adventure, excitement and intrigue that the cover implies to always be a let down once inside.  Anderson's never been great at conveying superheroes in a golden light like Ross excels at, they always look dingy and haggard... but when the books mainly focus on the world around the  super-people, that is where Anderson brings it.  The solution (for me, anyway) isn't to replace Anderson, but rather Ross, as Anderson is the presenter of the story so the cover should follow his lead, not the other way around. But the cover is what we see first and sets expectations for what's to come and it's rarely what it promises.  If l were to suggest a replacement... Jae Lee maybe or Francesco Francavilla (when he's not doing every Marvel cover ever... oh I'm sure he could squeeze another one in).

365 Comics...232: Snakor's Pizza Special (2013)

My friends Sean Jordan and Kody Peters created Snakor's Pizza a few years ago, an obvious farcical take on G.I. Joe (moreover the ineffectual Cobra legion).  While SJ and KP are still plugging away at the final issue of the first mini-series, friends Toby Orr and Dave Howlett (creator of the awesome Slam-a-rama) concocted this little side story where Snakor and his pal/rival Bone-R (a Skeletor analog) meet up for a drink and catch-up.  Good times are had.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

365 Comics...231: Manhattan Projects #13 (2013)

I have no idea where this series is going but man am I ever enjoying the ride.  It's twisted, smart, funny, gruesome, wild, thoughtful, bizarre, fun, warped, exciting, satirical, and always unpredictable.   If Hickman and Pitarra can keep this monkey going at the same calibre indefinitely, I'm on board for the whole ride.  And the covers.  They should make a Manhattan Projects quilt from those covers.  I'd put it on my bed (and then my wife would probably take it right off again, so I'd curl up with it in a ball on the floor next to a massive stack of comics, falling asleep to the sound of rustling bags and boards).

365 Comics...230: Deathmatch #8 (2013)

I caught a look at the November BOOM! Studios solicits and noticed that the 12th issue brings this series to its conclusion.  A 12-issue maxi-series the called it, and a waft of 80's nostalgia - hairspray and crimping irons - rushed past me.  The 80's were really the only time I can recall seeing a series called a "maxi-".  In the year since Crisis on Infinite Earths and Sonic Disruptors and Lords of the Ultra-Realm most finite series, even at 12 issues, have been called "mini-series".  I have to wonder what the difference is... [pause for a something search break]...

"A limited series is a comic book series with a set number of installments. A limited series differs from an ongoing series in that the number of issues is determined before production and it differs from a one shot in that it is composed of multiple issues.The term is often used interchangeably withminiseries (mini-series) and maxiseries (maxi-series), usually depending on the length and number of issues. In Dark Horse Comics' definition of a limited series, "This term primarily applies to a connected series of individual comic books. A limited series refers to a comic book series with a clear beginning, middle and end." Dark Horse Comics and DC Comics refer to limited series of two to twelve issues as miniseries and series of thirteen issues or more as maxiseries, but other publishers alternate terms."

So says Wikipedia. .. but most of the "maxi-series" that I recall have been 12-issues in length.  In fact I don't recall seeing the "maxi-" term used for anything but, nor do I ever really recall any "mini-" series being longer than 12 issues (not with being called a mini series in advance anyway).  Anyway, their scarceness makes maxi-series terribly awesome... and Deathmatch would be an incredible addition tho the nominal ranks of the maxi, if only the had the balls to say it outright on the cover of the book.  

Monday, August 19, 2013

365 Comics...229: Avengers Arena #13 (2013)

I was kind of hoping I would have had the entire run of Christos Gage's Avengers Academy in the bag by the time this issue came out, but volume 3 seems tough to come by and the final volume just come out a couple weeks ago so it's just not working out.  Gage guest authors, to show kind of what's happening in the outside world regarding these teenage superheroes' disappearances, particularly at the Academy.  I was expecting a bit more AA backstory and big AA spoilers (of which there were still a few) but Gage writes a polished, well integrated script that, for a fill-in issue gives some interesting reveals about what's going on.  Small but kind of great.

I love the consistent lack of title on the cover too, just the "AA" emblem "tagged" onto the cover .

365 Comics... 228: T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (2013)

Beyond the 16-issues of the DC run from Nick Spencer last year, and the one early '80's reprint book I noted here earlier this year, I haven't read a lot if THUNDER Agents.  Oh, I've collected most if their appearances at this point, but I've sill got them piled beside the bed for future reading... I'm actually kind of waiting until I complete the run before I dive into it but I'm looking forward to doing so.  Until then, however, I'll just have to settle for this incredibly awesome new series from IDW.  I posted a proper review of it over on ... because I loved it, and people should know.

Friday, August 16, 2013

365 Comics...227: Smallville Season 11 #16 (2013)

It seems that for the past three years or so, there hasn't been a week that's gone by without someone in the comics bloggerati lamenting the lack of a Wonder Woman movie.   Just do a something-search for "Wonder Woman Movie" and see all the many, many, many articles written on the subject, questioning/rationalizing why it hasn't happened yet.  The latest comes from MMA fighter and sure to be VOD-superstar Gina Carano, not saying she's the right person for the role (she's got the physique and the beauty, but not the acting chops alas), but just that the movie should happen, and it should be done right, and without delay.  Extending beyond that, the conversation of female superheroes in summer blockbusers has been an exceptionally hot topic as Marvel's been releasing their slate of movie titles for the next 4 years, with more on the horizon planned through 2021.  It's kind of ridiculous that the only prominent female superhero of the past 5 years has been Black Widow, with Halle Berry's Storm and Famke Jansson's Jean Grey, and Hit-Girl, I guess, quite far behind.  While Underworld and Resident Evil prove that there's an audience for kick-ass females, they just don't seem to be drawing big enough numbers for the major studios to feel confident putting hundreds of millions behind.  But get a good writer and director and it'll happen, with a surprising ease and as soon as one makes bank, finally the floodgates will open.

But if you want to see a kick-ass rendition of Wonder Woman, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang are doing it monthly at DC.  But if you want to see a kick-ass version of Wonder Woman that could work on the either the big or small screen, just take a look at this issue of Smallville.  Brian Q. Miller introduces Diana with such ease, with such equal parts power, class and, yes wonder, he makes it look ridiculously simple.  He toys with the Steve Trevor thing quite nicely, making the first man to set foot on Paradise Island... as a boy.  Duh, establish a childhood bond between Diana and Steve, instead of making it an adult thing.  So simple.  I mean, in general I don't think Diana needs Steve Trevor, but when you can do it this well, why not?

If this were an actual Season 11 Smallville TV show, this would be the Wonder Woman backdoor pilot.  There's no way everyone watching wouldn't want a Wonder Woman TV show by the time the first commercial break happens.  And the costume design, in fitting with the natural, real-world style of Smallville, finds Diana in garb more akin to her early 70's white pantsuit, but looking really, really good.

Miller loops the DEO (Department of Extranormal Operations) into the Smallville world with this issue as well, including Director Bones (! he's skeletal, but not a skeleton), tying it in with the mishandled Checkmate aspects from Season 9 and 10, which also saw Ma Kent as its white queen.  Can I say that Smallville Ma Kent is the most useful Ma Kent ever.  She's not just Clark's moral support, but an example of the can-do attitude she taught him... a State Senator and a secret military operative... so great to get her outside of her narrow box.  As well, Steve Trevor is part of the DEO, and while Clark goes for a visit, Lois goes hunting for the new mystery woman.  As world collide, Steve, another Military Brat also happens to be one of Lois' ex-boyfriends... because of course he is!  I think the title "Smallville" is now more in reference to how closely woven this DC TV Universe is than the homestead where Clark grew up.  There's also mention of Connor - who we don't get to meet again, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time - and the white martian incident from the first Smallville S11 Special a month or two ago.

This is just an insane amount of fun.  If Azzarello ever leaves Wonder Woman, Miller's the guy to pick up the torch (or give her a second series even).

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

365 Comics...226: Captain America #289 (1983)

Hoo boy... don't know where to start with this one... Assistant Editor's Month?  This is what passed for a line-wide event in 1983.  Now we get Forever Evil.  Not sure which I dislike more, genuine "event months" which interfere with the ongoing monthly series creative process in a cash-grab attempt or a jokey non-event that assumes the reader is as invested in the behind-the-scenes of comics as they are the characters.

The main story here is an action-centric epilogue to a 3-part Cap-in-a-dystopian-future (the 1990's... if only 1983 Cap knew how bad it really got) that gets a little silly when this happens.

Thankfully it is all a psychotropic illusion that Cap is having because that is some ridiculous looking shit right there.  JM DeMatteis delivers readable script featuring Cap's running narrative.  Mike Zeck is on art chores... early in his career he really, really has a John Byrne thing going.  Looks fine just not too unique.

The back-up "Bernie America" feature (a part of the whole Assistant Editor thing, here shepherded by a young Mike Carlin) is supposed to be a humorous daydream but tries a little too hard to be funny.  When a weeping Steve Rogers turns up at the Avengers mansion to confront Bernie America, his lover, it becomes an interesting (perhaps unintentional, given how Bernie acts both at the start and end of this brief story) commentary on gender roles in comics of the time.

Best part of this comic ... this Crystar ad... man I wanted those toys so badly when I was a kid but to be honest I don't think I ever actually saw them on the shelf (or if I did they didn't hold up to the promise of the illustration or were not in the same league as Star Wars, He-Man, G.I. Joe or Super Powers, which would have been my other (more preferred) options around that time.
Also, back cover... 
Popeye video game... that was actually pretty great.

365 Comics...225: Last Days of the Justice Society of America Special #1 (1986)

This was one of the first monumental stories in DC's post-Crisis on Infinite Earths history.  Following the epic mini-series only a few months afterward it had a lasting shadow on the first half decade of the new DC Universe.  As a result of the Crisis and the streamlining of DC's convoluted history and parallel Earths into one unified universe/timeline, the JSA as it was known, wasn't really welcome in the DCU anymore, and the man who'd shepherded the wartime heroes into the Bronze Age was, fittingly, the one to send them off.

Roy Thomas was kind of the Geoff Johns of his day.  He was the writer that was simultaneously unwilling to let go of his childhood toys, his favourite iteration of DC's heroes, but also perfectly willing to move them forward.  He not only toyed with them in their heyday in All-Star Squadron, and introduced a wartime Teen Titans in the Young All-Stars, but also formed a team from their offspring with Infinity Inc.  As the 70's started delving more heavily in continuity and how past adventures fit with modern stories being told, Thomas was instrumental in smoothing out a lot of the Golden Age backstory and having it jibe with stories of the late-70's and '80's.

Much like how Flashpoint and the New 52 undid years of world building, the Crisis undid most of Thomas' devoted legacy building.  Like how Batman and Green Lantern were able to continue on relatively unscathed in the New 52, many titles carried on post-Crisis, creating a bit of headache work for the editors and writers.  Infinity Inc. was able to keep going for another two years, with Thomas working to help make sense of how the legacy of the Golden Age heroes had changed while most other writers tried to avoid the subject in the first few years. 

The Last Days of the JSA Special is a bit of a headache of a book as Thomas tries to explain the events of the Crisis, how the Golden Age versions of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and their supporting casts (essentially the Earth 2 versions of these heroes) were removed from general consciousness, and how he could remove all of the remaining legacy heroes from common use (except those like Dr. Fate needed elsewhere) so that modern heroes could take their inspiration from them, but not interact with them. 

Hawkman notes that they are but the few who remember multidimensional life before the Crisis and that this is no longer quite the world they knew.  He also explains how he, and his teammates are no longer needed in this new, overpopulated-hero world, and that retirement is the best option before them. But the Spectre, a beaten mess after his clash with the Anti-Monitor, warns that there is problems with the merging timelines (or something) and that disaster will befall all of Earth if the Justice Society does not intervene.

The disaster, well, it's caused by Hitler, who in his final days, turns to the dark arts, wielding the Spear of Destiny, summoning Ragnarok and Earth's ultimate doom.  Dr. Fate places the Justice Society in place of the Norse Gods (well some of them) as they battle the ensuing hordes of monsters, demons, giants and undead.  The battle is won, but it's a neverending victory as no death is finite and everyone must rise to fight the battle again.  But each time the victory, though always costly, is won, thus defeating Hitler's ploy but leaving our heroes stuck in limbo perpetually...

...until 1992 when the new Justice Society of America series is launched after the events of Armageddon: Inferno.  It seemed so much longer.

Thomas' narration here is brilliant, subtle and frequently obtuse in a poetic way, particularly surrounding the Hitler sequences in WWII.  It's unfortunate then that his dialogue is so painfully hyper-expository, the type where the characters shout out what's happening on the page.  It's a style of writing that carried from the 30s clear through until the mid-80's which always annoyed me.  There's an artist there for a reason, and it just seemed like writers never trusted the art to tell the story.  David Ross's muddy linework feels like a Sean Phillips precursor, frequently stiff figurework and an uncomfortableness with the stereotypical spandex look and the fantasy aspects are evident (he would excel at crime comics to be sure).  His tone, however is perfect for a "Last Days" book, the ominous, bleak sensation ever present.

It's a whopping 68-page, ad-free, stapled book that even makes use of its inside front and back covers for Thomas to detail the origin and intent of the project.  Overall it's not essential but definitely intriguing time capsule, a decidedly epic read, but kind of meaningless unless you know the history...

Monday, August 12, 2013

365 Comics...224: Charlton Bullseye #1 (1981)

Aw crap.  When I found a pile of Charlton Bullseye comics in a $2 bin at a small town haberdasherie I thought I hit the motherload.  Also in thise bins were some vintage 70's Superman Family, Wonder Woman, Superboy and the Legion of Super Heroes, Shazam, Justice League and more.  I was in a bit of a tizzy as I was finding a big pile of long-sought after gap-fillers among all yhese much undervalued gems.  The store operaters didn't seem to know or care what they had.  Everything was just $2 to them.

In a $40 pile I got the books I wanted and a few "Investment books", but immediately upon leaving the store regret for not picking up more of those investment books started to plague me.  I meant to go back later in the evening but didn't find the time to do so.  Those Shazam books especially haunt me.

But out of it I thought I had a prized book in this pairing of Blue Beetle and the Question,  thinking it a far grwater vintage than it actually is.   So disappointing to learn not only was I off by 20 years, but only the faded remnants of Ditko remained.

This being my first ever exposure to a Charlton comic was not a good one.  It's a pretty substandard heroes versus revenge-seeking bad guy (Beetle and Question's first meeting snd they don't even fight?  What gives comic from 1981?  The bad guy steals Beetle's bug ship and lays out a shittier version of sn Arcade funhouse for them when they arrive to get it back.   It's a meaningless story, with no flavor or even any sense of real danger.

Art from Dan Reed features strong, highly detailed facial close ups, and ridiculous action figure poses for the wide shots, often malproportioned against the setting.  Its really sloppy work most of the time.

The "What's Coming Next" editorial page is brutally honest about this issues' quality, foregoing any pride and restraining any praise, stating: "No, it isn't The Greatest Story Ever Told,  but they deliver a pretty good job against all odds" and "The editors thought the story was dumb, and made a lot of changes on the penciled pages. The crew down in Miami thought the editors were too dense to change their socks,  much less words on a page, so they changed the editors' changes!"  I would love honest post mortems in the very same book over at DC right now...

This isn't the 60 dollar investment book I'd hoped for, and it' s a pretty terrible read, but a great curiosity, my first ever exposure to twi of ny favorite DC characters,  pre-DC.

Also, watch this short doc on The Question:

Sunday, August 11, 2013

365 Comics...222/223: Green Arrow #23 / G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files #5 (2013)

You're probably wondering (or at least I'm going to assume you're wondering) just what the connective thread between the latest issues of Green Arrow and The Cobra Files is.  Naturally, these two books, one about an ex-billionaire playboy turned vigilante archer and another about a covert anti-espionage unit have unrequited geek love in common.  Naturally.

In Green Arrow, Jeff Lemire devotes a whole page to Oliver's tech-geek buddy Henry Fyff psyching himself up to tell the other member of Oliver's support squad, Naomi, that he's got a raging crush on her.  But of course, when he's about to do so, she confides in him at that very moment her feeling towards Oliver.  It's a terribly cliche sequence from an otherwise outstanding run by Lemire so far on the title that hopefully has some kind of twisty life in it because it'll otherwise be an awful drain on the charm and goodwill the book has managed to elicit so far.

Over in The Cobra Files, ace network specialist Clockspring gets a focus issue which includes flashbacks to his first unrequited geek love scenario that naturally apes his current unrequited geek love scenario, that of the girl he wants going for the handsome jock.  Mike Costa gets into the head of every teenage outsider who can't seem to muster up the self-confidence required to go after the girl (or boy) he (or she) wants, and vilifying anyone who deigns to go out with l'object du desir.

I get angry about these kinds of stories, mostly because I know those emotions and feeling all too well, but also I've overcome them to a point.  I know what it's like to get stuck inside my own head and had a great many potential relationships flitter away because of it.  But at the same time the right relationship happened because I could let go of a lot of those insecurities, and those other relationships that never happened would probably have been disasters if the approach was even made.

The Green Arrow sequence is total tokenist shorthand bullshit, a tired plot complication played out with only the minimal amount of investment in the characters (and I expect much better out of Lemire).  The Cobra Files, however, digs into the complexities of the emotions Clockspring is feeling, how his past experiences shape how his feelings are manifesting, as well as the external influence of Tomax Paoli, using his feelings for his own agenda.  There's a great sequence early on in which Firewall confronts Clockspring about his Reddit surfing for which he tries to justify it:

"You misunderstand me.  I don't care about you taking a breather.  This isn't a gulag.  I don't want you to stop looking at the internet every once in a while.  I want you to stop making excuses.  Stop flinching and cringing when you see me.  When I ask you what you're doing, don't just tell me what you think I want to hear."

I wish someone had called me on that when I was, like, 17.  Had I read this book -- that passage specifically -- when I was younger it would have been very influential.  Or, at least, I'd like to think it would have resonated strongly with me.

So, unrequited geek love is a true thing, but it's also a hoary cliche that can only really be overcome with a dedicated sense of purpose.

365 Comics...221: Action Comics Weekly #622 (1988)

I reviewed the highly amazing podcast-to-comic Thrilling Adventure Hour anthology over in Thor's Comic Column this week at, and I kick off the review talking about my distaste of the anthology... which I'm sure the 10s of you who read this blog would be throwing a puzzled look at given the amount of attention I've been heaving towards Action Comics Weekly.  But what I say about anthologies there, that they're largely a mixed bag, and largely unmemorable, comes squarely back to ACW.  There's not a lot in this train wreck of an anthology worth celebrating, but it's fascinating to me nonetheless, as it's a rare experiment from a major publisher that they gave a fighting chance to.  Not that DC didn't do anthologies in the past, the 70's were riddled with them, including Word's Finest, Superman Family, Adventure Comics, All-Star Western and tonnes more, but they never did them weekly.  ACW was DC's answer to the bi-weekly Marvel Comics Presents, an ongoing anthology that had 3 concurrent story arcs and a stable lynchpin character (Wolverine) drawing the reader in.

Green Lantern front-loaded every issue while Superman maintained the 2-page center spread.  Green Lantern (as I've mentioned numerous times) was a disaster, and the Superman story (which I believe is one full story from the start of ACW through to its end) never gains any momentum because of its format.  Last issue James Owsley returned as writer of Green Lantern, with frequent collaborator Mark Bright (Quantum and Woody, Icon) along for the ride  ignoring everything that happened in the dire Peter David stretch, and promptly adding the game changer of blowing up Hal Jordan's power battery.  Left with 24 hours on his power ring, this issue Hal is off in space contemplating who he can turn to for help, and plays out three eye rolling scenarios of dealing with Superman in his head.  After the promising turn-around last issue, this one's head-shakingly bad.  And, though the cover image is false, the proclamation of "Green Lantern Cleans Up!" is true, as he has to gather all the pieces of his shattered power lantern.

Wild Dog's second arc finished off its run with Wild Pup winding up in the hospital after getting stabbed, and despite my eye-rolling at much of the "Wild Pup" arc it's a pretty tight finale, I'll admit.  The finale to the Blackhawk arc, however, is quite abrupt (it feels more like they're taking a break in order to catch up, rather than it being the convenient time in the plot to do so).  The Secret Six still remains my favourite feature in the book (26 years running in the top spot, though judging from the harsh reader feedback in every letter column, I think I was/am in the minority on this one), and I'm buzzing as we barrel towards the reveal of who Monarch actually is.  And finally, an unscheduled break for the Baron/Jones Deadman arc (at least I think it's unscheduled as I kind of tuned out of the Deadman story last ish) an 80's Starman interlude exploring Fox News style "fair and balanced" punditry on "pseudo-heroes" and their negative societal impact by Roger Stern and Tom Lyle.  It's a decent idea, and not executed badly but the superhero side (eg, the stuff with Starman in it) is pretty weak (80's Starman was kind of a dud).

Reading quality of this issue, I'd say about 45%.
Reader's poll rankings:
1. Secret Six
2. Wild Dog
3. Blackhawk
4. Starman
5. Green Lantern
6. Superman

365 Comics... 220: Wild Dog #1 (1987)

I probably saw an ad for the cover of this first issue of Wild Dog in one of the many DC comics I was buying off the newsstands at the time.  It's a movie-poster worthy image, the stark blue, red, and yellow t-shirt popping from the black background and undershirt, the white gloves and goalie mask with the book's title across the eyeline (but with one eye peering out in the space between the "L" and the "D").  It's memorable all right, and for 25 years I've kind of been meaning to explore what's behind that image, but, to be honest, I've never really cared enough.

Despite editor Mike Gold's proclamation in back matter of this first issue (remember back in the day when Editors would write a "behind the scenese" in the letters column for mini-series or when books are just starting out... it was a simple thing that really allowed the readers to connect with the creative team, as well, so often get the sense that comics weren't really a business so much as a friends getting together to make comics) that Wild Dog was established to represent superheroes of middle America, the "Heartland", he's ostensibly DC's answer to the Punisher, a well-armed criminal killer.  Of course the Iowan setting is rather crucial to the feel of the book and indeed provides it a distinct flavour.

I've been mostly reading Wild Dog's adventures in Action Comics Weekly (my first true exposure to Wild Dog was through his first arc in ACW back in 1988, which may be the reason why I didn't ever pursue digging the mini-series out the back issue bins) and I'm not convinced that I like Wild Dog as a character or that it's a particularly good book, but I think there's something intriguing going on that differentiates it from most other books of the era (particularly the Punisher) but unable to escape it's total 1980's feel (uzi's were so popular back then).

Wild Dog is like a USA Network superhero, it's the Burn Notice of vigilantes, action packed and enjoyable on its own terms.  What I'm enjoying most, as I've likely stated in my ACW semi-regular commentary, is Terry Beatty's art.  It's just so unbelievably clean, and there's a stiffness that works in its favour.  In ACW he's inked by John Nyberg who hits the blacks and shadows a lot harder, but here, inked by Dick Giordano, it's just crisp.  I kind of like the shadow-heavier look to Beatty's work, but both a bright and clean and dark and clean look work just fine.

I'm still missing the third issue from this series, but found the 1989 special that I had no idea existed, so added to the remainder of ACW I have to go through, there's a lot more Wild Dog in my future.  I'm still not sure if that excites me or not.  I would buy a Wild Dog jersey or ringer-Tee
in a heartbeat though

Thursday, August 8, 2013

365 Comics...219: X-Factor #260 (2013)

It's been a couple years since Polaris (Lorna Dane) cropped back up in X-Factor as an active member, but it's just unfortunate that it's really taken until now for me to feel like she belongs in the book.  She's had more than a few spotlight issues in the past 30 issues, but here, as she gets rip-roaring drunk, starts smashing up a bar, and coming to blows with her (half?) brother Pietro(Quicksilver), she comes into her own.  Here's a woman who's experienced pain, all kinds of it, and is tired of dealing with it.  She buries it and lashes out at the same time, kind of a catharsis, with a helluva headache to follow.

It's awesome to see Pietro back in the book (he always feels like he belongs here), and seeing him and Lorna interact is something I didn't know I wanted to see but am so excited I did.
"Wanda never tried to shoot me!"

The end reveal, that "The End of X-Factor" is actually not the end -- it's just the end of this X-Factor as we know it -- is good news even if Polaris is the only carry-over, especially if whomever the new X-Factor creative team is can capture Lorna like Peter David has done here.  I think I've started to come to terms with one of my favourite books ever closing up shop.

Artist Neil Edwards, wow, where'd he come from? Great stuff.  It actually may be Jay Leisten's inks, either way, get this pairing on an ongoing (the new X-Factor?).

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

365 Comics...218: Action Comics Weekly # 618 (1988)

If you'll recall a few weeks back in 365 #215 I introduced you to a couple of costumed atrocities called Castle and Siphon. Turns out, these freaks of the industry were not alone... there's a whole collective of atrociously dressed rejects...

From Left to Right, Stasis and Incinderella join Castle and Siphon for the Crap Costume Ball.

Early to the party was Runaround Sue, a Jane Fonda-esque super-speedster that has been ignored by Flash writers for the past 25 years. Wonder why...

And then there's their leader, Veronica Hawkes, a 1930's-styled, acid-tongued, arched-eyebrowed, corset-constricted dame, here just getting ready to give Green Lantern "the business".

And I quote: "You barge into my factory sans appointment, in that absurd get-up...and yet here I am seeing you anyway. And I NEVER see people unless they have an appointment. Are you grateful? No. Instead you get on your high horse... tossing around accusations a less charitable woman would call slanderous. 'Fraternizing' indeed. You will find that I NEVER fraternize, patronize, simonize, or any of those dreary 'izes' that make make society so annoyingly chummy."


Anyway, my "readers poll" submission for this issue:
1. Secret Six (the good one)
2. Blackhawk (the other good one)
3. Superman (tedious but occasionally interesting)
4. Wild Dog (this "Wild Pup" storyline is kind of weird)
5. Green Lantern (it's a train wreck)
6. Deadman (Mike Baron's script is wonky and Kelly Jones' art is only a shadow of what it becomes)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

365 Comics...217: Masters of the Universe #2 (1983)

I've touched on Masters of the Universe thrice already: just a short time ago in 365 #216 whilst looking at it in relation to the Ninja Turtles, in 365 #165 poking at the recent Origin of Hordak, and in 365 #85 which looked at the Star Comics years and a peek even further back at the first DC Comics Masters of the Universe stories which led into the 3-issue mini-series of 1983.  Since writing 365 #85, my daugher and I have dosed heavily on the original He-Man and Masters of the Universe cartoon.  So much so that I've forgotten how definitive that series makes everything seem.  Though there's little through line throughout its 130 episodes, the show's interpretation of the characters, their powers and personalities, the use of magic and science, and even the appearance of Eternia as a rich planet of lavish flora and darker edges, and awe-inspiring natural and supernatural architecture seem like the only relevant take.

Is this why subsequent cartoon and comic relaunches (not to mention the largely unsuccessful movie) have been unable to crack the public consciousness in the same way, or was He-Man's unique mix of barbarianism, sword-and-sorcery and sci-fi a one-shot-only deal.  The resonance it has had with many of us would suggest otherwise, but at the same time, beyond the cartoon and toys, nothing has been as successful.

The DC Masters of the Universe mini-series was trying to make sense of what little story was present in the toys design phase.  As such, it shows He-Man wielding his axe mightily,and gaining his transformative powers from Zoar.  Paul Kupperberg's script is written like a fantasy script, with the character all talking in frustratingly round-about ways ("...for it is here where lies our destiny...", "...although I fear you did understate the situation, for in truth-- though it be the place of my birth and my youth -- I hate it) that make it tongue twistingly difficult to read aloud to an impatient four-year-old.  I try to employ the MOTU voices from the show, giving Mer-Man his gargled delivery and Skeletor his nasally "gay villain" whine and Man-At-Arms his husky barotone (if there's a new movie, he's gotta be played by Nick Offerman, right?) to soften the heavy fantasy tone.

If anything, I think that's the thing about MOTU, is that it's a light fantasy with a hint of sci-fi in the mix, and if either element is played too heavily it just doesn't capture the imagination just right.  And perhaps the other thing is a toy line is needed to spark the interest in the first place (and not one that's costing $40 a figure).  Something clunky but powerful looking that fits in small hands and sparks big imagination.

365 Comics...216: Superman/Batman #24 (2006)

Digging through 3/$1 bins with my daughter I became hyper aware of how disproportionate the amount of comics for kids versus comics for adults have been published since the mid-1980s.  That's not to say there aren't comics for kids anymore, or that there weren't any during the speculator boom and bust of the grim'n'gritty '90's, but comic book fans and readers wanted to shake the "for kids" perception of the industry so much that they seemed to have forgotten to make any for them.  These 3/$1 bins are clogged with Image and Valiant comics and the closest to kids comics I could find, en masse, were Power Pack books from the '80's, which, even then, aren't exactly young reader material. 
Oh, I understand the 3/$1 bin is a "you find what you find" kind of place, so I'm not complaining about selection or any of that, just the fact that the industry has produced so much that can't be consumed on the cheap by a younger demographic.

Which brings me to Superman/Batman #24.  I'm an educated comics consumer, I know my stuff.  I know that just because Ed McGuinness' artwork looks exceptionally cartoony, that it doesn't make it for kids.  Which is a shame, because reading this comic, his brilliantly exaggerated, edgeless, deceptively simplistic illustrative style just screams "all-ages".  But, mercifully, at least this 3/$1 book was exceptionally tame on the violence and instead provides a heaping helping of eye popping 4-colour (yes, I know it's not 4-colour processing really anymore) insanity.  I haven't had much love for Jeph Loeb's work, ever, really, and even here, this insanity is only fun from a distance.  Diving into it as a new reader, or even casual reader, and it would be brain-hurtey nonsense.

The opening four pages find Superman freeing Darkseid from his imprisonment on the Source Wall, and Superman shrugging of any sense of debt owing.  This cuts to Batman in an alternate universe facing Batwoman and Superwoman in a dark alley before a spiky blonde Superlad punches his lights out.  They have a bit more of a rational conversation on Batwoman's all-too-familiar Batcave before Miss Miracle and Big Bard boom tube in.  Meanwhile, Supergirl tries to make sense of what Bizarro is really up to before coming face-to-face with sort-of versions of herself (including a classic-looking Supergirl, a Lois Lane Superwoman, the JLU Supergirl, and Power Girl) assembled by Bizarro.  An then Batzarro (Batzarro?) faces a group of super-toughs called the Maximums, who seem to be under the sway of Mxyzptlk, and then Joker is thrust into the mix.

It's just utter insanity, with no logical through line (but then it is the 4th out of 5 chapters), but even still, as a longtime DC buff, this starts to stretch and crack the boundaries of my suspension of disbelief.  I mean Helena Wayne and Laurel Kent are the "gender" opposites of Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent (why not Brie Wayne and Clara Kent beyond just the nod to DC history?).  And just who was Superlad supposed to be?  A blond version of Kara I guess?

Anyway, despite the Joker killing Batzarro, it's pretty tame stuff and not altogether unsuitable for my daughter (who got a bit of a thrill out of sharing the same name with her Superman analog).

365 Comics...215: Tales of the TMNT #48 (2008)

[Man, the summer schedule really gets in the way of daily blogging...]

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were never really my thing.  To me, they were the supplantor of the Masters of the Universe at the top of the toy/cartoon, the enemy.  You couldn't like both, and I chose the losing side.  I wasn't interested in martial arts or reptiles, and by the time the cartoon hit I was feeling a little too old for the whole anthropomorphic thing.  Even thought I was still a comic book nut, and I knew (or eventually knew) the TMNT originated in comic books, the concept just seemed out of my realm of understanding.  There are defining works of popular culture in every generation, and it seems that within my generation there were those kids who loved He-Man, the ones who loved Transformers, the ones who loved G.I. Joe, and at the tail end, the seemingly youngest ones who loved TMNT (we all loved Star Wars equally).

I've poked my nose into the Turtles a few times over the years, a peek at the original comics, an anniversary issue or two in the 90's, maybe even one of the live action films...once... (I may have owned a soundtrack at one point) but the appeal just never came.  It's no He-Man.  It saddens me though that the Ninja Turtles have managed to revitalize, nearly as strongly as its original pop-culture explosion incarnation, whereas Masters of the Universe continues mainly to satiate its aging fanbase, unable to find the same level of appeal for a younger audience.

A couple decades later my daughter has found room in her pop culture life for both the original He-Man cartoons and the new TMNT animated adventures.  MOTU seems to be winning out as the favourite as she's gotten quite inquisitive and obsessive about the old action figures, but if MOTU is winning it may be because my own prejudice towards the Turtles has me spending money on Skeletors instead of Shredders.

This issue of the B&W anthology Tales of the TMNT, found recently by my daughter in a 3/$1 bin, begins with a single page introduction that implies the subsequent stories will be about family.  What follows is a passable story about the downfall of the nefarious mayor of Springfield, nicknamed The Decider (seems a bit late in the day to poke fun at George W. Bush), but nothing to do with family.  A second, 4-page story, "One's Shadow" doesn't really make any sense at all, as Raphael fights his shadow demons (I imagine this to be supplemental to some other TMNT story, but I don't rightly know).

Taken on face value, The Decider was a bit heavy for my 4-year-old (One's Shadow I skipped over completely), but at the same time I could skew the voices and the telling of the story enough to be more lighthearted and in the tone of the current animated series.  The Archie Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, rather than the Mirage series, would probably be more her speed.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

365 Comics... 214: Marvel Saga #1 (1985)

In the mid-1980's DC and Marvel became obsessed with continuity, largely because the narrowing and aging comic book fanbase were constantly asking about such things.  DC collapsed and rebooted their universe at an answer to continuity criticisms via the Crisis on Infinite Earths after first trying to archive their history in the Who's Who character guide (then followed by the History of the DC Universe).  Marvel had a doubly robust character guide in the Handbook to the Marvel Universe and created Marvel Saga as a means of putting 20+ years of storytelling into some sort of chronological order. 

Where DC's History was told in grand sweeps over 2 prestige format issues by Wolfman and Perez leaving the finer details off the page, Marvel Saga was 25 issues of scenes excerpted from past works with framing text (I don't envy whomever had that task) tying it all together.

It's a messy Frankenstein monster of a comic that exposes and even exacerbates the cIunkiness and awkwardness of storytelling from Stan Lee's heyday, particularly when juxtaposed against even the modest improvements of John Byrne some 20-ish years later.  What it really validates is my decision to not read (or need to read) most silver age comics.  The Fatastic Four segments of this comic are unbelievably painful to read.  The manufactured drama and complete about-face resolutions are maddeningly bad.  Oh, we need to convert these to motion comics and MST3K them (or just listen to Norm Macdonald's Origin of the Fantastic 4 )

No more of this, please and thank you.

Friday, August 2, 2013

365 Comics...213: 3 Guns #1 (2013)

From what I hear, the 2 Guns movie is a passable but otherwise generic summer action movie.  There was an interesting compare and contrast between the comic and the film on MTV Geek, which indicated that the film lost much of its sense of humour in the transition.  From what I remember (and wrote!), I quite thoroughly enjoyed 2 Guns (named it one of my favourites of the year even) and it seemed ready-made to go straight to the screen.  In fact, it began life as a screenplay, so it makes sense.  It's disappointing then to hear that the filmmakers and producers felt the need to make it more austere, to try and "improve" upon the original.  It so rarely works (George RR Martin in his recent interview with the Nerdist discussed how comic book movies generally fail when they stray too far from the source), I feel that if something is successful, even mildly as a book or comic or whatever, then it should be adhered to.  It takes an incredible amount of hubris to take the work of an artist or artists and think that you can improve upon it.  But I guess that's Hollywood, it's all about ego.

Anyway, the counterpoint to that is "there's always the source, they can't change that", and that's totally true.  Even if the 2 Guns movie sucks, the comic is still the same as it always was.  And even if Hollywood can't handle the property properly, its creator, Steven Grant, certainly can.  Hence 3 Guns, a sequel that feels much in the Lethal Weapon/Die Hard/Beverly Hills Cop (?)/48 Hours(?stretching?) vein of 80's pithy action movie.  It's just a fun good-looking
read with characters who feel familiar (even though I've pretty much forgotten everything about 2 Guns 6 years later).