Wait, What? Ep. 114: Everything We Could Stand

PhotobucketJaxxon drawing by our very own renaissance man, Graeme McMillan...

Skip week is over so we are back for another episode or two (we will probably skip Valentine's Day, I am betting that right now). Before we get into it, though: look at that Jaxxon! What a great drawing of a very old, obscure Star Wars character that I dearly love! Well done, Mr. Graeme McMillan, well done.  Please email me if you want to be part of the crew that tries to peer pressure Graeme into drawing more comics...

After the jump: Love! Links! Show notes!

So, yes.  Links first, eh?  Long-time listeners should be not at all surprised that we are fans of ol' Jaxxon (the space bunny portrayed above).  And, similarly, you may remember that we both have much love for Mike Russell's Sabretooth Vampire.  So imagine my delight to come across the link for "Jaxxon's 11," a Star Wars fan comic by Russell and David Stroup--it's currently incomplete but, hey!  68 pages of old-school Star Wars nerdery.  For free!

All right.  Let's get our show notes on, shall we?

0:00-3:03: "Previously on Wait, What?"  An introduction/apologia/master plan/what have you with a super-brief discussion of our skip week time off and then moving right into… 3:03-25:33:  issues of Green Lantern's Rise of the Third Army crossover that Graeme has read, and our befuddlement about Geoff Johns and the current state of the Green Lantern franchise generally. 25:33-32:31: Graeme also received a copy of the Batman & Robin Annual and quite liked it! Jeff read Batman Inc. #7 and was squirrelly about it!  Also, thanks to the continuing recommendations of Martin Gray over at Too Dangerous for a Girl, Jeff also read Superman Family Adventures issues #8 and 9 and greatly enjoyed those! Yep, you should think about picking those up. 32:31-38:59:  Speaking of cute, Graeme points out that the Comixology collection of Superboy has gotten up to issue #50 of the '90s run, which means Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett's "Last Boy on Earth" storyline is now easily available for Kirby fans like me who'd missed it the first time around!  Also, currently on sale (at least by the time I initially post this) and verrrry tempting at .99 an issue:  Green Lantern Mosaic. 38:59-39:34: Soulful Intermission #1 39:34-51:48: And we're back: with more Green Lantern talk (for a moment or two).  And with more personal chit-chat, as Jeff tells how he and Edi survived their first sleepover with their three year old niece.  Somewhat longish, very little comic book talk is involved (although there is some chit-chat about Dora The Explorer) and obviously should be considered optional and bonus material.  Will not be covered on the final exam. 51:48-54:34:  Comic book news! There's…not much.  Although we do discuss the terrifying process of WTF certification DC Comics is putting forward. 54:34-59:22: Wonder Woman #16!  Jeff has some words about it. 59:22-1:06:57: By contrast, Jeff has other words that he has to use about the other comic, Flash #16.  Some other chit-chat ensues about the DC New 52 books (specifically, Action).  On a similar-but-different note, Graeme picked up the trade of New Deadwardians after hearing Jeff singing its praises and also quite liked it. That means New Deadwardians is two-for-two on the Wait, What? Approval Meter and you should considering picking it up. 1:06:57-1:14:29: We're just about ready to get to questions (no, really) but we thought it perhaps prudent to talk about Uncanny Avengers #3 first. 1:14:29-1:32:11: Oh, and Avengers issues #3 and #4. Yeah, a lot of talk about Avengers #3 and #4. 1:32:11-1:36:59:  And then there were….Questions!  Kid Showbusiness on December 6th, 2012 at 1:48 pm asked:  What’s your take on this Jonathan Hickman quote: “Most of the talent creating books at Marvel are fairly progressive, so generally we all want diversity in the abstract,” he said. “The problem comes from the fact that the catalog of Marvel (and DC) characters are predominantly straight white male because of the era they were conceived in — and it’s the basic building blocks of what we have to work with. Which begets the question: Well Jonathan, if this is really one of the root causes of the problem, if you really feel that way — if you’re not a fraud — why don’t you just go create some new, more diverse characters? “Which is where things get tricky,” he continued. “In light of numerous historical examples, contractual realities, and the shelf life of creators, is it really in a creator’s best interest to be making brand new IP for the big companies on the cheap? I mean, we still do it sometimes, because, frankly, we can’t not…it’s in our DNA as storytellers and problem solvers — but is it the ‘right’ thing to do? Would it be right for people to ‘expect me’ to do that? I don’t think so. But that’s just one example — There are others (some even more negative, plenty positive).” 1:36:59-1:48:49:  George T on December 6th, 2012 at 1:54 pm asked: 1) I have never read an Avengers comic. If I were to read one issue of the Avengers what should it be? 2) I have never watched or read any Dr Who. What is a good place to pick it up? Other than 1966… 1:48:49-2:06:33:  Mike Loughlin on December 6th, 2012 at 4:41 pm said: 1) Which Marvel and DC characters that headline their own books or are members of a team should be put aside for a year or two? Which Marvel and DC characters have been poorly-written the longest? 2) If the Big 2 super-hero comics were redesigned to be more all-ages- and woman-friendly, do you think sales would increase? Has the new readers ship already sailed? Also mentioned in there somewhere, is Chad Nevett's amazing blog-a-thon over at Graphic Content   and Comics Should Be Good, where you can catch Graeme and Chad talking Peter David's Star Wars books, Chad and I swapping thought on Jim Starlin's Dreadstar, Tucker Stone bringing the pain, and much, much more. 2:06:33-end: Closing comments! Natalie Imbruglia! Our first podcast without any discussion of Misfits in almost a month. And only twenty some-odd questions to go. Wow!

Amazing, eh?  Yes, Graeme and I thought so too, undoubtedly.  As you know, we've got ourselves a little ranch out on the iTunes/RSS frontier, you can stop by any time you like.  But you can also kick up your boots and sample our wares below, if preferred:

Wait, What? Ep. 114: Everything We Could Stand

As always, we hope you enjoy and stop by next week for the next one!

Justice is like a Hawk

Sorry for that title, heh, just been rereading WATCHMEN again.

HAWKMAN SPECIAL #1: If you had told me 10 or 15 years ago that Jim Starlin would be writing and drawing HAWKMAN, I would have probably been pretty, "Wow, that sounds AWEsome, let's order a ton!", but come 2008 my response was far more muted because Starlin has had a string of fairly mediocre books lately. Nothing particularly awful or anything, but neither nothing that I've thought was exceptional, or that sold well.

It's also marketed as a tie-in to the RANN/THANAGAR HOLY WAR mini, which isn't selling as well as it should either.

But, oddly, maybe this should have been marketed as a FINAL CRISIS book -- it talks more directly about "CRISIS-y" stuff than something like ROGUES REVENGE or REQUIEM did.

See, apparently Hawkman's origin has changed yet again, and no, he never was a reincarnated Egyptian through the ages, that was all a lie. He was... well the comic never explicitly tells you WHAT his new origin really is, but I think you're meant to infer that it has gone back to the Thanagarian one, but WHICH of those (Silver Age or HAWKWORLD) isn't at all laid out.

Which just leaves me sputtering "Buh? Wuh? Guh?" Does this make Hawkman the most rebooted origin of all? Seriously, doubleyou-tee-eff? I think DC might actually believes that the reason that no one buys a HAWKMAN comic in the long run is that they don't like his origin. But, really, it's just that, in the long-run, most customers don't want to purchase a comic of a second-stringer. Unless there's a splendid reason to.

Like, Mike Grell can get GREEN ARROW to sell as a mini-series, and the monthly that spun out of that started strong... but within a year or so (as I remember it, and not looking at a sales chart), the audience started slipping away, because, naturally, it was Green Arrow after all. Sure, then Kevin Smith can come on a new GREEN ARROW, and it sells like free money, but after he leaves, a year or so later, and it sells like Green Arrow does, again.

Hawkman is like this, The Atom, Spectre, The Demon, and a whole host of other characters. They're all great characters, really, be it visually, powerswise, or something like that, but they're not actually sustainable on their own. You can sell someone a mini-series about them, if it is good, but trying to do a monthly comic will almost certainly get you canceled within five years. These characters are great on teams, though, or playing off of other characters. Everyone likes them, but few want to buy them.

Sometimes what they try to do is keep changing the status quo. Look at The Atom. He's been turned into a barbarian, or reset to a teenager, or had his wife go crazy and had him go wandering the multiverse, and now he's (maybe... but maybe not since Grant hasn't shown it, and it really looks like that entire year of COUNTDOWN has been moved into "didn't happen" territory if Grant doesn't show it) Monitoring the Monitors.

None of the other changes stuck, and no other change like most of those CAN stick, because it takes him away from the DC universe-proper -- and to the extent that people care at all about The Atom, it is in the context of the DCU, yes?

Hawkman hasn't been removed from play before, but they play merry havoc with him all of the time, and now neither the reader nor the character have any idea who he really is -- Hawkman is explicit on that point at least in the comic, on his knees and clutching his head, even, when he says it. On the plus side, he's now one of "The Aberrant Six", which, really, just sounds awful. I'd rather be in the Inferior Five...

And reading between the lines in this book and things Starlin said in a recent interview, it seems like there's going to be a monthly Hawkman comic that he's going to write (and draw?), and I guess this is the set up for it.

Problem is, it really isn't a story. It's all set up. Things get subtracted, but nothing concrete gets added other than setup for some other story at some other ill-defined point of time. And I don't like the subtraction. "Reincarnated Egyptian warrior fighting a curse of destiny through the ages" is romantic, multiplies story possibilities, gives clear motivation, but allows you to fit any past version in at will, and allows any future changes to come cleanly. It's a dumb thing to throw away for a single storyline, just like killing off the Green Lantern Corps was dumb -- even if no one is using it at the time, it's the kind of broad "any story can fit in this box" concept that you don't want to pitch to the side.

The shame of it all is that Starlin draws Hawkman VERY well, with bold shots, and lots of cosmic, and really nice page and panel layouts, creating a book that moves right along even though it is essentially xx pages of two guys standing around and talking. Just looking at the art alone, I might have said "VERY GOOD" on the rating, because that's just some nice looking, dynamic comics art. But, there isn't a story, per se, and ugh, the "meta-story" is just plain AWFUL, and at the end of the day that's what matters to me.

What did YOU think?


In which I fall in love with a brushstroke: Graeme in a tree with Kubert, Hawkman.

So last night, I had a dream that proved that my subconscious was frantically grabbing what little pieces of pop culture that I'd exposed myself to over the last couple of days - My life was being narrated by This American Life's Ira Glass, and illustrated by Joe Kubert. Needless to say, everything was much funnier than it is in real life, and looked beautiful. Kubert's art was pretty much the main reason that I picked up SHOWCASE PRESENTS HAWKMAN VOLUME 1, the phone-book-sized collection of the first Silver Age stories about the man with the feather fetish. I've never been a major fan of the character or the concept, but the idea of getting lots of prime Kubert art in black and white for relatively cheap was a very easy way to get me to part with my money. Having read the book, it's easily the best thing about it - As much as many artists of the Silver Age had an ability and strength (to say nothing of work ethic) that many of today's Young Guns and Ten Terrific could learn from, Kubert is one of only a handful who matches that to a style that's breathtaking even today. Even though he only handles a few stories at the start of the book (The series obviously had a rocky start, running three issues in Brave and Bold before disappearing for awhile, before another three issue run, then another disappearance, then a run in Mystery In Space before finally graduating to its own title; Kubert was only on the strip for the Brave and Bold issues), it's Kubert who you'll remember when you're finished with the 500+ pages: His lush brushwork, his mastery of the balance of black and white on the page, the care and attention he takes on things that other artists would've just hacked out without a second thought... It's impossible to read this book and not be convinced each and every page that he worked on, that he's one of the greatest comic book artists of all time. Completely amazing, beautiful work that makes the normally-competent Murphy Anderson (who handles the remainder of the series in this book) look stiff and lifeless by comparison.

What you may be missing in the afterglow of that love, though, is the lowkey charm of Gardner Fox's stories. Yeah, it's definitely one of the lesser of DC's Silver Age books but, just like his Justice League stories, you can't help but be swept along with the old-fashioned "adventure with a lesson built in" nature of the whole thing - Look at Hawkman use that old-fashioned weapon from his museum and learn the name of said weapon and as much of its history as can fit in a caption! The science-fiction aspects are enjoyably campy in retrospect (We don't celebrate "Independence Day," but "Impossible Day"! We Thanagarians don't use wedding rings - We use wedding earrings! But only for women! We have our own words for "hour" and "week," but like using "day," if that's okay with you!), which kind of sums up a lot of what makes the stories as enjoyable as they are - it's not that they're good, per se, but they're funny and charming for maybe the wrong reasons. It doesn't stop them being entirely readable, of course, even when Murphy Anderson is drawing. For the first third of the book, though, you'll barely notice that there are any words; your eyes will be fixed on the shot of the talking bird in the beautiful pen-and-ink tree. Or the staircase rendered in loose, thin brushstrokes. Or the profile shot of Carter with his helmet, where the shadow falls perfectly to draw your eye across the panel. Or... Well, you get what I'm saying. It's enjoyably Okay overall, but worth it for the opening stories alone.

Comics of 8/18

Yah, like Lester I was thinking about how good ol internet time made it seem like we never posted. What's up with that? I've mostly been trying to unravel a Mystery in the UK the last few days -- I think I have most of it sussed, but I'm still not sure HOW to solve the crime, as it were.

I also finished TILTING (appears on Friday on Newsarama), and have started making notes on Deppey's NuMarvel essay in the new Journal. Damn, that's one fine issue.

Plus I dinged 30 in CoH, and am now playing the How Long Until I Get Bored and Quit game (I doubt I'll make it to 35, is all I can say, but we'll see -- really this is all a function of running out of Content and having to Street Hunt too much at the higher levels)

I'm going for my bi-annual haircut in a bit, so let's see how many comics we can bat away first....

For some reason, IE won't connect to blogger this morning, so I'm doing this via Opera, which means I don't have easy itals. I probably should learn the HTML commands, but I'm lazy and I'll just use CAPS for stress and titles this post instead.

(After the fact note: When I went to publish this, Opera wasn't working with Blogger either, so you won't see this until I get home tonight)

SIMPSONS #97: Usually I'm the big singer of Ian Boothby's praises -- he's usually the Funniest Writer in Comics, or something -- but I thought this issue was kinda flat and boring. The feud thing really didn't work -- maybe because it's too much of a staple cliche. Anyway, EH.

SHE-HULK #6: Some cute and decent Ha Ha in a few places, but the art, being mostly done in Marvel House Style reduces the humor for me by tons. OK.

NEW INVADERS #1: Too much time spent introducing the characters in far too obvious ways -- the whole first half of the issue passes in a weightless plot free fall. The second half is also mostly plotless as the flat characters revolve around each other in obvious ways. It's not BAD or anything, but, unless you really have a hankering for these characters it is pretty lifeless. For $3, I have to go for a high AWFUL.

TERRA OBSCURA V2 #1: I don't really care about any of these characters, and I'm surprised anyone else did enough for there to be a second go round here. Having said that, I like this much better than V1, and I'll go with a strong OK.

BIRDS OF PREY #72: You might have noticed most of this week's DCs came bagged with a SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW CD. Well, you didn't notice this at CE, at least -- I unbagged all of the copies (that was a fun 45 minutes I'll never get back). One the other hand, this means a certain VP gets a fun package on his desk on MOnday morning. They filled up an entire DoubleWide Diamond box, sheesh! Anyway, this comic mostly felt like marking time to me -- not much happens except setting things in motion for NEXT issue, which, while fine, makes me only say OK

HAWKMAN #31: This is well done comics, but I think this arc (while adding to the Dead Girlfriend in the Refrigerator count [sorta]) really shows why a traditional Hawkman comic really doesn't have much for legs -- at least with the Ostrander HAWKWORLD run they were able to get into neat outsider-looking-in concepts. But this Hawkman is pretty much Just Another Hero. *shrug* OK

GOTHAM KNIGHTS #56: "War Games" 4 Lots of super-villains. They don't do much. There's an attempt to go with the throughline of GK's "Wow, Hush is a badass!" thread, but he's not, really, and he comes off far more as Chump to this reader. Batgirl also feels written very wrongly here. My fav bit is at the beginning where all of the bosses finish each others sentences. Only in a comic book, man. AWFUL.

ROBIN #129: "War Games" 5. Tim shows everyone in the whole city that's he's a super bad-ass, which makes me hope all the more that the speculation of his returning to the mantle at the end of WG (and/or IC) is wrong. My fav bit is right at the last 2 pages where a seemingly invisible gunman shoots the chick, then seemingly decides it's not worth (despite being, y'know, invisible) to follow up and make sure she's, y'know, dead or something. A very low EH

BATGIRL #55: "War Games" 6. Almost nothing happens in this one -- the overall WG plot isn't moved ahead one fraction of one inch. Still, Sean Phillips art makes this the first chapter I've genuinely liked LOOKING at, so OK.

TOUCH #5: Suddenly, the book starts moving right before it gets axed. Huh. OK

FRACTION #5: This one on the other hand just feels like it's standing still. Nice art, but this can't end fast enough. A very low EH.

DC COMICS PRESENTS: THE ATOM: Damn, they both picked a "Julie saves the day!" turn. I liked the Gibbons story better, mostly because Waid "cheats" on the second one and only has the cover be a brief one-panel bit in the story. Still, OK

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #631: Quite a bit harsher than one would expect from a Superman story -- I don't know I'd let a kid near this one. Having said that, very strong and moving, really only undercut by the sequence of Supes hearing that last shot. How does he hear that from halfway around the world when I bet there's guns going off in, say, Detroit too? Meh! OK.

EX MACHINA #3: Finally, something to get excited about! This is a really terrific book, and one of the rare recent example where we're gaining new readers with each and every issue. Between this and Y, THE LAST MAN, Vaughan is cementing himself as one to watch. VERY GOOD.

EXILES #51: I also quite liked this -- the happy twist at the end was both unexpected and was celebratory of heroism. I don't feel that often enough in super-hero books, which is pretty fuckin' weird, don't you think? GOOD.

FANTASTIC FOUR #517: An "Avengers Dissembled" crossover (Which is about as "red skies" of a crossover as you can get), and, to celebrate the sales increase, the book is now $2.99. Huzzah! A perfectly reasonable issue, but the previous points left a nasty taste in my mouth, so I'm going with a patently-unfair AWFUL. (If it weren't for that, I might have gone for a low GOOD)

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #64: IN every technical way this issue is just as good as the book has ever been -- but something in me somewhere says this arc was a mistake. None of this was anything I wanted to see, and it largely strikes me as pandering. So, foo, let's settle with EH.

MANHUNTER #1: There's nothing for it but to compare this with BLOODHOUND, because the two books seem to occupy a similar "space" in the DCU. This one tries way way way to hard to set up it's moral dilemma, and given that it seems to be moving to "Murder is fine, as long as it is scum!" rather than anywhere else, I'm going to give this the big thumbs down. The art is nice, the writing is adequate, but I don't want to read about super-powered murderers, thanks. There's really nothing here, no mystery no suspense, that makes me want to come back for issue #2. The worst part is this is naturally going to sell better to the retailers because of the legacy name, and the suggestion somewhere that this ties into IDENTITY CRISIS somehow (though I can't seem to find that citing now that I'm looking for it -- I know I read somewhere that there was a connection though). Sorry, though, this is AWFUL.

DOCTOR SPECTRUM #1: Not only does nothing happen, but it doesn't happen between panels of earlier issues of SUPREME POWER. Wrong way to do a spin-off, kids. EH.

SUPREME POWER #12: Meanwhile JMS does a good job with the formalist four-panels-across story. Things are starting to move here, and I like what he's doing all in all. VERY GOOD.

JSA STRANGE ADVENTURES #1: Period work, which always fits the JSA. Nice nice art from Kitson. But the story feels a bit light for the HOLY SHIT, $3.50?!?! Man, that's too much. EH.

Right, be back with more tomorrow, I think -- that's what I've read so far. Whatta d'you think?


Ben's asleep now!

The best part of him climbing up on the shelf is that he doesn't have the foggiest notion of how to get himself down, so he'll start crying about that, and I haul him to mother earth, and what does he do? Yeah, try to get back there right away. He understands there IS gravity, but he doesn't quite get how it works yet....

Still, I got him down for his afternoon nap, so back at my in-box....

KINETIC #5: There were a couple of books that really REALLY made me wish I had a column during the hiatus -- issue #4 of Kinetic was one of those. Wonderful quiet story about the reactions of his mother as her world shatter and changes around her, and all of her preconceptions are discarded in a moment. Kinetic started really slow, probably too slow, but it has really come into its own now, and is one of the most emotionally satisfying comics on the stands. This is "the next Sleeper" or "the next Runaways" -- the kind of book no one is reading, but they really should because they'd just love it if they did. Very Good.

FANTASTIC FOUR #516: I liked the first part of the arc, I thought the second was OK, but here at part three, I think it should have been a done-in-one. Nothing wasn't said here that wasn't said last issue. Eh.

SUPERMAN #207: This book is running the trajectory almost exactly opposite Lee's Batman run -- started strong (though less so than we anticipated), but it's bleeding readers every issue. I kinda don't even think this will be Top 10 by issue #12. Far too much blabity-blab talking about stuff that only tangentially matters ("faith" is a great topic for Superman to undertake -- setting it in this context robbed it of almost all of it's real-life human resonance). After six issues of Batman and 4 of this I think it's fair to declare what we all guessed going in -- Azzarello really doesn't "get" how to write super heroes. (which is fine, not everyone should / does)  Lee is a great artist, but the underlying material is so unremittingly dull and oddly paced that I just have no interest in this. Eh

SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT #12: And so the stealth reboot ends. I sadly found the whole thing to be a bit preposterous, and largely unnecessary -- this last bit of Luthor's big master plan was just dopey, and wrapped with a real whimper. Plus, trying to fit it into continuity with the offhand "You know Luthor will find a way to beat the charges" just hurt my tiny little head. I really don't think this added anything new or majestic to the legend, so foo. On the other hand, the last two pages, though slightly torturously arrived at, where a really touching bit of "closure" on the K-side. I liked that so much that I'm going to be a big softie and give the whole thing an OK.

FUTURAMA #18: Reasonably funny (Go, Ian Boothby, go -- how come I'm the only reviewer who ever says what a fabulous writer this guy is?), but doing extended storylines in a quarterly comic book is really a bad idea. Good.

DC COMICS PRESENTS HAWKMAN #1: I really thought the first three of these (Batman, Adam Strange, and GL) were really awful, so I'm glad to say this one was pretty charming. The Cary Bates story (w/ Byrne) brought back Earth-Prime (Did Cary "invent" that? I have strong memories of him starring in a JLA one... but I'm not sure if that is the first one) and the Kurt Busiek (w/Simonson) one had a decent Silver Age "feel", and ended on a sweet note. This isn't great comics, but it's decent stuff, and the strongest of the batch. OK.

ASTONISHING X-MEN #3: Joss has, I think, found his legs (fingers?) with the characters -- some razor sharp characterization, and some really fun scenes (Scott and Nick Fury aboard the Helicarrier, or the excellent Danger Room sequence) made this issue crackle. This is the first time I think I've ever found Scott an agreeable personality, because too often "all work" = "boring dick". Not here. This is great stuff, and I think I might even like this better than the mad-wild Morrison run. Excellent.

Right, that's it for the mo... gotta read more, but since Ben is asleep and Tzipi is out, I'm going to go grab an hour of City of Heroes instead. Probably a bit more tonight.