Wait, What? Ep. 118: Skypenet Techpocalypse

Why, yes, Stevie Wonder performing Superstition on Sesame Street is indeed relevant to this week's podcast, thanks for asking!

After the jump, somewhat hasty show notes for our somewhat hasty episode (less than two hours?  What has happened to us?)

Yeah, so it's funny.  Recently, we got an incredibly encouraging and generous email from a listener who was, unfortunately, fed up with listening to Graeme and I stumble about, complaining and crying out, whenever a tech problem popped up.  As a result, we made a promise to edit all that shit right out and do our best to master the arcane powers that control whether or not we're able to podcast.

And then this podcast happened.  To which I can only say:  We tried, generous Whatnaut, we tried.

And with that foreboding note:

0:00-11:37:  "Something horrible is going to happen."  Oh, if only we had known… Despite promising all of you (though some of you more than others), we would avoid tech problems talk, this episode was a bit of a challenge for us (as you'll regrettably hear).  Anyway, our brief bit of non-comic talk at the opening includes the nature of consciousness, Stevie Wonder on Sesame Street (see?  Relevant!), the stomach flu (a discussion of which you might find it a relief the volume drops out once or twice), appendicitis, and finally... 11:37-30:23:  Comics talk!  We have two weeks of comics news and comics to catch up on--let's start by talking about the first two issues of Age of Ultron. We are not down with it, but!  Jeff is enjoying both All-New X-Men and Uncanny X-Men by Brian Bendis. We talk about all of these things, in more-or-less a random order. 30:23-1:06:57:  Oh, and Doctor Timebomb asked us about doing  a post-mortem on Before Watchmen.  Jeff's refused to read them so he's not much help, but Graeme….well, Graeme is a different story altogether.  Operation: Blow Jeff's Mind is in full effect!  Oh, and we also come up with one of the best marketing campaigns of all time.  You're welcome, DC. 1:06:57-1:12:15:  And then for whatever reason, Jeff ends up talking about Bendis again.  Go figure. 1:12:15-1:17:35: Graeme and I speculate on what amazing seemingly passive-aggressive battle is being waged between Marc-Oliver Frisch and Heidi and/or the comics blogosphere at large over the monthly DC sales analysis over at The Beat.  Then, it's time for our moment of admiration for House to Astonish, and that leads us to: 1:17:35-1:17:57: Intermission #1! (Oh, stinger music, how I've missed you.) 1:17:58-1:31:22: Marvel 700 on Comixology!  (Alternate title:  Jeff's confession of self-abasement!)  We try to wrap our brain around what was intended with the giveaway, what was achieved, and Jeff links once again to Todd Allen's article about digital comics codes in which Jeff is quoted. Because, yeah, that's the way Jeff rolls. 1:31:22-1:36:36: Another way Jeff rolls?  With The Hulk.  With an eye toward maybe putting together a Tumblr that bites its style and charm from the FF 365 Tumblr, Jeff's been reading a lot of early issues of the Hulk.  And Giant Man.  Oh, god.  Giant Man.  Lord, does he want to tell you about Giant Man.  But then…techpocalypse! 1:36:36-1:42:25: Okay, here we are trying not make a big thing out of twenty minutes of "WTF just happened there, it was like we were split into gatefold covers and then our goofy marketing initiative name was withdrawn…" and instead we just apologize at get back to Jeff trash-talking Giant Man and what he'd really intended to talk about with Graeme:  how long it really takes for characters to click. And then…. 1:42:25-end: Techpocalypse Two! (I blame the number of times I said the name "Rick Jones" over and over right before the disconnect.) So we are reduced to me on Skype calling Graeme on his cell phone, having to apologize to everyone and then just sign off.  Because we have no idea what the hell to do.  So we're putting out this call to our more tech savvy listeners:  if you happen to know who has put us under an evil curse? If you could talk to them and get them to remove it, we would be grateful.

Episode will be on iTunes shortly, unless that email I got a few weeks ago talking about iTunes' shift in protocol has screwed us over entirely, in which case, uh, yeah.  Enjoy it while you can below, because the fiery post-tech world of the Age of Ultron has turned against us!

Wait, What? Ep. 118: Skypenet Techpocalypse!

Next week:  Hopefully more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff!


Wait, What? Ep. 98: Gorilla With An Eyepatch

PhotobucketGorilla with an eyepatch/ I know, I know/ It's really serious... from Boom!'s Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman

We are creeping ever-closer to magic number 100, as you are probably aware.  But, hey, why fixate on the future?  There's every possibility the world could be thrown into cataclysmic upheaval, giving rise to a world of intelligent rifle-wielding apes that, as here, look cooler than all hell.

So let's just pay attention to where we're at, and what's happening now, and also...show notes!

0:53-3:53:  Some tough work engagements for Graeme this week!  Let him tell you about it.
3:53-11:23:   For example, Graeme talks the Siegel-Schuster lawsuit and the recent article written about the Schuster side of the lawsuit.  For those of you who like Mr. McMillions when he's having ambivalent feelings, these seven and a half minutes are for you.
11:23-19:48:  And then in this corner... Rob Liefeld vs. DC, just weeks after aggravating Marvel's editors. Are you on Team Rob or Team Big Two? (Or is there no Team Big Two?)
19:48-22:41:  And then one of those wacky tech problems pop up and necessitate a call back.  Minor slight delay and then minor chitchat about the Internets.
22:41-38:18: Back to Rob Liefeld vs DC:  Graeme talks about why this story will blow things open wide for DC, while Jeff is not so sure.  It moves into a conversation about emotional attachments to creators, companies, and concepts.
38:18-42:28:  Challenged about what comics can be read in five minutes, Jeff talks briefly about the twelfth issues of Flash, Batwoman, and Wonder Woman, and compares them a bit with Batman, Inc. #3.
42:28-49:08:  Also, Jeff has lots of good things to say about the Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes trade paperback with gorgeous art by Gabriel Hardman (see above) and a strong script by Hardman and Corinna Bechko.  As an Apehead who's late to this book, I have to say it's pretty darn great.
49:08-56:26: And as we are on a recommending roll, Graeme recommends the first issue of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee's Rocekteer: Cargo of Doom.
56:26-1:05:04:  And then, just to keep the balance, Graeme reviews Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #1.  He... is not pleased. The phrase "eye-bleedingly bad" may end up being used.  A bit of stuff about BW: Rorschach is included for your enjoyment.
1:05:04-1:14:08:  Also under Graeme's four color microscope, Amazing Spider-Man #692.  (Jeff requests you ignore most of his comments in this section as they are even more befuddled than usual. Thx.)
1:14:08-1:37:21:  Invited to talk about stuff he's read and liked this week, Jeff declines and instead chooses to complain about...movies.  More specifically, Captain America The First Avenger which is on Netflix Watch Instantly. Also discussed: The Bourne Legacy and Battleship.
1:37:21-1:42:30:  Of course, that trifecta of movie cannot help but inevitably lead to Graeme talking about...Bunheads.  Well, sure.  Of course.
1:42:30-1:54:22:  And then, because somehow we end up out of time, we mention more comics we also find noteworthy SAGA #6, Fatale #7, Batman Inc. #3, Mind MGMT #4, and Glamourpuss #26.  Also some speedy head-scratching from Jeff about the Butcher Baker blow-up.  What does it mean to be a critical darling? Is there a "tastemaker" for comics on the Internet?
1:54:22-end:  And here is where we open up the question to you, our listeners:  have you ever bought a book based on something we said?  If so, what and how'd it go?  Who are the people in the comics blogosphere you consider tastemakers?  We want to know!  So you know...sound off in the comments, please.
Maybe this auditory apparition has haunted the forlorn witch-house called iTunes, perhaps not.  But you can cross the streams, so to speak (not recommended, I know), and also listen below:
And, as always, thank you for listening!

Better than never: Hibbs on 6/27

As far as I am concerned, this isn't "last week's comics" until I open the front door of the store on Wednesday!

BATMAN INCORPORATED #2:  This one is kind of a master class in communication using comics, as Morrison and Burnham basically tell you Everything You Ever Needed To Know About Talia Al'Ghul (But Forgot To Ask) in an incredibly economical, yet massively packed, 20 pages. Some pages have as many as five different scenes on the page! An absolutely EXCELLENT tour-de-force on this one.

  FUCK ALAN MOORE BEFORE WATCHMEN NITE OWL #1: Uh, wow. You know, I expected some of these would be bad, but I really never expected them to be almost a parody of the very idea of prequelling WATCHMEN.

This is just staggeringly bad: from the bizarre rapey childhood home, to the changing the original text (the worst sin of all in a project like this), to the scenes of Rorschach using-'hurm'-as-a-catchphrase ("DY-NO-MITE!"), to the cringeworthy "destiny of love" bullshit, I almost get the feeling that Staczynski thinks he is trying to make WATCHMEN "better". This comic, sadly, just reeks of hubris and shame.

I'd hoped to at least appreciate the art, but I found Joe Kubert's inks to be kind of overpowering on son Andy.

Either way, the writing just kills it here: this is everything you possibly feared a "Before WATCHMEN" comic might be.  Full-on CRAP.


FATIMA THE BLOOD SPINNERS #1: Beto is just insanely prolific, isn't he? Terrifically gory, this is a kind of perfect 70s-ish exploitation B-movie, but totally of the moment as well somehow. Gore! Horror! Large Breasts! I'm glad I live in a world where I'm going to sell more copies of this than of THOR and HULK combined, y'know? GOOD HYPERNATURALS #1 : I think this is kind of a perfect comic for you if you have a sympathy for the basic concept of Legion of Super-Heroes (Future, many heroes from many worlds), but not necessarily liked any specific execution of that concept. Or if you like the Marvel Cosmic stuff that DnA did, it's similar tonally. Extremely sturdy construction of ideas here, if not exactly brimming with truly compelling characters. I thought it was solidly GOOD. LOEG III CENTURY #3 2009:  It may be because I simply "got" more of the references and cameos, but this was vastly my favorite of the three parts of Century, and it brings everything together in a deeply satisfying way. I also find the idea of the universe being saved by **** ******* to also being oddly perfect and correct. Kevin O'Neill's art, as always, veers between the grotesque and perfectly captured. I thought this issue was pretty damn EXCELLENT.

(You can also get v1 & v2 on the Digital Store, if you wanted) PROPHET #26: With all of the people telling me they can't buy this book in their LCS, I'm more and more convinced that Image erred in renumbering from the 90s series. Without a doubt, this is the best science-fiction series being published today. And a great series got better with Brandon Graham himself drawing this issue, and kicking the concept a door open further. I admire (and get frustrated, I admit) by how this book doesn't try and spoon feed you its concepts. Really VERY GOOD stuff. OK, that's really all I have time for today, time to open to the teeming hordes (ha!) I am, seriously, going to try to get to THIS week's books before Friday and be "caught up" again. Wish me luck!


What did YOU think?



Wait, What?, Ep. 17.2: The Really Big Picture.

On the one hand?  Graeme and I talk about the recent news/controversy surrounding J. Michael Straczynski's departure from the Superman and Wonder Woman titles in a way I don't think anyone has yet. On the other hand?


So...maybe it all evens out in the end.  It should be up on Itunes shortly and is available for you to listen to right here:

Wait, What? Ep. 17.2: The Really Big Picture

And our grand finale for Ep. 17--our discussion of Return of Bruce Wayne #6 should be up very soon....

Superman: Earth One

About 2 months ago I received an advance copy of  the SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE original Graphic Novel. This was an uncorrected proof, and was a bit rougher than other galleys I get -- there's only about a dozen pages in color, other pages were inked, but not toned, while there's even a few pencil-only pages. I get a lot of galleys from many different publishers, but this one came under the auspices of a ComicsPRO program, and I made a fatal error of thinking of it while wearing my "Critic" hat, rather than my 'retailer" hat (I wear far too many hats) DC was (and, let's underline this very strongly) justifiably upset that I screwed up my hats, and as soon as I knew of their displeasure, I pulled the review, and apologized abjectly to DC through both official and unofficial channels. I screwed up, it was entirely my singular fault, and I strongly hope that DC will not penalize ComicsPRO retailers for my error (they haven't sent out another preview since -- which may or may not mean anything... or it could also just mean I personally have been removed from DC's advance lists, I'm really not sure)

Either way, I erred deeply by posting the review 2 months ago, and I sincerely apologize for potentially jeopardizing some of DC's promotional plans (among other things: sometimes "big media" are only interested in reviewing projects like this if they're given some sort of "we're first!" privileges. I don't believe that this changed any of those plans, but it COULD have, and it was wrong of me to post the pre-publication review)

However, the book is out now, so it's back to being fair game...

Here's the balance of what I originally wrote, then I'll come back at the end to talk about the final and finished book...


Obviously, since I'm reviewing from a galley, it is possible (though not, in my experience, likely) that some things will change about the final version. Take this with a lump of salt (not just a grain)

Also: there will likely be spoilers here. Generally when I review things, I assume you have a copy, so it's more of a conversation than this will be.

So, let's start with the easiest thing: the art. I didn't like it very much. It isn't that Shane Davis is an incompetent artist or anything, but his style is a little too scratchy to my tastes, overly rendered, without a strong enough foundation of story-telling or page layout that I would really want in an OGN series supposedly aimed at new readers. It's like, I don't know, pre-X-Men Jim Lee or something -- you can see he's got enough basic chops to develop somewhere interesting, but he's just not quite "there" yet. There's more than a few sequences where I can only kind of tell what is supposed to be happening, which is kind of a problem, really...

I wonder about the audience/remit for this line -- everything would seem to indicate the idea is to create NEW "Superman" readers, especially ones in bookstores (otherwise why even DO an OGN?), but I don't know that I can see this particular work really hitting with someone who hasn't read comics in a while -- in is, in my opinion, both simultaneously too crowded and hectic and, well, bombastic, while it is also a bit dull in places.

Part of the problem is, I think, that it seems like it is trying to serve too many masters at once -- the emotional heart of the story is really Clark Kent trying to make a decision about whether or not he wants to be a hero and protector (as his parents want), or whether he wants to follow his own desires to "fit in" (which, for some reason, mostly seems to spin around financial renumeration) and become a football player or a research scientist or anything else where he'd be able to excel with his alien powers.

However, this is really kind of a false emotional dilemma, if only because it is about SUPERMAN -- we know that, by hook or crook, he's going to put on the costume and become a hero sooner than later, not just because of the character, but because of the writer and his expressed love of the nobility of Supes.

It isn't that you can't do "Questioning Clark", but you kind of have to do it much earlier in his life, otherwise you sort of undercut the drama. Superman is better than we are -- he HAS to be, or he isn't "Superman". His lessons about strength and power and helping people and the dangers and risks it entails all need to come when he's a kid, or, at latest, as a teenager, not until after he's left college. While I understand that for most normal Earth-humans the timeline of questioning works fine, Clark ISN'T a normal earth-human, he's SUPERMAN, and by the time he enters Metropolis for the first time he might not be wearing the costume, but he needs to be well set on that path. Hell, by the time I was 20 I knew just what I wanted to be and do, and I followed that path the best I could -- Clark should be WAY ahead of dumb ol' me. So the timing really really didn't work for me.

The other "master" here is the need or desire to also have a giant-threat blockbuster summer movie-style action sequences. These are delivered adequately, but, despite a noble attempt to tie it back into Clark's backstory, I don't think it really works at all. I'll probably get back to that in a bit here.

Let's talk a minute about the OGN structure -- the suggestion is often made by many that OGNs are "better" because they can let a story breath, without the need for "artificial" breaks rigidly enforced every 22 pages. I could maybe possibly accept that (especially in light of semi-arbitrary 22 pages thing), except that I think that long stories really do need "Chapters", and the best kind of "chapter", be it in straight-up prose, or the commercial breaks in a TV show give you that same kind of "Wait, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!?!?!?!" feeling. That's a lot harder to sustain over 128 (or whatever) pages, and I'm not certain I can think of any comics projects that have worked that way -- even well-regarded works like, say, ASTERIOS POLYP or WILSON or MAUS have "chapters" that break the pacing up and give you minutes to pause or reflect (or even just barrel ahead).

SUPERMAN EARTH ONE has some really clumsy-ass pacing, and it really doesn't breathlessly sustain itself over its whole length. This is sort of most glaring in a fairly early scene that switches away to the Army having some fragments of Kal's ship, and a lot of blah-blah-blah about the government trying to understand it, and where it came from, and reverse-engineer it or whatever. I can see why these scenes were included (to provide a certain amount of [fairly unnecessary, at the end of the day] exposition, and to set-up a future thread on the Government trying to track Supes and so on), but really all they do is crash the forward momentum of the book to a halt, while not adding anything all that important to the narrative... certainly nothing that pays off in this volume. It might not be so bad if the Army officer or the scientist involved were given some characterization or motivation or something, but they're largely ciphers as presented.

(Also: you don't create a foil in a Superman comic with an "L" last name, and not give them an "L" first name -- she's "Sandra Lee" here -- but that might just be my 60s-influenced mind speaking here!)

So, yeah, I actually and truly think this would have been better if it was written in "22 page chunks" because that forces a kind of economy in plotting and information release. ONE page of "Look, the Government!" might work, but five pages of it just drags on too long, and moves the focus from where it needs to be.

(I actually think that comics, in general, would be helped immeasurably if we had a return of EIGHT PAGE stories to teach people the economy of craft, but that's a piece for a different day)

When the "Big Bad" comes along... well, the first problem is that he looks a bit too much, facially, like Lobo. There's also a lot of shaky motivation going on here, tying in the baddie into Krypton in what just seems a pretty flimsy way to this reader, with the INDIVIDUAL motivation of the INDIVIDUAL badguy being a particularly dopey kind of generic and simple revenge, rather than any kind of a PERSONAL motivation. this is why Lex Luthor works so well as a Superman foil -- he has an identifiable motivation (jealousy) to motivates him. The Baddie in this comic could be a hired gun for as much individual passion/motivation he brings.

There's also the slight problem of an entire alien invading armada, attacking worldwide (they show us at least 6-8 cities under attack, and giant drills that will destroy the world like Krypton), but only a single Alien has a speaking part, and once Superman punches him hard enough, the entire threat dissolves utterly. Ugh!

So, yeah, plot, structure, motivation, virtually none of it worked for me -- and I walked into this really hoping to be in love with it, and all I really got was a fairly bloated and muddy story. The worst thing is that I think that this probably could be "fixed" with 2 or 3 more drafts, and some real editorial oversight, and a general tightening of character and incident.

Did I like any of it? Well, yeah, I liked almost all of the scenes set in the Daily Planet, and I especially liked "Ultimate Jimmy Olson" (though Lois was fairly dull), so there's that -- I'd like to see JMS bring this version of Jimmy into the "real" Superman title... it wouldn't even really need to be a "retcon".

Though, having said that about the Planet, there's a scene where Perry White makes the point that news is meant to be facts and news, and not Editorialized (Kurt Busiek kind of did this scene better in ASTRO CITY, in that story about the Shark God and the Silver Agent), but at the end of the book they run the actual stories that the Planet runs on Superman (Clark's "interview" with Superman that gets him the job, that one), and damn if it isn't as editorial as-all-get-out. Damn it.

Ultimately, I think this OGN goes on too long, tries to be too many things, is is tremendously weak on characterization and motivation, except for the false emotional dilemma of  "should I sell out, or put on the costume?", and doesn't really add do anything to appeal to the theoretical audience that it is shooting for, and, in Savage Critic terms, that, sadly, makes it AWFUL.

Normally I'd ask "What did YOU think?" at this juncture, but you won't be able to for like 5-6 weeks...


Hi, back in the present now!

The final book is pretty handsome, actually -- I like the "European" style (not dustjacketed) hardcover, and the book has good "hand" for the $20 price tag, and I like the embossing on the cover too.

The color "solves" some of the art problems (though, still not on the storytelling front, really), but it adds some new ones -- flashbacks aren't colored distinctively enough to show the time jumps, in my opinion.

There weren't any substantial (or any? I'm not going page-by-page or anything!) changes to the text, and if anything, my opinion on the essential moral weakness of this Clark is now magnified -- I don't like this guy, I don't like his avoidance of being Superman, and I especially found Ma & Pa's scenes to be fairly inexplicable in making him a costume or whatever.

There's a line at the end that I glossed over in my first read that I think encapsulates my problems with this as a Superman comic -- in the (kind of) Fortress of Solitude scene Clark's super-smart metal says to him "Your task is to survive.  To use your powers well and wisely. And to avenge the murder of your homeworld." (emphasis mine)


To me, at least, Superman isn't about vengeance -- not even close. In fact, Superman is about exactly the opposite. Superman is the guy who will do anything possible to avoid a fight -- precisely because he knows we're better than that, even the screwed up people. Superman is about HOPE. About making things BETTER, about showing that even the worst situation can be made better if someone reaches out a hand in help and understanding.

In the '78 film my favorite scene might be the tiny little sequence where he stops to save a cat from a tree. Yeah, that's maybe a little cornball, but that's Superman. He's more powerful than anyone, anywhere, but "power" doesn't mean a lot if you're not trying to help people with it.

THAT is a metaphor that we need, that we should embrace -- not this whining, myopic coward who won't step forward until the entire world is being threatened.

DC has already announced a second printing, so I guess this is having some early success in the DM at least (if you have a Baker & Taylor account go look at the velocity of backorders there; this doesn't look so hot in the bookstore market as I'm reading the indicators), and good for them, I guess. But I really disliked this book, and I stand by my AWFUL assessment.

If I were to hand a Superman comic to a "civilian", I'd want them to buy ALL-STAR SUPERMAN instead.

What did YOU think?


Hibbs Tiptoes Through 6/30

OK, so I lied a little -- I meant to write the Dark Tower post yesterday, but then I found I didn't want to after Paul McEnery came in an distracted me for an hour. So, let's move forward onto comics, and I'll come back to DT at some point in the future (probably) WIZARD #228: Wait, what? Well, yeah, Wizard. One of my jobs is to read pretty much everything that flows through the store, and that includes mags like Wizard. Normally that takes, dunno, 5 minutes or less? But this issue is "Guest Edited" by Mark Millar, and there was a fairly interesting roundtable discussion with film-makers about how and what works when making super-hero movies, and while it wasn't great journalism, or anything, it took me nearly TWENTY minutes to read this month's Wizard, which is, anyway you look at it, a great improvement. There were a couple of other, at least, readable pieces. There's no chance that this bump in readability will last more than an issue, and Wizard doesn't seem to understand that people-who-read-Wizard actually want a price guide (sigh), and I fairly despise the company in general, and wish they'd just go on and go out of business already, but I thought this individual issue was actually fairly GOOD.

CHRONICLES OF WORMWOOD: THE LAST BATTLE #4: I don't think I actually mentioned this during the first three issues: while Oscar Jimenez is a very fine artist, his art is a pretty severe tonal shift from the first series drawn by Jacen Burrows. Given that the series is (sort of) "So, Jesus and the antichrist walk into a bar", I find I want that kind of semi-bigfootish cartooning on it, rather than highly rendered, tiny-fine lines. Still, liking this a lot. GOOD.

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #40: I really think the JSA has been a mess since Willingham took over; I know I've personally broken my multi-year buying of the series. And this issue really isn't much better: jumping around in time awkwardly, quickly resolving the non-threat of a modern nazi-driven supervillain group, and so on. Art is nice, however. But I'm bringing this book up for another reason: someone in DC Editorial or Marketing branded the cover of this issue with "A NEW ERA returns for the [JSA]" and "NEW beginning! NEW Triumphs!", when what the comic ACTUALLY is is the CONCLUSION of the current storyline, and doesn't contain a single thing that might make a new reader either jump on, or stay on. This is even weirder considering that NEXT issue will be the "jumping on" point, featuring a JLA/JSA crossover. I guess I just don't get the thinking of trying to make the cover super-attractive to a new reader, but not following through with that editorially? I thought it was fairly AWFUL.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #46: This is not great epic comics. We will not be comparing this to WATCHMEN any time in the near future. This will not be winning an Eisner Award. Hell, it's part one of a JSA/JLA crossover, so clearly it isn't literature. What it IS, however, is pretty decent, fun, superhero comical books. There's a certain amount of zest and zing going on here, and, maybe most importantly, it feels like it is taking place in a coherent universe. If all super-hero comics had at least this level of craft, then maybe we wouldn't be seeing such weak sales on so many books? Just sayin'. I thought this was mildly GOOD.

WONDER WOMAN #600: Let's leave the problems for last. As an anniversary issue, I was taken by this in a way that I wasn't with BATMAN #700 or SUPERMAN #700; maybe because I thought the "look back" stories worked well? I super-double especially liked the Simone/Perez story that led off the book, as being essentially "correct" in tone and craft. The Amanda Connor story was also pretty lovely and awesome. The Lousie Simonson story was pretty straight-ahead genericism, but it didn't suck. The Geoff Johns bit was... adequate, mostly leading into the JMS bit, but other than that, it didn't really have a lot of place in the book. There's also a big mass of loverly pinups. So, yeah, this is a nice anniversary issue, and one I can recommend.

But lets talk about the JMS bits, now.

Actually, as a starting point, it wasn't horrible or anything -- and I particularly thought the art was very strong -- this seems like it could be a somewhat interesting direction for a short time (though I am wondering where her lasso is?)

The problem is that we have to discuss the "meta" implications of this. First off, there's a timeline problem here, as I see it. Diana is told it has been "18 years" since whatever happened, happened, and there's a strong implication she was a child when that happened.. making her... 20? 21? certainly less than 25. I'm not a fan of this, as it then makes her younger than Superman or Batman. I've always thought that Diana was older than that, however -- Amazons are "ageless", and while we've seen her "childhood", I've always kind of assumed that she was a "kid" for decades on the perfect, timeless Amazon island. You may disagree.

The goal seems to be to make Diana as important and significant as any other character, but the way they've appeared to try and make that happen is to essentially remove her from DC continuity. This is partly because two things in opposition can't be true at the same time -- if Diana was "never" star-spangled WW, then what happens to the JLA? To Donna Troy, or to Wonder Girl? If she never was, then she never killed Max Lord, in which case he couldn't have "come back" in BRIGHTEST DAY, could he? WAR OF THE GODS and AMAZONS ATTACK then never happened (well, that last one is not SO bad, is it?) Hippolyta would never been in the JSA. I can go on, but what's the point? There are characters and situations that can be retconned, but Star-spangled WW really isn't one of them, because there are too many other things happening to and around her -- pull a thread like this, and the whole tapestry collapses -- she is, or at least should be, central to the underpinnings of the DCU. It's NOT like "Well, Peter never married MJ", because that still left Spidey in play as effectively the same character. Even the whole "Spider-Totem" thing didn't invalidate previous stories (and OTHER CHARACTERS) stories -- but this really would appear to do so.

So, there's that.

There's also the dissonance of renumbering the series (that previous #1 really never should have happened...especially because Picault didn't stay on the character) back to "classic" numbering, then delivering a story that really kind of DEMANDS a new #1 (not that I like "fake" #1s, but this is a pretty different version of the character, both figuratively and literally) -- it's like "we're celebrating 600 issues of this by getting rid of anything that happened in those 600 issues!" Weird weird choice.

The costume? I don't hate it. I mean, personally, I'm more for the sandals-and-skirt version myself, but I'm OK with mixing it up a bit. Ugh, that jacket, though -- it just screams "90s!", and it flashes me back to the bicycle-pants-and-bra Mike Deodato redesign (which didn't much last) (There's a pretty great article on Comics Alliance about her costumes over the years) -- it just feels very "last decade" to me, rather than "21st century cool!"

thought I really do have to question the wisdom of getting rid of the Star-Spangled look DIRECTLY BEFORE FOURTH OF JULY WEEKEND. Ooops.

Also on the "meta" scale, JMS needs to... well, he needs to think before he speaks. Apart from the factual notions he gets wrong (ie, she's never changed her costume over the years, Superman and Batman look radically different than they did at launch, and so on), he just sounds remarkably and amazingly dismissive towards anyone else who has worked on the character recently. It rubbed me the wrong way.

At the end of the day, I don't really think this will stick -- there's too much product in the Star-spangled mode, there's too much history that this unwraps -- and, unless there is a WW movie greenlit using exactly this model in the next six months, I can't imagine this will still be here in two years from today. Maybe I'll be wrong, I've sure been so before, but I can't see it.

Despite all of that, I still thought WONDER WOMAN #600 was pretty GOOD.

What do YOU think?


The Brave and the Bold #28: Welcome to Where Your Soul Dies

I read a lot of comics.

As a general rule, I at least keep up with most of the Big Two shared-universe titles, and I'm not utterly averse to J. Michael Straczynski as a writer. The first half of his Amazing Spider-Man run, Supreme Power, Thor - he's written comics I enjoyed thoroughly and am glad I paid money for.

He also wrote this.

I'm used to, and have a certain respect for, well-intentioned, interesting or ambitious failures. It's why I'm still spending money for Dark Wolverine, after all. To really earn my ire, a comic has to be completely fucked up not just in the execution, but all the way back to the project's creative germ. This is one of those comics.

Told with all the excitement and wit of a PSA capping off a Saturday morning cartoon from 1995, The Brave and the Bold #28 is a stupendous exercise in the time-honored field of insulting your audience. It's astonishing that just twelve issues ago this entire book's premise was based on fun team-ups; this is just about the least fun Barry Allen time travel story you'll ever read, as Straczynski somehow manages to turn a story about a time-travelling forensics cop shooting up Nazis into a completely banal morality play about -- I don't know what. Support Our Troops? America Is Complicated? Killing In War Sure Is Ugly But It Is Necessary? Anyone past the age of five doesn't need a fucking superhero comic to beat that into their brains, especially when said superhero comic doesn't even bother using metaphors and instead just places the main character smack in the middle of World War II.

While there, he meets up with the Inglourious BasterdsBlackhawks, who are not flying planes for bullshit handwaved reasons and don't take very well to Barry Allen's "not grinning like an idiot while perforating holes in scores of Nazis" mentality. So what does Barry Allen do, stuck in this time period with a broken leg but still able to use the entirety of the rest of his power set? He lets the Blackhawks call him a pussy, and then -- I am not making this up -- steals a uniform from a dead American soldier and rolls with the Blackhawks for a period of weeks. This period, by the way, is depicted in a single splash page, as the rest of the comic is needed for all the insipid moralizing.

So then, after pretending to be an American soldier for a matter of weeks and not using his powers to save lives in the war, his leg heals and he goes back through the time rift to the present - but not before providing a speech to Blackhawk about how this isn't the war to end all wars, but America survives, and its principles are intact, and they can't never take down Old Glory dagnabbit not while the goshdarn American spirit survives, by golly!

In conclusion - I guess that if you're the type of person who was moved and entertained by Amazing Spider-Man #36, the 9/11 tribute issue, then you might find something of worth in this. On the other hand, if you have read a history book before in your life, are capable of making moral decisions on your own, or just don't like being preached to in the least subtle manner possible - then you will probably feel, as I did, that this comic is the most astonishingly, pretentiously intelligence-insulting exaggeration of all of the preachiest, most insufferable aspects of JMS's writing.

This comic is like being lectured to by your grandfather. This comic is like a video they put on in history class during a substitute session. This comic is buying a story for $2.99 and instead getting a poorly-written polemic combined with an emotionally manipulative guilt factory. This comic is CRAP, saved only by Jesus Saiz's appealing but not especially noteworthy art. So if you didn't know what kind of comic this was -- now you know.

And knowing is half the battle.

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?