Wait, What? Ep. 139: Minisodes

 photo 75b50ab0-782d-47d6-af02-1a849c64d258_zps217f6a7e.jpgHUH? With thanks to the always-excellent Miguel Corti.

Yes, we have returned! And as always, I am late, behind, and addled. Nonetheless, join me after the jump for show notes and our latest episode, won't you?


00:00-5:18:  Opening comments!  Mutual flattery in the course of technological anxiety.  A quick recap of what we lost in the fire (and by ‘fire,’ we mean ‘hard drive crash’). 5:18-14:49: What comics have we read in the last week?  Graeme’s answer is much more impressive than Jeff’s.  (But Jeff’s excuses are *much* more extensive than Graeme’s!)  We discuss Torpedo Vol. 1 by Enrique Sánchez Abulí, Jordi Bernet, and Alex Toth; and a discussion of Terry Austin’s inking (one of us is Team Austin, and some are not). 14:49-41:52:  Quasi-related: Graeme has an observation about Mike Wieringo’s art that leads us down the branching pathway of influence and a discussion about artists who are ubiquitous vs. artists whose influence are ubiquitous.  Mentioned in detail and/or passing:  MIke Golden, Dan Jurgens, Jim Steranko, John Byrne, Jim Lee, Geoff Darrow, Sal Buscema, Jack Kirby, Paul Pope, Joe Sinnott, et al.  (Also, we recover a repressed memory from our lost episode about Al Milgrom!) 41:52-53:34: Talking about Mike Golden’s Batman Special leads to us talking about comics Graeme has picked up in languages he can’t read, and Jeff’s shameful inability to get into same.  Mentioned:  Projekt X, Dylan Dog, friend of the podcast Miguel Corti, Barbarella, Floyd Farland: Citizen of the Future, and Dave Eggers. 53:34-1:20:53:  We talk about the recent Dr. Who minisode ’The Night of the Doctor,’ not just because it came out the morning we recorded this, but also because it was pretty keen. Also discussed:  Stephen Moffat, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, farce, Jeff’s theory about Glory and Galactus, the first episode of the final season of Misfits. 1:20:53-1:24:22: Brendan McCarthy—old news (I guess?) but the news coverage of some of his posts broke while we were recording the lost episode so we hadn’t discussed it and finally get around to it now.  Jeff tries to craft a mission statement out of the whole situation which leads to… 1:24:22-end: The startling interstellar podcasting crossover Jeff didn’t even know was happening!  (Well, he knew, he just didn’t really know when it was.)  If you must listen to only one dumb American lost in a sea of discreet British communications, make it this one!  (And then check us out talking with the brilliant and hilarious Al Kennedy and Paul O’Brien over at House to Astonish.)  Yes, this episode is kind of like our prologue issue to the Avengers-Defenders War.  Actually, since our prologue has come out after our appearance on House to Astonish, I guess it's like a more recent Marvel crossover event in that regard, Infinity or something.

So, yeah.  You can find us on iTunes soon if not right this very minute, but we are also below, right here:

Wait, What? 139: Minisodes

And also check us out over at House to Astonish!  And also be advised there is a 50/50 chance we might have a two week break since Jeff has two Thanksgivings to handle this year.  (On the other hand, we might have an ep. next week and then a skip after that -- please stay tuned...)

Hope you are as glad to have us back as we are to be back!  And as always, thank you for listening!

Wait, What? Ep. 123: Assault Monitors

 photo 056e8705-2df6-408f-a364-dbc9cee4a351_zps26378d3c.jpgFrom the amazing Kirby-written, Kirby-drawn finale to the first Super Powers miniseries.

See, everyone? I don't blow every deadline, just some of the deadlines.

Anyway, we're back (although SPOILER: we're off next week again) with not quite two hours of Kirby talk, Ewing talk, and...three year old niece talk?  Um, I'm afraid the answer to all of those is: YES.  Join us after the jump for show notes, why don't you?

0:00-2:35:  Hello again!  It has only been about two weeks but we are confoundingly rusty. 2:35-19:01:  And yet, within the first three minutes we are talking comics.  More specifically, we are talking the terrific Ethan Rilly's Pope Hats #3, which Graeme found on the cheap while we were at the comic store together up in Portland.  We talk about it, the work of Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian; the Paul books by Michel Rabagliati; how it feels to be in the elite cadre of CE newsletter writers; the difficulty of digging through long boxes as you get old; the food in Portland; Vegan Viking -- Portland food or Jack Kirby character?; the hero of World War II, Ken Dynamo: and more. 19:01-21:16: After some problems with his 2000 A.D. app, Jeff managed to get his subscription ironed out and was up to his neck in 2000 A.D.  And so in Part One of "this week in Al Ewing," we rant about the Zombo strip in 2000 A.D.'s Free Comic Book Day issue, or do until an unexpected tech snag sends us instead into…. 21:16-21:52:  INTERMISSION ONE! 21:52-24:19:  And we are back, with a story from Graeme about some hold music that is all about listening to music while on hold.  Meta.  And then about a company that has put the Star Trek logo onto an arrangement of atoms. Terrifying. 24:19-29:33:  But, yes. Back Al Ewing and Henry Flint's fantastic Zombo story for the 2000 A.D. Free Comic Book Day story.  Also, Graeme was in the store during Free Comic Book Day and saw some eye-opening things.  (I mean, apart from comics.) 29:33-34:54:  Hey, Whatnauts:  care to help a brother out?  Jeff is looking for ideal comic books for his three year old niece that are age appropriate and feature female action heroes.  This segment talks about the stuff he's looked at, the stuff he's looking for, and how you can help. 34:54-54:08: And somehow this leads into Justice League of America #3.  Graeme has read a bunch of recent DC titles and comes away with a good feeling about the variety in the New 52's line-up…or does he?  Included in the discussion:  the latest issue of Swamp Thing, Suicide Squad #20 by Ales Kot and Patrick Zircher; Ann Nocenti doing her thing on Katana; Jeff Lemire's Green ArrowBatman & Robin, and more.  By contrast, Jeff read The Movement #1 and Action Comics #20, and was maybe not so positive about it. 54:08-59:59:  Part Two of "this week in Al Ewing":  Graeme sells Jeff on Avengers Assemble #15AU, and Mr. Ewing's latest novel, The Fictional Man. 59:59-1:07:22:  Also under Graeme's magnifying lens, Gilbert Hernandez's Julio's Day and Paul Pope's The Death of Haggard West. 1:07:22-1:07:43: Intermission Two! 1:07:43-1:16:16: Can you withstand the onslaught of….The Graemebot! And Jeff has a story of frustration--dire funny book frustration.  Family are involved. 1:16:16-1:28:09: Jeff has seen Iron Man 3 and talks about that a bit.  What about Jeff's boycott?  He talks about that, too, as well as the weirdness that appears to the Avengers 2 negotiations and Marvel Studios. 1:28:09-1:32:46:  Which brings us to Graeme's tweet about Marvel and Jack Kirby that was retweeted 645 times. The figures in Graeme's tweet comes from the first issue of Comic Book Creator from Two Morrows Press, which we also talk about for a bit. 1:32:46-1:55:56: Speaking of Kirby, we discuss The Jack Kirby Omnibus Vol. 2, as well as the amazing "White Zero" issue of 2001: A Space Odyssey #5.  We discuss the first Super Powers miniseries, especially the last issue written and drawn by Kirby. 1:55:56-end: Closing comments.  Next week we have a skip week thing going on (again) but we make pledges! We make vows!  We take oaths! To try and give a good run of episodes for a bit.

As for the episode itself, well, hmm.  It probably hasn't hit iTunes yet (although that RSS feed does seem to synch up quite nicely to it these days) but, as always, you are more than welcome to listen to it here:

Wait, What? Ep. 123: Assault Monitors

As always, we hope you enjoy, and we thank you for listening!

Wait, What? Ep. 97: How soon is NOW

waitwhat97Just listen.  Trust me.

Episode 97! We are getting very, very close to the triple digits!  And, as you can see with the show notes after the jump, we are still capable of bringing the high weirdness.

(After the jump: Hi, Weirdness!)

So, right.  Show notes.  You are still digging these, I hope?  Because they do add a bit of extra duty to my editing chores...

1:04-2:45: All apologies:  Jeff is late, Graeme is behind.
2:45-13:30: But we are once again quick to start talking comics--more particularly, The Essential Incredible Hulk volumes and the art of Herb Trimpe.  We also talk Hulk and the crucial Harvey character that Jeff can't seem to remember.
13:30-38:39: And since we are talking old comics, Jeff brings up the curious case of Aquaman #56 (1971).  He was able to explode Graeme's mind with this story; hopefully, he can explode yours as well.  (There's also a harbinger of our tech problems to come in the middle of this.)  Also included: words of praise for the mighty Jim Aparo and frustrations about accessing reprints.
38:39-43:30:  On to other comics!  Jeff talks highly of Double Barrel #3 (Master of Feng-Shui!), Amelia Cole #2 (story by Adam Knave!), and Archie #635 (art by Gisele!).
43:30-48:08: Also discussed:  The 64 page 2000 AD sampler (partially read, partially too-completely discussed) and our hopes for their offerings as they leap into the digital marketplace.
48:08-55:34: Unsurprisingly, this leads to talk of Dredd as Graeme has recently read a span of Judge Dredd and tells us about it.  How is Judge Dredd like the silver-age Superman?
55:34-58:33:  And somehow I work in Spider-Man, X-Men, and the near-impossibility of reading every appearance of a superhero character. I assure you it organically flows into our discussion of...
58:33-1:04:34: Miss Thing and the Marvel NOW! announcements.  Graeme makes his picks; Jeff suggests that the Fantastic Four are done with.
1:04:34-1:10:49: And why should that be, exactly?  The answer might lie in a very different area than is typically discussed.  Belated props are given, btw, to Jonathan Hickman and we also mention the Waid and Wieringo run.
1:10:49-1:25:59: Speaking of which, Graeme has been re-reading Waid and Kitson's Legion of Super-Heroes book. Also Waid-related: his recent Four Panels That Never Work  about which we (incorrectly, apparently) assume the worst.  But on the plus side, Jeff hypes vol. 13 of Bakuman which is god-damned delightful and highly recommended.
1:25:59-1:37:58: And then, even though Jeff tries to talk about the new Archer and Armstrong reboot from Valiant, we talk about the second Walking Dead lawsuit between Tony Moore and Robert Kirkman about which...hoo boy.
1:37:58-1:41:13: No, we weren't done talking about the lawsuit, but Skype or Jeff's microphone just up and gave up on us.  It takes a minute or two for us to get back into our groove.
1:41:13-1:49:10: Like, Joss Whedon and his exclusive deal with Marvel? Hell yes, we'll talk about that!
1:49:10-1:52:39: Oh, and Archer and Armstrong?  Jeff does get around to talking about it.  Graeme has some good things to say about other books in the Valiant reboot: the new Harbinger and the new Bloodshot.
1:52:39-1:55:08: Also, Becky Cloonan on Batman #12 is a little bit of all right.
1:55:08-1:58:42: Also, Jeff picked up G0dland, Book Thirty-Six from the other week and found it (and we quote) "Kirby as fuck."  Tom Scioli does tremendous work,Joe Casey ups his game, and Skype (or Jeff's microphone) shits the bed.  (Due to the number of awesome double-page spreads in G0dland, Jeff recommends you do not pick this up in digital.)
1:58:42-end:  Graeme has a closing question!  Also, next week is our skip week...so we will be back two weeks from now.
And, well, there you have it, eh?  I'm a little exhausted at the moment so lemme just point you to  the direct link in case you don't have access to our feed on iTunes:
And, as always, we hope you enjoy!

Late, but still here, Hibbs sorta is in 5/9

Staggeringly, I've still barely read any comics this week, due to a confluence of many things, but maybe fewer means more in depth? Let's see below the jump!

Part of it, for me is being hit by crossover burnout hard this week -- 3 different "Night of the Owls" tie-ins, which, basically, all have the exact same story, three from AvX (more on that later, I suspect), and two parts of "The Culling", which, surprisingly, isn't leaving the involved books cancelled. Ugh.

(I think I've mentioned before that I kind of have to get through the shittier books first each week, before I "let" myself read the presumed good ones, because otherwise I'd never read much of the superhero books, and, then, wouldn't be able to do my job as effectively.)

There's only two things I read that I feel like saying anything about this week.... but first, a late-ish movie review!

AVENGERS:  because we're in the last week's of elementary school right now in San Francisco, things are crazy hectic with performances and other end-of-the-year stuff, so I didn't get to see this until this weekend. On the upside, I got to see it with two eight-year-old boys, which was kind of awesome in and of itself.

I don't think it's any real surprise after the film has made One. Billion. Dollars!....but, jeez, what a terrific film! I walked out thinking "Oooh, I want to see that again", and I've already had one customer in the store tell me he's seen it six times so far. Yikes!

What I think I like the most about it is just how strong the script was, giving every character plausible character arcs, a place to drive the greater plot, and a moment to shine with how awesome the characters are. That's a crazy hard trick.

It also worked remarkably well as a Classic Marvel Comic Book -- it's absolutely a continuation of various threads from other movies, but if you never saw those movies, everything you might need to know is clearly spelled out in both dialogue and action -- worked better, in fact, most current Marvel comics do in that regard!

Honestly, most big budget blockbuster movies are usually ultimately shallow affairs more about spectacle, but Avengers very nicely ties all of it's set pieces to individual character's arcs.

The action is big and crazy and maybe even, post 9/11, a bit disturbing, but it's also very well shot and staged, and things are almost always clear as a bell of what is happening. It also showed just how terrifying super-humans can be as engines of utter destruction.

I really think this might just be the most perfect super-hero film ever made -- it has as much brains as brawn, and it juggled a gargantuan cast of characters with the utmost of aplomb.

There were a few things I didn't really like -- I thought Scarlett Johanson was really kind of one-note/look through the whole thing. And I don't believe her as a Russian even one bit. I also thought the new Cap mask looked pretty bad. I thought Hawkeye's arc was weakest (though it tried really hard to find a way to make "real" Hawkeye's "reformed villain" origins work in movie continuity), and took him off the board for too much of the film. I thought the death in the movie was kind of uneeded, and the "hey, we got blood all over your nostalgia!" was a bit off-note for the rest of the film. But, hell, those are all just quibbles really. None of that could possibly take away from my consensus that this was an EXCELLENT movie!

Joss Whedon should now be allowed to do whatever he wants, however he wants (though that's been true for years), for doing such a loving job in bringing to the screen such a remarkable version of Stan Lee & Jack Kirby's (among many others) creations.


Just two comics I want to talk about, as I noted, so here we go:

TRIO #1: Here's one of those weird riddles of comics and ownership and all of that. John Byrne is well beloved for his run on FANTASTIC FOUR, a run which certainly couldn't have been without Lee & Kirby before him. Byrne doesn't/can't work at Marvel any more, but many people seem to want nostalgia from their superhero works, and they're sad he can't draw FF any longer. Ah ah, but what if Byrne instead came up with something that was remarkably LIKE FF, but wasn't legally-actionably the same, huh? There's a brute made out of stone, and a character that both stretches and turns invisible, and they're fighting some sort of a sea ruler and... well it hits every note just right, but it's just enough different. I'd almost say it's like "What if Paul McCartney, rather than Neil Innes, formed The Rutles?"

So if you want to read Byrne doing the almost-FF (and, if you like action adventure "classic" Marvel-style comics, yeah you probably do), then this is certainly the thing for you. I thought it was pretty GOOD.


WALKING DEAD #97: I'm not afraid to say that I think TWD has been a smidge off its game the last few months, with the super-crazy-hyper competent ambassador from the big settlement really feeling kind of out of place, but now that we're starting to think about starting to work through a "Big Bad" again in the form of Negan, I've lost most of my hesitation. This arc is looking as strong as the book has ever been, which is great because this is the first issue that will come after the second compendium ends (and/or v16), and is a great place to jump on to the monthly reading experience. This was VERY GOOD.


OK, time to go get ready for the NEXT week's worth of comics...

What did YOU think?


Wait, What? Ep. 86: Defending Your Life

Photobucket (Visual from Art Spigelman's piece on Maurice Sendak unrelated to this episode, but I adore it too much to ignore it!)

Hail and well met, fellow Whatnauts! Sadly, my M.O. of dashing something off in a state approaching sheer terror continues as I managed to put this together in time to hit all of our deadlines but with unexpected side-effect of stripping my soul down to its most bald-tiredian self. Forgive me, won't you?

But, hey, at least as a result you get to dig into the nougaty goodness that is Wait, What? Ep. 86. Packed with seven essential vitamins and minerals, the latest episode of Graeme and I answering your questions is part of this complete breakfast. [Quick shot of podcast next to two eggs, bacon, a nutritional shake, vitamin c supplements, orange juice, a package of Mark Ruffalo cheesestraws, half a grapefruit, a small Caesar salad, three strips of cooked lean fish, half a pound of spinach and kale, and a small palmful of acai berries and organic cocoa.]

For almost two hours and fifteen minutes, the McMeister and I talk San Diego Comic Con, Joss Whedon, trolling, Radiolab, the nicest people in comics, Scott Morse, Walt Simonson's Orion, The New 52 free comic book day book, Greg Rucka, Books of Magic, Superman's heat vision, Chris Roberson's Memorial, comic book pricing, how we would spend twenty dollars on digital comics, our favorite cheesecake artists, Gail Simone, Brian Woods' The Massive, Jim Shooter and world-class editors, Jim Steranko, 20th Century Boys and Bakuman.

And more? Yes, more.

Some of you have perhaps already booked a seat at this fine feast via the magic of iTunes. But if not, we invite you to tie a napkin around your neck Tex Avery-style and dig right in:

Wait, What? Ep. 85: Defending Your Life

As always, we appreciate your continued patronage and hope you find the meal to your liking!


See and be Seen: Jeff Looks at Buffy The Vampire Slayer seasons 1-8.

Back in late April, I bought the Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Chosen Collection boxed set off Amazon for a pretty good price. In early May, Edi and I started watching the show (I had seen most of the show when it was first aired, Edi hadn't seen anything) at the rate of an episode or two (almost) every night, and a few weeks ago we finally came to the end. It happened the same day I read the abridged print version of Joss Whedon's interview with the Onion A.V. Club, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer #5, and it occurred to me I was pretty well situated to talk about the new comic in relation to the show, and maybe kick around some thoughts about both the show and Whedon generally. I cannot guarantee at the outset I'll get anywhere interesting with it. It'll include spoilers of the series, and require that you be familiar with the show: I tried writing a sensible overview of the whole phenomena and it couldn't have been duller or more imbecilic. Also, you'll notice this essay neatly detours around the significant influence of the other talented writers on BTVS the show, and the writers-to-come for BTVS: Season Eight. Although I think there's some very interesting material to be explored there, it'll have to wait for another time. This damn thing is big enough as it is. As you know, I'm usually most interested in the crunchy subtext, and BTVS is a particularly interesting show for that. In part, this is because Whedon and crew were particularly facile with metaphor and subtext; there's the initial conceit of the show, of course--high school as a horror movie--but also the subtextual stuff going on in particular stories and arcs, such as the genius twist of Season Two's "Innocence" where Angel turns evil after sleeping with Buffy. But BTVS is also particularly interesting because that initial conceit gets thrown out after four years, and the show goes on for another three with an official eighth season now turning up in print. Whedon has said in the past he intended to start BTVS, get it established, leave it in capable hands, and then go off and do other stuff. Yet, he continues to return to the character. And why is that? Is it because as long as people are interested in the Buffyverse and willing to be milked of their hard-earned cash, Whedon is interested in showing up every morning with the milking pail?

Well, sure. Whedon is always swinging for the fences of pop culture fame, and I have no doubt he wants Buffy on t-shirts, and lunch boxes, and action figures, and in cartoons. He wants that because he strongly believes Buffy represents a special turning point for the roles of women in heroic literature, and it would be a great thing to have little girls have a strong ass-kicking hero they believe in. He also wants that because, like any other individual who works in Hollywood, he is well and truly aware of how much money those sorts of things make, and how much power is conferred to someone who reaps that cash harvest.

But, interestingly, Whedon is one of those artists for whom material considerations and limitations tend to improve rather than impair his work: If Seth Green wants to leave to pursue movies, it'll turn out to be the perfect time to move Willow in a completely new direction for her relationships. If Cordelia has to leave to be part of Angel, they'll bring back Anya. Although he's complained against needless and stupid changes made by others to his screenplays, Whedon will happily change his own stories in the crafting, break and bend the rules of his own mythology, and the joy he takes in doing so more often than not is experienced by his audience. (I previously wrote very briefly about this ability, which Graeme had quite correctly referred to as cockiness, here.) And although he's happy to break his own rules, he's exceptionally faithful to certain storytelling precepts, such as giving the viewers a strongly defined conclusion. One of the things that struck me watching the seasons one after the other is that with the exception of Season Four (the Adam/Initiative arc) and maybe Season Six, one could stop watching after the end of the season and feel satisfied. In the first season, Buffy owns her power. At the end of the second season, Buffy learns the cost of having that power (and runs from it). In the third season, she and the gang graduate from high school. And although I disliked a great chunk of Season Five, I admired the moxie of the ending being both definitive and open-ended. (Considering my memories of seasons six and seven, I was tempted to tell Edi, "Hey, you know, let's just pretend that was the end of the series." I'm glad I didn't.) In some ways, it was this desire to give Buffy a complete arc each season that made it harder and harder to do more things with the character as time went on, and force other characters into the spotlight more and more.

So the idea of Buffy: Season Eight in comics can stem from both Whedon's desire to make more cash, to give the brand that much more power, and his desire to tell a story, to have something to say that he can best say with Buffy and the characters of the Buffyverse. Or rather, the idea that Season Eight might be a bit of a cash grab won't stop him from developing a story with something meaningful to say. What should be interesting is seeing if we can tell from the first five issues of Buffy: Season Eight what Whedon might want to say, or what he might end up saying.

As I mentioned, BTVS was built around the "high school as horror movie" conceit it abandoned after three years (although I think the "college is hell" conceit for Season Four works pretty well, too). These conceits are successful in part because the same fears of powerlessness (and, also, a corresponding fear of power) that fuel horror movies are part and parcel of teenage life. As the series goes on, Whedon becomes more interested in that fear of power, and the cost of power, than the fear of powerlessness. Being the Slayer is a terrible responsibility for Buffy: the early seasons show her complaining about how it screws up her chance for a normal life, and the later seasons show exactly how it screws her up. A lot of what I found thought was careless plot hammering in later seasons the first time I watched became clearer on rewatching--even though it bites her on the ass time and time again, Buffy keeps secrets from her friends; she struggles with feelings of superiority and callousness that come from her power; she equates sex with danger; and she is too quick to accept responsibility for things that happen, to the point of defensiveness. Buffy learns lessons and moves forward with each season's arc, but she doesn't always become a better person or learn the right lesson--for most of Season Seven, for example, she's an insufferable ass (although what part of that is weaknesses in Sarah Michelle Gellar's portrayal--she clearly is ready to leave the show by this point--and what part of that are strident speeches made by Whedon on the price of being a leader, I leave for a smarter viewer than I to suss out). One nice trick in BTVS the TV show is the use of history (the school subject) continually being used as a metaphor for, well, History: at the beginning of the show, it's the subject Buffy has the most trouble with but as time goes on, her relationship to the subject grows more complex: sometimes people talk as if she's a natural at the subject, other times the nuances of it elude her. But it's never a topic she can dismiss: in Whedon's universe (and in the Whedonverse), history is inescapable. No matter how she tries to run, or what she tries to hide, the history of the Slayer lineage (or what she's done, or who she's slept with, or how she's fighting) is always inescapable.

I suspect, in fact, this is the reason Whedon was never able to break away from Buffy. The struggles of Buffy, one of a long line of vampire slayers, to accept that lineage is something that perhaps struck close to home with Whedon, a third-generation TV writer. Despite his attempts to be a screenwriter and filmmaker, Whedon was through all of Buffy the TV show, only successful in the medium of his father and his grandfather. Like Buffy, he couldn't escape his lineage and, like Buffy, Whedon grew most powerful embracing it and using the resulting power to exert control over it. (Now that I think about it, like Slayers, television writers are vitally dependent on their watchers. To what extent might Buffy's complex relationship with the Watchers' Council--she's fond of hers, but dismissive of the power the others try to exert on Slayers--mirror Whedon's relationship with the people who it possible for him to make a living?) I wonder if all the frustration and ambivalence and outright fear Buffy expresses of her power and responsibility are echoes of what Whedon went through during the making of the show (and Angel, and Firefly)--the frustration, ambivalence, and fear of an artist saying: "Yes, this is what I can do well. But is this all I'm going to be able to do?"

In the first four issues of Season Eight--the equivalent of one TV episode--Buffy is the leader of a worldwide group of Slayers, and she's more comfortable in her power. Xander is the Nick Fury-like organizer of the group, Willow is her powerful back-up, and Giles is her recruiter and diplomat in the supernatural world. In issue five, The Chain, a Buffy decoy dies trying to carry on Buffy's name, saying, "There is a chain between each and every one of us. And like the man said, you either feel its tug or you ignore it." Because the Buffy decoy does so, she takes solace even as she dies, saying "You don't even know who I am. But I do." While this suggests Whedon is more comfortable with the idea of one's place in history being irrelevant as long as you know who you are and where you come from, the use of the chain--a symbol of bondage, slavery and oppression--as the connector points to continuing ambivalence. (Or maybe I'm wrong, and the bondage Whedon talks about is his connection to Buffy and the Buffyverse, the possibility of being "the Buffy guy" for the rest of his career?)

In any event, Season Eight suggests that Buffy is more comfortable in her roles as leader and as Slayer, and Whedon more comfortable in his role as "the Buffy guy" and these are both comforts that couldn't be conveyed on TV, since in this medium Buffy is free of Gellar's "get me the hell out of here" airs and Whedon is free of his "what the hell am I doing still working in TV?" frustrations. In fact, free seems to be word of the day for Season Eight. Whedon is free of the concerns of a show's budget and he can deliver visuals as big as he can think of: the first four issues of Buffy have had magical battles, dream sequences, an army of zombies fighting an army of Slayers, dragons, castle raids...the list goes on.

And yet, this freedom may prove to be Season Eight's biggest weakness: all those scenes in the TV show of Buffy and crew in the library or the magic shop researching their enemy was a clever way to have the characters be proactive without spending more precious money on new sets, new effects, new fights--but it's also where Whedon and his writers were better able to make us care about the characters. (As I mentioned above, Whedon is one of those artists whose work apparently gets better under material considerations and restrictions.) At five issues in, I can give you a rough idea about what's happening with all of the above characters, but I can't recall reading a scene from the books that actually would have made me care in its own right--the emotional impact comes only from the affection I already have for the characters. Whedon points out in that Onion AV interview it's going to be harder for him to create what he calls "juice"--to create a character in the comics that has any of the appeal of someone on the show--but I think even more challenging may be taking a creator who's always drawn tremendous amounts of inspiration from his actors (what would BTVS had been like if James Marsters had never read for Spike, originally a one-off villain?) and giving him nothing to bounce off of but his ideas, his editor, and the book's art. The work on Season Eight so far has been pretty and competent, but more than occasionally rushed and never particularly inspired. Finally, there's been talk about Season Eight taking place over fifty or sixty issues, which is four to five years of real time. That's certainly plenty of time to craft a sweeping mega-epic, but is it possibly too much time? (If Season Five had lasted five years, I would've bailed and never come back long ago...) In fact, the last three seasons might've fared better at twelve or thirteen episodes each instead of twenty-two. Unless Season Eight has well-planned plateaus--areas that feel like climaxes even if they aren't the arc's ultimate one--it could take far too long (and cost far too much) for the audience to stay interested.

I think Whedon's idea for the arc (Buffy may have found peace, but the U.S. military--and maybe the world--is clearly still quite afraid of her power, and, I'm guessing, but just as Season Seven had the uber-vamp, Season Eight will have a Slayer-Slayer) and his enthusiasm for the comics medium will make his run worth reading. I certainly have enough affection for his characters that knowing what's happening to them next is tremendously appealing. But if Season Eight hits none of the remarkable high notes of the TV series, maybe that shouldn't be a tremendous surprise: lineage or no, it took Whedon a lot of time to become a master of the TV format. It might be naive to think, despite his considerable talents, he'll be able to do as much with the comics medium in a much shorter (and yet, thanks to the miracle of publication schedules, much longer) time. Ultimately, what may serve Whedon best may be what he'll least want to do--take some huge risks with the Buffy characters and the comics medium in the hopes of coming up with something new. If nothing else, taking such risks might help him identify again with the fear of powerlessness, and bring his relationship with Buffy full circle.

I guess like any good set of Watchers, We'll just have to wait and see.

A Rolling Stone gathers no Joss: Graeme's accidental theme post about 4/4 books.

This didn't start out as a themed post, but it just kind of turned out that way. See if you can see the subtle connective thread... BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER #2: Maybe I'm just getting into the Whedon swing of things, but this seemed much better than the first issue to me - There seemed to be more to it, in some way; the plot moved forward, there was the reintroduction of more characters from the TV show (although Andrew looked nothing like he did on the show, and was only recognizable through his geekdom and Star Wars references) but also character work that works within the context of the comic series itself. Also, there are zombies and fairy tales, which is always nice. More to the point, there is also some of Whedon's swagger back in play, from the switching of scenes at the start of the issue, to the dream sequence, to Amy's fake-out surrender; it feels like a stronger episode of the show, especially as compared with last issue. Very Good, thankfully, although maybe that's due to my recent reading of...

FRAY: Proof that this here site has been good for me, at least, comes with the fact that I read this purely because of people telling that I should, back when I reviewed the first issue of the new Buffy series and was somewhat underwhelmed. This book - midway between Buffy and Firefly (including the futuristic slang that really annoyed me in Firefly; Alan Moore, I blame you, purely because of your use of it in Halo Jones, all those years ago) - was precisely what I was looking for in that first Buffy issue: Fast, funny, and not reliant on you knowing continuities of anything before you started reading. The final showdown with Urkonn, in particular, resonated with the anything-can-happen feeling of Buffy at its best, along with the comedy of the finale of that scene. More than anything, it felt like the pilot for a series - I finished it and wanted to read more, almost immediately, but that's only a good thing. Perhaps when Whedon is less busy he'll get around to writing some more but, for now, this was solidly Very Good.

As if this wasn't Joss Whedon-y enough, his first issue of RUNAWAYS (#25) is also out this week, and it's... Well, it's Good, but pretty much a disappointment after Brian K. Vaughan's three-or-so years on the book. The pacing seems off, as does the dialogue, but more importantly, the bringing the book into the mainstream Marvel Universe doesn't work. On the previous two occasions that the characters were in New York, there was a feeling that it was something unusual and special, but this time, the Kingpin and Punisher appear and it's just underwhelming for some reason. The feeling may be gone, I guess, but that's not to say that I won't end up liking the new feeling.

Oddly enough, the most Buffy-esque book of the week for me might actually have SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #28. The first year of this book, and the last four or five months or so, have had a wonderfully episodic-television sense of pacing where each issue is complete in and of itself while still advancing the overall plot, with a blurb at the opening of each issue setting the scene for that continuing story as much as would be needed by any new readers. With the creative team heading towards the end of their run on the book, it's nice to see the clarity of focus that Mark Waid brought to his early issues come back, as well as the feeling that the book is about more than just superheroes in space - Both the first year arc, and this second major arc (although it went through a prolonged birth, thanks to fill-ins and what seemed to be Waid being exhausted by 52) have had an epic feel to them that's missing in most superhero books these days. Very Good again, thankfully.

What did the rest of you think about these books? You've probably picked up at least two of them...

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.