Friday, November 30, 2007

Mark of Shame - 11/29/07 - Teen Titans #53

I know I'm not the only one that misses days when we didn't get images like this in our comic books, right?

Obviously there's nothing wrong with putting an image like this in a blog post, because any kind on the street could walk into a comic shop, and buy the comic it came out of. But could someone tell me just why imagery like this is needed? I don't personally want to see people I'm supposed to see as super-heroes tearing the heads off of people.

I think this is the point at which I label 'Infinite Crisis' a total failure. Wasn't it supposed to give us back a comic book universe in which superheroes acted like heroes again? Is this what heroes act like, Mr. Didio? And compared to Brad Meltzer's run on Justice League of America, this is restrained.

I understand that there's going to be a level of violence in superhero comics. That's fine... it's expected, and enjoyed. But why do we need such a graphic and bloody image? Can anybody give me a solid reason why it's necessary?

I was hoping to just have a light-hearted talk about Marvel Team-Up #74 (as mentioned yesterday) in which Spider-Man and the cast of Saturday Night Live foil the Silver Samurai. Maybe tomorrow.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Master of Comedy... AND Teleportation!

Who knew? If John Belushi still had that teleportation ring, he might be alive today! The full story including Spider-Man, Nick Fury and the Black Widow fighting Boomerang and the Silver Samurai (with John Belushi's teleportation ring, darn him) can be found in Marvel Team-Up #83.

The theft of said ring occurred in Marvel Team-Up #74, an issue that has already gone onto my Most Wanted list.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Trial of Tony Bedard

A little while ago, I posted, detailing the reasons for my negative impression of Tony Bedard's work in comic writing. I also stated my intention to hunt down a few issues of the CrossGen series Negation, as a friend had provided it as an example of something Bedard wrote that didn't suck.

I received the issues today. I've read them through, and I'm digesting them.

I'm not sure who came up with the pitch for the series, but I really like the idea. It's the story of a group of people plucked out of the CrossGen Universe, and dragged into another dimension to be studied by the forces of the Negation Empire, ruled by the God-Emperor Charon who plans to invade the CrossGen universe. So we're starting with a cool concept, and a mark in it's favor.

And I have to admit that over the course of the first six issues, it certainly didn't suck. In the first two issues, Tony Bedard shared writing credit with Mark Waid, but the book certainly didn't tank in the third issue. (And it's not like Mark Waid's never written a bad comic... I only need to think of his three issue run on Top Cow's City of Heroes series for evidence.)

Naturally over the course of the issues, the prisoners attempt to escape, which turns them into fugitives in a strange universe. In two small groups, they manage to escape their prison, pursued by their former jailor. So on some level, it's a pretty archetypical story as a group of disparate individuals with few common ties must evade a massive force. I think one of the things that bothered me about the first six issues was that we learned very little about any of the characters. It's possible that some or all of them originated in other CrossGen books that either I haven't read, or don't recall so that's not as heavy a criticism as it could be. One thing that I did particularly like was that one of the main characters, Obregon Kaine is considered a major threat despite the fact that he doesn't have any weapons or any powers... It's his ability to organize and rally the others that makes him a threat. To me it draws parallels to Captain America. He never had as much raw power as some of the other Avengers, but because he was the one who could pull the others together and orchestrate things tactically, he was the most important Avenger on the field

My final verdict on what I've read is that it was a pretty enjoyable read. It's not great, but it rises above mediocrity and moves along well. It doesn't do enough to erase all the stuff I've read that's left such a bad taste in my mouth, but I think it does go to show me that he's capable of writing something pretty decent.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Comic Day 11/28/07

Well, a stint of three 13.5 hour shifts is behind me, and I've got a few days off, which means it's time to catch up and see what I'm going to be looking at tomorrow. Here we go!

  • BATMAN #671
  • TRIALS OF SHAZAM #10 (OF 12)


  • DAREDEVIL #102
  • MARVEL ZOMBIES 2 #2 (OF 5)
  • X-MEN #205 MC

I've also read over on Phil Looney's Poptown (from whom I confess I shamelessly ripped off the idea of talking about comics I haven't bought... yet!) that the newest issue of Casanova hits tomorrow as well. I'm just now trying to jump on, reading up on the hardbound Luxuria trade but I think I'll keep my eyes peeled for the latest issue too.

The pattern continues, that Messiah Complex is vastly more interesting than the Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul. I'm hoping that this issue bucks the trend. If any of the current Bat-family writers can make this a better read, my money'd be on Morrison. I don't even feel too guilty for having bought New X-Men last week for the simple fact that the rest of the story was crammed into their book, so I had to endure those characters less than I might have otherwise.

I'll give Chuck Dixon a few issues to sell me on the new Batman & The Outsiders series. But I do have to say at the outset that the first issue was far better than the final issue of the Outsiders a few months ago. (Until I get the first six issues of Negation, which have been shipped from I'm trying to hold off on the smack-talk about Tony Bedard but that really was a bad issue.)

I do note that two stories which appear to have suffered some delays are progressing today. On the Marvel side, we have One More Day, and on the DC side we have the conclusion of the Camelot Falls story. And for the wait, I have the privelege of paying an extra buck or so. Anybody else feel like they're getting ready to bump prices up on us?

I'm also working my way through Alan Moore's From Hell. When I was in middle school, it was something like the centenniel of the Jack the Ripper murders, so for a few weeks it was big news. There was even a made for TV miniseries featuring Michael Caine as Inspector Aberline. Moore's book isn't what I'd describe as an easy read, but I'd be lying through my teeth if I didn't say that it wasn't good stuff.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Hey everybody! A slight deviation from my usual ranting and raving about comic books for the almost-generic Thanksgiving post. I may not always be happy with everything in my life, but I want to take the opportunity, on this day especially, of saying how thankful I am for what I do have.

For starters, there are the basics. I've got a roof over my head, and food to eat. For anyone who doesn't know, I work as a Security Officer, and I'm currently working the City of Columbia's emergency homeless shelter so every day I work, I see plenty of people who don't have either for themselves. It's easy, sometimes, to forget how much these things really mean. This is something that I'm generally reminded of for as long as the shelter's in operation, but it seems right that this should be the first thing I'm thankful for.

Secondly, I'm thankful for having someone to share my life with. She's there when it sucks, and she's there when it's great. And even though we argue, she never fails to forgive me.

Thirdly, I'm greatful for the generous and inspiring people I've encountered. If there's one thing I've figured out about life, it's the people around you (both family and friends) that make it worth living. I'm blessed with both, and I'm greatful for that.

I wish everybody a happy and safe Thanksgiving, and a good start to the Holiday Season.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

New Comic Day 11/21/07

Well, it may be a little later than I intended (I totally blame an impromptu rock-out with my fiancee courtesy of Harmonix's new creation, Rock Band) but it's still Tuesday, which means I've still got time to talk about what I plan to buy tomorrow.

  • BRAVE AND THE BOLD #8 $2.99
  • CHECKMATE #20 $2.99
  • DETECTIVE COMICS #838 (GHUL) $2.99
  • SHADOWPACT #19 $2.99
  • SPIRIT #11 $2.99
  • CAPTAIN AMERICA #32 $2.99
  • INCREDIBLE HULK #111 WWH $2.99
  • SHE-HULK 2 #23 $2.99

The stuff that's on the list is generally pretty solid, with the exception of She-Hulk. Peter David didn't really grab me with his first issue and I don't see a career as a bounty hunter offering as many opportunities to look at the Marvel Universe from a funny place as it did while Jen was a lawyer. Still, I'll give him a second issue to sell me on it.

On a separate list, as a comic I'm ashamed to admit that I intend to buy is:

  • NEW X-MEN #44 MC $2.99
I'll confess that I'll probably be purchasing this entirely due to the big X-Men crossover. Compared to the Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul, the X-Men's answering shot Messiah Complex has dug into me with both claws. That would be a lot better if was actually enjoying the Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul, but it has the distinction of being something I'm going to read because it's in titles that are all already on my sub form. If the world were judged solely on quality, I'd drop all my Batman books and re-add them when this drek is over but laziness counts for something. Ra's had a great death, a fitting death, and the void created by his death had been neatly taken up by Talia and Nyssa. I'd complain this whole story undermines the consequence of death in the DC universe, but I wouldn't be able to get halfway through the sentence without laughing. Everybody knows that death in the DC universe amounts to nothing more than a rough shot of bronchitis.

But either way you slice it, Messiah Complex has my attention, so good for it. Let's just see if it can keep it.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

On Tony Bedard

I was asked the other day just what I had against Tony Bedard. As I answered, it occurred to me that I may not have ever satisfactorilly answered that question here. So this is the post in which I talk about Tony Bedard.

Now, I don't personally dislike him. I've never met him, so there's nothing in that regard. But my impression of his writing has never been very good.

The first time I encountered Tony Bedard's writing was as a replacement writer for Chuck Austen on Exiles. Now don't think I had any special love for Austen's run on the book. (In all honesty, I think it was worse than Bedard's run.) But at one time, Exiles was a very special book for me. Pretty much all of Winick's original run was a book I looked forward to reading as soon as I could get my hands on it. It was one of the books that I read first.

Bedard's run though, had a total of two issues that I liked. I'll grant, I do absolutely love those two issues. But Tony Bedard's run ran over forty issues. Forty issues, and I can only recall two that I genuinely enjoyed, both of them extremely early in the run. (The issues are Mission: Impossible and the truly noteworthy Rube Goldberg in which the Exiles save the universe by purchasing a cheese danish.) Excepting those two issues, the rest of the run was mediocre or adequate at best, and I'm ashamed that it took me so long to drop the book.

Standing out among those issues of his run on Exiles was a story, and I'll grant that this one probably wasn't really Bedard's idea, where the Exiles travel from one different universe to another, allowing Marvel to handilly renew their copyrights on the New Universe, 2099 Universe and Squadron Supreme universe. The story dragged on, month after month, and was finally the straw that broke my back regarding the book.

But Exiles is only the biggest example. Tony Bedard has signed an exclusive contract with DC, and his track record at his new publisher hasn't impressed me either. He took over Birds of Prey after Gail Simone left the book, and his first issue was thoroughly mediocre. He wrote a single issue of Outsiders, and apparently it left a big enough impression that DC handed the new Batman and the Outsiders title to Chuck Dixon, instead of Bedard, as had previously been announced. (Granted putting Chuck Dixon on a book featuring Batman is as close to a no-brainer decision as one can get.)

Lastly, Bedard is one of the writers on the beleagured Countdown. I don't think I need to tell anybody what I think of that title, do I?

In the interest of fairness, though, I asked my friend to suggest something good that Tony Bedard had writen, and he put forward the Crossgen series Negation. So when I couldn't find any of the book at Ye Olde Comic Shoppe I ordered several issues online.

I like to think that I'm a pretty fair guy, and I'm willing to give him a shot. I'll let everybody know what I think when I've read it.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Attention: Chris Sims

I'm not sure how frequently Chris scopes out my blog, but when I saw this ad in a recent issue of GameInformer magazine, I knew he would have to be made aware of it.

A free double-sided Cobra Commander poster (both hooded and helmeted versions, no less) free with the purchase of any GI Joe team shirt. That seems as close to a no brainer as I can see.


Friday, November 16, 2007

New Comic Day 11/14/07

Okay, okay... between work, and my sudden desire to talk about Marvel's digital distribution initiative I didn't get around to saying what I planned to purchase this week. So instead, I'll talk about what I actually did. Here's the high-level score card.

DC: 4 Books
Marvel: 6 Books
Slave Labor Graphics (SLG): 1 Book?
Vertigo: 1 Book

DC saw a decent week with:
  • All Star Superman
  • Nightwing
  • Batman And the Outsiders
  • Titans East Special

My thoughts about DC this week mainly consist of an immense relief that they killed off Power Boy. His Supergirl fetish was seriously over the line as far as being 'apropriate'. A super-hero who's also an obsessed stalker? Great idea, guys! (And yeah, I 'spoiled' it. If you couldn't tell he was getting the axe, then you don't know why he deserved it.)

I thought Fabian Nicieza was an interesting fit for Nightwing, but I have to confess I'm not especially taken with the Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul. I think the biggest reason I'll read it is that it's going to run entirely in books I'm subscribed to.

Batman & The Outsiders was redeemed at the last minute by the simple fact that Tony Bedard isn't writing it. I like me some Chuck Dixon, and at least in the first issue Batman manages to be all business without being a paranoid jerk. So good on you, Chuck.

Marvel was definitely the highlight of my week with:

  • Avengers: The Initiative
  • New Avengers
  • Punisher War Journal
  • Thor
  • World War Hulk
  • X-Factor

I do think I have to ask though... does Marvel pay Bendis specifically to stretch his stories out to a ludicrous extreme? I mean, I feel like there was only half a comic to New Avengers this month. Granted, I think that's actually better than some of the previous issues. And then there's the fact that we've seen more of the Mighty Avengers (aka Tony's Team) in New Avengers than we have in their own title. Pity it seems to only be published quarterly or something.

Punisher War Journal was a blast. Matt Fraction's got a really neat take on Kraven's son, and it's something that's so obvious I have to wonder why nobody thought of it until now. (Unless of course they did, which makes me look a bit foolish.)

World War Hulk wrapped up far better than it had any right to, meaning it's the first current Marvel 'event' comic that I simply can't poke any holes in. It's gamma-powered hide is just too tough and awesome. If you're not checking out World War Hulk (and for that matter, the preceding Planet Hulk) Hulk will SMASH puny humans! (Seriously, it's great stuff.)

Somehow another copy of SLG's Gargoyles #6 worked it's way into my subs. I actually bought this comic about a month ago. I'm guessing it actually sold out or something, requiring another order. But since SLG's titles cross the desk so seldom, I can forgive Ye Olde Comic Shoppe for thinking it's a new release. (It's really my fault for not having paid more attention.) At least this one seems to have corrected the artwork goofs present in the first batch.

And with that, I think I'm heading to bed. It's actually a chill night in South Carolina, and some time under a down comforter is sounding pretty good right now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Marvel Takes a Shot at Online Comics

Well, through a work-induced haze I was getting ready to put together my usual suspects as regards to what I expect to shell out my hard-earned cash for when I noticed (on videogame site Kotaku of all places) that Marvel Comics is launching a subscription-based online comic book service.

This kind of thing, as a rule, is much more Jim Shelly's domain than mine, but right off the bat I think I can hazard a guess at two of his criticisms of Marvel's plan.

  1. "Marvel Comics has launched a new subscription service called Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, which allows you to traipse through their back-issues via a web-based browser." - In short, you have to be connected to the internet to read your comics. Do you want to read comics on your laptop while away from internet access? Too bad. You're paying Marvel to read their comics when they say you can. Maybe I'm crazy, but if I'm going to pay for the pleasure of reading Marvel's books (and I'm being sincere here, I genuinely enjoy their comics) I think that it's only fair that I should be able to read them when I, the consumer, want.
  2. "While you won't be able to stay current - it'll be at least six months before new comics are eligible for inclusion in the service - you will be able to catch up with your favorites without having to pay through the nose for back issues." - In short, don't expect to read anything new and exciting through this service. You might get around Marvel's well-placed attacks on your bank account. You can read what everybody was talking about six months ago though... so long as you've got internet access. (Okay, that was a cheap jab at point #1 above, but I still think it was called for.)

I think it's great that Marvel wants to address the growing segment of comic book readers that would like to get some kind of cheaper method of distribution, but this is a half-step at best. It shows the same kind of 'Rights Management' paranoia that's made the RIAA the punchline of so many jokes, while still jealously guarding their monopoly in the comic shop. If you want to read what your friends are talking about right now, you still have to drag yourself down to the store and put your dollars on the counter.

At the risk of plugging him again, Jim Shelly is making a real attempt to prove not only that comic books can be created for a digital format, but he's also trying to show just how it should be done. With Flashback books, you download them and they're yours to read as you please, on any device.

But if you want to read some of Marvel's back-issue catalog digitally, allow me to suggest an alternative. Eagle One Media has produced a selection of DVDs containing massive numbers of Marvel comics viewable as PDF files in Adobe's Acrobat Reader. While I gather that PDFs are distasteful to the online comic scene, they have the distinct advantage of being something that you can read where/when you want.

That counts for something, right?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Heist Books

This month at comic club, we read (and I'd imagine some re-read) Matt Fraction's Last of the Independents. For anyone who hasn't read it, I definitely recommend it. (In fact I'd say that I heartily recommend it, except I'm about the only person who uses the world heartily.) It's a very accessible and easy to read story. (Truth be told you can blow through it very quickly. The story may not have much depth but the characters are fully realized and Kieron Dwyer's art is spot-on perfect for the material.)

I remember one of the things that struck me most solidly was the very fact that it was a heist book. Our protagonists are bank robbers. And after looking at my stack of books this week, I realize that it's not as if that was the only heist story I'm reading.

I'm speaking, of course, of MODOK's 11.

I think that might have to be my pick for the week. It's a tough week to pick a single book though. I mean, we've got the first chapter of Annihilation: Conquest which in which we learn that the High Evolutionary has apparently gotten bored of messing around with Terran species and moved on up to the Kree. Astonishing X-Men deigns to grace us with it's presence. (It's tardiness is only excused by the fact that I'm really enjoying the story.) We've got the early chapters of not just one 'event' but two... one from each of the big two. But for my money, MODOK's 11 was just plain the most fun I had reading this week. That's not to say that The Order was bad... it was great, really great. But there's a sense of fun that I think seems to get lost in a lot of contemporary comics. It's the joy I get in reading Cable/Deadpool. It doesn't take itself too seriously.

It's funny, because early on I think I mentally lumped MODOK's 11 in with Identity Disk. I enjoyed that book, but if you've ever seen The Usual Suspects by Brian Singer, the story beats in ID come just a little too predictably.

Last of the Independents may read a lot like 'old' 70's heist films, as was frequently pointed out at the club meeting, but at a guess I'd say it doesn't take too much inspiration from any single source. That's a lesson Identity Disk should have taken to heart.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

New Comic Day 11/07/07

In the wake of the $3.99 monsters that came out on Halloween, this installment of New Comic Day looks positively affordable.


ROBIN #168 (GHUL) $2.99
SUPERMAN #670 $3.99

THE ORDER #4 CWI $2.99
UNCANNY X-MEN #492 MC $2.99

And of course both of the big two have an issue of their respective events. Messiah CompleX gets to show me why I should put up with X-Men and New X-Men, while the Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul tries to explain why DC feels the need to undo one of the best deaths in recent comics history. I think both tasks are about equally difficult.

It's no second coming, but I'm glad there's only one $3.99 price tag in there.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

About the DC Infinite Halloween Special

The first thing that needs to be addressed is the monstrous $5.99 price tag. Ouch, DC. A bit much there?

I can't help but feel a bit disappointed by this offering, especially given the monstrous Halloween price tag. (Definitely a trick, I just wish there was more of a treat attached.) I love the set-up, but on the whole it left a bad taste in my mouth.

The set-up is Arkham, on Halloween night. A bunch of the inmates, lead by the Joker are breaking out. They're holed up in a control room waiting for a shift change to let them slip out without triggering any alarms. To pass the time, they tell each other scary stories. It brings to mind the Almost Got 'Im episode of Batman: The Animated Series, one of it's single greatest episodes.

The problem is that most of the stories are just way too short. Now, I love a good anthology format, and shorter stories aren't always a bad thing... but three pages? The end result is that any of the stories that you like are over before you know it. And most of the stories just really failed to impress me.

Of special note, in that regard, is a story that riffs on the classic It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. (It's the Blue Devil/Enchantress story in the book.) It strikes me as one of those ideas that seems absolutely brilliant before you go to bed, but if you take a good look at it under the harsh light of day, you see it's really not as funny as you thought. Here's the gist: stand-ins for a grown Charlie Brown and Linus sacrifice Snoopy (off-panel, thankfully) to summon the Sinister Pumpkin to get their revenge on Danniel Cassidy.

If they hadn't pushed to squeeze 13 stories into one book, there might have been a better outcome. As it stands, the only story that really stands out for me is Phobia recounting how she scared Lobo. Maybe Lobo's fear is well known to folks who've been reading comics longer than I, but I didn't know it, so I got a few chuckles.

All told, I'd rather have my $5.99 back.

Late breaking update - while putting this monster into the database, I noticed that the Sinister Pumpkin story was written by none other than DC EiC, Dan Didio. That explains a few things.