Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Night Fights

Being possessed by the Gray Man has helped Captain Marvel lay a beating on J'Onn J'Onzz:

Tonight's magic word is Bahlactus!

[From 'Massacre In Gray," Justice League #6, October 1987. Plot and breakdowns by Keith Giffen, script by J.M. DeMatteis, pencils by Kevin Maguire, inks by Al Gordon.]
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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thursday Night Thinking

Carl "Deathtrap" Draper proves the old adage: send a Thinker to catch a Thinker!

(Psst -- the password is Diamondrock....)

[From "Firewall," Checkmate vol. 2 #17, October 2007. Written by Greg Rucka and Eric S. Trautmann, pencilled by Chris Samnee, inked by Steve Bird.]
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Genes, Environment, and Kryptonian Body Types

I was admiring the new Darwyn Cooke drawing of Power Girl for The Comics Journal (on display, among other places, at Written World), and it made me wonder: aren't she and Supergirl supposed to be essentially the same person? Shouldn't this mean they look the same -- or at least as similar as their cousins do?

I understand that PG (Kara Zor-L) was rocketed from Krypton-2 as an infant, at the same time as the infant Kal-L. Her spaceship just took a lot longer to arrive on Earth-2. By contrast, Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) left Argo City as a teenager and didn't age much during her trip. Therefore, I guess it's possible that their different environments (suspended animation in a spacecraft vs. artificial gravity on an asteroid) would have made Power Girl bustier and more muscular than the comparatively willowy Supergirl. PG would have also been exposed to a greater variety of stellar and cosmic radiation than her counterpart. The Earth-2 Supes is beefier than the "regular" one, as well.

So, has everyone already figured this out? Am I that slow on the uptake? Could this justify more naturalistic proportions on both characters, or is the appeal of artistic license too strong?
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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sunday Soliloquy

Jason Woodrue gets downsized:

The "intellectual" line makes me wonder -- what if Alan Moore wrote Dilbert--?

[From "The Anatomy Lesson," The Saga of the Swamp Thing #21, February 1984. Written by Alan Moore, drawn by Stephen Bissette and John Totleben.]
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Friday, August 24, 2007

Friday Night Fights

Batman's been captured and drugged to immobility by Hugo Strange. Lucky for him, it's not a long VW-van drive from Hudson University!

Bahlactus is our Dean Of Students!

[From "I Am The Batman!," Detective Comics #472, September 1977. Written by Steve Englehart, pencilled by Marshall Rogers, inked by Terry Austin.]
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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thursday Night Thinking

Even in the late '50s, when she was known more for chasing Superman, Lois Lane did some formidable THINKING!

The mystery man is a familiar Silver Age hero -- have you figured out his identity, dear reader?

(We're flashing back with Diamondrock tonight!)

[From "The Origin Of The Justice League -- Minus One!," Justice League of America #144, July 1977. Written by Steve Englehart, pencilled by Dick Dillin, inked by Frank McLaughlin.]
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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tumbling Dice

Guided by Mike's Master DC List, my own spreadsheet sk1lz, and a somewhat shaky methodology, I've come up with a possible DC publishing lineup. These titles (or their heirs) were each published in at least two of the years 1957, 1967, 1977, 1987, 1997, and 2007, and beyond that I just arranged them into a schedule.

It's 16 ongoing titles a week, 64 a month. That's pretty close to the current DCU output (i.e., excluding the imprints and collections), so there's room for miniseries, specials, etc.

Week One
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight
Challengers of the Unknown
The Creeper
Falling In Love
The Flash
Fox and the Crow
House of Mystery
Justice League of America
Our Army at War
Plastic Man
Strange Adventures
World's Finest Comics

Week Two
Adventure Comics
Birds of Prey
Blue Beetle
G.I. Combat
Girls' Love Stories
Green Arrow
Heart Throbs
House of Secrets
Jonah Hex
Looney Tunes
Metal Men
Our Fighting Forces
Teen Titans

Week Three
The Atom
The Brave and the Bold
Green Lantern
Justice Society Of America
New Gods
Secret Hearts
Sgt. Rock
The Spectre
Star Spangled War Stories
Superman Family
Tales of the Unexpected
Young Love

Week Four
Action Comics
Batman and the Outsiders
Booster Gold
Detective Comics
Doom Patrol
Girls' Romances
Legion of Super-Heroes
Mystery In Space
Sugar and Spike
Unknown Soldier
Weird War Tales
Wonder Woman

Every week has a mix of styles and genres, including two Batman books, a Superman book, a couple of team books, and a few anthologies. Romances, kids' titles, horror, and war comics are also represented every week. (I grouped the six romance titles around Weeks 2 and 3 so there would be more incentive for those readers to come into the shop throughout the month.) By happy accident, there's also one female-superhero title each week (Supergirl, BoP, Catwoman, and Wonder Woman). Basically, whatever your tastes, there's something for you each week.

I don't know how well it would work today, considering the proclivities of the direct market. Obviously it favors the long-standing non-superhero books. DC has eight titles it will probably publish to the end of its days (Action, Detective, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Justice League), and I was originally trying to figure out what the slightly less "untouchable" titles (e.g., Titans, Legion) might be.

It's not perfect by any means -- it's pretty much what the spreadsheet spit out -- and if I were doing my own "fantasy list" it'd probably be different. Still, what do you think? Does this approach a model DC lineup?
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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Know Your Audience

I bought several issues of The Flash (vol. 1) in San Diego, mostly for the Green Lantern backup stories. Finally got around to reading the main story in issue #220 (February-March 1973) today, and look who was advertising:

Just so you know I am not making this up, here's the ad together with the story page which faces it:

The ad's placement in this comic fascinates me, especially considering that the inside front cover was for Daisy air-rifles ("In 1894, a boy had to learn to act like a man. Daisy's 1894 BB Gun teaches the same lessons") and the inside back cover is the familiar Charles Atlas "Insult That Made A Man Out Of Mac" ad. There's also the usual record-club, Johnson Smith Catalog, and correspondence-course ads, again familiar to anyone who's read a lot of early-1970s superhero comics.

However, I'd never seen an Easy-Bake Oven ad before, at least not in a comic so fanboy-oriented (even at the time) as The Flash.

And I'm not making fun of Flash for having a "girly" ad. If anything, it speaks to the diversity of readers DC's advertising department thought it had back then.

Heck, I'm just the slightest bit miffed that the ad was aimed exclusively at Sally, and not her brother too. I wouldn't have minded an Easy-Bake Oven back in the day. In fact, just this afternoon I was baking! (Not a euphemism. Of course, the pie I baked has two tablespoons of bourbon in it, which the Easy-Bake probably isn't set up to handle. But I digress.)

Has anyone else encountered the Easy-Bake ad, or something similar you didn't expect? I wonder how many girls Kenner thought it could keep in traditional gender roles with its inroads into DC comics.

Ultimately, I'd like to think that the combination of ads in The Flash #220 produced fairly well-rounded individuals of both genders -- fit, educated, music lovers, and able to shoot and cook. Evidently, I need to work out more and brush up on my marksmanship.
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Sunday Soliloquy

Today's soliloquy gets a bit more into exposition than I normally like, but that's OK. It's the Phantom Stranger, and that's what he does.

I can't say no to a guy who's so devoted to his catchphrase.

[From "The Carnival of Souls!," Justice League of America #145, August 1977. Written by Steve Englehart, pencilled by Dick Dillin, inked by Frank McLaughlin.]
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Saturday, August 18, 2007

New comics 8/15/07

Eleven issues this week, with a couple extra-sized. No time to waste!

We begin with The Brave and the Bold #6 (written by Mark Waid, pencilled by George Perez, inked by Scott Koblish), the cracking-good conclusion to the opening "Luck Lords" arc. It stars (deep breath) Batman, Green Lantern, Adam Strange, Supergirl, the Legion, and special surprise guests, but its cameos feature all manner of DC space heroes familiar to me mostly from the old Who's Who book. The big finish hinges on said special surprise guests, and I'm not entirely sure it's a valid plot twist, even within the plot's established logic, but it made me smile. Good work, all!

Next up is Countdown #37 (written by Paul Dini and Adam Beechen, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencils by David Lopez and Mike Norton, inks by Don Hillsman and Rodney Ramos). Considering that five people contributed to the art, it's all pretty agreeable. I'm sure that's the result of working from Giffen's breakdowns. Most of the issue deals with Mary Marvel's apprenticeship to Zatanna, with the B-plot apparently the cover-featured encounter between the Rogues and Poison Ivy. Otherwise, Karate Kid is still dying, Holly and Harley are still part of the Amazonian slumber party, and Jimmy's subplot leads into this week's Action Comics. Two-page villain origins start this week, with the first up being (appropriately enough) Poison Ivy, brought to you by Scott Beatty, Stephane Roux, and the Cheesecake Factory.

In the aforementioned Action Comics #854 (written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Brad Walker, inked by Livesay), Jimmy and Superman manage Jimmy's new powers and the new Titano, and it's actually all very sweet in the end, thanks to copious amounts of Krypto. More particularly, though, Busiek jumps back and forth between the "present" Countdown-influenced plot and the evidently-prior Kryptonite Man plot we've been following the past few issues. It might not sound like much of a compliment, but this has been a really good Countdown tie-in, and a very successful test of Busiek's shared-universe mojo.

Checkmate #17 (written by Greg Rucka and Eric S. Trautmann, pencilled by Chris Samnee, inked by Steve Bird) offers a one-off story spotlighting Checkmate's new security chief, the former Master Jailer. It's a fine introduction to the series, encapsulating all the paranoia and much of the politics on display every month. The climactic battle plays out kinda like a video game, but in a good way.

Volume 2 of The Flash picks up after over a year (i.e., after Volume 3) with issue #231, written by Mark Waid and drawn by Daniel Acuna. It's an introduction too, because as we all know, Wally's grooming his kids to be superheroes. Not to cast aspersions on the memory of Bart Allen, but what exactly was keeping this from being the Flash One Year Later storyline back in March '06? Anyway, the kids aren't unappealing, but I'd apparently forgotten that Linda Park had some med-school training on the way to becoming a journalist. I wasn't too high on Acuna's suitability for the title after All-Flash #1, but I was pleasantly surprised here. Because he's splitting his time between the Wests and the necessary exposition, Waid's script isn't as good as the All-Flash issue, but that doesn't mean it can't get better.

I haven't been as repulsed by Amazons Attack! (#5 written by Will Pfeifer, drawn by Pete Woods) as some, so when I say "it's almost over," that's more matter-of-fact than anything. Most of this issue deals with the Outsider Grace receiving overtures from the Bana-Mighdall Amazons, while Batman tries to lower the magic shield keeping the most powerful JLAers out of the decimated Washington. I still say it's not so bad, but if you've bailed on it by this point, I probably won't change your mind.

I really do need to re-read Tad Williams and Shawn McManus' run on Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis, because #55 was an enjoyable installment that could easily be described as "retro-superhero." There's a nice take on the monologuing bad guy (and there are actually a few of them), and Williams and McManus do a good job of building suspense. There are only two issues left in the title, and possibly the "new" Aquaman himself, but it's got me eager to see the wrap-up.

Brad Meltzer says goodbye to Justice League of America, at least for now, with #12 (pencilled by Ed Benes and Eric Wight, inked by Sandra Hope). Of course it's a character-driven ode to the greatness of the team, because that's been Meltzer's approach all along. It focuses on Meltzer's new members, Red Arrow, Hawkgirl, Red Tornado, Black Lightning, Vixen, and Geo-Force, and bonds are formed (in various degrees) between two couples. As with Countdown and Amazons Attack, you've probably made up your mind about this one already.

I didn't believe it when I saw it on his site, but there really is a screenshot of The Invincible Super-Blog on a SHIELD monitor screen in Captain America #29 (written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Steve Epting and Mike Perkins). More good stuff from this crew, and the shout-out to a comics blogger is just the cherry on top.

I bought Spider-Man Family #4 for the Spidey/Agents of Atlas story (written by Jeff Parker, pencilled by Leonard Kirk, inked by Kris Justice), but I stayed for Chris Eliopolous' Puppet Master story and the entertaining reprints. The new stories were great, and it's 100 pages for $5.00, so what's not to like?

Finally, there's a lot to like about Booster Gold vol. 2 #1 (written by Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz, layouts by Dan Jurgens, finishes by Norm Rapmund). This is a dense book, with lots of story "compressed" into its 31 pages. I had compared this book earlier to the old Chronos series, but it's much more accessible, as you'd expect. It pokes fun at much of what Johns and his colleagues have done at DC the past few years, and as much as I got tired of Johns' continuity-referencing in his JSA work, it's actually more of the point of this series. Thus, it works a lot better here. Jurgens' work is the same as always, not bad but still kind of stiff, and it too plays into the plug-into-DC-history vibe the series clearly wants to evoke. Moreover, Booster's new setup comes with an appropriate, and poignant, emotional foundation. A very promising start to what could be the She-Hulk of DC.
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Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Night Fights

I thought about combining this post with Thursday Night Thinking, because Reed uses the ol' rubber noggin at the start of this sequence...

... but in the end, it's still Clobberin' Time!

The clobberin' continues all night at the Bahlactus Building!

[From Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four #4, September 2007. Written by Jeff Parker, pencilled by Mike Wieringo, inked by Karl Kesel. Rest in peace, 'Ringo.]
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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Thursday Night Thinking

My Thursday Night Thinking and Friday Night Fights for this week spotlight the late Mike Wieringo.

Good thing Diamondrock wants something a little different this time. It's not the typical THINKING! post, but it's the first 'Ringo scene that came to mind. After all, Older Wally does give Young Wally a lot to think about....

[From "Flashing Back," Flash vol. 2 #0, October 1994. Written by Mark Waid, pencilled by Mike Wieringo, inked by Jose Marzan Jr.]
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Monday, August 13, 2007

Goodbye, Ringo

I didn't know Mike Wieringo personally, but I felt like I did. My buddy Sam had met him years ago in the course of doing some prototype Tellos figures. Today, when Sam called me, I knew why even before I answered the phone.

So I didn't know Mike Wieringo, but like Mike Parobeck, another comics artist who left this world too soon, I felt like I knew him through his work. Readers of this blog need look no further than last week's Sunday Soliloquy, and its quiet study of Reed Richards, for a great example of Wieringo's craftsmanship.

It's all there: the attention to detail, the way the characters move, and the expressiveness of both Reed and Valeria. Wieringo has what some might call a "cartoony" style, but it's hardly unrealistic. His objects have weight and his characters have life. There isn't much action on those two pages, but that just goes to show how good 'Ringo was at making them come alive.

Mike Wieringo worked on some of the Big Two's most treasured properties, including the Flash, Robin the Boy Wonder, Superman, Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four. He "got" the appeal of superheroes, I think, and translated that appeal perfectly onto the page. The best superhero artists make us forget about the genre's constant struggle between "realism" and fantasy, and simply transport us into the worlds their pencils create. Mike Wieringo was a master at that. He never seemed to give less than his best, and in turn his best seemed effortless.

My thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones. He brought a lot of joy to a lot of us.
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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sunday Soliloquy

When Grant Morrison reintroduced the Key, he expanded the villain's modus operandi along with his consciousness.

Morrison also gave the loquacious Key (he gets an even more expository monologue in the next issue) a nice sarcastic streak. For example, the Key calls the new Green Arrow an "ignorant junkfood MTV moron" ... which isn't really true, of course, but it's still clever.

[From "Imaginary Stories," JLA #8, August 1997. Written by Morrison, pencilled by Oscar Jimenez, inked by Chip Wallace.]
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Saturday, August 11, 2007

New comics 8/8/07

We begin with Countdown #38 (written by Paul Dini, Justin Gray, & Jimmy Palmiotti, pencilled by Jesus Saiz, inked by Palmiotti), which has a lot of action, several big names, and a couple of decent character scenes, and yet it's undone by the little things.

The backbone of the issue is a cyber-fight between Oracle and the Calculator which has repercussions out in the real world. The JLA, JSA, and Freedom Fighters have to stop the various crashing planes and launching missiles, so there's your action. In an unrelated story (or is it?!?), Mary Marvel and Zatanna fight off Slig, one of the Apokoliptian Deep Six, who nevertheless becomes the latest Fourth Worlder to get zapped away. Jimmy Olsen tries to join the Teen Titans, and Trickster and Piper convince the Question they're not guilty of murdering Bart Allen. Oh, and Karate Kid is dying.

The problem is, Zatanna doesn't use the full range of her powers, but Mary Marvel has some new ones. The runaway Rogues are apparently too dumb to be lying about the Flash's death, but they still get away from the Question and Batwoman (who, admittedly, aren't all that experienced as superheroes). Finally, the Jimmy scene doesn't resolve anything: he doesn't join the Titans, but he's not dissuaded from superheroics; and the limit of his powers is something we readers probably figured out a few weeks ago. Art is good, though -- Saiz is a fine storyteller.

Star Wars: Rebellion #9 (written by Brandon Badeaux & Rob Williams, drawn by Michel Lacombe) was an entertaining chapter of the latest arc, with lots of action and plot movement. Using characters who aren't "untouchable" members of the main cast only reinforces the anything-goes feel. Art is quite good -- expressive, but faithful to the SW details that the license commands. Some of the character moments are a bit familiar, but again, it's Star Wars.

Speaking of character development, it turns out (in JLA Classified #41, written by Peter Milligan, drawn by Carlos D'Anda) that Kid Amazo's incorporated more of the Justice League than just their powers. Again, I think there are a few interesting nature-vs.-nurture and free-will questions floating around this story, and the end of the story is rather disquieting for the JLA's own solidarity. However, it's somewhere in between a philosophy treatise acted out by the Justice League, and a Justice League story rooted in philosophical principles. It's probably closer to the latter. Not bad, but not as great as I originally hoped.

Green Lantern #22 (written by Geoff Johns, pencilled by Ivan Reis, inked by Oclair Albert) is a big fight on Qward between Hal and Kyle and their attendant GL and SC colleagues. An interlude involving the Cyborg Superman and the Anti-Monitor is very Vader-and-Palpatine, which can't be a coincidence. Reis and Albert do a great job at organizing the chaos, creating a comic which invites the reader to slow down and look at the detail while simultaneously pushing the action forward. Everything looks bleak, but in a good way.

Finally, as you might have expected, I enjoyed Batman #667 (written by Grant Morrison, drawn by J.H. Williams III) the most this week. I can't say enough about Williams' design: panels are shaped like black gloves, the first page dissolves into bats, and a hero falls under a painting of past glory. The "Batmen Of Many Nations" is perfect for Morrison's multiple-choice examinations of superheroics, and he doesn't disappoint here. It's perhaps the best part of his Batman tenure so far, which is saying a lot.

So just as an appendix, here's a picture of the original Club, cribbed from my trusty Michael Fleisher Batman Encyclopedia, along with its rundown of the original members.

England has the Knight and the Squire, secretly the Earl of Wordenshire and his young son Cyril, who, clad in knightly raiment, roar into action astride their motorized "war horses" whenever the tolling of the bell in a nearby rectory warns them that their services are urgently needed (BM No. 62/2, Dec/Jan '50-'51: "The Batman Of England!"),

Batman counterparts in other countries include the Legionary of Italy, the Musketeer of France, the Ranger of Australia, and the Gaucho of South America (Det. No. 215, Jan '55: "The Batmen Of All Nations!"). And in the Western United States, in the region inhabited by the Sioux, Chief Man-Of-The-Bats and his young son Little Raven battle crime and injustice among the Sioux much as Batman and Robin battle crime in Gotham City (BM No. 86/3, Sep '54: "Batman -- Indian Chief!").

Although Batman has given advice and encouragement to all these crime-fighters, some he has actually trained himself from scratch, such as Northern Europe's Wingman (BM No. 65/1, Jun/Jul '51: "A Partner for Batman!") and Latin America's Bat-Hombre (BM No. 56/1, Dec/Jan '49-'50: "Ride, Bat-Hombre, Ride!"). Bat-Hombre cauased Batman grave disappointment, however, when he turned out to be a member of an outlaw band....

(Fleisher, pp. 75-76.)

So there you go. There's a Batman in the 31st Century (but not the Legion's 31st) and on the distant planet Zur-En-Arrh; and Batman-related figures throughout history: a caveman (Tiger Man), an ancient Babylonian (Zorn -- I am not making that one up), the 17th Century American colonist Jeremy Coe, and the 18th Century's Abel "Captain Lightfoot" Adams. I don't expect Morrison to use all of these, but at this point, who knows?
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Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Night Fights

Nexus is beaten, bruised, and bloodied by a goon who works for Clausius the slaver -- until the goon's power source switches sides:

Bahlactus doesn't run!

[From "Aye, Clausius," Nexus vol. 2 #2 (1983), reprinted in Nexus Archives Volume One. Written by Mike Baron, drawn by Steve Rude.]
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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Thursday Night Thinking

Hal's all emo because he stopped a robber, but destroyed the stolen cash...

... Or did he...?

THINKING saves the day!

(How now, blue Diamondrock cow?)

[From "Yellow Is A Dirty Little Color," the backup story in The Flash #224, November-December 1973. Written by Denny O'Neil, drawn by Dick Giordano.]
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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A small question

This has been bugging me for a while: how long will The All-New Atom keep "All-New" in its title?

The cynic in me notes that the title isn't selling all that well (just under 17,000 in June), so the issue may be moot before too long.

Still, though ... issue 25? Issue 50?
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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Sunday Soliloquy

Here's the emotional climax to the first issue of Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo's excellent (sorry, plok!) run on Fantastic Four. The idea behind Reed's speech came from editor Tom Brevoort, and Waid and 'Ringo dramatized it very well.

(You'll have to click to enlarge the pages, I'm afraid -- this was in the Marvel Age Of Lower-Case Lettering!)

Now, if you'll excuse me, my allergies are acting up -- why else would I be sniffling so...?

[From "Inside Out," Fantastic Four vol. 2 #60 (vol. 1 #489), October 2002. Written by Mark Waid, pencilled by Mike Wieringo, inked by Karl Kesel.]
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Saturday, August 04, 2007

New comics 7/25/07 and 8/1/07

Someday soon I'll get caught up. July was ka-razy all around, not just with San Diego.

Anyway, let's begin with the comics I read in between a thousand other things happening the day before the plane took off....


Batman #666 (written by Grant Morrison, pencilled by Andy Kubert, inked by Jesse Delperdang) is the third DC comic to reach that infamous number, and I'm pretty sure it's the one which takes the most inspiration from said number. Future Batman Damien Wayne fights the last of the Black Casebook's faux Batmen in a story rich with metatextual meaning. Kubert and Delperdang are especially good at depicting the hellish future Gotham and the evil, red-goggled Batman who thinks he's going to destroy it. For a while I've been convinced that Morrison's run is dedicated to exploring what it means to "be" Batman, mostly by looking at how others (Damien, the evil pretenders, the upcoming Club of Heroes) take on the role. I'm not quite ready to say it's of a piece with Seven Soldiers' examination of different types of superheroes, but it's fascinating nonetheless. I may have to get the collections, if only to read the stories in a big chunk, without these months of delays and fill-ins separating them.

It also seems to me that All-Star Batman & Robin (#6 written by Frank Miller, pencilled by Jim Lee, inked by Scott Williams) is meant to be seen in a similar "nature of the superhero" light. This issue's set pieces involve rookie heroes Black Canary and Batgirl, and Batman musing about "all these wannabes." It's still not anywhere near a plot; but honestly, the book's erratic schedule may actually be working in its favor: if it comes out so infrequently, why not spend the $2.99?

Sinestro fights Soranik Natu in Green Lantern Corps #14 (written by Dave Gibbons, pencilled by Patrick Gleason and Angel Unzueta, inked by Prentis Rollins), and basically, both of them win the battle in different ways. I've called "Sinestro Corps" a big excuse for fighting (not that that's a bad thing), but what's great about this issue is the way in which it plays with the reader's expectations. It's unlikely that Sinestro, bad as he is, will be "allowed" to kill Dr. Natu, beloved as she is; but it's more unlikely that Natu, a rookie GL, could hold her own against the No. 1 Renegade. The issue's solution is pretty clever.

Just like that, the Jodi Picoult Era is over, as J. Torres writes and Paco Diaz draws Wonder Woman #11, another brick in the Amazons Attack wall. Diana heads back to Themyscira to protect it from a nuclear strike, and finds the wreckage of Greg Rucka's excellent "politicizing" of the Greek pantheon. Much of the rest of the issue shows us various Justice Leaguers and Justice Socialites fighting the invaders. It's better than a Picoult issue, but it's hardly the best the book's been. Three more issues of this -- one WW, two AA -- right?

Is it too late to put Kurt Busiek in the Countdown rotation? He's done a fine job with Jimmy's involvement, even though Superman #665 (pencilled by Rick Leonardi, inked by Ande Parks) isn't part of the main story. This particular issue shows us Jimmy's "origin," coming from homeless newsboy to Planet photographer and Superman's Pal. I've liked Leonardi's work for a long time, probably going back twenty years, so he's good as always, and Parks' lines are thick enough to give his figures the appropriate weight. The story's fun too, in case I didn't make that clear.

As for the main book, Countdown #40 (written by Paul Dini and Tony Bedard, breakdowns by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Manuel Garcia, inked by Mark McKenna) focuses on three scenes: Donna et al. fighting yet another group of "natives," Holly questioning the shelter's priorities, and the Pied Piper and Trickster hooking up with the Penguin. It also checks in with Jimmy and Mary Marvel. The "Ray Palmer" story is getting a little tedious, as is the Holly story, and the Jimmy story is getting better coverage in the Superman titles as of late, so that leaves Mary Marvel and the Rogues to salvage the issue, and Mary's scene is a little too short. Garcia and McKenna provide decent art -- nothing groundbreaking; kind of in the Brad Walker/Eddy Barrows range.


Thankfully, Countdown #39 (written by Dini and Sean McKeever, pencilled by Jim Calafiore, inked by Jay Leisten) starts off much better, as Karate Kid and the last of Triplicate Girl break into Oracle's office. Holly meets Athena -- but is it the same Athena who was mad at Wonder Woman last week? -- and the Suicide Squad comes after Piper and Trickster. Art is fine; I thought Calafiore was a good fill-in artist back in the Peter David days of Aquaman, and he's better here than he has been on the series. Maybe it's the inks. I liked this issue more than I did the last one, and it may well be because Countdown (unlike 52) does action pretty well. The talky Monitor backup (by Dan Jurgens) even goes a long way towards explaining the nature of the threat, which is nice considering that we're at the one-quarter mark.

Speaking of threats to the multiverse, wasn't She-Hulk #20 (pencilled by Rick Burchett, inked by Cliff Rathburn) not only Dan Slott's last issue, but also some kind of panacea for Marvel continuity at large? Generally, though, it's a quick and dirty wrap-up to Slott's years with Shulkie, including the by-now-familiar "here are the stories I would have done if I had the time" teases. It's not entirely successful -- or, maybe I should say it would have been more successful had I read the Jen-as-judge issues from the last part of Slott's first series. Anyway, it's not bad. Slott hasn't had much room to do his own stuff for a while, with all the crossovers the book's been part of the past few months, so I guess this is one last example of the unadulterated book.

Fantastic Four #548 (written by Dwayne McDuffie, pencilled by Paul Pelletier, inked by Rick Magyar) kicks off the full FF's (Reed and Sue included) battle with the Frightful Four, so it's good clean superhero combat. Much the same is on display in Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four #4 (written by Jeff Parker, pencilled by Mike Wieringo, inked by Wayne von Grawbadger). Both are highly recommended for all your FF needs.

Welcome To Tranquility #9 (written by Gail Simone, drawn by Neil Googe) brings the Devil, more zombies, and Freefall (right? with the purple hair) to town. The main story's fine, but the backup (pencilled by Leandro Fernandez, inked by Francisco Paronzini) is quite good. It explains, in the best EC tradition, why the Coyote Kid has such a mad-on for zombies. I still enjoy the series, although I don't think it'll be around much longer.

More spooky goings-on abound in Detective Comics #835 (written by John Rozum, drawn by Tom Mandrake), as the Scarecrow decides to use puh-sychology on his victims instead of that old crutch, fear-gas. The notion that Batman could be pushed To The Edge (TM) even by the Scarecrow's gruesome new tactics is a bit hard to accept, and Mandrake's art isn't for everyone, but overall it's fairly effective.

Nightwing #135 (written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by Jon Bosco, inked by Alex Silva) presents exposition via interrogation, as Vigilante facilitates Dick's flashbacks to how he busted Metal Eddie back in the day. It's about how you'd expect, considering that most of the information has already been provided in previous chapters, but it's good nonetheless. Bosco's figures are a bit clunky, and Silva uses a lot of blacks, and overall they're in that same "DC house style" mode. It's about time for this story to end, though.

Remember what I said about Busiek's fine Jimmy Olsen story in last week's Superman? It applies just as much, if not more, to this week's Action Comics #853 (pencilled by Brad Walker, inked by Livesay). Jimmy, as his superheroic alter ego Mr. Action, tries to help Superman take out the Kryptonite Man. Extra points for the special last-page appearance.

Finally, this week's other "Countdown doesn't make everything suck" entry is (All-New) Atom #14 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Mike Norton, inked by Trevor Scott). Atom, Donna Troy, Jason Todd, and Bob The Monitor go to "Heaven," find Blue Beetle, and fight all manner of dead bad guys. The Internet is already buzzing over the new catchphrase, "Stupid jetpack Hitler!" It's a fun issue, but it does kinda feel like treading water. The fun wins out, though.
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Friday, August 03, 2007

Friday Night Fights

It's survival of the fittest at the Dawn of Man -- but it helps if you're getting tips from an extraterrestrial intelligence....

Cue the Strauss -- "Also Sprach Bahlactus!"

[From "Beast-Killer!," 2001: A Space Odyssey #1, December 1976. Written and pencilled by Jack Kirby, inked by Mike Royer.]
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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Thursday Night Thinking

Forbush-Man is all about THINKING -- but any mind control requires at least some raw material:

Diamondrock is love!

[From Nextwave #10, January 2007, written by Warren Ellis, pencilled by Stuart Immonen, inked by Wade von Grawbadger.]
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