Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunday Soliloquy

Sure, it's fun to see Spider-Man wrestle a giant snake (not a euphemism, I rush to point out).

Still, don't you want to see how Princess Python's moods must have changed, as she listened to Spidey's monologue and realized her pet was losing?

[From "The Clown and his Masters of Menace!" in The Amazing Spider-Man #22, March 1965. Script by Stan Lee, art by Steve Ditko, letters by Artie Simek, color restoration by Andy Yanchus. Reprinted in Marvel Masterworks Volume 10, 1989.]
Full Post

Saturday, January 26, 2008

New comics 1/23/08

This is only tangentially related to the story, but while reading Wonder Woman #16 (written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Terry Dodson and Ron Randall, inked by Rachel Dodson and Randall) I wondered why the "swimsuit" costume ostensibly lets people take WW less seriously, when (say) Tarzan, Namor, Hawkman, Hercules, and other notable men can expose lots of skin to combat without such repercussions.

A scene in WW #16 has Diana stride ashore, loaded with weapons, and calling the Nazis out -- but she's not wearing the armor, helmet, cape, etc., which writers and artists since George Perez have used to signal that the serious butt-kicking is about to begin. Instead, she's wearing a slightly sturdier-looking version of her usual costume (or maybe it's supposed to be the usual costume and the Dodsons just draw it to look sturdier). To me, that says she doesn't care how exposed she might look -- because how she looks will have no bearing on the hurting she's about to administer. It's like my response to the Batman-needs-body-armor argument: isn't he that much more impressive in an ordinary cloth costume?

The issue itself was quite good: Hippolyta's bodyguards' motivations are understandable, Diana is a great presence, and Ron Randall's art assist meshes nicely with the Dodsons' work. The Nazis are a bit two-dimensional, but then again, they are just Nazis.

Countdown #14 (written by Paul Dini and Tony Bedard, story consultant Keith Giffen, pencilled by Tom Derenick, inked by Wayne Faucher) continued the title's upward swing, but again I think this Earth-51 arc only illustrates what might well have been its major flaw. Since all of January has been consistent -- same creative team, same story focus -- it's had a chance to build some dramatic momentum. Granted, the story isn't objectively that innovative, but it's still not as choppy as the past few months have been. I'm also digging the Batman & Red Robin team -- the suits look good together, kinda like the old Earth-2 "grown-up Robin" costume did, or even the Chris O'Donnell and Kilmer/Clooney suits. (Without nipples, of course.)

I didn't realize She-Hulk vol. 2 #25 (written by Peter David, pencilled by Shawn Moll, Adriana Melo, and Val Semeiks, inked by Victor Olazaba, Mariah Benes, and Dave Meikis) was supposed to be an anniversary issue until I got to the backup stories and the OHOTMU pages. Pretty entertaining all around, although I don't understand why Man-Elephant got the spotlight he did. I had been thinking about dropping the book, but I'll stick around for at least another month.

Crime Bible #4 (written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Diego Olmos) was very good. I liked Montoya's relationship with Rodor, I thought the story's central mystery was structured quite well, and I liked the denouement with the main villain. Like Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano on Gotham Central and Jesus Saiz and Chris Samnee on Checkmate, Olmos is yet another thick-lined, minimalist-realistic, blacks-heavy (I'm just making up terms here) artist working with Rucka, and it's always a good pairing.

It's too bad JLA Classified (#51 written by Roger Stern, pencilled by John Byrne, and inked by Mark Farmer) has been cancelled, because this issue is exactly the kind of thing I'd have loved to have seen more of. It's a flashback to the era of the original League, and it informs the overall arc's present-day plot, but it works pretty well on its own. A behemoth named Titus is taking the First Commandment pretty personally, destroying religious sites all over Earth, and the JLA (with help from occasional members Superman and Batman) has its hands full stopping him. Stern and Byrne can do this kind of story in their sleep, of course, so it's the little things which catch my eye: the Arrowplane, the Weapons Master's robot, a mention of "Spaceman X," the 1968 Batmobile. It's comfort comics.

There's a lot going on in Countdown To Mystery #5. Bruce Gordon spends much of the "Eclipso" story (written by Matthew Sturges, pencilled by Chad Hardin, inked by Dan Green) trying to figure out how much SCIENCE! he can do with Eclipso's powers, before he goes too deep into the Dark Side and reawakens ol' pointy-ears. It features more exposition on recent Eclipso history, fights with evil critters which apparently the Spectre can't automatically wipe out, and an omniscient narrator (much appreciated). Hardin and Green's art is clear and sharp, and by "sharp" I mean you could get a paper cut from some of Green's lines. It serves the story well, though, keeping the reader on edge (no pun intended).

The "Doctor Fate" story (written by Steve Gerber, pencilled by Tom Derenick and Shawn McManus, inked by Wayne Faucher and McManus) is also pretty dense with meanings, since Fate reads Inza's comic book work to get some clue into her psyche. Apparently she wrote and drew a Hellboy-meets-Spawn horror comic which might reveal her inner turmoil, or might not. Either way, the new Fate finally learns a startling (to him) secret about the Doctor's past, but we'll have to deal with that next month.

Superman Confidential #11 (written by Darwyn Cooke, drawn by Tim Sale) wraps up the title's inaugural "Kryptonite" story, as we all learn why the big chunk of Kryptonite has been narrating the whole thing. That's basically it -- it's kind of anticlimactic. Don't know how it reads as a whole ... probably a post for another day.

Finally, I liked Teen Titans #55 (written by Sean McKeever, pencilled by Jamal Igle, inked by Ruy Jose and Jimmy Palmiotti) quite a bit more than I did the noisy, crowded "Titans of Tomorrow" arc which preceded it. Much of this is probably because of Igle, whose work is always good, but I got the feeling that this issue gave McKeever more room to spread out. As the cover indicates, the spotlight is on Robin and Wonder Girl, who explore their relationship for most of the issue. Ravager steals a couple of scenes, though, and the way she plays off Kid Devil and Blue Beetle is entertaining too. Overall, it's a good slice of soap-opera, as you might expect from a teen-superhero team book. I was iffy about McKeever on this title, but as long as he can keep this up, I'll be happy.

Full Post

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Night Fights

You think this "M" stands for France?!?

... Well, uh, she kinda does....

Liberté, égalité, fraternité, Bahlactus!

[From "La Vie En Sang" in last week's Checkmate vol. 2 #22, March 2008. Written by Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann, pencilled by Chris Samnee, lettered by Travis Lanham, colored by Santiago Arcas.]
Full Post

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thursday Night Thinking

The thought balloon has many uses. Here, Saturn Girl illustrates that THINKING in a splash panel can set up dramatic conflict!

Diamondrock, I, uh, think that's my red stapler....

[From "Legion.Com," one of the many fine stories in 2005's Bizarro World. Written by Ariel Bordeaux and drawn, lettered, and colored by Rick Altergott.]
Full Post

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

How can I miss you if you won't go away?

Dorian says it’s too soon for a new Star Trek movie:

[M]y gut feeling is that the franchise hasn't lain fallow long enough to remove the stigma of being for a hard-core cult audience.... [T]o be truly effective, the franchise needs a Doctor Who or Battlestar Galactica length gap between old and new versions; long enough to make the old fans happy it's back, but also long enough to make the wider audience comfortably nostalgic for it. At this point, it doesn't matter how many pretty young men you pack into the film [...], the general public's opinion of Star Trek is that it's something for nerds, by nerds, and no one but nerds would have any interest in it.

I agree generally, but am a little more optimistic about Trek '08's crossover appeal. While I can’t really back up this sentiment in any meaningful sense, my gut feeling is that the general public thinks of Star Trek as having two parts: Original (Kirk & Spock) Trek, and Everything Else. Maybe TNG gets a third part, because I can see people separating it from "Deep Space Nine," "Voyager," and "Enterprise."

Generally, though, everything which came after Original Trek’s TV run* can be, and I think is, seen by the G.P. as “qualified” Star Trek. Either Kirk & Crew are old, or it’s a different crew, or there’s no Enterprise, or some combination thereof.

Accordingly, for the better part of the last 40 years, there’s been no “unadulterated” Star Trek** for the G.P. to latch onto. Instead, the Trek offerings have attempted to expand the existing universe. Twenty-five seasons’ worth of expansion has, in turn, cemented Trek’s nerdy stigma.

However, because Trek ‘08 appears to ignore all of that, I think it gets a pass from the general public. Wikipedia says Doctor Who got a 16-year break (1989-2005), punctuated by a 1996 TV movie; and Battlestar Galactica’s break was 24 years (1979-2003), except for “Galactica 1980"’s short 1980 run. The last original-cast Trek movie was in December 1991 -- but Trek ‘08 isn’t really an original-cast movie, either, so it doesn’t have to follow up on those events.

Therefore, depending on when you consider the last Original Trek adventure to have occurred, the wait between it and Trek ‘08 could be as little as 14 years (November 1994's Generations, which I think is a stretch) or as much as 39 1/2 (June ‘69's “Turnabout Intruder”). Both of those are extreme positions, and I feel the most comfortable going with 17 years for Star Trek VI. That’s an appropriate interval if we’re using Who and Galactica as yardsticks.

Of course, the more people find out about this movie, and the closer it comes to being part of the vast Star Trek tapestry, the more stigma attaches to it, and the shorter that interval becomes.

* To me it doesn’t matter whether you include the animated series in this. I’m not sure if the G.P. is really aware of it, and if they are, they might well count it as a curiosity attached to the regular series.

** I’m not counting fan projects like “New Voyages” or “Starship Exeter,” because (regardless of their merits) I’m pretty sure the G.P. hasn’t heard of 'em.
Full Post

Monday, January 21, 2008

Quien es mas Klingon?

The mega-Trek-watching project continues. Yesterday included “Disaster,” which features the birth of Keiko O’Brien’s daughter as assisted by Worf. It’s a broad scene, and perhaps not the most imaginative, but it’s played well. It probably helped establish the “Worf uncomfortable = funny” theory.

However, yesterday it just confirmed my own theory that Worf, son of Mogh = Dwight K. Schrute. Let’s compare and contrast.

1. Upbringing

Worf: Parents killed by Romulans. Separated from brother at early age. Raised on Earth by humans.
Dwight: Raised by humans on Earth, but that doesn’t really do it justice.
Advantage: Dwight

2. Security Credentials

Worf: Security chief of USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D. Strategic Operations Officer aboard Deep Space Nine. Proficient in Mok’bara and skilled with the bat’leth and mek’leth weapons.
Dwight: Former volunteer sheriff’s deputy. Security corporal, Dunder-Mifflin Scranton (honorary title). Purple belt in Goju-Ryu karate. Proficient, I suppose, with nunchuks and pepper spray.
Advantage: Worf

3. Honors

Worf: Won 2368 Forcas III Bat’leth tournament.
Dwight: Awarded Dunder-Mifflin Salesman of the Month 13 times in 12 months.
Advantage: Push

4. Secret Lovers

Worf: K’Ehleyr -- murdered shortly after introducing him to their son.
Dwight: Angela -- clandestine romance almost completely hidden from co-workers; ended when he killed Angela’s cat.
Advantage: Dwight

5. Disgraces and Separations

Worf: Endured discommendation from Klingon Empire for almost two years. Quit Starfleet to fight in Klingon Civil War.
Dwight: Family shunned him for two years (ages 4-6) for forgetting to save excess tuna oil. Quit Dunder-Mifflin to protect Angela.
Advantage: Dwight

6. Feelings Towards Cats

Worf: Disliked Spot. Later became Spot’s caretaker.
Dwight: Euthanized Sprinkles.
Advantage: Worf

7. Wore Red Uniform As ...

Worf: Lieutenant J.G. aboard Enterprise; Lt. Commander aboard Deep Space Nine.
Dwight: Staples clerk.
Advantage: Worf

8. Pass On What You Have Learned
Worf: Performed R'uustai ceremony with young Jeremy Aster, initiating him into the House of Mogh. Raised son Alexander for a few years aboard the Enterprise.
Dwight: Secretly made Pam Assistant to the Regional Manager.
Advantage: Push

9. Historical Confusions
Worf: Struggled with true identity of Kahless "impersonator."
Dwight: Struggled with true identity of Ben Franklin "impersonator."
Advantage: Dwight

10. Enemies
Worf: Romulans, Q, Borg
Dwight: Andy, Jim
Advantage: Worf

There's more, I'm sure; but I'm not through all of TNG yet, let alone DS9.

Ironically, Star Trek seems to be pretty low on the totem pole of Dwight's nerdy pursuits....

[EDIT: Corrected "advantages" for #s 5 and 6.]

Full Post

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sunday Soliloquy

It's not really a soliloquy, but I couldn't resist posting this page of Lex Luthor delivering exposition in flashback, while at the same time narrating the flashback.

That's some weird nested recursive monologuing, is what that is.

[From "The Man Who Murdered The Earth!" in Superman vol. 1 #248, February 1972. Written by Len Wein, pencilled by Curt Swan, inked by Murphy Anderson, lettered by Ben Oda. Reprinted in Superman in the Seventies.]
Full Post

Friday, January 18, 2008

New comics 1/16/08

I'm not going to make the deadline for Friday Night Fights, but I do have time to run down this week's comics.

First up is The Flash #236, writer Mark Waid's last issue on the title and also the conclusion of his introductory storyline, "The Wild Wests." From a writing standpoint, my biggest problem with this issue was the fact that it hinges on a story element which, honestly, I don't think I'd noticed until it was pointed out. While that might have been lazy reading on my part, it made the rest of the arc feel a little unfocused, as far as the alien-fighting went. Still, part of the point of the story was to establish the new West Family status quo, and this I think it did pretty well. Freddie Williams II continues to draw a bulkier Flash than I'm used to, but his storytelling is alright and I could probably get used to him. I'm eager to see what new writer Tom Peyer brings.

In Groo: Hell On Earth #3 (written by Mark Evanier, drawn by Sergio Aragones), the allegory gets pretty thick, although again I just this issue noticed that the pro-war leader has a "B" initial and the pro-environment one is a "G." Also, the Bard's rhyming narration was somewhat tortured at times. Otherwise, I liked it pretty well.

Checkmate #22 (written by Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann, drawn by Chris Samnee) was a good conclusion to the Mlle. Marie spotlight. However, either I'm misremembering things all over the place or last issue ended with Josephine being betrayed by her guides. Maybe I saw a Newsarama preview. Anyway, it was a good issue. Jo is competent enough, naturally, working her way across the Mideast and through various thugs, while flashbacks fill in her story and the story of Marie generally. I thought the "succession" scene was very effective -- you'd think it'd be seen more frequently, considering DC's army of legacy characters; but go figure. I like Samnee's work pretty well, too -- he's a good storyteller and choreographer. Checkmate is the spiritual heir to Rucka's, Ed Brubaker's, and Michael Lark's work on Gotham Central, and that's about the best compliment I can pay it.

I'm not sure how to approach the two stories in Justice League of America #17. I was glad that the main story (written by Alan Burnett, pencilled by Ed Benes, inked by Sandra Hope) picks up on the Brom Stikk subplot from last issue, and spins it into a larger Salvation Run-influenced plot. That at least gave last issue and this issue some collective meaning. Moreover, a big group of villains interacting with the Justice League is a natural plot for this book, and the twist applied to it was appropriate and intriguing. The second story (written by Dwayne McDuffie, pencilled by Jon Boy Meyers, inked by Serge LaPointe) focuses on the nature of Vixen's mimicry powers, and specifically how she's able to mimic specific abilities. I'm guessing it has a lot to do with Amazo, so let's hope that's either confirmed or discounted quickly. Overall, I'm frustrated with JLA for its current crossover-maintenance role -- a Tangent story last issue, the Salvation story here -- and while the latter plot shows some movement towards a more traditional League adventure, that movement has been incremental the past few months.

Speaking of crossovers, here's Booster Gold #6 (written by Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz, pencilled by Dan Jurgens, inked by Norm Rapmund), the big "Let's Save Ted Kord" issue. It's the kind of thing you read and enjoy on a superficial level, knowing full well that whatever changes, it won't stick and Booster will end up learning a Valuable Lesson. I hope I'm wrong, and that all involved are just using that expectation to build suspense and actually have a happy ending. I'd like that for Booster. As for the issue itself, it's good as usual. Rip Hunter gets a fun dramatic entrance. Jurgens' figures can be a bit stiff, but he puts a fair amount of expression and emotion into Booster's memories of Ted.

Birds Of Prey #114 (written by Sean McKeever, pencilled by Nicola Scott, inked by Doug Hazlewood) made more sense after I read on the Internets that Lady Blackhawk was once mind-controlled into being King Shark's moll. Also, while I enjoy spending time with the Birds, and continue to enjoy Scott & Hazlewood's work, this issue felt very transitory to me. Oracle is riding everyone hard after the events of last issue. Misfit is the main outlet of her aggression. Lady Blackhawk and Huntress turn to booze. (They're the relatively calm center of a brawl-prone bar, in a scene that maybe would have worked better had the fights in the background not been so obscured by the dark coloring.) These scenes are all fine on their own, and the last-page reveal is effective, but although groundwork is laid for future storylines, I didn't get the sense it was all building to something significant. Maybe I just needed an obvious "Part 1" in the story title, I dunno.

Finally, speaking of building to something, Countdown #15 (written by Paul Dini & Tony Bedard, story consultant Keith Giffen, pencilled by Pete Woods & Tom Derenick, inked by Wayne Faucher) went a long way towards pulling this often-haphazard series together. Concentrating on Ray Palmer and Earth-51 has focused the story's energies better than a lot of other plot devices, I think, and it may be deceptively easy to say in hindsight that this plot should've been explored in more depth earlier on. In keeping with the "preliminary" nature of this series, I get the feeling that Monarch & co. won't be defeated anytime soon, but instead everyone's gaining useful experience for Final Crisis. I liked the movement on the Paradise Island plot, and also the return of Brother Eye. I guess the Pied Piper story will have to wait another week, though (at least). The art was pretty good -- Faucher managed to blend Woods' and Derenick's disparate styles together. It wasn't seamless, but it wasn't a jarring transition either. Not bad, although I'm not ready to re-evaluate the entire experiment based on a few decent issues.

Full Post

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bridge work

Looking at's walk through Star Trek The Tour reawakened one of my very, very minor pet peeves about this kind of Trek live-action roleplaying. Whenever an Enterprise bridge is recreated, it's always one of the TV versions -- either the Original Series, or TNG's.

(A couple of things about each of those. First, I would not be a bit surprised to learn that the TOS Bridge contained at least one fan-constructed piece "on loan" to the tour. I bet there are more people with a Bridge in their basements than even we hardcore fans think. Second, while the infamous takedown of the TNG Bridge as "the lobby of a Hyatt Regency" is still scarily accurate, I also like Patrick Stewart's observation from one of the DVD sets. He said, basically, the Bridge is like a stage, with Picard et al playing to an "audience" on the main viewscreen. For some reason that makes the TNG re-watching experience more intimate to me, like these people are just putting on shows in their basement. But I digress.)

While I understand that these are the most familiar bridge sets, to me they're not really the coolest. (Ex Astris Scientia has an overview, if your memory needs refreshing.) I like the warm beige-and-black look of Star Trek V's Bridge and the very functional Bridges of NX-01 and NCC-1701-E. I also liked the makeover the TMP Bridge got for Star Trek II. You never see those recreated, though, and it's a little disappointing.

By the way, although I am complaining, I want to emphasize how miniscule that complaint is. I would totally geek out over either the TOS or TNG Bridge. In fact, if I had to choose only one for a photo-op which would totally embarrass the Best Wife Ever, it might well be the TNG TV Bridge. I am a huge TOS fan, but only on the TNG Bridge would I feel right doing Picard's little two-finger "Engage" sign....
Full Post

Sunday, January 13, 2008

New comics 1/4/08 and 1/9/08

I was out of town last weekend and didn't get back until late Sunday night. That meant I didn't get to the comics shop until Monday night for the previous Friday's books. Naturally I was back there on Wednesday for this week's books. So it's all a big blur of spandex ... which, as I type that, seems sure to bring in the random Google hits....

JANUARY 9, 2008

Teen Titans Lost Annual #1 (Oh, like there's going to be a "Lost Annual #2."): I can see why DC didn't want to publish this back when it was completed a few years ago. It belongs to a different time -- a time when, for example, Robin could stay in the White House as a guest of the President and feel comfortable kicking back in his costume, sans mask but plus white gym socks. It's not a period piece in the manner of New Frontier, it's an unsubtle commentary on the way superhero comics used to work. I liked it pretty well. The story is pretty wild, by any objective standard, but it's still charming; and the art is accessible and makes the Titans look appropriately young and heroic.

Bat Lash #2: Because I am not reading the current Jonah Hex book, which apparently threatens rape pretty frequently, I'm not so burned out on said threats when they crop up here. Just need to get that out of the way. Otherwise, this miniseries seems to be an origin of sorts for Bat -- at least, I think it's the origin of the flower in his hat -- and it involving a number of standard Western plotlines. I'm still intrigued by the book, because I can see Bat developing into an interesting character, but I don't quite think he's there yet.

The Spirit #12: Darwyn Cooke gets a number of tools out of his kit for this issue, especially on the Eisneresque flashback scenes (and an equally Eisneresque rained-out final page). It's an I Can't Love You, I've Been Too Bad Too Long kind of plot, but it's still very effective. I don't mean this to sound dismissive -- rather, Cooke is such a fine storyteller that I don't have the space to gush about his work.

JLA Classified #50: A rampaging monster from the League's early days returns to wreak havoc on the current team. Thus, most of this issue is fight scenes. It's a lot like what you'd expect a Justice League comic to be, and I mean that in the best way possible. Problems will be solved, and adversities overcome, by the time this arc is over.

Superman #672: Same thing goes for Part 2 of "The Insect Queen," which uses young Chris Kent as its cliffhanger. This makes a lot of sense, considering that the other major Super-players (Superman, Lois, and Lana) are pretty much safe from harm -- but we don't quite know what to make of Chris, so he gets "volunteered." As for the main plot, Superman fights insectoid aliens, and Lana learns more about how her insectoid doppelganger has taken over the Moon. If you think that sounds like an entertaining Superman comic, you're right. Art is fine, but Lana's choreography is a little funky for some reason. She tumbles around a fair amount, and it never comes out quite right.

Nightwing #140: A decent start for new writer Peter Tomasi and new artists Rags Morales and Michael Bair. Morales and Bair are reliably good, but I found Tomasi's characters to be somewhat long-winded. The new woman in Dick's life speaks especially expositionally, and Dick isn't exempt either. The plot is much more DCU-centered, involving the robbing of super-folks' graves, and there are many of the guests you might expect in a Bat-title. Overall I liked it, but cut down on the balloon juice, okay?

Green Arrow And Black Canary #4: Beautiful art, but that should go without saying. As for the story, I was thinking the other day about how much I liked Green Arrow as a Justice Leaguer. He usually gets to spit sarcastic remarks at the rest of the team, and that's always fun. However, more often than not he gets to back that up with fearless derring-do, mostly involving some explosive arrows and a giant robot. However, you can't build an ongoing series around that kind of character unless you give him some depth, and I think that's where writer Judd Winick has been going with GA/BC. Unfortunately, Winick is building character through tragedy again, and while this issue gets a lot of things right (Ollie's friends coming through, good moments with Batman and Wonder Woman), at the heart of it is still the tragedy of Connor Hawke. Here's hoping it gets reversed soon somehow, so that Ollie can learn and the book can really enjoy the fantastic work of Cliff Chiang.

Green Lantern Corps #20: Peter Tomasi has already written part of "Sinestro Corps" for this title, but he starts his tenure as new writer in earnest here, with a picking-up-the-pieces story putting Kyle and Guy in Chandler-and-Joey roles on Oa. It is a very sitcommy setup, and while I don't have high hopes, it does have potential. Also, Mongul gets a Sinestro ring and gloats about it. Tomasi's talky here too, and the differing art styles of Patrick Gleason and Carlos Magno are fine on their own merits, but don't blend together well.

52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen #6: Kind of a blah conclusion to what I'd hoped would be a more exciting miniseries. The Horsemen end up taking over our heroes, except they're surprisingly easy to get along with, and their eventual host doesn't seem to mind them too much. I did like seeing the Doom Patrol and Snapper Carr, though.

Countdown #s 17 and 16: I'll talk about these together because they're really pretty decent, at least as far as this series goes. Monarch's army comes to the idyllic Earth-51 and totally trashes it, killing its Justice League and assorted other heroes without much trouble. Meanwhile, Jean Loring loses the power of Eclipso in a fight with Mary Marvel, and Mary likewise loses her Shazam powers. One Earth's Jean dies, but another one lives, making me suspect that our Ray Palmer will have a tearful reunion with that Jean at some point. Finally, Jason Todd meets the Batman of Earth-51 and (judging by the previews for this week) learns that Earth's dark secret. Again, a lot of fight scenes, but as depicted by Pete Woods and Tom Derenick, pretty well laid out. Dialogue is okay, but not horrible. I have to say, this is the most interest I've had in Countdown since it's started. I may have a problem with the "message" of Earth-51, but that'll probably be a topic for next week.

JANUARY 4, 2008

Teen Titans Year One #1: Talked about this one in Thursday's Grumpy Old Fan, but not in much depth. I liked it a lot, even though Wally West acted more like Bart Allen than I would have expected, and I'm still not used to Aqualad being so "fishy"-looking. However, those are dramatic and stylistic choices which work within the context of the miniseries. As I said in GOF, despite the title, I don't think this is a continuity-oriented gap-filler like JLA Year One, and that's fine. It's enough for me that it evokes the spirit of a different time -- maybe not precisely the Silver Age, but something that still feels like a growing and developing DC-Earth. Oh, and I really like Karl Kerschl, Serge Lapointe and Steph Peru's art -- it reminds me of Stuart Immonen's Nextwave work, which is great.

Howard The Duck #4: Fine conclusion to a story that had to be reined in somehow before it collapsed under the weight of all the satire. Ty Templeton writes a funny George W. Bush. On the whole it's probably too broad, but I enjoyed it and wouldn't mind more Howard from these folks (assuming Steve Gerber's not coming back, of course).

Supergirl #25: The Girl of Steel has flashbacks to Argo City's destruction and then fights Reactron. The latter's design has been updated since his days as an obscure Who's Who entry, but it still took me a while to recognize him. That's about it for the plot. The fight scenes are portrayed very matter-of-factly, with a certain amount of distance, and that gives everything a decompressed feel. Accordingly, this was kind of a dull issue. I like Drew Johnson and Ray Snyder's art, but it's still kinda dull.

(All-New) Atom #19: I love Jerry Ordway, but here his guest-artist talents are in the service of a rather blah Lost Underground Amish Tribe story. Our hero basically gets saved because he's cute, not because he does anything heroic. Keith Champagne is no Gail Simone, that's for sure.

Detective Comics #840: Really good Batman-vs.-Ra's story. Batman basically renders the entire Ra's-is-back crossover moot by putting Ra's out of commission for as long as DC wants. Up to that point, though, it's a fairly suspenseful tale which centers around the fact that Ra's knows all of Batman's secrets and, being filled with revenge, is itching to exploit them. Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs are the new art team, and they're very good. Lots of blacks, and a dull color palette from John Kalisz. Nguyen has a very fluid approach, his figures are consistent and weighty, and he's a good choreographer. Hope this team sticks together for a while.

Finally, Countdown To Mystery #4 gets the Eclipso out of Jean (duplicating that part of Countdown) and back into Bruce Gordon; and introduces the new Doctor Fate to his "new" Inza. I continue to like the Fate series even if it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Ironically, I'm also starting to like the Eclipso story more because it seems to be developing a plot. The art in "Eclipso" is a bit T&A oriented, and the dialogue isn't anywhere near Gerber's "Fate" work, but it's not as bad as it has been.


52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen #6. Written by Keith Giffen, pencilled by Pat Olliffe, inked by John Stanisci.

The All-New Atom #19. Written by Keith Champagne, pencilled by Jerry Ordway, inked by Trevor Scott.

Bat Lash #2. Written by Sergio Aragones & Peter Brandvold, drawn by John Severin.

Countdown To Final Crisis #17. Written by Paul Dini and Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, story consultant Keith Giffen, pencilled by Ron Lim, inked by Jimmy Palmiotti.

Countdown To Final Crisis #16. Written by Paul Dini and Tony Bedard, story consultant Keith Giffen, pencilled by Pete Woods & Tom Derenick, inked by Wayne Faucher.

Countdown To Mystery # 4. "Eclipso" written by Matthew Sturges and drawn by Stephen Jorge Segouia; "Doctor Fate" written by Steve Gerber, pencilled by Justiniano, and inked by Walden Wong.

Detective Comics #840. Written by Paul Dini, pencilled by Dustin Nguyen, inked by Derek Fridolfs.

Green Arrow and Black Canary #4. Written by Judd Winick, drawn by Cliff Chiang.

Green Lantern Corps #20. Written by Peter Tomasi, pencilled by Patrick Gleason and Carlos Magno, inked by PRentis Rollins, Tom Nguyen, Drew Geraci, Rodney Ramos, & Rebecca Buchman.

Howard the DuckJLA Classified #50. Written by Roger Stern, pencilled by John Byrne, inked by Mark Farmer.

Nightwing #140. Written by Peter Tomasi, pencilled by Rags Morales, inked by Michael Bair.

The Spirit #12. Written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke.

Supergirl #25. Written by Kelley Puckett, pencilled by Drew Johnson & Lee Ferguson, inked by Ray Snyder.

Superman #672. Written by Kurt Busiek, pencilled by Peter Vale, inked by Wellington Diaz.

Teen Titans Lost Annual #1. Written by Bob Haney, pencilled by Jay Stephens, inked by Mike Allred.

Teen Titans Year One #1. Written by Amy Wolfram, art by Karl Kerschl, Serge Lapointe, and Steph Peru.

Full Post

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Checking in briefly: TNG and 2007 comics buying

Well, after a Nyquil-flavored New Year, I'm on the road to recovery ... but also on the road in a more literal sense. Therefore, new posts will probably have to wait until next week. In the meantime, though, here are a couple of items which have rattled around my mind long enough.

* * *

The Modern Trek Project, through which I am watching every episode of "The Next Generation," "Deep Space Nine," and "Voyager," in as close to Stardate order as I can get, rolls on. Last night I watched "The Wounded," TNG's first Cardassian episode, which puts me into early 1991, approaching the halfway point of TNG Season 4. It won't be too long before I start alternating TNGs with DS9s as per The Star Trek Chronology.

Still, that's not today's point. What really struck me about the beginning of TNG S4 was its emphasis on "sequels." Virtually every episode up to "The Wounded" basically revisited a previous one.

"The Best of Both Worlds, Part II": Duh; but also, "Q Who."
"Family": Duh, again; but Worf's parents' visit reminds him of his discommendation in "Sins Of The Father."
"Brothers": Looks back at events discussed in "Datalore."
"Suddenly Human": One of the least sequel-y. However, in making Picard a "parent," it plays into the season's secondary theme of "family."
"Remember Me": More with The Traveler from "Where No One Has Gone Before."
"Legacy": Tasha's sister lets the crew re-examine Tasha's death in "Skin Of Evil."
"Reunion": Ties together "The Emissary" with "Sins Of The Father" to begin the big Klingon arc in earnest.
"Future Imperfect": We recognize Minuet from "11001001's" holodeck program.
"Final Mission": Caps off Wesley's Academy arc, including The Boy's recollection of his shuttle trip with Picard in "Samaritan Snare."
"The Loss": Neither sequel-y nor family-oriented, unless you count Riker playing the Imzadi card for the first time in a while.
"Data's Day": Follow-up to "The Measure of a Man."

TNG had done sequels and follow-ups before, of course, but I don't think to this degree. Moreover, combined with the "family" theme, the first part of Season 4 really felt like the show was consolidating itself into something cohesive which could both generate new subplots and re-examine alternative takes. It takes a certain amount of confidence to pull these disparate threads together, but obviously the cumulative effect runs the risk of creating too much familiarity.

Also coming somewhat from left field is the sudden emphasis on Miles O'Brien. Sure, he'd been around since the beginning, and I certainly don't object to his being in the spotlight, but in the space of a few months he goes from being a good utility player in, say, "Best Of Both Worlds" and "Family" to major roles in both "Data's Day" and "The Wounded." I'm going to enjoy watching Miles develop, and I know it'll help me appreciate his DS9 work even more.

* * *

And about those comic-book numbers: more analysis is on the way, but the short version is twofold. First, apparently I bought considerably more in 2007 than I have in the previous few years. Second, much of the increase can be attributed to 52, Countdown, and their ancillary series. I am trusting that this will correct itself through attrition in 2008.

Not surprisingly, then, I spent appreciably more on DC in '07. Around 88% of the books I bought were from DC, as opposed to 80% in years past. Again, attrition may return that number to a more typical level, but we'll see.

Back next week!
Full Post