Wednesday, April 15, 2009

J'onn J'onzz, International Super-Spy and Bon Vivant

J'onn gets a bad rap in most comics-- a lot of books have portrayed him as a pathetic reflection of TNG's Data, spending all his time trying to wrap his hugely-browed green head around the oddities of human nature and whining that he can't connect with anyone. Conversely, in the 2-3 years leading up to his death, he was portrayed as a hero who was sick of playing nicey-nice among the humans and was after his own brand of Martian justice in a world that would never accept him, like a green Marv with a shitty black latex costume. And that's when the writers cared to give him a personality at all-- more often than not, the Martian Manhunter was composed of the worst aspects of Superman and Batman and pretty much lived to play the role of whichever of the two just couldn't make it to the JLA meeting because he was crippled or dead or some other bullshit excuse-- a hardcase strategist who'd do what it takes to bring bad guys to justice, or a limitlessly powerful living weapon from another world. It may be unfair to say this of a shapeshifting mind-reader, but he got saddled with playing other people's roles quite a bit, I think. So it's time to lay down the law as to what J'onn is really like...

First of all, he gets humanity. It may have taken him a while to get past the idea of a race who are stuck with one form for their whole existence and who can only communicate verbally, and thus, lie, but we're all carbon-based, we share a dependence on the same star and on water; given the decades that J'onn's been here, I think it's safe to say he generally knows how any single human being ticks without even having to peek into his/her psyche. So he's not a whiner or an armchair philosopher by nature. Now, while he understands human nature, that doesn't mean he likes it. Considering how the First World (i.e. the Man) treats, well, brown people across the world, as a green guy, he hates racism, tribalism and all forms of factionalism, across the board, in almost the same way that an adult with no children hates to hear a toddler complain about being denied his favorite flavor of yogurt. The Martians were an ancient race that had hit a plateau thousands of years before J'onn was even born (btw, he's probably around 500 years old in the way we reckon time). The Pale Martians that attacked Earth at different points in the past would be, to J'onn, like Alexander the Great coming back to life, commandeering NATO and taking over the Northern Hemisphere... he knows his people when he sees them (feels them, scans them, whatever), but he was still taken aback by his own ancient history walking back into real life. Anyway, the Martians as a race, by J'onn's time, were as united as independent sentients could be. They'd evolved past ideological divisions, past expansionist interstellar colonisation. Had the plagues and fires not done them in, J'onn's people would have faded quietly into the red sands before humanity's first ships arrived there. That's where Professor Erdel's retarded super-telescope comes in.

J'onn had just bid his family goodbye as they and a handful of the rest of the Martian population fled into what we call the Phantom Zone when he was transported-- through space AND time, mind you, because when J'onn last set foot on Mars the Earth was like a fascinating nature preserve to them, with a global human population of around ten million-- to an observatory just outside of Denver, Colorado in early 1960. There's something dreadfully wrong with that picture and if J'onn ever found out what, he certainly hasn't mentioned it to anyone. Think about it: Professor Erdel was somehow so bad at repairing a radio telescope, he turned it into a remote-controlled time-laser. It's like Forge got hit on the head with a bowling ball Fred Flintstone-style and started turning Cerebro into a bong. Er, anyway.

Following that I imagine the events of The New Frontier (minus the JLA who didn't appear til decades later) happening for J'onn- trying to fit in, mixing it up with King Faraday and the OSS/CIA, all that. But afterwards, I don't see him trying his hand at being a superhero-- at least, not often. I like the look of a green guy in a black suit-- J'onn B'ond, if you will. I can see him working as a spy for American interests throughout the '60s and '70s, up until the resurgence of supercrime that presaged the arrival of Superman. Once he appeared and the story of Krypton got out, J'onn saw a new way to be of service to his adopted world. And yet, that's not half the story. J'onn has traveled all over the Earth dozens of times, not always in service to the US. He made a good show of things for the brass in Washington, but he's been a spy for every side in every region of the world. He has dozens of identities, hundreds of contacts. It's how (as I stated above) he's grown to understand humanity so well. After all, we often forget that he's as fast and strong as Superman, as clever as Batman and as dedicated as Wonder Woman. While Detective John Jones is the identity he settled into during the Silver Age, he keeps up appearances in other hometowns around the globe, gathering information and occasionally letting the US (or Chinese, or Venezuelan, or Egyptian, or hell, the Vatican) government put it to use. Why? Is he playing all of them against each other? Using them for his own inevitable power play? It may seem that way sometimes-- cynical. Machiavellian, even. But those adjectives don't really stick. The worst word you could apply to J'onn, and this is when you really want to stretch the truth, is patronizing. He views short-lived, short-sighted, good-intentioned humans as needing protection, as well as guidance, while they work things out for themselves (at what seems like a glacial pace to a culture of telepaths who can figure out in an hour what's best for society). But really, all that that means is he's fiercely protective of a species he knows hasn't reached its full potential yet. If he could give every human the "powers" native to every Martian, he would in a heartbeat.

The fact that he's able to open his heart and mind to humanity at all in the face of his losses-- wife, child, homeworld-- is admirable. That he puts his life on the line for us every day, and is as famous and beloved in the Southern Hemisphere as Superman is in the USA is astonishing. That he still finds time to volunteer at homeless shelters, to share Oreos with children awaiting flood relief, and to rent movies with the shut-in woman across the hall in his building once a week, is mind-blowing. Like a D&D elf, he doesn't need to sleep, at least not nearly as much as humans-- an hour or two every hundred hours just about does him.

Fire is still a problem. I hate that J'onn's vulnerability to it varies from writer to writer about as much as a vampire's vulnerability to it. So how about this: Martians fear fire in the same nearly-unshakeable way that 21st-century humans fear the very mention of the phrases "nuclear warhead" or "weapons-grade uranium." And as far as naturally-occurring elements (in the ancient definition I guess, as opposed to the periodic table definition) go, again, it's about as rare. Mars's atmosphere is 95%(ish) CO2. Fire can't really exist for long there. Lava and lightning were about as close to fire as any Martian was likely to ever see. Martian culture evolved without fire-- as beings who can control the very shape of their minds and bodies, including nerve endings, they were able to control the thresholds at which they felt "heat" and "cold" as we know them. So while J'onn's physical form can adapt to both flame and radioactive elements (the use of which were a brief and shameful footnote in Martian history), the psychological reaction to fire, in particular, is a bit harder to control and defuse. Kryptonite may physically, literally sap the solar reserves from Superman's cells and render him powerless, but fire robs the Martian Manhunter of his reason, his confidence and his all-important self-control, thus leading some to believe that it literally takes his powers away. Not so. As long as he has a spare moment to collect his thoughts and recommit himself to what he's doing, J'onn can phase through a burning building to save your cat, beat the hell out of Heatwave, whatever. But he needs that spare moment, and if a resourceful villain knows not to give it to him, J'onn's going to spend a few minutes as a green, telepathic puddle.

So, to sum up: he's not the green, half-naked Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman fill-in. He's best used as a spy and/or tactician-- not because he's not great in the field, but as long as we've got Superman and Green Lantern out there, let's have someone in the background who's smarter than either of them coordinating their assault with what Batman's just figured out back in the lab. He does a lot of what Superman and Wonder Woman and GL would call "dirty work" or "spying" and what Batman and Green Arrow and Black Canary would call "necessary" or "research." On Earth he quickly learned how to hide. He reconciles the telepath (who feels sullied by lying) with the shapeshifter (who instinctively knows the value of camouflage) as he uses his human identities (he never calls them "disguises") to learn more about the human condition. He understands people, he likes people, he's good with people-- but the distance he feels from them (compared to fellow alien Superman) is the difference between "across the river" and "across the ocean". He was raised somewhere else. Had a family and a career somewhere else. And now he hangs out on a planet of smelly, murderous apes a good two feet shorter than him who can't communicate clearly to save their lives and are never more than five minutes away from turning on him and any other alien (or human) not as attractive and congenial as Superman. But he wants to close that distance. He believes that it can be closed just as the gap between any two humans can be closed. He wants Earth to be a little more like Mars. Is that a crime? J'onn doesn't think so. And after all, he's a detective.

Like Cooper in Twin Peaks, but more believable.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


So I bought a bunch of non-Marvel, non-DC comics last month and I've been itching to get blitzed and give a report on them. So here goes nothing. Nothin' but a thang.

Madman: Atomic Comics! #’s 10 & 13

I don’t know what the hell’s going on here. I guess I should have tried harder to find issue 1 like I did with most of these other books, but I just went for the lowest numbers on the shelf. I remember reading the original Madman miniseries in high school, but when the character who’s just a head in a jar has a body, you know you’ve missed some shit.
C'mon Mike, I miss the '90s too, but be reasonable.
The upside? Mike Allred’s art is mind-blowing, surreal and (thanks to his wife) colorful; his characters are beautiful, simple yet iconic, better than Bruce Timm and maybe even Darwyn Cooke. Besides Frank (Madman), Joe (his girlfriend), and the Doc (the head-no-longer-in-a-jar guy), I don’t recognize any of the characters, at least two of which look like the bastard offspring of The Grimace. There are some interesting plot twists about Frank’s former life (he’s kind of a sentient zombie), and a member of the Atomics having his brain replaced, and it’s cool but nothing’s grabbing me except the art. If the price hadn’t suddenly gotten jacked up to $3.50 on issue 13 I might have gotten 14. As it is, I gotta drop it. Sorry Mike.

Mister X: Condemned # 1 of 4

Okay, opposite problem here. The concept and plot (what there is of it in 20 pages of a first issue) are interesting enough to hook me, even if I don’t really know which characters to root for, if any, seeing as how the title character is only in one panel… But the art. Damn. Apparently the first two volumes of Mister X featured art by Los Bros. Hernandez and Dave McKean, so, holy shit, but… apparently the creator, Dean Motter, has taken it upon himself to pencil this miniseries."Lang? Never heard of him."

So let’s call that Mistake #1. Possibly it takes up Mistakes 2-10, too. I really can’t stand to look at such amateur characters and pacing. The architecture looks cool, sure—it was inspired by Metropolis (Fritz Lang’s, not Superman’s) and it’s kind of the bedrock of the story—but the people and the way they move both look like shit. A guy with a really steady hand and MS Paint could do most of this stuff. Maybe he did. Dropped. Although I may look up the Archives that have the Hernandez/McKean art.

Mouse Guard: Winter: 1152 # 4-5

Neither art nor story really disappoints here. I got a smaller case of WTFitis than with Madman, in part because I was able to pick up on a few familiar medieval-epic tropes in the story, and in part because there’s little enough dialogue that I was mostly just following the action (which was about 500% better in its pacing and panel-to-panel storytelling than Mister X). So there are five or six main Mouse Guards we’re following in the course of two issues, as they fight owls and bats on their journey home from the weasel kingdom. I guess I only have one real complaint here, and that’s that it’s over too quickly. I’d like to pick this up in a collection; the single issues feel like too little at a time. I can only imagine what it’s like to actually collect this. I might pick up the next issue of this if it comes out in the foreseeable future (I’m told that that’s a problem).

"Mossflower? No. Can't say I've heard of him."

"Sorry, pal. Nobody named Mossflower here. Hope you find him."

The Mice Templar #6

Why the sudden proliferation of cute(ish) animals in desperate, pathetic, depressing and messed-up situations? It makes for cool comics, but it kind of gets to you watching mice suffer while wearing clothes and wielding weapons. Mice Templar is a little more wordy and its plot is a great deal more intricate than Mouse Guard, so they’re different enough to appeal to different people. They’re by no means in cahoots to corner the cute-animal-comics market (which probably is not really that big of a market… er, yet). Oeming’s art is different here than in Powers, but in a good way that’s probably more just the effect of him doing a different genre. I can’t remember the names of the characters and I don’t know everything that’s going on, but there’s just enough crazy epic medieval stuff to hook me. Keeper.

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt

Hrm. Seeing as how I’ve bought half of the eight-issue run already, I may well go ahead and finish it up. But if I’d only bought the first two? I’d have been out in a heartbeat. This is just my personal tastes, mind you. In general, I like Mike Mignola & Co.’s stuff. But, with X-Men as my first love, I can’t help but have a preoccupation with ensemble casts as opposed to extended stories with only one (already well-established) character. So watching Hellboy have yet another craaaazy situation foisted upon him after he’s left the BPRD because he’s tired of dealing with craaaazy situations is kind of lame. It’s like an action movie with just the tired old cop who’s a month away from retiring, with no rookie with something to prove all going in without backup. See what I mean? Premise: Evil spirits have awakened some hot naked magic chick in a red cloak. Solution: Hellboy punches giants to death. Side plot: Hellboy punches pixies and leprechauns to death. I can appreciate the Celtic flavor to it, but it feels very similar to other Hellboy stuff. I mean, don’t get me wrong, at the ripe old age of 24 I’m sick of pretty much everything—so Magneto’s gotten his powers back in the new issue of Uncanny. Jesus Christ, that’s only the fourth time since 1993 that he’s “come back”! Woooo, I’m so excited! Well, I am, but more about Terry Moore’s renditions of Emma Frost (p.s., seriously, no one else should ever be allowed to draw Emma Frost ever again, ever.) Matt Fraction, you could be doing better, and you should be. Colossus is sad? Big whoop. His Joss Whedon girlfriend died. I’d be sad if I were dating Jewel Staite or Morena Baccarin and she died to save the planet, too.
Er… anyway. I’m willing to see where “The Wild Hunt” goes, but I think they missed a big opportunity in issue one, when the leader of the wild hunt, whose duty it is to represent Herne, the Horned God (pagan big ups there), was just a guy wearing a big hollowed-out taxidermified stag’s head, instead of being some creepy mystical immortal dude with a giant stag’s head. Er, for a head. My interest in the story kind of crested and then fell right there.
But, his new goal of saving the life of his obligatory hot magic Irish girlfriend and the obligatory big reveal of the forces of good that are helping him this time is enough to keep me interested. Did I say already that Duncan Fegredo’s art is great enough that I thought it was Mike Mignola? Because it is. My only quarrels are with the story, if that says anything. Mister X is clearly a bit of a fluke. Shit, even The End League had decent art. I think. I don’t think I still have that one issue. I think I gave it back. I didn’t even want my money back. I just put it back on the shelf.

This is already a better story than the one I paid for.

BPRD: The Black Goddess # 1-3

This is a bit more like it. The cast of BPRD is a little more interesting than Hellboy, foil, antagonist. And what’s more, they introduce the characters in the first issue and then leave it to you to figure out the plot in issue #1. As a writer friend of mine, Matt Ross, and many others before him have said, if people like/care about the characters, the plot is secondary. And that’s exactly the problem with some of those “update pages” where before they start the issue they catch you up with what’s going on. Turn me onto the characters first and you’ve already won more than half the battle. Am I alone in this? Anyway. There’s some immortal reincarnated guy who’s guarded by a city full of what may be Buddhist monks who are also were-Yetis—so far, so awesome—and he’s (maybe?) holding Liz the Pyrokinetic hostage, or else she came there of her own free will. I can’t really tell from the story so far, but she’s levitating in the inner sanctum of Immortal Guy’s temple and she’s not opening her eyes or talking. And apparently she and Memnan Saa (immortal guy) are the only hope for the Earth not being overrun by frog-people. Apparently this is the second or third part in a trilogy of stories, which makes me wish that Mignola and Davis and their people would number their goddamn comics in a more comprehensible fashion. I know that limited series have their place, and every story deserves its own title, but can we have some sort of order that’s evident on the single issues, not just sequential numbers on the trade paperbacks? I’d be confused if I actually gave a shit. As it stands, the stakes seem to be rather higher in this series than in Hellboy’s current miniseries, so I feel a little more invested in it though I’m reasonably satisfied that there will be no frog-related incursions into our world anytime soon. Cue banking crisis-related joke that I’m not smart or sober enough to make here. Done.

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas # 1 & 2

Is this supposed to be funny?
I realize that’s usually a high school principal’s line, but I’m honestly uncertain after a quarter of an average human lifetime spent reading DC and Marvel comics—are these talking, dancing chimps juxtaposed with ruthless hitmen in cartoon-character masks, hardboiled vigilantes and esoterically-powered heroes supposed to be funny, or not? That makes all the difference for us critics of literature between Larry Hama and Larry the Cable Guy, between Frank Miller and Frank Capra, between R. Kelly and Tim & Eric. Without that simple declaration of intent, for every ten of us that declare it a work of absurdist genius, another ten will decry it as absolute junk.
As of right now, I’m a little lost. The idea is that a rich old s.o.b. named Hargreeves adopted seven superpowered children in the ‘60s, and today they’re barely-functioning psychos who can manage to keep it together long enough to save the planet but can’t get along with each other to save their lives. I’d love to give the creators behind Frisky Dingo a crack at this premise. Maybe they’d make it workable, but even then that’s a lot of pressure to put on them. It’s just that I can’t think of any other work of fiction with such a retarded premise that managed to make the plot work for the characters. And Frisky Dingo was hilarious. This is… well… crap. I hate to dump on a critically-acclaimed musician, but I bet if Elvis Costello tried his hand at Green Lantern Corps, he’d suck, too. I think Umbrella Academy was better off in Gerard Way’s head where it made some kind of goddamn sense to anyone who didn’t get to read the first five issues! See, this is what I was talking about with BPRD—describe the characters and let us pick up on the story as it goes! Not the other way around! So Number Five has been missing for years and Spaceboy is stuck in a giant monkey’s body! So what? If you can’t make me care about those characters, and make me care really damn fast, I’m going to go waste my money on yet another book full of Dawn pin-ups instead! At least then I can jerk off and have something to show for the money I spent! And P.S., what is your preoccupation with apes? What are you, eight years old? I thought The Black Parade was all about accepting death or some grand, noble theme like that; where does a chimp in a tuxedo fit into that equation? I haven’t found monkeys in human clothes to be so damn endearing since I started understanding all the dick jokes in Mallrats.
Okay, I’m rambling, but seriously, if this is supposed to be funny then this is some Andy Kaufman shit, as opposed to say, Andy Samberg. I was happy to find that the second issue made a bit more sense than the first, but I still found myself liking the ruthless killers in cartoon-character masks more than the supposed heroes. If this was an issue of Uncanny X-Men I’d have issued a jihad on Matt Fraction by now. Unless your name is Alan Moore or Warren Ellis, either write superheroes, or don’t. Stop fucking around. Mark Millar, I’m talking to you, too.
NOW do you see why story has to come before art? NOW will you listen?!

Haunted Tank! # 1 & 2

Speaking of absurdism, the fact that this isn’t a retcon, that this was actually a comic book in the fifties, is in itself a triumph for human art. Some guy in the ‘50s wrote WWII stories about a tank commander whose tank is possessed by the spirit of JEB Stuart the CSA cavalry general. No lie. And now some dudes at Vertigo are retooling the story with a black tank commander named Jamal Stuart dealing with a 150-year-old ghost while trying to make it through the deserts of Iraq. The surreality of a man speaking in a no-nonsense tone to a ghost, about why saying “darky” is inappropriate, all while laying waste to a battalion of Iraqi freedom fighters and calling them towelheads, is (contrary to the Umbrella Academy school of humor) obviously hilarious on multiple levels. This is not winning any Hugo Awards or anything like The Sandman, but I’m enjoying myself. Keeper.

Our boys at Normandy did not die in vain.

Monday, March 30, 2009

You, me, half a bottle of Sailor Jerry and a stack of Dark Horse and Image Comics. A new beginning. April 1st. Be there.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Quis custodiet ipsos gladii caeruli?

"Who watches the blue penises?"
Me, that's who. I did. And they were beautiful. Gods bless you, Billy Crudup.

"Hey guys, guess who's not dea-- oh shits is it Taco Tuesday?!"

More importantly, Gods bless Zack Snyder. See, there's a message that I need to impart to all comics nerds everywhere-- no, that doesn't even quite cover it. I have something to say to every person who's ever read Watchmen, whether you liked the book or not, whether you plan to see the movie or not, and whether you like it or not.

You need to thank Zack Snyder. You need to give him a big standing O followed by a bro grab. Why? Because he saved us. Hell, he saved Alan Moore, in a way.
Whatever flaws this movie has, whatever nitpicky things I have to say about it, however little or however much you perceive it to deviate from the graphic novel, you have to admit that (to borrow something my friend Gen said) it looks the part. Veidt's still a crazy prick. Rorschach's still a crazier prick. You can still see Manhattan's blue prick. Nixon's still there. The goddamn Gunga Diner and Sally Jupiter's Tijuana Bible and Rorschach eating a cold can of beans, they're all still left standing. I don't care if you don't like the movie, you need to thank Zack Snyder.

Because it could have been so much worse.
Darren Aronofsky wanted to update it for the 9/11 era with Manhattan in Iraq and such-like. When Snyder landed the project, Paul Greengrass's people had a script where Nite Owl kills Adrian at the end and all this other crap... I can't find the review where I read that now, and even if someone else made that up it sounds in line with the kind of crap they tried to pull with Superman Returns back when Nicholas Cage was attached to it. Yeesh.

So rage and rant against the lack of the squid alien, piss and moan about the occasionally goofy soundtrack, bitch and whine about the acting or the slo-mo action or the gratuitous violence.
Because some son of a bitch in Hollywood could've given this to Brett Ratner or McG or Joel Schumacher or Paul Verhoeven. Or hell, Martin Scorsese or Mel Gibson or Paul Thomas Anderson. Or even Kevin Smith (although I know that if someone had given Watchmen to Kevin Smith he'd have had the foresight and decency to just walk away). See? It runs either way. The big shots would have fucked it up just as bad as the hacks in this case. Because the big shots and the hacks both have a Vision, capital V, of what their movie is supposed to be. With Brett Ratner it's terrible vision unless you're directing Chris Tucker to talk real fast. With Scorsese or Gibson you're usually in good hands. But their movie, to them, is their movie. Zack Snyder doesn't have a vision, he has source material. The movie isn't his movie, it's the audience's. For all its add-ins and cut-outs, Snyder and his adaptation basically jumped on a landmine for all of nerdkind. Imagine some other director fucking up the adaptation so bad that, five or ten years later, someone decided to try it again. To put us through all of this anxiety and aggravation again. Can you imagine? I saw X3. I can.

I've seen some shit, man...

So, bottom line, the Watchmen we all watched this weekend was good enough that Hollywood will leave it the fuck alone until the superhero movie boom is over. I hope.

Now, did I actually like the movie? Hell yes. I've read some of the dialogue I heard last night ten times over since I was in the tenth grade, but to actually hear Rorschach or Manhattan deliver some of my favorite lines, and to believe it when I heard them say it, was a greater thrill than seeing Hugh Jackman pop his claws or even hearing Christian Bale scream, "Swear to ME!"
I don't really need to say anything about attention to detail. Snyder basically created the world that Gibbons drew and made it move. I don't think that's one of the things that's up for debate. The blood and gore felt a little unnecessary and untrue to the book, but I think the Comics Code and 1986 printing technology are responsible for the lack of that in the book more than Dave Gibbons. And besides, again, with the guy who directed 300? I should've seen it coming.

Speaking of things that are up for debate, the ending is. Okay, yeah, the space-squid didn't make the cut. And it hurts a little bit, sure. But I'm okay with it. I understand that "extra-dimensional, psychic cloned special-effect squid" wouldn't play in Peoria. I think I'd have dealt with it a teensy bit better if every scene with Ozymandias hadn't beaten us over the head with the "my research with Dr. Manhattan to solve the energy crisis could alleviate U.S./Soviet tensions" lines. I GET IT! GLOBAL WARMING! OIL IS BAD! I'm on Al Gore's "We" mailing list, my heat is cranked down to 64 degrees, I walk to work when it's not too cold out. Leave me alone, Veidt.
The new ending did provide me with one kind of enjoyment, though: as Manhattan says himself, "the delights of uncertainty... I could almost thank him..." For the first time in the movie, I wasn't sure what exactly was about to go down. As a friend of mine said, with Watchmen, you're damned if you do, damned if you don't with regards to the script. Make too many changes and fans will hate you. Stick too close to the book and you could have ended up with an unwatchable, loooong, ponderous movie. Snyder stuck to it as close as he could, I think, but a dissatisfaction I couldn't quite place came over me during the last third of the movie. Later, I realized that I was watching something about which I already knew damn near everything. There were no real surprises in store for me. In my head I keep likening it to a Christmas pageant-- no matter how great it looks, no matter how well-choreographed and well-paced and well-lit it is, etc., I've seen it all before somewhere else. Angels warn the shepherds, no room at the inn, enter the three wisemen, yadda yadda yadda. Yawn.
Of course, I wasn't yawning during Watchmen, though I did have to pee pretty bad through most of it. But if you're a dedicated comics dork who's owned the book forever and who's read it over and over, you're going to feel left a little bit cold after awhile, because you know the story, and it looks awesome and the acting is Primetime-Emmy-worthy if in some cases not Oscar-worthy, but it's pretty easy to see where all this is headed.

Enough with being a downer. How fucking awesome were the opening credits?

So fucking awesome.

The first third of the movie was close to perfect, for me. It felt like some of the scenes in the middle dragged, but by the time Rorschach and Nite Owl were cracking heads and digging through Veidt's stuff, I felt like everything picked up a bit, and then we were at the new ending. Maybe it's just because I hang with some Pitchfork Media readers, but I've heard a lot of kvetching about the soundtrack. Meh. It was a little heavyhanded, but I wouldn't have expected different from the guy who set all the fighting in 300 to the sound of some weird pseudo-metal riffs. Playing "The Sounds of Silence" during the Comedian's funeral felt a little silly (especially since the last movie I saw with that in the soundtrack was Old School), and the Jimi Hendrix version of "All Along the Watchtower" felt a little forced and unnecessary right before the final throwdown. Additionally, I hold that the soundtrack contained the exactly correct amount of Leonard Cohen. As for the... shit, I nearly called the band the Umbrella Academy... as for My Chemical Romance's version of "Desolation Row" at the end credits... I'll feel like a cynical old fuck if I say I didn't like it, and I'll feel like a traitor to Bob Dylan if I say I enjoyed it... so I honestly don't know how I feel there.

So, to sum up, we are all lucky as hell that Zack Snyder, the idiot savant of adapted screenplays, fell into this gig rather than anyone else on Earth except maybe Terry Gilliam. We as a subculture are blessed to have received a movie that is really, really hard to hate, a movie that is easy on the eyes and is in most ways a passable facsimile for the "unfilmable" book. I rate it Four Whiskey Sours.

I hereby demand that Zack Snyder direct a cheesy, melodramatic epic trilogy based on the Old Testament. Can you imagine Gerard Butler as Moses, slamming his staff into the ground screaming "LET MY PEOPLE... GO!" and then the Egyptians are all covered in boils and frogs are falling from the sky and exploding on impact and everyone's firstborn son pops open like a zit with limbs and there are Great White Sharks hiding inside the walls of the Red Sea and the Pharaoh's like ten feet tall and then the sharks dogpile him when the sea falls in on itself again and... yeah. You know. I'm not even Christian or Jewish. I just think it would look fucking amazing.

Monday, February 23, 2009

"I Saw Twilight-- Sober!"

Sounds like a story from one of those 1950s pulp magazines, doesn't it?
The question I keep asking myself-- why can't I write in this damnable blog on a regular basis?-- persists, and in fact I've got a pile of Image and Dark Horse stuff just staring up at me, begging to be read, revered and/or ridiculed, but something else weighs heavily on my mind. Nay, on my soul.

I watched Twilight this weekend.

"Edward, I'm begging you, slow down! QUIDDITCH ISN'T REAL!"

And did I mention I've stopped drinking until mid-March?
It's almost unnecessary to say it, but it was terrible. But, to its credit, it was not nearly as painful as I'd feared-- due in part to my being surrounded by a group of like-minded friends who'd come explicitly to mock it until a) the end of the movie or b) our forcible ejection from the theatre. Much as I craved the latter, we eventually, under great duress, reached the former. Upon release of the DVD, a copy will be stolen from Wal-Mart and a drinking game will be devised.

And yet there is still the matter of the film. The story, I should say. Bella Swan moves from her mother's home in Phoenix, Arizona, to live with her father in Forks... shit... I can't remember the state, Oregon or Washington... going to have to check the Wikipedia article... this is gonna hurt...
[10 minutes later]
FUCK I READ THE PLOT SYNOPSES OF ALL FOUR BOOKS. That's not "fuck" in an "oh noes, spoilers" sense, but rather in an "augh, I disgust myself knowing that I was interested enough to read about the whole saga" sense.
Anyway, it was Forks, Washington.
Apparently it's one of the rainiest places in the country, with very few sunny days per year. The "vampires" of Twilight chose to live there so that they can go out during the day because THEY DON'T BURN UP OUTSIDE DURING THE FUCKING DAY EVEN THOUGH THAT IS EXACTLY THE FUCKING DEFINITION OF A VAMPIRE. After "sucks blood," "can't go out in the daylight" is item number 2 on the "is it a vampire" checklist in every other work of fiction concerning vampires of which I've ever heard. Even Cassidy in Preacher had to be covered in clothes from head to toe, or lay in the bed of his truck with a black tarp over him, to not catch on fire during the day, and he's the most non-vampirey vampire I've ever read (Didn't have to sleep during the day, didn't have fangs, could eat human food, loved to drink beer more than blood).
So Twilight's vampires don't burn up in the Sun. They just sparkle like David Bowie in the late '70s. In fact, that was my creation myth for them:
"And it came to pass that the Creator, in preparing for another orgy with the Rolling Stones, did inhale three lines from the bosom of Liza Minelli, and the coke did cause His nose to bleed; and the blood did spill upon the ground; and from His blood did spring Cullen, First among vampires. And the Creator was dismayed at the being created in His image, and He did reject us in his hubris..."
Yeah, beyond all the tortuous plot that I really don't want to get into, there were plenty of slow moments that gave me ample time to think up more MST3K-esque jokes than I knew what to do with. Between scenes at the breakfast table with Bella's dad and long moments of Bella and Edward gazing into each other's eyes/souls/mouths, you could watch the movie a hundred times and still not run out of quiet moments to ruin by farting. Seriously, girl who plays Bella, how many flies do you plan on catching in that thing? Is your nose vestigial? Did your teeth negotiate your contract for you? CLOSE YOUR MOUTH SOMETIMES. I doubt that vampires find droolers endearing.
The teasing lines about the werewolves who figure prominently in the future of the series are almost as bad as the stuff in the Star Wars prequels: Get it? Huh? Battle station? (nudge, nudge!) Death Star? Owen and Beru? (nudge!) Can I draw you a picture? I have never felt worse for the Native American people than during this movie. Shit, I've never felt worse for werewolves than during this movie, either. Maybe if there were more Amerindians left they'd raise more of a fuss about Twilight the way that-- "feminists" isn't even broad enough, it's more like "women and men who like things besides marriage and babies"-- the way that that interest group has. Bella's like a doll with a cell phone and a pickup truck. She shows no real will of her own. She just gets pulled and pushed along by responding to the desires of others.

Really, the introduction of vampires as those in possession of the moral high ground might be the other truly original idea in Twilight besides vampires that aren't real goddamn vampires. Apparently, vampires are in favor of everyone getting married early and having immortal babies. Or something. I managed to pull away from Wikipedia before I really absorbed the whole thing. The Mormons (of whom Stephenie Meyer, the author of Twilight, is a member) should really just toss their "old" (dating all the way back to the 1840s!) holy book and adopt the Twilight series as it is by and large easier to follow and a better-constructed allegory. The fact that I just compared Twilight favorably to any other book, even one belonging to one of the most noxious sects of Ibrahimic monotheism, hurts me deeply. But if you're going to preach abstinence until marriage followed by unrestricted baby-making, the one-two punch that's got the human race slowly choking itself to death, you might as well throw in some undead hunks and babes to spice things up some.

I'm really tired of trying to say something disparaging about this franchise that no one else has said already, so I'll leave you with this quote from, and argument against the existence of, Wikipedia:
"Months later in Eclipse, Victoria creates an army of bloodthirsty newborn vampires in Seattle to rise up against the combined forces of the werewolves and Cullen family. During this battle, both she and her new fighting partner, Riley, are destroyed by Edward and the young werewolf Seth Clearwater. Her supernatural talent is an ability to know the safe place to escape to."
Go to your room, Wikipedia. You go to your room and you think about that last sentence until you're ready to come back out and act like a grown-up.
From left: Obligatory Black Vampire, Sabretooth, Your Ex-Girlfriend (you know the one I'm talking about).

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Now I know where all the justice in the world went.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

It Was Meant to Be A Thing of Beauty, Not This Abomination




Comic Book Resources: Claremont Unveils 'X-Men Forever' at NY Comic-Con

This, on the heels of Grant Morrison's worst screwing-over yet in the aftermath of the... unfortunate business of Final Crisis #7. Yeah. This is why I haven't written in like two weeks.

A comic book made me so depressed that I couldn't write. Truly, as Bill Hicks once said, this is a world where good men are murdered in their prime and mediocre hacks thrive and proliferate.

And now I've quit drinking-- for thirty days at least. I might just see if I can hold out until the beginning of Spring.

All of this led me to a clear conclusion yesterday.

I hereby renounce DC and Marvel and am suspending my subscriptions indefinitely. I'm going to read Neil Gaiman's "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" story, but that's it. I'm taking a break.
On the DC side, I'm sick of Dan DiDio and Geoff Johns conspiring to never let anything from the Silver Age die, ever. I'm sick of Grant Morrison in that he pulls so hard on his editorial leash that he strangles himself. I'm sick of books like Justice League, Justice Society and the Titans titles being put in the hands of people like Dwayne McDuffie and Judd Winick (and Zeus knows who they'll get to fill Johns's seat on JSA), who don't know how to treat A-list characters or how to write dialogue that doesn't sound like a bad cartoon (hint: DC Comics dialogue should sound like a good cartoon). I know that it's a business, but going with what people like, what sells, is one thing (and that one thing is Wolverine, apparently). Forcing a million interconnected things onto fans in the hopes that they'll panic and buy it all seems to be more akin to DiDio's strategy. I dunno. Maybe I'm talking out of my ass. But I'm tired of continuity arguments, I'm tired of being disappointed by late books and lame endings, I'm tired of defending all the retarded plot twists and I'm tired of wishing things would be more like they were when... well, DC's never really had an era of across-the-board excellence or even decency, so I'm making things up in my head, but back when Grant was first writing JLA and I was in middle school, it seemed like a much less aggravating hobby.

And I haven't even started with Marvel yet.
Allowing Chris Claremont to live is, unfortunately, legal. Allowing him to write should not be, at the very least. Giving him opportunity after opportunity to write the X-Men, my first love, is Colossus's boot stamping on Matt Fraction's face, forever. They let him write X-Men: The End, then GeNext, and now X-Men Forever, where he basically picks up where he left off with X-Men #2 in 1991. He keeps going back to the same shit over and over and his style of dialogue and narration has been the same since 1987.
I had to stop writing for a minute there because I couldn't unclench my fists. Seriously, go read anything by this guy, starting with X-Men #1 with Jim Lee in '91. I encourage you to discover for yourself how much he sucks. I want to break his fingers Rorschach-style to keep him from writing.

Comparatively I guess I love Bendis. At least he can write an exchange between characters that doesn't sound like it was pulled from the script of a Nicolas Cage action movie. Like, one of the really bad ones. Like, Bangkok Dangerous bad. (Ranting about Claremont again. Sorry.) Anyway, I guess I'm not terribly pissed at Marvel, but I feel like I'm treading water with them. I'm following what's going on in Astonishing and Uncanny X-Men, but I'm not all that interested in Dark Reign, I'm sick of Wolverine, his clone and now his son permeating the entire universe, and I feel bad for Dan Slott getting pulled in to clean up everbody else's messes-- see Avengers: The Initiative, the second arc of Spider-Man: Brand New Day, and now Mighty Avengers, where I hope to the gods it wasn't his idea to bring the Scarlet Witch back, as a good girl, with no warning and no arc of character development to it at all, or I'll renounce him too. I'd hate to do that. Who'd have thought She-Hulk and The Thing could have two of the best solo series of the past five years? Everyone, thanks to Slott. Anyway.

I've been re-organising my comics this week because I've spent the past six months just leaving every book in a pile on the floor instead of putting it in the right place in its longbox. So I've set some stuff aside that I wanted to reread. In the weeks ahead I'm going to reread some of the stories that make me love comics, as well as some of the ones that make me feel like there is a God and He hates us and wants us to suffer in life as well as in death. Er, but yeah, I think a little proverbial navel-gazing is in order after Final Crisis and the Further Ascent of the Dark Lord Claremont. More soon.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Coffee & TV; similar to Booze & Comics. by Blur.

I forgot how to embed those last two videos.

The Cycle of the Hero As Told By Milk Box. My other favorite '90s rock video. And a good note upon which to finally get some fucking sleep.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Foo Fighters - Learn To Fly

While I'm up ass-late, I may as well post this. Possibly my favorite music video ever. I was going to try to make some sort of comparison to superheroes, but Dave Grohl practically IS a comic book character.

Batman The Brave and The Bold- Evil Under The Sea Part 1

Would you care to inspect my trident?


A couple of my friends were apparently talking about me recently-- debating whether I would love or hate the new Batman animated series (the third one? fourth one? since 1992), Batman: The Brave and The Bold, and its depiction of Aquaman.

I was hesitant at first. I'd been reading about it for months as it was coming down the proverbial pipe, and it seemed like a poor, watered-down substitute for the impressive (in scope and theory, if kinda scattershot in practice) JLU from Cartoon Network. My mistake was in assuming that the show and its makers wanted you to take it seriously for even a fraction of a second. For Kane's sake, Diedrich Bader-- TV's Oswald from The Drew Carey Show-- voices Batman. Every line he utters is pure... I nearly said "pure Silver Age gold."

And I wonder why no one reads this.

But honestly, every word of the script of B:TB&TB is what I loved about comics when I was ten years old distilled down to something that isn't quite camp but isn't one tenth as serious as JLU was, either. It's the equal and opposite reaction to The Dark Knight... completely guiltless fun. Unlike when I watched (and only sometimes enjoyed) the Legion of Superheroes show, or The Batman! (blech), or pretty much any Marvel cartoon past the original Fox X-Men show and the second seasons of Iron Man and Fantastic Four(seriously, did you see that half-season abortion that was The Avengers? Since when do Hawkeye and Spawn share a voicebox? Argh... I'm losing the point again.)... Sorry. Unlike the aforementioned shows, I don't feel forced into the role of apologist for Brave & The Bold. If you can't have at least a little fun watching this show... I know President Obama was just sworn in fourteen hours ago, and it's a new era of unity... but if you aren't at least fighting a smirk by the time you finish watching the YouTube clip below, I don't want to know what it's like to be you. You must have had a terrible life.

At first you may be tempted to think, oh, it kind of sucks how they don't have Superman and Wonder Woman in any episodes, until you realise, as I did, that that's kind of the point. Batman's the Johnny Carson to Blue Beetle's David Letterman or Plastic Man's Bill Maher. He's running the show, but he's not the main attraction here. To use a better analogy, he's the gateway drug to the more obscure characters like Deadman, Felix Faust, the Atom, Blue Beetle, etc., ad infinitum.
...And coming up next after Brave and the Bold, it's Wolverine and the X-Me-- CLICK.

A new episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold premieres this Friday, entitled "Fall of the Blue Beetle," guest-starring Wil "(Stop Calling Me) Wesley Crusher" Wheaton as Ted Kord, who is now referred to as (gotta love this considering he first appeared in the '80s) the Classic Blue Beetle. America, I love your completely drug-annihilated long-term memory.

PS-- I forgot to mention, I LOVE THE B&TB AQUAMAN. How do you compensate for a useless character everybody (excepting me and a few other far-flung dorks) hates? Make him an overmuscled male bimbo who's completely in love with a) himself and b) adventuring! For crap's sake, he hugs Batman. I am sold on this beautiful, hilarious vision of the DC Universe, though it's as far from Alan Moore's Twilight of the Gods as it gets. Enjoy. I command you.


Please, great gods, please let him pull this off. Let us pull this off.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fuck it.

Yeah, tonight I got nothin'.
As I have the past few nights.
I've been rereading Mark Waid's JLA: Year One, but it's proven to be a lot less enthralling than I remember it. I guess compared to Barry in Final Crisis and Hal in Geoff Johns' GL run, Mark Waid injecting a little life into guys who'd been-- personality-wise-- dead twenty years before Marv Wolfman and Ron Marz (respectively) killed them isn't all that impressive (Sorry, Mark. I'm still grateful for your signing the poster I drew of the JLA when I was eleven.).

Anyway. I had this idea. Set, whatever, THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO... IN THE FUTURE! For the sake of argument and puns, let's say it's roughly 5200 AD. But no one in our Solar System would know that. To them, it's around the year 2000 YS-- the year of Superman. Superman 12, actually. There aren't many hard facts, but (much like Moore's story) human/Solar culture began to deteriorate, for any number of reasons we can fabricate later. Superman 12 and his cohorts decided that they could rule the Earth and its colonies better than ordinary human schlubs... or maybe they just fell into it after generations of hero-worship being lavished upon them. Now while I didn't know about Moore's Twilight story until a few days ago, I am borrowing a bit from Grant Morrison's DC One Million storyline (which I can't believe Geoff Johns couldn't get right in his issue of Booster Gold-- it's one million months in the future, not one million years minus 2008. Christ, Geoff, have you ever paid attention to what another writer's done? Post-Crisis? No. No, you haven't. Thanks, Geoff. Thanks for joining the party).
Anyway... again... I got the idea after the first few times I watched Rome on HBO. The legacy aspect of the DCU heroes has been perpetuated to the extent that every superhero and his/her respective supporting characters, partners/sidekicks, etc., are viewed as somewhere between a royal family and a pantheon. Their holy trinity is, well, pretty obvious. And their families have been interbreeding for centuries.
The trinity have ruled in tandem from their homeworld for generations. The Flashes play the bishop to the trinity's king and queen, spreading the heroes' message to the people. The Lanterns-- or should I say, the Rayners-- guard the System from outside. And so on, and so on. The superhumans are elites worshipped by normal humans, and they're full of their own myth. Even the House of the Bat, humans down to the last cape, believe that their legacy makes them gods among their non-Kryptonian fellows. All the heroes are the same, save one family: the Knights. The Starmen-- none of the ones from Earth, anyway-- had any inborn powers. But when it became obvious what the major heroes were planning, one ingenious young Knight with a baby on the way had a plan... and all these long years, every Starman and Starwoman has claimed that all the Cosmic Rod does is focus the stellar energy-- because at birth they're implanted with a receiver node and circuits in the palms of their hands to safely generate the energy that Ted Knight's invention used to. And when the revolution comes-- and it will-- Owain Knight and his small band of sidekicks and rejects will be all that stands between Thon-el's regime, Hadrian Todd's violent revolutionaries and a civil war that will bring the whole system-- both the literal Solar system and the abstract governmental system-- down on their heads.

Am I making any sense? I really shouldn't watch tv while I do this, but if I work up in my room for too long of a stretch I just end up looking at porn.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Supplemental-- Alan Moore's Twilight of the Superheroes

Holy goddamn shitfucking balls.

Alan Moore. You reclusive genius bastard.

First of all, if you can read through all of this in one sitting, I'll buy you a drink. Second of all, I had an idea kind of like this three or four years ago and have been working on it off and on ever since, only to find out JUST TONIGHT that Alan Moore did it a hundred times better twenty years ago and what's worse is, practically no one heard about it.

Please don't kill me.

I want to rant about what my idea was, but first of all I don't want to look like the idiot that I am, standing in Alan Moore's giant bearded shadow, and second of all if I write it out here I'm risking what could still be a good story being stolen by someone else who could sue me on the off-chance I ever make it to the major leagues. But now I kind of want to get it off my chest, so if you'd like to hear about it comment sometime and we'll talk and maybe I can feel like less of an idiot. Yes, I am basically fishing for consolation here. Fuck it. It's three in the morning. If all of Livejournal can do it so can I.
So, take a gander at that insane fucking story, good night, and good luck.
Alan Moore, I'm sorry I got mad. I will always love you.

1 Bourbon 1 Scotch 1 Book... or Movie... or TV Show...?

A Second Look at The Dark Knight

Watching this again on the small screen, I almost wish Christopher Nolan could take a plot like this and stretch it out over a season of shows on HBO. I could spend twenty minutes listening to Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent discussing RICO laws with the Mayor. Imagine a half-hour devoted to Harvey Dent's backstory. God DAMN it imagine a full hour devoted to Heath Ledger's Joker.

And there's one thing I feel a little weird about. This Joker is not the one Alan Moore wrote in The Killing Joke-- this is no failed comedian with bad luck, a dead wife and nothing left to lose. I read a review on Ain't It Cool a week after the movie came out, somebody who didn't know jack-crap about comics, and the reviewer said he thought of the Joker as a rich spoiled kid with a sociopathic streak who was tired of life. Much as I hate to admit it, as a comics purist, that sounds about right. Sure, obviously his stated goal for much of the film is to drive Gotham's people so crazy with fear that they'll tear the whole city down on their own heads. But under the surface is an angry, selfish... not even a man anymore, a thing who just wants someone else to kill him. Thinking about Heath Ledger these days drives me crazy. "Going out on top" doesn't even begin to cover it. I think that on film he barely begins with the levels of horrific pathology within his character, even though it's obvious that off-camera he was plumbing the depths to get where he went (with the character, not "where he went" as in when he died). With Chris Nolan, he created a new Joker. I hope he filters down into the comics eventually.

Conversely, yet similarly, upon repeated viewings I'm not sure how to feel about the new Two-Face origin either. Aside from the obvious weirdness (to we who grew up on the brilliant '90s Animated Series and went on to love the shit out of The Long Halloween) of one iconic villain creating another, I was used to the Two-Face who became obsessed with the duality of enforcing the law and breaking it, of good luck and bad luck... of the two of them, before this movie, Two-Face was driven by what you could maybe in a loose sense call philosophy, while the Joker was more driven by (again, if you can call it that) an emotion. There's nothing wrong with the way Harvey Dent's story unfolds in The Dark Knight; it's (yet again, in a sense) a logical progression of plot points. But I kind of wistfully remember the bitter freak who could no longer relate to normal people and could only decide which voice in his head to listen to by flipping a coin. Nolan's-- hell, society's-- fears of violent anarchy and the randomness of life are perfectly personified by his Joker and Two-Face, and the two make a way better pair than Harvey and the Riddler, Penguin and Catwoman, Ra's al Ghul and Scarecrow, or... you know... those other ones. In that movie. You know the one. My girlfriend and I agree though, that Brittany Murphy as Harley Quinn and Bryce Dallas Howard or Thora Birch as Poison Ivy would be a hell of a movie. Maybe not as psychologically gripping, but... still entertaining. (Holy shit, Thora Birch and Brittany Murphy are going to be in a horror movie together later this year. I AM THE PAGEMASTER! Or... something.)
There are stories all over the internet about Chris Nolan "maybe" plotting a third movie. Him and David Goyer are talking over whether there's another story in their Gotham or not. Please. As if Warner will let them just let go of the reins. May Thor strike me down if they cram Angelina Jolie into the leather Catwoman suit (for Christ's sake doesn't she have literally a dozen children to take care of now?).
I usually hate when a director or actor or some kind of celebrity fucker is getting interviewed and they talk about how everyone's more interested in the villains than the heroes-- Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter, etc... but damn. I feel stupid trying to disagree with that philosophy now.

I was going to talk about the new Battlestar Galactica episode I just saw, but it's late and I'm tired.

NEW DRINK THAT I LOVE: I usually don't get along with dark rum too well, but a Dark and Stormy has made me reconsider things. Pour a shot of rum into a tumbler-- I'd never had Sailor Jerry before, but it's great. It's got a vaguely caramel taste and smell to it. So pour in a shot of Sailor Jerry, add some ice and fill the glass with ginger beer-- not weak-ass, HFCS-laden ginger ale, but Reed's Ginger Brew. Add a little slice of lime. Damn. It's kind of like a cream soda that gets you tipso. Anyway, yeah, Dark Knight...

Rating: Single Malt Scotch. Duh.
Album: Eddie Murphy Raw. Does that even count? Dude. Eddie's purple leather suit is kind of Joker-ish.

"Evening, Commissioner..."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

1 Bourbon, 1 Scotch, 1 Book, Day 5

Final Crisis #6
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: JG Jones and everyone who wasn't busy that weekend.

Batman's dead! BAM! Fuck you.

No, seriously. If you hadn't heard about this third-hand from your own grandmother, then you deserve to have it spoiled for you just like all us nerds have had it spoiled, by hearing every writer and editor hint at it for the better part of eighteen months. I bought more than ten issues of, damn their eyes, Countdown. I earned that becowled corpse.

There is no way to really sum this up in chronological order so I'll do it this way...

Premise: The multiverse in general and Earth-1 specifically is turning into a fucked-to-death pile of flaming poo due to Darkseid, a higher-dimensional god of death, existing solely on our plane of existence. Kind of like when your friend who's kinda heavy and doesn't quite know his own strength flops down on your wire-frame futon from Wal-mart and breaks it. Only, y'know, bigger repercussions and all that.

Solutions, enumerated and attempted with varying degrees of failure in this issue...
- The Checkmate (think Super-NATO) organization and Mister Miracle's Japanese super-kids club know a way of shielding minds from Anti-Life.
- Black Canary and the remainder of the Justice League are stuck on the League's satellite base fighting Darkseid's brainwashed Justifier soldiers.
- Lex Luthor and Sivana may or may not have found a way to take control of everyone on the planet who's wearing one of the Justifier brainwashing helmets-- oh, and Luthor tried to kill Libra but he pulled a Ben Kenobi.
- Another branch of Checkmate is-- get this-- planning to retreat to a parallel Earth. Damn. Stealing an idea from Mark Millar? Grant, you have ever-so-slightly shamed all of us. They also invented a "good" version of Brother Eye, this time with a human brain inside it. Oh yeah, that'll end well.
- The Flashes-- all three of them-- have a plan to lure the Black Racer-- aka Death itself-- right to Darkseid's doorstep by running "faster than ever"... you'd think they'd eventually hit some kind of upper limit on that, but no...
- The Green Lanterns are still trying to get into the Earth's atmosphere and their ring's power is starting to drain...
- Metron, the New God of knowledge and being a cryptic fuckstick, is hinting at the new Monitor that he (the Monitor) needs to get involved...
- And yeah, then Darkseid used his "Omega Effect" to kill Batman. And Superman came back from the future just in time to find Bruce's burnt-up body.

Guns don't kill people. BATMAN USES GUNS TO KILL GOD.

I can't believe Marvel has made Captain America's death last so long and it looks like Cap's going to stay dead, uhm, even longer.
But I doubt that DC has it in them.
So, while I'm loving the crap out of this miniseries, and I wish its repercussions would last forever... no dice. This is all going to go back in the box once Grant Morrison's done playing with it and then the editors will think of some new crap next year like Countdown to Total Ultimate War. Or maybe they'll use that Mortal Kombat vs. DC game as a springboard to make Scorpion and Johnny Cage JLA members.
Oh yeah, and a good talking tiger kills an evil talking tiger. I swear to god, I don't even know what's going on anymore.
Rating: Four Whiskey Sours. It's fun, it's pretty, it's Grant Morrison. And like life itself, it is fleeting and delicate, making it all the more beautiful.
Album: Beck- Odelay

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

1 Bourbon, 1 Scotch, 1 Book, Day 4?

Hal Jordan, I am not. Unlike a true writer I sometimes fail to realize that even after work, I still have Work to do. I'm sorry. With any luck, there'll be no more hiatuses in the near future. One review a night, 5-6 nights a week.

Justice Society of America #22
Writer: Geoff Johns
"Story": Alex Ross
Artists: Dave Eaglesham and Alex Ross

Could the king of all left-field plot twists be tapped out?
Geoff Johns's promising, wholly unnecessary sequel to Alex Ross and Mark Waid's beautiful miniseries Kingdom Come finally came to a close last week after almost a year and a half of slowly building tension between the JSA's old guard and its over a dozen new recruits over the questionable righteousness of Gog, a hidden, seemingly benevolent "Old God," a predecessor of DC's trippy "New Gods" (for further information on them, read Grant Morrison's Final Crisis, in stores now, or just Google for "jack kirby" + "dc comics" + "mescaline").
Gog is... was... whatever, a thirty-foot-tall purple-and-gold vaguely-human (0ver-hyphenated) self-proclaimed god whom the Society accidentally awoke from his fifty-million-year nap. Once roused, he became determined to put an end to war, famine, disease and all the other things we humans employ to keep ourselves entertained. Some of the JSAers were all for this new proactive plan; some weren't. Those in the former category, though, were mostly in it because Gog did something for them first. Typical human nature. Gog healed Starman's schizophrenic mind and Damage's horribly scarred face. He gave Dr. Mid-Nite his sight back and brought another guy back to life (that guy didn't have a code-name, so... y'know, screw him). Hawkman just joined up because Gog was killing people who stood in his way. Hawkman is always in favor of the faction doing the most killing. I really don't know how Hawkman is a DC character and not a backup story for Spawn.
A big part of this story, though, centered around the older, jaded Superman from Kingdom Come being brought back to "our" time/dimension through some poorly-explained explosion and/or portal. So two Supermen is better than one, right? Uh, sure. Except that Superman-22 (he's from Earth-22... just... just don't ask) mostly stands around, fearing that whatever he does is going to be what turns this timeline into a replica of his, which, if you've read Kingdom Come, you know means a nuclear bomb wiping out the world's superhumans and making life a lot less colorful and interesting (and deadly, but whatevs)."I'm gonna touch yer privates!"

So you've got a Superman from another time who may or may not know this world's fate, an insanely unwieldy (25 members) superteam that's one poorly-timed "yo' mama" joke away from an internal fight the likes of which Guns 'n' Roses has never seen, and an alien god who wants to fix everything that's wrong with you or else he'll kill you. What the hell's the payoff for all that?

Oh, they fight each other, and then Gog, and they win and Superman goes back to his Earth.
Yeah. That's it.
No last minute saves. Maybe two or three hints at character development, which is usually one of Geoff Johns's strong suits, the others being wacky plot twists and third-string characters no one under 40 who's not a virgin has ever heard of (at least in a meaningful context). Nor were there any surprise guest appearances, except by Alex Ross, who decides to paint an expanded/re-edited epilogue to Superman's experiences at the end of Kingdom Come. Thanks, I always wanted to see Superman picking genetically-enhanced redwood corn and living to be an old and decrepit Kryptonian. Mr. Ross, you and I have our differences, but I'm begging you: don't continue this trend. Do not be the George Lucas of comics. In that context I am now racking my brain wondering who would be the Jon Waters of comics. I myself aspire to be the Aaron Sorkin of comics (minus the freebasing crack part).
I've gotten way off-topic here, but as there wasn't that much left to talk about concerning the actual comic book issue itself, I don't mind so much. Those three plot threads have been going on for so long I've forgotten what the hell else this comic could do. Hopefully we'll find out next month-- shit. I forgot. Johns is off the book after next month. Who's going to fill his shoes? Winston Churchill? Seriously, I don't always like what Johns does, but at least (present issue being the only exception I can think of) he has neat ideas. I will slit my own throat if it's Dwayne McDuffie. He's the guy writing Justice League right now. He's the guy who wrote up an alternate universe character who was a fat white guy who became a muscular black Captain Marvel by yelling "Black Power!" I'M NOT KIDDING. THIS GUY IS WRITING A FLAGSHIP TITLE. What are the editors at DC smoking? Because I don't want any. In fact, I want to salt the earth where that plant grows.
Rating: The overarching story gets Three Tom Collins, because it had its good moments. The single issue gets Two White Russians, because I could have written it while staying up all night in my old dorm and doing my laundry and drinking shitty warm sangria with my roommate. In fact, I think it would've turned out better if I'd been writing it that way.
Album: Iggy Pop- Lust for Life

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

1 Bourbon, 1 Scotch, 1 Book, Day 3

Greatest Hits #1-4
Writer: David Tischman
Artist: Glenn Fabry

I remember when I read Tolkien's forward for the second edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and he wrote about how he hated the way critics tried to fit the events of his book with the events of World War Two. He said his experiences with war had in some ways inspired the War of the Ring, but anyone trying to make it into a blow-by-blow allegory was going to end up disappointed. And so, I'm really trying not to be a critic here and make this whole review about "The Beatles were a group from 1962 to 1970-- it doesn't make any sense for the Mates to start in 1966 and split up in 1973! Arrrgghh!" That would be really dumb. The writer's stated idea was to write a team of superheroes that, in their world, represented the cultural zeitgeist in the way that the Beatles did in ours. So that was me trying to get that out of my system.

I'm going to hold off on saying that this is a damn good book, but it's definitely a damn interesting one. Some of the stuff from Mark Millar's run on The Authority touched on the idea of superheroes acting like rock stars in their off-hours, but Tischman runs with it and rather smartly frames it as two young filmmakers' efforts to make a documentary about the world-famous Mates. The flashbacks and the present-day scenes are woven together well, although I wish he wouldn't be so ham-fisted with the hints that Nick (the main character)'s father isn't Archie Sugg, the Mates' hetero-Lois Lane, but instead Crusader, the team's Union-Jacked-up Paul McCartney/Superman hybrid. I got it already, dude.
So there's Crusader, with his bowl-cut, porn-'stache and red and blue spandex; there's Solicitor, the non-powered, business-suited crimefighter who totally doesn't resemble John Lennon, not one bit; Vizier is, unsurprisingly on several levels, George Harrison with magic Celtic powers; and Zipper aka Ringo, a drug-addicted super-speedster. Poor Ringo-- I don't think he was all that notorious for drug use, but the writer had to cram that '60s stereotype in there somewhere...

So far (it's a six-issue miniseries so we've got two months left) I'm loving Glenn Fabry's covers, and his interior art gets the job done with no complaints from me, to be fair. But if Vertigo had really hyped this book more, if the story had a little more meat to it, I'd love it if each issue had a different artist-- say, one of the Kubert brothers at the beginning, then that nouveau-Kirby artist from G0dland for the "middle years" Mates, maybe even Dave Gibbons for the later stuff... but perhaps I'm over-thinking it.
I feel like I'm back in school, critiquing a scene that a classmate wrote or acted in-- namely, I wanted more out of this story. This idea. I feel like the cross-pollinating of superheroes and the Beatles (not to mention any other '60s pop culture phenomenon-- oh shit-- the Stones meet the X-Men-- ohhhhh shhhiiiiiiit!) could cover a hell of a lot more ground. I'd love to stretch this out into a three-year series as opposed to a six-month one. But everything about history these days has to be condensed down to a one-hour True Hollywood Story... so it goes. I can complain about the writing no more than I can complain about the art-- it doesn't blow me away, but it holds its own against any other Vertigo book I've picked up on a whim. It's definitely worth a shot if you've ever spent half a day watching a VH1 countdown without realizing where the time went.
I'm going to go to bed now and try NOT think up an X-Men story that syncs up with Revolver as you read it.
Rating: Three Tom Collins. I want more, but a follow-up miniseries would probably just make me even sadder than the opportunities this story missed.
Albums: Beck- Modern Guilt and The Beatles- Revolver

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

1 Bourbon, 1 Scotch, 1 Book, Day 2

Wonder Woman # 27
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Aaron Lopresti

Hey, you know what's not such a great idea? Googling "Wonder Woman" with SafeSearch off. I don't know what the content rules are for basic Blogger accounts and I don't want to find out, so I'm not going to post the first thing I saw... yikes. But I liked this better than the actual cover, so here you go, from some website's "Redesign Wonder Woman" contest:

Camille Paglia never had to fight a fucking minotaur, okay?

Anyway. (I say that a lot. I get off-topic a lot.) This issue is part of a long-ranging story called "Rise of the Olympian," where the Greek gods... or at least, Zeus, being kind of a pig... decides to stop backing Wonder Woman as the pantheon's champion, and instead of Diana's Amazons you get-- and I swear I was not the one to make this up-- Manazons. (Basically, the editors want to cash in on 300. And it's only taken them two years. Christ, DC. Way to hustle.)
Independently of that lucrative decision, some of Wonder Woman's biggest detractors-- Doctor Psycho, the Cheetah, Thomas Oscar Morrow and so on-- created an opposite number to crush her. Just as Diana was sculpted out of clay and given life by the gods, so did the bad guys gather soil from the sites of the worst massacres in history (Auschwitz, Darfur, etc.) and somehow bring it to life in the form of a vaguely female (or at least, hippy and full-busted [is that a real term? sorry]) creature named Genocide. She ugly.And she beats the bejeezus out of Wonder Woman, and then steals her magic lasso.

HISTORY LESSON: William Moulton Marston, the guy who created Wonder Woman, was a) the inventor of the polygraph (aka lie-detector) machine, and b) kind of a closeted bondage freak. So as a primary weapon, instead of a gun or a sword or a guitar (or a combination of the three which would make her a Final Fantasy character ZING!) or anything else normal, he gave her a magic, unbreakable lasso that can make anyone ensnared within it tell the absolute truth. END HISTORY LESSON

By taking the lasso, Genocide doesn't just beat Wonder Woman. She breaks her. When Donna Troy (old Wonder Girl) and Cassie (new Wonder Girl) and the Department of Extranormal Affairs agents find her, she doesn't even care if they save her life. That's how connected she is to her lasso. The dialogue here is pretty good, especially Diana's love interest, Tom Tresser, one of the DEA agents. They all sound genuinely worried and shaken. And as evidenced by Secret Six (I'll get to that one soon), Gail Simone is good at writing villains. With Cheetah and T.O. Morrow she continues to excel. Although with Genocide... meh. "I HATE THEIR WEAKNESS. I TOOK SOMETHING FROM HER. NOW IT IS MINE." Monsters, Incredible Hulk and various subsidiaries notwithstanding, are notoriously dull once you pull them away from the fight. But with Genocide there's a point to it. The bad guys do something really sick here: somehow they thread the lasso through Genocide's body. It's like, looped around her spine and arms. Yuck. But she uses it to see into people's souls and make them sick and afraid. So, that's neat.

What isn't is all the weird shit leading up to the Greek gods revoking the Amazons' suspension of disbelief permit, or whatever. (I've always disliked Wonder Woman's origin-- for THE female superhero to have a backstory that's so completely removed from what ordinary kids can relate to really undermines her, I think.)
Anyway, apparently the Greek pantheon was in space? And they just came back, and now Athena is dying? And all of them are wearing weird outfits that look like they came from an MST3K-bound sci-fi movie. And then... I don't know. Zeus is either summoning strong women from across the globe to replace the Amazons, or there were Amazons in hiding or something and Zeus is bringing them back... shit, this has to do with that retarded "Amazons Attack" crossover from last year. Okay. That last thing I said, before "Okay."? FORGET I SAID IT. DUMBEST CROSSOVER EVER. Usually here is where I would explain what I just said for the average non-comics reader. Not this time. "Amazons Attack" was too dumb to live. Y'know that one Texas court case where the judge let the guy off because he said "that boy just needed killin'"? This is like that.
And this is the kind of thing that taints the whole series. Three years ago, Greg Rucka was writing a completely different (and slightly more understandable and better-explained) take on the Greek pantheon's role in Wonder Woman's life, and Gail Simone's flying in the face of it, which isn't always a bad thing, it's just that I've been reading this book since she started writing it and I'm no closer to understanding where she's ultimately going with this. I hope that's a good thing. Seriously, Gail Simone usually kicks ass-- check out Secret Six or Birds of Prey. But right now? I dunno. I like Tom Tresser as Diana's suitor, but I don't like that the DEA (government guys who deal with superpowers) are hunting Wonder Woman. Feels forced. I like the gods taking an active role, but I wish they'd explain themselves and stop wearing ridiculous X-Men suits. It's a real mixed bag, and my first thought here is to make some kind of joke contrasting "bag=scrotum" with the fact that I'm reviewing Wonder Woman, and... I'm tipsy and I have to be back at work in seven or eight hours. Fuck.
Rating: Three Tom Collins, and that's mostly because of my great regard for Gail Simone. I would buy her... a drank.
Albums: Tom Waits- Swordfishtrombones & Ryan Adams- Love is Hell

Monday, January 5, 2009

1 Bourbon, 1 Scotch, 1 Book

The New Avengers #48
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Billy Tan

Wow, something almost kind of happened in an issue of New Avengers. Sit up and take notice, people!
So for the past two years or so, N.A. has been the book covering the underground heroes like Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Spider-Man who wouldn't register themselves as government-recognized superpeople. Superheroes who have to sneak around don't get to act very superhero-y that often, so for awhile this book was kind of an odd one. It's an extreme comparison, but what if Superman had to cover his tracks after every rescue? Once they found a Skrull impostor(a shape-shifting green alien, for n00bz) had replaced their old ninja buddy Elektra (as far as anyone can be buddies with an assassin), the road to the Secret Invasion crossover was paved... and then that started to meander around and refocus on a syndicate of B-List villains while Marvel brought a new meaning to the term "slow boil," taking forever to make sure everything was going to fall in line with the Skrulls' near-takeover of the planet.

Sausage party.

ANYWAY, now that that's over and the Wasp has been killed by... catharsis, apparently, and Hawkeye's dead crimefighter wife Mockingbird is alive again-- and I'm starting to think that the five years that Bendis has been writing Avengers was all leading up to him bringing back Mockingbird-- now that Secret Invasion's done, New Avengers can start heading in its own direction again. Namely, a bunch of normally solo characters teaming up to go looking for trouble. This time, in the aftermath of the aforementioned invasion, a Skrull refugee has kidnapped Luke Cage and Jessica Jones's baby. With the new Captain America and the old ("old" here meaning "no longer the Skrull Queen in disguise") Spider-Woman tagging along, the Avengers scour NYC for signs of the... I swear this nearly came out without me thinking about it... alien abductor. When that doesn't work, they consult the Fantastic Four-- in an amusing incidence of continuity, the Four are still sleeping in tents among the ruins of their penthouse. And when Reed Richards, the big brain who pretty much started and ended the Skrull War can't find him, Luke Cage makes a pretty drastic decision in the hopes of getting his daughter home safe.

I'll start with the art since I don't know shit about art so I'll be done quick. It'd be easier to admit that Leinil Yu needed a break if I'd enjoyed Secret Invasion more. But he still put his heart and soul into all eight issues and never broke under the pressure, something I can't say for DC's Final Crisis semi-artist of 5 issues, JG Jones (sorry dude, I say it because I love you). So while Yu's perfect balance of gritty and clean is missing, there's still some gritty and clean. Tan's Cap looks awesome, and I think Spider-Woman's emoting through her mask as well as she has since Bendis shoved her onto the main stage four years ago. But there are also panels where Luke and Jessica are so distressed over the abduction of their child that it's given them skin cancer. And it might be the colorist's fault but Wolverine looks like he's wearing dumpy yellow pajamas the whole time. Then again, he is. I'd give him a six out of ten. (Billy Tan, not Wolverine.)

Writing-wise, Bendis is Bendis. He knows how to build suspense from the exchange of snarky dialogue and pained expressions, but half the time he doesn't know where to go from there-- he pours the foundation and nails together the framework, but sometimes Ed Brubaker and Habitat for Humanity have to come in and finish the job. The scene with the Avengers regrouping at Captain America's place is kind of awkward-- then again, a lot of people and aliens did just die. I'll let that one slide. The scene with the disgruntled SHIELD agents and the panicked runaway Skrull is probably the best Bendis work I've read-- it's a genuinely surprising twist and the action looks suspiciously like a real comic book hero fight. Luke's decision at the end to make a deal with the new devil (Norman Osborn, former Green Goblin and current war hero) to find his daughter is a surprise, but a very unsurprising one. Osborn's the focal point of the next six months of storyline, so of course one of Bendis's favorite characters finds himself intertwined with him. But I'm interested, regardless, and that is more than I've been able to say about the Avengers since I pretty much figured out where Secret Invasion was going (re: right after it came out). So I'll call that an eight out of ten.