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.