Monday, October 31, 2011

"Tattered Man" should be in quotes, everywhere, here.

Sometimes I buy comics on clearance on a knee-jerk reaction to the price; getting sold on the sale. Like today's book: The Tattered Man, written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, with art by Norberto Fernandez.

On Halloween, a trio of junkies in costumes, desperate for a score, plan a little home invasion. They crash the home of an old Jewish man, telling themselves that he must have gold or money, but all he has is a box of rags. The old man was a Holocaust survivor, who nearly died in a final purge at the war's end, but was saved when the rags rose out of a mass grave and killed every Nazi there. Although he remembers being angry that this spirit of vengeance didn't show up until his family was dead, the man takes the rags with him to America to start a new life and a family.

The lead junkie, not buying the story, shoots the man's daughter when she arrives with his granddaughter for trick-or-treating. Then the old man, then his fellow junkie David when he tries to stop him. Dying, the rags enter David, telling him he will feel the suffering of all the victims. Until he avenges them, as the Tattered Man.

If this sounds familiar, well, it sounds a lot like a reworking of DC's Ragman. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing: sometimes proposals don't go through. I'm pretty sure Warren Ellis's Gravel was reworked from plots he had planned on using in Hellblazer, and those were pretty good. (Although, giving John Constantine SAS training and guns is like giving an unfair advantage to an undefeated team.)

Still, I thought this was going to be something else. Oh, well.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

OK, this week's comics:

I'm sure Elsa could get out of that cuff, but why?
Anyone notice I only do these on slow weeks? I think I had a month's worth of books last Wednesday, and wasn't about to even try this.

I missed Legion of Monsters #1 last week, and that looks like it'll be a fun limited, tying in characters from Nextwave and recently, Franken-Castle. Elsa Bloodstone chases down a monster to the "Monster Metropolis" under New York, where the Legion of Monsters--Morbius, Manphibian, Werewolf by Night, and the Living Mummy--are trying to keep the peace as "monster police." (As Elsa snippily puts it.) But something may be turning the monsters into...MONSTERS. Fun characters, fighting, neat art. It's not Sandman or anything, but that's ok.
Ellis can either write a good fight comic, or knows how to get out of the artist's way.  Either one works.
In the same vein, Secret Avengers #18: with Shang-Chi and Sharon Carter, Steve Rogers fights the Shadow Council in a bad continuum, to keep the evil organization from bringing back fissionable material. Warren Ellis brings just enough plot to hang kicking on, and we see how Shang-Chi brings more than thuggery to the table, how uncomfortable Steve is in Nick Fury's spy wheelhouse, and why he loves Sharon. Another fun issue, and I'd recommend getting them as such: these are still singles and don't feel like they're written by the trade at all.

Abe Sapien: the Devil Does Not Jest #2 would've been worth it for me, for just this panel alone:
That can't be good for the suspension.
Hellboy and Professor Bruttenholm get a lot of page time this issue, as they realize Abe is in a lot of trouble in Maine. Hellboy remains unconcerned, since he trained Abe to be prepared. And he is! Whether by accident or design, Mignola and Arcudi do a great job of keeping characters in play: neither Abe nor Hellboy are currently active in the main books, but still show up a ton. Heck, Bruttenholm was killed off in the first issue of the first Hellboy series, Seed of Destruction, yet he still shows up in mini-series, sometimes as the lead! You've heard me say it before, but the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. books are great, buy them.
Imagine that David Hyde-Pierce/Doug Jones voice there.

Eventually, there'll be an entire issue of NSFW panels.

There's a lot of nudity in Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker #7. Not just female nudity, either...or even male; there's whatever the Absolutely is. Captured and tortured by Jihad Jones, his engine heart disabled, Butcher's only hope is lawman Arnie B. Willard. Who wants Butcher for himself...that doesn't even come close to covering how weird this book is. Man, it's the eighth issue of this already? I don't know if I see this one going 100 issues or anything, so enjoy it now.
How often do you see Brainy taken aback, at all?
How many of you bought DC comics to get a power ring? How many of you remember any of the books you bought for the rings? Legion Secret Origin #1 came with a Legion Flight Ring, which admittedly was a big selling point. While I've enjoyed the Legion before, I'm like three or four reboots down at this point. This comic isn't bad, but I don't know if it's the Legion origin that a new reader would need: there still seems to be a lot of info there that isn't completely spelled out, like the importance of R.J. Brande. Actually, I say that, but I'm quite all right with the scene with Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, and Cosmic Boy saving Brande being shortened, since I've seen it about a dozen times; and would much rather watch Phantom Girl and Brainiac 5 work their case. Still, Flight Ring! Oddly, I don't know if the rings were heavily promoted this time--were there ads in the Legion books, or anywhere else? We'll see about the rest of the series...

Legion of Monsters #1, "Hell Street Blues" Written by Dennis Hopeless, art by Juan Doe.

Secret Avengers #18, "No Zone" Written by Warren Ellis, art by David Aja with Raul Allen.

Abe Sapien: the Devil Does Not Jest #2, written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, art by James Harren.

Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker #7, written by Joe Casey, art and colors by Mike Huddleston.

Legion Secret Origin #1, "From the Wreckage" Written by Paul Levitz, art by Chris Batista and Marc Deering.
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Thursday, October 27, 2011

80-Page Thursdays: JSA 80 Page Giant #1!

Split up, and stay together...which is it?
For the next stretch, as long as I can find them, every Thursday we'll check out an 80-page comic! Not 64, not 100, 80-page giants only! Today, Justice Society of America 80-Page Giant #1! Or JSA 80 Page Giant 2010. Or maybe some other title entirely. Written by Zander Cannon, Jerry Ordway, James Robinson, and more; with art by Ordway, Scott Hampton, Freddy Williams II, and more.

Even more so than any other team comic, even the JLA; I don't think it's possible to tell a JSA story longer than 23 pages without everyone splitting into smaller groups for individual chapters. So, of course when things get weird at the Justice Society Brownstone, the team splits up faster than the kids on Scooby-Doo. (Spoiler: the reason for the weirdness is some mystic doohickey left behind by Dr. Fate; ostensibly as an early-warning system. It's main function seems to be to distort time and space and leave a really vague prophetic warning, that may or may not have anything to do with future storylines.)

In a Golden Age-set story, like he did so well in Starman, James Robinson has Cyclone tell the current Mr. America about his predecessor's meeting with her grandma, the original Red Tornado. There's stories catching up with the most recent heroes to carry the names Steel and Amazing Man; but I really wouldn't get too attached to them. Wildcat's son gets a bizarre flashback of his dad, his werecat Mom, the Golden Age Huntress, and the original Dr. Mid-Nite. The original Wildcat, Ted Grant, comes off as a cad in that one; then again in another story with Cyclone and Power Girl.

Damage gets the trippiest, and probably best story of the issue: separated from his group, he ends up in a dark room, with the current Dr. Mid-Nite. Realizing he's on an operating table, Damage hopes the good doctor has finally worked out how to fix his wrecked face. Um...not so much.
Mid-Nite turns out the lights, needing darkness for his abilities, for surgery. Bleeding out puts his ugly face into perspective, but here's where things get weird for Damage: after a visitation by Vandal Savage, he sees Mid-Nite remove foreign bodies from his stomach: tiny versions of his foster parents. While they protest, Damage points out they were more jailers than parents, and Mid-Nite dumps them, like excised tumors, into a biohazard bin.

Where Savage had been, Zoom now visits Damage's bedside: Zoom wrecked his face, but also claims to have made him far tougher for the experience. If Zoom had met him earlier, perhaps Damage's girlfriend wouldn't have been killed by the snake villain Splatter. (I know I read a few issues of Damage's solo series in the 90's, but I don't know if those events all happened there or in JSA.) Mid-Nite removes tumors of the dead girlfriend and Splatter; and now Gog appears like Dicken's third ghost. Gog claims without that poison in him, Damage could be anyone. Instead, he asks for his pain back. It's a creepy, visually striking story; I don't know if Cannon and Hampton were fans of Damage, or just did their research, but they did it well.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Hug your kids today...or your robots, or whatever."

Stel's boy there is an Iron Man Titanium Man figure--not a bad one, but not nearly as bulky as I usually expect TM to be. In fact, I think the packaging even refers to the heavier nature of the Titanium Man; although of course I don't have it next to me. And for some reason, I had it in my head that the original TM's real name was Ivan Danko, and no.
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hawkman and Green Arrow, guest-starring in Les Miserables:

What I don't know about Les Miserables could fill...I don't know, a book or a musical play or something. Maybe you can pick up the gist of it from today's comic: from World's Finest #259, "Stake Out Earth" and "Regarding the Winged Wonder" Written by Gerry Conway, pencils by Don Newton, inks by Dave Hunt and Vince Colletta.

After stopping two kids from rolling a wino, Green Arrow is on the scene to see a mysterious electrical alien. Injured by GA's net arrow, the alien is more concerned about the coming of the Searcher, who, according to him, only cares about justice and has been looking for him for five thousand years. After visiting with Black Canary, Ollie sees another electrical alien's arrival on TV, and goes to check it out. This one's the Searcher, who turns out to be a dick, injuring Canary since he thinks she and Ollie are trying to protect his quarry.

Taking the injured Canary to the JLA's satellite, Hawkman takes up the case; wondering if maybe Ollie's anti-authority attitude led him to over-sympathize with the criminal. Hawkman tracks the criminal with a device that looks like a tennis racket, then asks him his crime. The criminal proclaims "My crime was that I was hungry...and chose not to starve!" Formerly the leader of a poor planet, when a plague destroyed their crops, and after no one would help them; the criminal stole a food ship from a richer planet. Describing the food as one world's delicacy, he did little harm, but still fled his world so the Searchers would only come after him.

Then, with the ease that a man might throw a switch; Hawkman, throws a switch!
Hawkman tries to talk the Searcher into showing leniency, but is swatted aside. The Searcher and his quarry then battle, sucking electrical power from the grid. Hawkman overloads the grid, and the aliens, throwing them into another dimension to finish their battle. Or, that's what Hawkman tells Green Arrow and Black Canary. At any rate, even though he seemingly felt the quarry had been punished enough, Hawkman still throws Jean Valjean to Inspector Javert. There's a lesson there somewhere; namely, that Hawkman's kind of a jerk.
'Oh, yeah, Ollie.  Totally didn't just atomize those two.  Sure.'

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Monday, October 24, 2011

"Master Bruce, I must regretfully tender my resignation." "OK, Alfred. See ya."

And that's one of just a couple oddities in today's book: from World's Finest #259, "Gotham City--Ghost City?" Written by Denny O'Neil, art by Richard F. Buckler and Dick Giordano.

After Batman takes down a couple petty thugs, he turns them over to a beat-tired beat cop who laments there's no judges in Gotham to try them: hundreds, if not thousands of Gotham's citizens have left town. Batman is confused why that would be, even though he's lived in that cesspool most of his life...

Meanwhile, in Metropolis, Superman has to stop a bridge from collapsing under the weight of just about everyone from Gotham moving in. When asked why, all the ex-Gothamites can say is they had an urge to move to Metropolis. An urge that now strikes Alfred. An exhausted Batman lets him go with little more than a "Take care, Alfred" before Superman arrives. After reviewing similar historical cases like the Roanoke Colony, Bats gets a call from Commissioner Gordon, who's received a ransom note claiming responsibility from 'Winks' Cravane, a petty con man. While Superman saves the Gotham refugees, Batman tracks down Winks, who runs all the way back to his apartment.

Winks was trying to cash in on the crisis, but he gives Batman an important clue: he got the idea when he couldn't sleep, and Bats realizes he, the cop, and Winks all hadn't slept recently (and presumably Gordon as well) while Gotham's citizens were compelled to move in their sleep. Researching the patterns of who moved earliest, Batman establishes an epicenter of the event, and Superman finds a mysterious meteorite buried deep under the surface. The meteorite has a faded alien writing on it, leading Superman to believe it was part of an ancient experiment. In Metropolis, the Gothamites have mostly gathered in one spot, and Superman finds another meteorite; this one attracting the refugees. Supes throws both meteorites into space, then takes the Gothamites home on a giant platform; while Bats takes a nap.

On the cover of this issue, faced with the hordes of Gotham refugees/invaders, one citizen proclaims "Out of the way heroes! Even you can't stop eight million people!" This would've been more fun if Supes and Bats had just looked at each other and said "Sounds like a bet!" and started punching people. (Batman, after punching an entire family of four: "You'll go back to that crime-infested hellhole and you'll like it!...ah, I made myself sad.") And of course, the Onion had a similar story about New York City, although that likewise expresses little surprise that people would finally realize they'd be happier somewhere else. Anywhere else.

More from this issue tomorrow!
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Friday, October 21, 2011

Good grief. I have 80-Page Thursday posts written for January, I've started links and pictures for the sixth annual year in toys, and I've even got one done for next year's Retro Toy Week; so why isn't Friday's post done?

Because I've been sitting about watching zombie movies is not an acceptable answer...I watched George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead the other day, even though I hated about every character in it fifteen minutes in: while it has it's moments, there is a lot of handling of the idiot ball. That, and the ostensible lead, a National Guard Sargent (formerly a Colonel) who deserts, was previously seen in Diary of the Dead, robbing the students from the prior movie, at gunpoint. That scene is shown as a flashback early in Survival, and made me want to punch him in the face for the next hour and a half. I don't remember Diary of the Dead as being great either, but I did pick up the original Dawn of the Dead at a pawn shop the other week. I want to sit down and watch it, but I get tired of zombie movies ongoing message that zombies are bad, but people will kill you. (The entire Aliens series likewise beats you over the head with that one.) It's probably true, but still.

Really need to sort out that pile of DVD's I haven't watched yet...a running joke with my Oldest is the Incredible Hulk DVD: we saw it at the cheap theatre, but went late, and he managed to fall asleep during the final Hulk/Abomination fight. I bought the DVD new, and we still haven't opened it. I didn't think it was too bad, and watched it a bit back on FX. Might miss Norton in Avengers, even.

For a couple days there, I was exceedingly worried about the #Occupy Wall Street protesters. While it would be nice if they had a clear idea of what they wanted to accomplish (although, the fear is that their concerns would be broken down into easily digestible/ignorable talking points) I think they're doing a good thing. For example, if this country cared enough to punish bankers and financiers that exploit or abuse the system; to the same extent that, say, drug offenders are prosecuted...throw a few Wall Streeters into a federal lockup for their crimes, and I think you'll find their associates hold to the straight-and-narrow a little more firmly.

No, my worry was that it could take a determined 1% type about twenty minutes and maybe, I don't know, a hundred thousand dollars to crush #OWS. Step 1: Get a disguise. Step 2: Gather up three or four garbage bags full of one-dollar bills. It's a one-time expenditure, and what, you want to pay that money as taxes? Step 3: In disguise, take said money to the roof or convenient window, and start dumping it on the crowd of Occupy protesters. Playing Prince's "Trust" at this point is completely optional, but I'd strongly recommend it. Step 4: Get out of there, removing your disguise when you're out of sight. Don't sit around watching the riots you've just started; you can watch them at home, on Fox News, over and over and over. Even if 1% of the crowd goes crazy for the cash, the entire Occupy movement will be lambasted as greedy, violent savages that just want a handout; even though you would get much the same results dumping money at a NFL game or a girl scout meeting. I can't decide if this is an irrational fear...or wishful thinking, 'cause that would be kinda cool.

In other news, it feels like winter is already starting, and I'm already lamenting the lack of exercise I'm about to get for the next couple months; since left to my own devices I'll wrap up in the blankets and try to hibernate. On the upside, my cholesterol should be in the negative numbers by now, since I've eaten box after box of Chocolate Cheerios. How many Spongebob toys did we get for the Youngest? Um...
I think I even missed a couple...

The promo appears to be over, but if I happen to see a box with Squarepants on it, I'll be compelled to buy it, since out of eight possible figures, we only got five or six. (Luckily, the Youngest doesn't really care about that.) I'm sure somewhere, someone's pulling out their hair about not getting a baseball Spongebob; and I have a spare one on my desk at work.

I did have a spare few minutes to re-read a recent purchase, The Mammoth Book of Zombie Comics. For an anthology, it comes in with a pretty solid hit/miss percentage, although I was slightly disappointed since I already had Scott Hampton's adaptation of Robert E. Howard's Pigeons from Hell. It's quite good, though. Well worth picking up, especially if you can find it for $3.49! (Try Hastings.) It's not quite big enough to use to bludgeon a zombie, but it's close.
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

80-Page Thursdays: Dark Horse Presents #1!

For the next stretch, as long as I can find them, every Thursday we'll check out an 80-page comic! Not 64, not 100, 80-page giants only! Today, a non-DC one! Dark Horse Presents #1! I got the Paul Chadwick Concrete cover version at Hastings for $.99; no way to pass that up! Featuring Richard Corben, Neal Adams, Frank Miller (in a short preview and interview) and more.

It's an anthology book, and as usual, some of the stories are going to work for you, some aren't. I kind of liked Howard Chaykin's "Marked Man," but it was the first part of however many, and the lead's home life just looks punishing. Harlan Ellison's short story "How Interesting: a Tiny Man" is a damning indictment of the public's mass indignation over things that shouldn't matter to them. Michael T. Gilbert's "Mr. Monster vs. Oooak!" was perfect for this sort of book, like a good side dish, maybe not something you would order by itself, but great with the meal.

Carla Speed McNeil brings a chapter of "Finder," that reads just fine by itself; no mean feat for an anthology. But, perversely, my favorite this issue may have been Randy Stradley and Paul Gulacy's "The Third Time Pays for All." It's an intro to Star Wars: Crimson Empire III, and I can't recall if I've read the previous volumes.

Ten years after the Emperor's death, former Imperial Guardsman Kir Kanos is trailing a bounty and planning on killing Luke and Leia; but his narration is a love letter to Mirath Sinn, a girl he's fought with and against the previous two volumes and is now Leia's bodyguard. Sure, Kir likes her, but he's got revenge and all planned, so...contrasting the two gives the story a weird, John Hinckley feel. Anytime you're writing a love letter that includes the murders you have're probably doing it wrong.

I know a recent DHP issue has an Eric Powell story, but I'll probably start reading it regularly when B.P.R.D. comes in.
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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"You Better Recognize."

I've been really enjoying Cartoon Network's Young Justice since it came back on; and last Friday's episode featured the Justice League and guest cameos from Plastic Man, Guy Gardner, Blue Devil, and from Milestone comics, Icon!

If you haven't watched the show, the JL's computer announces a team member's entrance to the Watchtower or Secret Sanctuary by reading their name and designation number. (It could be a sneaky way of introducing a character without always having to introduce them...) We don't know Blue Devil's number, but he has to be pretty far down the list...BD became a member on or around Justice League America #98 in 1995; the series would end with #113, we'll leave it at that.

If Young Justice has been pretty good, last Friday's Batman: the Brave and the Bold just crushed it: Batman and Space Ghost? That filled an empty spot in my soul I didn't even know I had. And the recent Wonder Woman cold open, with old-school theme and sound effects? Man, that series could run for a million more episodes, and I'd be A-OK with that.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

In lieu of contact content, here's Ben Grimm in a white leisure suit:

Slightly under the weather, so here's a page from Marvel Two-in-One #68, "Discos and Dungeons!" Written by Mark Gruenward and Ralph Macchio, art by Ron Wilson and Gene Day. The Thing and the Angel are kidnapped by the Toad, who may be setting his sights a little too high there, even with "financing" from Arcade. This would've been a good place to end the Toad's story, rehabilitating him; but he would fall back into bad habits later. Anyway, new strip tomorrow, see you then!

Really, really need to proof
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Monday, October 17, 2011

J. Jonah Jameson would've had headlines like "Batman: Fraud, or Hoax?"

As usual, I swear I was looking for something else, but stumbled across this issue, and I had a question anyway that I may as well bring up here. Today, we're checking out The Batman Chronicles #10, starting with "To See the Batman" Written by Bob Gale, with art by Bill Sienkiewicz.

This was a text story with illustrations by Sienkiewicz, something seen every once in a great while for Batman.* It's the story of a fourteen year old boy and his quest to see Batman, in order to impress his classmates. And girls. Instead of doing anything aggressively stupid like staging a crime or, god forbid, putting on a costume; he goes about it methodically, logically deducing what would or would not work.

He also points out that although some conspiracy theorists don't believe in Batman, and argue that the Bat-Signal is just a smokescreen; the cops are not going to be that clever. ("I'd believe Batman was an alien before I'd believe the Gotham P.D. was smart enough to pull off a hoax like that.") Which brings me to my question: in the earliest Batman stories--think anything set in Year One--Batman is not seen. He's a shadow, a ghost, an urban legend.

Then, at some point, the secret is out. While still not widely seen, Batman's existence is known behind reasonable doubt. Remember, in Tim Drake's origin, he saw TV news footage, of Batman and Robin, spliced from several angles! And presumably after that, Bats is seen with the Justice League. (Some incarnation of the Justice League, anyway.)

I don't have a problem with Bats being exposed as real--I think there's only so far to go with urban legend Batman, and there's a reason why that status quo only lasts maybe the first hour or so of Burton's Batman or even Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins. But I wonder if in any comic continuity, there's a dividing line: Batman was an urban legend, then this happened.

For good measure, here's a Gary Frank page where Bats is obviously a guy, but still a guy that will make thugs crap themselves.

Milestone briefly had a book called Kobalt, about an urban vigilante who had built his reputation up until Dakota's criminal underworld believed him to be a demonic force. Unfortunately, when forced to take a kid sidekick (favors were owed...) and said sidekick then caught on video, Kobalt's rep is completely gutted. I've only read one issue of Kobalt, so I'm not sure how that worked out; or if Batman would experience something similar, but I'm curious.

Hmm. I haven't read all of Batman Chronicles. We mentioned the staggering awfulness of Batman Chronicles #21, and it gnaws at me that I can't positively say that was the worst of the lot...

* I want to say there's a Jim Starlin prose story with illustrations--or maybe Michael Golden? No, Denny O'Neil and Marshall Rogers! "Death Strikes at Midnight and Three"--that I thought we'd see on 80-Page Thursdays sometime. If it isn't a figment of my imagination. EDIT: It is real, but I thought it was in an issue of Batman Family, it's from DC Special Series #15 and reprinted in The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told.
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Friday, October 14, 2011

I'm not "Down" on this comic...sorry.

This is from the second issue, but I wanted a more SFW scan; no swears or anything.
Some viewers may consider the movie Leaving Las Vegas to be downbeat, but to me it’s uplifting: Nicholas Cage’s character had a goal, stuck with his goal through adversity, and achieved his goal. Sure, said goal was to drink himself to death, but perseverance is perseverance. In the same vein is today’s book, Warren Ellis’s Down.

Featuring art by Tony Harris and Cully Hamner, the GCD claims the limited series ran from December 2005 to March 2006, although I would’ve sworn the second half was late. Nor do I remember, if I ever knew, why Harris only did the first two issues, or if that was the plan from the start.

Undercover cop Deanna Ransome has been working on, and within, the Sakura mob for two years. This last drug deal will deliver the evidence needed to bring the entire organization down. Instead, when she sees three men forcing a woman to smoke crack so they can rape her; Deanna kills the lot of them. Although three other cops get killed in the process, it does strike me as a bit of a weak gang…

Suspended, Deanna is given a new assignment by Lt. Price: five years ago, Price sent Detective Nick River undercover to bring down the bigger Mendoza gang. River killed Mendoza, sure; but then he took over, running the gang to that day. Deanna points out that “sending a cop undercover to basically assassinate a drug dealer” is awfully illegal; and I was just wondering why Price doesn’t simply spread the word River was a cop. (Presumably, either the gang no longer cares, or it would be more damaging and/or incriminating to reveal the police put a hit out.)

Price asks why Deanna killed the Sakura gang, and knows it wasn’t just because of the rape. Deanna explains, with a bitterly detached calm, that she was raped, four times, between the ages of 14 and 16. All reported to the police, none prosecuted. Price says Deanna would never get off suspension, but there is an option: go undercover again, this time in the Mendozas. Get Nick River. Price isn’t particular about River's condition, either…
This is from #3, Cully Hamner art.
A great opening issue, that could’ve easily spun out a longer series. Or a movie or TV show, although it would doubtless be sanitized a great deal. Ellis subtly sets up things that pay off later, as well—Deanna will go out of her way to kill rapists, but doesn’t seem particularly concerned about the victims; and Price seems to be sticking with a plan that didn’t work out that great the first time around. And at least for me, this one doesn’t end on a “down” note…I’m so sorry.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

80-Page Thursdays: JLA 80-Page Giant #1!

That wacky Ollie!
For the next stretch, as long as I can find them, every Thursday we'll check out an 80-page comic! Not 64, not 100, 80-page giants only! Today, a favorite: JLA 80-Page Giant #1! Pound for pound, this may be one of the strongest 80-page issues you can find: stories from John Ostrander, Christopher Priest, Mark Millar, Keith Giffen, and more; with art by Kevin Maguire, Ken Lashley, Eric Battle, and more.

Ostrander leads off with a Batman/Superman story, where Bats investigates a murder with the victim's heart punched out, fingerprints burnt off, and a suspicious green bullet in a lead pocket. Gordon suspects a frame...but what if it isn't? Batman investigates and asks around, even if he has this one solved from the get-go. So should you. (A lead pocket wouldn't be invisible to Superman, for one thing; it would look like a big lead lump on someone.)

Next, in the satellite era, a businessman offers the team a billion dollar donation in "For Sale--the Justice League!" Only Green Arrow is suspicious, but the rest of the team consider him a paranoid crank since he sounds like a paranoid crank. This story also features Ollie and Hawkman butting heads, which I always enjoy.
In Booster's defense, I too hate wharf rats...
While I sometimes wished Blue Beetle and Booster Gold would be taken at least somewhat seriously, it's hard when the funny stuff with them is done so well. Case in point: Blue and Gold vs. a mouse, in "Mousebusters." A classic of the form.

Todd Dezago explains why Red Tornado was sitting in the old JLA's cave at the start of Young Justice in "Tin Man's Lament," and Mark Millar takes a look at "the Secret Society of Super Villains" and some themes that he would later use in Wanted: a unified front of villains. Kyle Rayner takes J'onn's advice to heart in "Warrior's Heritage" before my favorite of the issue:
I specifically went with an unspoilery page here, but just realized Aquaman had to be saved, underwater.
"Revelations" by Christopher Priest (of Black Panther and other stuff) and Eric Battle and Prentis Rollins: Wonder Woman joins Aquaman for an undersea rescue of treasure hunters. Beardy, hook-hand Aquaman just seems surly and grumpy, since he'd as soon leave the hunters to stew, and wishes J'onn or Supes had come...for reasons that become clear when he's tangled in Diana's lasso. It's a sharp story that does a lot in a little space, so check it.

As of right this minute, we'll have 80-Page Thursdays going into 2012! Which in theory means I should get a day off a week for a while, but in practice not so much. Next to my computer is still a pile of at least eight 80-pagers, so this may continue until March...
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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"War of the Gargantuas."

Click to giant--I mean, Goliath-size!

I really need to just cough up and buy War of the Gargantuas on DVD—it’s been a good 25 to 30 years since I’ve seen it, and I’m not even positive I’ve ever seen it all the way through. That and Frankenstein Conquers the World. Man, SyFy can run a full day of Saw like three days a month, but can’t spare a couple hours for these? Stupid world…

Anyway, the Marvel Universe Gigantic Battles Goliath/Thor Two Pack was marked down to $13 at a local Wal-Mart, so I picked him up. It’s All True had a post on the two, and as usual, OAFE has a solid review up; although yo apparently enjoyed Civil War more than I did. Admittedly, that wouldn’t be hard; and it’s a bit of cheek to package a character with the comic he dies in.

Of course, that was Bill Foster, formerly Black Goliath, and Giant-Man; whom we’ve mentioned here before as having a dismal win/loss record…geez, I was going to say like the Detroit Lions, but they’re doing great this year. Maybe the new Goliath could be compared to the current Lions, since he’s off to a good start as well: Bill’s nephew Tom assumed the mantle of his uncle, but so far hasn’t had the crushing defeats or pyrrhic victories his uncle did. (So far: he has joined Wonder Man’s…ugh, Revengers, a team dedicated to dishing out some comeuppance to Iron Man and/or the Avengers, which so far they’ve done by attacking the Avengers team without Iron Man, Cap, or Thor.) Blog@Newsarama was worried Tom had been killed, but that appears to have been a flashback to poor Bill.

War Machine’s role in this strip was lucky timing: I had just bought him a couple days prior, and although this one doesn’t unmask like the Marvel Legends version, he’s a good update.

And the other reason for today's title? A classic Milk & Cheese from Evan Dorkin:

From Milk & Cheese #666. Love it.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Some odd choices on this one:

A cure for the Walking Dead? Yeah, AMC cuts their budget...
Sigh. Other blogs are probably organized or focused enough to bring you a whole month of scary posts in October, but that's why this is Random Happenstance and not Precision Nonsense Funtime. Anyway, I got Star Trek: Infestation #2 on the cheap a couple of weeks back. (Written by Scott and David Tipton, layouts by Casey Maloney, finishes and inks by Gary Erskine.) It's part of IDW's crossover with their Zombies vs. Robots franchise and their licensed properties, including Transformers, G.I. Joe, and Ghostbusters.

OK, so it's basically Kirk, Spock, and McCoy versus zombies. (With a little help from some friendly, clunky robots.) But it struck me as odd that this story was set during The Motion Picture era--brown away uniforms, the security guys wore heavier gear and pads--instead of the classic, Original Series look. McCoy is also able to cure the zombies here--mostly. They're still carriers and have to be quarantined on the planet, and zombie-ism really jacks you up, but still, not bad.

'Spock, didn't we have phasers? OK, whatever.'

I'm usually not one to go out of my way for variant covers, but these are notable: both issues had Gold Key-styled variants, the other cover for #2 featuring zombie Tribbles. Man, I still wouldn't mind getting that one.
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Monday, October 10, 2011

Why Marvel hasn't made these, I have no idea...

After the Deadpool Corps defeats the Awareness and saves the earth (from danger that wouldn't have got there for eight thousand years) the Contemplator gives the team power rings! Well, not quite. The Contemplator explains each ring will only work once, but will summon an Elder of the Universe; which may just have been his way of getting back at the others like the Grandmaster, the Collector, or the Champion.

I'm pretty sure DC's taken a lot of the top spots of the sales charts with their new 52; but Marvel really should've stolen a page from DC's playbook and gone with promotional rings. I'm not just saying that because I want one. Really. From Deadpool Corps #5, written by Victor Gischler, pencils by Rob Liefeld, inks by Adelso Corona.
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Saturday, October 08, 2011

Three things:

Yesterday was the first day all week that wasn't raining in the morning, so I walked to work. On my way home, in the parking lot, I came across a frankly huge catapillar. Not wanting it to get squashed, I slid it onto a piece of paper and placed it back on the grass. My first three thoughts:

1. You're welcome, Mothra. (That thing was huge and bulbous, and it really did look like it should be skittering about a model of Tokyo shooting webbing at Godzilla.)

2. Hey, I probably just passed my Voight-Kampff test! Not that I was worried about being a replicant; I was more worried about being a shoddily-made replicant. I swear, I can only pass for human at a distance.

3. Some time later, it occurred to me that I put the catapillar back the direction it had come from. If it was heading somewhere, I may have set it back days... Read more!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Remember the first time Batman met the JLA?

You probably don't remember it like this: from Batman Confidential #53, "Super Powers, chapter four: Altered States" Written by Marc Guggenheim, art by Jerry Bingham. Batman crashes the JLA's cave headquarters in search of a case file on a killer he's tracking; and runs afoul of Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and the Martian Manhunter. While Bats correctly guesses Wonder Woman is the most powerful, he still really hurts his hand punching her.

Although this was running out the clock both on this book and until the DC relaunch; this was a mildly interesting storyline involving several flashbacks: one to Bruce's training with apparently super-powered martial artists, another to an early JLA case with an alien vampire. Bingham varies his art and colors appropriately to the different time frames, to the point that I thought there were more artists here.

The trouble with getting a lot of books on sale, is that I picked up three of the five issues of "Super Powers." Need to look around for the other two sometime, even if it was probably apocrypha even when it was hitting the stands. Read more!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

80-Page Thursdays: Superboy #165!

Invulnerable or no, I don't think Krypto wants to be rubbed with barbed wire...
For the next stretch, as long as I can find them, every Thursday we'll check out an 80-page comic! Not 64, not 100, 80-page giants only! Today...a cheat, since this is an "80-pager" with maybe 60 pages of story, and those are reprints: Superboy #165! Featuring "Superboy's Red-Letter Days!" There's an expression I just don't hear anymore.

This issue reprints some classic Superboy stories, like the first appearance of Krypto (where he looks super-doofy), the deaths of Ma and Pa Kent (which I swear I've seen five versions of, pre-Crisis), Superboy's first encounters with the Phantom Zone and Kryptonite (which probably contradict the hell out of his first encounters with them as an adult), and the secret origin of the Lana Lang/Lois Lane feud. That last one is some good crazy; as Lana uses a time viewer to get a glimpse of future Superman kissing "that hussy, Lois whoever she is!" Lana goes to surprising lengths to block the young Lois from becoming a reporter and meeting Superman--I say 'surprising,' because Lana stops short of arranging a fatal 'accident.'

Featuring work from Jerry Coleman, Al Plastino, Curt Swan, and more.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

"Griftbats." (Unless I can come up with a better title...)

DC fans, help me out: I know there have been more invisible aliens than the three I name here, and the ones hassling Grifter. For some reason, the first ones that come to mind for me are the ones that gave Animal Man his powers, and I'm not even positive on that. But, sometimes the trouble in building a patchwork world like the DC universe is that there's some overlap, some redundancies.

Grifter #2 should be next week, but today is the first batch of second issues in DC's 52 initiative or reboot or whatever we're calling it. By rights, I should give them credit for their success--personally, I'm buying three more DC books than I was prior. (Static Shock, Demon Knights, and OMAC, all for at least their first six issues. Ignore the fact that I'd be reading other DC titles if they didn't get cancelled out from under me...) And I'm pretty sure the sales have been massive, although the #2's may be the real test: who comes back for what.

Still, and keep in mind I'm not DC's target audience for these books, I'm not impressed. I generally hate DC's wishy-washy "it's not a reboot, unless it totally was" policy. Bleeding Cool pointed out co-publisher Dan DiDio's current position that all Crisis events have been removed from DC continuity, which is not a big deal for some characters, and for others is like playing Jenga and your move is to remove the table you're playing on. My thought is, either have continuity, or don't. Stop trying to have it both ways. (I usually like continuity, but there's a lot the last few years that I wouldn't mind seeing cut.)

I know, I know: slavish devotion to continuity should not get in the way of telling a good story. Fine. Then tell some good stories. I enjoyed the issues I read, even if they didn't blow my mind, and even Grifter was at least middle of the road, with potential. Word of mouth and word of blog, books like Batman, Wonder Woman, and Animal Man came out of the blocks strong, and I could be interested in picking up the second or even third prints later. Then there are the middle of the road books, and then the books that disappointed on every level.

Actually, 'on every level' may not be correct, since while most readers would consider Red Hood and the Outlaws or Voodoo to be generally terrible, I can't say they won't find some audience. That's not an encouraging notion...MightyGodKing has a handy chart ranking the DC52 in both quality and introduction to the characters, and it's about 50-50 good/bad. So...that was the best DC could do, eh? I didn't expect every book to be gold, but the bar was higher than that; and I feel like DC took a big chance and played it relatively safe.

Grr. Anyway, I'm not thrilled with Marvel right now, either, but we'll harsh on them some other time.
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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

(Too late) A Review: Toynami's Thundarr the Barbarian!

Is it the best post-apocalyptic cartoon aimed at little kids? Quite possibly! From the 1980 Ruby-Spears cartoon Thundarr the Barbarian, today we have Toynami's 2004 figures, which I've wanted for years. Probably on and off since 1980.

For those of you unfamiliar with the show, in the futuristic year...1994, a "runaway planet" (or comet or whatever) passes between the earth and the moon, wrecking them both up something fierce. Two thousand years later, earth is still solidly messed up, humanity barely up to a medieval level and having to face mutants, monsters, and magic. The titular Thundarr the Barbarian rises out of slavery with his companions Ookla the Mok and Princess Ariel; together they ride across the land and fight evil and whatnot. Seriously, even as a kid, I never really knew and wondered where they were riding to, since everywhere they went was pretty much just as terrible as where they left; but they didn't seem to have any particular goal in mind.

The series was created by Steve Gerber, who was best known for co-creating Howard the Duck. I had thought Jack Kirby was responsible for the characters' designs, but I was wrong: Alex Toth did the main characters before having to leave the show, so Kirby designed the villains and secondary characters. Although the result of natural disaster and not nuclear war or monkeys or plague, the post-apocalyptic setting was unique; but the show did swipe fairly liberally from Star Wars. Thundarr's 'sunsword' should be no means be confused with a lightsaber, Ariel is a Princess because Princesses are cool, and Ookla's growling and general resemblance to a Wookie...means nothing.

Toynami put out this three figure set out in 2004, and I don't know how I missed them: I suspect I got beat to them, then figured they would restock eventually, and never saw them again. Then for some time, it was something I planned to spring for as a Christmas present to myself from eBay; until the figures seemingly disappeared entirely. They would resurface occasionally, but were about as expensive as refined plutonium. Luckily, I recently found a "Buy It Now" auction at a relatively reasonable price for three that were opened, but may have never been taken out of their trays. (For some reason, these seem to show up in batches on eBay, but shop it around.) I had to look up Toynami as well, since I was thinking they were no longer around, but they are! They still make Futurama figures, for one.

Let's talk the figures, for a bit. They walk the line between looking like the character model sheets and having a bit of articulation. Thundarr has ankles, mid-calves, knees, hips, waist, shoulders, elbows, forearms, wrists, and neck; for a total of eighteen points. The head is ball-jointed, but restricted by his barbarian Prince Valiant hair. His fur outfit is soft plastic, though; and he has a magnet in his left wristguard to store the hilt of his sunsword! The blade removes, and it works great, unless you get the magnets the wrong way and shoot it across the room...

Princess Ariel was the magic-user of the group, as well as being the brains of the operation. She also seemed to be fairly educated for the time, so she often had a vague notion of the history of the areas they explored. Like a lot of female figures, Ariel doesn't get as much articulation, as to not mar the sculpt. Her joints are mostly cuts: hips, boot tops, shoulders, wrists, and a restricted balljoint neck like Thundarr's. (Ariel may have forearm twists, but mine seemed sticky, so I didn't want to push them, and they're redundant with the wrists anyway.) She comes with a magical fireball-like sphere and spinny-shield.

Ookla the Mok, Thundarr's biggest companion, was probably children's favorite back in the day. He's basically Chewbacca the Barbarian, but I'm OK with that. Ookla's solid mane of hair means he has no neck, but he does have wrists, elbows, shoulders, waist, hips, knees, and boot tops. He also has swappable hands, open or fists; and a bow and arrow. I honestly suspect Ookla got a bow because Chewbacca had his bowcaster; Ookla seemed strong enough to just throw whatever was handy at anything he couldn't reach.

Wikipedia points out that although Thundarr the Barbarian was a Ruby-Spears production, the DVD release of the complete series seems to imply it was from Hanna-Barbera. And, so do the trays for the figures! And, checking the figures, so does Ookla's foot! The entry notes Joe Ruby and Ken Spears had been head writers for Hanna-Barbera before creating their own animation studio; but Hanna-Barbera may have ended up with the characters now.

Super-happy to finally have these three. I imagine we'll be seeing them around here every so often, too.

The above was pretty much what I thought the future was going to be. Cyborgs and road warriors fighting their way through a hellish wasteland of gangs and monsters. Best case. Read more!