Friday, June 29, 2012

Obamacare, Schobamacare.

Some helpful advice for a good weekend from Bruce Campbell and the comic adaptation of My Name is Bruce; script by Milton Freewater, Jr; based on a screenplay by Mark Verheiden, art by Cliff Richards.

My Name is Bruce isn't Mr. Campbell's best film, but it's still a lot of fun. When a small Oregon town is threatened by a demon, a fanboy orchestrates the kidnapping of his idol, Bruce Campbell, to fight the monster. Campbell, playing himself as a self-important lout, plays along since he thinks it's a birthday gag; until he realizes the monster is real. Will Bruce man up and defeat the monster? Against his will and better judgment, probably.
Got this issue for ninety-nine cents a week or two back (three months ago...) need to keep an eye out for the DVD now. I know I saw it on SyFy...back when it was SciFi, now that I think about it. Where does the time go? (For that matter, I wrote this post, with the same dumb title, some time ago, but kept rescheduling it. I wish I could say this was planned...)

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

80-Page Thursdays: Green Lantern 80-Page Giant #1!

We're coming up on a year worth of 80-Page Thursdays, and I still have some more to do, even though I sometimes hit an issue we've seen a bit from before. Like today's! Green Lantern 80-Page Giant #1, featuring stories from Ron Marz, James Robinson, Denny O'Neil, and more; and art by Tom Grindberg, Mike Mayhew, Dan Jurgens, and more.

Last year, we took a look at "Whatever Happened to G'Nort?" from Ty Templeton and Steve Ellis; what else does this one have to offer? Well, this was set when Hal Jordan was still the Spectre, and Kyle may have been in space; so John Stewart, Guy Gardner, and Alan Scott meet at Warriors to tell tales; even though Guy points out without Kyle around they aren't passing down any heroic legacy, they're just a bunch of old farts reliving past glories. Well, maybe.

James Robinson goes Golden Age with Alan Scott, as he tells of the moment he realized he loved his sometimes-sorta-villainess, the Harlequin. Right before he wouldn't see her again for three decades. That's not depressing. Next, in a Denny O'Neil story, John Stewart helps a race of alien slaves learn how to be free... teaching them how to dig? OK, moving on. Beau Smith and Guy Gardner spin a yarn of jungle hijinks on an alien planet, with an uncharged power ring, then John (and Dan Jurgens) tell a Hal Jordan story: on a test flight, Hal is attacked by an alien that wants him, not Green Lantern! The alien's race is at war, and while they can build fighters, they can't fly it. Hal then helps the alien by augmenting their flying skills, even though he was mad at them just a moment ago, and did not do any sort of background check or anything. Seriously, the aliens could've been evil as hell, but Hal is seemingly more concerned that they be able to fly. Hmm.

There's a weird, and not great, anti-bullying tale with young Kyle Rayner; and the aforementioned G'nort/Catman story as well. Although the issue ends with the guys feeling pretty good about where they are and the legacy of Green Lantern; most of this issue is a little maudlin, and so much of it has been rolled back: Hal, Guy, and John are all Green Lanterns again, and Alan has been Sentinel and Green Lantern and older and younger. I liked the team-ups of GL 80-Page #2 better; now I'll keep an eye out to see if I can ever find #3. I already wanted it before I saw for the first story, "Synopsis: A manhunter lands on Apokolips and doesn't free the citizenry." Ooh, I'm sure it's not like I picture it, but still.
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hulk smash!

Quick one today. But, aside from those little Avengers Chibis, I haven't bought any Avengers movie figures! Possibly because they're Wal-Mart exclusive, and I've only seen Cap and Iron Man yet. Will they be restocked? I wonder, but I don't know if I'd cough up full price for them anyway; if only because I have multiple Caps, Thors, Iron Men, and Hulks. We'll see...
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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"Better than rock-paper-scissors, but not as decisive."

There are few constants in life. But these should be. Captain America's shield: indestructible. Thor's hammer Mjolnir: indestructible. The Silver Surfer's board: indestructible.

...for all practical purposes. (Some writers seem to prefer the Surfer's board as less a physical object, more like energy manifested by the Surfer. Which would also be unbreakable.)

Maybe once in ten, fifteen years; a story will come along as acceptable for the unbreakable to get broke: Cap's shield shattered in Secret Wars? Dramatic! Cap's shield broken in Waid's run? A mystery...resolved with asspull, but still interesting. Cap crying over his broken shield in Fear Itself? Did that even happen, or it was symbolic?

Likewise, for Thor, there was an old DeFalco/Frenz story, where Thor breaks a good chunk off his hammer trying to stop the Celestials from destroying a planet. (Or something, I'd have to find Thor #388-389.) And I think a chunk was broken off again in Thor #600, wherein Thor is manipulated into fighting his grandpa...look, all I really remember of that ish is the Mini-Marvels strip. And Mjolnir's Wikipedia page mentions a few more breaks as well.

Off the top of my head, we saw Firelord smash the Surfer's board in Silver Surfer #146, for one. The board blinks out in Silver Surfer #40 when the Surfer is cut off from his cosmic power; and we saw the Hulk give breaking it a try in Incredible Hulk #250.

Thanos shatters Cap's shield in Infinity Gauntlet, and I almost thought he broke Mjolnir and the Surfer's board there too, but maybe not. The trifecta, all three were destroyed by the Molecule Man in Avengers #215! Then reconstituted the next month in #216.

With the exception of Fear Itself, what do most of these occurences of unbreakable breakage have in common? They weren't hyped events. A lot of them aren't even on the cover! And now Marvel's trotting them out as if they were the most monumentally dramatic moments ever, even though it has been only a couple of years since the last time it happened. In point of fact, Mjolnir breaking or Cap's shield being smashed, are about as exciting as the big reveal being Dr. Doom was a robot the whole time!

Topless Robot pointed out the broken Mjolnir teaser, but only as an afterthought to a discussion of DC's new 52 and George Perez quitting Superman. Rob takes the tack that DC's ongoing disaster is at least more novel than Mjolnir breaking again; well, maybe.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Fun, yet sad:

So, I got all four issues of Indiana Jones and the Tomb of the Gods a couple weeks ago; out of the dollar box at the comic shop after seeing Avengers again. (Actually, before: I had free tickets, so got the 3D showing, but had to kill like three hours in the mall with the Youngest...) Story by Rob Williams, pencils by Steve Scott, inks by Nathan Massengill. Oddly, Scott would do the first three issues, then Bart Sears would do the fourth. It's good, but I don't know why the change.

It's a perfectly fine Indiana Jones story, possibly the best Indy I've seen in comics. (And it might've done better if they had gone all out and called it Indiana Jones and the Tomb of the Great Old Ones.) I'd absolutely recommend it--in trade. I don't say it very often, but go trade rather than single issues. Why? Because this was published as part of a big push for Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull. In the first issue alone, there are five ads for Indy stuff, most of which is probably remembered as fondly as Crystal Skull itself. (In fairness, I thought it was OK, but only OK; and I do feel bad for those who didn't enjoy it even that much.)

By itself? Good. With the ads and baggage and such? OK.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

After a bazillion words on Blind Justice...

...we'll take a bit of a breather, with Kyle Baker's Batman tribute from Detective Comics #599. Have a good weekend!

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

80-Page (ish) Thursdays: Detective Comics #600!

The GCD claims this one is 84 pages, but we're going to count it: Detective Comics #600, "Blind Justice, part 3 of 3" Written by Sam Hamm, pencils by Denys Cowan, inks by Dick Giordano and Frank McLaughlin.

Accused of treason, and in a coma; yet things just got worse for Bruce Wayne: Henri Ducard's flight just got in. In just two pages, Hamm absolutely sells how dangerous Ducard is, although he seems to have a certain mordant humor. He wonders, if Bruce doesn't survive, did he waste a trip...?

Meanwhile, the homeless man formerly known as T-Bone is wanted for shooting Wayne; but is now unrecognizable in a suit and cleaned up. Dr. Harbinger took control of his body and set up permanent residence; and having set aside funds in advance, is doing just fine. Next on his agenda: revenge, on his former backers the Cartel.

Bruce wakes up in his hospital bed, with Alfred, Roy, and Jeannie by his side; but says nothing here. As he listens to a doctor tell Alfred about the pins in his hip, Bruce can see the Bat-Signal going unanswered. Gordon makes arrangements for Batman to get public credit for a bust, to cover for his absence. Ducard sees the headline the next day, just as he's wondering how to amuse himself while Bruce recovers.

At Wayne Manor, the feds are running another search of the place, and at least some of them appear to be in with the Cartel, since they're looking not for proof of treason, but for the Harbinger tech. While trying to clean up, Roy accidentally opens the door to the Batcave; as Bruce and Alfred are pulling in.

Meanwhile, Ducard is researching Batman, and doesn't seem impressed:

Jeannie is left upstairs, wondering where the hell everyone is, while Bruce asks Roy to keep this cave business under his hat. Roy wants to help, be Bruce's legman, but Bruce says he wouldn't know a clue if it bit him. But Roy says he might, with the right pilot; meaning Harbinger's gear.

For his part, Harbinger has improved said gear dramatically; no longer needing implanted biochips to induce "more exotic neurological dysfunctions." He has a few laughs using his synaptic field disruptor to convince strangers to give him money, before going "full blast" on one of Riordan's hired goons, paralyzing him completely.

The still-oblivious Jeannie is trying to help Bruce and sort through her own feelings; while Alfred and Roy test out Harbinger's gear. Bruce does not approve as Alfred walks around in Roy's body, but Alfred seems to feel desparate times, desparate measures. Later, Bruce takes Roy out as Batman, a "token appearance to allay suspicion." Gordon is suspicious that Batman doesn't come closer, but appears placated when "Batman" recognizes by scent that Gordon isn't smoking his usual brand of tobacco. He helps capture an escaped thug, but while Roy might be in OK shape, he's not in Batman-shape.

Ducard visits Riordan with his own suspicions, and recounts how a young Bruce wanted to apprentice with him, to learn to penetrate the criminal mind. He notes that even then, Bruce had the deductive and martial arts skills, but no understanding of a criminal's motives. They worked together trailing a terrorist, but Ducard shows Bruce the line he won't cross; by shooting the terrorist rather than arresting him. Bruce left Ducard then, but he knows Bruce wouldn't give up his goals after all that training, and must therefore be Batman. Riordan says great theory, but Batman was seen yesterday, smart guy. It takes Ducard a few minutes to remember Bruce could have the Harbinger gear...

Speak of the devil, Harbinger visits Riordan, using his disruptor to make him "the moral equivalent of George Washington: you cannot tell a lie!" Harbinger also tortures and cripples several of Riordan's goons, so you know he's just as bad, if not worse; but it's not necessarily hard to see how a formerly wheelchair bound man might abuse a newfound power.

In the Batcave, Bruce plans to use the Harbinger gear not on Roy, but on another frequency, for one of the many other biochips out there. Channeling into a "volunteer Bonecrusher," Bruce watches Harbinger questioning Riordan. Harbinger loads up a batch of equipment, and tells Riordan to get him the details on the Cartel. Bruce plans to jump Harbinger, but as Bruce's body appears to twitch and shudder like a seizure, Alfred panics and changes the dial of the machine, putting Bruce into another body. They also discover Harbinger must have disabled the chip in his new body, to prevent anyone from overriding him. Still, now Bruce knows what he looks like.

Bruce and Alfred are interrupted by a visit from Ducard, who offers Bruce a chance to pay him off. He'll change his story, and cough up his knowledge of the Cartel, and all he would need would be cash and a new body via Harbinger's machine, which he knows Bruce has used to play Batman. Bruce says nothing, and Ducard gives him time to think it over.

The end approaching, Bruce sends a sketch of Harbinger's new face to Gordon, then as Roy tells Jeannie not to fall for Bruce. Riordan is getting worked over by the Cartel for losing the equipment, and they don't believe Harbinger's alive; but he still can't lie. With his new face outted, Harbinger is forced to jump to a new body, leaving a bomb to destroy his old one and his gear.

In Roy's body, Batman hits the Cartel's secret lab, where Harbinger has taken a Bonecrusher's body, and has several more for backup. Using his synaptic disruptor, he plans to unmask, then kill Batman; but since Roy is "remote-controlled" the disruptor doesn't work. Batman fights the lot of them, as Harbinger tries to get away.

Now, here's where this one gets tough for me. Harbinger leaps to the elevated train tracks. Batman follows, but either lands wrong or a plank snaps, breaking his ankle. Harbinger turns to finish Batman, and Bruce realizes it's the same body he controlled back at the lab, when they were testing the machine. Screaming to Alfred through his communicator, Bruce has him change the biochip frequency so he leaves Roy's body and takes over the Harbinger/Bonecrusher.

This puts Roy back in charge of his body, confused, untrained, and in pain; as a train is headed down the tracks. Bruce tries to get to Roy, so they can use a cable from the utility belt to get away, but all Roy sees is a Bonecrusher that he thought was Harbinger, and he tries to take him with him. Hit by the train, both fall several stories, to their deaths. Shrieking, Bruce returns to his own body.

As Gordon and the police find "Batman's" body (and the documents exonerating Wayne) Bruce has to tell Jeannie what happened to her brother. Even though Roy knew what could happen to him, Jeannie is less than understanding. She won't tell anyone about what she knows, but she is done with Bruce, telling him to "Burn in hell" as she leaves. (I mentioned that the middle chapter maybe could've stood to be 80-pages like the others, and that might've fleshed poor Jeannie out a bit: she basically there to fall for Bruce then dump more guilt on him.)

Along with the evidence Harbinger gathered to use against the Cartel, the feds have a star witness: Riordan, who still cannot tell a lie, and spills on their activities. Ducard doesn't get to testify against Wayne, however he was going to play that, but he does pick up a paying gig: assassinating Riordan.

Alone, save Alfred, Bruce continues his painful rehabilitation; and is visited by Commissioner Gordon, who wants to ask how Bruce's guest Roy ended up in a Batsuit. Gordon saw Batman and Roy together, and knew they couldn't be one and the same, and also knows Bruce won't really answer him. He offers an out: he could keep quiet, let the world think Batman was dead. He also surmises that Batman must've used Roy as "some kind of pawn" to get Wayne off the hook, and must be feeling "pretty low" right now. Has Batman earned a rest? Bruce tells Gordon it's his call. Tellingly, Gordon says "Get well soon."

Ducard is forced to leave the country after his job, but writes Bruce a little note, letting him know how impressed he was with his solution: sacrifice Roy to get Harbinger. Ducard also knows Bruce's other secret, but they can talk about that some other time.

In the cave, Bruce has Alfred torch Harbinger's machine. Roy Kane enters the ranks of the dead that Wayne trusted and trusted him, specifically the recently deceased Jason Todd. (Like Stephanie Brown, Roy never got a display case, either!) Bruce's nightmare haunts him now asleep or awake. Why? The answer strikes Bruce: "That's how Batman wants it." Batman's job is to help the weak, and mete out justice: "We get what we deserve." But, if there was justice, Bruce wouldn't have to suffer like he does, he wouldn't have to be Batman.

Although Ducard made his way into the regular continuity, the rest of "Blind Justice" is almost apocryphal. Maybe it's because Hamm was a screenwriter, and this could be seen as fitting in more with a movie-Batman than the traditional comics version; I kind of do. But, more likely writers had a hard time reconciling a Batman that's lost another soldier and a Gordon that unambiguously knows Bruce Wayne is Batman. How many Robins or Roys could Bruce lose and keep going? Is Bruce subconsciously willing to let people die to protect his secrets? Does he still have secrets, since at least two more people know by the end here? It also occurs to me that Jason is mentioned here, but Dick is never mentioned; and you have to figure he would've at least offered his support. Still, there's enough going on already without that.

I'm not positive Roy deserved the trophy case treatment like Jason Todd had; but he does make yet another "Batman" corpse in the streets of Gotham.
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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Doom Oversight."

Duhr, I thought I had actually written something up for this after posting the photos and scheduling it. No.

The Chief there is an X-Men movie Professor X, with the DC Direct Starman head. This wasn't my idea--I'm 75% sure I got the idea from the Fwoosh, but Dale pointed out a better setup using a Walter Peck/Ghostbusters head. The latter would be a bit more expensive set-up, since Walter was a $20+figure, but the head probably wouldn't just sit on putty...

Depending on when you read Doom Patrol, the Chief is either a benevolent taskmaster, who organized the freaks of the Doom Patrol and gave them a mission and a reason to live; or a Machiavellian bastard, who may very well have manipulated several of the accidents that caused the Doom Patrol. His name may or may not be Niles Caulder, he is possibly immortal, he may or may not be married. Even the nicer versions of the character have shown him to be incredibly adept at emotional manipulation, as he can almost always guilt Cliff, Larry, and Rita into doing whatever he wants.

I admit I'm more used to the nicer versions of the Chief--which would probably be the original "My Greatest Adventure" era and Byrne's--rather than the more morally dubious takes of Grant Morrison or post-Infinite Crisis. In the most recent Doom Patrol series, he seemed a well-intentioned megalomaniac who went more and more off the rails over time.

I thought we had seen Niles in passing fairly recently, but I'd have to double-check. Still, we may be coming back to that, as I may finally have a figure I needed for the next "Doom Idol." We'll see...

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

This probably could've gone in 'Abject Depression Week,' too.

Here's a cheerful bit of maybe revisionist history, from Universe X Special: Cap #1 (Script and story by Jim Krueger; story, cover, and designs by Alex Ross; pencils by Thomas Yeates, inks by John Totleben and Ron Randall.) As the weary Cap and the reincarnated Captain Mar-Vell search for a dimensional doorway device (tying into the old Kirby Madbomb storyline) Cap has more than a few flashbacks, including this one. The Red Skull tells Cap that Dr. Erskine, creator of the Super-Soldier Serum, was in fact a Nazi agent. (This seems dubious at best, but Red Skull asks how the Nazis were able to get access to Allied secret projects: because most of them were actually relocated secret Nazi projects.)

In another flashback, Cap kills the Skull, then quits the Avengers, feeling that he could no longer serve as an example. Shortly thereafter, most of the Avengers were killed in a battle with the Absorbing Man; leaving Cap wondering if it would've been different if he'd been there. After everyone on earth was mutated, and the alien mind-controller known as HYDRA attacked S.H.I.E.L.D, President Norman Osborn asks Cap to lead his forces; Cap refuses. Shortly after that, the Helicarrier goes down, and Nick Fury dies.
The image of several Fury Life-Model Decoys running out of the crashed Helicarrier is a good one, isn't it?

Cap finds a final message from Fury: the new HYDRA was created by Osborn, and when Cap turned him down, his friends became targets. Later, in the first Earth X series, Cap is forced to kill the new Skull--a mind-controlling sociopath, who was a young boy. So, Cap's kind of a wreck at this point; as he and Mar-Vell are surrounded by lunatics in Revolutionary War garb. (Again, a tie-in to Madbomb.) And Cap doesn't see a way for both him and Mar-Vell to get out of this one...

I've had this issue for some time, but got a spare at the comicon. I haven't sat down and read the whole Earth/Universe/Paradise X run in a couple years; but I love how it manages to take some forty-plus years of Marvel comics and thread together unrelated events into a cohesive whole. That said, the series is often less than uplifting.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

I know "Citizen Wayne" is too tempting a title not to use. Try.

Sometimes, giving a story more of a page count is less an opportunity to flesh out characters or let events breathe; than it is a chance to pad it out. Could "Blind Justice" have used another 80-page issue, instead of a normal-sized middle? Would an additional 30-odd pages of story have helped or hindered it? We'll never know, but let's look at Detective Comics #599 anyway: "Blind Justice, part 2 of 3" Or Chapter 4, "Citizen Wayne" Written by Sam Hamm, pencils by Denys Cowan, inks by Dick Giordano and Frank McLaughlin.

The issue opens with "Brouhaha," a news program recapping the previous issue. With Butcher on the right and Baker on the left, it's not subtle, but the TV commentators trick had been done in Batman comics many times before and since; and Cowan doesn't phone it in with the little screen-shaped panels. Bruce is soundly pilloried, as the Cartel has both planted evidence that he signed off on unwilling human experiments with biochips; as well as drawn the wrong conclusion from Bruce's extensive activities out of the country: traitorous sell-out to foreign powers.

Bruce has lawyered up, but these guys might as well be cardboard cutouts: we don't know them, nor does Bruce take them into confidence. And the lawyers don't know what to make of him, either. One name associated with Bruce is Chu Chin Li, one of the many martial arts masters he trained with. Li also trained Chinese diplomats, soldiers and mafia; before being beheaded. Bruce dryly notes at least he won't be testifying against him; but it's the first of several guilt-by-association questions.

Back at the Batcave (I'm sure Bruce had to surrender his passport, but somehow wasn't considered a flight risk) Bruce has the prototype of Dr. Harbinger's biochip controller. He intends to get to Harbinger's assistant, but Harbinger kills him first. Still staying at Wayne Manor, Jeannie and Roy want to help, but have no proof; Bruce dejectedly admits he can't even prove himself to them.

As the Cartel gets nowhere on Harbinger's technology, Riordan gleefully plans "another nail in Wayne's coffin." Meanwhile, the lawyers go over another martial arts master, and still can't figure out why the seemingly useless Wayne was training so much: "Pathological fear of muggers?" They are correct that with his dead family, huge sense of loss, and vast fortune; Wayne would've been a huge get for any brainwashers, but they aren't even close on anything else. Bruce should've just said he was addicted to opium for ten years.

Trying to prepare Bruce for what the prosecution will throw it him, the lawyers pull another name: Henri Ducard. (This would be Hamm's lasting contribution to Batman lore, since a version of the character would appear in Batman Begins.) You can almost feel Bruce cringe internally, but he has a story prepped about 'accidentally' meeting the "freelance troubleshooter" in Paris. The lawyers say, that's how Ducard started, before becoming an arms dealer, middleman, internationally wanted criminal. Who is willing to testify against Bruce, in exchange for some charges being dropped: the nail Riordan mentioned.

Bruce is in a bind, since he knows Ducard will badmouth him something fierce just because its funny; but is actually smart enough to maybe figure out he's Batman. Commissioner Gordon takes a moment to talk to Bruce as they pass in the hall: he knows things about Bruce, but that he's no traitor, and if it comes down to it he'll speak out. Bruce plays dumb, saying he'll fight his own battles.

Outside the courtroom, Roy and Jeannie watch as Bruce is swamped by reporters, and Roy sees his friend from his homeless days, T-Bone. Ignoring Roy, T-Bone pulls an AK-47 and guns down Bruce and his lawyers. Nearby, Riordan is asked if this was his idea, but he admits he wishes he'd thought of it. T-Bone escapes, the lawyers are DOA, and Bruce is in critical condition; as Gordon orders the Bat-Signal shut down. "I don't think he's coming."

Blogging these issues, I do appreciate how jam-packed they are: in the age of decompression, this one alone could've turned into a trade. And like the other issues, there's also Tributes to Batman at the end: this issue features pin-ups from Kyle Baker and Mike Mignola!

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Late: Commissioner Gordon!

It's getting late, I'm half-watching Mothra, and I'm playing with the new Wal-Mart exclusive Mattel Movie Masters Jim Gordon! Oddly, he's not referred to as Commissioner on the packaging, which only just now makes me wonder what his title is at the start of The Dark Knight Rises.

Just knocked out a couple of short ones with the Commish...and I misspelled Commissioner there. Crap. Well, it's late, and I'm sure it won't happen again--

Oh, come on!

Still, Jim comes with a gun, an ax, and an alternate piece for the Collect & Connect Bat-Signal that's shattered; as in the end of the Dark Knight. (Which is cool, although that is kind of a weird scene if you think about it.)

I didn't spring for the previous Prototype-suit Batman/Lt. Jim Gordon two pack, so I'm pretty happy with him. He'll be making some appearances later, no doubt.

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There's only one way Frank's story ends; here's one version:

Make no mistake: this is one of the most brutal, harshest, most depressing comics I'll ever read. And the end, I find it strangely uplifting. From 2004, Punisher: the End #1, written by Garth Ennis, art by Richard Corben. Spoilers this time around, but the title should be a tip-off...

Set "soon," the warden of Sing-Sing has just received orders to shoot the prisoners: as he explains it, "we can't have murderers and dope-dealers running loose in an atomic wasteland. That would be just plain untidy." With peace talks broken down, war is a given at this point. (Through Frank's later commentary, Ennis makes clear the notion that shouting "War on Terror" at China probably isn't a good idea...) The guards plan on riding out the war at the prison's bomb shelter, after they take care of the last prisoner, one kept far away from the others: Frank Castle, the Punisher. Finally caught by the police, Frank had been in good enough shape to keep killing criminals in prison. The bombs hit, killing the power, before the guards can take Frank out.

A year later, Frank leaves the shelter, with Peters, a short-con operator. Frank notes that the clouds appear to be burning, and Peters is dismayed that the radiation is still so high--they'll both be dead within 72 hours. But Frank has a goal, based on info from a dead prisoner...

The goal is another bunker, built under the site of the twin towers. The captains of industry, the kingmakers, the ultimate Haves, the secret owners of the world; and to Frank, the ones who wrecked the planet. And he's come for them.

The designer of the bunker, questioning the ethics of his employers getting away from a disaster they caused, ended up framed, thrown into Sing-Sing, and stabbed to death in a bunker. Which would've been the end of it, except the Punisher was in the same bunker. And the designer knew Frank wouldn't let that go...

One of the men tries to stop Frank, even though he knows he has nothing to bargain with: money's worthless, and Frank is dying of radiation poisoning anyway. But they have tapes from other bunkers: mainly, screaming and gunshots. These men, regardless of their crimes, may be the last humans on earth; and they have frozen embryos: they could save the human race.

Frank guns down the lot of them. "They could sell anything to anyone. Except me." Peters is appalled, but Frank says he's seen what the human race leads to. He then ask Peters why he was in D-Block. Peters admits he set a fire for insurance fraud, and accidentally burned down a kindergarden. Frank chokes him to death.

Quite possibly the last man on earth, Frank goes up to the street. As his hair falls out, and he catches fire, in his mind it's 1976, and he's on the way to Central Park, and his family. "Maybe this time I'll be in time to save them."

Even with an extinction-level event, and with Frank coughing up blood and sloughing skin...I still find this issue somehow, impossibly uplifting. Frank had a goal: punish the guilty. Through adversity, he stuck with his goal and achieved it. And now, at least, it's all over for him. There's only one way Frank's story can end, isn't there? Plus, Richard Corben just kills it on the art--think The Road as a revenge movie with Lee Marvin. If you ever take my word for anything, buy this issue. Now.

Weird, but three or four of the issues we looked at for Abject Depression week, are complete favorites of mine. This one especially.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Even running out of cereal is cause for depression now. You're welcome.

Is there a word in English, for that queasy, uncomfortable feeling you get in your gut, when you see someone being completely and utterly screwed over, like Charlie Brown in an old Peanuts strip? And not quite in the way like he's running at the football, and surprise, Lucy pulled it away again; but instead the shafting is novel, surprising, and goes on for an appallingly long time. Because Chris Giarrusso nails that feeling of injustice making your tummy hurt, in "Cereal Quest" from Spidey and the Mini Marvels #1.

The GCD's synopsis reads "Wolvie has a number of adventures buying a box of his favorite cereal after his thoughtless teammates devour the last bowl." 'Adventures,' may not be the right word; as they seem like the same adventures Sisyphus had. "Kafkaesque" would be another word for it. And that's for a sixteen page story where Wolverine goes to the store. (A younger, cuter Wolverine, but that just makes it weirder.)

After the dickish X-Men eat all of Wolvie's cereal, he angrily slashes the table and stomps off to get more. Short-cutting through the woods, Wolvie frees a bear cub from a bear trap; for his trouble, the bear mom drives him out of there. Literally, with a driver. (That sets up an offhand joke later, but it's just weird.)

Hit by a car, Wolvie's admantium skeleton and healing factor mean he'll be fine, but the driver yells at him for denting his car. Next, at the supermarket, Wolvie is too short to reach the last box of X-Crunch. Asking a shopper to get it down for him, he's a little too enthusiastic, and the shopper keeps it for her daughter. He goes to a stockboy to ask for more, and is told to cram it; so drastic measures have to be taken...

This next sequence just makes my tummy hurt every time I read it: at the counter, the salesgirl asks Wolvie where his mommy is. "I don't have one. I'm an orphan." "Nonsense! Everyone has a mommy! You probably just haven't looked for her hard enough." Giarrusso's Wolvie is far more controlled than the typical Marvel version, who probably would've stabbed everyone in the store by now, but it's just getting started. The salesgirl tells Wolvie the register is jammed, but suggests he doesn't really need a receipt. Or a bag. Fine, until Wolvie gets stopped by the manager for shoplifting, who takes him back to the register.

To further ice the cake, outside Wolvie's attacked by Sabretooth, Toad, and the Blob. By this point, even in a kid-friendly book, readers would completely understand if Wolvie cut the lot of them into strips; but he settles for outsmarting the Blob, then getting a helping golf-club from the momma bear...

Finally back home, Wolvie pours himself his long-awaited cereal, and then, no milk. Luckily, at least one of his teammates isn't a dick: Nightcrawler!

I'm pretty sure Nightcrawler just stole that milk. Good for him. Still, if you think that means a happy ending for Wolvie, you haven't been paying attention. Also, Cyclops continues being a complete tool, for good measure. And for further depression, as Comic Book Legends Revealed pointed out, Giarrusso's Mini-Marvels were phased out for inferior Superhero Squad strips--in the style of the toys and cartoon, but not as good.

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Getting into the hard depression now:

I used to work at a music store (a terrible and now defunct chain store, where I worked not especially well) and I still have some promo CD's from that time. One of them was the soundtrack for Dancer in the Dark, which I had for several years before actually seeing the movie. Actually, I only think I caught the last half-hour of the movie, but while the soundtrack breaks my heart, even watching part of the movie was like watching a sack of puppies and kittens drown in your washing machine, then having to reach past them to put your clothes in the drier so you can go to a funeral. (Apparently making the film was no picnic either, and I'm not sure Björk ever made another film.)

Why do I bring this up? Because although it came out a couple years after today's issue, the Björk/Thom Yorke duet "I've Seen it All" always comes to mind when I read it. From 1998, The Incredible Hulk #467, "The Lone and Level Sands" Written by Peter David ("ex-writer"), pencils and inks by Adam Kubert ("X-artist").

In the previous issue, Betty Banner suddenly came down with severe radiation poisoning. Despite Bruce's valiant efforts, she dies; and he believes his gamma radiation may be what killed her. Ten years unseen freelancer from the Daily Bugle (named Peter...) interviews Rick Jones.

Rick begins telling the story, even though he wasn't there for some of it: as he and Marlo get the news, and as Thunderbolt Ross screams and waves his arms at his son-in-law, Bruce calmly makes his first suicide attempt moments after Betty's death. Stopped by the doctors, Bruce is put in a secure room; with tranq-guns set to automatically fire if his heart rate goes up (which would signal his change into the Hulk) and Ross continues glaring at him.
When Rick (who was in a wheelchair at the time) visits Bruce, it's readily apparent that, to use the technical term, he's cracked. Describing it as "a going away party for me," in his mind Bruce is surrounded by dozens of friends and foes he's met over the years. Quoting Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ozymandias," Bruce tries to explain to Rick that those vast and trunkless legs are the Hulk's; there is nothing left without Betty.

Grasping at straws, Rick suggests the Leader's resurrection machine that saved Marlo around issue #400. Although he plans to check that out, Bruce is pretty sure it's been destroyed; with that, he turns into the Hulk. Rick describes the change as calm, as if giving up humanity was now a blessing for him; and his eyes as "envious." When the reporter follows up on that, Rick isn't sure why.

Bruce then makes multiple suicide attempts, but is always stopped by the Hulk, which Rick sees as not just Bruce's anger, but also his survival instinct. (Something David had touched on before in Hulk: The End, another not-especially-uplifting tale...) The events rattled off next could easily have been another year or so worth of Hulk comics: the army tries to stop the Hulk, fails. Bruce jumps off the Empire State Building, but lands as the Hulk, then the Avengers show up. Bruce tries black magic, but hell is even enjoying his torment and won't take him.

Rick also tells of Betty's funeral--closed casket, which he says led to conspiracy theories; but she was cremated later. Thor parts the rain clouds there, creating a rainbow: "It was like a reminder that you're just supposed to keep going, no matter what life throws at you." Which leads into Bruce's last visit to Rick.

Late at night, after a fight with his wife, Rick can't sleep, and plays the harmonica. Bruce seemingly appears from nowhere, wearing shades and smoking a pipe; making casual conversation about the blues and the song Rick was playing the day they met on the gamma bomb test range. (Buddy Holly's "That'll Be the Day That I Die," as described here.) Bruce describes his various suicide attempts as "a permanent solution to a temporary problem," and refers to "Ozymandias" again: someday, he will be gone; his legacy nothing but rubble. (Ironic, since the Hulk's legacy was rubble...) But that's OK: Bruce tried to find power, to be the strongest one there is, yet the only power that means anything is the power to help others. Leaving Rick for the last time, Bruce's eyes glow green.
The reporter asks if Rick worries about the Hulk, and Rick says he has other things to live for; like his daughter, Betty. (Rick also seems to have his "comic awareness" from his Captain Marvel days, since he wonders if he's not in an alternate, unofficial timeline.) Although the reporter wants to hear more, Rick feels he's said enough.

This was, of course, Peter David's last issue of the Incredible Hulk, ending a twelve-year run. (And it wasn't quite his "last" issue, he would have a brief return in 2005.) It really says something that this issue is so sad even though the new writer (poor Joe Casey, as we've seen a couple times) would have to immediately start backtracking from it--the Abomination poisoned Betty, not Bruce's radiation; and Thunderbolt Ross did save Betty's body. (Ross had been dead himself for a long stretch, so that's not completely unreasonable.) And of course, now Ross is the Red Hulk and Betty the Red She-Hulk, which strangely just makes me even sadder.

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80-Page Thursdays: Detective Comics #598!

Today's a book I had at the time, and probably still have; but I found all three issues for ninety-nine cents each and bought them to read all at once: from 1989, Detective Comics #598, "Blind Justice, part 1 of 3" Written by Sam Hamm, pencils by Denys Cowan, inks by Malcolm Jones III. Billed as "the 50th anniversary adventure," this issue and #600 would be 80-pages (well, the GCD says #600 is 84, but...) yet #599 was normal sized.

Hamm is best known for writing the screenplay to the 1989 Batman movie, and was invited to write for the comic. At the time I might not have recognized Cowan's work, but he would draw almost the entire run of the Question--in fact, that was running at the same time. I wanted to say I was a little disappointed when this came out, since Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle were already on fire early in their Detective run, but then looking it up Breyfogle was out the last few issues, since #594. They would reteam for a ton of issues, starting with #601, a three-parter with the Demon that I love to death, but compared to "Blind Justice" is so light-hearted it could be a Harvey comic. So, yeah, I find "Blind Justice" a bit dark...

Bruce is having nightmares, par for the course, except now he sees the laughing fiend that ruined his life: a gun-toting Batman. Willfully shrugging it off, Bats answers the signal, and joins Commissioner Gordon at the morgue to check out Gotham's last atrocity: a security guard, more-or-less liquified by an unknown weapon. While they investigate the crime scene, a young woman arrives in town in search of her long-lost brother, not realizing he was one of the homeless men discussing tinfoil hats that she passed on the way in...
The late Roy Brocksmith would've been perfect for Riordan: look him up, you'll know him when you see him.
As Bruce puts off Waynetech business to focus on his investigation; Jeannie, the young woman, visits Waynetech herself, since her brother had worked there. Waiting for a personnel manager, she instead finds Riordan, the director of research, who tells her there must have been a mistake, since they have no record of a Roy Kane.

That night, as Batman works a tip about a drug shipment, he catches a break: the Bonecrusher hits the dealers, armed with sonic pulse weapons. Although huge, he doesn't appear to be much of a fighter, and while his weapons are devastating, they're also fragile, and break during the fight. Somewhat nonchalantly, Bonecrusher lets himself fall into power lines rather than be captured; leaving Bats and Gordon with questions, but case closed. Meanwhile, Roy's friend T-Bone and another homeless man realize they're having the same dream of being gassed, while Roy had a dream about fighting Batman.

Jeannie tries to hire a private detective at a family-finding agency, but is running out of money; so the detective takes her to one of their funders: Bruce Wayne. Taking her on a tour of Waynetech, in the medical R&D department, Dr. Harbinger recognizes a photo of Roy, and points out Roy accidentally hit Bruce with a frisbee at the company picnic. Sheepishly, Wayne realizes he's seen him--Batman usually has a better eye for that. (Unseen, a sweating Riordan makes a call to superior...) Jeannie, charitably, is just happy to have a lead. Bruce offers to take her to the opera that night, but as they discuss Harbinger (suffering with a degenerative nerve disease) the Bat-Signal lights up, and Bruce ditches Jeannie curbside.

Bonecrusher, somehow, is back in action; hijacking a truck of nuclear material and getting past a SWAT team with his sonic weapons. But, as Batman fights him, in a homeless shelter across town, Roy freaks out, seemingly acting out the Bonecrusher role in the battle. This time, Bonecrusher blows himself up with a tanker truck; but the cops bring in Roy, who had repeated Bonecrusher's final line: "I am the scheme."

In jail, Roy doesn't even know his own name, but is terrified of Batman. Calming down for questioning, Roy thinks he has memories that aren't his. Bats arranges with Gordon to have Roy released, where Bruce Wayne takes him and Jeannie in as guests, reuniting them. While they are overjoyed, Roy's medical exam reveals a surgical scar, where a biochip was implanted. They are experimental, but some preliminary work as been done, at Waynetech. Some unpleasant pieces of the puzzle are coming together for Bruce...

Roy can't remember anything about his time at Waynetech, except the word 'Sunday.' Using his backdoor access to the system, Bruce investigates, but is blocked and an alarm is sent to Riordan, who makes another call. That night, Roy seizes up, again acting as Bonecrusher, as a third one attacks Wayne Manor. Wayne knows too much, but a simple biochip implant will take care of that. Great plan, except Bonecrusher is shot from behind by Alfred--tranked out, but he self-destructs before he can be unmasked.

Now Roy remembers at least the name of the project he worked on at Waynetech: not Sunday, but Sabbat, and an acronym at that for "remote-controlled killers." Batman goes to Waynetech, where Riordan is having the project moved, and Harbinger has barricaded himself in his lab. Batman finds Harbinger's assistant crying over his body, and takes a moment to read his notes: of course, kindly ol' Doc Harbinger was also Bonecrusher. Multiple Bonecrushers, using the biochips to project his consciousness into their bodies; and using sonic weapons provided by his secret backers, Riordan and "the Cartel."

Although some volunteers were used, several homeless men were gassed and forcibly implanted with the chips. When Roy protested, he was made part of the experiment as well, his memory wiped. The Cartel plans to take the Sabbat project to a secret location, probably leaving Harbinger out to dry, so he plans to permanently transfer to a new body...and make the Cartel "pay for their betrayal."

The next day, Wayne confronts Riordan (and, seemingly lets a lot of the biochip material get shipped off somewhere) but the formerly snivelling toad now seems to be in the driver's seat. There are plenty of fake documents showing Wayne's approval of Project: Sabbat, and Riordan chattily explains the Cartel has their fingers in any number of companies, pushing hi-tech, low-profile, shady research. (Although it's left open to interpretation, there's almost certainly some level of government involvement...) This issue predates that movie, but Riordan should've been played by the late Roy Brocksmith, of Total Recall--you'd recognize him if you saw him, and he played a snivelling toad-bastard well.

Moreover, the Cartel did their homework on Bruce Wayne. What did he do after his parents died? Where did he go? "No doubt you have an explanation. We have one too. It's a corker." Fully knowing he's boned, Bruce refuses to back down. At Wayne Manor, where Alfred, Roy, and Jeannie have been questioned; Bruce is taken into a communist! That's a pretty good, if super-dated cliffhanger; but I think the agents just use "commie" as an epithet. "Foreign agent" might've been more accurate, but isn't insulting enough.

We'll probably look at the rest of "Blind Justice" some other time--even the anemic, normal sized issue--but I like this one the best. This may have been Hamm's first comic script, but I don't think it shows, save perhaps a willingness to get right in there and break off bits of the status quo: for years, Waynetech or Wayne Industries or whatever was a bland, corporate thing; a slab of drywall scenery. Hamm plants a snake in that garden, but that goes a long way to making it seem more real. In the same vein, his Batman is more fallible: he didn't recognize Roy, and his benign neglect of his business may have left the door open for the Cartel. So, you could maybe draw a line from here, to the uber-prepared, somewhat paranoid Batman often seen today; but that depends on what you take away from this one; as we'll see later.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"Ring around the Rampage."

I'm not really keeping up on Green Lantern...which may show in these. But through clearance sales and happenstance, I've picked up several of the deputy Lanterns of DCUC series 17 on the cheap. Almost have Anti-Monitor built, which I really would not have bet on. We'll see him if and when I get him finished.

Actually, as of right about now, I have Anti-Monitor built except for the left arm. Which came with Raspberry Blue Flash, which I passed on at $7.99 some time ago, since I didn't think I would get anywhere near building this one. To further confuse the issue, I have a Stel left arm that I think would fit in Anti's shoulder, and it's close enough for my purposes...I haven't done that yet, since once I do, I don't think it would come out. Still keeping my options open, then.

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