Friday, May 17, 2019

Turtlepop! #4 "Tom King Pulled From Superman Giant???"

Drunk on tequila and lust for world conquest.
THOUGHT BUBBLE COMICS: Is it true that we're apparently breaking a world exclusive?
TURTLE: Insofar as nobody chatters about the Walmart 100-Page Giants?  Yes.

THOUGHT BUBBLE READER: So when you performed a search, you came up with the same results?
TURTLE: Are we circling around to explaining what we're talking about?  I hope so.  This format is weird.  And used too infrequently.  Apparently the last one was in 2017.  Also, yes.

THOUGHT BUBBLE READER: Okay, so to quit burying the lead, I just picked up the latest issue of Superman 100-Page Giant, #11, at Walmart, and discovered that Tom King's serialized "Up in the Sky" wasn't in it.  What's up with that?
TURTLE: Can only speculate, dude.  Walmart and/or DC might've decided that the controversial "Lois Lane died a million times" installment was too much bad publicity.

THOUGHT BUBBLE COMICS: But will King's story get to be completed?
TURTLE: Maybe?  DC's releasing a version of it in comics shop beginning in July.

THOUGHT BUBBLE COMICS: Basically you don't know?
TURTLE: ...Basically I don't know.

THOUGHT BUBBLE COMICS: Crazy that one of the hottest commodities in comics is writing something that nobody is chattering about?
TURTLE: Totes crazy, dude.

THOUGHT BUBBLE COMICS: Weren't you originally designed to be crazy sarcastic?
TURTLE: Yes, Steve Orlando writes the comic replacing King in Superman 100-Page Giant #11.

THOUGHT BUBBLE COMICS: That has nothing to do with what I asked.
TURTLE: It was still relevant.

TURTLE: Steve's become a favorite of mine, so I guess I'm happy, if anyone has to unexpectedly replace King, in the middle of a story (a great story), it might as well be Steve Orlando.

THOUGHT BUBBLE COMICS: Is it true that Andy Kubert accidentally shot the inker and that's why the King comic didn't get published?
TURTLE: This has taken a strange turn.

THOUGHT BUBBLE COMICS: Can you just answer the question?

THOUGHT BUBBLE COMICS: Yes, as in, "Yes, Andy Kubert shot the inker," or "Yes, I will answer the question?

THOUGHT BUBBLE COMICS: Helpful as always, Turtle!  Thanks for stopping by!
TURTLE: My pleasure! 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Reading Comics 228 "FCBD 2019"

What I love about Free Comic Book Day is that it's basically the best shot most companies have at being visible to the average reader.  For the folks showing up just for free comics, it probably won't make much of a difference.  For the folks who show up to comics shops every Wednesday or in any other sense on a regular basis, it's a chance to find out what companies outside of DC and Marvel are doing (because let's face it, for the average fan, it's still basically just DC and Marvel).  I don't know how many sales these free comics result in (for a long time, I bought Atomic Robo comics in part because Red 5 always included it in their FCBD releases, when Red 5 had Atomic Robo in its slate), but it says a lot about the companies, what they're willing to release for the annual celebration. 

Here again is what I got, and what I thought after reading through all of it:

Animosity Tales (AfterShock)
Marguerite Bennett's comic is basically the flagship of AfterShock, another would-be Image in a crowded indy scene.  What was more interesting than the story featured in the issue was the summary of the series to date, which reads a heck of a lot like The Walking Dead.  So if you want your zombies to instead be animals, this is the comic for you.

Bloodshot (Valiant)
I've been a supporter of the Valiant relaunch for years (not specifically from the start, but around the time The Valiant came out).  While I don't love everything they publish, I still maintain that this is the discerning superhero fan's best bet for a coherent modern landscape to follow, the Ultimate version of the classic Valiant characters, the condensed version of what the New 52 attempted.  And Bloodshot has been a part of it, and been a favorite of mine, for years.  This take is from Tim Seeley, who's been an underrated star of the modern comics landscape whether in his DC work or elsewhere.  But Seeley's take on Bloodshot feels hollow compared to what Jeff Lemire was doing.  Lemire pulled off Bloodsquirt!  He wants a Bloodshot that's actually the complete reverse of Lemire's, all action and no character study.  I thought that was the best part of the modern Bloodshot!  Anyway, also included is the latest chapter of the Rai saga, Fallen World, which reads a lot better.  It's from Dan Abnett, who could use a breakout solo project. 

Deadly Class (Image)
I'd sampled the series previously, but this particular issue was a brilliant way to highlight what makes it truly awesome, and I'm glad all over again that there's a TV adaptation, which I hope to catch.  Remender's a particularly busy creator, the hardest working concept engine not named Mark Millar, who takes all manner of risks with high concepts. 

H1 Ignition (Humanoids)
Here's Mark Waid's latest attempt at a startup.  Dude's been at this for twenty years now, and...has yet to find one that truly sticks (or as with Boom!...sticks with).  This one's all about straining for modern credibility, the social awareness that actually...turned off a lot of Marvel fans.  Maybe it works better with new characters.  I don't know.  But this preview is somewhat poorly put together.  I have little faith of it sticking any better than his previous efforts.  I have no idea why Waid strayed so far from what he did so brilliantly in the pages of The Flash.  Maybe someday he rediscovers that spark.

Interceptor (Vault)
Donny Cates is another firecracker in modern comics, but one that's working equally hard at mainstream (with Marvel) as with his personal projects.  Since this isn't a well-loved era for Marvel, fans haven't really rallied around him, but I like to see what he's doing.  I like his storytelling in this issue.  He's definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Punchline (Antarctic Press)

Here's the best comic I read from the bunch!  It's a superhero book from other than DC/Marvel, which is always an interesting prospect.  There will be great material done elsewhere (see: Valiant) and there will be shoddy stuff.  This looks like great stuff.

Part of what makes it look great is the artwork, naturally.  Matthew Weldon seems like the closest I'll get to classic Stuart Immonen, before he started adding detail into his clean forms.  There's some rough work in there, but Weldon is like Patrick Gleason more interested in shadow than warm figures, a moody look at its best that the touch of reality Bill Williams seeks in a script that looks more to the human than superhuman.

I like the details Williams includes, like the fact that the Black Arrow is actually two people sharing a costume to evade seekers of secret identities.  (I'd read that comic, too, thank you!)  It feels like a genuinely fresh take, just when you thought you'd seen everything.  There's a collection already available with the rest of the story, which I think I might actually track down (read: order online).  And I guess there's more new issues coming. 

Stranger Things (Dark Horse)
As I've said, I haven't been initiated into the Stranger Things cult, and this comic didn't make me consider reconsidering.  Fortunately there was also a Black Hammer backup, with Jeff Lemire presenting the "Cabin of Horrors," clearly an homage to House of Mystery and such.  Eventually we meet Jack Sabbath (familiar to Black Hammer fans?), who has just discovered that his backstory might be different than he previously thought.  Cowritten by Ray Fawkes, in defense of whom I sort of exiled myself from Millarworld a few months back.  Also discovered that Mice Templar artist Victor Santos has been working at Dark Horse recently, with a long-running espionage comic called Polar, which might be worth checking out.  See, Free Comic Book Day???  Success.

Year of the Villain (DC)
Again, not technically a FCBD release, but for the second year in a row a cheap DC comic meant to promote upcoming stories.  Scott Snyder is the brains behind a new Underworld Unleashed/Forever Evil-type event headlined by the bad guys.  I really wish Lex Luthor could just stay the antihero he's done so well in stories like Final Night and Geoff Johns' Justice League, but he keeps getting dragged back into villainy.  This is one of those stories where "he's finally gone too far."  More significantly, Brian Michael Bendis signals he may be interested in working on Batgirl comics, with a tale that finally allows Barbara Gordon to remember she was pretty badass as Oracle, too.

Star Wars Day: May the 4th Be With You (Marvel)
Again, not technically a FCBD release (but part of another of the things last Saturday was culturally).  Besides some previews for various comics, there are some creator interviews, including one spotlighting Kieron Gillen's creation of Doctor Aphra, whom he repeatedly describes as a Star Wars version of Indiana Jones.  (Yes, yes, yes: Harrison Ford played both Indy and Han Solo, but Gillen's point is that Aphra collects artifacts...but with a more nefarious agenda in mind!)  On the whole, I'm quite happy that Marvel got the rights for Star Wars back from Dark Horse (other than Dark Horse's brilliant adaptation of The Star Wars), as it sticks much closer to film material and less creating whatever the hell it wants.  I just can't decide if Aphra is closer to the Dark Horse mentality than Marvel's...

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Reading Comics 227 "Ascender, Heroes in Crisis, The Green Lantern, Batman, DCeased"

Ascender #1 (Image)
The sequel series to Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen's robot saga Descender, has already been compared to and/or described as Star Wars.  I'm very glad to see the story continue.  At some point I figure I will add the complete collected editions to my library.  Among all the comics I've read from Lemire, it's my favorite.

Batman #70 (DC)
Tom King seems destined to anger and/or fascinate readers (see below!).  His most recent arc in the series featured a series of nightmares.  I've been adding every collected edition to my library, and have yet to be disappointed in reads or rereads.  I haven't read the complete nightmare sequence; that'll follow in the collected edition (see above!).  This issue sort of wraps it up and begins a new arc.  Batman marches on Arkham!

DCeased #1 (DC)
Tom Taylor, who had some excellent material in the most recent Batman collected edition (Tyrant Wing), and has been toiling away in digital-first comics for probably too long, finally gets to seize the spotlight in a comic I think has been wrongly characterized as the DC equivalent of Marvel Zombies.  But then, I haven't read Marvel Zombies and this is only the first issue of DCeased.  But I like what I see.  Besides Taylor, the coup here is art from Trevor Hairsine (Divinity).

The Green Lantern #7 (DC)
I've kind of officially become a trade-waiter.  I haven't made an effort to read an issue of this Grant Morrison comic (!!!) since the first one.  Issues like this are a surefire way to ensure I will get the trade.  Morrison spends most of it in a literary disposition as he casually rewrites Green Lantern ring lore.  Great issue.

Heroes in Crisis #8 (DC)

Well, it's official.  Wally West did it.  It's a Tom King comic, so of course it's controversial.  A website I follow posted a bad review, which I'm inclined to take with a grain of salt, as it's admittedly a Flash site, and of course Wally West was the Flash, at least solidly in the '90s (most famously in the Mark Waid run, and how Geoff Johns first made his name writing Flash comics before solidly redefining it with Flashpoint). 

Anyway, the site argued that King, who's made his career in comics drawing on his war experiences, somehow goofed the issue, which is clearly a PTSD story in an event comic about PTSD.  Another site I follow gave the issue a poor review claiming it definitely betrays King having altered his original plans for Heroes in Crisis, which does have a documented history of change (first solicited as Sanctuary and as seven rather than nine issues).

Clearly I disagree with these negative reviews.  I'm a fan of King, but I'm not a reader who uncritically accepts things.  Every new project (whether a new comic, or a book, or a movie, or music, etc.) has to justify itself.  Being a fan of a creator or franchise is merely a way to guarantee my interest. 

King's thought process is clearly spelled out in the issue.  He even goes back over ground he covered previously.  This issue is mostly about explaining exactly how Wally did it.  The Flash site claims the issue is a poor representation of PTSD.  I respectfully disagree.  I think everyone who suffers from it (or from anything) believes their suffering is unique.  That's Wally's perspective throughout the issue.  Believing a predicament is unique is intrinsic to human nature; believing any condition is unique is intrinsic to the species.  We're often entirely bound up in our egos.  But in pain it's worst, as we become despondent, and the pain only encourages itself to continue. 

Wally reaches a breaking point.  Interestingly, King actually explains it by expanding on Flash lore, the idea of the Speed Force and what it takes to use it, which has always been Wally's hallmark.  His ability to command the Speed Force became Waid's ticket to a series of great stories.  And yet, in his new circumstances Wally has been cut off from everything he once took for granted, the family Waid ultimately left him with.  Even Barry, his famous "Trial of the Flash," endured considerable mental torment (with or without the intervention of Eobard Thawne).  He loses control for a moment, and accidently kills a handful of heroes.

In panic, he deliberately takes more lives.  At this point it becomes a Parallax situation.  Parallax was the fear entity that took over Hal Jordan following the loss of Coast City.  A momentary lapse of willpower compromised Hal for years.  This is really no different.  A Wally already suffering makes a terrible decision.  That's it.

There's one more issue.  And, folks, this is comics.  Wally West will run again.  He will be a hero again.  And regardless, we have those great Waid stories.  Hopefully, if nothing else, Heroes in Crisis will lead readers to read them for the first time.  They're among the all-times great.  I've listed "The Return of Barry Allen" as my all-time favorite in the past.  One story can't change that.  Why in the world would it?  Could it? 

This would be one thing if King were just mucking around.  But King doesn't muck around.  He tells compelling stories, that challenge, that go well beyond the scope other comic book writers typically conceive.  Heroes in Crisis is no different.  Fans heaped praise on King for The Vision.  DC clearly expected that for Mister Miracle.  He delivered, regardless of fan response, and he has delivered again with Heroes in Crisis.  This guy's one of the all-time greats.

Free Comic Book Day 2019

The first Saturday in May has come and gone for another year, and like last year I celebrated it at Nerd Out Comics and Comics & Stuff in sunny Tampa.  Comics & Stuff has since moved to a new location, but the experience was comparable.  Inexplicably, Tampa folk just aren't interested in queuing up, with or without costumes!  This was always a highlight for me, in three other states, three other stores, by which I know I have a decent sampling of the event.  Comics & Stuff, with its larger new location, had a bigger turnout than last year.  I got there after it opened, but the place was crammed, I mean literally crammed (also, I hate people who have no spatial awareness, as in won't even consider moving unless you ask them, and then ask them again when you come by again).  Nerd Out, I arrived early.  Like last year they had a table of this year's releases, and other tables filled with older freebies, right outside the store.  I got a ton of comics there, all freebies.  Didn't go inside.  Comics & Stuff, obviously I went inside, bought a few new comics, too. 

Anyway, here's what I came away with (Comics & Stuff had a four comic limit, Nerd Out three), for this year's releases:
  • Animosity Tales (Aftershock) I've sampled Marguerite Bennett's comic as a paying customer in the past. 
  • Bloodshot (Valiant) I've been a fan of this incarnation for a few years now. 
  • Deadly Class (Image) Kind of want to see the TV version.
  • H1 Ignition (Humanoids) Mark Waid's attempting another startup...!
  • Interceptor (Vault) Written by Donny Cates, who I imagine to be one of those current writers capable of securing a real audience.
  • Punchline (Antarctic) Looked good.
  • Stranger Things (Dark Horse) With all due respect to fans of the TV show, my hook was the Black Hammer backup.
  • Year of the Villain (DC) This was actually a twenty-five cent comic released a few days earlier, but Nerd Out was giving it away.  (Yay, Nerd Out!)
  • Star Wars Day: May the 4th Be With You (Marvel) Another unofficial Nerd Out freebie that didn't count to its limit.
And what did I score with Nerd Out's older freebies?
  • Avatar (Dark Horse) A FCBD 2017 release.  A lot of people have been attempting to downplay James Cameron's achievement in the past decade.  I've kind of been part of it, by dismissing the basic story as Pocahontas redux.  But I've been coming around.  It's still like nothing else anyone has done.  The last time that happened at the movies, it was Star Wars.  See where that one went?
  • Bad Machinery (Oni) A FCBD 2017 release.
  • Battle Angel Alita (Kodansha) A Halloween ComicFest 2018 release.  I have yet to see the Robert Rodriguez movie.
  • Comic Book Legal Defense Fund: Defender Vol. 2 #2 (CBLDF) Released in 2017, featuring Batwoman on the cover.
  • Help the CBLDF...Defend Comics (CBLDF) A FCBD 2017 release. I feel bad not really having supported the fund financially.  But certainly a worthy cause.  Featuring Jeffrey Brown.
  • Fresh off the Boat (Boom!) A FCBD 2017 release, featuring Gene Luen Yang and Jorge Corona.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel) A FCBD 2017 release.  Also featuring the Bendis Defenders.
  • The Incal (Humanoids) A FCBD 2017 release.  Apparently a much-admired graphic novel, by Jodorowsky and Moebius.
  • Marvel Previews: Captain Marvel (Marvel) I liked the movie.
  • Marvel Previews: Avengers Endgame (Marvel) I haven't seen it yet...!
  • Ms. Marvel  (Marvel) A Halloween ComicFest 2018 release.  Revisiting the beginning of a run I much admired in the beginning.
  • People of Earth: Experiencer's Guide to Aliens (DC) A promo comic for the TV show.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man #1: Behind-the-Scenes Edition (Marvel) The Spencer/Ottley reboot, pencil art only...!
  • Spill Night (First Second) A FCBD 2017 release.  Written by Scott Westerfeld.
  • Steam Wars: Strike Leader (Antarctic) A FCBD 2017 release.  I think it might be safe to say that a project that began as a steampunk Star Wars has become its own thing at this point.
  • The World of Krypton (DC) A promo comic for the Krypton TV series, featuring a vintage John Byrne reprint...!
  • Wonder Woman (DC) A FCBD 2017 release...!  Clearly a good year for Nerd Out...not to have given away enough of its freebies.  And a good year to find good stuff two years later.  Reprinting the Rucka Rebirth launch.
  • Marvel Universe: War of the Realms (Marvel) The Jason Aaron event primer.
  • Captain America 75th Anniversary Magazine (Marvel) Pretty sure I've actually gotten and read this before.  Didn't seem to hurt to pick up another copy and do it again.  Dude just helped defeat Thanos (uh, spoiler!!!).

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Reading Comics 226 "Detective Comics #1000, Chip Zdarsky, Tom King, & More"

I've gotten really bad about documenting the comics I read on this blog, but I figured this latest batch was worth talking about.  Let's dive in!

Batman #67 (DC)
I've been collecting all the trades in Tom King's run (actually, pretty much every Tom King trade in general, as he's beyond any doubt my favorite comic book writer working right now).  I haven't been as diligent reading the individual issues.  Once I fell off that track, I figured it was okay, since the trades (I have officially become a trade waiter, I guess).  But I still check in with the odd issue, such as this one, which reunites King with Lee Weeks (they get in another nod to the famous Batman/Elmer Fudd special, don't worry), and it's Weeks in the spotlight (well, I guess not anymore than usual), as this is a mostly silent issue, a chase sequence.  I dig it.

Detective Comics #999 (DC)
The final issue before the big one, Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke conclude the improbable tale of Thomas and Martha Wayne's second murder.  Because it's a dream sequence, essentially, a training program Batman has run for years, this time in virtual reality.  I know there will be readers who feel cheated by that big reveal, but Tomasi has become a reliable interpreter of Batman's psychology.  I think it tracks.

Detective Comics #1,000 (DC)
(Incidentally, I learned from the 80 years hardcover collection that "DC" doesn't stand for Detective Comics, as the popular story goes, but rather Donenfeld's Comics.)

Here's the reason for the most recent visit to the comics shop!  I got the Frank Miller '80s cover.  Like Action Comics 1000 last year, DC put out covers for each decade of the title's existence, and I figured I'd give Miller the nod.  Here's some quick thoughts on the stories:

"Batman's Longest Case" (Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo)
Snyder and Capullo, the much-celebrated New 52 team, again reunite (after Dark Nights: Metal) for a tale that sees Batman ultimately join a team of famous detectives.  Seems about right, for a Detective Comics anniversary tale.  The detective aspect of the Dark Knight hasn't really been emphasized much in the modern era.  Amazing, Brad Melzter has never been asked to do an extended Batman adventure.  Seems like an oversight.

"Manufacture for Use" (Kevin Smith/Jim Lee)
Smith and Lee are high profile collaborators, about as high profile as the issue gets.  The tale is maybe a little lightweight, and never gives Lee a chance to highlight his work, but at least it gives Batman a chance to finally reconcile the gun that was used to shoot his parents.  It's also nice to see Matches Malone.

"The Legend of Knute Brody" (Paul Dini/Dustin Nguyen)
This one was a highlight for me, even if the twist at the end seems to diminish it.  The gag is that there was an all-time terrible henchman named Knute Brody who worked for most of Batman's enemies.  The reveal is that Knute was actually a disguise Batman's allies used to get insider information.  Seems like something that could fill out a longer story.

"The Batman's Design" (Warren Ellis/Becky Cloonan)
I'm not sure Ellis nails this one, a sort of spiritual sequence to "Knute Brody," in which we learn Batman doesn't just dismiss and brutalize all those henchmen, but rather thinks of them as individuals worth a kind of sympathy, even a chance to walk away.  He spends too much time away from the particular henchman at the end of the tale to really sell it.

"Return to Crime Alley" (Denny O'Neil/Steve Epting)
One thing is certain to rankle fans: for a story not to automatically side with Batman.  But that's exactly what O'Neil, the oldest Batman creator in the issue, does, as a sequel to the first appearance of Leslie Thompkins, as she again questions whether or not Batman's crusade is healthy for him.  It's a more than fair question, and more than fair to bring up again, the rare pessimistic beat in another upbeat issue.

"Heretic" (Christopher Priest/Neal Adams)
What's interesting about this one (other than art from another long-time Batman creator, Adams) is Priest remembering that the League of Assassins doesn't begin and end with Ra's al Ghul, but rather also includes, y'know, the League itself, all the fanatics who comprise it, including one who decided to leave not later known as Batman.  It's a worthy subject, especially in the age of Islamic terror. 

"I Know" (Brian Michael Bendis/Alex Maleev)
Before I reached the credits with this one, I thought it was the Tom King entry, as it heavily features a vocal tic, which is kind of a King trademark, but no, it's Brian Bendis helping Penguin along, as an old Penguin meets with an old Bruce Wayne, confessing he knew Wayne was Batman all along.  And the twist in this one is much more satisfying, thank you.  Bendis apparently should've been writing for DC all along, as he's a complete natural.

"The Last Crime in Gotham" (Geoff Johns/Kelley Jones)
Here's perhaps the highlight of the whole thing for me, in the subtle way Johns uses the issue to establish his Joker credentials, ahead of his much-anticipated Three Jokers.  In this future, Batman and his extended family are investigating a murder scene, trying to figure out who did it.  Turns out it was the Joker's son, who wanted to end the cycle of violence the old man helped perpetuate for years, sacrificing himself in the process.  Some readers will lump the results in with the Batman-family-friendly vibes of the whole issue, but it's really someone else's triumph.  Maybe the impact is thrown off by Jones, who will always dominate whatever he works on (by the way, nice for him to represent the veterans, too), but the story, if you follow it, carries its own weight.  It's one of the best things I've read from Johns.

"The Precedent" (James Tynion IV/Alvaro Martinez-Bueno)
Tynion likely got the nod to contribute thanks to his early Rebirth era run, which helped jumpstart the significance of the series after drifting back into relative obscurity, in the New 52 era, when all anyone could really talk about was Snyder's Batman.  I like what Dick Grayson (it's his tale) says in one of the final panels: "I'm not the precedent.  You are.  And you're just the start."  It's easy to get caught up in the Batman craze, and dismiss all his allies and so many sidekicks, but if Batman achieves anything at all, it's his ability to inspire others, not in fear but hope.  That's something Christopher Nolan concluded, in a different way (but with a Robin figure, too) in The Dark Knight Rises.  It's just nice to see someone else notice.

"Batman's Greatest Case" (Tom King/Tony S. Daniel/Joelle Jones)
King, as always, seems to have bewildered his readers.  But really, he's coming to the same conclusion Tynion does above, that Batman's legacy won't ultimately be about what Batman himself can achieve, but what he's been able to inspire in others.  So this is a tale about his many current allies coming together and talking, and eventually, someone realizes that "Batman's greatest case" was about solving that original problem of having lost a family and thinking that was always going to define him.  But it really didn't, and the appearance of the original Robin, so soon after Batman himself first appeared, was kind of proof from almost the very start.  He's just needed reminding every now and then.  This time he reminds himself, by taking a picture, and leaving it on the graves of his parents.  That's what King's Batman has been concerned about all along.  I think this will make an excellent addition to King's collected Batman tales, wherever DC might slot it in eventually.

"Medieval" (Peter Tomasi/Doug Mahnke)
Current Detective Comics creators Tomasi and Mahnke (see above!) get to introduce video game character Arkham Knight to continuity in this one, and it's great to see something new(ish) in all the reflective splendor.  Hopefully another villain worth remembering years to come.

Great issue.

Books of Magic #6 (Vertigo)
Part of the Sandman Universe corner of the Vertigo corner of DC these days (...), I thought I'd have a look, as I've always been interested in the concept of young Tim Hunter learning how to be a wizard.  Yeah, Harry Potter later made the concept much, much more popular, and Vertigo in turn had The Unwritten (which didn't star Tim) (maybe should've?).  But the existence of Harry only increases Tim's shine, not diminishes.  And this issue proves it.  Glad at least for this revival.

Daredevil #3 (Marvel)
Holy crap.  So Chip Zdarsky just rocketed into the upper echelons of Marvel lore.  His take on the traditional Daredevil's-life-is-being-ruined! tale not only involves the cops (amazingly, very few comics seem to understand this maybe would be a...natural element to any superhero story) but finally addresses the element in the room.  If this were happening to a superhero, especially a very-well-established one like Daredevil...wouldn't the rest of the superhero community have something to say about it?  Turns out that someone is...Punisher.  Hell yeah!  The fans like claiming that Marvel has nothing much to boast about these days, but they're really just feeding perceptions.  Zdarsky has been working toward this moment, and I'm glad to witness it.  He's going to be in that echelon hopefully for years.  Unless DC gets to benefit.  Just sayin'!

Dial H for Hero #1 (DC)
Part of the second Bendis imprint (after Jinxworld) at DC, Wonder Comics, this is Sam Humphries kicking down the door to once again establish himself as a writer worth taking seriously, owning a familiar if somewhat obscure DC concept.  I have a blogging acquaintance who's gone over all the heroic identities to emerge from the H Dial over the years.  I'm sure he's paying attention to this, too.  And I hope he's as impressed as I am.  The superhero conjured this issue is a stereotypical '90s archetype, which is pretty fun in and of itself.  But Humphries manages to make the H Dial itself more interesting than anything else.  I don't know if he's covering new ground or not, but I love it.

Doomsday Clock #9 (DC)
I began tradewaiting this series almost immediately.  The shop I went to for the first issue was already upcharging for it (dick move, Banner), so I...lost the motivation quickly, and just started randomly checking in.  This was my latest check-in, in the apparent mistaken belief that the Legion ring on the cover belonged to Saturn Girl.  But the issue still has a major revelation worth reading, involving Firestorm and a patented Geoff Johns character revision.  He always seems to know exactly how to do that.  It's his superpower...

The Forgotten Queen #2 (Valiant)
The last time I checked in with a new Valiant title I wasn't impressed, but this time I was.  Valiant remains the best-kept secret in superhero comics, it seems.

G.I. Joe: Sierra Muerte #2 (IDW)
When I realized that was Michel Fiffe art on the cover, I snapped it up.  Fiffe, of course, is the creator of Copra, the best-kept secret in indy comics these days, kind of the official insider handshake.  But the showstopper in the issue is an essay details the history of Snake Eyes, one so intriguing it makes you wonder if Snake Eyes is the best kept secret of the best creators in comics.  Did Alan Moore have him on the brain was conceiving Rorschach?  Now I'm pretty convinced!  Was Snake Eyes responsible for Wolverine's incredible ascent?  Now I'm pretty convinced!  All hail Snake Eyes!

Heroes in Crisis #6-7 (DC)
Well, did Wally crack?  King tackles head-on whether or not Wally himself was capable of viewing himself as that mythical "symbol of hope" fans thought he was starting in DC Rebirth, while Booster and Harley continue to compete against each other as the sole survivors.  Two more issues.  I think King has once again produced magic.  Can't wait to see how it ends.

Meet the Skrulls #1 (Marvel)
Having seen and enjoyed Captain Marvel, when I saw Meet the Skrulls referred to s Marvel's successful attempt to finally recapture that Tom King Vision magic, I thought I knew what to expect.  But someone seems to have misinterpreted another family intrigue with the same kind of storytelling, because what King did, what King always does, is reinterpret family intrigue.  This story merely follows it, perhaps finding another character who'll fit the classic Marvel tragic model, but it would have to significantly upgrade itself to even begin to resemble King's Vision properly.

Spider-Man: Life Story #1 (Marvel)
Here's Zdarsky again, with Mark Bagley, revisiting the life of Peter Parker, one decade at a time.  It'll be interesting to see how things develop.  This issue almost seems standard, but it's also part of Marvel's current initiative to reintegrate its characters into historic moments, in this case the Vietnam War, with Spidey struggling to reconcile his absence from the battle field with his famous mantra about great responsibility.  Iron Man is depicted on the field, and then Captain America makes some bold choices.  Well, like I said, it depends on what happens next.  But Zdarsky is quickly proving that there are few things he's unwilling to breech, and he's been proven right in his instincts so far.  I'm willing to bet that trend continues.

Marvelous X-Men #1 (Marvel)
This is a kind of sequel to Age of Apocalypse, which is pretty great to see.  This issue, meanwhile dithers most of its space, but still brings up some interesting points. 

Young Justice #3 (DC)
Another Wonder Comics entry, this title famously brings back classic '90s teen heroes Impulse (yeah!), Superboy, and Robin, the heart of the original team and backbone of DC's '90s teen heroes in general.  This issue follows Superboy's journey to Gemworld, which was featured for a hot minute in the New 52, and I'm glad it's back.  This is a whole dream come true.  I guess that's the other reason Bendis was allowed to take the Rebirth Superboy off the table, to make room for the other one.  Hell yeah!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Reading Comics 225 "Grass of Parnassus, Superman 100 Page Giant #7"

Grass of Parnassus

This is a new webcomic that made me use Instagram for one of the first times ever.  The hook, for me, is Stuart Immonen, working once again alongside wife Kathryn Immonen (realized when I was composing this and adding labels that she didn't have one yet).  Stuart's one of my all-time favorite comics creators, so it's always fun to see what he's up to. 

Grass appears to be an attempt at a kind of slice-of-life-in-the-future.  Readers seem a little baffled as to what exactly is going on, but it seems pretty straightforward to me. The Immonens have an excellent track record (I haven't read all of their work, but Russian Olive to Red King and Moving Pictures are fantastic).  Here's a compilation of Stuart's best-regarded work.  As much as I love Stuart's art, and his collaborations with Kathryn as writer, I really wish he got back into writing; his Superman comics, as artist and writer, have yet to be rediscovered, but they should be.

Superman Giant #7

I'd be remiss if I didn't chime in on this one.  Apparently these Walmart 100-page giants finally made the news for something other than merely existing.  This was last month's edition (I just scooped up this month's full slate, which included the first revamp and expansion of the line, but haven't had a chance to read it yet).  When I read it I thought it was just another typically intricate narrative from Tom King (my favorite among all active writers in the medium, easily), but...

So the story is this: Superman, on a desperate quest to rescue a young girl kidnapped by aliens, places an extreme-long-distance call, deep in space, to Lois back on Earth.  The whole process is tedious and slow, and on top of that Lois seems to take forever to answer.  Superman spends the time imagining all kinds of worst case scenarios, Lois dying horrible deaths from any of the many emergencies Superman's usually there to prevent.

Sounds fairly normal, doesn't it?  I mean, Superman's been saving Lois Lane from certain death since the very beginning.  It's one of the most recognizable tropes in all of superhero storytelling.  Lois actively puts herself in danger all the time as an intrepid reporter.  You'd think no one could possibly object to a story that just sort of points all that out.


Well, people are always kind of outraged about one thing or another.  It only seems that outrage dominates public discourse more than ever before.  Right?  Anyway.  The outrage this time is that this was a comic that featured Lois dying.  Repeatedly.

This was a reported case of a mother being shocked at what her kid was being exposed to.  Big surprise, right?  Story of comic books right there.  Mom buys these Walmart comics every month, never imagining that there was anything to object to, until she takes a gander and...

So you can't really help that sort of thing.  King is no stranger to provoking readers, of course.  He's been doing that since seemingly killing off Kyle Rayner in the Omega Men preview, and he's made an ongoing spectacle of Batman with regular intervals of similar acts, shocking readers who should have possibly seen it all before.  He did it again with Heroes in Crisis (if I get around to it, I'd love to talk more about that one, especially how #5 lets the cat out of the bag, assuming readers were aware that there was a cat, and a bag, and that you could've anticipated that from the very beginning, without really harming the story, because it's all about how masterfully King commands the page, as always).

What I love about all this is that it does put the focus on the content rather than the existence of these giants, and hopefully will get more readers checking them out. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Back Issue Bin 124 "The Weather Man and other comics"

True Believers - Jessica Jones: Alias #1 (Marvel)
The True Believer comics are dollar reprints, which have been popular in recent years from a number of publishers to help catch fans up.  This particular one was intended to celebrate both Marvel Knights, twenty years this year as the last time Marvel fans really celebrated a whole creative moment (the Ultimate line coincided with it) and the Netflix shows, of which Jessica Jones is one of them.  Alias was the original title, before Jennifer Garner and J.J. Abrams made it more famous.  But when you think about it, it's appropriate for this particular character to be advertised under a proper name, a post-Starman expansion of the post-Watchmen deconstruction movement, where superheroes could walk away from the life.  Anyway, this is also one of Brian Michael Bendis's most famous creations, and the pattern he's been following in Jinxworld ever since.

Bane: Conquest#10 (DC)
TV shows get revived all the time these days; it sometimes happens in comics, too.  Dan Jurgens was doing it before it was cool, revisiting Doomsday in a series of projects.  Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan have done it with Bane a few times, too, most recently in this mini-series, whose only real questionable decision was the mask revision, where we see Bane's nose.  Yeah, no.  Anyway, otherwise this is perfectly identifiable as continuing the original Bane narrative, perhaps last seen in Vengeance of Bane II.  I never really liked the Bane revisions, which is another reason to admire Tom King's comics, as they're the first time Bane has really been Bane since the old days.

Image Firsts: Curse Words #1 (Image)
Here's another company with dollar comic reprints!  And here's me finally reading Curse Words!  And I really feel bad about it now, more than ever.  I've been a big fan of Charles Soule for years now.  Unfortunately "big fan" for me doesn't mean the same thing it used to.  If I were spending money on comics like I have before (rashly, unwisely, in terms of general finances), I'd've been reading everything Charles Soule I could get my hands on.  I'd've read the complete Letter 44, his complete Daredevil, and this.  But I haven't, and hadn't even had a proper look until now.  But it's great!  This is the story of a fantasy world a wizard escapes from, after realizing his mission to destroy Earth was a bad one and subsequently settling in as a wizard-for-hire.  The whole issue reads wonderfully.  Soule positively crackles with creative energy, and this whole concept encapsulates that really well.  So I will probably have to read more at some point.

DC Universe: Last Will and Testament (DC)
This was a one-shot from Brad Meltzer, who famously made a big bang comics debut with Identity Crisis, and then a sting in Justice League of America.  This is a wonderful spotlight for Geo-Force, a character who otherwise never really stands out.  But this is really, really a story that should've corrected that, and a terrific way of demonstrating a compelling story can be found for any character.

True Believers: Infinity Incoming! (Marvel)
A repackaging of Jonathan Hickman's first issue of Avengers, it's clear how epic Hickman wants to feel, but I'm not sure as a storyteller he ever quite hits the notes he reaches for, which is why I've never gotten into him. 

Marvels #2 (Marvel)
I've never read the complete Marvels.  In fact, this is now the most I've ever read!  It always seemed like a Marvel-exclusive tale, a celebration, and I spent a lot of time not feeling like that kind of reader.  But it was so famous, I've read some of this already.  But not all of it.  The issue is actually geared toward the X-Men and the "mutant problem."  I'm not sure anyone's ever really adequately explained why superpowers in Marvel are considered bad (mutant or otherwise), so I guess that's just a story I'll have to keep looking for.

Mera: Queen of Atlantis #1 (DC)
I love that Mera finally has her own comic!  Even if it's just a mini-series.  That's one of the biggest things Geoff Johns has accomplished over the years, elevating Mera to known status, and I think she's got farther to go.  Curiously this debut issue sort of spends most of its time...focusing on Aquaman-specific elements.  So you can see how far it can still go...

Orion #23 (DC)
The Walt Simonson series; Simonson is one of the few creators who can get away with revisiting the New Gods without anyone thinking he's revising them.  This particular issue doesn't really have anything to do with the New Gods, which is actually a lot like how Jack Kirby himself first used them. 

Thanos #2 (Marvel)
Jeff Lemire!  Another modern creator I'd love to read more extensively, and another comic I'm reading for the first time.  The only thing I don't get (otherwise it's a lot like the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, but without the humor) is why Thanos would fear death.  Maybe I'm not thinking clearly about this because I'm not exhaustively versed in it, but isn't Thanos obsessed with Death?  If he can be united with her in death, wouldn't that help him fulfill his fondest desire?   But maybe this is something Lemire explores elsewhere in his tale.

The Twelve #12 (Marvel)
I read this series as it was originally published, even enduring the long delay halfway through with patience, but it was fun to revisit.  I honestly think that what's happening with Marvel now is that it tried extremely hard to reinvent itself over the past twenty years as a more dynamic House of Ideas, but now that it's gone back to its more traditional mode, fans realize that there was something missing.  There's no reason why The Twelve shouldn't be considered an evergreen title.

The Weatherman #1-5 (Image)
Being a Star Trek fan, (I want to say of course here, but it hasn't been that simple with Star Trek fans for at least twenty years), I watched the first season of Discovery, which featured a lot of twists, one of which was that one of the characters was a Klingon all along and didn't even know it.  I don't know if Jody LeHeup and Nathan Fox were at all inspired by that, but it was impossible not to think about while reading, and remains my favorite way to think about these issues.  Because otherwise they're a lot like...most Image comics, in that they seem to exist merely to indulge shock value, with [hang narrative description here] merely an excuse to do so.  Few of them seem at all interested in anything more than a shallow understanding of their characters, and it's really no different here.  It's not that most comics have more depth, but that as a rule, Image seems to be, well, image-deep.  Back at its founding, it was famously led by artists, with writing that was never really a priority, until it was pointed out and they started bringing in better writers.   But then they seemed to forget, all in the interests of championing independent comics that still had a reasonable chance of, y'know, selling.  So they took shortcuts.  All the time.  And so the image stays the...same.