Monday, February 16, 2015

Reading Comics 154 "Blasts II"

My local comics shop tricked me into buying more comics.  Yeah, tough gig.  They were holding a sale on the bins they've been filling with recent comics that needed to be removed from the shelves in order to make room for more comics.  These comics were already discounted.  They told me the discount increased, and so I took another deep dive.  The results:

Batman and Robin #23.1 (DC)
Part of the 2013 Villains Month, that year's version of the annual tradition DC has of celebrating each September as an anniversary of the New 52 launch from 2011.  This one was a tie-in with Forever Evil (surprisingly I had avoided such issues from the month previously), but I wanted to have a look because it was Pete Tomasi writing.  On the cover Two-Face is billed as the star, and what's significant about this is that at the time, Tomasi was gearing up for the Batman and Two-Face arc, "The Big Burn," a detour from the Damian arc that will, post-Convergence, fall to Patrick Gleason to continue solo in the pages of Robin, Son of Batman.  As a visual storyteller, I have full confidence in Gleason.  Hopefully he have as good a grasp with the narrative, because so much has been done in the past year.

Grayson #1 (DC)
Okay, so now I've finally read the first issue!  This was something that initially sold out at the shop, so by the time it was restocked I had a chance to start second-guessing how interested I was in the series.  In subsequent months I've come to various conclusions, but the truth is, Grayson is pretty good.  There's a whole underpinning arc to what Tim Seeley and Tom King are doing in the series, that level alone makes the proceedings intriguing.  It has the proven potential for great individual stories.  But history may be getting made in other ways, too.  More as things develop.  Also, the post-Convergence landscape has already proven one element of Grayson to have borne fruit: a new Midnighter series, after the WildStorm character served as a primary element in Seeley and King's early stories.

Star Trek New Visions: Annual 2013 "Strange New Worlds" (IDW)

John Byrne already has an assured place in comics history.  He's been working at one in Star Trek history as well.  His previous, hand-drawn work has been impressive enough (Assignment Earth, McCoy, and Romulans), but lately he's been working on comic book photo-novels.  This is the first time I've read one of these efforts myself.  (Although the original Star Trek photo-novels are some of what helped me become a fan in the first place.)  The results are impressive.  "Strange New Worlds" functions as a sequel to Captain Kirk's first adventure, "Where No Man Has Gone Before," the second pilot of the original series.  The fact of its place in canon, first Kirk but also featuring some characters who wouldn't appear in subsequent episodes such as Dr. Piper, is Byrne's effort at turning "Strange New Worlds" into a kind of "Menagerie," the two-part episode that repurposed the first pilot "The Cage," which also featured a different set of characters (Spock is the only one present in all casts).  As in "Where No Man," "New Worlds" features the problem of Gary Mitchell, who accidentally develops god-like powers.  Mitchell was Kirk's close friend, and having to eliminate his threat was a considerable challenge on multiple levels.  Byrne presents a deepening of the whole experience, a good one.  There's an essay on the art of photo-novels included, as well as interview with Byrne.

Star-Lord: Annihilation - Conquest (Marvel)

In conjunction with last year's Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel put out numerous special comic book releases reprinting Star-Lord's past appearances.  The last time I sampled one of them featured Peter Quill's earliest adventures, which were generic and as such, to me, terrible.  Thankfully I gave these things another shot.  I just read my digital copy of how the whole Annihilation thing began, so I have some context, but it hardly matters.  This is the only context necessary: Annihilation - Conquest is the secret origin of the Peter Quill and pals everyone fell in love with in the movie.  What a discovery!  And now it only figures that Keith Giffen wrote Annihilation itself, because his more familiar imprint is all over Conquest.  Brian Michael Bendis is generally credited with a lot of what Marvel has been doing at the movies, and rightly so.  He's the one who took up the Star-Lord ball most recently, but without Giffen, he probably would never have thought of it.  Conquest features a somewhat different team line-up, though Rocket and Groot are present and accounted for (second most surprising revelation of Conquest: at least for these specific circumstances, Groot does not only say, "My name is Groot").  This is seriously good stuff, a great, great find.

Action Comics #23.3 (DC)
This is a Villains Month release featuring Lex Luthor!  You'd think there would have been a little more attention given it, given how significant Luthor was in Forever Evil and later, Justice League.  And what's all the more interesting still is that it's written by Charles Soule.  The Luthor here seems far less redeemable than the one in Justice League (as depicted so far), a diabolical one that tracks well with the past and present of the character.  It's also nice to see Lex Luthor star in an issue of Action Comics again, after the Paul Cornell run that helped signal the character's future potential...

Superman: Doomed #1 (DC)
The "Doomed" arc, naturally, features Doomsday, and represents Scott Lobdell's last hurrah writing Superman, working in conjunction with Charles Soule (who had featured the monster in the pages of Superman/Wonder Woman) and Greg Pak.  I still don't get the massive opposition to Lobdell.  I think he does a great job building on existing concepts.  In the post-Convergence landscape, he's got a chance to expound further on his ideas in a whole Doomed series, which speculation must suggest has some relation to this arc and/or Doomsday.  What I read in this issue looked pretty good, a modern take on the Doomsday issue that takes Superman himself to another level.  How exactly the whole infected-with-Doomsday thing played out, is another thing I'll have to find out...

Swamp Thing Annual #2 (DC)
Charles Soule and Swamp Thing.  There's a lot that I need to catch up on, but the bits and snatches I've caught...this stuff is brilliant.  It's almost as if Soule has taken the idea of the avatars Geoff Johns used in Green Lantern and took a more deliberate, intimate approach to them.  Of course, not the Green Lantern avatars themselves, but various elemental ones as related to Swamp Thing.  And it's always fascinating.  I have no idea why I wouldn't have become dedicated from the moment I read it the first time.  This annual explores more about the history of the avatars, and how they affect Alec Holland's future.  I will continue reading more and more of this...

Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger #14 (DC)
This is the the one I most picked up on a lark.  I like the Trinity of Sin concept.  As far as I can tell, it became less interesting when the three characters were finally merged in a single series.  Yet this issue of Phantom Stranger proves it can work.  Good to have in my collection.

Quarter Bin 66 "Just Imagine Stan Lee's The Flash"

Just Imagine Stan Lee Creating The Flash (DC)
From 2001.

Recently Grant Morrison's The Multiversity Guidebook included the Just Imagine... comics as constituting one of the 52 parallel Earths inhabiting DC's landscape.  Seeing this particular comic available in the back issue sales at my local comic book shop made it an easy purchase.

I wasn't reading comics when Stan Lee wrote at DC for the first time in what has since become a forgotten event (except by Morrison), but I did a little catching up years later.  Stan Lee is Stan Lee.  He doesn't know a lot from subtlety, but then, his work with Jack Kirby and others did ignite the popular phenomenon that has since swept Hollywood.

The idea behind Just Imagine... may explain itself at this point, but here it is: Stan Lee creating his own versions of DC icons.

His Flash is a lot like his Spider-Man, for the record.  Except really fast instead of really...spidery.  The most notable aspect of the comic is the art, from Kevin Maguire.  That was the other, less-publicized, gimmick about the Just Imagine... comics, that Lee teamed up with notable artists for each one.  Maguire is still best-known for the Giffen/DeMatteis Bwa-ha-ha League, where he famously had the most expressive faces in comics.  There was a more recent Batman Confidential arc where Maguire drew some sexy Catwoman and Batgirl material.
via iFanboy
What's more amusing is the backup feature with art from Sergio Aragones, the classic Mad Magazine contributor who's also known as the creator of Groo, the...buffoon Conan.  Always great to see his work.

Superman #38 (DC)

writer: Geoff Johns

artist: John Romita, Jr.

Some of the news coming out of DC has been surprising lately.  No, I want to correct that statement.  All of the news coming out of DC lately has been surprising.

I'm not talking about Superman's new superpower, hyped to debut this issue.

What I'm talking about specifically relating to Superman is the fact that this is apparently the penultimate issue of Geoff Johns' run, and that post-Convergence John Romita Jr. will be continuing on, but with writer Gene Luen Yang (author of American Born Chinese) instead.

Yang may actually be a refreshing pick.  The disappointment lies in Johns leaving again so soon.  But he can't do epic runs all the time, and he's currently in the midst of one with Justice League, which he's written since the New 52 began.

This issue also ends the Ulysses arc.  The moment the new character debuted, it was always a matter of how exactly he might continue as part of Superman's mythology.  With this conclusion, he might replace Johns's own Superboy-Prime from Infinite Crisis as a villain with considerable power left to bide his time.

So much power that he forces Superman to unleash a new ability.  And, just as in defeating Superboy-Prime, it leaves Superman powerless.  For a time.

The Superboy-Prime thing belonged to a different mythology.  I'm not sure anyone will miss that anyway.  Recasting the role, in a completely new context, one that once again has direct ties to Superman but plays as an intriguingly well-defined twist (Superman, for all intents and purposes, is Ulysses's Zod, or Doomsday).  There's plenty of room for other writers, or Johns, to exploit this further down the road.

Meanwhile, powerless Superman.  For a day.  The subject of Johns' impending final issue.  If the results of this quirk are half as interesting character-wise as what Superman does this issue...He tells Jimmy Olsen his big secret.  It's a nice twist on a subplot Johns had been weaving in his arc, redefining Jimmy while also underlining his classic role.

And what of that new power?  It's kind of like a star-burst, what Batman describes as what the heat-ray vision was always about, a mere prelude all this time.  As such, Johns does what he always does, takes a classic mythology and expands it.  He makes Superman more powerful, and more human, at the same time.

Romita has apparently gotten a lot of grief for his work in Superman, but I've liked it, so I'm not sad to see him continuing in the series at all.  He's the perfect embodiment of what Johns has been trying to convey.  If Yang writes what I think he'll write, he will be another complement, and if anything as close to a true continuation as Johns has ever had.

So, good surprising news.

Star Wars #2 (Marvel)

writer: Jason Aaron

artist: John Cassaday

A curious thing happened to Star Wars comics recently.  No, I don't mean leaving Dark Horse for the first time in a quarter century, returning to the Marvel fold in conjunction with the franchise being in the hands of Disney and on the heels of Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens.

No, they've become popular.  It's kind of a slap in the face to Dark Horse.  The debut issue of the flagship in Marvel's launch (like the new films, there are spin-offs for individual characters as well) sold like hotcakes, an instant collectors item the likes of which comics in general haven't seen in years.  At my local comics shop, people were buying two and three (etc.) at a time.  I never even saw the first issue.

So here I am with the second.  What're the results?  It doesn't even seem important that the writer is Jason Aaron, an acclaimed member of the Marvel fold whom I personally still know best from his Vertigo series Scalped.

Aaron has placed his series in the aftermath of A New Hope.  Luke wears the yellow jacket he rocked in the awards ceremony.  The Rebellion is trying to capitalize on the destruction of the Death Star.  And Darth Vader ain't happy.  He also doesn't seem to know who Luke Skywalker is.

At first it didn't really bother me, but the more I think about it, this is a sizable plothole.  I mean, Vader isn't just some shmoe, he's a Sith, a practitioner of the Force.  You might explain the gap as Vader's apparent disinterest in either of his offspring, or perhaps simply his understandable confusion about how exactly Revenge of the Sith ended, whether he has offspring at all.  And yet, there's a real argument to be made that he would have known in an instant who the mysterious pilot was, a confusion from the end of A New Hope he would've cleared up much more quickly.

That's the central element of the issue, and whether or not you go along with it probably defines what you think of it.  They'll obsess over it if they're not primed to accept just about anything.  The minute they have reason to reject even one thing, something like this would drive them crazy.

I suspect most fans just won't care.  For me, it's reason enough to give up.

Saga #25 (Image)

writer: Brian K. Vaughan

artist: Fiona Staples

The nature of the conflict between Landfall and Wreath is explored to considerable length this issue, which turns out to be a setup for an ending that adds a new wrinkle to the Saga, um, saga.

Dengo, the janitor from the Robot Kingdom who has been dictating a lot of the action lately as well as kidnapping Prince Robot IV's newborn and Hazel, the infant child of Alana and Marko, has the following exchange with Alana:

Alana: What the hell have you done now, android?"

Dengo: Commenced with Plan B.  I'd hoped to persuade others to join my campaign through words and images, but it's clear the only language people understand is action.

Alana: Dengo, who's out there?

Dengo: A heroic band of freedom fighters dedicated to ending both of your worlds' reigns of terror.

Alana: No.  Please tell me you didn't really bring the Rebellion here.

Dengo: "Rebellion" is for teenage girls.

Which means a bunch of new characters!  One of the great strengths of Saga is Vaughan's ability to create dynamic personalities out of clearly-defined roles.  Beyond that, the Revolution is a clever spin on a sci-fi trope made famous by Star Wars and featured most recently to great success in Guardians of the Galaxy.

Also of note for dedicated readers, as always, is the letters section, in which one correspondent hilariously explains how Saga ruined her relationship with her mother, and another from a prison inmate that continues a different saga entirely, the effects of a different prison inmate who brought the love of comics inside the institution.  Real Shawshank Redemption stuff there, folks.  

Have I mentioned how much I love the name of Vaughan's dog, Hamburger K. Vaughan?


Nameless #1 (Image)

writer: Grant Morrison

artist: Chris Burnham

Sometimes there's no Grant Morrison.  Sometimes there's suddenly an explosion of Grant Morrison.  Last year Morrison launched both The Multiversity and Annihilator, both of which are limited series and counting down to their conclusions now.  Nameless has joined those ranks.  Is it as good as them?

And more importantly, because the actual subject is never clear from the start, what's it about?

Actually, the basic setup is pretty much Armageddon, the Michael Bay movie where Bruce Willis is charged with destroying an asteroid before it has a chance to destroy Earth.

But, Morrison being Morrison, it can't be that simple, can it?  Of course not.

The complicated setup is Morrison revisiting a particular aspect of his own mythology.  While writing The Invisibles, he was quite vocal about his personal dabbling in the occult.  It was a time in Morrison's career where he was known for Invisibles, Doom Patrol, and Animal Man, all extremely out-there material that not only helped define Vertigo comics at the time, but who exactly Morrison was, not just as a writer, but person.  This was not the mainstream-friendly Morrison later introduced for the purposes of JLA.  This was a Morrison who happily skirted controversy, helping to form a firm fan support group.

The last such work of this kind was The Filth early in the new millennium.  He's described this kind of storytelling as his effort to explain experiences he's actually had.

Fast-forward to the present, where there really hasn't been much of that talk in years.  Hence, the mainstream-friendly Morrison, the rough edges rounded off.  Almost.  Annihilator has gone a long way in bringing back the classic Morrison, but Nameless seems designed to bring the thing full circle.  Who better to illustrate the tale than Chris Burnham, the Batman Incorporated artist who brought the rough edge back?

Nameless evokes much of Annihilator while making the unusual more apparent.  Our main character, literally named Nameless, is hiding from things happened in the past, but the present is dragging all that back to the surface.  And yes, calling for Nameless to be a hero.

At this point, it's really a case of letting more of it play out, to get a feel of where Morrison is going with it, a little of how far down the rabbit hole he's really going.  At this point it doesn't seem like the kind of transcendent material Annihilator is, but Nameless is similarly interested in plumbing the depths of Morrison's own life for inspiration.  This is a good thing.

Ms. Marvel #11 (Marvel)

writer: G. Willow Wilson

artist: Adrian Alphona

This is the conclusion of the Inventor arc.  Our villain gets to shout, "I am not a bird!" on the first page, and by the last page we see what he really looks like.  And he is in fact, not a bird.  So, truth in advertising.

It's a little disappointing insofar as the disenchanted youths who willingly played into the Inventor's hands previously are now just as willing to play along with Ms. Marvel.  This is kind of the opposite of the intended message, I suspect.

The other point the issue makes involves Kamala Khan's emerging need to protect her secret identity, what she calls "my new normal" and "a parallel life."

A certain amount of that may also be G. Willow Wilson speaking directly through Kamala.  With the massive success of Ms. Marvel, Wilson is having her first real moment of comic book popularity, which goes with expanded demand, which means she's also writing X-Men these days, which is quite a vote of confidence.

Django/Zorro #3 (Dynamite)

writer: Matt Wagner, Quentin Tarantino

artist: Esteve Polls

In the third issue of this mash-up, Matt Wagner gets around to explaining how exactly this counts as a sequel to Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained.  At the end of the film, Django has been happily reunited with the love of his life and can live his life as he pleases (he chooses to continue on as a bounty hunter).  Where is Hildy now?  Django explains that she's off assisting the underground railroad.

Slightly more relevant to the story is the list of investors (hearing them explain their culinary differences is a highlight) to the villain's evil scheme [insert evil scheme here] including Spartacus LeQuint, owner of the mining company Django escapes from at the end of the movie.

At the end of the issue is Django's first official meeting with Zorro.  Well, "meeting" insofar as Django watches the Fox put the fear of the letter "z" into LeQuint.  As Zorro does, quite literally...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Digitally Speaking...30 "Copperhead"

via Previews World
Copperhead #1 (Image)
From 2014.

I've read and generally enjoyed Jay Faerber in the past.  I still think his Noble Causes could use a little more recognition (and subsequently, I have no idea why he's never done Fantastic Four).

Copperhead is a Western in space.  For me, it has clear echoes of a specific Western in space that I've already seen.  Not just Star Trek in general (which in an essay Faerber mentions) but Deep Space Nine.  They both feature a parent and child settling in a new assignment after some business they'd rather forget.

Copperhead is something of a Western procedural, as the main character is a sheriff, making this comic a space age version of the many Westerns that used to populate TV.  In that crime sense, it's perfectly aligned with another recent Image launch, The Fuse.  I have no idea why crime procedures are suddenly such a thing in comics, other than Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker.  And you know, Batman and stuff.

It's not bad, but I'd like to have had a better sense of the world Copperhead represents.  I'm expecting something as awesome as Saga, and clearly that's not really going to happen.  But it's probably something worth checking out all the same.

Digitally Speaking...29 "Combat Jacks"

via comiXology
Combat Jacks #1 (Banana Tale Press)
From 2013.

No, that's not Catwoman on the cover, and no one trying to impersonate Catwoman is in the comic, either.  So if you think you're going to read this for that, think again.

For the record, that's not why I read it.  It was part of a bundle.

And also, is this for real?  Space pumpkins that turn out to be monsters?  Seriously?  Seriously.  That's what Combat Jacks turns out to be.

A new planet is somehow lodged into our solar system.  A bleak-future-Earth-looking-for-colonization-options sends folks there to live.  Contact is lost.  A military unit is sent in to find out what happened.

And yeah, finds space pumpkins that turn out to be monsters.  Also, the space pumpkins were the defining trait about this planet.  Apparently the only thing the people in this bleak-future-Earth-looking-for-colonization-options does by way of initial research is take pictures and send people there.  

...Some very, very questionable storytelling, folks...But hey!  There's Not Really Catwoman who's not really in it!  Awesome!

Digitally Speaking...28 "Classwar"

via Goodreads
Classwar #1 (Com.X)
From 2002.

Mainstream professionals Rob Williams and Trevor Hairsine make Classwar look mainstream professional....And that's about it, really.  That's the best I can say about it.

The idea behind Classwar is one of those expose-the-truth-behind-what-America's-doing deals, from back in 2002, a true Iraq War comic before the Iraq War even happened.  Reading it now, you wouldn't even realize that if you didn't know its original publication date.

Another blast from the past is a figure who seems comparable to Ultimate Nick Fury, also known as the Samual L. Jackson version we know and love from the movies who debuted, in full appearance, in the pages of The Ultimates the same year.  

All this weird prescience is probably as close as Classwar can get to being worth talking about.

The main character is a superhero called the American.  (Never mind that I just remembered the Jack Kirby character named Fighting American, a kind of Captain America who is...not called Captain America.)  Which is actually not a bad idea.  Straight and to the point.  Simplifies things, much as the storytelling does.  The American is like Superman if he were...Captain America.  See also: The Mighty.  Or Life and Times Savior 28.  Or The Plutonian from Irredeemable.  You get the picture.  Classwar is none of those. 

Move along.

Digitally Speaking...27 "Ciudad"

via Comic Files
Ciudad #1 (Oni)
From 2014.

The subject of girls being kidnapped in Mexican cities was something I read for the first time in Roberto Bolano's masterpiece 2666.  The subject in general has been featured in Liam Neeson's popular film series Taken.

Ciudad the comic book...doesn't seem to have learned much from either.

It's not bad, and maybe in some sense it may even helpfully simplify things, for anyone who still doesn't know much about the subject and happens to have come across this comic book by way of introduction.

That's another way of saying, this is not a piercing study of the problem, nor is it a cool action vehicle.  It's all kind of generic.  Maybe it improves in further issues.  Although based on this debut, I have no interest in finding out.

That being said, maybe it works better for you.  Who knows?

via comiXology

Digitally Speaking...26 "Chloe Noonan: Monster Hunter

via Digital Spy
Chloe Noonan: Monster Hunter (Great Beast)
From 2013.

Ever wonder what might happen if you crossed Scott Pilgrim with Buffy the Vampire Slayer?  Wonder no more...

Chloe Noonan started out as Marc Ellerby's version of Buffy if she didn't have powers.  It kind of got a lot more loose from there.  Chloe's life is more about her friendship with Zoe, in some ways her polar opposite (though equally powerless), and only incidentally about fighting monsters.

Actually, the monster bit is one of the more notable aspects of Ellerby's storytelling, and not for the obvious reasons.  Ellerby's monsters aren't scary so much as unwanted social elements Chloe is just trying to clear out of the way.  Maybe in a different context this would be biting commentary, but as I said, Ellerby tends toward a Scott Pilgrim style.

The fact that Chloe (and by extension everyone else) is British doesn't come up right away, but then it becomes important, insofar as anything else that happens is important.  It's goofy fun in a cartoon kind of way.  That's about the sum of this stuff: it can easily be pictured as a cartoon.

via Digital Spy

Digitally Speaking...25 "The Chairs' Hiatus"

via comiXology
The Chairs' Hiatus 
From 2013.

This is an excellent little graphic novel about being part of something, and what it's like to then become detached from that thing.

Matthew Bogart's simple approach is to follow the course of the reunion between two women who used to be in a rock band together.  The lead character walked away and has been trying to distance herself from her old life.  She doesn't even know what to make of reminders, of fans who recognize her.  This is the part where she's so far removed from what she used to have, she's become completely isolated, and prefers that isolation.

Then her bandmate comes back and forces a reunion, which backfires spectacularly, and as a result, we get to learn exactly what happened.  And it's not just a story about being in a band and touring, but can be applied to other circumstances, and as such has a somewhat powerful therapeutic potential to it.  How relationships end, and how they can begin again, is something Bogart has expressed in a profound way.

This is a thing of beauty.

via Matthew Bogart

Annihilator #5 (Legendary)

via Previews World
writer: Grant Morrison

artist: Frazer Irving

The penultimate issue begins to explain everything and brings the story to its long-impending climax: the death of Ray Spass.

The Hollywood screenwriter attempting to revive his career with a brilliant new script who instead embarked on a quest with the dubious figure of Max Nomax to figure out how Max, the lead character of Ray's script, survived an epic conflict, has now reached his fateful moment.  He's near completion of the script, by the way.  And dying from a tumor in his brain.

He's discovered that Max isn't the hero after all, but a true villain, who gambled away the love of his life to settle the score with his rival, fueled by a madness that has been waiting for its own culmination from the start, when he declared that he would find a solution to death.  To bring back the woman he sacrificed?

Along the way, Ray's ex-lover, Luna, was also introduced, and this issue we even learn details of the big hit Ray has been trying to live up to.  Grant Morrison has been especially lucid, if typically heavy on the big ideas, and Annihilator as a result seems like a good way to introduce his work to movie audiences.  Have I mentioned Terry Gilliam as a possible director already?  Because the connection is too obvious, increasingly so.  If another director, then Christopher Nolan, who would have ample material to slow the pace down to a more contemplative interpretation.  

Frazer Irving's art is indelible to this project, a match step-for-step with the chaos Ray has been experiencing and the full grandeur of it.  Art direction has always been key to both Gilliam and Nolan's careers, aside from their storytelling.

There's so much to say before the story concludes, there seem to be several moments on which the issue could have ended, but there's always another step to be taken, and Morrison, always a step ahead of his readers, is keen to remember.  Every time Irving zooms in on a detail in the midst of a page otherwise concentrating on something else, it's a reminder of how in sync they are.

The ending will be most interesting...

Digitally Speaking...24 "Annihilation"

via Marvel
Annihilation #1 (Marvel)
From 2006.

I like to browse comiXology's freebies just to see what's available.  More often than not, a landscape of material I've already added to my library.  So when new stuff appears, it's exciting.  Marvel tends to make certain issues available as they're somehow related to what's currently relevant.  In this case, Annihilation is the birth of the Guardians of the Galaxy phenomenon from last year's hit film.  I'll explain elsewhere exactly how the t's are crossed and the i's are dotted, but suffice to say, as far as Marvel's space heroes go, this was basically Green Lantern: Rebirth.

Keith Giffen was writer.  Later, he was succeeded by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, who cut their space teeth with DC's Legion of Super-Heroes, and it was in that form I first heard about Annihilation, so naturally I thought it was an Abnettt/Lanning project all along, making it a surprise to learn that it was in fact Giffen's.  Giffen later revisited space comics for DC with Threshold and the spin-off Larfleeze, so it only figures there was some precedent there.

Above everything else that resulted, Annihilation also seems to have been, in some sense, a kind of Lord of the Rings story for Marvel's space heroes, a big cosmic war.  The movies will take a different direction, since clearly Marvel has long since considered the Thor movies to be the Marvel version of Lord of the Rings, which is fine.

Peter Quill, the erstwhile Star-Lord, co-stars, below a member of the Nova Corps.  Nova is Marvel's Green Lantern, except fewer people know anyone who's actually been Nova (except, y'know, John C. Reilly).  Gamora is present, as is Drax.  Thanos is there, too.  The one in this debut issue that receives the most interesting character work is Drax.  I suppose it only figures.

I'm not particularly inclined to read more of Annihilation itself, in part because I think I've already read the best of it (more on that elsewhere).  If you like cosmic war stories, though, you might read the rest of it.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Reading Comics 153 "Blasts from the (Recent) Past"

Detective Comics #29 (DC)

Ever since Detective Comics #27 (the second one), I've been itching to read if not the rest of then at least more of "Gothtopia," the what-if scenario John Layman introduced in the anniversary issue that proposed a happy Gotham and an appropriately coordinated Batman family, free from the grim nature more common to both.  Layman was third tier in the Batman titles after Scott Snyder (in Batman) and Peter Tomasi (in Batman and Robin), so getting the chance to have an extended crossover event of any size was a considerable acknowledgement for what he'd been doing.

To my dismay, no one really seemed to pay attention to the arc, and because Detective proved frustratingly difficult to find in a store before the Manapul/Buccellato run that succeeded Layman's, catching up on "Gothtopia" outside of the eventual collection (and not digitally) seemed like a lost cause.

Obviously I've managed to correct that, somewhat, at last.

The arc occurred in the pages of the 27th and 28th issues of Detective, Batwing, Birds of Prey, and Catwoman, as well as Batgirl #27 and Detective #29, the issue I found.  Before even the first act of "Gothtopia" was over, the cat was out of the bag (not Catbird or even Catwoman, just the metaphorical one) that the whole thing was the result of Scarecrow's fear gas in a new manifestation, lulling the city into a false sense of security.  Which was fine.  I'm assuming the intermediary issues still had some fun with the illusion the gas conjured.

By Detective #29, the illusion was over and it was time for Batman to put Scarecrow away again.  Layman, who is best known for his curious culinary experience known as Chew, proved to be a deft handler of Batman's rogues, and his Scarecrow was no different.

I wouldn't mind reading the whole thing.  If it weren't for Snyder and Tomasi, I think a lot more attention would have been given to "Gothtopia."  One of its signature elements was a New 52 acknowledgement of a classic Batman subplot, the on-again/off-again quasi-romance between Batman and Catwoman, which will surely help it stand out for future Bat-archivists.

Action Comics #25 (DC)

The only Greg Pak Superman I'd read prior to this was the debut issue of Secret Origins.  What made me pick this one up wasn't Pak but rather it's tie-in with "Zero Year," one of Snyder's Batman crossover arcs, which expanded into a number of non-Batman comics, making a limited glimpse into the New 52's past as a whole.

 Overall I wasn't hugely impressed with the issue, but in some ways I was, too.  I chose this particular image to represent it because I like how Pak depicts the young Superman.  It's rare to see Clark gleeful about his powers.  The only other young Superman the New 52 had to this point was Grant Morrison's opening run in the series, which clearly was intended to set the pace.  Pak chooses a time prior to Morrison's take, when Superman is still learning his limits, but already in the t-shirt look that Rags Morales helped make instantly iconic (the Geoff Johns Superboy had this look previously, but it has been, uh, superseded).

Perhaps more notable for me was the back-up feature, also written by Pak.  The artist for all but the final page (which, along with the main story is from Aaron Kuder) happens to be Scott McDaniel.  He's long been a personal favorite, so it's always nice to catch more recent art, especially since he seems to have been relegated to supporting work after the failure of his Static Shock at the start of the New 52 (I still owe the guys at Collected Editions the answer to their challenge of reading the run and coming to a more positive impression than they did; you can read a version of how the series imploded behind the scenes here, although for the record, the difference may still turn out to be their awareness of what happened between the creators, which is far too often the case, above and beyond the material itself).

This wouldn't be the first time McDaniel has worked on Superman (he handled the Man of Steel and also Batman in the early part of the new millennium following his best-known work, on Nightwing), so this is actually a welcome return on multiple levels.

Yeah, I always love his work.  (That's another reason I think Static Shock, on an art level alone, must be worth more than the poor reputation it gained.)  Hopefully, if he's in a doghouse or not, McDaniel can get back to some level of prominence.

Swamp Thing: Futures End #1 (DC)

The more I read of Charles Soule's Swamp Thing, the more I wish I'd been reading it all along.  The Futures End issue is another prime example of how excellent it truly is.

As far as I can tell, Soule has followed in the footsteps of Geoff Johns from the pages of Green Lantern (and to a lesser and/or unknown extent, Jeff Lemire's Green Arrow) and Aquaman, building a whole mythology out of existing material.  I know Scott Snyder began the series at the start of the New 52, and that the idea of the Parliament of Trees and the Green were introduced by Alan Moore in his seminal Saga of the Swamp Thing run, but a significant amount of what Soule has been doing (and will soon conclude before that oft-lamented Marvel-exclusive contract officially kicks in) seems to be derived from his own imagination.

As with other Futures End month issues I have previously discussed (headlined by Grayson and Soule's own Red Lanterns), Swamp Thing took the opportunity to look five years into the future as a chance to piggy-pack a conclusion to a creative run that will obviously not be in-place five years hence.  So I'm glad to have had another chance to catch this one.  Although I have a feeling I will be reading the complete Soule Swamp Thing at some point.

The included artwork also brings up Soule's inclusion of the white ring (from Green Lantern lore, currently in the possession of Kyle Rayner as depicted in New Guardians) originally featured in Blackest Night and its sequel, Brightest Day, the pre-New 52 series that saw Swamp Thing (as well as others) make his in-continuity return.  I like it when a creator has an expansive look at what's been done before them.  Obviously, few will be quite as obsessive about it as Grant Morrison (his Batman is as close to a doctorate on the subject as anyone outside of Kurt Busiek is likely to get in comics), but seeing Soule accept the challenge will always be an excellent reason to admire his work.

(And meanwhile, I will at some point find out exactly how much his Swamp Thing owes to past creators.  It doesn't really matter, though, does it?)

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Dead Run (1Ton Comics)

Dead Run started life as a screenplay that reached the quarterfinals of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences's Nicholl Fellowship competition.  Dale Taylor conceived of the story as a comedy, but in this graphic novel it has become a kind of direct-to-video urban drama.  Zombie aficionados and horror film fans will probably enjoy it a great deal, especially in how it solves that pesky issue of reconciling slow- and fast-moving zombies.

The story becomes a little like Stephen King's The Stand as it follows three survivors of a dirty bomb attack that leads to the undead plague.

Taylor's grasp of the comic book format, or at least 1Ton Comics' execution, produces interesting results, which the digital art mitigates by creating a potent atmosphere.  The art is Dead Run's main draw.

Not exactly an experience comparable to the grim realism of the TV or comic book Walking Dead, but a fine alternative, finding a little more humor and social commentary.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Reading Comics 152 "Bull Moose Bargains V"

Got a bunch more cheaply-priced recent-ish comics from Bull Moose recently...

B.P.R.D. #114 (Dark Horse)
Part of the "Hell on Earth" arc, the series is the first expansion of the Hellboy franchise from Mike Mignola as featured in the movies.

B.P.R.D.: Vampire #4 (Dark Horse)
Both of these are from 2013.  I'm not sure, but these might be my first Hellboys.  The most interesting thing about them are the letters columns, which might almost be automatically the case for any comic book still featuring letters columns.  Otherwise a little hard to get into, being randomly available inexpensive purchases as they are.  As samples, I guess I would have to say that this is probably the reason I haven't read Hellboy until now.  They're comics for other readers.

Batman: Li'l Gotham #8 (DC)
These are fun comics (even referenced in The Multiversity Guidebook, for the record!) from a couple of dudes lucky enough to have their own little sandbox where they can use whatever continuity they want, which is to say, unconstrained by the wider New 52 mandate.  In some ways, this is also the Damian series that will never happen otherwise, what Batman and Robin would be like if Pete Tomasi weren't so concerned with, y'know, trying to make a permanent legacy and all.  Good comics for kids without being simplistic or derivative to some cartoon series.

FBP #4 (Vertigo)
Not to be confused with the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Development (see above), the Federal Bureau of Physics is the focus of a comic I hoped, when it launched, would become a new favorite.  But it didn't.  This was my chance to confirm I didn't make a mistake.

MPH #3 (Image)
I resisted picking this one up for the longest time, because it's Mark Millar's version of speedsters and having cursory looks didn't seem to suggest I'd be as jazzed about it as Starlight.  Boy was I wrong.  Plenty of superhero comics (and other stories) try to do the modern Robin Hood thing, but Millar has done a terrific job of nailing it.  This is a collection of youths who've discovered a drug giving them super speed, which they use to rob from the rich and give to the poor.  These are still times where that's a prescient topic.  A little like Brian Michael Bendis's Brilliant, but with greater relevance.  Glad I finally got this one.

The Walking Dead #115 (Image)
I don't know, it gets to a point where the story of Walking Dead is just repetitive.  Rick and pals are backed into a corner and must cleanse their situation of other survivors who are bad examples of humanity.  The reason I liked the second season of the TV so much was because the conflict came from within, Rick and Shane's reckoning.  To me, that's ultimately the only relevant thing Walking Dead can do, if it really won't address what caused the zombie apocalypse to begin with, as Robert Kirkman has suggested.  If it's not The Stand, with a clear beginning, middle and ending, then that's the only thing worth telling otherwise.  Maybe that's where Carl is headed?  If that's the case, then maybe, eventually, Walking Dead will be worth all the hype.  But spinning wheels is still spinning wheels.

Reading Comics 151 "Wonder Woman"

via DC Comics
It continues to be a very good time to be a fan of Wonder Woman.

In the pages of Superman/Wonder Woman, Peter Tomasi is acknowledging that the Amazon was indeed a crucial element of Kingdom Come, which can sometimes be overlooked.  You may have heard that Magog, who was once called Mark Waid and Alex Ross's answer to Marvel's Cable, has made his New 52 debut.

Tomasi has introduced a revelation concerning the character.  Even if he started as Cable, he always had the potential, equally, to be that character who bridges the gap between Superman and Wonder Woman.  That was always in the design, too.  Perhaps now, that's all you'll see?

via DC Comics

The commentators I've read have been less than impressed with Tomasi and Doug Mahnke's run so far, and they were even less impressed with seeing Magog enter the picture.  For me, both continue to excel.  Tomasi borrows elements of the classic Magog origin as Waid outlined it in The Kingdom but updates it for the all-important starting point of the New 52, the opening arc of Justice League.  Skeptics wonder why the young David Reid would fixate on Superman and Wonder Woman when clearly there were many other future Leaguers involved, but Superman is always the most prominent hero, and Wonder Woman in this continuity was making her spectacular debut in Man's World.

So much for that.

In Wonder Woman, the Finches have been receiving an equally dubious response, for the most part, but the critics are warming a little.

It probably doesn't hurt that they're starting to make it their own, and joining the company-wide re-introduction of long-absent characters.  In this instance, Donna Troy.  The former Wonder Girl has been brought in to replace Diana as ruler of the Amazons.  Diana, meanwhile, is struggling with the idea of being the God of War, the biggest ripple of the Azzarello years.  It was noted early on that Meredith Finch didn't seem completely familiar with how the outgoing writer ended things, but as brilliant as Brian Azzarello was, he also stuck Wonder Woman into a pocket.  Finch and husband David Finch are expanding it.  Batman and Superman appear in the issue just as if this were right alongside Justice League and Superman/Wonder Woman, which of course it is.  David Finch as always does excellent work, the opposite in style of outgoing Cliff Chiang.  Meredith, new to the game, proves surprisingly adept.

All this and Gal Gadot as the first film version of Wonder Woman, coming up next year...

Supreme: Blue Rose #6 (Image)

via Image
writer: Warren Ellis

artist: Tula Lotay

This genius revision of Alan Moore's version of Rob Liefeld's Supreme will go down as a classic.  I'll keep saying that so that there's at least one voice saying it on the ground floor.  History in the making.

The problem, if there is one, is that perhaps it's history that will perhaps best be understood in the future.  That is to say, when the thing is collected and you can read it all at once.

The problem is that an issue like this one perhaps doesn't read like history because it doesn't itself ring like anything special.  But it's a necessary link in the chain.

And it's the penultimate issue.  Characters are figuring out where they've been headed.  Darius Dax plays his hand.  We're one issue away from finding out what exactly happened to Ethan Crane, the erstwhile Supreme.

Warren Ellis and Tula Lotay are brilliant even in isolation from what makes the project in itself brilliant.  

That's about all there's to say this time.

Secret Origins #9 (DC)

via DC Comics
writer: Charles Soule (Swamp Thing), Paul Levitz (Power Girl), Van Jensen (John Stewart)

artist: Alessandro Vitti (Swamp Thing), Alisson Borges (Power Girl), Pat Broderick (John Stewart)

The last DC commitment Charles Soule is concluding Swamp Thing, a series I've caught on occasion and thought filled with typical Soule brilliance.  I haven't read regularly, so I hope to catch up at a later date, which means an aside like this origin/recap is extremely welcome.  And that's what was so great about Secret Origins, a chance for readers to catch up on or be introduced to not merely characters but creators.  A hugely underrated experience.

Paul Levitz, a DC institution, catches readers up on the new Power Girl spinning out of World's Finest and Batman/Superman and into Teen Titans.

But aside from Soule's Swamp Thing, the other entry worth writing about is the John Stewart origin.  John's the Green Lantern some fans still think ought to be the new mainstream face of the franchise thanks to his appearances in the animated Justice League, a rare black hero of significance in DC (wait, that sounds bad...).  The writer is Van Jensen, who along with Soule was one of the newbies who came into the GL titles after the end of the Geoff Johns era.  Since I really only read Red Lanterns at that point, I'm not hugely familiar with Jensen's work, so it's really just a matter of appreciating the rare opportunity to revisit John Stewart's story.  Soldier.  Architect.  Green Lantern.

...If I'm right, in what I've guessed recently, we may be headed toward a new John Stewart solo title.  Maybe reason enough for DC to reprint Mosaic?  Please?

Reading Comics #150 "Red Lanterns"

via DC Comics
Charles Soule is now all but done with DC.

...Sorry, got a little emotional there.  The transition within the pages of Red Lanterns, one of his signature runs, turns out to be better than I could have imagined.

His final issue, Red Lanterns #37, is also a "Godhead" tie-in, but Soule doesn't let that get in the way (much).  A lot of writers like to comment directly on their departures.  Based on his theoretical continuation of the tradition, and keep in mind I haven't looked directly into this, but Soule seems to make comments to the effect that DC done him wrong, in a manner of speaking, and so that's why he signed the exclusive with Marvel.  He wouldn't be the first one to make such claims, but it's certainly sucks, because he's another writer I would've loved to see help build the future of the company.  His work is frequently sensational, and his grasp of continuity, and how to push it forward, is exceptional.

"People being petty, and bitter, and refusing to give something unless they get something in return.  Broken trust.  People who refuse to see how good they've got it."

That's some caption narration from Guy Gardner.  Then again, it could also suggest that Soule somewhat regrets making that deal with Marvel.  Who knows?  Charles Soule.

But the new writer, Landry Q. Walker, in Red Lanterns #38 turns out to be a pretty good continuation of Soule's run, focusing on Guy's return to Earth and witnessing the lingering effects of the "Atrocities" arc.  He's kind of lost all hope, and so Walker's captain narration is bleak to go along with what Guy experiences, but it reads as immediately relevant to what's come before.  Too often in the past, I've seen replacement writers, especially those coming in at the end of a series (Red Lanterns ends in March; whatever may or may not appear in July, after the two-month Convergence event, is anyone's guess, although I've started to wonder if Guy and John Stewart and Kyle Rayner won't simply receive solo titles) muff it.  But that's not what happens here.

It doesn't hurt to have artist J. Calafiore for continuity between runs.  Calafiore's been dependable for years, and that's all the more welcome to see in Red Lanterns, where he's done excellent work with Guy Gardner, helping to shape a new era for the character, one that grounded Guy far better than the caricature he's sometimes been.  Walker's script even helps provide some context: "You wear a ring long enough, you stop seeing real people.  All you see is costumed nut jobs and super-powered idiots."

Let's hope this ride continues in some form. 

The Multiversity Guidebook (DC)

via Comics Alliance
writer: Grant Morrison

artist: Marcus To, Paolo Siqueira

The Guidebook to the ambitious (is there any other kind of Grant Morrison project?) Multiversity turns out to feature both guide and story.

There are profiles for most of the 52 realities, as well as a continuation of the main story begun in the initial issue that has room for two very different Batmen (advertised prominently on the cover) as well as Kamandi, Jack Kirby's Last Boy on Earth whose last appearance was a clever revision within the pages of Countdown to Final Crisis (I'm sure the irony isn't entirely lost on Morrison), another version of OMAC, and the New Gods acting much like the Greek gods in Clash of the Titans.

I figured I'd try and recap the previous appearances for each of the near-52 realities:

  • Earth 0, home of the New 52.
  • Earth 1, home of the Earth One graphic novels, which at some point will include Grant Morrison's take on Wonder Woman.
  • Earth 2, home of Earth 2 (at least until the end of World's End).
  • Earth 3, home of the Crime Syndicate, most recently featured in Forever Evil, but also famously depicted in Morrison's JLA: Earth 2 (it was based in different continuity, okay?).
  • Earth 4, home of the Pax Americana folks.
  • Earth 5, home of the Thunderworld folks.
  • Earth 6, home of the Just Imagine Stan Lee Creating... folks.
  • Earth 7, home of Thunderer, as seen in The Multiversity #1.
  • Earth 8, home of Morrison's Marvel counterparts.
  • Earth 9, home of Tangent Comics.
  • Earth 10, home of Overman as depicted in Final Crisis.
  • Earth 11, introduced here, home of Amazonian variations.
  • Earth 12, home of characters from Batman Beyond.
  • Earth 13, home of Superdemon and pals as depicted in Final Crisis.
  • Earth 15, home of Superboy-Prime as depicted in Infinite Crisis.
  • Earth 16, home of The Just folks.
  • Earth 17, introduced here, featuring variations on Adam Strange and others, including one of two Batmen featured here.
  • Earth 18, home of characters introduced in The Justice Riders.
  • Earth 19, home of characters introduced in Amazonia.
  • Earth 20, home of the Society of Super-Heroes folks.
  • Earth 21, home of characters introduced in DC: The New Frontier.
  • Earth 22, home of characters introduced in Kingdom Come.
  • Earth 23, home of President Superman, introduced in Final Crisis and featured in Action Comics #9 and Multiversity #1.
  • Earth 26, home of Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew.
  • Earth 29, home of the square Bizarro planet Htrae, explored in All Star Superman.
  • Earth 30, home of characters introduced in Superman: Red Son.
  • Earth 31, home of characters introduced in Detective Comics Annual #7.
  • Earth 32, home of characters introduced in Batman: In Darkest Knight.
  • Earth 33, Morrison's theoretical starting point.
  • Earth 34, introduced here, featuring an ancient super-civilization.
  • Earth 35, featuring Morrison's version of Alan Moore's Supreme.
  • Earth 36, featuring characters introduced in Action Comics #9.
  • Earth 37, home of Tommy Tomorrow and other classic DC sci-fi characters.
  • Earth 38, home of characters featured in Superman & Batman: Generations (probably).
  • Earth 39, introduced here, featuring super spies.
  • Earth 40, home of Society of Super-Heroes folks.
  • Earth 41, home of Morrison's Image counterparts.
  • Earth 42, home of characters featured here, including one of the Batmen.
  • Earth 43, home of characters likely inspired by the numerous Doug Moench/Kelley Jones Batman vampire comics.
  • Earth 44, introduced here, featuring characters combining the Justice League and the Metal Men.
  • Earth 45, home of characters introduced in Action Comics #9.
  • Earth 47, home of Brother Power, the Geek.
  • Earth 48, home of characters introduced in Crisis on Infinite Earths.
  • Earth 50, home of characters introduced in the animated Justice League.
  • Earth 51, home of various Jack Kirby characters, as featured here.

Reading Comics 149 "Justice League"

via DC Comics
Since getting back into Justice League recently, I've officially gotten the bug all over again.  In a manner of speaking.

Not the Amazo Virus, but the arc has certainly done the trick.  In Justice League #37 and 38, the story pushes past Patient Zero and sees Batman infected.  Between this and "Endgame," I bet the Dark Knight wishes things were less complicated, like in the old days when he didn't have to worry about two let alone one infectious plagues.

Oh, ah, "Contagion," "Legacy."  Yeah.

As usual, Geoff Johns is working multiple agendas, however, as he keeps referring back to two of the more dubious team recruits, the culpable Lex Luthor and Captain Cold, who embodies a Johns link back to The Flash, which hardly escapes his attention.  The man with the ice gun isn't just another rogue, though, but a guy with a serious weapon, which seems to be something Johns is on the verge of exploring to greater heights than ever before.

And a few issues back, we were reminded that Luthor's agenda includes preparing for other matters, and Johns has been doing an excellent job of exploring this "doomsday prepper" version of the character, more nuanced than ever before, as an ongoing link to Owlman was touched upon, which is a nod toward the upcoming Crisis.

Not to be confused with Convergence.  Probably.

Reading Comics 148 "Grayson"

via Gotham Spoilers
So the jury on Grayson continues.

Generally, I'm wildly excited for the potential of this series, as demonstrated in the phenomenal Futures End one-shot, a bold new, deliberate approach to the further adventures of Dick Grayson that finally exploits the character's full potential, unencumbered by whatever identity he happens to be taking.  For such a man, now free to take whichever one he needs, it's the greatest gift imaginable.

The first issue I read recently was Grayson #6, the latest one, featuring a one-on-one confrontation with Midnighter, the WildStorm character who's a facsimile of Batman.  And clearly Tim Seeley and Tom King keyed in on that, because the Midnighter in the issue is all gruff, the Batman of Frank Miller's All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder (I'm one of a token few who loved that project, and hope Jim Lee can find time in his schedule to finish it).  But as I've feared, the regular series doesn't have as much as the pizzazz, so far, as the outliers that keep showcasing its potential.

Such as the Futures End issue, and Grayson Annual #1, which I resisted reading initially because I feared it would be similar to the series.  But it's a lot like the Futures End spot, clever and focused and an all-around fantastic read, and perhaps not coincidentally featuring a good spotlight for Helena Bertinelli, the erstwhile Huntress.  These are two characters Chuck Dixon and Devin Grayson helped tie together intrinsically in a previous DC universe, and so it was always nice to see them together again.  A Grayson free from any other obvious association should always be with a Bertinelli.

I've made this point before, but Grayson has much of its allure for me based on nostalgic memories of the TV show Alias, where Sydney Bristow and Michael Vaughn had similar chemistry.  The Spyral case is like Dick and Helena's Rambaldi.  

I'll be keeping tabs for sure.

G.I. Joe: Snake Eyes, Agent of Cobra #1 (IDW)

via Previews World
writer: Mike Costa

artist: Paolo Villanelli

It's a little insane to me that this project hasn't been hyped.  It's Mike Costa returning home, picking up the pieces of a saga he apparently concluded a year ago in the pages of The Cobra Files, a full-on espionage approach to G.I. Joe he originally launched with Christos Gage when IDW obtained the rights to the franchise a half dozen years ago.

I figure at least IDW has once again figured out what it has, as it's been doing from the start.  This is an instance of a publisher sticking to a project despite widespread apathy, much as Fox kept Fringe on the air for years without viewers particularly caring.  In both instances, it's more than worth whatever hassle it may be, because the end result is invariably genius.

But canny, in this instance.  With a new context, as the title of this latest title suggests.  Snake Eyes is making his debut in Costa's tales, which likely helped inform the recent mainstream G.I. Joe reboot, which hew closely in tone.  But since the masked ninja is famously mute, someone else must come along for the ride as well, and as such, Destro makes his debut as well.

Costa recaps Destro's backstory, and then gets to the good stuff, leading us back to Erika La Tene, Chameleon, rogue Joe and Cobra alike, who survived a game of psychological cat and mouse with Tomax Paoli.  The object of this return engagement is technically to pick up the thread of the Billy arc, Billy being the son of the late Cobra Commander (whose assassination at the hands of Chuckles was the clear moment Costa's work directly impacted IDW's wider landscape).

I didn't think this would happen.  But now it has.  Costa's back.  The game begins anew...

The Flash: Season Zero #1 (DC)

writer: Andrew Kreisberg, Brooke Eikmeier, Katherine Walczak

artist: Phil Hester

There's no TV series I'd rather be watching right now than The Flash.  No, this isn't 1990, but you might be mistaken for believing so, because the new show has acknowledged its predecessor by bringing back many of the original stars.  That's just one of the reasons I can't believe this is happening.

Well, thank goodness Smallville happened, made it safe for DC superheroes in prime time again.  I don't care for Arrow, but at least it gave us The Flash.

Yet I still haven't seen an episode.  I know, we live in a multi-platform age where being unable to watch live is no longer even a ghost of an excuse, but hey, things happen.  I'll catch it on DVD, just like the first one.  That's the speed at which I run, yo.

And there's a comic.  The first one had a special that recapped the whole series, but this one has a whole, digital-first, comic book series to call its own.  Miracles of modern times.

And the best part about it is another resurrection.  The artist, Phil Hester.
via DC Comics

Hester is a writer/artist, actually, and a lot of his recent work has been as a writer, but he first came to prominence as an artist, where among other projects he helped Kevin Smith on a Green Arrow relaunch (appropriately enough).

I'd begun getting used to the idea of Hester as a writer, working on his own projects (one of many writer/artists I don't understand why the comics industry hasn't thrown itself all over them to deliver a steady stream of such work), but heck, I can't kid myself.  I love Hester's art.

And it looks much as it did before.  Sometimes there's something to be said for consistency.  I don't know that Hester has worked on the Flash before.  I don't know if he's necessarily ideal at depicting speed, but apparently that's not completely necessary for this version of the character.

As represented in the comic, this is a Barry Allen who seems to have taken a lot from the Mark Waid comics featuring Wally West, as well as the Barry comics from Geoff Johns.  I like.

And it beats whatever they've been doing in the New 52 with the canonical version of the Fastest Man Alive.  

Reading Comics 147 "Batman"

via Caped Crusades
It's a pretty good time to be reading Batman.

I'm reading Scott Snyder's Batman regularly for the first time ever, two issues and counting.  "Endgame" turned out to be the return of the Joker.  And it looks like Snyder is about the start knocking down his dominoes, which is what I've been waiting for, and it looks like it'll be quite interesting.

"Death of the Family" was a little underwhelming for me in that it was basically Joker stating how he and Batman were opposites that couldn't help attract.  And?  And, well, this.  Snyder's big statement on how far down the rabbit hole goes, an expansive look that other creators have shied away from, has been reflected nicely in Batman #37 and 38, the latter of which explains the mystery of the Joker's apparent new supernatural nature, and sets up Batman's visit to the Court of Owls for further answers.  The Owls concept was another one I thought Snyder hadn't fully presented other than as a signature arc.  In his original Detective Comics run, Snyder promised to be a writer who could connect the dots.

And that's what's happening.

Pete Tomasi and Pat Gleason, meanwhile, connected their dots, in the recently concluded "Robin Rises" arc, and Batman and Robin #38 is a deliberate step back from the heavily serialized approach the series has featured for the past year.  It breaks from Bruce Wayne's steel focus and allows the reader to see Damian, in his new context, the way we would have observed him from before his death.  And it's important to note how the early issues of the series now take on new relevance, because the focus was originally on Damian, and then by necessity switched to Batman, and now it's back.  Because Damian is on a quest of his own, which isn't necessarily how readers might have predicted it to go, based on recent proceedings.

But that's exactly how it should be.  And suddenly we see how the story indeed continues.

That makes at least two Batman titles that are hitting their stride years into the New 52, with dedicated creators who have been remarkably patient, taking their stories in directions readers might have expected, but not as they have turned out.  

That's truly remarkable.

Reading Comics 146 "Aquaman"

via DC Comics
It took me forever, but I've finally read the conclusion to Geoff John's Aquaman.  

Yeah, about a year late.

But the local comics shop had the original comics available, or at least the last two issues, Aquaman # 24 and 25, and so I got them and now have read them.

And it struck me, this was a little like Johns revisiting some of what he'd done in the pages of Green Lantern.  Now, before you say some hogwash like Johns repeating himself let alone others, that's the story of storytelling.  That's what it's all about.

Now, the last Green Lantern story Johns told concerned the First Lantern, his vision of how the Guardians of the Universe began creating what would become the space cops as embodied by Hal Jordan and others.  The First Lantern returned as a villain, naturally.  The same, it seems, as the King of the Seven Seas, the prototypical Aquaman who ruled ancient Atlantis and subsequently returns, as a villain.

The whole idea of the Others, it now seems apparent, was Johns recreating the spectrum corps in a new context, too.  

And it's about bloody time.

For so long, when Aquaman wasn't that crazy person who talks to fish (or lobsters, as depicted in the new Throne of Atlantis animated adaptation), he was thrust into some quasi-fantasy context that, sure, revolved around the obvious backdrop of the famed lost city that toppled over, sank into a swamp (er, your knowledge of Monty Python and the Holy Grail lore may not be extensive enough to know how pathetically hilarious I just was) and left our hero a fish out of water even though he technically patrols, y'know, most of the world.  But as he does with every concept he touches, Johns expanded Aquaman's horizons.

And he did it by dipping into the same waters twice, as it were.  But context is always key.  And I think it's worth celebrating this latest breakthrough.

The Others all have connections to artifacts (which is also like the Top Cow characters whose backstories hinge on how aware you are that Witchblade kind of long ago stopped being just that chick who was one of the many blatant excuses the '90s had for female characters wearing as strategically little as possible) stemming from the new Atlantis mythology.  You may have noticed that Aquaman and the Others has been an ongoing series for some time now, too.

I haven't read Aquaman since Johns left.  It took so long to read how Johns left, it only figures.  I don't know if those who inherited this Johns playground have properly exploited what he left behind, or if they've simply been enjoying the new visibility of the property.  Which, actually, wouldn't be a bad thing, because there now stands on record a number of key Aquaman arcs, "Throne of Atlantis," "Death of a King" (the arc that concludes with these issues), and of course the introduction of the Others.

It was also fun to see the art of Paul Pelletier, which has been missing from the pages of DC comics for years now, but was some of my favorite material from the '90s.  His work is still recognizable, but has more, ah, depth now.  Which is always good.