Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Omega Men #12 (DC)

The series DC saved from cancellation at least reaches its final issue.  It was worth it.

Tom King's unique perspective was instantly evident in the sneak preview that saw Kyle Rayner seemingly executed.  Anyone who read further knew that Kyle survived, and that King had done that deliberately, and evoked what he evoked just as deliberately. 

Yeah, this was always a story about the Iraq War.  This conclusion makes that, if it wasn't before, completely obvious.  King is also writing the Vertigo series Sheriff of Baghdad, which addresses the war far more directly (drawing from King's own experiences), by the way.  One way or another, everyone has a strong opinion about the Iraq War.  I don't know if that alone will help people finally discover Omega Men, but maybe it should, because as a commentary, it's probably worth reading for that alone.

This issue is the story of what happened after the war ended.  King's Viceroy was Saddam Hussein, all along, the strongman uniquely capable of containing the madness of a Middle Eastern kingdom that stood apart, but somehow represented, the madness of the terrorism age.  That Hussein was originally put into power by the very people who later eliminated him isn't lost on King, and isn't dismissed as a conclusion in and of itself, as so many detractors of the war liked to make it.  No, this is a story of nuance.  It always was.

Kyle is forced to face the fact that all of the allies, the Omega Men, he aligned himself with during the course of the series, don't have happy endings.  Each of them become embroiled in the chaos caused by the elimination of the Viceroy who created his own kind of order in the Vega System, which the Guardians of the Universe had sealed off from its Green Lantern Corps ages ago, preciously because of this kind of scenario.

Kyle is left to try and make sense of it all.  He's asked, by an anonymous military figure, where he views his allegiances now.  I mean, that was the whole series right there, Kyle struggling with his conscience. 

King concludes that there are no easy answers.  All the William James quotes he ended issues with support this, that as humans, we're bound to find ourselves in traps of our own making, that to be human is to be faced with situations that are bigger than us, and that we're morally bound to confront them, that being human means we must.

It's superhero storytelling on a completely different scale.  Thirty years ago, Alan Moore produced the parable of the Nuclear Age we call Watchmen.  Now, we have King's parable of the War on Terror, and called it The Omega Men

It's that simple.

His partner in crime, Barnaby Bagenda, is as uniquely suited to bring this vision to life as Dave Gibbons was for Moore.  The style of Watchmen has been as commented on as its story.  With Omega Men, Bagenda's mastery of the grid ends up speaking directly to Kyle's conclusions.  Moore wrote an indictment of the superhero genre.  King, and Bagenda, leave the conclusion up to the reader.  Life isn't never that easy to interpret anyway.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Martian Manhunter #12 (DC)

The latest exceptional Martian Manhunter story ends, well, exceptionally.  DC uses the guy sparingly, but when it does, increasingly so, the results are among the best in superhero comics.

Rob Williams creates the logical conclusion to the story he began with his first issue, J'onn J'onzz once again at war with the remnant of his home planet, Mars.  From the beginning, Martian Manhunter was always a variant of Superman, last survivor of a doomed population, and a stranger in a strange land on Earth as a result.  Because he's green, J'onn has always had the ability to present what being alien really means to this particular superhero archetype, and writers have frequently been drawn to that popular aspect of his backstory: life on Mars.

At least as far back as Grant Morrison's JLA and the spinoff Martian Manhunter series from John Ostrander, other Martians make a constant hell for this guy.  Williams produced a whole host of aliases for him as he combatted the latest threat, at first keeping the fact that they were J'onn a secret, and therefore creating some unique new characters and versions of him, including the instantly iconic Mr. Biscuits, who sadly didn't make it to the final issue.

No, in this finale, Williams reveals that the whole thing was literally in Martian Manhunter's head.  He suggests that the superhero actually went mad.  Unlike Superman, he didn't spring forth from his home planet an innocent little baby.  No, Martian Manhunter was an adult.  He's lived with what happened to his people ever since. 

I think this is as plausible a conclusion to reach about him as any, and it's the perfect ending to Williams' story, which rightfully takes its place alongside the best of Martian Manhunter's stories, arguably at or near the top.  Maybe that sounds like faint praise, because this has never been one of the most popular of DC's characters, and therefore he remains somewhat obscure.  But with storytelling like this, who cares?

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Justice League #50 (DC)

The conclusion to Geoff Johns' tenure on Justice League (there are two final issues to follow from other creators) finishes the epic "Darkseid War" in grand fashion. 

The mythology Johns created for "Darkseid War" alone is impressive.  Myrina and her daughter Grail, for instance, add not only to Amazon lore, but the New Gods as well.  It's only fitting, because Johns has literally been using Justice League as his Wonder Woman series all along, with few readers apparently realizing it.  Embroiled in this conflict is also, of course, Steve Trevor, who has been embroiled in a troubled relationship with Wonder Woman since the start of the series.

Grail turns out to be the real villain.  By now, the New Gods mythology is well-established, so someone new had to step into the role usually reserved for Orion: how to resolve what comes after Darkseid.  In Jack Kirby's original vision, Orion was the son of Darkseid while Mister Miracle was the son of Highfather.  In order to secure a truce between New Genesis (home of the good guys) and Apokolips (home of the bad guys), the offspring were raised by their (presumably) former enemies.  Mister Miracle, as ever, escaped unscathed.  It was Orion who emerged the troubled scion.  Famously, Kirby never got the chance to conclude his New Gods vision (the graphic novel Hunger Dogs didn't quite do the job).  So writers have been trying to do it for him ever since, including John Byrne (Jack Kirby's Fourth World) and Grant Morrison (Final Crisis).

Johns takes a unique approach by expanding the concept with significant new characters.  When he killed off Darkseid (these New Gods are always dying), he set about yet another new wrinkle.  His first had been introducing the concept that Crisis on Infinite Earths' Anti-Monitor was Mobius, whose chair Metron had been squatting in for as long as anyone could remember.  Darkseid's death unleashed all his powers, which went into various members of the Justice League. 

The ramifications prove to be profound, in this conclusion.  Batman sat in the chair, and learned the secret of the Joker's identity.  Turns out there are three of them.  Lex Luthor gained a killer new set of battle armor.  (He'll be wearing it in the Rebirth era's Action Comics.)  And Grail stole the offspring of Superwoman, from the Crime Syndicate, and made him the reincarnation of Darkseid.

The good news is, Johns also finally made Jessica Cruz an official member of the Green Lantern Corps, fulfilling the promise of a different teaser, from Green Lantern #20.

The only thing that doesn't really ring well is the art of Jason Fabok.  This is weird, because every other issue of Justice League with his work hasn't been a problem for me.  He has distinctive work, but I guess he's incapable of going truly wide screen which has been a staple of JLA comics since Howard Porter.  It's a shame.  Doesn't get in the way of the storytelling, but it produces an incomplete effect. 

Still, this was exactly what fans of this run could have hoped to see.  We even see, like in the beginning, Batman and Green Lantern working together, at one time a pair that seemed hopelessly incongruous.  Johns solved that by letting Batman use the ring.  As with Green Arrow before him (Green Lantern: Rebirth), it provides him with newfound respect for Hal Jordan.  Classic.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Grayson #20 (DC)

I made a point not to read issues of Robin: Son of Batman that weren't created by Patrick Gleason.  Although I've gained a healthy respect for Ray Fawkes, I just didn't see the point.

Fortunately, I didn't make the same choice with the final issue of Grayson.

Tim Seeley and Tom King launched this series in the wake of Nightwing's cancellation, and a lot of angry fans thought it was a horrible mistake, including the decision to give them Nightwing's final issue to help launch Grayson.  I knew Seeley and King weren't writing Grayson's final issues, and so initially thought they were fully worth skipping, like the Fawkes issues of Robin: Son of Batman.  I mean, what would have been the point?  Some other jokers would be given the crucial conclusion to Dick Grayson's war against Otto Netz?  No thanks!

Well, now I can say otherwise.  The "jokers" in question are Jackson Lanzing and Colin Kelly, who have previously collaborated on Archaia!'s Hacktivist (which, seemingly improbably, sprung from the mind of actress Alyssa Milano).  These guys don't miss a beat.  They literally step right in where Seeley and King left off.  In terms of unlikelihood, this ranks up there with Landry Walker successfully concluding Charles Soule's Red Lanterns as a comic book miracle.

Dick's relationship with Helena Bertinelli is the other fruitful focus of this series, and its conclusion, as Netz unwittingly reboots the comic book hooey that made it possible to begin with: the world knowing Nightwing's secret identity.  It's a fun end, fits in with the character of its lead character (which is what you would expect from any good comic book), everything Seeley and King sought to accomplish, and also finishes a Grant Morrison plot left over from the first run of Batman Incorporated.

Not bad at all.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Divinity II #2 (Valiant)

When I saw, in Valiant's 2016 Free Comic Book Day release, the direction Matt Kindt planned to take with the next installment of Divinity, I knew instantly that this was a concept with legs.  Now that I've had a look at Divinity II, I know I was right.

Divinity was the story of Russian cosmonaut Abram Adams, who was sent on an extraordinary mission at the dawn of the Space Race, and returned in the present day a changed man, to say the least.  He became a superman.  In a lot of ways, he was transformed into Dr. Manhattan, imbued with powers that put him far beyond mortal man, able to manipulate reality on a whim.  Thankfully, he was fully benevolent, although Valiant's heroes weren't comfortable making that judgment, so they ended up trapping him in a prison of his own memories.

DC has made that same kind of conclusion with Captain Atom, who in recent years has become more and more like Alan Moore's Watchmen vision of him, Dr. Manhattan, so that in itself was not a breakthrough.  It's Kindt's storytelling, which keeps a human focus the whole time, Abram's focus on his tragedy, the family he left behind and couldn't, except in his unique prison, return to, that grounds it, makes it something new.

In the sequel, Kindt returns to the beginning and revisits Abram's colleagues, two other cosmonauts marooned at the edge of mystery same as him, but who didn't return.  Until now.  One of them, anyway, Myshka, whose arc is defined by the perceived abandonment by Abram.  Her return is a savage confrontation with Abram, who reveals to his would-be captors that he was willingly imprisoning himself all along...

It's this clash of perspectives that has made Divinity so great, Kindt's exceptional ability to navigate the conflicts that ensue, that's at the heart of all great storytelling.  If Divinity is a Watchmen story (which is not how you have to read it), then it's another way of viewing how things would look different, from a different perspective.  Which is kind of the point.

Divinity continues to be a must-read, and the best thing Valiant has published.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

DC Universe Rebirth #1 (DC)

This is the biggest and most controversial comic DC has released in years.  It reboots the company back to pre-New 52 continuity (in some ways), and then it goes and shocks fans by introducing Watchmen's Dr. Manhattan into continuity.

For fans, it's the return of Wally West that's most rewarding.  This is a sequel, in a lot of respects, to Flashpoint, with Wally reminding Bruce Wayne of that letter Barry Allen gave him from his father.  Geoff Johns scripting the phrase, "My name is Wally West, and I'm the fastest man alive," is easily this particular comic book geek's favorite moment, because this was stuff I cherished in my earlier years, when I was devouring Mark Waid's run on The Flash.

Other fans choose to see things differently.  Watchmen is kind of like a sacred totem to them.  Because Alan Moore is untouchable, Watchmen is untouchable, and so things like Before Watchmen and the appearance of Dr. Manhattan as a nominal villain are untenable to them.  To those readers, I suggest, first, to read Matt Kindt's brilliant Divinity comics over at Valiant.  They're the best Dr. Manhattan stories ever.  And yes, I'm including Watchmen.  Maybe it's because I came very late to the party, or maybe because The Dark Knight Returns reached me first, and I've had no problem ignoring what most of that comic is about except to know it's Old Man Batman (also, please direct your attention to Mark Millar's Old Man Logan, somewhat amusingly not to be confused with Marvel's several recent attempts to keep that one going).  I get that Watchmen was a pretty big deal, and that it introduced new sophistication to superhero storytelling.  But it's just not worth putting up such a fuss.  It's just not.

I've argued elsewhere that Dr. Manhattan is a deeply cynical person.  His decisions throughout Watchmen are cynical.  This makes him, in the hands of Geoff Johns, an improved version of Superboy-Prime from Infinite Crisis.  That's basically what Johns does in DC Universe Rebirth.  He improves on his own story.  It's highly likely that Johns will be telling more of this story himself.  He's uniquely suited for the task.  I'm saying right now, there has never been another comic book writer who so uniquely understands superhero storytelling, has proven to be such a master of it.  Grant Morrison is his closest competition, but has, time and time again, proven that he's more interested in standalone storytelling, things that are suited to their own logic, but without the ego Alan Moore brought to the same kind of storytelling, which is why The Multiversity: Pax Americana is already a better Watchmen story than Watchmen itself.

DC Universe Rebirth is packed with classic Johns character moments.  He can do this better than anyone.  If he'd been looking over the shoulder of everyone who wrote for the New 52 era, there would have been a lot fewer complaints.  But the whole point of the New 52 era was to present a fresh tablet for creators to reinterpret the DC landscape, not in a restricted sort of way, like Marvel's Ultimate line, but the ability to succeed or fail based on creative gambles.  I'd say the results speak for themselves, but there's been so much grumbling, about the "loss of everything that made DC great," that clearly they don't.

So we have Wally West return.  We have Green Arrow and Black Canary finally reunite.  We have Aquaman propose to Mera.  We have the Aqualad of Brightest Day return.  And yeah, Dr. Manhattan.  Like Manhattan, it's likely Johns will be handling the mystery of the three Jokers, too.  Personally, I just wouldn't like to see it any other way.  Scott Snyder teased a lot of things in his Batman, including the identity of "the" Joker.  This is a character that has undergone as many creative revamps as anyone else you could name in comics.  It's been speculated in the past that he periodically reinvents himself.  But for all these years, there's never been an official origin.  In that respect, he's the DC equivalent of Wolverine.

So I look forward to Johns exploring that.  Getting back to Aquaman.  And anything else he cares to explore.  He's stepping away from regular writing duties, as of DC Universe Rebirth.  It's sad, but it's also exciting.  It means people might finally stop ignoring his talent.  Everything he does will be a little more special, an event, like DC Universe Rebirth.

Let the fans who will complain, complain.  They don't get it.  It's fine.  They didn't really get it to begin with, either.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Turtlepop! #2 "Captain America: Steve Rogers #1"




Comics Reader: Turtle, there seems to be some controversy surrounding the decision to reveal in Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 that Steve was an agent of Hydra all along.
Turtle: True, that absolutely just happened!

Comics Reader: Do you feel that this was nothing but a shameless publicity stunt?
Turtle: Absolutely not!  Wacky things happening in comics have been happening from the very start!  For instance, did you know that none of these characters, technically, actually exist?

Comics Reader: Come on, Turtle, please try to take this seriously.
Turtle: As seriously as rabid comic book fans?  Why in the world would I do that?

Comics Reader: Because, well, rabid comic book fans do take this stuff seriously.  They'll read this news like it's the end of the world.
Turtle: And that's my problem, why?

Comics Reader: Because.
Turtle: What an argument!

Comics Reader: You know as well as I do that rabid comic book fans take this sort of thing like it's a matter of life and death.
Turtle: That's their problem, man, not mine.

Comics Reader: Remind me again why I interview you for these things?
Turtle: Actually, I'm just flattered that you remembered I exist!  We haven't done one of these since the first one.

Comics Reader: Remind me again about the topic?
Turtle: Two words: Doctor Spider-Man.

Comics Reader: Ah.  Right.
Turtle: We should have done one of these for Commissioner Batman.  And yet we didn't.  What's up with that?

Comics Reader: My bad.
Turtle: Of course it is!

Comics Reader: I see what you did there.
Turtle: Sure you did.  This interview's over, jerk.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Quarter Bin 77 "Avengers West Coast #56, The 'Nam, and other early '90s Marvel comics"

The following comics were not literally found in a quarter bin.  This is a back issues feature.

Avengers West Coast #56 (Marvel)
From March 1990.
This one, apparently, is home to a fairly controversial moment in comics history.  (Read about it here.)  The Scarlet Witch has gone off on one of her periodic turns to evil, and in the process does...something...to Wonder Man.  Writer/artist (and comic book legend and frequent love-him-or-hate-him contender) John Byrne leaves what exactly she does up to the imagination.  I knew something was odd about the scene from the start.  I mean, it's designed to be read into, something that probably wouldn't even happen today, because the increasing absence of any kind of Comics Code rating means literally anything goes.  Well, maybe not in a Marvel series. 

It's hard to know what to make of it.  Fan controversies in comics tend to dwell on what makes women in comics look weak, whether what happens to them or how they're presented physically.  Yet sometimes it really comes down to how they're written.  Is there is a male superhero at Marvel who has been written this poorly this consistently?  (Allan Heinberg's Young Avengers, and its sequel Avengers: The Children's Crusade, is a notable exception.)  Poor, poor Scarlet Witch.  I know I'm supposed to be focusing on what happens to Wonder Man (such an awkward name), but I just can't.  I don't put the blame on John Byrne at all.  Including House of M and a host of other events I don't know about (the character and her brother Quicksilver were introduced as villains, and for some reason as the offspring of Magneto, a fact that's as conveniently overlooked as it's featured, whatever works at the time), there's just no other character like Scarlet Witch in comics.

Avengers West Coast #78, 84 (Marvel)
From January, July 1992.
These later issues are written, or co-written, by Marvel stalwart Roy Thomas, and both feature Marvel's obsession at the time with the movies.  (Hopefully 2016 Marvel is most pleased.)  Wonder Man, having apparently emerged relatively unscathed from his ordeal (whatever it was), is making movies with bad guys.  (It totally makes sense.)  Well, anyway, also featured is Spider-Woman, the Julia Carpenter version, who in both issues is deep into melodrama concerning her private life, the ex-husband and child she has to balance.  These are characteristic elements of the era, including the popular New Titans over at DC, something both the Titans and the X-Men picked up and expanded on in the '80s from the '60s Marvel template.  The second issue features her whole origin and adventures recapped, and also Spider-Man, since he was insanely big at the time thanks to Todd McFarlane's then-recent work with the character.  It's hard to believe that the rest of this decade would become known as a creative wasteland for Spider-Man because of the hugely-prolonged Clone Saga.  But then, the Image exodus of all Marvel's top artists sent everyone scrambling to find new directions.  If not clones then what, right? 

Or something...It was also Spidey's 30th anniversary.  In fact, it was the thirtieth anniversary for most of the Marvel Age.  Strange to think, right?  When a reader said they were life-long fans, they literally could have read everything, fairly easily, and Marvel at that time was still heavily trading on continuing continuity, no matter how confusing it could get (see Scarlet Witch).  So I guess...it only figures.

The Incredible Hulk #395 (Marvel)
From July 1992.
I used to be a big Peter David fan.  This was during the '90s.  He was my favorite writer of Star Trek novels.  But that status didn't last past the '90s.  I mean, I started to wise up to just what kind of writer he was.  This is a guy who's the quintessential fan's writer.  He exists in fan logic.  To him, writing the Hulk as he does in this period makes perfect sense.  The Hulk as Vegas muscle.  It just doesn't make any sense.  I don't care to research how he made Hulk capable of stringing intelligent thoughts together.  Historically, that just isn't the case.  But since this was in the thick of the definitely-part-of-continuing-continuity era, it made sense somehow.  Except to someone who doesn't know how, it really doesn't.  Fan logic.  A story that only makes sense to fans is fan logic.  And this is the worst kind.  It could literally be about anyone.  Artist Dale Keown went on to create another Big Giant Comic Book Character, Pitt.  I mean, it only makes sense.  Because at this point, Peter David was writing Big Giant Comic Book Character, not the Hulk.  It's not cool, maybe, to be ragging on Peter David in 2016, because the dude has been dealing with health issues in recent years.  But the fact remains, while I wish the guy well, I also wish...he were a better writer.

The 'Nam #34, 72 (Marvel)
From September 1989, September 1992.
One of the few non-genre books I know of from Marvel is The 'Nam, a comic about the Vietnam War.  That's about all I knew about it for years.  I used to see it in Marvel's solicitations back in the day, but that's literally all I ever knew about it, that it...was a comic about the Vietnam War.  So when I saw the particular bargain collections these comics came from, I knew I had to find out, at last.  Turns out...they're not particularly good comics.  I mean, they're clearly meant for people with more direct experience with the war, and so I guess it was only appropriate, given that it was launched about a decade after U.S. troops withdrew.  Popular culture today pretty much has solidified the counterculture reaction to it as the mainstream opinion of it, but there persists outlets that attempt to give a more human face to the war.  That's basically what The 'Nam is, or what it set out to be.  I just don't think the talent was there to execute it.  Maybe it's a hasty assumption based on two issues, or maybe its general lack of reputation has already made that judgment, and I just confirmed it for myself.  The second issue features a letters column detailing appearances by Frank Castle, A.K.A. Punisher, who was huge at that time.  I mean, he almost single-handedly led the charge of the more violent action from that era, was the cool character to follow...and who couldn't last long enough to make two later big screen adaptions even semblances of hits.  Apparently the final two issues, printed only in a later collection, also feature him.  Maybe the writers could have saved themselves the trouble and used him to tell the whole story.  Or someone could do that in a series revival...

Nomad #2 (Marvel)
From December 1990.
One of the characters in this issue spends her time researching the history of Jack Monroe, the second Bucky (Captain America's sidekick).  It reads, today, like a template for what Ed Brubaker would do later, much more successfully, with the first Bucky, James Barnes.  That's the most that can be said about this issue.  It's kind of sad that Jack ended up being so easy to dispose of later.  Ironically, it's Brubaker, in his Bucky revival, who kills of the character.

Classic X-Men #45 (Marvel)
From March 1990.
A reprint of Uncanny X-Men #139, this issue features the long-awaited follow-up to Wolverine's first appearance from Incredible Hulk #181, which means his return to Canada ("Logan!") and the set-up for a rematch with the Wendigo (who definitely remained an iconic foe).  Poor Kitty Pryde is apparently saddled with the superhero name Sprite in the story, although the latter Shadowcat isn't really that much better.  For a bit of context, this takes place just a few issues after "The Dark Phoenix Saga," one of the most iconic X-Men stories ever, and a few issues before "Days of the Future Past," perhaps the most iconic X-Men story ever (disappointingly to modern readers, only a few issues long).  And to put it in further context, the Chris Claremont era began with Uncanny X-Men #94.  Uncanny X-Men #139 was originally published in 1980, five years after Giant-Size X-Men, where it kicked off.  I know Claremont better from Sovereign Seven, which fans soured on, much like a lot of his later work, but I liked quite a bit.  It's better than this particular X-Men issue.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Reading Comics 187 "Catching up on Atomic Robo, Batman & Robin Eternal, Empress, Huck, Klaus, Nameless, Star Trek, and Tuki"

Free Comic Book Day this year was pretty good for me, and not just for the reasons I've already discussed, but because of the way I justified loitering to see how others were enjoying it at my local haunt: namely, by shopping.

There's a whole bookshelf of titles not published by DC or Marvel, or classified as mature reader material (in this place, that stuff is kept in glass cases by the register), which I haven't really explored before as it's chaotically managed.  I spent half the time I browsed it trying to help bring about some order (yeah, I'm that kind of shopper).  It was cool, too, because spending that time helped me think up stuff I should be thinking about.  There were a couple of people there who stumbled on Chris Burnham's E for Extinction mini-series from Secret Wars, and they mistakenly identified Burnham as Frank Quitely.  I corrected them, but it's an easy mistake to make.  I mean, Grant Morrison worked with Burnham because he evokes Quitely.  Eventually, this made me remember Nameless, and the fact that I never read its final issue, which was released late last year.  But more on that later.  Here's the stuff I found:

Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire #5 (IDW)
The conclusion of IDW's first Atomic Robo mini-series (the character was previously published by Red 5, who used to feature him in all its FCBD releases) features his gang of action scientists confronting the notion of science becoming too big for its britches, working for the greater good at the expense of good public relations.  You know, the classic Bond Villain dilemma.  I love that IDW allows the comic a letters page, in which I am constantly humbled by how much better other fans keep track of Atomic Robo's adventures.

Batman & Robin Eternal #26 (DC)
The conclusion of this half-year weekly was something I wanted to read despite not having read any issue of it since, ah, the first one.  The late 2015 attempt at emphasizing the Robin legacy was a welcome one in my books, what with "Robin War" and this series that featured basically every Batman sidekick ever, including most of the ones from the New 52 (Duke Thomas is featured on the cover but absent from the interior, although he ended up playing a key role in Scott Snyder's final Batman arc).  Harper Row/Bluebird seemed to be the biggest beneficiary of this story, even as she was easily, otherwise, Snyder's least-utilized creation except in the alternate Eternal adventures.  Also featured are Stephanie Brown/Spoiler and Cassandra Cain, a much-loved one-time Batgirl who assumes the identity of the Orphan and thusly becoming the other big beneficiary of the series.  Also in the spotlight: Dick Grayson, the first Robin, who also receives some nifty character work.  It was nice seeing him, Jason, Tim, and Damian getting along, too, and the whole concept of what brings all of them together, the character of Mother, who provides an alternative to Batman, was a good one, too.  So I can say this was a pretty worthwhile affair.

Empress #2 (Icon)
Mark Millar and Stuart Immonen's space opera of a distant past (kind of like Star Wars, or the reimagining of Battlestar Galactica) ramps up.  It's hard not to find comparisons with Saga, but I can't help gush over Immonen's return to his more simplistic, evocative style, which for me is the obvious, easy draw of the series.

Huck #6 (Image)
The conclusion of Millar and Rafael Albuquerque's Superman analogy (akin to Tom de Haven's It's Superman! novel featuring a simple-minded Midwesterner) has his mother save the day, but Huck proving to be the kind of hero everyone wants Superman to be in the movies.  (Although, folks, we did see that Superman, as portrayed by Christopher Reeve.  Four times.)

Klaus #2, 3, 4 (Boom!)
I bugged the owner of the shop I was frequenting in Maine about this title, pronouncing it like "mouse" instead of "claws," Grant Morrison's Santa origin, but kind of drifted away from it after the break I took from being a full-time reader.  (And by the way, I'm still on that break, and things may grow sparse here to reflect that, in the coming months.)  Yet coming across the second, third, and fourth issues (the covers reflect that the mini-series expanded from six to seven issues somewhere along the line) had me back in the mood.  This is very much a fairy tale, or even a superhero kind of story.  You can be a fan of Frozen and find much to love about it.  Morrison has written few romances, but this is one of them.  More and more, I like it a lot.

Nameless #6 (Image)
Morrison's reunion with Burnham (after Batman Incorporated) baffled me as a kind of regression on Morrison's part, horror kind of for the sake of horror.  He's not normally so one-dimensional.  But I guess that was kind of the point, tapping back into his black magic bag to present a portrait of true human depravity.  This will never be one of my favorite Morrison works, but at least I understand it a little better now.

Star Trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War #6 (IDW)
The conclusion of this crossover proves once again that it was basically a love letter to the Geoff Johns era in the Green Lantern franchise, which is something I could totally embrace.  It's also one of the more readable Star Trek comics I've read from IDW in recent years.  After a spectacular start when it acquired the rights, IDW's efforts started to slide.  This was set in the 2009 continuity, which worked well for the concept, including its use of Chang (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), who was unlikely to show up in this continuity otherwise.

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy #2 (IDW)
Taking a chance, I also snapped this up.  Like a lot of IDW's Star Trek comics (including the above), it's written by Mike Johnson, but it's Johnson in excellent mode.  While the parts largely borrowing directly from the 2009 film are fairly routine, the ones featuring new cadets are lively, showing what it's like to live in Star Trek, filled with insightful and amusing culture clash material.  Honestly, I don't know why there hasn't been more stuff like this, whether from IDW, other comics publishers, or the ongoing series of Pocket Books novels.  Also of note is artist Derek Charm, whose blog I have technically been following for years, and although I don't remember now how that started, it's nice to be able to say that I've now bought some of his work.

Tuki #4 (Cartoon)
This latest collection of material Jeff Smith previously serialized on the Internet features the main character and his quirky companions coming closer to facing their destiny: being the first humanoid to leave Africa.  The weird ways the group interacts with one another, and Smith's vision of the world at that time continues to be fascinating.  I was glad the shop had this.  I'd caught another printed issue there, but didn't know if I'd ever see another.  Well, now I know.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Digitally Speaking...57 "Lee Weeks' Daredevil"

Daredevil: Dark Nights #1 (Marvel)
From 2013.

I haven't been reading much from comiXology lately, and been talking even less about what I have been, but I had to make an exception for this.

And what makes it so special?  Well, for one, creator Lee Weeks.  I've been bumping into the guy's work with Dan Jurgens (Superman: Futures End, Convergence: Superman, Superman: Lois & Clark), and as far as I knew, that was pretty much his contribution to comics.  I mean, he popped in out of nowhere, as far as I was concerned. 

Now, of course, I know differently.  This issue is clue enough, for instance.  He's referenced as a Daredevil icon by the editor.  I had no clue, naturally.  The bulk of his Daredevil work came in the early '90s, so clearly he didn't come from nowhere.  Suddenly it seems a real shame that this is the first I'm hearing about him.

The issue itself is a clear revelation.  Weeks is writer/artist for it, the start of a three-issue arc in a greater mini-series featuring mini-arcs from other creators as well.  Since I knew Weeks as an artist (a truly remarkable one), I kind of wondered what his writing would be like.  It can always go either way.  But the more I read, the more I loved.

Simply put, Weeks figured it out.  He figured out how to further the Miller Narrative.  The Miller Narrative is Frank Miller's iconic reinvention of Daredevil, the Daredevil most fans know, the one who showed up in the 2003 movie, and the one currently dazzling folks in the Netflix series, the one who's an even sadder sack than Peter Parker, battling back from one colossal setback (notably, the Kingpin feud) after another.

I mean, I've seen the Bendis variation.  I saw the Waid refute.  But this is the real deal.  This is someone who truly understands what Matt Murdock is all about.

And from Lee Weeks?  Heck ya!  It's truly sensational work.  I don't care if the other two issues are crap.  This one alone is enough to sell me on the virtues of Weeks, well beyond what I thought they were already.  This guy's the real deal.  And needs lionizing!  So I'll do what I can.  Hopefully his Jurgens work will help other people discover or rediscover Weeks. 

Because he's one of the best talents in the game.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Quarter Bin 76 "Automatic Kafka, and other stuff"

A lot of comics bought from an actual quarter bin.  Don't say it never happens...

Automatic Kafka #2 (WildStorm)
From October 2002.
Joe Casey was one of the big names in comic at that time, but then he split off with a couple of his fellow luminaries to form Man of Action, which produced hit concepts like Ben 10 and Big Hero 6.  But before he left, he left a splash, with stuff like Automatic Kafka.  Chances are if he hadn't left, Kafka would have a lasting memory.  Like a lot of Casey and WildStorm's efforts from that time, it was a post-millennial superhero deconstruction project, although today it looks like a precursor to Matt Kindt's MIND MGMT, which to my mind is a very good thing.  So it was certainly a pleasure to read some of it, and I certainly wouldn't mind reading more.  It was certainly the most pleasant discovery of this particular lot, although there was plenty of other good stuff, such as:

Batman: Futures End #1 (DC)
From November 2014.
The Futures End specials were such a rich creative opportunity, and I love checking out what the more adventurous ones attempted.  This one wasn't an attempt, it was Scott Snyder, with Ray Fawkes scripting, revisiting his fascinating vision of the future Batman, so obsessed with his mission that he sets up a series of clones who will continue it indefinitely.  It was easily Snyder's richest Batman concept, and one seen otherwise only sparingly, from a short story in the pages of the anniversary Detective Comics #27.  I didn't read this special when it was originally released, because I didn't imagine that Snyder would revisit the concept, and fan reactions at the time didn't catch on to the significance of the issue, but I eventually read it digitally, and so now I've got a physical copy as well.  This is the origin of the clone initiative, an older Batman who defies the odds and breaks into Lex Luthor's secret lab to get what he needs for it.  I'd love if Snyder eventually returned again to the concept, but a small collection of these two stories wouldn't be out of order, either, so fans know they exist...

Bone Holiday Special (Hero)
From 1993.
This was something of an unbelievable find, a Hero magazine special from the early days of Jeff Smith's Bone.  In it is an exclusive story, plus an interview (Smith comes off as less than impressive, alas), and reprints of early strips predating Bone, back when it was called ThornBone is an endlessly charming memory, one of my all-time favorite comics, and Smith has proven to be an enduring talent as well, with RASL and Tuki (an ongoing project) also under his belt by this point.

Cerebus #201 (Aardvark-Vanaheim)
From December 1995.
Dave Sim is such a unique character in comics lore.  He was a virtual god of the indy press at his prime, but since Cerebus ended fans have tended to reflect more on his alleged shortcomings than on what he accomplished.  This issue begins the "Guys" arc, and seems to feature parodies of George Harrison and Ringo Starr (and virtually incomprehensible dialogue to match their accents).  I have no idea how representative it is of Cerebus as a whole, but it was certainly unique reading.  Sim includes an origin of Cerebus (and the name of its publisher, Aardvark-Vanaheim) in an essay, so that was pretty lucky for a guy who's not usually lucky enough to find an issue...

Chosen #2 (Dark Horse)
One of Mark Millar's formative projects (he's since retitled it American Jesus, and plans on further volumes) features a boy who may or may not be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.  It's actually pretty interesting.

Empire #3 (DC)
From November 2003.
Mark Waid was my favorite '90s comic book writer.  Eventually, he started to try and figure out how he was going to follow up all the stuff he'd accomplished in that decade, and everything he's done since has been a continuation of thatEmpire was his first shot at what the kind of superhero storytelling he later developed in his Irredeemable comics.  The concept was, What if the bad guy wins?  This issue features the superhero who the villain only wants the world to think died.  I don't know, maybe my lackluster opinion of Waid in the last few decades colors my impression of Empire, but it's hard to see now why fans were so wild about it.  But they've consistently been wild about a lot of minor work from Waid.  I should know.  I knew his work when it was great...

Green Lantern: Mosaic #6 (DC)
From November 1992.
1992 was from the era I last saw bargain packs all over the place, and how I first discovered Green Lantern: Mosaic.  This was, as I know understand it, the Vertigo version of Green Lantern.  Gerard Jones ruled the whole Green Lantern landscape at that time, and it was surprisingly expansive landscape at that time.  Mosaic was the big gamble.  I guess I couldn't really appreciate how big a gamble it was until I read its letters column.  The first issue of the series was the first issue I read, and for decades remains the only issue.  But I loved that issue.  Eventually, I caught another issue, and then even the arc from Green Lantern where it originated.  Turns out, fans really didn't know what to make of it, and Jones didn't go out of his way to make it any easier.  I mean, this was a Vertigo title.  And it seriously needs to be rediscovered.  It's pretty much the Green Lantern version of Grant Morrison's Animal Man.  And this is how you make John Stewart relevant.

Haven: The Broken City #9 (DC)
From October 2002.
A couple of upstart creators were given a shot at creating something new at DC.  This was a time of pretty wild experimentation at DC, and so it was as good a time to let upstart creators try their thing as any.  The result is better than its complete lack of impact indicates.  I caught the first issue from the same quarter bin a little while back, so it only seemed appropriate that I caught the last issue, too.  Bookending the series were two specials featuring the Justice League.  I don't really know what happened, why the upstarts vanished and the whole thing forgotten.  But it didn't really deserve that fate.

Hawkeye #3 (Marvel)
From December 2012.
But then again, the much better established Matt Fraction couldn't help this series make a bigger impact...

Infinite Vacation #5 (Image)
Back when I thought I was going to continue to be a big fan of Nick Spencer, I caught the first issue of this one, and so reading the last one seemed like it would finally be appropriate.  In hindsight Infinite Vacation may be remembered, if anything, for helping launch Image's continuing obsession with really bold coloring.  This is the era of colorists, folks.

Infinity Man and the Forever People: Futures End #1 (DC)
From November 2014.
This Futures End special is pretty good, too, and is the first time I actually read this New Gods series.  I think its only shortcoming is that it...really doesn't seem all that relevant a New Gods concept.  But it's still a good read!

Justice League Europe #36 (DC)
From March 1992.
Gerard Jones again, this time helping smooth the transition from the Giffen/DeMatteis era to the Jurgens era, as he dismantles the old Bwa-Ha-Ha League (a lot of the members in this issue join Jurgens' Justice League America).

The Mice Templar: Volume IV - Legend #3 (Image)
From June 2013.
I was such a fan of Mice Templar, but I kind of got...tired of it after a while.  The black and white art doesn't help, because it's hard to distinguish characters, especially since they're all rodents.  But it was such an ambitious concept, and eventually ran for, I think, forty-two issues across five mini-series.  This is actually a pretty good issue, and the new essay writer explains the history of anthropomorphic storytelling, which is kind of handy.  So it was a good random issue to help revisit the concept.  Plus, the Salmon of Knowledge! 

Moon Knight #16 (Marvel)
From August 2015.
Predictably, Cullen Bunn features the least imaginative version of Marvel's project to make Moon Knight its second most interesting character (actual storytelling results may vary), after Deadpool.  Although I hear Jeff Lemire is doing some truly killer work with the concept at the moment...

Promethea #22 (ABC)
From November 2002.
Alan Moore is the comics genius (so proclaimed by at least one whole generation of fans) I consider more lackluster than not.  Promethea was his project with future superstar J.H. Williams III, who later collaborated with Neil Gaiman on a new Sandman.  Speaking of which, this issue reads like a lackluster, Alan Moore version of Sandman.  And speaking of which...

Sandman #63 (Vertigo)
I've been trying to catch up with Gaiman's seminal comics saga for a while (as evidenced by my annotations of The Annotated Sandman, a project that will continue at some point).  This issue is from late in the series and, more specifically, "The Kindly Ones."  It is not, however, particularly an issue to hold against counterfeit Alan Moore Sandman.  It's a pretty busy issue, and certainly better than Moore's effort, but not an easy issue to laud among the greater Gaiman material available...

Smax #3 (ABC)
From December 2003.
"ABC," by the way, stands for "America's Best Comics."  Which these really aren't.  They were pretty popular at the time, and Alan Moore's last real stab at popular work (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen came from this era), and the funny thing is, they were all variations on stuff he originally did for Rob Liefeld.  It makes sense somehow.  Anyway, if Moore weren't so completely obsessed with sex, he might do better work.  That's my theory, anyway...

Superman/Wonder Woman Annual #2 (DC)
From February 2016.
This is pretty much how the romance ends.  It's kind of sad.

The New Titans #66 (DC)
From May 1990.
The cover of this later issue from the seminal Wolfman/Perez collaboration features Raven...not making out with Dick Grayson.  It only looks that way.  Raven's meddling in Dick's love life would come a little later in Wolfman's run (a development that's routinely overlooked by fans, by the way).  It's worth noting that George Perez is not on art duties this issue, but rather co-scripting (the beginning, perhaps, of his writing career).  The art, rather, comes from the formative pen of Tom Grummett, whose style is somewhat evident in this early work.  If memory serves me right, he's also drawing when Wolfman has Raven crash Dick's would-be nuptials with Starfire...

The Legend of Will Power #1, 2 (Primal Paper)
From March, August 2011.
A local comics creator produced these comics (it's always worth sampling the native talent, which includes Drew Moss, who was in the store sketching once, and complaining about his publisher complaining about him...).  This isn't Moss, however, but Vince White, and the reason I picked up these issues was because I had the suspicion there might be some Green Lantern in these pages.  But the utter lack of connection between the superhero and his name (which is actually his real name) shows the disconnect between White's ambitions and his actual talent.  He's a better artist.  He needed a co-writer.  Live and learn?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Quarter Bin 75 "Some old, some new"

This is a back issue feature.  The title is not always literal.

Recently I dipped back into the same comics pack source I hit a few weeks back, and came up with some stuff I'd already read, and some new stuff, too (hence, the title).  But let's just dive in, shall we?

Detective Comics #1 (DC)
From 2011.
These packs featured some reprints geared toward the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  You can tell, because the reprints have ads for the movie littered throughout them.  I'm glad this was one of the reprints, because it's a reminder that Tony Daniel was still writing Batman at the start of the New 52.  He's one of the many artists DC has helped transition into writing.  He was Grant Morrison's artist from "Batman, R.I.P.," which led to him writing Batman before the New 52 relaunch.  He brought the same stuff to Detective Comics, including the character responsible for the Joker's grizzly new look ("look ma! no skin on my face!").  But fans by that point hopped on the Scott Snyder bandwagon (Snyder had been writing Detective Comics, so it was a flip flop that worked extremely well for one of them).  Daniel's work on Batman is by no means lousy.  But I guess it couldn't compete with Snyder's.  Like Snyder, he was keenly interested in creating new villains.  But again, I guess Snyder just did it better.

Batman Eternal #2 (DC)
From June 2014.
The weekly series Snyder and sidekick James Tynion IV launched featured some good storytelling, although perhaps it failed to be considered as iconic because its storytelling was less precise (I mean, like Geoff Johns on Green Lantern before him, Snyder managed to make a crossover arc of every story).  This second issue features Jim Gordon in trouble with the law.  The oddest thing is that Eternal really had nothing to do with Snyder's work in Batman itself.  They existed as two separate entities, and weaved visions that really had nothing to do with each other.  Eternal was a gimme to the fans, and Batman was busy making new ones.  I guess it makes sense...

Batman #41 (DC)
From August 2015.
Featuring the debut of Commissioner Batman, this was among the most recent issues included in the packs.  It still strikes me that Snyder basically parodied the whole "Knight Quest"/"Reign of the Supermen"/Doctor Spider-Man concept.  He knew from the start that fans wouldn't really buy Gordon as Batman, and yet went with it anyway.  Took real guts.  But by this point, he literally could get away with anything, and he knew it.

Batman: Arkham Knight #1 (DC)
From 2015.
Based on the series of video games, this is part of a series of mini-series that weave a story around them (like the following title).  Peter J. Tomasi, at his best, is among the best.  But he's not always at his best.  Sometimes, he's merely functional.  That's what he is in this.

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year Two Annual #1 (DC)
From December 2014.

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year Three #1 (DC)
From December 2014.
These are based on a fighting game, but the reality they pose might as well come from Batman's fever dream in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  They posit a Superman gone wildly out of control, attempting to bring order to Earth as a despot.  The best story in these issues features Green Lantern Hal Jordan and Sinestro, in a dynamic that's reminiscent of how Geoff Johns depicted them.  Also featured: Detective Chimp.  But not nearly enough of him!

Justice League #1 (DC)
From 2011.
This reprint features the beginning of Geoff Johns' seminal introduction of the team at the start of the New 52 era.  I've been an eager champion of this from the beginning, but it was fun to read it again (and incidentally, this is the fourth time I've purchased this story; one time was in the collection).  After rereading Frank Miller and Jim Lee's All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder recently, it was fun to see how Johns and Lee did a variation on the Batman/Green Lantern confrontation, and how it, and its relation to Miller and Lee's work, helped set the tone of the series.  Some really great stuff.

Justice League of America #1 (DC)
From August 2015.
I read this issue when it was originally released.  Reading it again was to find it better than I remembered.  I mean, I liked it then, too, but to read it from a time when I know Bryan Hitch will be handling the DC Rebirth Justice League is to know the title will be in good hands.  So that was good to find out.

Superman #32 (DC)
From 2014.
The start of the Johns/Romita era is an exceptional as I remember it.  Johns was truly at the top of his Superman game in this run, and he was no slouch the last time.  The Ulysses character apparently plays a role in Tomasi's "Super League" arc that's helping to round out the New 52 era.  He's basically Johns' new Superboy Prime.  That's good, too.

Action Comics #36 (DC)
From January 2015.
Greg Pak's Superman just doesn't do it for me.  Although I love Superman sporting a beard. 

Superman/Wonder Woman #1 (DC)
From December 2013.
I became such a fanboy of Charles Soule's at that time, it's fun revisiting some of that time.  I thought the concept of this relationship was one of the genius moves of the New 52, but I guess it was something DC was just as quick to shut down, because the "Truth" arc wasn't especially kind to it.  Doomsday was a busy monster at that time, too.  Since I didn't read further issues of this story, or the complete "Doomed," I only know so much of what the monster was up to.  I don't even know if the arcs were related!  Oh well...Oh further note is the course of journeyman artist...Tony Daniel!  He ended up bouncing from project to project.  But at least DC kept finding work for him!

Superman Unchained #1 (DC)
From August 2013.
It's funny, because ads for Man of Steel can be found in this issue, and so I guess everything comes full circle.  Snyder and Lee, reporting for duty.  But I'm not sure what either accomplished with this project.  Certainly there's evidence of more important work elsewhere in this edition of Quarter Bin...

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Quarter Bin 74 "Drax, foiled again..."

These actually were bought for a quarter each, thank you very much.  The local haunt frequently puts damaged comics aside with steep discounts, so most of them this time are younger than is usual for this feature...

Drax #2 (Marvel)
From February 2016.
Being, perhaps somewhat uniquely, a fan of comics as well as professional wrestling, I can probably give insight into a CM Punk comic better than you might find elsewhere (were you so inclined).  Punk famously ditched the WWE after feeling he wasn't getting his due, even though he was one of the company's top performers, and somewhat irreplaceable, as the last few years since his departure have helped prove.  I have a complicated perspective on Punk.  On the one hand, he truly is as good as he thinks he is.  But on the other, his ego is probably more massive than he can support.  Strange combination.  But my sympathy for him has only increased since his departure from the ring.  I'm definitely Team Punk.  When he started writing comics, I was instantly intrigued, because it's a well-kept secret that comic book writers often intermingle their personal thoughts with their fictional ones (especially when they leave a series).  I quickly found I wouldn't be disappointed.

And yet, I wasn't sure I wanted to make a commitment to his first regular assignment, Drax, so I avoided sampling it until now.  Turns out I had nothing to worry about.  Punk is definitely reflecting on his own life here, but not in a way that gets in the way.  Drax has a series because Guardians of the Galaxy made him more famous than he'd ever been.  And this series follows, more or less, with the character as established in the movie, which is a good thing because his was a fairly minimal role in the movie, and so there's plenty of room to explore (unlike, say, Rocket or Star-Lord, or the Guardians in general, but I digress).  Anyway, Drax is a unique situation in a comics era that's desperately grasping for unique situations (making them less and less unique by the minute), and again, Punk is ideally suited to explore it.  Nominally, Cullen Bunn, who never met a concept he couldn't suck the life out of, is there to help guide Punk, because Marvel probably had the same concerns I did, but I sense little Bunn here (again, a good thing).  So this was a very happy reading experience.

Superman: Lois & Clark #1 (DC)
From December 2015.
Another comic I was hesitant to read was one of the several Convergence spin-offs.  Fans cooled almost instantly on Convergence (I thought it was a pretty great success, both the mini-series itself and the creative freedom of the side projects), so maybe these spin-offs were never going to be the big hits DC thought they'd be (just as copying "Batgirl of Burnside" made that less significant, and led to DCYou being the failure it seems to have been).  Lois & Clark is a continuation of Convergence: Superman, with creators Dan Jurgens and Lee Weeks along for the ride.  Jurgens famously was one of the writers DC tried on the New 52 Superman itself, one of the writers who famously failed to make it anywhere the success Grant Morrison's Action Comics was, at least in terms of garnering any kind of buzz.  Jurgens wisely seems to have used Lois & Clark as a commentary on that, and the New 52 as a whole.  And in case you didn't know, it also continues the Superman era last seen at the end of the '90s, the last time DC was ready for a major overhaul (technically, the early millennial Superman was not a reboot, but it really was).  The series also features Superman's son, who will be playing a significant role in the DC Rebirth era.  The comic itself is a fine read (and looks fine, too, thanks to Weeks, who knows how to translate Jurgens better than Jurgens has for years).  The issue outlines the whole concept, how the '90s Superman ended up in the New 52, and stood out of the way of history.  Like Drax, makes me wish I hadn't been so dismissively originally.

Action Comics #47 (DC)
From February 2016.
The Greg Pak era in Action Comics was kind of completely overshadowed.  It turned out to be for those who didn't want the Geoff Johns, or Gene Luen Yang, Superman.  But it's not really much to write home about.  This is from the "Truth" period, and features a villain who kind of has a valid perspective (seemingly ripped from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice).  But it seems so pedestrian compared to the Johns/Yang Superman.  The artist is Georges Jeanty, whom I originally encountered in the pages of '90s Superboy, and who later resurfaced in the pages of Dark Horse's Bffy the Vampire Slayer comics.  But his work here is completely unrecognizable, which is a shame, because I liked his work from that time.  Equally baffling is Frankenstein's appearance in the issue.  It's not really dwelt on.  It's a visual element and nothing more, probably explained elsewhere, but surely disappointing for someone randomly stopping by.

Wildcats 3.0 #1 (WildStorm)
From October 2002.
This older issue is from the last attempt to keep WildStorm a viable, separate entity within DC once t became an imprint here instead of at Image.  The characters continue to pop up (they had supporting roles in Futures End, for instance, plus random efforts at ongoing series like Grifter and Midnighter), but it'll never be the same.  Speaking of completely different, this third volume of Wildcats was part of the Authority era, in which the company helped set up the Ultimates era, which helped set up the Avengers movies.  But clearly the original intent was something, again, completely different.  The idea was new maturity.  Joe Casey writes the corporate Wildcats in a way that sheds new light on just what America looked like at the turn of the millennium.  No wonder we've been struggling with our financial health ever since, because that was the era in which corporations really did seem to take over.  I mean, the '80s were the Greed Decade, but they had nothing on the '00s.  I think we all see that now.  A little too late, perhaps, but maybe it's because of things like Casey's fairly incomprehensive buzz speak heavy Wildcats.  Amusingly, Casey explains the evolution of the team in an essay, and it really doesn't help explain how Wildcats 3.0 makes sense from that any better than the comic itself, which ignores pretty much everything Wildcats except for Grifter.  I guess that makes sense...

Monday, May 9, 2016

Reading Comics 186 "Free Comic Book Day 2016"

So, Saturday was National Comic Book Geek Day, otherwise known as Free Comic Book Day, which to further clarify (because every time I bring up to my sisters, they assume you can pick up just any comic for free), is when pretty much every publisher puts out a special release that's absolutely free.  It's the best comics advertising of the year, and what they provide often gives you keen insight to what they consider important.

Take DC, for instance.  This year they published a special reprint edition of Suicide Squad, somewhat obviously because the next DC movie is...Suicide Squad.  But more importantly, because DC's next big event is DC Rebirth...which is just around the corner, and the big reveals are waiting to be discovered in Justice League #50 and DC Rebirth Special.  So this year there wasn't really much point in doing something other than what it did for the freebie.  The company has brownie points to earn for its next movie, because no one actually thought Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was as cool as DC did, and Deadpool looked like it just created a revolution earlier this year, and so yeah, the somewhat tonally-similar Suicide Squad looks like a pretty good horse to back.

But enough about that.  But a little more about movies!  Because after visiting my local haunt, I went and saw Captain America: Civil War.  It was a pretty good movie, all told.  It's my favorite Avengers movie, somewhat easily, I might add.  Although plot-wise it's full of holes (about as many as people tried really hard to see in Batman v Superman), it does the Marvel method better than any other in that franchise to date.  So that's pretty cool.

Getting back to the comics, my local haunt put a three-book maximum, and so I had to be pretty careful.  The first choice was really obvious, and so that left two.  I'll walk you through my thought process:

Avatarex FCBD Special Preview (Graphic India)
This is Grant Morrison.  You know Grant Morrison, right?  Chances are, if you've read this blog at all, you'll catch a hint that he's one of my favorite comic book writers.  So this was the gimme.  Avatarex is something I first learned about last year, but it was a pretty exclusive affair in 2015, being available only through a special online bundle (I assume it was digital, but Graphic India did not go out of its way to make this easy to decipher).  Once I'd read this preview, I found out what Avatarex is all about.  Basically, it's Morrison's modern 18 Days, featuring Superman as depicted in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman.  The whole thought process is very clearly spelled out in the preview.  Also included in the preview is an excerpt from 18 Days, which is a project I've wandered from recently but fully intend to read completely at some point, because it's fascinating.  This is the primordial superhero epic, the Crisis in Ancient India, as it were.  Morrison himself isn't writing the complete story, which is part of the reason I've found it easy to stray, but it's such powerful stuff, a vision Graphic India would really have needed to screw up.  And thankfully, from everything I've read to date, the company really hasn't.  Which is really good.  It's also good that we're getting a writer of Morrison's caliber presenting comics from a totally different landscape than we're used to.  And bringing his A-game...

Civil War II FCBD (Marvel)
Brian Michael Bendis and Jim Cheung present this preview of the upcoming sequel (-ish thing).  In terms of what they present here, I'm glad I read, and relished, Charles Soule's Secret Wars effort, because as of this material, I have no idea what the fight will be about.  This is more like random material they tossed in (which is kind of how most of Captain America: Civil War plays out, but again, I say that out of admiration, because eventually, weird logic ensues), including completely downplaying Thanos.  (Somewhere along the way, I have to assume someone making the movies decided Thanos wasn't as important to the overall arc as Joss Whedon suggested, because he's been almost completely insignificant, even in Guardians of the Galaxy.)  Unlike the reprint synergy DC brought to FCBD this year, Marvel's just reads cynically.  Which is weird, because Bendis is literally one of the chief sources of inspiration that brought about the hugely successful movies, and his work subsequently just looks like afterthought.  Even weirder, the special also slips in a random All-New, All-Different Avengers excerpt, which is Mark Waid literally riffing on last year's Ant-Man.  I just don't get it.  Here's Marvel doing exactly what DC usually does, and ending up looking like it wasted the whole thing.  But at least it reminds everyone that Marvel's got comics, too...

Valiant 4001 A.D. FCBD Special (Valiant)
This is a company I've grown quite fond of in the last year.  I haven't been reading a lot of it lately, but it made for an easy selection, because there are various previews of upcoming projects, including the titular latest crossover event and Divinity II, both from writer Matt Kindt, who is easily the company's greatest steal, if nothing else than for his Divinity.  The second volume of this saga looks just as fascinating as the first, with Kindt pulling back the curtain a little and having a look at the two cosmonauts left behind last time and maybe more about what's really going on.  I look forward to reading more of that.

And finally, I was also to slip into another shop later in the day.  Predictably, the pickings were slim, but I came away with:

Camp Midnight FCBD Special (Image)
In the spirit of Lumberjanes (which is a huge buzz book I've sampled thanks to comiXology), Camp Midnight is a young readers adventure set in summer camp.  The writer is Steven S. Seagle, whom I'd shockingly not yet made a label here, despite his rather formative accomplishments (including the seminal if sparsely-referenced It's a Bird... Superman graphic novel).  He's part of the creative group behind Ben 10 and Big Hero 6.  And his writing chops are in evidence here, which is an excerpt from a graphic novel.  A lot of times, material aimed at younger readers tries to be too clever, so that it ore represents Adult Swim-inspired material like Archer, or the caffeine-inspired cartoons that kids have today.  Seagle wisely backs off from that approach, but still maintains an edge.  Glad I had a second chance to catch a look.

It's also worth talking a little about the character of FCBD as I experienced it this year, in Virginia.  My last two experiences were in Maine, and waiting in line there was a little like experiencing riffraff congregating (plus some Stormtrooper cosplay).  This year I had a better sense of the comic book fans who saw this as a special occasion.  I got to overhear, and participate, in some of the better chatter I've heard at a comic book store.  These places can sometimes be a wretched hive of scum and villainy (it's no wonder geeks largely define the dialogue of the Internet), so it was nice to experience something better for a change. 

On the whole, it was a pretty good day.