Battle for the John Buys Comics

Azrael: Death’s Dark Knight No 2 of 3

You know, this isn’t half bad. I didn’t pay too much attention to Azrael the first time out but he had some interesting history, with the secret religious order and the mental conditioning and so forth (and wouldn’t it have been a great idea for DC to have brought him back a few years ago, during the height of Da Vinci Code fever?) but was way too tied into the spiky Early Nineties sensibilities for my taste. Not that I won’t read all his stuff eventually - my quest to read All Batman Ever is a heavy burden to bear.

So this series is concerned with Michael Lane, one of the prospective replacement Batmen from the Morrison run, being offered the role of Azrael by a splinter faction of the Order of St. Dumas. Hey, there’s some cursed armour, some flaming swords, some personal tragedy - lots of fun. Oracle puts in a much better appearance here than she does in her own book, which must be set in the future or the past or something, I guess. Best of all? The League of Assassins! Those guys don’t get used enough, I assure you, and they have the Hook with them to boot, in one of the few comics that I’ve read where the Hook neither kills Boston Brand nor is killed himself. I think that the Hook might just be one of the most frequently-dead characters in comics. Also, Leland McCauley, who is a Legion antagonist, appears, I think.

Anyway, given my expectations going in, this was an enjoyable time.

Battle for the Cowl: Arkham Asylum No 1 (of 1!)

I was going to lead into this one by saying that just like it was interesting to read a story featuring the Hook wherein he doesn’t die it would be so to read a comic about Jeremiah Arkham not going mad, but I’ve changed my mind. All of the best Arkham Asylum stories have ol’ Jeremiah and the very best ones imply that he’s completely off his rocker without stating it outright.

So the Asylum was blown up during Batman R.I.P. and now Jeremiah Arkham is wandering around in the wreckage remembering the good old days when costumed maniacs used to taunt him. It’s a decent enough comic but it’s definitely the final nail in the coffin for Battle for the Cowl as any sort of accurate title for this whole mess. As far as I can make out, the actual Battle for the Cowl comics and maybe Azrael are actually concerned with actual battling for an actual cowl. The rest of these comics (Commissioner Gordon, Man-Bat, etc) are like unto a separate series about what Gotham is like sans Batman - why not call the World Without a Batman and get on with things? Oracle I think is just kind of tacked on because she’s part of the Bat-family.

This issue is notable because it features a new version of No-Face (no doctor, this one), thus showcasing my astonishing prophetic abilities. And he’s interesting! Also, Humpty Dumpty!

Supergirl No 40

WHAAAA? Superwoman is… whaaa?

Neat! Good reveal! What a twist! I have one important question that is totally a spoiler!

You know what I like about the Superman titles right now? That the bad guys are just so thoroughly rotten - even Cat Grant, though I’ll bet a dollar that she’ll have a life-changing experience and mend her ways some day. I’m still a little sad that Agent Liberty is dead, but I just like having as many different superfolk running around the DCU as possible (and it’s not like someone else won’t end up in the suit PDQ). I think I’m going to have to go back and read me some more Supergirl - I’m late to this particular ballgame.

Invincible No. 61

So: last issue insane villain Angstrom Levy brought in a bunch of alternate versions of Invincible (and have I ever mentioned how fond I am of alternate versions of characters? If I were a super-hero I’d eat lunch with a different alternate-universe Johnathan every day. Even the evil ones surely couldn’t resist a good sammich) and they all fought basically everyone in the shared Image Universe and wrecked the whole damn place. I’m sure that you’ve gathered that I’m not fond of the crossover event as a whole but this one was pretty well done, all-in-all, possibly because it was so blessedly short. And this issue was great. Invincible is another of those great series that actually change over time - heck, the status quo has been stood on its head about seventeen times so far, and for good reason. Half a dozen nigh-invulnerable, super-strong dudes slugging it out with dozens of super-heroes? Of course a few cities are going to be leveled, and now we get to read about all sorts of delicious aftermath. Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley are a heckuva team - I’m very sure that this comic would swiftly go off the rails into unreadability if someone else tried to write it.

Mister X: Condemned No. 4 of 4

Man, I almost wish I hadn’t picked up the first issue of this when it came out a few months ago. It’s great - visually interesting and full of terrific weird characters and set in a city that drives people mad and there are retro-future robots and such everywhere - but as I soon learned it has a lot of prior history and now I’m going to have to go back and read it all to satisfy the information demands of my own fevered brain. Not that it was hard to follow: Mister X has been out of circulation for a while so this story acts as a very effective introduction to the setting and to some of the cast, setting the mood along the way. People use the word “noir” a lot when they talk about this series and it’s very appropriate - lucky for me there appears to be a trade or three on the horizon so’s I can catch up.

Oh! There was an Art Frahm joke in the first issue! Tell me how I could resist that.

Viking No. 1

Good times! This is a gorgeous damn comic, with all kinds of painted art and super nice (non-glossy!) paper. Hell, it even smells good for some reason.

The writing is good and - and I hope that this comes out right - will be better after a few more issues come out. Hmm, wait. By which I mean that once I come back and read this again after getting to know the characters involved and so forth I’ll appreciate it even more. There’s no short story to set the stage and no text box pops in to tell me who every character is as they appear so things must be figured out contextually. It’s a good technique if done well, and Ivan Brandon has managed to do it quite well here. Also, he hasn’t fallen into the trap of over-romanticising the past: the characters aren’t noble, honour-bound warriors speaking solely in archaic terms and neither are they grunting, blood-soaked savages. Like most people in history they speak colloquially and are concerned with making money and dealing with their crazy family and having a good time. And fighting with spears. Big thumbs up, JOHN APPROVED.

Warlord of Io and Other Stories

Oh, good show James Turner. You can always be counted on to write and illustrate something very strange and very wonderful, like the very odd Nil: a Land Beyond Belief or Rex Libris, a book that makes the part of me that loves working in libraries very happy indeed.

The title story, "Warlord of Io" features a lad named Zing who becomes ruler of that whole damn moon when his father retires to the pleasure domes. There are lotsa good weird aliens and space facts and such... I sure hope that this continues as is promised at the end of this chapter, as Turner's imagination is very appealing to me. The rest of the comic follow suit, demons and Tiki Pirates and all.

I mean, just check out the map on the inside cover - there's something called The Great Steel Anenome Brain... can you afford to miss this?

Ho ho ho, what's this?

Showcase Presents: legion of Super-Heroes, Volume 3!

Hooray! And how, you ask, do I feel about this?


Also this week: Batman: The Brave and the Bold No. 4, which remains a very good comic adaptation of a cartoon based on a comic book character, which is a surprisingly failure-ridden subset of the comics field. I am extraordinarily fond of the cartoon and this comic does a great job of capturing some of its energy. And being able to hear Aquaman shout “Outrageous!” in my head enhances the experience to no end.

Johnathan... out!

Justify Your Existence: Batman Villain Edition

Hello and welcome to Saturday here at Living Between Wednesdays! Today we'll be playing a game of "Justify Your Existence", the game in which super-folk of yesteryear tell us, in their own words, exactly why they did what they did. This week we're going to be talking to some Batman villains of yore, and in return we'll be telling them exactly how likely it is that they might make their way back into the comic books of today to bedevil whoever wins that pesky battle for the cowl.

First up, Doctor No-Face, from Detective Comics No. 319.

And who is Dr No-Face? Why, he's Dr Paul Dent, medical researcher and erstwhile chimp-smoother!

Dent's facial features are obliterated by overexposure to his ray! He rushes out into the night, shrieking!

Dr Paul Dent becomes Dr No-Face! He goes on a rampage! His petty, ascotted vandalism has Gotham in the grip of fear! But why, Doc? Tell us your motivation:

Ah, the classic plot: taking revenge on society for the horrible disfigurement that... you caused yourself to have. Well, I guess that it's not like you can erase your own face, right?

What are his chances? Pretty good, if it were up to me. I'm sure that if he were around today he'd be disfiguring beautiful people or holding famous faces for ransom whilst wielding a vial of acid or something but I suppose that that's the style of the time. Check this though: Dr Paul Dent is Dr No-Face while Harvey Dent is Two-Face! They could be cousins and have a familial rivalry and terrorize the Gotham citizenry with their feud! Or Dr No-Face could fight the Question for thematic fun and maybe try to woo her, leading to big laffs! And Cousin Harvey is creepily into Renee Montoya! The plots write themselves, folks!

What does the Internet say? Because I haven't read every comic ever I feel the need to check for repeat appearances. Turns out that Doc N-F was mentioned in 52 as having developed some of the technology that led to the Question's mask, but his name is also listed as Bart Margan, which detracts from some of my fun. Still, the stage is set!

Our next contestant is The Dummy!

As far as I can tell, The Dummy is some guy named Danny, a very short performer who poses as a ventriloquist's dummy while working tthe controls of a larger figure named Matt:

But Danny has a problem: when he walks down the street dressed as a ventriloquist's dummy after a long day of pretending to be a ventriloquist's dummy in a fairly popular show (well, popular enough that that one guy's evidently seen it twice), sometimes people talk like he's a ventriloquist's dummy.

This is not a good reason for crime, Danny the Dummy. This is a good reason to retool your act so that it involves you explicitly puppeteering Matt or maybe so that it's you operating a very small dummy while Matt's dismembered body lies on the stage behind you. Continuing to dress as a dummy and calling yourself The Dummy will still result in people referring to you in a manner that might lead you to believe that they think that you are a dummy, Danny.

What are his chances? Poor. In addition to the fact that he became a criminal for a very stupid reason and that he looks unnervingly creepy, the Dummy doesn't even fill a unique niche. Batman already has a much better ventriloquism-based villain and there's already a more notorious DCU villain named The Dummy who fought the Vigilante and killed his sidekick and stuff.

What does the Internet say? Squat. Danny is not a player.

The Hangman:

The Hangman made an appearance in Detective Comics No 355 as a wrestler who was undefeated and whose identity was unknown and had promised to reveal his identity if he was ever beaten in a fight.

And then, the Hangman starts showing up all aroung Gotham - every time that Batman investigates a crime scene, the Hangman is nearby, running away or loitering suspiciously, and of course they fight and Hangman keeps beating Batman with his awesome wrestling moves and then keeps trying to take unconcious Batman's mask off. Why all the strange behavior, Hangman? (below)




Augh! That's a terrible reason to roam the city staging crimes (it turns out that he was staging the crimes, by the way) and picking fights with a super-hero!

The Hangman turns out to be Telman Davies, a TV newsman who has a secret life as a masked wrestler, just as they often do in real life. Remember the wrestling subplots on Murphy Brown? Classic.

What are his chances? On the theme that he showcased in this story? Bleh. However, Davies was disgraced at the end of the story and had to leave Gotham. He'd have made a great recurring antagonist, trying and failing to wreak his revenge on Batman for ruining his scheme. At the very least he's visually interesting enough to make good crowd scene filler - he could pop up in villain bars and prison escapes and such.

What does the Internet say? Things aren't looking good. A Hangman has made an appearance in Batman comics in recent years, in the series Dark Victory, but it wasn't Davies. He could still get that job as an extra, I suppose, but this makes it far less likely.

It's Signalman!

Signalman is Phil Cobb, an itinerant gangster who wants to hit the big time in Gotham but just can't seem to get ahead. Being new in town, he has a really hard time making friends and inciting them to shake down local shopkeeps.

Phil is a thinking man, a cleft-chinned, green-suited pool hall-frequenting thinking man. He puts his mental muscle to work and comes up with a plan re: how to get a gang going in Gotham. What was that plan again, Phil?

He decides to gin up a reputation by emulating the  crime-style of the Joker and the Penguin! Granted, those two never seem to have any problem drumming up a gang of gangsters in Gotham, but then again they always seem to get caught or seemingly killed as a  result of their convoluted scheming and the Batman's straightforward punching. Maybe it would be a better idea to relocate to a town without a masked champion of justice, or at least with one who has never beaten Superman in a fight?

Or going completely, insanely all-out with a theme and attacking Batman head-on is another option. Signalman is of course defeated (despite his awesome cape) but I'm sure that he makes lots of friends in prison with his effective communication skills.

What are his chances? Well, this one's a little easier, since I know that Signalman made a few more appearances in the Silver Age and showed up in the Secret Society of Super-Villains and so forth. He's been treated as something of a joke for a while now but maybe his time has come. Maybe Mr Cobb has been biding his time and is about to unveil a super-cool new device that disrupts the electrical signals of the brain or takes over the Internet or something. Will 2009 be the year that Signalman comes into his own?

What does the Internet say? Man, Signalman is still around, more than I realized. He's like the new Dr Light, the joke villain that everyone makes fun of. Let's hope that he can make a better, non-rapey comeback.

Okay, one more: The Wheel.

Come on, you know The Wheel, don't you? Frank "Wheels" Foster? Gotham restauranteur? Ran a clandestine gambling den? Captured by Batman? Sent to a prison full of yokels with simple senses of humour?

The Wheel! Remember how he serendipitously escaped from prison when a truck blew a tire and came up with the best plan ever?

That's right, Frank, it's an omen! Wheel crimes, yeah! Though why gate-, truck- or laundry-based crimes were less fateful I'm not sure. I guess that the whole nickname thing meant that he already had some sort of wheel connection going on in his mind but I'd think that the merciless prison-taunting would have seen to that pretty damn quick.

I want you to note two things here, folks: this is The Wheel's first caper, the one where traditionally the villain thwarts Batman and gets away. The second time out is the one where Batman almost catches the villain but ends up with the loot. The Wheel is not fated to be doing this. Also, Batman clearly knows who he is so the mask is kind of stupid.

What are his chances? I see two chances for The Wheel. One, he can show up in an Arkham Asylum scene in a room full of wheels and clockwork and stuff as a background madman. Two, if my plans for Signalman come to fruition and he becomes cool again the Wheel can step in as the low villain on the totem pole. Heck, theyy even have basically the same costume.

What does the Internet say? Sorry, Frank. You're off the radar.

Okay folks, that's it for today. I'd like to thank all of our guests and remind them never to give up hope. You never know when you'll get the chance to shine in a prison riot or Suicide Squad mission or parody comic.

See you next time, existence-justifiers!

Breaking the Glass Ceiling...With Nunchucks!

Temping agencies have discovered a way to market themselves as something other than a last resort for broke artists and musicians.


Sure a guy can dream of being a cowboy or an astronaut or heck, Superman, but us ladies don't have such high hopes.

Iris is your average executive assistant: hot, demure, loves serving tea.

But when a business deal goes awry...

BAM! Iris fucks shit up!

Trading one racist, creepy fantasy for another? Sure! Completely trite? Of course!

But then, this comic breaks new ground.

WHAT? I've been lead to believe that's impossible! I hope Batman never meets this dude, the most perceptive random thug ever!

Anyway, don't expect a comic full of Excel spreadsheets and dry cleaning that needs to be picked up.

But do expect to be told "I'm an executive assistant" over and over again.

This Week's Haul: Superman looks good in a uniform.

A bit of a light week for me, but an awesome one nonetheless.

World of New Krypton #2

I would say that the awesome Gary Frank covers are a tease, but I actually really love Pete Woods' art. So it's win-win. And you know what else? Greg Rucka and James Robinson are doing a great job of writing this series! It would be a lot of fun to dive right into Krypton as a writer (or two) and really develop it as a place. What we have learned so far is that Kryptonians are dicks, which only further proves that Superman owes a lot of his awesomeness to Ma and Pa Kent.

Also, I really like Superman in that soldier's uniform. Rrrrow!



Wolverine: Weapon X #1

Jason Aaron returns to Wolverine writing! Yay!

I would not normally buy a comic with 'Weapon X' in the title, or even 'Wolverine,' but if Jason Aaron is writing it, I will buy a comic called "Azrael and Cable: Dark Reign Battle for the Cowl Countdown Arena Fathom." I really would.

Fortunately, I instead got to read this comic about Wolverine killing dudes. Lesson learned: do not try to mug Wolverine on a subway.


Batman Confidential #28

The only bad thing about this comic is that it's the last one in an amazing three-part story. Seriously, if anyone asks why I love Batman, or even comics, so much, I am just going to hand them these three issues (or, if DC is clever enough, the eventual trade of this story).

Batman is awesome in this story, the Riddler is awesome, and there is a brand new Bat-villain. Impressive all around! Plus amazing art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Kevin Nowlan. We need more Batman comics like this one!


Green Lantern #39

Mmmm...delicious citrus-flavoured Lanterns!

We are formally introduced to yet another Lantern Corps in this issue, the avarice-ridden Orange Corps! These guys are total assholes.

Green Lantern is consistently one of my favourite comics each week. I have really enjoyed every part of the long build-up to BLACKEST NIGHT, which I expect will be very rad.


Secret Six #8

Even without Nicola Scott on art this month, SECRET SIX was totally rad. First of all: Deadshot in a suit. Secondly, he and Scandal were gettin' romantic (not with each other). Thirdly, there is a TINY TITANS parody at the end of this comic!

 I also really like that this kind of counts as a Wolverine cover? Like all those Wolverine covers that Marvel is doing all month?


Showcase Presents: The Doom Patrol


Ever since Showcase Presents started I have been waiting for this one for two reasons:

1. I haven't read much Doom Patrol because it only is available in expensive DC Archive books;

2. This is exactly the kind of comic that should be collected in a black and white Showcase book. This is fun reading.

My favourite thing about that cover: none of them seem to be looking at that gorilla with a gun. There is something more interesting on that screen off panel!

 Things I bought but haven't read yet: EXILES #1 and SUPERGIRL: COSMIC ADVENTURES IN THE 8TH GRADE #5. Looking forward to them!


John Buys Comics, the Saga Continues

Battle for the Cowl No. 2

Okay. So Batman is (dead? missing? a caveman?)and everyone even vaguely associated with the Batman franchise is running around Gotham and some of them are dressing up like Batman and some or all of the inmates have been sprung from Arkham Asylum (again) and Commissioner Gordon has to deal with an unsympathetic new DA who doesn't cotton to vigilantes (again) and there's a gang war brewing and the Batmen are fighting and one of them is really homicidal.

Way to reset the franchise!

This isn't actually a bad comic, but it ain't anything especially new. It kind of reads like a better-written-and-drawn Knightfall or Knightbat or whatever part of that whole interminable series of comics was the birt where Azrael was the Batman.

However (SPOILERS, the rest of this sentence contains SPOILERS), way to try to tell us that Jason Todd is the murderous, unrepentant Batman and then show him fighting side-by-side with Robin as Red Robin in DC Nation. THAT DOESN'T GIVE ANYTHING AWAY AT ALL. 

World of New Krypton No. 2

You know, I've really been enjoying Superman for the last year or so - I must admit I was slow to notice that Geoff Johns was doing some neato things and really didn't start reading the Supes until the Legion and Bizarro arcs of Action had hammered the point home. One of my favourite things about the stories that have been happening since then is the fact that I have been regularly saying  "Augh, what? No, that's a terrible idea!" when I find out the next plot twist and then I read the comic and it's great. I'm really hoping that things keep on in this mould regardless of eventual creative team.

World of New Krypton seems to be delivering. Enlarging the inhabitants of Kandor? Having them make an artificial planet on the other side of the sun? Having them all be assholes? These are terrible ideas that I love. Seriously, this is great. This vision of Krypton is entertainingly alien and flawed without being the dour, frilly Byrne version, which never quite struck a chord with me. Plus, Zod.

Plus, Thought Beasts.

Thought Beasts! 

Green Lantern No. 39

Speaking of terrible ideas that make for great comics... Seriously, if someone had told me about this whole multi-Corps thing two or three years ago, well, I might have gotten excited, but I'm hardly typical. Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps have been consistently great for quite some time now, though, and the process of meeting the various Corps has been a big part of that. Jerkass Sinestro Corps? Villainously fun! Crazy, blood-spewing Red Lanterns? Gross and fun! Blue Lanterns, one of whom is basically an elephant? Also fun!

The Orange Lanterns, my friennds, do not disappoint. I will be looking forward to the next installment of this little saga eagerly.


Secret Six No. 8

It's date night for the Secret Six!

I enjoy this comic so much that it's going to get cancelled soon, I just know it. I'm sorry everyone. I'm sorry Gail Simone - you did such a good job writing such immoral, homicidal characters and making me care for them that my curse is sure to kick in any month now.

I can't think of much to say that isn't spoiler-ific, so I'll just point out that everyone is extra-delightful in this issue.



B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess No. 4

Hmm. If you were a follower of Paul and John Review you might have caught on to the fact that I am a big fan of the Hellboy comics and all of their various spinoffs and so forth. It's true, all true. I love horror comics and mysteries and mythology and people punching things that maybe they shouldn't and monsters and good writing and weird characters. To various degrees, these comics deliver on all of those. I am highly, highly in favour of Guy Davis as an artist on B.P.R.D. - his style is so far removed from Mignola's that there is no question of him being a style-copier and so his art can be apreciated on its own merits. His art is great! Also, Dave Stewart is a fantastic colourist.

Okay, so now that that's out of the way I promise not to do it every time I buy a Mike Mignola comic. Maybe I'll weigh in at the start of every mini-series, I don't know.

As for The Black Goddess, it's been highly satisfying so far. Last issue was the one that really made me sit up and go "Hot damn!" but this one - as per the cover, left - has lotsa dragons and frogs and little tidbits of information about the evolving story. That's one of my very favourite things about these series, by the way, the fact that they are a part of a very long story in which things have the potential to and frequently do change radically in the course of an issue or two. I can't deny I love the types of comics that have essentially maintained a status quo for sixty years, barring the odd Bat-Hound or two, but the act of reading a proper, evolving story fills me with delight. 

Okay, that's it! Oh, I also bought Booster Gold No 19 this week but couldn't think of much to say, other than that it was a decent read but that the events of the issue could have been handled in about two pages, except maybe what Rip was doing. It felt like trade paperback padding.

So long, folks.