Man of Steel

I haven't written in forever, but I feel compelled to add my two cents to the Man of Steel debate that is tearing Superman fans apart this month.

I liked the movie. I don't think it was a perfect Superman movie, but it was an interesting first part of a trilogy. I am glad it is doing well in theatres because I really want to see more with this cast. And we shouldn't overlook how very, very good looking Superman was in this movie. He was very good looking.

Now for some specific, spoiler-filled notes on what worked and what could have been better in this movie.

1. Krypton

I loved the depiction of Krypton in this movie. I liked that they used the idea from comics that Kryptonians are pre-programed in the "womb" to serve a specific purpose. It allows us to better understand Zod's point of view. I generally liked the style of Krypton, except for those weird 3D-image floating computer things that followed everyone around.

Russell Crowe is a brilliant scientist.
Russell Crowe is a brilliant scientist.

I actually really liked Russell Crowe a lot in this movie too. I liked his Gladiator accent and his calm, in-control persona. The movie, overall, was more the story of Krypton than a Superman origin story. Kal-El is just the innocent third party caught in the middle of a feud between Jor-El and Zod. It's an interesting approach to a new Superman series, and I was thankful that it allowed them to tell the origin story in a refreshing, non-linear format that assumed that people knew the story well enough to fill in the blanks.

2. Superman

Much like Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins, or Wolverine, Clark "Joe" Kent is a drifter for much of his young adult life, just trying to go unnoticed wherever he is. Unlike Bruce Wayne, he doesn't have a specific purpose to his journey, other than a hope to find out more about who he is and where he comes from. He obviously went to work up in the Arctic because he somehow found out that there might be a space craft there. It's not explicitly shown in the movie how he learns this, and it doesn't need to be. It's one of the things I liked about the movie: it assumed an intelligent audience who didn't need everything explained. I don't think it was lazy storytelling; I think they just wanted to get to the good stuff. I'm assuming the military guys in the bar he worked at in Nova Scotia (!!!) could have inadvertently led him to the spacecraft. He can hear everything, after all.

I loved Henry Cavill as Superman/Clark Kent. Not only was he extraordinarily handsome, he also perfectly pulled off the Superman persona. Quiet, but able to shut someone up entirely with one look or one perfect sentence. He basically makes everyone around him look and feel like complete garbage by comparison. It's not intentional. He's just way more wonderful than any of us could ever hope to be.

I think the scene where he busts through the door of the oil rig, shirtless and covered in flames, could have been extended. Just ten straight minutes of him standing there while the other guys stare at him. I would have been ok with that.

Flame grilled to perfection
Flame grilled to perfection

3. Lois Lane

Again, great casting. I liked her a lot. She was tough, she was smart, and they looked great together. I like that they set up his career at the Daily Planet at the end of the movie, but also established that Lois and Perry know exactly who Clark Kent is. It just makes sense.

"Hey, girl. How you livin'?"
"Hey, girl. How you livin'?"

As an aside, I don't mind at all changing things like that if they make more sense. The Dark Knight trilogy worked really well by creating a "real" world for the characters and mythology, and dropping aspects of the comic books that didn't fit with that world. The story of Superman (or Batman) has been told a million times by a million different writers. I welcome different interpretations. Is Man of Steel the definitive Superman origin story? No. One movie doesn't erase countless great comic books, or previous movies, or cartoon series, or radio dramas or whatever. In the world of Man of Steel, it makes sense that smart people, and especially those who are close to Superman, know who Clark Kent really is. The rest can be fooled. I liked that kryptonite was replaced by a change in atmosphere. Could there be kryptonite in the future movies in this series? Sure. Does there need to be? No. Same with the Fortress of Solitude, or ice breath. The characters were all perfectly portrayed in this movie, and that's what's important. The rest is just frivolous.

4. Zod

Michael Shannon was fantastic. Just the opposite of Superman in every way. I loved him. The fights between Zod (and the other Kryptonians) and Superman were incredible. I thought the speed and power of those battles was perfectly captured.

"Eat a dick, Jor-El"
"Eat a dick, Jor-El"

Should Superman have killed him? Probably not. If he could break his neck, he could also turn his head away from that family. Also: he can break his neck? That doesn't seem possible. I guess it is because it happened, but it surprised me. At any rate, Superman killing Zod didn't really bother me, because he was new at the hero thing, and put in a very difficult position, and was probably at the end of his rope anyway. It had been a pretty shitty couple of days. What bothered me a little is that he didn't really agonize over it. He did a bit right after doing it, but then in the next scenes he's just telling his mom he's going to be a reporter, and telling the military to leave him alone. A scene where someone is helping him work through what he did would be good. Or maybe him being upset that the whole world just about ended because of his presence on Earth? Maybe he thinks about leaving? Or living in isolation? It just seemed like a scene was missing. Also: did he help clean up any of that destruction he caused in Metropolis and Smallville? Those cities were both annihilated. It was like a thousand 9/11s up in Metropolis. He was deliberately throwing Zod into skyscrapers (the city is on the water! Use your head, Supes!). Again, a couple of aftermath scenes would have been good. If you are going to make as bold a choice as having Superman murder someone in cold blood, you really have to justify it a bit. I remember people were very upset after Batman Begins when Batman claimed that he wouldn't kill Ra's Al Ghul, but he didn't have to save him. And then Ra's died in a train crash. The cardinal rule for both Batman and Superman is No Killing, so it is alarming when it's tossed aside.

5. Pa and Ma Kent

I do think Pa Kent was more dickish about his son using his powers than he needed to be, but the man died unnecessarily in a tornado to protect his son's secret, and that's hardcore. This happened right after a car fight where Clark laid down the classic "you're not even my real father!" burn, natch.

I loved the casting of Kevin Costner and Diane Lane. They were like the movie versions of John Schneider (right down to the country music career) and Annette O'Toole. I hope Ma Kent is featured in all future Superman movies in this series.

6. Lex Luthor

It's happening. Get ready people. Next movie, for sure. Superman will learn that Earthlings can be just as psychotic as Kryptonian generals.

7. Levity

There was none. Not one moment of humour in this movie, and that was a real let-down. There was one terrible joke after Lois and Superman kissed that fell completely flat, and also was kind of a burn on Lois? Something about relationships going downhill after the first kiss, but then Superman says "that's only if you're kissing a human" or something? Lois is a human, dude. Smooth.

I think having him work at the Planet will open up more opportunities for humour in the next movie. I hope.

In conclusion, I liked the movie a lot. I would probably like it less if I weren't certain that it sets up a trilogy (at least) because obviously there were a lot of aspects of Superman that we know and love that we didn't get to see yet. I could do with more jokes and less Christ imagery, and way more Superman. Shirtless Superman, specifically. In Nova Scotia.

This should be Nova Scotia's tourism ad
This should be Nova Scotia's tourism ad

Zorro: Still sexy 50 years later

I don't make a secret of how much I love Zorro. He's exactly like Batman except Spanish and, y'know, first. Zorro is a fictional character so cool that Bruce Wayne, an even cooler fictional character, decided to base his whole life on him.

So I was pretty excited that Disney has released the complete series (two seasons, 78 episodes) of the black and white Zorro television show that ran in the late 1950s. The DVDs are part of Disney's stylish Disney Treasures series. The Zorro DVDs, divided into two sets: season 1 and season 2, come in fancy black metal boxes and include fancy collectors pins and postcards. They also include a long-winded introduction by Leonard Maltin, but fortunately my remote control includes a skip button.

The Zorro series is like the 1950s Superman series starring George Reeves, except it isn't boring and the action scenes are awesome. The opening sequence also features a bit of animation, which is pretty neat given the era. The song is awesome too. I like that it ends by repeating the word 'Zorro' to the point where the word loses all meaning. 

If you are unfamilar with the character for some reason (which means you HAVEN'T been reading the fantastic Dynamite comic series written by Matt Wagner and drawn by Francesco Francavilla despite my frequent suggestions to do so), Zorro (Guy Williams, aka Professor John Robinson from Lost in Space) is actually Don Diego de la Vega, a wealthy young man who has just returned home to California after studying abroad in Spain. A large part of his studies involved sword fighting (spoiler alert: this will come in handy later). When he returns he sees that the people of California are being ruled with an iron fist by the evil Captain Monastario. He decides that it would be a good idea to pretend to be a useless fop during the day, and transform himself into the dashing Zorro at night to fight the injustice he sees around him. This works out pretty well.

Both Zorro and Monastario are played by attractive actors, which adds to my enjoyment when they are fighting each other. In the third episode of the first season they get into a big whip fight and just start whipping the shit out of each other. You can see it around 5:45 of this colourized clip: 

Because this show holds up really well, is beautifully restored in black and white, and these are probably the only DVD box sets that Batman would own, I highly recommend.

The Simpsons Season 12: Worth Owning

I know a lot of people think The Simpsons jumped the shark well before season 12, but I disagree. I still think the show is funny now, and consider that, as high a number as it sounds, the twelfth season was barely past the half-way point for this pop culture juggernaut.

Admittedly, Season 12 doesn't contain any "classic episodes," but it does have a lot of good ones with a lot of very funny moments. I think that Season 12 is a turning point for the show, too. I wouldn't say the show gets dramatically worse, it just changes its feel quite a bit, and it has kept this new feel until the current episodes. The plots are more elaborate and absurd, the guest star cameos feel a lot more gimmicky, and the pop culture references become very current. The humour also gets a little edgier, perhaps due to increased competition from South Park and Family Guy (aka - the worst show ever).

I also want to point out that the packaging for this season is pretty nice, and is completely comic book-themed, from the exterior art to the booklet to the animated menus.

Season 12 starts with a solid Halloween episode, which includes the hilarious Night of the Dolphin short (in which Mayor Quimby delivers one of my favourite all-time Quimby lines: "People, please. We're all frightened and horny").

In fact, Season 12 has a lot of great lines. In the awesome Skinner's Sense of Snow episode, Homer and Ned have this exchange in Ned's car while Homer is driving recklessly:

Ned (nervously): It's a catchy song really wrote it?
Homer: Yeah. For Princess Di.

I mean, that is comedy gold. It's funny THREE TIMES! It's funny because Feel Like Making Love is a hilarious song for Homer to be singing at the top of his lungs while driving Ned Flanders through a blizzard at top speed. It's funny because Homer told Ned that he wrote it. And it's REALLY funny that Homer says that he wrote it for Princess Di.

The episode Pokey Mom is one of my favourites to catch in reruns. The episode guest stars Michael Keaton as an artistically talented convict that Marge takes a liking to. Other episodes of note this season: Day of the Jackanapes (the Manchurian Candidate-inspired Sideshow Bob epsiode), Worst Episode Ever (Bart and Milhouse take over the comic shop while Comic Shop Guy works on making friends), A Tale of Two Springfields (The town divides in half after a new area code is established, and The Who guest star), HOMR (Homer becomes a genius after a crayon is removed from his brain), Children of a Lesser Clod (Homer starts a daycare and gains a reputation as a perfect father), and Homer Vs. Dignity (Mr Burns starts paying Homer to do increasingly humiliating public stunts).

This season is definitely the dawn of the era where most Simpsons episodes feel more like two or three half-developed episode ideas smashed together into each episode, but that definitely gets worse in later seasons. You can still say "it's the episode where Krusty finds out he has a daughter" instead of "it's the one where a new comic shop opens up in Springfield, and also I think Marge opens a gym or something? And Homer gets plastic surgery?"

It's a good season. It's not season five good, but it's good. Still much funnier than most television comedies. I have really been enjoying watching these episodes again.

John Buys Comics - With Randomization Action!

Howdy howdy howdy. This is Johnathan and I have been problem solving. You see, I used to arrange my comics according to my general "save the best for last" policy, but found myself running out of steam with regards to the ol' reviews by the time I reached the end of the pile. In effect, I was writing a whole lot more about the comics that I wasn't as excited for and sometimes barely anything about the ones that I was all worked up about. Unacceptable, says I, so I nerded up and shuffled this week's pile and deployed some virtual dice so as to read my comics in a random fashion. Let's see how that works out, shall we?

The Unknown No. 1 (of 4)

This comic's had plenty of previews and teasers and stuff scattered around - it seems like there's a new one every time I go to the BOOM! Studios website to... acquire covers, for example. It turns out that there's a good reason for all of the hooplah, folks: this is a damn fine read. The lead character (pictured left - I am highly fond of that cover, by the way), one Catherine Allingham, is the World's Greatest Detective, a title that I can never resist. The unknown of the title is death, the one mystery that she is unable to solve. Lots of very good writing here, care of Mark Waid - as much as I love Sherlock Holmes it's nice when a World's Greatest Detective doesn't sound exactly like him, or him in drag, I guess. It's also handy that Waid throws in a couple of interesting puzzles that Allingham just powers through in instants so as to showcase her deductive skills before bringing out the very cool main mystery of the series..

Minck Oosterveer provides the pretty pictures on this one, and fine pictures they are - a nice wide range of facial expressions (and lots of variations on pissed-off). Some cool giant machines, too.

What more can I say without giving things away? Unless Billy from Family Circus is tasked to write and draw the rest of this series I can confidently say that I will be reading it.

Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers No. 1 (of 4)

I was torn over whether to buy this or not, but ultimately could not resist Lockjaw's mournful eyes. I am glad that I am powerless against dog manipulation, in this case. Heck, I'm not even out half a sandwich.

In case you aren't as easily sold on a book as I am, let me give you a tiny plot summary and Pet Avengers roster and see if you can resist.

Essentially, Reed Richards is out to find the Infinity Gems and make sure that they are kept safe and seperate. Lockjaw finds the Mind Gem but, unable to make himself understood, sets out to form a team to gather up the remaining however many Gems. The team:

Lockjaw, telporting Inhuman dog.

Redwing, Falcon's hawk, and a total dick.

Lockheed, Kitty Pride's emo dragon.

Hairball, which is what Speedball's cat has started calling himself.

Throg, who isn't Thor as a frog but a totally different froggy thunder god-type and is totally awesome. Origin inside.

And Ms. Lion, Aunt May's male, non-powered dog.

Can you resist? Can you? It's okay if you can but you'll be missing out on some fun.

Secret Six No. 9

Last second Battle for the Cowl tie-in! Catman, Bane and Ragdoll play Batman for the evening! There's lots of pretty at-night lighting and crazy fighting in this one, plus Ragdoll being creepy in a Robin outfit.

Gail Simone is one hell of a writer, folks. She writes dialogue like no one''s business and she writes action like... someone's business? Very well. She writes action very well. She has a fabulous and sadly uncommon knack for making each character speak in a distinct voice - in this case the villainous voice. A delightful villainous voice. This series is, for example, the first time that I've cared about Bane, except while playing Lego Batman.

Man, the (non-pseudoheroic) villains in this issue need to rethink their colour scheme, though. I was having a hard time keeping track of who was who, though I guess it was a moot point by the end of the issue.

Batman Confidential No. 29

I was very fond of Legends of the Dark Knight back in the day - it was home to some of my favourite Batman yarns ever ("Going Sane", woo!) and was some of the most approachable Batman around during the mid-Nineties. Therefore, I'm happy that Batman Confidential is starting to come into its own as a successor to that fine series. What with the Wrath stuff a while ago and the King Tut arc that just finished, Batman's rogues gallery is getting some neato new blood. This story might do the same - let's see how the second issue turns out.

This issue features a new Arkham inmate with anti-police tendencies, some good Joker wrting and the first evidence that I can recall of Bruce Wayne actually having had sex with anyone other than Talia al Ghul, which is heartening. Man cannot live by fisticuffs alone, after all.

Very nice artwork by Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens, by the way. Just stylized enough to look very interesting without crazying up the page to the extent that it's unreadable. It happens sometimes. Really.

Oracle: the Cure No. 3 (of 3)

Ugh. Blech. Blah.

Man, this reeked. THis series has been... okay so far but things just fell apart this issue. The plot both made no sense and felt like it was rushing to do so. There was more grousing by Barbara Gordon about her shooting - not that it wouldn't be the sort of thing to inspire introspection on anyone's part but I hadn't thought that she normally obsessed over it 24/7. Meanwhile, the cover is no longer just T&A, it's helpless, injured, does not reflect any scene in the book T&A. Actually, it's the first time the A has entered the equation, what with the chair and all. Perhaps we have found a reason for  the bizarre contortions of logic and body on the cover?

The end of this damn comic also makes no sense. Not in terms of the plot - it's at least internally consistent - but there's no reason for it. There's no reason for the miniseries, in fact - were a lot of nerds calling DC every day begging to know if tiny pieces of the Anti-Life Equation were lingering on the Internet? Was there an online petition to get the Calculator's daughter out of that coma? Arg. Also, and I think that this is an important point, there was no cure in the comic. Nobody was cured of anything. Bah bah bah. Oracle: the Calculator's Search for Alternative Medicine gets my vote for alternate title.

Screw spoilers for this sucky story. Don't read the rest of this paragraph if you feel like reading it for some ungodly reason. The last page of this thing features Oracle sternly lecturing Calculator as he is being bundled out the door by police. Meanwhile, his teenaged daughter has just come out of her coma and can't feel her legs and is crying and wailing for her daddy and Oracle couldn't give two good goddams. What the hell? I know that complaining about a fictional computer nerd acting out of character is about the geekiest thing ever but damn. This is like Spider-Man sitting down to watch an Uncle Ben-hunting TV show on the Outdoor Life Network. Okay, not that bad.

It's pretty bad.

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas No. 6

Not that I, musical plebian that I am, had any idea who Gerard Way was before I got that Free Comic Book Day Umbrella Academy preview a couple of years ago (or was it last year? Curse my human memory), but he sure does stand as an object lesson in not assuming that a famous person is going to suck when they decide to try something wildly different from what they became famous for. The Umbrella Academy is good times! Dysfunctional super-family with neato powers and wildly eccentric physical appearances good times, crazy villains with world-wrecking plots good times, Eiffel Tower on the Moon thanks to the foiled machinations of cryogenic zombie Gustave Eiffel good times. Pretty friggin’ good good times, is what I’m trying to get at. It’s not just a bunch of good weird ideas either - there’s some damn fine writing in there as well, both in terms of dialogue and plot. I was going to say that I liked the first series (arc? Volume? Dammit, this thing’s numbered 12 in the indicia. WHAT’S GOING ON?) a bit better, but on reflection I think I’m just upset about the Time Trapper being back and taking it out on stories involving time travel. Number Five’s origin a few issues ago was terrific, for example, so yeah: I like ‘em the same (a lot).

Meanwhile, Gabriel Bá is providing highly appropriate art - check out how nice all of those chimpanzees look! He shares with Mike Mignola that sense of when to ramp up the detail and when to simplify the hell out of a panel. Also, that ability to make me utterly happy on a page-by-page basis. Plus: Johnathan’s Favourite Colourist, Dave Stewart, is on hand to make things extra-pretty.

Now if only we could get more stories featuring the Horror not being dead…

The Unwritten No. 1

Well, awright. This is another comic that I’ve seen previewed around a lot lately and the previews did not steer me wrong. The story is concerned with Tom Taylor, whose father wrote a series of thirteen Harry Potter-esque novels with him as the protagonist and then promptly disappeared. Tom now makes a living appearing as his fictional counterpart at conventions and bookstores, while simultaneously trying to distance himself from the whole thing. And then weird stuff starts happening.

You know, this is a good week for comics with mysterious happenings and such. The definition of the relationship between fictional Tommy and real Tom is likely to be an entertaining one - Tom’s an asshole but not an irredeemable one, so I’m betting that there’ll be some of that good old voyage-of-self-discovery-discovery-of-one’s-true-character sort of thing. Meanwhile, you got lots of nice drawings with interesting things going on in the background (what looks to be some Tommy Taylor slash fiction or similar at a convention booth at the London TomCon, some amusing news headlines on a sidebar, etc) and honest-to-goodness authentic-seeming dialogue in a Tommy Taylor chat forum of some sort. Someone’s spent time on the Internet, hooray (sorry - that Oracle book’s still haunting me)! It also helps that the glimpses of the Tommy Taylor books and movies that we get seem like they could actually be popularly loved, thus saving my suspension of disbelief for more important matters.

Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape No. 1 (of 6)

Hey, another mystery! One deepened by the fact that I have no idea what Nemesis is all about just now or when exactly he appeared in Final Crisis - in one of the side stories that I missed? Final Crisis: Submit? Final Crisis: Insist? Final Crisis: Soft-Shoe? I have no idea, nor have I been reading Wonder Woman lately (for no good reason, especially given how much I enjoy Gail Simone), nor Checkmate nor anywhere else that he might be appearing. How he might have ended up in a comic that reads like The Prisoner: The New Class is a question that might require some homework on my part, or maybe not. I remember liking him back in my Suicide Squad reading days, so maybe that’s enough. Speaking of which, Count Vertigo’s in this book too, along withCameron Chase from, uh, Chase and a lot of references to Jack Kirby’s Omac. Well, it looks good and the first issue setup is done - it’s starting out confusing so it’s either going to come to a satisfying resolution or end in a jumbled mess like some comics about wheelchair-bound computer nerds that I could mention. Let’s watch and see, shall we?

The Redux Pile:

Demon Cleaner No. 2 - Wait, is this weekly? Neat! Demon Cleaner continues to be a good read, with plenty of monsters and monster-fighting and monstrous dialogue. Also: a much better cover than last week. There's some backstory poking through the monster-fighting this time but if monsters are what draws you there's plenty of 'em. The Cleaner's, uh, handler is a bit much on the sexpot front, with these weird lips... you know in Sin City, when someone has really poofy, lovingly-rendered lips and you know that they're supposed to look sexy but they look like maybe someone punched their owner in the mouth and they're all inflamed? They're a bit like that.

Action Comics No. 877 - More Nightwing/Flamebird, more evil conspiracy, more building toward whatever military/Kryptonian confrontation is eventually coming. Either they're introducing characters in a particularly cryptic fashion or I missed a comic, because I didn't recognize the tattoo-face girl.

R.E.B.E.L.S. No. 4 - Once again a super fun issue. R.E.B.E.L.S. is filling my Legion needs nicely while still being relevant to the present-day  DCU. Vril Dox is a bastard, Amon Hakk is my favourite Khund, Starros are everywhere. The Dominators come into the story this issue, which is great - they make terrific amoral/creepy bad guys. Just thoroughly entertaining stuff.

Green Lantern Corps No. 36 - I enjoy me some crazy aliens and Green Lantern Corps always delivers. This month more than ever, actually, as there's a prison riot on Oa whilst Sodam Yat is fighting a Mongul-led Sinestro Corps dictatorship on Daxam. All this and some family history from that nutty Sinestro. Scar appears briefly and looks creepy and not so all oily like she did during all of that "Origins and Omens" malarky. One of my very favourite things this week.

Booster Gold No. 20 - Booster Gold vs. Communism! Kind of. This was a bit of a pointless issue in terms of the overall thesis of the series - Booster had virtually no need to be involved, as far as I can tell - but a great time nonetheles. Booster in the Fifties equals fun, fun, fun.

Battle for the Cowl: Azrael: Death’s Dark Knight No. 3 (of 3) - That went pretty well. We have a new Azrael, working for a new subsect of the Order of St. Dumas and with a more… Old Testament approach to the whole Dark Knight schtick than certain batfolk. Evidently, this was a setup for a regular series, coming soon to a comic shop near you. Well, the character’s basically a blank slate and he’s been established in the Bat-Universe: the police think that he’s a murderer, Nightwing is sanctioning his activities until he screws up, Ra’s al Ghul is watching to see if he goes crazy, etc. The series, frankly, could end up being either bad or good.

B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess No. 5 - Damn but I love this series and all of its siblings. This is a the last issue in the Black Goddess sub-series, so I can’t really tell you anything that would make out-of-context sense. As is the case with such issues it’s concerned with pay-off: wrapping up the action and setting up further questions (augh! This one was a doozy of a cliffhanger and it looks like it’ll be January until the next one comes out. At least there’ll be further deliciousness in the meantime, right?).

I also got the new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book (hooray!) but haven't had time to finish it. So far: fantastic.

Good night.

It's okay! John Buys Comics is here!

Battle for the Cowl: The Network (One-Shot)

This was interesting: Oracle and what is essentially Bird of Prey II: This Time With Dudes! vs Dr. Hugo Strange, who is setting the new Batman (meaning the Batman who is supposedly Jason Todd but almost certainly isn’t and oh look he’s on the cover of next week’s Battle for the Cowl No. 3 and I don’t think that it’s Jason Todd) up for one of his famous messed-up psychological tests: three kidnapped people (crack mother, old old lady and escaped murderer claiming innocence), two of whom will be killed once the first one is rescued. Also, he’s taking bets on the side.

I liked this. I like the “Oracle with a team of people” dynamic that went away with Birds of Prey (and how long did it take Barbara Gordon to “find herself” anyway? A week?) and there’s a nice sense of the Gotham criminal underground that you don’t often get in Batman stories but that makes sense - why not form a community? Solidarity in the face of oppression!

I feel like bitching about some of the characterization but I’m not awake enough to be the angry nerd yet. Eh, Huntress lost some of the not-psycho calm that she had picked up over in Birds of Prey but at least it fit the story, for what that’s worth. I kind of wish, though, that they’d chosen to play Ragman as the loveable schlub from Shadowpact rather than as the standard creepy supernatural character who calls people “child” and such. Misfit was good, though, and it looks as though her Dark Secret has not been forgotten, so if this spins off into a series of some sort, hopefully she’ll be there.

Groom Lake No. 2

Huh. I skipped the first issue of this because it had a smoking Grey-style alien on the cover and looked like something from a university poster sale, but the partially-skeletonized puff dog on this one managed to pull me in (ag, it's the B cover - why is it so hard to find pictures of B covers? The A cover is even more poster sale). Actually, I’m kind of glad that I did it this way, as the first issue by itself is okay but the first two issues taken as a pair are a pretty decent read.

This is neat. It’s the sort of story that… you know when you have a serious set-up (in this case an X-Files-style alien/government conspiracy) in which most of the cast is playing it serious but then a couple of off-the-wall characters are dropped into the middle and it ends up being funny and plausibly actiony at the same time? This is like that, if skewing toward the funny side of things. Sure, there’s a party-alien, but he has a legitimate reason for being so. If I’d only read the first issue I might’ve complained about some of the characters being too tough and world-weary and attitudey all the time but it actually works quite well to balance out the wacky. Nice writin', Chris Ryall!

And good art, Ben Templesmith! Why are your square-headed women so appealing? Whatever the reason, I like it. All of the characters are super-distinctive and interesting and the colouring job is beautiful and odd.

Oh, and there’s even a decent explanation for alien rectal/genital probing! Finally, my questions have been answered!

Demon Cleaner No. 1

(Written before reading this) I know nothing about this comic - I bought it because books about people fighting demons (see Hellboy, Killer of Demons, etc.) are usually a good time. The Weird Rocky Horror-style lips on the cover are kind of weirding me out.

(Reading…) Hey, this is pretty good! As I figured, the Demon Cleaner is a dude who runs around offing demons who have escaped from Hell and not (as I had secretly hoped) some sort of maid service for the damned. Demons make great villains, by the way, even better than Nazis, as the occasional Nazi can turn out to be just misled, whilst demons are pretty much the definitive bad guys. And they can generally come back again after you kill ‘em, too, which makes for a good antagonistic relationship. Miles Gunter wrote this one and did a good job with his bunch of entertainingly assholey rich people who gathered to eat demons for their medicinal value and (oh the wit) ended up biting off more than they could chew. The demons are pretty good too, especially the one who must inhabit organic matter in order to have a body - look out for the watermelon-demon, aiee!

And it looks real pretty, too. It appears that Antarctic Press is classifying it as a manga but to mine eyes it occupies the same Art Deco-descended niche as Darwyn Cooke’s work on The Spirit. Anyway, it looks nice and the monsters are cool and nicely kinetic. Also, Victor Santos draws a nice skeleton. And! This is two comics in a row with really nice mood-enhancing colouring.

Final Crisis Aftermath: RUN! No. 1 (of 6)

Okay, so my initial reason for reading Battle for the Cowl was a semi-masochistic impulse to take a bad-comic bullet for the LBW team, but that’s not working out because one the whole I’m enjoying them. Therefore, I’m going to read all of the Final Crisis Aftermath books as well. I actually have no idea if they’re going to be good or bad or what - the mess that was Countdown and the other books leading up to Final Crisis (generally - I kind of liked Salvation Run) has left me cynical about this sort of thing but on the other hand I really like the Aftermath focus characters. On the third hand, I liked them as Morrison characters, so I guess we’ll see how well someone else ends up writing them. We’ll call it cautious optimism for now. Anyway, as previously detailed I like the Human Flame, so let’s see how a series about him getting his comeuppance for being the kind of douchebag that films someone’s death on a camera phone goes…


All right! This was exactly what I was hoping for: the misadventures of a total dick. The Human Flame is the most unrepenetant asshole in the DCU, I think. If Sturges and Williams can keep this going for six issues it’ll be a hoot. Basically everyone is after this guy - the heroes, the villains, the Kyrgyzstani Mafia, possibly his tiny daughter - and he just keeps compounding things by acting like a bigger and bigger douchebag. Also: the return of that one uncostumed guy from his debut! Also… is Firestorm a white guy again or was that a colouring error?

Power Girl No. 1

Okay, this was great. Power Girl has had it bad for a while but if this series continues in this vein then she’s in good hands. I bought the cover pictured here and I swear, not for the boobs (though they are impressively colossal). Rather, for that fantastic facial expression and for “It’s okay! Power Girl is here!”, which is pretty much the best catch phrase ever and I hope is employed frequently.

Anyway, good writing job here - Power Girl is forceful without being the cranky-pants that she was in the old days. This Power Girl is no more likely to appreciate Wally West grossly hitting on her than the Justice League Europe version but, I don’t know, wouldn’t be as abrasive about it? Does that make sense? Basically, I like her as a character as much as ever but now I could probably have a conversation with her. Aha! I’ve worked it out: Power Girl now has a sense of humour!

One very good thing about this comic is the reintroduction of PG’s Karen Starr identity. For a while, what with all of the origin revisions and such, it was just one writer after another tearing down aspects of her character: she wasn’t Kryptonian, then she ditched her secret identity, then she was Atlantean for a while and then not Atlantean at all, etc, etc. It’s nice to have her as a cool businesswoman with interesting employees and an apartment and so forth. Also, her insane cat shows up for a couple of panels. Also also, Ultra-Humanite.

Jersey Gods No. 4

Oh man, this is such a good comic. When I read the preview back in... where the heck did I read that preview? in the back of an issue of Invincible, I think. In any case, all I was expecting was a comic about Kirby-esque gods and in-law jokes, which would have been great enough. This, though... Dan McDaid and Glen Brunswick have put together one hell of a comic. It manages to capture that great excessively weird epic quality that Kirby god-stuff had (in Thor or New Gods, take your pick). I mean, it's easy enough to whip off a plot about some ineffable cosmic being with metal gauntlets and dotted powers but hot damn! There's a very cool story taking shape here, with big 'ol flashbacks to the god-history of the past and everything. And the fashion-focused  Earth plot is good too, though I expect that it's going to require some godly intervention soon.

Of course, my absolute favourite part was the meeting of Fusion and Union, who obviously knew who each other were but still felt the need to shout "I am Fusion!" and "I am Union!"

The Zombies that Ate the World No. 3 (of 8) 

You know, at this point there are so many zombie comics floating around that I wouldn't necessarily grab a new one but this has two things going for it right off the bat: a great title and Guy Davis, who draws such pretty pictures that I would be into at least the first issue of anything he cared to put his pen to. Lucky for my easily-led brain, this is an entertainingly weird tale of a world where zombies and humans live together in a weird, dysfunctional society. This issue: focus on the Belgian! Andd I can't find the cover!

Fin Fang 4 Return! (One-Shot)

Okay, so acedemically i know that there are good things going on at marvel Comics that aren't just a portion of some giant crossover. Still, I'm having a hard time shedding my anti-Marvel reactionary stance. Rachelle keeps suggesting stuff, so maybe someday...

This, though... the Marvel Monster Group (or whatever) comics from a few years ago were fantastic, and the Fin Fang Four were the very best. And this? This is a comic to buy and treasure and dig out when you are at your very lowest point and yyou need to remember that the world contains pure unadulterated delight. And the stories inside are arranged by delightfulness! By the time I got  to "How Fin Fang Foom Saved Christmas" I was basically vibrating with joy! Giant monsters and also Wong forever!

Atomic Robo: Shadow From Beyond Time No. 1 (of 5)

I really like coincidences. For instance, I once read a webcomic and it mentioned someone I went to university with and then the next week I realized that the blog I was reading was by the same person's brother and then the next week I found out that she was in Halifax and we went out for Eggs Benedict. How can you not enjoy a world so full of interestingness?

In a far less personal way, I was a fan of both Atomic Robo and 8-Bit Theater before I realized that Brian Clevinger wrote both of them. I guess that "being unobservant" isn''t much in the way of coincidences but still: neat. Atomic Robo is basically the perfect Johnathan comic, except for the absence of forty to sixty years of continuity. Just wait, though.

This new series looks to be just as great as the prior two. It takes place in Atomic Robo's formative years and features both Charles Fort and my old friend H.P. Lovecraft  (in a delightfully frenetic and... Lovecraftian role). One issue in and I'm delighted. I have no doubt that the next four will be just as good (the Free Comic Book Day Atomic Robo was my favourite free comic book of all).

Astro City: Dark Age Book Three No. 1

Ag. This is my last book of the day - I must stop arranging these things by anticipation. If you truely want to know what I think about this after reading it check back on Friday.

(Bah, this edit is happening on Saturday) I love Astro City. Astro City is consistently what a comic book should be. A super-hero comic book, that it. And you might not agree, as is your right (but I will look askance at you). It's like Kurt Busiek sneaks into my room at night and listens to my disjointed sleep-ramblings about my comic-related hopes and dreams and then sneaks home and writes this. Fascinating and still-evolving continuity? Check. Interesting and novel characters with intriguing motivations? Check. A crazy-interesting multi-volume story that is also an extended metaphor for the shifting fates and trends of the super-hero comic book industry? Yep. Unalloyed delight? Double-check.

So this issue features Charles and Royal, the Odd Couple-ish brothers at the heart of The Dark Age on their next step on the path to vengeance during the troubling 1970s and 80s in Astro City. We got Cleopatra and Pyramid and all kinds of interesting things going on but as usual it's background to the more personal stuff that's happening. Royal's in training as a henchman for Pyramid, which is great, as henchmen are fascinating.

Astro City, my friends. You can't beat it, I swear.

Aha - we’re starting to come to some comics that I’ve talked about before. Maybe I’ll just do a little blurb about things like that instead of the whole shebang, unless something big happens, of course. Or maybe if they come out really sporadically. Or if I like them a lot. Okay, sometimes there will be blurbs and here’s one now:

Strange Adventures No. 3 - More fun with DC’s space heroes. Still a good time but I reckon I’d be getting more out of it if my knowledge of alla this stuff was more complete. As usual, it’s fun to buy a comic with the same name as the store I’m shopping at.

Irredeemable No. 2 - Woo! Still great! This issue follows Kaidan, a neato super-hero with a very cool power (and an adorable costume in the flashback that starts the issue) as she seeks out info from rogue hero The Plutonian’s girlfriend. I’m really digging this series - looks like it won’t just be the standard tale of possession by an evil spirit or what have you but a really interesting look at what could drive someone so good and so powerful to be monstrously evil. With lots of terrific characters, to boot!

The Life and Times of Savior 28 No. 2 - Another very interesting examination of the superhuman condition, this time looking at Savior 28, an ultra-patriotic type who turns to the way of pacifism and gets assassinated for it. Well-told and well-drawn, and I think that maybe it’s based on the original “let’s kill Captain America” plot as detailed in Was Superman a Spy? (I read it! It’s good!) and here.

World of New Krypton No. 3 As I said last time: this book keeps on being good and I like it. This time there’s more Labor Guild Civil Rights Movement action and possibly the first time Alura hasn’t acted semi-insane for more than a panel or two. Kal-El just keeps on showing up the Kryptonians on the morality front, too. I’ll bet a dollar right now that most of the population of New Krypton end up back in a bottle by the end of all of this, though.

Killer of Demons No. 3 (of 3) -  Fun! Dave wrote about this one a couple of weeks ago and what he said still stands. Looks like this one is  going to keep on , maybe in a series of miniseries or a regular series or something. Featuring: Heaven and Hell signing what is perhaps the most unbalanced pact ever!

Seaguy No 2 (of 3) - What? Grant Morrison has written something delightful and perplexing? Has the world gone topsy-turvey? Bull-dressing is the best sport ever, is what I say. Viva El Macho!

The Flash: Rebirth No. 2 - Ag! This is very interesting! Don't kill off all of the speedsters, Geoff Johns! Otherwise... carry on.

Sleep well, champs!

John Buys Comics During Wolverine Week

Hello all. It's me, Johnathan, with the Wolverine Week edition of John Buys Comics. Uh, it turns out that I didn't buy any comics that feature Wolverine this week, so instead I'll be adding a bit at the end of each review that highlights any particularly Wolverine-reminiscent aspects of the comics involved. Yeah! Thematic!

Nevermore No. 1

This might be properly titled Dean Koontz's Nevermore, but the copy I have here omits the "'s" part, so I have no idea. Maybe they thought that it was too mid-Nineties of them to call it that, or maybe they didn't want to step on American McGee's toes.

I have to admit that I've never read anything by Dean Koontz. Not for any good reason, just an instinctual avoidance of books where the author's name is as or more prominent than the title (elitist! cries my inner agitator). My girlfriend says that she found him readable at age fourteen, so I'll use that as my opinion until I find some way to form my own.

Anyway, this is a decent comic. As you may have guessed from the multi-globed cover there''s some pan-dimensional travel involved and I'm a fan of that sort of thing. It's handled pretty well... not as well as that episode of Star Trek with Evil Goatee Spock but as well as the average episode of Sliders. As you can see, there are no super-hero-esque costumes, so I had to identify the characters as Big White Guy, Big Black Guy, Bigger White Guy, Little White Guy and The Girl. So it takes me two or three issues to learn the characters' names, so sue me.

Wolverine Moment: All of the characters get a chance to talk tough on page one. Little White Guy is the toughest but The Girl and Big White Guy get the best lines.

Mister Universe (One-shot)

 I must admit to some confusion.

I read Mister Universe. I liked the art, I enjoyed the dialogue, etc, etc. I don't have any sort of idea, though, what the thesis of this comic is supposed to be.

The plot concerns a teenage(?) boy who enjoys comics. A lot. He likes them enough that his parents are concerned for his sanity and call in the shrinks. But are they wrong to begrudge him his imaginative refuge? Is he a mental defective for his devotion to the titular Mister Universe? I haven't a clue. I'm tempted to say that the kid is the one in the right because he lives in a comic book but then again this isn't 1963 and it's perfectly possible to write a comic book that attacks the process of reading super-hero comics.

Bah. I don't know. I liked this book on one level but it didn't even leave me with enough information to make up my own mind. It was just some story, I don't know.

Wolverine Moment: Precipitated a Very Serious Discussion about the role of mind-bending drugs in medicine with my girlfriend, much like the talks I used to have with my friend Todd over whether a true super-hero would kill (Wolverine, Punisher examples).

Conan the Cimmerian No. 10

Seeing as how I managed to mention Robert E. Howard in each of my last two posts I figured that it was time to pick up a Conan comic and see how they were doing with the old fellow. Turns out I snagged a comic that takes place smack dab in the midst of a story arc, and one based on one of my favourite Conan yarns, "Black Colossus".

I think that I might like this comic more if I hadn't read the original story. By which I mean that I like the originals enough that an adaptation can't really hope to compete - new Conan stories would be more well-received by my brain than adapted ones unless the adaptation is flawless.

That said, this is a pretty decent book. The art is good, with Conan's facial expressions being a high point. Also, he has his own speech balloon style. Negative points for the absence of giant snakes, without which a Conan story just doesn't seem complete.

Bonus! a "Two-Gun Bob" comic about the life of Robert E. Howard! I thought I'd seen the last of these (excellent) things after the end of the (excellent) Solomon Kane series!

Wolverine Moment: Conan chops off some dude's fingers for stealing a drumstick off of his roast... lizard? rat? squirrel? Beast.

Mr. Stuffins No. 1

I heard about this a couple of months ago and thought “A teddy bear secret agent, eh? This is either going to be pretty awesome or pretty terrible.” Turns out: pretty awesome!

Exactly how a teddy bear secret agent comes to be is a bit of a plot point, so I won’t spoil. There aren’t anthropomorphic toys everywhere or anything like that, not that that wouldn’t make for a decent comic if done right, like a technothriller version of Kingdom of the Wicked.

Actually, I’m having trouble thinking of things that happened in this book that I can talk about without spoiling, so I’ll just say that the characterization is excellent. Kids: well-written. Parents: well-written. Bullies, rebellious teens, villains: check check check.

Wolverine Moment: Mr. Stuffins and Wolvie have a lot in common. This bear wishes that he had adamantium claws. He interrogates a pink bunny and you know that he’d be doing that thing that Wolverine does with his fist under a guy’s chin, where he talks about decanting his claws into the guy’s head? You know the thing I mean - he’d be doing that.

Battle for the Cowl: The Underground

Huh. This is an interestingly in-betweeney installment in the saga of the cowl-battling. It’s kind of one of those “state of Gotham” comics that I was whining about last week but manages to tie into the actual plot more than, say, the Man-Bat story did.

This issue deals with the seamy underbelly of Gotham City; it checks in on all of the gangs and the random criminals and such. Black Mask and Two-Face and the Penguin are all going at it tooth and nail while everyone tries to figure out how Black Mask managed to cheat death or if it’s a totally different guy under there. Actually, I’m wondering less about that and more about when Harvey Dent is going to put on that Two-Faced Batman costume from the promo ad. Probably soon, as he’s acting pretty crazy.

The homicidal Batman puts in an appearance, guns a-blazin' but his aim isn’t very good - at least this guy has a better costume than Azrael-Batman did back in the day. And speaking of good costumes, the Riddler is in this one! He gets tasked to track down Black Mask by the Penguin and basically sets up Gotham Sirens while doing so. I like this good-guy detective Riddler, especially as compared to the super-homicidal version that was running around a few years ago. I lied about the costume though - this is one of the worst suits I’ve ever seen him in.

Wolverine Moment: There’s a lot of car-smashing in this comic. I seem to associate Wolverine with vehicular collateral damage.

The Muppet Show Comic Book No. 2

This is a good comic and I am very happy about it. It’s always a bit wrenching when something you loved as a child (or later) is adapted into something awful but that didn't happen here, thank heavens. The Muppets are putting on a show, there are backstage hijinks interspersed with skits and such and that’s it. There’s no attempt to make the Muppets hip and trendy, no slavish devotion to the TV show’s guest star-centric format, funny jokes and Pigs in Space.

Man, there was nothing bad here: I wasn’t too sold on the comic’s version of Statler and Waldorf in the first issue but this one clinched it - I suppose that constant heckling is harder to work into a comic format, which I can understand. Fozzie has a crisis of faith in his abilities and ends up telling one of the best Shakespeare jokes ever. Rolf looks absolutely adorable.

Wolverine Moment: Waldorf has a dark secret! From his mystery-shrouded past!

Superman No. 687

I sorted through this week’s stack of comics at my girlfriend’s house, which is why she keeps coming up this week. She offered up all kinds of helpful commentary, mostly along the lines of “Yep, the women are pretty busty in this one too.” This comic caught her eye, though, as Superman is pretty much the only super-hero that she has anything invested in, so I got to explain that Superman wasn’t actually in the comic with his name on the cover and that it was nevertheless a good read. I don’t think that she bought it, but it turns out I was telling the truth. Much like what’s going on in all of those Battle for the Cowl books, this issue is sort of a rundown of what’s up in Metropolis now that Superman’s off being an army guy on New Krypton. Only in one issue instead of ten or fifteen one-shots.

Mon-El is still settling into his roles in the Science police and as Metropolis’ defender, Zatara is a dick and there are villains all over the place. Lots of promising groundwork was laid - here’s hoping it all pays off in future issues.

I was going to say that my favourite part of this issue was that the Untouchables showed up, because I love those guys, but I think it might be that cover. Check it out: there’s a tiny little reflection on the Guardian’s helmet in addition to the one on his shield. That makes me so happy for some reason.

Wolverine Moment: I’m pretty stumped here. Uh, the Guardian is really old, just like Logan?

Sherlock Holmes No. 1

I love Sherlock Holmes, folks. Sherlock Holmes stories are terrific - I reread them every couple of years and don’t get tired of doing so. That said, it’s really easy to write him badly or only half-right. Like… that Brave and the Bold episode with him and the Demon. Holmes was too much of a dick and too sloppy with his deductions (not that I didn’t enjoy it - it was a cartoon, for heavens’ sake. It just wasn’t the best Holmes). Anyway, Leah Moore and John Reppion write a good consulting detective: not an ass but not given to social niceties, fond of Watson instead of browbeating him all the time, etc. For that matter, they write a good Watson: not stupid, just not a relentless deducting machine. The art (Aaron Campbell) is suitably lovely as well, though I’m a bit disappointed that Inspector Lastrade looks nothing like either a ferret or a bulldog.

And there’s a very compelling mystery! I am very intrigued! Hooray!

Wolverine Moment: Well, after all: Sherlock Holmes is the best there is at what he does.

Green Lantern No. 40

More Orange Lantern fun as the Guardians head into the Vega system. I must say that I like this Larfleeze as the reason for the Green Lantern Corps staying out of Vega - it always seemed like guys like the Citadel and the Spider Guild would have went down like a wet tissue if the Corps had stepped up.

But I went on about all of this Lantern stuff last week. I shan’t bore you with a repeat performance. In brief: we get to see a bit of how the Orange power works in this issue and I’m still interested. We’ve only got the Indigo Lanterns to go and there have been no duds yet - all of the various Corps have an individuality that both distinguishes them from one another and makes me want to read more about ‘em. There’s a Tale of the Orange Lanterns at the end of this book that was pretty fun - I swear, if DC started putting out a book that was just Tales of the Various Lantern Corps I’d buy it every month. Those things are a hoot.

Wolverine Moment: This is starting to get hard… okay: one of the Green Lanterns is totally defiant of authority, in a gruff way.

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds No 4 (of 5)

Hot damn! Took a while but this one was worth it, what with the super-duper concentrated Legion-ness on every page. Bart Allen is back, as of the end of the last issue, and kicking plenty of Superman/boy Prime ass. There’s lots of great interaction between the alternate versions of various Legionnaires, particularly the Brainiacs 5. Er, Brainiac 5s? Brainiac Fives? I’m kind of sad that the Legion of Super-Villains doesn’t get more face time but what can you do? It’s a bigger-than-average book already and filled with lotsa plot. Heck, there are two whole dramatic reveals, including one that makes me unsure about how I feel about (see Comments Section).

Once the last issue of this comes out (in August?) I’m going to read ‘em all again. I think that I’ve been losing some of the threads and also want to check whether it actually ties into the regular Final Crisis. This and Rogues’ Revenge were definitely my favourite parts of the whole event, in any case.

Wolverine Moment: I don't know, Timber Wolf? Probably Timber Wolf.

Was Superman a Spy?

Hey hey hey! This is a more-words-than-pictures-style book by Brian “Comic Book Legends Revealed” Cronin. I just bought it last night so I haven’t really gotten a chance to read it yet but I’ve been enjoying his bunking or debunking of the urban legends of the comic scene for a couple of years now and can’t imagine that the transition from computer  to paper will make the contents any less delightful. Plus, the back cover blurb claims that there are a passel of new legends inside, so hooray for that. I’m a big fan of buying the book form of things that I enjoy on the Internet. If the DCU version of Johnathan managed to avoid getting Anti-Life Equationed during Final Crisis when the Internet got infected then you can bet a dollar that he was reading some Perry Bible Fellowship or the like in convenient book form. And now this lovely (did I mention the cover? The cover is very nice) volume can go on his “in case of event-related interweb failure” bookshelf!

Wolverine Moment: As I said, I haven’t read most of it yet. Pages 143 to 159 are devoted to the X-Men, though, so I bet that it’s in there.