John Buys Comics

I’m a bit out of sorts today, so forgive any lameness in the ol’ writing.

Chew No. 1

They had me at the house ad. A couple of weeks ago, Image slapped an ad for Chew on the back of… something, probably Invincible, and I knew that I’d be buying it. Standard detective fare doesn’t generally turn my crank, but show me a book where the investigative role is filled by something oddball (a dinosaur in a human suit, a fictional character who has emerged from a historical novel, a gang of computer nerds in a camper van, etc.) and I’m a pretty easy sell. There’s something about the mystery genre that benefits from the addition of strangeness. This is probably why I like Detective Chimp so much.

In Chew, the oddball investigator is one Tony Chu, who is ‘cibopathic’, meaning that he receives psychic impressions from virtually anything that he eats and therefore that he doesn’t eat much of anything at all. Tony’s world is slightly different from our own (outside of the psychic power thing) in that the US government’s response to the non-starting bird flu epidemic was to ban chicken. So: the story opens with hungry vice cop Tony Chu staking out a chicken speakeasy. I would be sold on this book already, so if you’re not, I don’t know what else to say.

This is another one of those terrific creator-owned books from Image that I’ve been loving so much recently. John Layman’s written a pretty great intro to the setting and characters here, with a throwaway mystery to showcase the amazing gustatory detection of Mr. Chu. Nice pacing, good characterization - heck, you really get a sense for the plight of a justice-seeking, eternally-hungry grump. Rob Guillory’s the guy on art and colour and is extremely well-suited to the book, particularly in his command of facial expression and body language. Likewise, he lays down some highly appropriate and super evocative colours. See? This is the lame writing thing kicking in. It was great: the art was great, the colours were great. The story was great. The premise is great.


Secret Six No. 10

Woo! Now this is what I am talking about. The past nine issues of Secret Six have been great and all but have featured the Six in what is basically a heroic role - they’re after the Get Out of Hell Free Card but so are a lot of much less savory people, or they’re killing potential child-killers or whatever. The point is that they weren’t doing anything that, say, the Outsiders wouldn’t get up to but the methods and dynamics that came into play were different because the people that were doing it were amoral villain types. Now, not that I had anything wrong with that setup - I’d be pleased to read more adventures of the Semi-heroic Six - but it’s really quite refreshing that this storyline revolves around the team signing up with what are very clearly some bad bad dudes and that the choice is not how they will go about achieving their reasonably good ends but exactly how evil they are prepared to be; how compromised they are going to allow themselves to become for the sake of a job. Moral ambiguity, yeah!

Superman: World of New Krypton No. 4

Heh, I just noticed that this sucker doesn’t have an “of 8” or what have you after the issue number. Clever ploy to obfuscate the exact length of this “World Without a Superman” dooflappy? Don’t worry: even if it is, Dan Didio will spill the beans on Superman’s return to Earth well in advance (if he hasn’t already, that is). As with Jersey Gods, I’m really enjoying this ongoing look at the workings of an alien society, all stitched together out of the Kryptonian history that’s built up over the last seventy years (“Ooo, a Byrne-style Kryptonian! And an allusion to the old story about all of the black people on Krypton living on an island!”). Seeing the Green Lanterns interacting with this new society was a good time, though I’m a bit confused - over in Strange Adventures folks are having a hard time raising Oa on the space radio due to all of the craziness happening with “Prelude to Blackest Night” stuff. Is this happening before that? After? I’m normally pretty willing to look the other way on minor continuity gaffes but if this book synchs up with that crossover just in time for a bunch of Black Lanterns to show up I may slowly raise one eyebrow.

You know, just this week I was talking about Mon-El’s space-explorin’ Daxam vs. Sodam Yat’s xenophobic Daxam and wondering which one Mon-El came from in current continuity. Like, is he a sociological anomaly or did someone forget to recon him? Judging by Yat’s reaction to hearing about him, my questions may soon be answered. Yay, closure!

Batman and Robin No. 1

Terrific! New Batman! Basic Batman! Fighting guys, detecting, gadgets! Sure the team is Dick Grayson and Damien but so what? Batman and Robin chase down a guy named Mr. Toad in their flying Batmobile - this is enough for me.

Morrison’s doing a helluva job here: he’s unleashing some of his trademark weirdness but it’s focused and channeled into making the bad guys suitably freakishly weird for a Batman yarn. Meanwhile, Dick Grayson is easing into the Bat-role and Damien is happily not just a one-note spoiled brat. He’s a good addition to the Bat-team, that Damien. I’m sure that Tim Drake would have fit quite snugly into the role of Robin in this series but there have been a veritable legion of stories featuring Nightwing and Robin palling around. I certainly hope that Tim has some role in the Bat-books but this Damien thing is definitely pregnant with story potential.

Good job, DC. I was extraordinarily skeptical at first but it looks like you pulled it off: you broke down Batman and then killed him off in a very heroic manner while still leaving open the possibility of his return, you churned up Gotham and established the status quo with the whole Battle for the Cowl brouhaha and you started fresh with a new Batman and Robin without having to resort to retcon or reboot. I mean, if any character needed some sort of massive change and was more resistant to it thanks to the baggage surrounding him then I can’t name ‘em, and only one really shitty series in the bunch!

Oh, and Quitely’s art is both great and very much contributing to the fresh feeling of the whole thing. I’m foregoing my normal cautious optimism for the full-blown, rose-coloured, glass-half-full, uncut real stuff. Don’t break my heart, guys.

Jersey Gods No. 5 - I like this comic so much - I wish I had new good things to say about it. It’s still astonishingly fun epic/cosmic Kirby-esque but not Kirby-derivative stuff, full of action and fun. Much like the best Kirby stuff, I want to find out more of the history of the gods of Neboron, so I’m happy to see that the historical backup story is returning next issue, especially as the story looks to be moving to Earth for a time. Important Question: when Fusion and Union join… what the heck do they call themself?

Strange Adventures No. 4 (of 8) - Nothing new to say, really. Still a fun comic; still all spacey. The most impressive thing about this issue was the backup story, which supplied Lady Styx with an origin and thus made it possible for me to give two craps about her. Seriously, she was almost painfully generic before. Is there hope for her now? Possibly.

Irredeemable No. 3 - We get a little closer to the reasons for The Plutonian’s breakdown and turn to wicked evil. There’s no sign of this comic losing momentum, folks. Now: can I figure out what’s going on before it’s explicitly spelled out for me?

Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! No 2 (of 6) - Well well well… I was liking this before and I like it even more now. I was expecting a steady slide into desperation and hardship for old Mr. Human Flame but it looks like he’s in for more a roller coaster ride, which is great! ZOOM! The depths of degradation! ZOOM! The heights of joy! ZOOM! Back down again! Plus (and he’s on the cover so it’s only a semi-spoiler) General Immortus, who doesn’t get used enough, and Condiment King, who definitely doesn’t get used enough. It absolutely makes sense for a world full of superhumans to have super-losers, and Condiment King is possibly my fav’rit.

Okay, I have company so this is it. I might write more about this stuff later so I'll list what else I bought this week. If you really care what I think, come back in a day or so. Maybe.

I did it! Compulsive behavior, yay!

Captain Blood No. 1

It’s a good sign when an adaptation makes me want to read the original work. Okay, I guess sometimes it’s because the adaptation is so bad - Postman the movie, I’m looking at you - but in this case I just want to check out the aspects of the story that had to be left out in order to fit the comic book format.

If you have an irrational fear of black and white comics, I guess that you should avoid this one, but I also thumb my nose at you. Michael Shoyket is the man on art here and his style is looking goooooood sans colour. Actually, this might be one of those “sketch variants” that I hear so much about nowadays (uh, that Tiina mentioned that one time last week, rather), as the art is uninked as well, so don’t blame me if you buy a copy and it’s all colourful and stuff.

Issue numba one deals with the rise of Captain Blood, from soldier to doctor to slave to pirate. Blood is an interesting figure, a learned and complex man who doesn’t look like he’ll be ravishing wenches any time soon. Matthew Shepherd does a fine job on the writing/adapting front - another reason that I want to check out the original: to check out which of those two arts he is practicing more. Neal Stephenson fans take note that the events of Captain Blood take place at about the same time as the Baroque Trilogy. Look, it’s Jefferys, the hanging judge! Anyone? Am I the only one who’s read that damn series?

Werewolves on the Moon (versus Vampires) No. 1 (of 3) - I passed up a zombie western genre-mash comic this week because it didn’t look entertaining enough to justify the six dollar price tag, so how could I pass up a comic about Werewolves vs. Vampires on the Moon for only three-fifty?

This is a pretty great comic. The jokes are good, the drawings are suitably amusing without being flat-out goofy and everyone involved is absolutely unapologetic about the premise. Of course werewolves want to get to the moon. Of course the vampires that are already up there aren't too happy about it. Yay!

Dead Run No. 1 (of 4) - Not that this isn’t a tremendously lazy way to describe things, but this is like Transporter plus Mad Max. You’ve got a tough-as-nails, cool-as-ice courier saddled with an unwanted female companion and attempting a nigh-impossible task in a post-apocalyptic wasteland while being stalked by deformed thugs in jury-rigged vehicles. It’s exactly as good as it sounds. Uh, which is pretty darn good, if you’re me. And I am.

Astro City: the Dark Age Book Three No. 2

Man, Astro City. I didn’t really get to say too much about this when the last issue came out due to, you know, life (my girlfriend is wonderful and tolerant and never gives me grief about my hobby or the time I spend on the blog, but there’s only so much reading and writing about comics that I can do in an evening without feeling like a big dumb neglector. Someday I will get a big grant and spend all day doing this stuff, if I can finally catch that dang leprechaun). I love Astro City, unconditionally. I love the Alex Ross covers (Alex Ross plus new characters equals great) and the extensive and eternally-unfolding history and all that. The only time that I was ever glad to hear about someone getting mercury poisoning was in the context of that being the reason for the long hiatus in this comic. Man, that sounds bad. Okay, I wasn’t glad that Kurt Busiek was poisoned so much as that there was an external reason for the disappearance of Astro City and that it would return. Maybe I should edit out the poison part of this review.

Astro City: The Dark Age has been a damn good time - as I mentioned last week, it’s both a trip through a portion of the history of Astro City and an examination of themes and trends in the comics industry itself, as the innocence of the Silver Age(nt) gives way to the darker, more violent days of the late Seventies/early Eighties. Busiek’s been focusing on the people on the street rather than the heroes and villains for a while now, so you get to piece together the histories of fascinating characters like the Apollo Eleven bits and pieces at a time while following the perilous history of brothers Charles and Royal as they seek vengeance for their parents’ deaths. Blah blah blah. It's good! I want to convey that it's good and I'm just running my mouth (fingers) off. Rah rah rah!

Atomic Robo: the Shadow from Beyond Time No. 2 (of 5) - Remember how happy I was about this comic the last time? It’s still just as great as I said in every way, except that HP Lovecraft’s head is now a giant monster, so he’s not babbling so much. IN ADDITION: these great things occur: a) since Lovecraft’s head is now a giant monster there is a giant monster running around wearing a human body like a little hat. b) While fighting the Lovecraft-beast, Robo has a highly entertaining father/son-style phone call with Nicola Tesla. c) Lightning guns. d) A backup feature that takes the form of a fairly hostile article about Robo and that I hope continues in a future issue. May Atomic Robo have a long and glorious life.

The Muppet Show No. 3 (of 4) - Man, this just keeps on being great. A Gonzo-centric issue, with a couple of decent songs and the usual high joke quality. This is the issue that really underlines the love that Roger Langridge has for these durned puppets, which is probably a big contributing factor to the quality of this series. Also: there’s a Generic Pig Muppet on the cover, near Gonzo’s cape on the left. I have an irrational fondness for Generic Pig Muppets, so hooray.

Seaguy No. 3 (of 3) - This is where Grant Morrison is putting all of the weirdness that he’s not using in Batman and Robin. Is it confirmed that he planned Seaguy as a three-part tale? I mean, it could easily end here but I can definitely stand to have more of this. What the heck is going on? What’s with Mickey Eye? Wait and see, I guess.

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.

Super-Human Detritus of the Thirtieth Century: Review of the Molecular Master, By Johnathan

Ha ha! I have returned, overcoming a month's worth of illness, romance and computer failure to bring you the tale of a plucky little guy by the name of Molecular Master! Here, look at him sitting around in Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes No. 201:

Such a good-looking era in Legion art - check out the lovely Infectious Lass and the homely-as-sin Porcupine Pete, as well as those way-cool chairs! I want those chairs, but maybe not in orange.

Molecular master gets to try out third, after Infectious Lass has made Star Boy barf and Porcupine Pete has studded the whole damn place with quills - note their abundant presence above. Which, actually, is kind of gross. I know a few people who would have to leave that room pretty quick-like after they realized that it would be like being in a big pile of toenail clippings or used hair or whatnot.

I don't know how I feel about the Molecular master's power:

That's a pretty old conception of what an atom looks like, MM. I do like the Kirby dots, though.

Also, i think that that might be a carbon atom, which is kind of boring. I just don't know...why does making an atom really big make it all crackly and energy-tastic? are all of my atoms doing that right now? And what does he do with the really big atom, anyway? Split it?

And just why the hell isn't he called the Atom Master, anyway? Gosh darn it, I want scientific accuracy fro my minor Seventies Legion characters! Isn't this the magazine that brought us the Chlorophyll Kid, causing literally dozens of youngsters to know that chlorophyll has something to do with plants? Oh, the shame.

So anyway, Molecular Master makes it through the first portion of the Legion application without anyone bellowing "REJECTED!" at him. Meanwhile, ERG-1 (you know, Wildfire) is roaming the Legion clubhouse in my favourite form, that of a blobby little pink cloud of antimatter. This is his second appearance after seemingly killing himself while saving Colossal Boy a year earlier and he's trying to get back to his uniform so that he can have some limbs again. Sadly, all of the Legion's technology seems designed to make life difficult for blobby pink guys and so:

He tries to possess the one person on the premises who isn't covered in Legion tech. But what horrible secret does the Molecular Master conceal?

By the way, I love the Molecular Master's costume. It's A-1.

No mind! But why?

Dang. That is one creepy android. I appreciate all the work that went into making all of those robotic facial features (check out the massive power supply going into that eyebrow! I'll bet he could make Mr. Spock run and cry with one hydraulically-augmented raising of that little number) but hawk-nosed tube-men with wildly staring eyes might just be a new phobia of mine.

Robot nose! Robot cheeks! Robot Adam's apple! Oh my god, terrifying robot ears!

ERG-1/Wildfire is upset about the other aspect of the Molecular Master's power: the highly poisonous breath. I like that at this point there no longer seems to be the need for someone to shout "There must be kryptonite in the gas!", though I would think that any gas potent enough to have an effect on Superboy might not require such a roundabout method of delivery. Just heave it through the front door in grenade form and he'd kill himself by sucking it up for easy disposal. Super-villains, huh? Always over-thinking.

So: evil android filled with poison gas and after the Legion's very own deus ex machina. Can he be stopped in time?

Oops - guess not.

Ah, the Miracle Machine, as recently featured in Final Crisis (and eventually featured in Matter-Eater Lad's bowel). The Legion really shouldn't be surprised that folks try to kill them for this thing. Perhaps they should at least hide it behind something opaque - you know, give the homicidal maniacs a bit of a challenge.

Don't worry, though. ERGfire has used the Machine to restore himself to his suit (and certainly not to fashion himself as new human body, no sir), thus sparing the Molecular Master the embarrassment of standing there dramatically while that big atom completely failed to do anything to the inertron. Psh. Big atoms...

Undaunted, the Molecular Master tries again! He makes the biggest damn atom ever!

ERG-1 eats the super-atom! The Molecular Master's super-power officially sucks. ERG, on the other hand...

... has the Antimatter Kick! I don't even care that Wildfire never really did any kicking in later years - blasting this one android in the face with his foot makes him just incredibly great.

That's not quite the end of the future's best-dressed android, though. A few years later, in Legion of Super-Heroes No. 281, a bunch of Legionnaires are trapped in the past and run into the little scamp. It's a weird issue: Roy Thomas and Paul Levitz team up to produce a weird script, while Steve Ditko and Bruce Patterson compliment it with some weird art.

That costume still looks good, though. Note that in this second appearance everyone thinks that his name is Molecule Master, which is lame. I won't be a party to such a renaming, damn it.

In this issue, the Molecular Master no longer has the awesome power of the Big Atom. Instead, he can sort of generically control molecules, causing things to fly around and warp out of shape and so forth. I think at one point that he turns some air into rocks. Surprisingly, this is not an improvement. The absence of the big atoms has made me miss them.

Superboy, by the way, thinks that he's Ultra Boy, who is at this point possibly dead.

Molecular Master still has a robot nose but its not as terrifying. Thanks for showing me that, Superboy. I'll sleep easier tonight!

So it turns out that MM was working for *yawn* the Time Trapper, who really wanted that Miracle Machine, darn it. I can't remember if the thing was still uneaten at this point - if it wasn't what the Time Trapper was after here then I don't have a sweet clue what's going on. Oh, the perils of writing that hooded buffoon into your stories: I will never remember what the hell is up.

Hey, I just noticed - Saturn Girl is giving him the guns!

See? Lousy power.

Flying machine gun-attack is better than jeep-attack, but still.

Eventually, Molecular Master resorts to throwing rocks at the Legionnaires. Snazzy costume or not, that's pretty lame. Also, this version of the Master exploded when too many people attacked him at once. Were I more fond of the original version of the character, I might have concealed the existence of this one but the big atoms and the horrible robot nose and the Time Trapper connection all come together to spell NOT APPROVED.

There we go. Two hundredth post.

High-Tech Tomorrow: Review of the Concentrator, Part 2, by Johnathan

Gah! In an eerily predictable move, I have taken much longer than I intended to get around to writing this second chunk of text. Blame Spore, friends, and blame computer crashings that Spore caused. Oh, and blame my complete lack of self-control.

Without further ado, I present to you: psychological torture, Legion-style!

The first super-teen on the chopping-block is our old friend Sun Boy. Let's watch:

Okay, I can see how this could be nerve-wracking: grim corridors, a dark room, questions. I can't blame Dirk for his anxiety, really. Turning on some Morgna-style light isn't a bad plan, really.

Oops, mirrors! Well, I guess it's time for another plan, right? One that doesn't involve blinding lights? Maybe he could kick out the mirrors in the dark, or light things up just a bit so he can find the speakers, or use his powers in a more focused way and melt through the door? Mirrors wouldn't be much good against those cunning plans, right?

Or just bulling ahead in the least strategic way possible, that's a plan. A really, really dumb plan, but still a plan. The fact that it actually ended up working is some slight validation, but I think that maybe Sun Boy should be confined for life anyway, for his own safety. I guess he didn't talk, though, so there's no quick answer for you fine folks on just what the gosh-darned Concentrator actually is. At least you know how to defeat Sun Boy now: get a room full of heat-proof mirrors.

Bonus lesson: if you injure yourself through stupidity in the line of duty, try to do it in an out-of-the-way place, so everyone assumes that you were being heroic instead of willfully stupid.

Time for the testing of Shrinking Violet!

Now, this was back when our pal Salu was characterized by being very timid and shy and looking concerned all the time (and evidently by wearing a very short skirt, judging by this picture). I... suppose that illusory monsters might be upsetting to such a person, but I have to say that this is pretty weak. That monster? That's not a good monster, folks. I've always liked Shrinking Violet, but her being intimidated by this thing is making me lose some respect for her.

Now these are good freaky-looking monsters. They're only a couple of hours' worth of meticulous line-work away from fitting in in a Basil Wolverton comic - those mucousy lips that the uppermost beast is sporting would be enough to get me talking, if I though they were likely to touch me. Still, Violet knows these things are illusions - this is fairly wimpy behavior.

But I can't stay mad at someone who can make such an awesome horrified face. Man, she is so distressed that it's distressing - I believe that I was unable to find out for certain who drew this issue, but whoever it was sure knew how to draw a horrified woman. They were either highly talented at the drawing table or extraordinarily unlucky in the lists of love, I reckon.

Still, Violet is smarter than Sun Boy: her solution has to be better, right?

"I'll get so small that those monster couldn't find me even if they were real!" Good plan!

Wait, no. No, no, no. Bad plan. Dumb plan. Plan that wouldn't even work today, if CSI is to be believed, or if, say, the Commissioner has invested in a volume knob for his recording device. And even if the plan were workable, I'm going to guess that you have to be smaller than 4 or 5 inches before you're completely inaudible. Confined for life!

Not confined for life? John... confused. John move on now.

Ah, the Legion. A group of friends who stick together through thick and thin, who are perfectly willing to die so that one of their friends might live, and who are willing to turn on one another at the slightest hint of weakness. I mean, really, Superboy.

"Gawdamn telepaths. Likely to ... think out alla our secrets. I just don't trust a dame to not broadcast her thoughts all over the place. Hey, wait a minute. Star Boy has hands. Sweet Christmas, what if he accidentally signs the secrets of the Concentrator, or even doodles 'em out? All would be lost!

Guess it's time for some 'accidental' hand-shaking incidents, Clark."

"... although you do have that super-shout power, so be careful not to use that to accidentally reveal our precious secrets. And don't write them on the wall with your heat vision. Or use super-hypnosis to implant them in the Commissioner's subconscious mind.

Also, try to avoid fusing sand into glass with your hands, because you do that a lot, and it's getting kind of old."

Good lord there used to be a lot of kryptonite in the DC Universe. Look at him, he's not even surprised. I wonder if that's what Final Crisis is for - to bring back plentiful kryptonite so that the Superman writers can take it easy for a few years (okay, that was a bit self-indulgent. It's just that though I'm enjoying Final Crisis I can't quite figure out what it's for. The other Crises all fixed something - what's this one doing, other than hopefully ending that particular habit? Ah, ignore me.).

Maybe... maybe it's the Commissioner who's an idiot. This is just kind of a stupid tactic, in that you basically get to ask your question once. Because that much kryptonite would take Superboy out pretty quickly, right? Oh, I know: Beppo the Super-Monkey would show up at the last second and get rid of the green-k with a giant shovel that he made out of a minivan, but the Commissioner doesn't know about the deus ex machina effects of kryptonite. As far as he's concerned, that lever's a death sentence. For anyone without super-speed. Or seven or eight other lever-stopping abilities. Grump grump nerd nerd.

Superboy has absolute faith in his friends! He does not believe that girls can't keep a secret! He has never considered administering a quick heat-vision lobotomy just to be on the safe side!

This review is not continued! It won't be continued soon!

At Long Last, the Highly Anticipated Review of the Human Flame, By Johnathan

Haw haw haw! Time to put all the naysayers to shame! I will review the Human Flame, and not on my deathbed, unless of course it turns out that this chair reclines more and also I end up dying in it.

Dateline: Detective Comics No. 274, December 1959. On the cover, some crazy old dude shoots lightning at Batman - I haven't read the story yet, but I'll bet that he's got some sort of ingenious robbery-related hoax under his belt... yep, turns out. At the back, nestled behind Roy Raymond and Casey the Cop, we find a Martian Manhunter yarn entitled:

Now, this is not a fascinating tale. Nor is it exceptionally ridiculous, Silver Age or not, so no exhaustively broken-down plot for you. Instead, here are the highlights:

1. The Villain:

The Human Flame does not get off to a grand start, frankly. Purple is not a terrific colour for a flame-themed dude, and white is not a fantastic choice for a secondary colour. The goggles are good, but I only forgave Firestorm his puffy sleeves because his head was on fire, so those are out too.

2: The Plot:

Still, after seeing so many super-humans running around with astonishingly complicated facial hair, there's something (retroactively) refreshing about a simple moustache. While Ra's al-Ghul spends his mornings trimming individual chin-hairs and Green Arrow takes an extra half hour before bed to get his beard-curlers just right, ol' Mike there is getting the full night's sleep that he needs in order to plan really effective crime sprees. Though I suppose that if he had no facial hair at all he might have slept just a bit more and been clearheaded enough to consider pulling crimes in a town that wasn't infested with costumed crime-fighters.

The blonde guy is interesting, by the way. I can't decide if he counts at the Flame's partner, as his lone henchman or as a good friend that he brings along to keep him company on crime sprees.

3: Crime!

Let it not be said that the human Flame is a one-trick pony, no sir. In addition to having flame-thrower nipples on his suit, he has special energy-projecting nipples as well (urgh... I just had a disturbing thought: what if the purple on his costume is an attempt to simulate nipple colour? Fond as I am of the things, I find myself staunchly opposed to their use as a costume theme).

Where is all of the power and fuel for these nipples coming from, anyway? Mike's handing out some serious punishment with these things, and sure doesn't look like a wee lad. I suppose that he might have forgotten to eat a few meals whilst focusing on crime-suit construction - maybe he lost enough weight to stuff a propane tank and a 12-volt battery under each armpit? Or maybe he managed to create some ammo-less weaponry that he should have sold to the military for big bux instead of robbing armoured cars?

4: A Mighty Wind:

"Gosh, Martian Manhunter! Thanks for saving our armored car from those crooks! It sure would have been a shame if they'd managed to steal all of these Faberge eggs and Ming vases! Someday, you'll have to tell us how you ever saved out incredibly fragile cargo from that multi-nippled madman! Welp, we're off to the museum - thanks again!"

Not that being able to blow an armoured car around isn't great. I'm just sayin'.

Here's where the Human Flame gets his big shot:

5: Is this the End?

6. Seriously, is it?

Well! Not only has Mike triumphed, but he's completely vaporized J'onn J'onzz! And similar sarcastic remarks. In all fairness, The Manhunter hasn't been operating openly for long, so Mike might not know about the fact that he can turn invisible. Of course, he could just be an idiot.

7. Landscaping:

Turns out, he's an idiot. But, as this panel illustrates so clearly, he's an idiot that can shoot fire from his many nipples, which at least puts him a special category of idiot along with 60 or 70 percent of his fellow Silver Age villains.

8: Flying Free:

a) That's really cohesive sod.
b) Seems like Mike and friend would have trouble breathing up there.
c) That's a horrible way to get around. The neck cramps alone...

9: Clean Up After Yourself:

You know, I just have to assume that the Manhunter is putting that sod back because (holy crap, look at the huge chin on that policeman!) this comic came out in the early days of the Comics Code. Which is good, because society would have crumbled by now if our super-hero role models hadn't shown proper concern for lawn maintenance.

Now, Mike ends up doing some time for this one, leading me to believe that he had a terrible lawyer (heck, maybe it was the blonde guy). Eight years for foring a weapon that there likely isn't any legislation on (this is the electric nipple I'm talking about) and then getting into a very brief scrap with someone who is demonstrably non-human and therefore not technically covered by the law? Sheesh, for any decent shyster this should have been a piece of cake. Perhaps the DCU wised up early and there are tough super-villain laws on the books as of Mike's trial? Don't know.

One last thought: you know how in a movie or tv show when there's a guy wielding a camcorder or whatever he's frequently characterized as a total dick, like the act of filming constantly, especially in a moment of tragedy, is a sign of a bad human being? Well, upon reading Final Crisis No. 1 I realized this: it's a hundred times worse if you're doing it with a cell phone.

Great Stars! The Human Flame is NOT APPROVED

First Impressions: Review of the Martian Manhunter, By Johnathan

Hallo! J'onn R'eview here, teaming up with the irrepressible Rachelle to bring you some Martian Manhunter tribute action. SPOILERS SPOILERS VERY RECENT SPOILERS (although not terribly spoilery ones, I guess) READ YE NOT THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH IF YE WISH NOT FINAL CRISIS NO 1 SPOILERS. Poor dead Martian - who's going to be the JLA Mom now?

Because it's one of the things I already do, and because Mr. J'onzz never tried out for the Legion (though the time that he hung out with them might just have to get a mention...), I'm going to cover his first appearance, in Detective Comics No. 225.

Here goes:

Good logo, I like the crossed "J"s (as a John, I have opinions about the letter - form is all!) and the fact that they're emphasizing the 'JOHN JONES' over the 'manhunter from mars'.

Introducing... CLARK KENT, a super man!
Introducing... BARRY ALLEN, who is quite fast!
Introducing... HAL JORDAN, a pilot with a ring!

Oh, the humour. Enough laffs, though - on with the show!

Here's the big ol' intro panel from JJ (the MM)'s first story. I include it here for a few reasons. First off, that text piece, I'll bet, probably reveals exactly how the Manhunter came to be. Detective had, by this point, had any number of, uh, detectives, including Slam Bradley (pugilist extraordinaire), Cosmo (racist master of disguise), Pow-Wow Smith (frontier sheriff), Roy Raymond (TV Detective) and Captain Compass (sleuth of the high seas). Someone was given the task of thinking up a new one and figured "Why not make him an alien? He'll fit right in."

Secondly, that's a great title. The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel, indeed.

Finally, see J'onzz over there, with the giant Martian head-halo? That was an effect that cropped up a lot when he was appearing to be a human but using his Martian powers, like an eerier version of Peter Parker's face turning half Spider-Man whenever the spidey-senses kick in. Not sure why, but I like the implication that the Manhunter has a huge cranium.

That's Dr. Erdel, who has, I just noticed, an incredibly cool desk. In fact, His whole lab is pretty bitchin'. My copy of Showcase Presents: Martian Manhunter says that Joe Certa is responsible for the art on this story and I think he did a bang-up job, yessir.

I mean, look at Doc Erdel! That is one skillfully rendered potty old science-man.

And this is one of several panels that I threw into this review purely for aesthetic reasons. If I had a really good scan of this I might be tempted to have it blown up into a poster. It's pure fantastic. The colours! The sound effects! One of my favourite panels ever.

Enter the Manhunter! Arms akimbo, he stands ready for adventure! I wonder, did he have some warning that he was about to be teleported somewhere where he could make a great entrance, or was Mars going through a 'dramatic body language' fad? If so then J'onn is lucky - he could just as well have been ostentatiously thinking with one foot upon a low wall and his appearance on Earth might have been marred by him toppling sideways as soon as he materialized.

Martian Manhunter is HUGE! His head is HUGE! And he looks inappropriately amused by the fact that he has been teleported to another planet.

This story was mostly about introducing the character of J'onn J'onzz, so stuff like this happened a lot. Doc Erdel is suitably impressed, I think, by the fact that all Martians can make themselves look like a young Ronald Reagan.

Poor Dr. Erdel. The Martian Manhunter didn't have one of those giant, tragic origins like Superman or Batman, but it always struck a chord with me. Erdel dies while realizing his dream, while J'onzz is trapped on Earth - a very sad little origin scene, with nary an exploding planet or murdered parent to be seen, just a little old man with a tenuous grasp of where his heart is located.

See? Touching! Though I half suspect that that whole 'Xymo Serum' thing is a scam, just in case Erdel was holding out on sending the Manhunter home. Clever, cold-hearted Martian bastard.


I need a minute to myself...

Okay, I'm back.

Ah, the classic John Jones look., back in the days when he was a detective first and a Martian second. As I've blogged before, I really wish that someone would take the opportunity to write him as a super-detective again, rather than constantly increasing his level of alien-ness and alien-ation. His being an alien that had adopted humanity was always a lot more endearing to me than Superman's equivalent gesture, given that J'onn did so as an adult. Come on, DC! J'onn J'onzz as the immigrant done good! You know it could be cool!

As Rachelle has been pointing out in her posts, The Martian Manhunter used to have a whole lot more powers than he does now. Good thing he got all of that gold before that happened, hey?

Post gold-harvesting, J'onn decides to take a trip around the world, looking at Earth stuff while thinking about how much cooler the stuff on Mars is. Here, I will pointedly refrain from comparing this to the manner in which North Americans tour the rest of the globe.

At the end of the tour, he absent-mindedly wanders out into traffic, while thinking about traffic. This incredibly focussed forgetfulness has got to be another one of those since-discarded powers.

Luckily, he had intangibility on his side (still does, too!)! This is the other panel that I threw in for purely aesthetic reasons, by the way. Between the angle, the colours and the reaction, it looks super-nice. There's not even a caption on there - possibly the captioneer thought it was as nice as I do and didn't want to clutter it up.

I'm not sure if this younger planet = more primitive inhabitants thing was cultural or if it was just a DC Comics theory, but I remember seeing it quite a few times in Silver Age comics, like Batman would end up on a planet and there would be dinosaurs everywhere and he'd assume that the place was geologically younger than Earth. I wish I knew a scientific historian so I could ask 'em about it.

After his powers have been established, J'onn spends a page or so thinking about how much crime "Earthians" (fantastic) have to put up with and deciding to help out with cleaning it all up. The origin story is nearly complete!

There we go, a weakness! Everything required for a super-character is now present: origin, costume, secret identity, motivation, powers, weakness. And all in six pages - highly efficient!

You know, life must have been considerably rougher for Mr. J'onzz back when everyone and their dog smoked. Could he be covertly influencing anti-smoking regulation? Probably.

I need to meet a police historian, too. Could you really just walk into a police station and sign up to be a detective? That's great!

Well, there's a somewhat rambling review for you. Personally, I really enjoyed the Manhunter's origin tale. It was compact and well told and looked real pretty. J'onzz, you're


Plus, I just realized exactly why The Martian Manhunter isn't dead: he was killed in a Grant Morrison yarn, and Morrison continuity is frequently more cohesive than the DC continuity that it lives in. So, since Martian Manhunter No. 1,000,000 laid out a future history that did not include J'onzz being a mouldering corpse in the far future, it's likely that he'll be back (and better dressed) by the end of Final Crisis. That's what I'm telling myself, anyway.