The Stunning Continuation of John Buys Comics

World’s Finest No 4 (of 4)

I liked this series. I can completely get behind a relatively uncomplicated yarn featuring the various members of the Superman and Batman families teaming up, with giant robots, yet. Sure there were some tie-ins to the interminable ongoing shouldn’t-have-been-stretched-out-this-long stuff going on over in the Superman books, but hey, how could they avoid that? The only real sour note was that they revisited that fun trend whereby since Stephanie Brown theoretically isn’t built like a supermodel then making cracks about her being fat or having small breasts or whatever is fair game. I think that I wouldn't be quite as enraged by it if she wasn’t drawn with exactly the same body as Supergirl, but how will I ever know?. Of course, if I started basing these reviews on realistic depictions of the female (or even human) form then I would quickly go mad.

I was going to say that it would have been really neat if they’d made this series quarterly and had the fourth issue be the triumphant return of both Superman and Batman, but I think that Superman might be coming back in a month or so, whereas Batman’s still a caveman, so that might be troublesome, scheduling-wise. I’ll take a Superman/Dick “Batman” Grayson team-up, no problem.

Several hours later, a thought occurs: they should have done a Jimmy Olsen/Commissioner Gordon team-up.

Demonic No. 1

This is the second of the “Pilot Season” books that Rober Kirkman and Mark Silvestri are doing at Top Cow. Last week was Murderer, about a man who has to kill to silence his telepathy and who kills to help people. This week: Demonic, about a man compelled to either murder criminals or to kill his wife and daughter. Once the other three books (Stealth, Stellar and Hardcore, presumably about people who are afflicted by how quiet, bright and eXtreme they are, but manage to do good anyway) have come out then you’ll be able to vote for them on the Top Cow website, with the winner becoming a miniseries. So far, my money’s on Murderer, not only because it’s got the best name of the bunch but because the protagonist of that book spent most of the issue carefully selecting someone bad enough to kill before carefully killing him, while Demonic mostly carved up police officers, and precision is a lot more fun to read about than Demon Wolverine.

Batman and Robin No. 7 - Morrison’s collection of British super-villains are pretty great - here’s hoping that they all don’t just end up as crowd scene death fodder in a year or two. Even better is the sheer ballsiness of the dues ex machine that he pulled to get Batwoman on the scene. I must applaud it for its blatancy. Also: the Beefeater finally has a semi-dignified appearance.

Chew No. 8 - I had honestly never considered how a ban on chickens would affect the sport of cockfighting. Come, join me. Weep for the cockfighters (Don’t worry: all of the cockfighters get beaten up).

Victorian Undead No. 3 - Moriarty, eh? If Irene Adler shows up next issue then we’ll know that someone else has gotten ahold of the Sherlock Holmes Cliches Checklist.

Superman: Secret Origin No 4 (of 6) - Man, that is both the worst Jor-El design I have ever seen and the worst Fortress of Solitude design ever. I know that the Fortress is one of those instances of movie continuity creeping into the comics, but what about poor old Jor? I say bring back the headband model.

Afrodisiac: Whoops, I didn't get to read this before self-imposed presstime, but Dave reviewed the hell out of it earlier this week so I don't feel as bad as I might. I do have to say, after reading the categories listed on the back of the thing:  “Hip Hop”? Afrodisiac is about Hip Hop?  Or is it that this is the new “urban”?

Science Says You're Wrong if You Think That John Can Buy Comics and Write About Them in a Timely Manner

Funny thing is, I wrote this on time. I just get distracted so easily, this time by a "games jam" which involved a lot of people who  knew a lot more about programming than me making a game over the course of a night while I made little space ships. Here: as a consolation prize, one of the designs that didn't get used:

Enough of that malarky - on to the reviews!

Victorian Undead No. 1

I do so love being the target audience for something. Sherlock Holmes vs zombies with a side order of insidious automata? Yes please!

I have just now developed a theory as to why I so enjoy reading stories about Holmes encountering the fantastic. It might be due to the Victorian setting and an assumption about people of that era being a bit more credulous, but unlike the deductive brains of tales set in the here-and-now, our man Sherlock doesn’t let a little thing like something breaking the rules of science and nature as he understands them faze him in the least.

Like, say Batman, Brainiac 5 and Sherlock Holmes met an honest-to-goodness mummy. You can bet that Holmes would spend a fraction of the time that the other two did whining about things not making sense and talking about how they hate magic and claiming that it was a puppet or a hologram or a team of trained dogs. No, Holmes would maybe take a minute, maybe be a bit surprised and then figure out how mummies work. It’s why Holmes/Lovecraft mashups are so satisfying, I reckon - there’s just something about the guy that doesn’t let something as trivial as the unexplainable get in his way.

So: Victorian Undead. Looks great, reads great, looks like it's going to feature a lot of Holmes using his massive cranium to fight the undead. And did I mention the robots?

Adventure Comics No. 4

And speaking of being a target audience… This comic features a) the best damn appearance of Superboy Prime-as-fanboy ever. b) A twenty-years-later acknowledgement of the fact that White Witch and Blok are for reals in love with each other and c) a Quislet mention (because every Quislet mention brings us closer to having him actually appear in the comic again, that’s why). Plus both the White Witch and the Black Witch have those weird eye-antennae, and I’m always happy to see them put in an appearance.

The Legion stuff is no big deal, really, as I’d probably be happy to read a story about Cosmic Boy going grocery shopping as long as it was written in a halfway decent manner. The Threeboot Legion series ended on a fairly bleh note and everything featuring them since has been a BIG EVENT of some sort, so I can be very content with little tales that establish Johns’ version of the Legion. For now, at least.

As for the main story, well, it doesn’t get much better than Superboy Prime finding out about his impending maybe-death by reading Adventure Comics No. 4 and desperately trying to figure out what happens next. I haven’t been the biggest fan of the Black Lanterns’ habit of taunting people like third graders but by god is it satisfying when Alexander Luthor takes the time to really hammer home the fact that everyone hates Superboy Prime.

Outsiders No. 24

Okay, I admit it. I bought this so I could get the ring. Just call me Larfleeze, I guess. I just found myself in a position where my regular comics-buying would have netted me 6 of 8 rings and I was way too lazy to find one on eBay or trade with someone else or something like that.

Anyway, the comic. I’m pretty sure that the last issue of  Outsiders that I bought had the Nuclear Family on the cover, so I may just be a bit behind. It’s not bad. There’s the Creeper and Killer Croc with a tiny little arm, both of which are a good time. Plus I finally learned who it is that’s always wearing that Owlman getup when the Outsiders show up in crossovers, which was bugging me but not enough, evidently, to look it up.

The Flash: Rebirth No 5 (of 6)

Blech. This series has so damned infuriating. I generally like Geoff Johns, but it seems like every second issue - hell, every second page in this issue - just strikes such a false note with me. Last issue it turned out that all the whacky stuff with speedsters dying and Barry turning into the Black Flash was down to Professor Zoom being in the Speed Force generating anti-speed or something, and that is just fine. I liked the series more because of it: it’s such a classic goofy super-villain plot that plays perfectly off of the whole Reverse Flash thing, plus it ended up bringing Max Mercury back, so hooray there. But this issue? Man, I’m going to start a new paragraph because I need a


Reverse Flash is now responsible for every bad thing that happened in Barry Allen’s life? Reverse Flash killed Barry Allen’s mother and framed his father for the crime? I am dumbfounded by how… depressing this is. I mean, the point of this series is to redefine Barry in terms of the present day DCU, right? And the murdered mother thing has been a recurring plot point from the start, yes? So the redefinition is as a victim? A guy whose parents were killed by the most poorly-motivated, over-the-top jerk that could be blown out of proportion for the purpose? Is he going to be a dark specter of vengeance with dead parents now, rather than a decent guy who does right for the sake of it?

Underground No 3 (of 5) - I missed the second issue of this somehow but now everything is right with the world again. Plus, it’s turning out to be even better than I was expecting. I thought that it was going to be all small town crime drama, and that’s definitely an element, but the real focus of the story is just how effed up things can get inside a cave, especially when there are dumb assholes who don’t know what they’re doing in there with you. And also they’re trying to kill you.

Batman Confidential No. 37 - I think that I might have enjoyed this issue more if I hadn’t been so fond of Zinda “Lady Blackhawk” Blake in Birds of Prey, because she does not come off very well here. How shall I put this… she both looks and acts like a not-very bright porn star, and she’s so much cooler than that when done well. Plus I was looking at an ad for some Authority/WildC.A.T.S. crossover in Victorian Undead and I decided to start harshing on books where the ladies don’t wear pants more. Everyone should get to wear pants, guys.

Batman Unseen No 4 (of 5) - You guys, I think that there’s going to be an invisible Batman in the next issue. All of my dreams are coming true.

Cowboy Ninja Viking No. 2 - They’re really getting into the multiple personality aspect of the characters in this series, especially during the fight scenes between Cowboy Ninja Viking and Pirate Gladiator Oceanographer.

Invincible No. 68 - Just to confirm: this comic is still great. Dinosaurus is a terrific villain name. Though Atom Eve still doesn’t get to wear pants.

John Buys Batman Comics. And Also Some Other Stuff

Man. There was a lot of Batman this week. And ever since I started reviewing on a regular basis there is nothing I can resist less than a Batman-related comic book. Except for Gotham City Sirens.

Batman and Robin No. 3

Man, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely are a great team. I have heard it said that there will be a Quitely-free arc on this book in the near future and it will be very interesting to see how it stacks up against these first few issues in terms of how much I love it. I remember that the Frank-less issues of New X-Men weren't as delightful to mine eyes as the issues before and after them but I also remember thinking that the art on those issues was "actively bad" as opposed to "not sublime". How about it, DC? Can you provide a fill-in artist who isn't terrible?

Anyway, this issue provides plenty of examples of how well these two work together. Professor Pyg's pre-surgery psych-up/disco dance/psychotic break? Hot damn. I don't know of too many other artists who could put pictures to those words so well. I think I stayed on those few pages for five or six minutes. Heck, between Pyg and that Alice dame in Detective the bar is getting set pretty high in terms of the madness level of the Gotham City criminal element. Pretty soon guys like Firefly, with their garden-variety manias, are going to look like chumps.

The... character involved in the last-page reveal is another good example: an interesting Morrison concept, fantastically-realized by Quitely. My imagination is tormenting me with images of how other artists might have portrayed... that character, I love it that much.

I've been reading a lot of Batman recently, as I said earlier, and most of it has been decent, but precious few are providing me with as much glee as this here book. Hooray!

King City No. 1

Okay. Okay okay. Okay okay okay. I can do this. I can't do this. All of my summarization glands have dried up.

No, I can do it. King City is the best kind of crazy. Brandon Graham had, it seems, about a hundred neat ideas and took maybe half a dozen of them (utility cats, a city full of spies and spy hotels, and blah and blah) and deployed the rest of them liberally as vending machine concepts and street flavour and incidental character fun. The result: exactly the kind of comic that I like to devote half an hour or more to, which is good because it took at least that long to take a signifiicant portion of it in.

So there's this guy named Joe and he has a cat and he steals a key and is operating in this huge crazy cool town. There's a girl he'd rather not meet and some guys who wish him ill and that's all that I've managed to piece together yet but I'm already completely charmed. From what I've been able to gather through doing absolutely no research, some of King City has already appeared elsewhere but this series will mark its first complete run and that's terrific for one reason: it will be coming out very regularly if the publishing spirits are kind. Oh Typesetules, oh Shipontime, hear my plea! Do right by me!

The Red Circle: The Shield One-Shot

Okay! Thus concludes the introduction of the Archie Comics heroes to the DC Universe! Kind of!

I was waiting for all four issues to come out before commenting on this, because sometimes when I don’t wait I end up making an idiot out of myself (for instance, when I asserted that the killy Batman in Battle for the Cowl couldn’t be Jason Todd because hey, there’s a new Red Robin series coming up!). Now that it’s done, though… for a series with the avowed purpose of introducing characters to a universe, there was surprisingly little in the way of interaction with that universe in the course of the various issues. Like, none. No JLA fighting Starro on the teevee, no Web running into the Manhattan Guardian in one panel on page 10, nothing. There’s a guy in this issue who mentions how all the American super-heroes should join the Army, but he names no names. Now, this is probably a purposeful attempt to settle the characters into their own interconnected portion of the DCU before having the JSA stop in for a guest appearance, but dropping a few names now and again might have been nice. Ah well, looks like there’ll be a couple of ongoing series, so we shall see how this plays out in them, I guess.

As for the issue, well, it was just fine. The Shield is hardly the most distinct of super-heroes, despite his long pedigree. Generic superpowers, patriotic theme, war casualty-rebuilt-as-supersoldier? Check check check. The potentially interesting part of this iteration of the character is going to be the fact that he’s working directly for the Army, which is usually a role for psychotic assholes, though I have absolutely no idea how it’ll be handled here. The character was sympathetic and interesting for the first three or four pages, until he got blown up. After that, and well into his transformation into the Shield, he got a bit emotionally flat. Wait and see, I suppose.

Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen Special No. 2 - Pretty meh, I gotta say. The whole ‘massive military conspiracy’ plot that has been running through the Superman family of books has been in a holding pattern for a while now, and though this issue and the ones featuring the ugly-ass half ‘n half characters on the front seem to be designed to get the whole thing rolling again I may have lost a bit too much interest to care. At least there’s a wee little Odd Man shout-out, and on a week that saw me thinking about him, for some reason! Oh this madcap life of mine!

Superman No. 691 - As I said, it looks like they’re starting to ramp up this conspiracy storyline. Is anyone else being reminded more and more of Legends the longer this goes on? If they manage to work Brimstone into the plot somehow then I will regain interest a lot more quickly, as gigantic fiery wrestlers are just neat. Wait, does Death of the New Gods mean no more Brimstone ever again? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Flash: Rebirth No. 4 - I was pretty enthusiastic about this series and then I got less so and then I was positively grumpy about the whole thing. Now? I guess I’m okay with it. It doesn’t look like Johns is going to kill Max Mercury, and I can get behind that, but he hasn’t yet made a good enough case for Barry actually needing to be back. I was actually kind of hoping that he’d go back into the Speed Force at the end of Final Crisis, as it would have been quite tantalizing and fun to have him appear only in times of great peril, like a fast red Phantom Stranger. You could stretch out the explanation of why it was happening for years!

Batwoman in Detective Comics No. 856 -  Dang, yo. This is another of those quality Batman-related comics that I was talking about earlier. So nice-looking, such a high level of villainous craziness. Plus: an octopus man!

The Muppet Show Comic Book: The Treasure of Peg Leg Wilson No. 2 (of 4) - Gosh, is that a long title. Ah, but it's for a good cause, with lots of Beaker-abuse, rat abuse and general battering of felt to delight the senses. The various mysteries that are the theme of this miniseries are providing me with much joy.

Sherlock Holmes No. 4 - My brain feels a bit pummeled, as I'm not at home right now and so can't refer to the previous issues but can't escape the feeling that I should be able to figure at least part of the mystery out. Gah! Ah well, it's still a damn fine comic. Tune in next month to see if I figure it out before Leah Moore tells me whodunit.

The Unknown No. 4 (of 4) - I was all set to grump about how the mysteries of life and death hadn't been solved and how there'd better be more of this series and then the ding dong dang house ad at the back just shut me right up. Guess I'll just hold my tongue until next month, won't I?

Green Lantern No. 45 - Lots of great Corps vs Corps fun here: Sinestro Corps vs Star Sapphires! Red lanterns vs Green Lanterns! Blue vs Orange! Everybody vs the Black Lanterns!

ZOMBIE WATCH: Pariah, Planet Xanshi, Loads of dead Sinestro Corpsers, Qwardians and (hooray!) all of Larfleeze's victims.

Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink No. 4 (of 6) - This series was my least favourite of the four, butt I do believe that it's growing on me. I honestly hope that yon Tattooed Man makes it through with his life, tattoos and newfound heroism intact. Man, though, the characters in this have some terrible names. Not birth names, the kind you choose for yourselves. Twisttedd? Crim$o? Phat Diamond? G-Filter? SYNcK? Is it because they're all in gangs? Do gang folk not know how to name themselves well?

Wednesday Comics No. 8 - With four left to go, a quick rundown: Metamorpho, Strange Adventures, Supergirl, Deadman, Flash and Kamandi: going strong the whole time. Sgt Rock, Metal Men, Demon/Catwoman, Batman and Green Lantern have been perfectly serviceable. Teen Titans has gotten much better, possibly due to some art tweaking and possibly because it took a while to get up to speed. Wonder Woman has also gotten better but is still very very tough to read (but featured a really neato version of Etta Candy). I grossly underestimated Hawkman, it turns out, though elaborate joke or not, that first comic is still kind of painful. And Superman... I reckon that the only hope for this comic is for the next four installments to be one long alien-wrassli' exhibition, and that is way unlikely.

Batman: the Widening Gyre No. 1 (of 6) - I've never read any of Kevin Smith's comic work, did you know that? Most of it came out while I was in my poor times, when I would basically buy Astro City and one or two other titles and then eat crackers for supper. And I'm addicted to Batman comics, too. So I ignored the mockery of my blogmates and that of the dog that they had gotten from somewhere and bought this. And it ain't bad, really. It's too late for me to really articulate things, so I'll subject it to the ol' SECOND ISSUE OF JUDGMENT treatment later. Oh, but K. Smith is going on the big list of People Who Can't Write the Demon's Rhymespeak. Because he can't. The rhythm is all wrong and there are too many near-rhymes.

Anyway: good night all.

Review of Prose, By Johnathan

I think that I may have alluded to the fact that I was an English major in University a couple of times (though with the amount of theory that I've forgotten since then I basically have a degree in Reading Stuff, Forming an Opinion on it and Writing That Opinion Down, at length. Hey! That makes me perfectly qualified to have a comics blog, doesn't it?) and so it shouldn't come as too great a shock to find out that I'm not just a comics nerd and an Internerd, I'm a a prose nerd, too! Okay, also a mythology nerd (Classics minor, word), drama nerd, etymology nerd, history nerd, plant nerd, animation nerd and listener to nerdy music. And ladies, I'm available.

Comics and prose are the biggies, though. I love me some good fiction, yes I do. To that end, I just purchased a book entitled Who Can Save Us Now? (Owen King and John McNally, eds) which is an anthology of short stories about some brand new super-heroes. I haven't opened it yet, so the only solid info I have is that there's a story about someone called The Rememberer, but buying it got me thinking about other text-based tales of the super-hero and whenever I get thinking about things like this I feel compelled to share my thoughts with you lovely folks.

First off, I think I'd list a lot of old pulp yarns as fantastic examples of what superhero text should be: action-packed, character-driven and fairly short. That's not to say that a long, introspective novel about international diplomacy as seen through the eyes of UN goodwill ambassador Courage Lad wouldn't potentially be great, just that I'd likely read a few novellas about the Mighty Turbine giving robotic aliens the business in between volumes. I haven't read nearly as much pulp fiction as I'd like, but for my money I'd have to recommend Doc Savage and the Spider - the Shadow is great and all, but I prefer the radio show. Of course, if we're travelling back through literary history here we could talk about Gladiator (Alas, I haven't read it), The Invisible Man and other such late Victorian proto-science fiction or my man Sherlock Holmes. Heck, we could pull in Arthurian legend, Greek and Norse mythology and the original Dynamic Duo of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, but then this would turn into a much longer and much less focused post. Because it's so incredibly focused right now.

Harry Newberry and the Raiders of the Red Drink, By Mel Gilden. Man, I loved this book when I was a lad. Come to think of it, I still love it. It's a young adult novel written in an absurd style reminiscent of the incomparable Daniel M. Pinkwater. The titular Harry Newberry is a comic-obsessed kid who ends up discovering that the seemingly boring world around him is actually jam-packed with complete weirdness. There are a lot of fantastic touches like people running around in completely thrown-together costumes and... man, I don't want to spoil this one at all. Most libraries seem to have this one on hand and I say: go read it! It's got the best idea for a pizza restaurant ever, I swear, and some of the best brotherly interactions in youth fiction.

Chance Fortune and the Outlaws, by Shane Berryhill. I picked this one a few months back. Judging by the study questions at the back it's also aimed at young adults, but it's a solid read. The title character, though he's been highly trained by an old-school superhero, has to lie about having luck-based super-powers to get into hero school. The Outlaws, his in-school supergroup, are a bunch of engaging characters - there's lots of good teen drama (as opposed to the all-too-frequent bad teen drama) and a rivalry with another, super-douchey team and a sinister plot to foil. Plus, the school's department heads are a pretty good JLA pastiche. Oh, and there's a highly entertaining training battle against a team composed of anime-style super-heroes!

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon. Not strictly a super-hero novel, but enough of the reality of comics creeps into the characters' regular lives to be good enough for me. I can't say too much about this one that hasn't been said before and better, but I'll put it in here anyway because I know a lot of comic fans who haven't read it. Read it! It's a good, good novel, with lots of delicious character development. Stan Lee makes a brief appearance, proving my theory that his super-power is an incredible ability to make cameos.

The Wild Cards Series, Gerorge R. R. Martin, ed. I've read maybe seven or eight of the eleven million or so volumes in this series, and while they were none of them terrible I definitely liked the shared-world collections of short stories more than the later "mosaic novels", partly because I liked some of the contributors more than others and the shifts in prose style got kind of jarring at times but also because the whole thing got so damned dark after a while. The basic story was great: aliens decide to test an experimental mutagen on Earth and it gets released over New York in the late Forties. Most people who are exposed to the stuff die and most of those who survive are radically mutated (these are called Jokers, thanks to a running card-based naming convention). A very small percentage ed up with very super-heroey powers (these ones are called Aces) and part of the series' mandate is exploring how the presence of all of these guys shapes subsequent human culture and history and such. There are a lot of neato characters, like Croyd Crensen, the Sleeper, who falls into years-long comas and wakes up each time with different powers and a new appearance and lives a cycle of sleep and increasingly desperate and stimulant-fueled wakefulness. Or there's Captain Trips, a super-duper hippie who has multiple powered identities accessed through hard drug usage, or Kid Dinosaur, who can turn into dinosaurs and is basically a fanboy who follows other Aces around and annoys them. The first couple of collections are highly recommended, ayup.

Of course, there are all of the books that are about characters that originated in comics, but frankly, I haven't read too many of those. I remember a book of Spider-Man short stories that I enjoyed (the Internet says that it was called The Ultimate Spider-Man), especially one called "Kraven the Hunter is Dead, Alas", though what it was about escapes me these many years later. Marvel books were always fun to read because they always had some nice original artwork inside - I especially remember liking What Savage Beast by Peter David, which had the Maestro and a neat picture of all kinds of possible alternate Hulks (Scaley Hulk! Hairy Hulk!).

Okay, that's it. There are a lot more books that I wish that I could read (say, Superfolk) and others that I have read and subsequently forgotten the contents of (Flyboy Action Figure Comes With Gasmask, for example). And I can't seem to even find the damn Hellboy novels. Do they actually exist? Perhaps in the future I will expand on this rambling, unfocused entry. Feel free to clue me in to things that I should check out.