A Gorilla-Themed Palate-Cleanser

I was going to write about Flashpoint No. 5, but I just don't feel like being super negative today. Suffice to say that I exclaimed "That's stupid" more than once, and that my dog was saddened by the tone of my voice. I had to calm him down with a belly rub.

Instead, here's an excerpt from a comic I read and genuinely enjoyed this week:


Namely, Detective Comics No 232, in which Batman is consulting on the set of a Batman movie. On this specific page, a couple of writers try to get a handle on the character and are delightful.

They might actually be the only characters to get a chuckle out of me with the old "accidentally discover Batman's secret identity and then laugh it off" gag, possibly because of the joyful little faces pictured above.


Even more likely, though, is that it's just reflected hilarity from this couple of panels. These guys should have been folded into Batman's supporting cast.


Bonus! That wasn't just a throwaway gag page, it was set-up! It was an example of Chekhov's Gorilla Suit, and that might be the most satisfying thing I've ever written.

Of course, there were plenty of good comics out this week. Skullkickers, The Sixth Gun, Invincible, the excellent Infinite Kung Fu TPB (came out last week but who's counting). The moral of the story, I guess, is that I should never read event comics ever again. Also, watch out for guys in gorilla costumes.

Flashpoint Ramblings

So I've been reading Flashpoint, and I while I've been enjoying some of the alternate timeline ideas, I haven't really been able to get into it as being consequential. This might be due to the upcoming reboot, or my disdain for Reverse Flash as a boilerplate EEEEVIL TORTURE VILLAIN, but the fact remains that I just can't bring myself to care all that much about the outcome of the whole thing.
Ironically, this has led me to think about it a lot. Specifically, I've been trying to work out what the theme of this alternate world is - every good alternate timeline story has a compelling theme, after all, like Red Son being all "what if Superman was a Commie?" or Justice Riders posing the compelling question "what if everybody was cowboys?". 

I know that the impetus of the whole thing was Reverse Flash evil torturing Barry Allen by messing with the past, but that's no kind of theme. Based on the differences that I've been able to glean so far, I reckon that the theme of this world might just be "what if The Nail was about the entire JLA instead of just Superman?" Consider:


Superman - Kal-El's baby-rocket impacted in Metropolis instead of Kansas, leading to him spending his entire life in government custody. Also, his DNA was used to create a Super Sayan.

Batman - Lil' Bruce Wayne was shot while his parents survived. Thomas Wayne became a meaner version of the Batman as a result, while Martha Wayne became the Joker.

Green Lantern - Abin Sur never travelled to Earth and consequently never died. Hal Jordan still a test pilot.

Martian Manhunter - Captured by super-villain the Outsider, tortured, experimented on and then sold to the Russians. Became evil as a result of these torments.

Aquaman - Taken away from his human father at a young age and thus never given a gentler moral upbringing. Sinks Western Europe as a part of his war with the Amazons.

Wonder Woman - We'll come back to Wonder Woman.

So: DCU big guns removed = the world becoming a hellhole. But wait, now something else is bothering me: Reverse Flash went to great trouble to either kill (Batman) depower (Green Lantern, Flash) or scramble the morality of (Superman, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman) all of the A-list super-heroes, but what about Wonder Woman? As far as I can tell, Evil Time-Travelling Apparently Space-Capable Possibly-Magic Reverse Flash didn't mess with her past at all.

Therefore, baseline Wonder Woman is capable of being manipulated into a devastating war, the invasion of a sovereign noncombatant nation and the subjugation of its people. She can be fooled into not noticing her people deploying death squads to other countries and starting concentration camps in her own. She's foolish enough to try negotiating with Aquaman while wearing the helmet that she took from his wife's severed head. Flashpoint Wonder Woman is, evidently, a moron.

Whether this means something big or cosmic or misogynistic or pants-phobic (Moron Wonder Woman does, after all, wear those very controversial garments) I cannot say. All that matters is that it is on the Internet and thus will no longer be rattling around in my head.

John Buys Comics: John Buys Comics

Not sure why, but I just caught up on some stuff that I bought up to two weeks ago. Well, I'm pretty certain about why I caught up on it (I like comics and thus read them all the time) but why there were about six unread issues from each week remains a mystery. In any case, don't explode with surprise if something from a while back creeps into this here episode of JBC.

More Flashpoint Miniseries!


Why It's They're Here: Partially because I seem to be reading all of the tie-ins on this one (I fully intended to skip some of these thangs, but they all seem to feature just enough of my preferred characters to entice me into laying down the dollars) but mostly because they've been flinging out some pretty fun (if super-grim) twists and turns and alternate universe hooba jooba.

Non-Spoiler Summary: You know... alternate universe stuff. The world is changed and everything's different because of one little difference in the timestream.

The Very Best Thing About It: [BIG FAT SPOILERS IF YOU ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT FLASHPOINT SPOILERS] Despite the fact that this whole event is kind of stupid, there have been some neat alternate universe things going on in these books: Jimmy Olsen ending up as Cyborg's Pal in a Superman-free world; Evil Magic Dr Thirteen; skinny, kept in the dark his whole life Kal-El; Martha Wayne as the Joker to Thomas Wayne's Batman. There's a lot of neat ideas here that are perfectly-employed in such a consequence-free setting. Plus, Barry Allen having to be horribly electrocuted twice to get his powers back was inexplicably hilarious.

The Very Worst Thing About It: Reverse Flash Messes With Regular Flash Through Time Japery was an irritating plot in the Flash's own comic last year. Revisiting it here is agonizing - will the Flash dig deep and overcome his foe yet again? Probably! Reverse Flash is one moustache and one top hat away from tying Iris West to a train track in order to get the deed to an orphanage with an oil well underneath it and it is slowly killing me to read.

Who Made It: So many people.

Michael Moorcock's Elric: The Balance Lost


Why It's Here: Because Elric, that's why. Ye Eternal Champion, albino style,  is one of the most entertaining tragic figures in fantastic literature.

Non-Spoiler Summary: In the classic Moorcock mode, the balance between Chaos and Order is getting out of whack and it's up to the variously tragic incarnations of the Eternal Champion to make things right. Featured Champeens include the titular Elric (murderous, mopey, albino magician-king and last of his people), Corum Jhaelen Irsei (maimed, mopey prince and last of his people, plus my fave Champ), Dorian Hawkmoon (Not quite as mopey - the one I know least about) and newest incarnation Eric Beck (hipster, game designer, albino).

The Very Best Thing About It: I haven't read all of the Moorcock-inspired comics out there, by any means, but I have read a lot and this issue captures a lot of the requisite themes better than most. Possibly because everyone involved wasn't incredibly high during the entire process, possibly for other reasons. Plus there are lots of neat Chaos critters that have the same creepiness that Guy Davis' designs often do.

The Very Worst Thing About It: No Oswald Bastable.

Who Made It: Chris Roberson, writer. Francesco Biagini, artsman. Stephen Downer, colours. Travis Lanham, Letters.

Tiny Little Reviews:

Mystery Men

Why I'm Keeping This Short: Because the second issue came out one or two weeks ago - this is one of the books that fell through the cracks for some reason. But still, David Liss and Patrick Zircher have done an excellent job of creating a Pulp-era Marvel comic, complete with brand-new (and well-dressed) heroes and villains. There are three issues to go and I shall be getting them all.

Secret Six No. 35

Why I'm Keeping This Short: Secret Six is a known quantity and a proven excellent comic. Too bad it looks to be ending in a coupleof issues. But Gail Simone don't shiv: she's taking Bane's excellent character arc to what should be an epic conclusion. Glee!

Moriarty: The Dark Chamber No. 3

Why I'm Keeping This Short: I'm running low on time. Briefly, the premise of this comic is that Professor James Moriarty managed to kill Sherlock Holmes on Reichenbach falls, and, his life having no meaning without a worthy adversary to challenge him, abandoned his criminal empire and sank into obscurity. Now, years later, a mad plot threatens London and Moriarty takes on the role of (anti) hero in order to save the day. Plus: one of the best depictions of Dr Watson I have ever encountered.

Even When Stripped of His Fantastic Powers, John Buys Comics

I bought comics! And now you get to read about them!

Flashpoint No. 2 (and about a million miniseries) (DC)


Why it's Here: I'm honestly not sure. Is it because I feel like I should at least make a pass at reviewing DC's Summer crossover? Because I want to see what kind of tomfoolery is going to spark the Big Reset in September? Is it just that I'm a sucker for an alternate universe story? No idea.

Non Spoiler Summary: The Reverse Flash has messed with time and now Everything is Different and Crazy and Dark. Batman is Thomas Wayne! Atlantis done blowed up most of Europe! Dogs are marrying cats!

The Very Best Thing About It: There's a lot of decent alternate-universe-everything-is-different stuff going on: less-used characters like Shade the Changing Man and the Outsider rub elbows with interestingly-tweaked versions of old standards such as the five-kids-and-a-tiger version of Captain Marvel Thunder. Plus it's always fun to see Dr Thirteen.

The Very Worst Thing About It: It just feels a bit... tepid. A lot of the characters in this world have clear motivations (stop the war between Atlantis and the Amazons, don't get killed, steal things, etc) but the series itself lacks any sort of clear reason for being. The world has changed because Reverse Flash did... something, or a lot of things, right? And he did it to... mess with the Flash? To what end? Honestly, the Sadistic Mastermind Who Hatches Overly-Elaborate Schemes and Gloats All the Time villain archetype is near universally the most tedious and irritating thing in comics. Reverse Flash is Hush is terrible and the world that he has created has no dramatic reason to exist. If it wasn't being played up as a BIG! FAT! IMPORTANT! CROSSOVER! this could just be a standalone Flash story with no consequences outside of his own book, and not many there.

I might take all this back if some later issue reveals that, say, the absence of Barry Allen caused the heroes to lose during the original Crisis and this is the shitty final

Also, the entire series takes place at night or under heavy cloud cover. THE WORLD IS LITERALLY DARK and the symbolism heavy-handed.

Who Made It: A Geoff Johns joint. Plus a lot of artists and auxiliary writers.

Closing Comments: I'm going to give this thing a couple of more chances. This means that I am part of the event problem. I feel terrible about this.

The Tooth (Oni)


Why It's Here: It's an original graphic novel about an anthropomorphic tooth that fights monsters. That's amazing.

Non Spoiler Summary: Think old Man-Thing or Swamp Thing: the travels and travails of an improbable creature and its human cohorts in a world crawling with demons and monsters and dark science. And it's framed as a story arc in a long-running series, complete with letters pages and callbacks to non-existent continuity. Fun!

The Very Best Thing About It: That it's a pretty much perfect recreation of the Weird Wandering Monster subgenre from days of yore, complete with purple narration and crazy monsters and an internal mythology that makes things like a tooth monster that splits its time between killing things and living in a dude's mouth make sense.

The Very Worst Thing About It: My boss just expressed interest in the odd book sitting on my desk, whereupon I realized that there was no way for me to explain it to a layperson without sounding like a crazy man. That's unfortunate.

Who Made It: Cullen Bunn and Shawn Lee wrote it and Matt Kindt drawed it.

Isle of 100,000 Graves (Fantagraphics)

Why I'm Keeping This Short: It's a Jason comic. Do you like those? Then you will like this. Do you not like those? You won't like this. If you have no idea what I'm talking about... Do you like the idea of a slice-of-life story in a very strange setting where all of the characters are idiosyncratically-drawn anthropomorphic dogs and birds? Well there you go then.

50 Girls 50 (Image)

Why I'm Keeping This Short: Because there's only so much you can say about this story if you're not getting mad about it. It's got a dumb title (at least I think it does, because that's the way it's written in the indicia) and a generic sci-fi story with really nice art - the only really remarkable thing about it is the number of plot hoops that Doug Murray and Frank Cho jumped through in order to set up their cheesecake-fest. "Earth is starving and we need to find another planet! Look, a wormhole that messes up the Y chromosome - better send a spaceship full of hot science-babes to look for one." "Oh, no! This jungle planet we landed on has a crazy atmosphere that dissolves plastic! We are forced to wander around in tiny scraps of cloth and spear-fight giant insects until we can find a way off!" And so on. If Frank Cho's jungle ladies appeal to or repulse you, this book is likely to do the same.

Criminal: The Last of the Innocent (Icon)

Why I'm Keeping This Short: Because I foolishly have not read any Criminal before and I have no idea if discussing the plot of this issue will be spoilery. Succinctly, it is excellent.