Podcast - Episode 57: Cosmic Odyssey

DCAF is over and Dave and I had a nice time! We recorded via Skype this week because I have somehow injured my neck and cannot drive. I think I'm really getting the hang of this Skype recording stuff, though. Sounds good!

It's week 7 of our summer book club and we read the 1988 DC space adventure, Cosmic Odyssey, by Jim Starlin and Mike Mignola. It really is great. We poke fun at it a lot in this episode, but we sincerely both love it.

Here is that article in the Washington Post I was talking about that talks about fan entitlement and the importance of submitting to the vision of the artist.

Here's the birthday tweet Chris Evans posted for Sebastian Stan that made news headlines (for some reason):

Here is the sketch that Michael Cho did for me of Captain America (dreaming about Bucky):

And here's the Plastic Man sketch he did for Mitchell:

Both totally excellent. We're very happy.

Speaking of happy, I was very excited to receive a package in the mail this week from our pal J.Bone! It included this ADORABLE little sketch of The Summer Soldier:

@originaljbone gives me the best presents. 💕 #wintersoldier

A photo posted by Living Between Wednesdays (@livingbetweenwednesdays) on

The Stucky fanzine by Jess Fink and Yuko Ota is, I believe, no longer available. But you can check out their awesome Tumblr sites, which will lead you to other great stuff you can read or buy: Jess Fink and Yuko Ota

Anyway, it's full of cute stuff like this:

I did buy a Winter Soldier dinky car, because obviously. On the Instagram post, Dave asked Steve Epting if he knew about this thing. He replied! He owns one himself. I like to think he means a full-size version. Like, that car is Steve Epting's ride.

JUST LIKE IN THE COMICS!!!! #wintersoldier

A photo posted by Living Between Wednesdays (@livingbetweenwednesdays) on

What a weird thing.

And, of course, I also got a hot Wal-Mart exclusive Winter Soldier figure.

Got a new boyfriend. Wal-Mart exclusive. #wintersoldier

A photo posted by Living Between Wednesdays (@livingbetweenwednesdays) on

And I am totally not putting him in weird, somewhat sexy scenes with my Captain America figure. 

Valium is a really good drug.

Here's the panel from Cosmic Odyssey that really cracks me up:

"What? Oh, I don't care about that anymore. Look at this computer thing I did..."

Next week we're reading and discussing Batgirl: Year One/Robin: Year One

John Buys Comics, the Cad

Dungeons & Dragons – I just picked up issues 0 through 2 this week, and as a – and I’m surprised how tentative I am about admitting this, given the forum – as a Dungeon Master I am enjoying it a great deal. The basics of the plot are similar to those in basically any comic based on any RPG: a party has some adventures in the official setting. Unlike a lot of the RPG adaptations that I’ve read in the past, however, this one actually reads true – goals are reached despite all parties involved following their own semi-random course of action, party members are added with little to no preamble and larger-than-life tactics are constantly employed. Plus: a lot of bickering.

Aside from the “Perry White vs. the Internet” aspects of Superman no 706 (news-bloggers! You are wrong even when you have noticed a legitimate pattern of interview bias! Also, you will leap onto a low-paying position at a newspaper at the drop of a hat!), this issue is remarkable for the truly ridiculous level of fake swearing. (examples, separated by periods). This is unacceptable.

Green Lantern, Green Lantern, Green Lantern – I was set to make a snide remark about Emerald Warriors No. 5 being maybe the hundredth time that someone’s been barfing on the cover of a DC comic in the last year, but looking at it now I choose to believe that this specific instance is actually a Christmas thing. Green/Red Lantern is the jolliest being in the DC Universe! Plus, bonus barfing both in this book and in the regular Green Lantern title, which features people upchucking entire metaphysical entities! Gross!

Meanwhile: a Green Lantern/Plastic Man one-shot, and it’s a yawner. No, scratch that – it’s okay, but it utilizes Plastic Man’s Lazily Clever Story Idea. You know, like Spider-Man Almost Gives Up or Batman Relates Current Events To Memories of his Parents or Superman Doubts His Humanity Even Though He is the Most Human of All (currently ongoing!). Every character has one or more – they’re the plot ideas that lie somewhere in between a story where the character acts exactly as he usually does and a legitimately clever idea. In this case, it’s Overly Serious Character Teams Up With Plastic Man and Treats Him With Contempt Because He’s Goofy Until He Realizes That Goofiness Doesn’t Preclude Effectiveness, and it’s been done before and better (Morrison’s run on JLA and recent episodes of The Brave and the Bold are good examples).

Green Lantern Quarterly No. 7 Seemed Oddly Familiar for Some Reason


Would you believe that not two panels later the evil Raakj nearly flings Green Lantern off of a futuristically high place, and that two panels after that he is so corrupted by power that he nearly strikes down the woman that he was doing all of this villainy for in the first place?

If only I could figure out whet this reminds me of. Repo Man?


Blackest Night Cheeses Me Off Again

 I've calmed down since, but I got kind of irritated by a certain aspect of Green Lantern No. 52 earlier today. Let's watch!

Spoilers! Spoilers aplenty! Read no further if you care about such things!

So this is a mostly-talking issue and I’m not too upset about it. There had to be an origin of that white light thing that Sinestro ate in Blackest Night and if it was a bit long, well, that’s kind of what happens when a story is blown up to somewhere between four and ten times the size that it needs to be. Gah, and there’s probably going to be another one of these for Nekron, isn’t there.

So Sinestro stops in the middle of a fight with about a million dudes and narrates the history of the White Light Entity. It goes something like this: the Entity appeared in our universe and created all of the stars and planets and stuff. It then created the Earth at the point in space where it first entered our universe and hid inside (deep within the planets gooey centre in the narration but about a foot below the surface in the actual comic). The Entity’s presence caused life to evolve, and then as creatures start displaying emotions (emotions like willpower!) they are transformed into Ion and Parallax and Predator and so forth, seven in all. I think that this is the origin of the emotional spectrum. Like, Ion is the first anything anywhere to exhibit willpower and afterward there is green light power for all - it's not explicitly stated but it's strongly implied and so I'm going with it.

This whole thing has been bugging me for a while now and I think I’ve figured out why: it’s the Earth-centric aspect of the whole thing, straight out of terrible 50s sci-fi. Where Our Heroes Are is the Most Important Place in All Creation. It’s a perennial problem in comics, especially DC comics, wherein writers feel a perpetual need to explain the remarkably high instance of alien invasion and such. I kind of thought that they settled that problem fine way back in Invasion: humans have a crazy genetic code and so there are lots of superhumans and so alien races want to exploit/conquer/destroy our planet. Simple, and yet every new event seems to layer on another heaping spoonful of importance, until the fictional history of the DCU Earth resembles some ungodly narrative casserole. I swear, if this exact same origin was set on a random alien planet I would have no problem with it, but it isn't and now I have to tear it apart.

Okay, so the timeline goes: Entity arrives - creates universe - creates Earth, hides inside - life starts - unicellular/whale-looking thing feels first will - flying bug thing generates first fear - some other bug (?) feels first love - snake feels first avarice - bull (?) feels first rage - bird feels first hope - octopus feels first compassion.

I guess that this is a comic book and that the Earth could be 10+ billion years old instead of the 4 or 5 we currently reckon it to be, and maybe the universe revolves around a stationary Earth that is certainly not quintillions of kilometers away from where it might have been 10 billion years ago. Maybe the DCU is that radically different than ours.

And maybe the entire Age of Reptiles happened without any creature feeling anything like rage. Maybe dinosaurs went about their business in a dignified manner and didn’t take anything personally. It took the Rise of the Cows to mess things up for everyone. And maybe no living creature in the entire universe felt hope or compassion any time until the last, say, million years or so - remember, that octopus didn’t get around to it until after the cow-murder.

But even if every Green Lantern story told before this whole rainbow brouhaha is now said to be completely apocryphal, there are some holes in this story. Geoff Johns creation Larfleeze the Orange Lantern got his start billions of years ago, all fighting the Guardians and betraying his homies and such. And then billions of years went by and snakes and apples evolved and a snake in an apple tree felt avarice for the first time. Bah.

I suppose that I should be as willing to discard what I know about evolution and such as I was to abandon cosmology and common sense and the prior established history of the Green Lanterns and by extension the DCU, but this last detail pushes things just a bit too far. An earth that is the centre of the universe, that evolved the very first life anywhere and that reached the Age of Mammals something like 10 billion years ago (necessary for anyone to have gotten angry for most of the history of the universe, remember) only to remain in a sort of evolutionary stasis since then is just a bit too much for my suspension of disbelief glands to process. Especially since I just described the planet Malthus, a central element in Green Lantern’s history. There’s already a place that this could have been set that would have made all of this make sense! I mean, it wouldn’t be the greatest story ever told, but by GOD would it be about a billion times more palatable without ERTH ISS COOL AND IMPURTENT scrawled across it in foot-high letters.

Okay, I had to go and do something and I’ve calmed sown a bit. All I’ve got left is that it’s weird that that one robot would know the term “Western Seaboard” and not “Tootsie Pop”. They’re both pretty Earth-colloquial, right?

Okay… nerd rage spent. Go read the rest of the reviews in the next post for me being happy about comics. I'll try not to do this any more.

Always Bet On Black.

So, I think it’s fair to say that I liked Blackest Night #1 a lot better than my blogmates here at LBW (with the exception of Tiina who, to my knowledge, hasn’t read it yet). However, I should qualify this by saying that I am also a huge horror movie fan who occasionally likes it when two of my favourite genres—superhero stuff and scary stuff-- cross paths. In any event, Blackest Night is not a book for the squeamish. For a superhero comic, it almost certainly goes too far in terms of guts and gore (one of my biggest beefs with Geoff Johns’ scripting, but more on that in a bit). Still, as a crazy cosmic horror story, as well as the culmination of a few years of build-up in the pages of Green Lantern, I was very much into this creepy, ominous first chapter that takes the revolving-door aspect of death in superhero crossover events to a horrifying extreme.

Geoff Johns’ writing has made Green Lantern my favourite monthly series of the past few years (eclipsed all-too-briefly by Johns’ stellar run on Action Comics), and, in re-reading the entire series over the past few weeks, I realized that this might now be the longest I’ve regularly bought a title since Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol, which shows just how short an attention span I have for ongoing monthly books. I started buying the series, starring a character I really had no great emotional investment in other than “hey, I had the Super Powers toy of this guy”, for the artwork of Carlos Pacheco. However, by the time Pacheco left the series, I was caught up in the thrill of a good monthly superhero book, one with a cool lead, an interesting supporting cast made up of old favourites and new characters, exciting story arcs that built nicely on their predecessors, and slow-boil subplots that were expertly teased out months ahead of coming to fruition. The addition of Ivan Reis as the new regular artist with issue nine sealed the deal.

Now, the regular monthly team of Johns and Reis have moved over to the eight-issue Blackest Night miniseries, which has gone from being a Green Lantern/Green Lantern Corps crossover to a DCU “event”, with several tie-ins, spinoffs, and the like. Blame the surprise success of the Sinestro Corps War crossover, which I think caught everyone at DC off guard. Blackest Night was first teased at the end of that crossover, and the past two years of the monthly GL titles have been laying the foundation for it with a brewing conflict between the different Lantern Corps (Yellow, Red, Orange, etc.) and the behind-the-scenes machinations of Scar, a traitorous, disfigured Guardian of the Universe. As such, I’m not sure how accessible Blackest Night will be for non-readers of GL, although the first issue does a good job on the recap. The zero issue made available for this year’s Free Comic Day didn’t hurt either. Anyway, by the issue’s end, a swarm of Black Lantern rings have made their way across the galaxy and are finding their way onto the hands of beloved dead heroes, transforming them into hideously undead Black Lantern Corps members eager to add the still-living heroes of the DCU to their ranks. 

Obviously, comparison to the Marvel Zombies franchise is inevitable. That series, though, began as a kinda-dumb joke born out of former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter’s nickname for devoted Marvel fans. The joke got old fairly quick, but the two most recent MZ series, by new creative team Fred Van Lente and Kev Walker, have rejuvenated the idea by crossing the book’s alternate universe into the regular Marvel U. In any event, the emphasis in MZ has been on gross-out humour, where Blackest Night is doing its best to be straight-up terrifying. There’s nothing remotely funny about the scene where the Black Lantern rings revive every fallen member of the Green Lantern Corps, or the scene where rotting, reanimated Ralph and Sue Dibny murder two of their old pals and transform them into Black Lanterns like themselves. Some might argue that there’s nothing remotely fun about it either, but I’m not sure that “fun” and “suspenseful” are always meant to be one and the same. I mentioned Johns’ penchant for crazy gore earlier, and how I think it’s a weakness of his—no monthly superhero book should be as disgusting as Green Lantern sometimes gets, especially issue four’s gut-crunching cliffhanger (you know, the one where the new incarnation of the Shark has a whole guy's mashed-up body crammed between his jaws). I’m not sure why he feels it’s called for, and a book like Blackest Night provides a perfect vehicle for his nastier impulses to run rampant. The only reason I can look past it is that he tends to balance out the nastier stuff with unwavering heroism from his leads. One of the things that made the conclusion to the Sinestro Corps War so satisfying was the fact that Hal Jordan made a point of arresting Sinestro, even though a new edict from the Guardians now authorized the use of lethal force. It’s this insistence on stalwart heroism in his lead characters that, I think, places Johns a cut above cynical gore-meisters like Mark Millar and Warren Ellis; where those scribes seem to revel in writing books where so-called “heroes” casually execute their opponents, Johns’ protagonists never even consider it an option.

Speaking of protagonists, another thing I’m enjoying about Blackest Night is the fact that, to my knowledge, this will be the first ever DCU crossover event to be headlined by the Hal Jordan and Barry Allen incarnations of Green Lantern and the Flash (both appeared in Final Crisis, but their roles were much smaller than they are here). This should, I think, make for an interesting dynamic, given that their deaths played such major parts in past DC crossovers. This choice of protagonists is no coincidence, since the larger idea behind Blackest Night seems to deal with the nature of death and resurrection in superhero crossovers. Barry Allen’s ultimate sacrifice in Crisis on Infinite Earths opened the floodgates for killing characters off as a selling point, and everything came full circle last year when he was resurrected in Final Crisis. Clearly, it’s not enough to kill characters off to sell comics anymore—now you’ve gotta shock everyone by bringing them back to life. And that’s where Blackest Night comes in, I suppose.

The artwork by Ivan Reis must be mentioned as well. It’s been very exciting to see his already-solid art on the monthly GL series evolving to this point. He’s like Bryan Hitch before he discovered photo reference, at ease drawing simple conversations or epic-level double page spreads. Check out the scene where Hal uses his ring to create constructs of every other hero who has died since Barry’s sacrifice. It’s a terrific group shot of dozens of fallen heroes, showcasing Reis’ ease at dealing with a large and varied cast (it’s also an eye-opener for Barry, and for the audience—it’s suddenly very clear what the real legacy of Barry Allen has been, at least in terms of what sells comic books). I hope DC hangs on to Reis for a while to come, since this book should rightfully make him a superstar.

The Sinestro Corps War set the bar pretty high for these kind of cosmic epics recently, and I hope Blackest Night can live up to it. Having its status elevated from a mere Green Lantern storyline to a full-fledged DCU event might hurt it, since the Powers That Be like to sow the seeds for the next crossover in the pages of the current one. Editorial interference aside, Johns has clearly had this one in the works for a while, and Reis has shown that he can crank out quality pages on a timely schedule. These guys are off to a good start, anyway, and I’m alternately looking forward to and dreading what issue two has in store.

Oh, and, like Rachelle and Johnathan, I also could have happily gone my whole life without this image:

“I’m your boyfriend now, Batsy!”