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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Rule Number One for Successful Barbarian Living

You are Hrothgar the Strong, mightiest of all Vanirmen. You proved yourself in combat as early as your eleventh summer, taking down a foul dog of the Aesir more than twice your size.

Your weapons are sharp, your sword-arm is strong, and scores of enemies have fallen beneath your deadly blade. You are an unstoppable engine of rage and destruction set against the enemies of your people.

And then you decided to fuck with Conan.

This was not a good decision on your part.

Rule Number One for Successful Barbarian Living: If at all possible, be Conan.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Two Questions

Specifically, I'm asking about the cover to 1941's Human Torch Comics #5:

1. Where did Namor even get that thing he's driving around (and by extension, where can I get one)?

2. Why doesn't he ride that thing all the time?

Admittedly, flying with the power of little wings on your ankles probably allows you to cover more ground than what appears to be a giant electromagnet mounted on tank treads, but in case you missed it, it shoots lightning from a pair of antennae, and thus makes a lot more sense than, say, the Justice Jogger.

Like Mark Hale said when I showed him the picture, that thing's like six GI Joe vehicles dropped on top of each other--and it's even monogrammed. If that wouldn't have spiced up some Defenders issues, I don't know what would.

BONUS FEATURE: Because YOU Demanded It!

The 1999 reprint of this issue, Timely Comics Presents the Human Torch, not only features the above cover painted by Ray Lago, but also features this on the back cover:

I don't know if that's the recreation of an actual ad, or just something they cooked up for the reprint, but what I do know is that it's comedy gold.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Six-Fisted Asgardian Adventure!

There are few very few things in the world of comics that I like better than three men wearing fur and hanging out in the woods together.

And I mean that in the manliest way possible.

I am, of course, talking about The Warriors Three, seen here in one of their rare solo appearances. Or trio appearances. You know what I mean.

All you really need to know is that this issue (by Len Wein, John Buscema, and Joe Sinnot) is awesome. Just take a look at that cover: We've got Hogun the Grim rocking out death-metal style, Fandral the Dashing ready for action, and Volstagg caught in what appears to be mid-pelvic-thrust, all while mind-shatteringly monochromatic action rages in the background.

Plus, the fact that the cover refers to them as "Thor's three buddies" provides me with endless delight. "Buddies" just isn't a word you see too often on today's comics, and that alone makes it pretty exciting stuff. Especially when you add in the promise of non-stop action.

So how does it live up? Feast thine eyes, True Believer, on page one:

Not only is this a barroom brawl, but it's a barroom brawl with a man swinging from a chandelier to kick people in the face. I wasn't even aware that the seedy waterfront taverns of New York City even had chandeliers. Or, for that matter, that sailors wore red-and-white striped shirts well into the 1970s. But as it turns out, they did, and sometimes that resulted in getting kicked in the face by Norse gods speaking in faux-Shakespearean dialect.

And the entire issue is like that. It's a story of Asgard's Heroes just wandering aruond New York smashing things with blunt objects on an adventure motivated by boredom that involves two attempted suicides, a jewelry store heist, public intoxication, and a romantic marriage at swordpoint to cap the whole night off. In other words, it's exactly the kind of comic I want to read.

For those of you who haven't experienced the awesome yourself, allow me to provide the rundown.

Thor's off fighting Firelord, leaving the Warriors Three to fend for themselves in New York, so Fandral hails a cab that can apparently drive around unimpeded with a metric ton of Asgardian crammed into the back seat and drives off in search of adventure! What they find, however, is a traffic jam caused by somebody getting ready to jump off a ledge.


...it's a lady, leading Fandral to jump out of the taxi and scale the wall of her apartment building in an effort to talk her down.

Surprisingly, a man in green furs carrying a sword doesn't immediately make her jump, and she gives Fandral the sob story of how her boyfriend owes too much money to loan sharks and had to become an accomplice in the robbery of a diamond exchange. She slips, lands on Volstagg's gut, and hops into the taxi to accompany the Warriors in an effort to find her boyfriend, Arnold.

Acquiring a drunk whose major skills involve drinking and a specialized knowledge of how to operate a doorknob (yes, really), they foil the robbery handily, but Arnold's gone, headed to the waterfront to end his own life! Will they be able to find him, thus preventing the tragedy of a love gone awry?!

Well, yeah. But not before a barfight so awesome that it's described in the narration as "World War III." Now that's some punching.

Crisis is averted, the kids are married by a Justice of the Peace that Hogun the Grim holds at swordpoint, the cabbie gets a nice bag of gold coins for his troubles, Thor presumably beats Firelord with his magic hammer, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Until they die in the all-consuming fire of Ragnarok, I mean.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Week in Ink: 4-26-06

I bought and read no fewer than twenty comics yesterday, and yet not a single one of them managed to be Tokyopop's new offering, Boys of Summer. But I did give it a stern reading this afternoon.

Yes, after being allegedly run out of comics by a torch-bearing mob known as "the internet," rather than, say, writing a story where Husk had sex with Archangel in midair in front of her mother, Chuck Austen has returned alongside fellow ex-pornographer Hiroki Otsuka. It's not an entirely unenjoyable way to pass a half hour, but as far as softcore baseball-themed sex romps go, I'll always prefer the pre-Toxic Avenger Troma classic, Squeeze Play.

Which I have never seen.

And now, tremble in mind-shattering terror as I turn my wrath to these, the comics released the last week of April. NONE SHALL SURVIVE!


All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z #3: On Tuesday afternoon, I was sitting in a Taco Bell with Scott hearing about Steve Gerber's run on Defenders and how every time the plot started to drag, an elf with a gun would show up and shoot a random passer-by. Cut to Wednesday, and we now have two pages of biographical information on what is certainly one of the five best concepts in comics history, conveniently filed under Elf With A Gun. Now that's the sort of information we desperatley need. This gentleman, however, may be of more interest to my fellow South Carolinians:

Yes, The Gamecock, who fought the Falcon and was eaten alive in Madripoor shortly thereafter. I love the Official Handbook.

Astonishing X-Men #14: For some reason, the sentence "Cyclops can't control his optic blasts because his father the space pirate threw him out of a plane to keep him from being abducted by aliens and he bumped his head" has always made me chuckle a little bit. Anyway, this issue sees Emma Frost being mean, Kitty and Peter having X-Gene powered sex, and the setup for a rematch that I'm pretty excited about. And of course, it's all pencilled by Handsome John Cassaday, who was robbed of his Marvel Hunk-of-the-Month title by Paolo Rivera. And I mean that in a totally straight way. It's enjoyable stuff, and it's nice to see someone building off of Grant Morrison's concepts from New X-Men without completely destroying them in the process, like what happened with Xorn.

Batman #652: ATTENTION SPECULATORS: Break out the self-sealing mylar, because this issue marks the return of what is unquestionably the worst Batman villain of all time. The way things are going, she'll end up shot twice in the head by the end of the next issue, which we can all be happy about, but it's actually a pretty nice moment when we get the reveal and it feels like even Batman and Robin let out a collective groan at the prospect. There's a lot of those nice moments in this story, and this issue's got its share, with Batman actively showing more trust in Robin, and great scenes with Harveys Dent and Bullock by the end of the story. It's incredibly solid stuff.

Blue Beetle #2: Another issue from Giffen, Rogers and Hamner that doesn't reall do a whole lot for me. I ended up liking it a lot more than the first issue, though, and the reveal at the end was a nice touch that addressed a lot of the problems that I had with the first issue. It's interesting and seems to be getting better, but the whole thing feels like it's just missing clicking with me. Hopefully once the setup arc is through, the book'll be able to find its feet, but for now, I'm a little wary. Still worth reading, though.

Catwoman #54: The "One Year Later" arc of Catwoman has been highly enjoyable so far, and Holly taking up the role of Catwoman is playing out in a way that feels like the natural extension of how she was treated in the Ed Brubaker run. Of course, the real treat here is Will Pfeifer's revamp of the Film Freak, who comes off as the kind of highly entertaining "quirk" villain that'll be a good foil for Holly's inexperience.

Checkmate #1: As big a fan as I am of John Ostrander's Suicide Squad and Greg Rucka's comics in general, it's really no surprise that I enjoyed this one, especially since it involves the Kobra Cult, which as we all know is the best terrorist organization in comics. It's good stuff, but I can't help but wonder why Amanda Waller and Nick Fury One-Eyed Spymaster Alan Scott are wearing crazy black and white knee-length leather jackets when they go hang out with the UN. I mean, it just seems like a nice suit would help the Security Council take them a little more seriously.

Conan #27: And now, an ISB One-Sentence Review: Unlike Cary Nord and his proclivity for loincloths, Tim Truman puts Conan in no less than three solid layers of clothing before sending him out to chop people's heads off in this, the manliest story of feudal politics ever written.

GØDLAND #10: Joe Casey and Tom Scioli turn in another fine issue with a story that opens with a literally Earth-shattering explosion and builds to a climax involving a midget in crazy sunglasses kicking Our Hero's teeth in while spouting one-word sentences. Which is to say, it's a lot of fun all around. What really caught my eye in this issue, though, was the coloring by--I think--Nick Filardi. It's hard to tell from the credits, but whomever it is is doing a great job with the book. The flat Kirbyesque color pallet is probably a lot harder to pull off than it looks if it's going to remain visually interesting, and the scenes in the psychedellic torture chambers have some very nice effects that don't get to the point of distracting from the art. Very well-done.

Hawkgirl #51: I seem to be the only one around my shop enjoying Hawkgirl, which came as kind of a surprise to me. Admittedly, I wish John Workman was lettering it since those narrative captions just don't sit well with me, it comes off a little disjointed in places, and Kendra seems to be gritting her teeth an awful, awful lot, but I really like it. My comrade and occasional nemesis Kevin suggested this week that he'd like to see Walt Simonson and Howard Chaykin swap jobs as writer and artist to see the results. It's something that I don't think I'd mind either, as I prefer Simonson's pencils to Chaykin's, especially when it comes to flying people hitting opponents with blunt objects. Not that I don't like Hawkgirl's nipples, mind you...

Invincible #31: We had a long conversation at lunch today about Invincible's girlfriend and how we think he'd be better off with Atom Eve--who returns in this issue sporting a fresh pair of cargo shorts--and as I look back on it, I realize that it's one of the less creepy conversations about super-hero love interests that Tug and I have ever had in public. That, my friends, is the power of Robert Kirkman.

Ion: Guardian of the Universe #1: The further we get from Grant Morrison's JLA, the harder it gets for me to dredge up enough effort to care about the Green Lanterns. I like Emerald Dawn as much as the next guy, but really: I've been waiting like eight years for Kyle Rayner to live up to that time Dream of the Endless told him he was going to surpass Hal Jordan, and except for that time he contained a super-nova in the 853rd Century (which was awesome), it has yet to happen. Suffice to say, it doesn't happen in this one either, as Kyle Rayner, former artist on a comic strip for a trendy New York magazine--goes to an extremely pretentious European "artist's retreat." All things considered, I think we'd be a lot better off at this point if Kyle Baker had gotten the ring.

The Middleman #2.3: The kick I get out of the convoluted, almost-nonsensical subtitles that each installment of The Middleman has is matched only by the one I got from Wendy Watson's roomate in her iguana suit. Said kicks are of course dwarfed by everything else that happens in this book, which is very, very good.

Runaways #15: As I've said before many, many times, I love everything about this book and the people who make it. It's easily one of the top ten comics I read every month, and as you may have guessed, I read a lot of comics. But this particular issue has what might be my favorite line of the entire series:

Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #4: The miniseries are now over, and thus we are left with what will undoubtedly be a nerve-wrackingly long wait for Seven Soldiers #1 and the debate over whether to re-read everything now or later. Fortunately, we have Frankenstein's monster going toe-to-toe with Ne-Bu-Loh to tide us over, and that's pretty awesome. Also, is this the same S.H.A.D.E. that's been appearing in Battle for Blüdhaven? And if so, how come it's so much more awesome when Frankenstein's tromping around talking to himself and shooting extradimensional huntsmen made of baby universes in the head with flintlock pistols? Feel free to respond with your theories.


Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #5: Yeah, that's right. I'm saying Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane is the best comic that came out this week. And that makes me more of a twelve year-old girl than an actual twelve year-old girl. To be perfectly honest, it was a tossup between this and the Villains United Special, but take a look at that happy-ass Dr. Doom doll that MJ's got on the cover and tell me which one you would've picked.

I've been talking about this book a lot this week with various people, trying to convince them that yes, it really is as good as I make it out to be, but it's hard to explain exactly why. It could just be that I'm a sucker for well-done teen drama that also manages to involve muggers getting clocked by Spider-Man, but everyone I've actually convinced to give it a look has, at the very least, enjoyed an issue or two. Takeshi Miyazawa's art, while it might seem a little out of place on a book like Runaways, fits the title perfectly, and Christina Strain does her usual fantastic job with the coloring. It's Sean McKeever, though, who pulls it all together with his great job writing compelling high school love triangles that pack a lot of characterization into things, and the climax of the last issue where Peter Parker tries to convince Mary Jane to go out with him instead of Spider-Man just hits exactly the right buttons for me, despite a count of zero (0) explosions.

This issue sees MJ's date with Spider-Man and the subsequent aftermath, and the way McKeever sets up Mary Jane only to kick the world of romance out from under her is just extremely well-done with this issue's last-page shocker. And while it doesn't take any mean feat of detective work to see where he's going, I'll admit that I was blindsided by it, and so excited that I punched the air and did a little dance after it was over with. And that's what comics should do to you.

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #17: And while we're on the subject of super-hero/teen drama, this one's not too shabby either. Barry Kitson's pencils are great, of course, and the way he draws Supergirl makes her really look like she belongs with the Legion. It's something that Mark Waid's able to deal with, too, making her come off a lot better in these issues than she has before; sweet and innocent instead of ditzy and insufferable. Waid also does a great job--especially in this issue--of treading the line between wacky misadventures and incredible danger, and it all works out to be extremely appealing stuff.

The Thing #6: I wish I could give somebody twenty bucks and make Spider-Man's new costume go away. You're such a tease, Dan Slott.

Villains United Special #1: Like I said, this one was almost the Best of the Week for me, but that's to be expected since it's pretty much nothing but third-string heroes and villains beating the hell out of each other for 48 pages. It's the kind of book that Dave Campbell fantasizes about. It's essentially a heist story built around every supervillain that never got a chance to die in the Suicide Squad getting broken out of prison while all the big heroes are out in space fighting Alexander Luthor's giant hands, and Gail Simone and Dale Eaglesham play it out masterfully. I'm trying to avoid spoilers here, but I will say this: When that guy shows up at the end, that's the most excited I've been to see him ever. And then he fights the Manhattan Guardian.

That's awesome.

PS: If anybody knows who that guy with the crazy suit and tie and red and yellow eyes is, let me know. I've been trying to think of him all day. You will not recieve any sort of points for this.

What Were They Thinking?! Some People Never Learn #1: It's not as funny as Marvel Romance Redux, which in turn isn't as funny as Truer Than True Romance, but I'll be damned if there's not some hilarious bits in this one, especially John Rogers' remixed "Voyage to Nowhere."

X-Factor: And now, a one-sentence question regarding the best Peter David book I've ever read, X-Factor: So if a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a hurricane, then what's the result of a hundred Multiple Men flexing in the middle of a park?



Collected Jack Kirby Collector v.5: I'd actually ordered this in the hopes that it'd have an article on OMAC I saw while I was leafing through TJKC last year that featured some notes about Brother Eye that were obviously (and awesomely) made up as they were being written down, but the trade's actually got stuff from several years ago instead. That's fine, though, as I was able to find something even better.

Jack Kirby's unpublished art for his adaptation of The Prisoner.

They've got some of Gil Kane's, too, but if the King of Comics drawing Number Six isn't enough to get you to part with your hard earned cash, buster, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Cool It, Laddio! The Mind-Blowing Saga of Ding-Dong Daddy

Despite what you may have heard, the Teen Titans Showcase is a black-and-white slab of pure comics joy that almost overwhelmed me with euphoria last night. For you see, I read a little Bob Haney masterpiece called "The Revolt at Harrison High," and while I've only glanced at the one where a super-villain shoots a hip-talkin' disc jockey into space to help him steal Mount Rushmore, I'm willing to say that it may just be...


With a cover that features the Teen Titans in imminent danger of being outfought by a fat guy driving a pimped-out dragster and Aqualad about to get murdered by rocket-propelled surfboards, it should be pretty clear that this is everything I want from a comic book.

The story itself opens with no less amount of awesome, as a splash page featuring Robin and Aqualad getting smacked around by an ambulatory gas pump gives way to a bank-robbing hotrod outrunning the Batmobile by driving across a conveniently-located river. Batman seems understandably perplexed by this, and even goes so far to refer to the car as a "super-charged getaway chariot," further giving creedence to my theory that crazy jive-talk is just par for the course when Bob Haney's calling the shots, buster.

Anyway, hovercrafting hot rods are quickly forgotten as the Teen Titans are summoned to Washington DC by the President's Commission on Education, a group of guys so concerned about rising dropout rates that they think sending a group of teenagers to wander around Middle America in the middle of the day is going to help matters. Admittedly, two of the Titans don't really go to school, what with being members of mythical royal families and all, but man, don't Wally and Dick have classes to get to?

Then again, this is a government agency we're talking about here. Counterproductivity is to be expected.

A short helicopter ride later, and the titans are in Generic Town #4 Harrison, where they find out that kids are dropping out of high school in favor of high-paying and enjoyable careers in the field of custom cars, courtesy of today's villain: Ding-Dong Daddy Dowd.

Coincidentally, that's also my porn name.

Moving on. Aside from his peculiar resemblance to a customer at the shop, Ding-Dong's got some sinister machinations of his own. See, unbeknownst to the mechanically-inclined students that have been wooed away from high school by promises of fast cash and faster living, Ding-Dong's been using their skills... for crime. Crime which is here represented by one of the most awesome things that I have ever seen in seventeen years of reading comics, an ice cream cart equipped with a machine gun.

The kids try to be subtle about their suspicions, but Ding-Dong Daddy, whose name alone brings me more joy than the first five stories in the Green Lantern showcase, gets wise to them and sends out a trio of his dastardly "chariots," including a truck that takes out Wonder Girl with an electric shock from its bumper, a robot hot rod aimed at a schoolbus full of innocent children,and a tricked-out station wagon that shoots rocket-powered surfboards at Aqualad.

Clearly, the direct approach isn't going to work here, so the kids devise a plan that relies a little more on subterfuge.

First, though, they're going to have to win the support of Danny, a well-meaning but misguided dropout and Ding-Dong Daddy loyalist, a feat that they accomplish through a "rumble" with the single greatest street gang in comics history. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...


Ah, the sixties. A more innocent time, when gang life revolved around funny hats, rather than drive-by shooting. Pictured at far left is a young Walter Sobchak, who would later characterize his time with Jughead, Kaiser Wilhelm, and Snidely Whiplash as "some of the best times of my life."

Their tactics tend to revolve around shoving people into nearby barrels of water (sure, why not!), and they're dealt with handily, leaving the Titans free to infiltrate Ding-Dong Daddy Dowd's Hot Rod Hive, leading to what may be my new favorite piece of dialogue ever:

I too dig "rock!" Why, sometimes, I even dig "rock" and "roll" concurrently!

Wonder Girl shakes what her mother made her out of clay, Ding-Dong Daddy's evil schemes are revealed to the unsuspecting teenagers, the phenomenally useless Aqualad gets knocked out by a gas pump robot, and everything works out okay when all the kids go back to school, leaving us with this important moral for the kids of 1966:

Don't drop out of high school, or else you might make a lot of money, get an awesome custom car that can outrun the Batmobile, learn useful job skills, and meet an entire team of your favorite super-heroes.

And that's a lesson we can all learn from.

BONUS FEATURE: Wonder Girl Shakes It Like A Polaroid Picture!

I assume that in the original issue, it doesn't look like Wonder Girl's not wearing pants, but man: The way he's leering at her, this thing would be creepy even if his name wasn't "Ding-Dong."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Look Upon My Photoshoppery, Ye Mighty, And Despair!

My shameless desire for self-promotion knows no bounds, apparently. Not even the ridiculously awesome cover to Marvel Super-Heroes #20 by Larry Lieber, Frank Giacola, and Vince Colletta is safe from my mastery of popular image-editing software!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Profiles in Courage: Banjo

Every once in a while, a villain is created that redefines not only the hero he's pit against, but comics themselves, pushing the envelope in ways no one has ever seen before, revealing something about the nature of evil and what it means to battle it.

And then sometimes, a giant retarded inbred mutant fights Spider-Man.

Yes, lumbering in from the pages of Spectacular Spider-Man #156 comes Banjo, who somehow avoided becoming the Sensational Character Find of 1989, appearing in only one (1) comic book in his entire career. And yet he gets his very own logo on the cover. Lest I remind you, Dr. Doom only got a slightly larger typeface in yellow when he showed up, and that guy managed to stick around longer than his first appearance.

But that may be an unfair comparison. Banjo here was created by Gerry Conway--the mastermind behind villains like murderous rope expert Slipknot and lycanthropic student teacher the Hyena--and just happens to be shacking up in a shantytown full of bug-eyed, overall-wearing freaks in the same area where Spider-Man's looking for Robbie Robertson.

Since he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, as will be made painfully clear by the time we're through here, Banjo mistakes Spider-Man for a government agent and does something that would almost ensure I'd be writing about him someday: he chucks a car battery at Spider-Man.

Auto parts being used as weapons: Always a beautiful thing.

Admittedly, retard strength or no, Spider-Man's able to hold his own against your average hulking redneck, and he does. Right up until Banjo's twin brother Bugeye shows up and handles things with what may be the worst piece of dialogue I've ever seen:

Mercifully, Spider-Man's rendered unconscious before the slack-jawed spectators before they're able to belt out a hearty "Get 'r Done," and when he comes around, Banjo's mother hips him to her son's secret origin. Surprisingly, sex between cousins isn't mentioned, and the blame gets laid instead squarely at the feet of a faulty nuclear reactor right next door to her house. The Marvel Universe: Free of Zoning Laws Since 1961!

Anyway, they give Spider-Man a head start before sending Banjo after him, and before long, Spidey's in imminent danger of being crushed to death in Banjo's powerful hands while being asked about the rabbits again. But then Banjo falls down a hole and everything works out okay.


A hole. That's how it ends.

Spider-Man's able to save him with some webs and drags him back to Possum Holler or whatever the shantytown's called, teaching Banjo's family and their six teeth a valuable lesson about not judging someone by their looks. A lesson that I, it seems, managed to fully escape.

BONUS FEATURE: Mary Jane Fights Alone!

Oh, relax. That girl's anorexic, and those people couldn't knock over a leaf.

She'll be fine.

More Profiles in Courage:
| The Haunted Tank |
| The Vagabond |
| The Tiger Man |

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Kiss The Rings: It's Aqualad Time!

Yes, much like Robin, I am copping out. The above image will have to suffice for an update tonight, and I am therefore apparently deserving of having Aqualad take a running start before punching me in the face. Man, that's harsh.

Incidentally, I read that issue today, and much like the time where Superman made Jimmy Olsen and Aquaman crawl through the desert while mocking their thirst, it's not nearly as awesome as the cover would suggest. See, Aqualad and Robin try to get the rest of the Teen Titans to come throw down on Ocean Master--because it's a Thursday and time for his regular beating, I assume--but they're working for Mr. Jupiter and have taken a vow of nonviolence after somebody got shot at a riot.

I myself dabbled in pacifism once. Not in 'Nam, of course.

Anyway, except for a psychedellic three-page sequence of Lilith telepathically reliving Donna Troy's roomate Sharon's memories of watching some thugs shoot a guy with a ray-gun that turns him into a hideous fish-man, it's remarkably boring.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

An Object Lesson

Apparently, Saturdays have become Karaoke Night for my running crew, and that just wouldn't be complete without me getting accosted by a drunk woman.

Admittedly, at this point in the evening I'd been knocking a few back myself and I wasn't exactly forming complex sentences, but while I was drunk enough to sing a Neil Diamond song, this lady was drunk enough to slow dance with an imaginary partner to one. And for some reason, she was very annoyed with me.

She wandered over after last call, leaning in to speak in my ear in only the way that angry drunks and guys hitting on the girl you're with will do, and asked me: "D'you know what's funny?" I asked what, and she narrowed her eyes at me and said "You're young. But one day, you won't be. And then it won't be so funny anymore."

Aside from being vaguely threatening, I'm not sure what the hell that means, but I do think it's a lesson from which we can all benefit. Especially if we happen to be discussing the cover to From Beyond the Unknown #5:

Sure, it may be easy for us to laugh at it now, here in the prime of our youth, but someday, it won't be so...

...Yeah, now that I'm looking at it, I'm pretty sure that a gorilla named Mr. X who robs banks and wears a plaid suit is always going to be funny.

So, uh, not much of a lesson after all. But hey! Monkeys!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Dances With Bats

So here's what I learned from the Bill Finger/Sheldon Moldoff story in Giant Batman Annual #1:

When you're Silver Age Batman and you find a piece of three hundred year-old Native American pottery in your sprawling anti-crime basement, you don't just head down to your local library to find out more about where it came from.

No, you take it to someone who can send you back in time. And for what follows... there are no words.


Yes, for the record, that's Batman terrifying them with "Batarang Magic."


Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Week in Ink: 4-19-06

Before we get on with the reviews of my comic boook purchases for the third week of April, I'd like to point out something that Tug noticed yesterday while we were pulling subs down at the Wiz.

The Essential Wolverine v.4 contains Wolverine #70-90.

That means that Boneclaws are now Essential.

And if that's not the most harrowing thing you've heard today, I remind you that never once has Darkhawk been collected in trade paperback. There is no justice in this world, my friends. None at all.


Betty #155: The fact that the folks at Archie put the words "Are You A..." over the titles of Betty and Veronica just cracks me up every time I see it. It's great. That said, this particular issue was the most disappointing entrant thus far into The Riverdale Experiment. Even the cover gag falls flat, as do most of the jokes within, although there is an appearance from Betty's rarely-seen sister Polly in a story revolving around the curative properties of perfume. I'm hoping it gets a little better next time, but it may just turn out that I'm a Veronica after all.

Big Max #1: I've made my love of Dangerous Dan Slott's fine comics perfectly clear over the past few months, but now that he's decided to tackle the conspicuous lack of gorilla-based entertainment in today's funnybooks, it's every bit as good as I wanted it to be. I'm reasonably curious as to why Max's love interest dresses like she's late for an appointment in a mid-90s Image book, but otherwise, it's pure fun. There are some great little touches, like Max's secret identity and clever background characters like the Village Idiot, but the way the fight with the issue's villain, a super-powered mime, is just fantastic and excellently pulled off by James Fry and Andrew Pepoy. It's a great little read that involves both monkeys and punching, and if you don't think that's worth buying, then you probably shouldn't be reading the ISB to begin with.

Birds of Prey #93: As long as I live, I will carry with me the image of Lady Blackhawk sporting her leather jacket, cheerleader skirt, and ridiculous, Sgt. Rock-esque levels of ammunition.

It may be my new favorite thing. Well, that and the idea that Zinda wears that outfit everywhere, which would be odd even if she wasn't part of a covert operations group. It's an exceptionally solid issue from Gail Simone and Paulo Siqueira, especially the slow reveal of what's really going on with Lady Shiva and Black Canary.

Bite Club: Vampire Crime Unit #1: 2004's Bite Club was a pleasant surprise for me, since it veered away from the vampire aspect (since really, the vampirism in the story serves little to no purpose) and ended up being a solid and enjoyable crime drama. The sequel looks to be starting out the same way, with excellent work by Davids Tischman and Hahn, augmented by the type of monochromatic coloring from Brian Miller that I love for this sort of story. Plus, it's got all the nudity, lesbian sex, and hair-pulling to let you know that it's written by Howard Chaykin.

BPRD: The Universal Machine #1: I've never been a fan of John Arcudi, but much like the way I feel about Palmiotti and Gray on Jonah Hex, I think we've found the book that he was put on this planet for. His work on the BPRD books, co-writing with Mike Mignola, has been incredible, and this issue's the best one yet. Captain Daimio's interplay with Liz and Johann is sharp and intriguing, but the real gems of the story come with Thierry's subtle testing of Kate Corrigan, and the way it all works out is just masterful. It's a fantastic book.

Captain America #17: The further into his run on Cap that we get, the more Ed Brubaker seems to be pushing Cap back towards the super-powered side of the scale. This week he explains that he can see faster than than a normal person,and in the 65th Anniversary Special from a few weeks back, Cap mentions being able to run a mile in just over a minute "when I have to," which is way above the proverbial "limit of human potential." I'm not sure how I feel about that, since I've always come down on the "Cap doesn't have superpowers" side of that particular geek argument, but considering that Brubaker also introduced the Military Operatives Designed Only for Combat, who appear in this issue alongside the Red Skull's confusing daughter, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Conan: Book of Thoth #2


Daredevil #84: I don't want to take away from the current issues of Daredevil by comparing them to what's come before too much, but there's no better way to sum up my feelings about Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark's run on Daredevil than by saying this: It's everything people liked about the Bendis/Maleev run, only without everything I hated.

Brubaker manages to pull off the same sort of gritty, brutal stories that Bendis wrote, but every issue so far has had the action the highlighted stories like "Hardcore," which were the highlights of the previous run for me. His scripts are tense and sharp, really carrying the feeling of confinement while doing the "you're-not-trapped-in-here-with-me" trick better than anyone's pulled it off in quite some time. And Lark's art is perfect for it. Again, he has the things I liked about Maleev's better work on the title, but rather than relying on carbon-copy panels (which, admittedly, may have been a function of the script), Lark comes off much sharper and the action works a lot cleaner.

Admittedly, that's a comparison of three issues up against one of the longer Marvel runs in recent memory, but with issues like this one, which features a set of great sequences with Bullseye, Hammerhead, and the Kingpin that really sets off the pressure-cooker atmosphere that Brubaker's creating, it's hard not to look at it and say it's Daredevil done right. The ending seems to have been scientifically designed to appeal to me, and I can honestly say that this is the most excited I've been about Daredevil since I was reading the Frank Miller run for the first time. If you're not buying it, do so.

Ex Machina Special #1: It's amazing how much JD Mettler's coloring does for the look of Ex Machina. It's remarkably well-done, and consistent to the point where I had to look twice before I noticed that Chris Sprouse--a guy I like a lot--was doing the art instead of Tony Harris. The story is Brian K. Vaughan's usual top-notch work, as he takes the idea of a super-hero in a "real world" type environment, and pits him against his first super-villain. It's excellent stuff.

Fury: Peacemaker #3

The Goon #17: This one reads quicker than the usual issue of The Goon, but considering that it's light on dialogue and heavy on punching and gunfire, that sort of thing is to be expected. It's a good one, though, as everything seems to be coming to a head between the Goon, the Buzzard, and the Zombie Priest, and with the destruction of a certain watering hole, I'm pretty sure that it's going to be "on" between those three guys. It's exciting stuff, and like every Goon comic I've ever read, absolutely beautiful to look at and tempered with Eric Powell's dead-on sense of humor.

Iron Man #7: I ended up liking Warren Ellis and Adi Granov's "Extremis" storyline a lot more than I thought I would, but this issue--the first by the new team of writers Daniel and Charles Knauf and penciller Patrick Zircher--rubbed me the wrong way. There's a lot of good stuff in it, and Tony's speech about not pretending he can't handle the Extremis just to satisfy other people when he could be out saving lives is a good bit of writing. The problem, though, is that Tony gives this speech to Nick Fury on the SHIELD Helicarrier. This may be a minor thing, but really: Nick Fury leaving SHIELD is the key element of two major Marvel crossovers, one of which is advertised on the cover of this book. It's annoying, and it feels a lot like sloppy editorial work, but "Execute Program" is interesting enough to keep me around for the time being.

JLA: Classified #20: Gail Simone's "Hypothetical Woman" storyline keeps getting better and better for me. This issue's framing sequence, of Batman plotting the Justice League's moves with a mental game of chess against General Tuzik while simultaneously throwing down with the spirit of unarmed combat is the kind of thing I can really get behind. Plus, there's that shock ending which, is pretty darn shocking.

JSA: Classified #11: Well, I think it's safe to say that it's no longer fun and games for Alan Scott.

Jughead and Friends Digest #10: With a story about Jughead's ancestors and a full section of comics about That Wilkin Boy--the minor Riverdalean who turns out to apparently be Jughead's cousin--this one worked out much better than this week's issue of Betty. Plus, if I ever get a tattoo, I'm reasonably certain that it's going to be this:

Justice #5

Manhunter #21: For the second installment of the One Year Later Dr. Psycho storyline, we get an issue where Marc Andreyko forgoes super-hero action in favor of courtroom drama, and it's really good. He's done this before in other issues, but watching Kate Spencer tearing down the prosecution instead of trying to put the criminals away--and loathing herself for it--is a fun change that does a lot for the story.

Nextwave: Agents of HATE #4: Assuming one has used up his daily allotment of the word "awesome," what exactly does one say about a comic book where a team of sub-third-string Marvel hereos get together to fight a corrupt cop who was turned by an "Ultra Samurai Seed" into a giant, rampaging Transformer made of scrap metal? At this rate, I'll just be making sound effects next month.

Red Sonja #9

Robin #149: Adam Beechen--now joined by Freddie Williams II--continues to make Robin the surprise hit of the One Year Later books with a great action story that's exactly what I want out of Robin. He functions essentially as a miniature Batman, pulling badass super-hero action and keen detective work, but he does it without his mentor's air of infallability, which only serves to make the story more exciting. The only problem I have with it is the (apparent) off-panel death of Nyssa, a great character that really had a lot of potential. It's something that I'd like to see dealt with somewhere other than a mention from Lady Shiva. Other than that, the story's great, and the mystery about Cassandra Cain and her missing year is more than solid.

Sgt. Rock: The Prophecy #4: This would be the somewhat-obligatory "Horrors of War" issue--just in case you didn't get the idea that the Nazis were bad guys when they killed Bulldozer's puppy last issue--but like the three before it, Joe Kubert does a pretty amazing job pulling it off. Plus, Bulldozer gets a slightly creepy replacement for the puppy.

X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl #4


The Bakers: Do These Toys Belong Somewhere?: There's a lot of material printed here that I've seen before, which might scare away some casual Kyle Baker fans, especially considering the $19 price tag attatched to it. Fortunately, it's all presented here in Glorious Color, and any chance to get new material from Kyle Baker is something anyone who loves comics should jump at.


Batman Black & White Statue: Mike Mignola: Despite my newly cultivated affection for mini-busts, I usually try to stay away from the statues. This one, however, was something I couldn't pass up at the relatively cheap price of $55. Sculptor Jonathan Matthews did an amazing job with translating Mike Mignola's art to a statue, to the point where it actually looks like a drawing. Have a look:

It's awesome. The first time I saw it I had a hard time believing it was a photograph, but that one's mine, sitting on the shelf. And it's like that from every angle.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Shocking Revelations

A few days ago on his weblog, noted man-about-town Dorian Wright gave the impression that he was not enjoying the Teen Titans showcase, specifically referring to it as some kind of deep hurting.

As for me, I'm enjoying the living hell out of it, mostly due to the fact that by the second story, the Titans are fighting the collection of giant ambulatory body parts known as the Separated Man.

Seriously, Robin using the rockin' tunes of the Fab Four to battle a giant purple ear before he and his running crew ram a six-foot hypodermic needle into the corresponding heart is exactly what I'm looking for in a comic book. But I realize that not everyone can share my desires, no matter how right they may be.

Unfortunately, Dorian's problem was with the dialogue:

"No, it's the combination of those factors with the dialogue which comes off as a forty-year old trying to sound "down" and "hip" with all the "groovy lingo" that "the kids" use these days."

Oddly enough, Bob Haney's crazy hipster jive-talk is exactly what I like about the stories, and I'm shocked by Dorian's insinuation that it's just Haney making a halfhearted attempt to pander to the kids. For you see, through my profound mastery of The Science, which mostly involves making things up and writing them down, I've made a startling discovery about Bob Haney.

Take, for instance, the dialogue in this sequence from Teen Titans #3...

...and compare it to the sheer poetry that is the dialogue from one of Haney's merely fantastic issues of Metamorpho:

It's almost identical jive, buster. And while one set's coming from the mouth of a teenager, Rex Mason's gotta be in his thirties at least. And heck, during Haney's tenure as the architect of "The NEW Blackhawk Era," a Polish World War II veteran in his forties talked like that. With any one of them, I'd say there was some credence to the theory that he was talking down to his audience, but that, my friends, is a pattern.

And it can only lead me to one shocking conclusion: That's how Bob Haney really talked.

More Haneyesque Shenanigans:
| And Now, A Word From Our Sponsor |
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| Dig It! The NEW Blackhawk Era! |

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Highly Disturbing Love Life of Kara Zor-El

Read enough Silver Age comics and you'll eventually start coming to the conclusion that no romance ever ends happily.

Of course, you could say the same about dating Canadian women, but the fact remains: things just don't tend to work out for couples in the world of comics. And it's not just a matter of "it's not working out, doll." It's more like: "Sure we can get married, hon, but you're going to have to ride around in the popemobile for the rest of your life." At best it's an inconvenience, and at worst, well, it turns into the perfect space murder.

And nowhere in the annals of DC Comics--save for Donna Troy's ill-fated marriage to the thoroughly loathsome Terry Long--are relationships more inconvenient or disturbing than for Supergirl.

That's the lesson I've learned from 1970's Giant-Size Adventure Comics #390, which I picked up because honestly, I can't resist a comic that promises both adventure, a romance, and a flying horse. I'm kind of a teenage girl that way.

What really caught my eye, though, was the blurb promising that I'd get to see Superman's romance with a girl who looks exactly like his cousin. Yes, Supergirl not only has to deal with her arrival on Earth being greeted with "Hey, awesome, I'm not alone in the Universe anymore! Now go live in an orphanage while I plot my girlfriend's space-murder," she also has to worry about her cousin's leering glances.

The highlight of this story, a tale of Supergirl awkwardly setting Superman up with married women and war-prone historical bachelorettes, has been fully covered elsewhere. I'd just forgotten the whole deal about Kara setting Superman up with her double from another solar system, and the profoundly creepy implications.

But then it gets worse.

With her cousin out of the running, what with the Kryptonian Council of Elders frowning on that sort of thing, Kara moves to her next logical choice for a date: Comet, The Super-Horse.

Considering that you're reading this on the Internet, I'm going to go ahead and assume that you're cool with the idea of a horse lusting after a teenage girl. I, however, am not "down" with Comet. As much love as I have for the kind of Silver-Age wackiness that results in things like Lion-Head Superman, a centaur turned into a telepathic horse with super-powers by Circe and then exiled to an asteroid by an evil wizard until Supergirl's rocket knocked out the magical force-field that kept him trapped for two thousand years who also turns magically into a human rodeo professional whenever a comet gets close to earth is a little too much for me.

Comet, of course, has difficulty expressing his feelings for Kara--what with being a horse and all--but once he arranges to occasionally become a normal guy, he of course chooses to woo her the only way he knows how. Trickery and gleeful deception.

He does excuse himself by claiming that Kara wouldn't believe the crazy turn of events that led him to be King of the Rodeo, but considering she's cool with almost everything I typed two paragraphs ago, that's a pretty flimsy excuse. But then again, what did you expect? It's the Silver Age. Plotting your lover's downfall is not only accepted, but actively encouraged.

Which brings us to the nosy paramour of Linda Danvers, one Dick Malverne. He's more or less Linda's version of Lois and Lana, except that when he starts to catch on, he fakes his own death and tries to set Supergirl on fire with chemicals.

Industrious, to say the least. But horses with cheatin' hearts and inquisitive orphans pale in comparison to the centerpiece of Kara's romantic trainwrecks:

Yes, Tor-An, the boyfriend that's as creepy as he can possibly be without a scraggly beard and a part-time job in a bookstore.

See, he's a Kryptonian scientist who turned criminal by transplanting the brains of unwilling citizens into the bodies of monsters, essentially making him the Phantom Zone equivalent of Josef Mengele. Turns out that the Phantom Zone isn't exactly the inescapable prison that the Kryptonians advertised, what with everyone who was ever sent there escaping at one time or another, and Tor-An's no exception. He gets out, and then puts his devious plan into action.

Using hypnosis and a snappy suit, he poses as Linda's high school teacher and then seduces her.

Give that a minute to sink in.

Anyway, Superman's off in some other galaxy and therefore isn't around to keep Kara from doing silly woman things like getting married to her teacher, so it's wedding bells. Fortunately, and this is true, the combined telepathy of a horse and two mermaids is apparently enough to reach the 30th century, and Saturn Girl disguises herself as Supergirl. She wears a wig despite the fact that they have the exact same hair color and style, and they handily deal with Tor-An, who fails to notice that his wife-to-be is a completely different blonde.

But not before he utters what may be the single greatest breakup line in the history of comics:

One day, those will be my wedding vows.

More Ill-Fated Romance From the ISB:
| Romance Special: Wonder Girl's Creepy Husband |
| Terry Long Update: Still Incredibly Hatable |