Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 6: Part 2 of Mega-Crossover-Events and the Comic-Book Readers Who Love to Hate Them

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!, the comic-book review column that prefers to err on the side of green.

This week we're going to look at the two most recent Mega-Crossover-Events (MCEs) in the DC universe, Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis, and apply our six criteria to them.

Those criteria, once again, are:

1) Did the Mega-Crossover-Event have a coherent plot/concept that could be explained in 40 words or less?

2) Was the central limited series entertaining?

3) Were the crossover issues and related limited series enjoyable?

4) Were significant changes to the comic-book universe made as a result of the MCE?

5) Were those changes actually good for the comic-book universe?

6) Did Superboy bring Jason Todd back to life by punching a hole in reality?

WARNING: The stories that are about to be discussed are largely nonsensical, violent, often unpleasant, and extremely convoluted. Reading about them may result in dizziness or a vague sense of contempt for the people who produce and/or purchase comic-books.

Please try to remember as your read the following that life is full of rich and meaningful experiences and that a few bad comics shouldn't sour you on all that life has to offer.

And now, without any further ado, let's bring out the first of our contestants, shall we?

Identity Crisis
Written by Brad Meltzer
Art by Rags Morales

Let me just start off by saying how much I hate this comic.


It goes beyond "Oh, that comic had crappy art," or "The story was dumb."

I'm talking about HATE.

You'll see why shortly.

Let us proceed...

1) Did the Mega-Crossover-Event have a coherent plot/concept that could be explained in 40 words or less?

Sue Dibny's murder sets off a who-done-it style mystery throughout the DC universe, accidentally revealing a couple of very dark secrets from the Justice League of America's past.

Yup. Pretty clear premise.

If we had a few more words, we might summarize it like this...

Sue Dibny, a character who had previously been used for light-hearted stories along with her husband, the Elongated Man, is murdered. A few panels later, we learn she was pregnant at the time of her brutal murder.

In the process of solving the mystery of her death, we learn that Sue Dibny had previously been viciously raped on board the Justice League satellite by a deranged and sadistic Dr. Light. This is shown in graphic detail. We then learn that the Justice League wiped Dr. Light's mind because he was threatening to also rape Lois Lane and Black Canary and every woman in the DC Universe. So, they stole his memories of everyone's secret identity.

Then they stole the memories of even more characters. They even mucked around with Batman's brain a little bit...

And they didn't just erase Dr. Light's memories; they tried to alter his brain so that he wouldn't be such an asshole. But--whoops!--that didn't work so well, and instead it turned him into a blathering idiot.

Ah, well.

Oh, and it finally turned out that Sue Dibny's rape and all the erasing of memories and all that stuff had absolutely nothing to do with the actual murder mystery. No, that was all actually just a remarkably tasteless and convoluted red herring.

No, the real reason she was murdered was because Jean Loring (the Atom's ex-wife) wanted to get her husband back, so she figured if she used his shrinking belt to climb into Sue Dibny's brain and apply pressure to knock her out, then all the super-heroes would think about how much they love their girlfriends and ex-wives and then the Atom would come back to her.

Actually not all that clever a plan, when you think about it...

But, when she tried to knock out Sue Dibny by walking around on her brain, she accidentally killed her. So, then she figured "Oh, well" and decided to continue threatening the lives of the super-heroes' loved ones because... um... because that way she could...

See, the thing is, she really, really missed the Atom. That's the thing. So, she hired Captain Boomerang to murder Robin's dad, but she sent Robin's dad a gun in a box that said "Use this." She figured, you see, that Robin's dad would somehow shoot Capt. Boomerang before Capt. Boomerang could, um, throw a boomerang at him.

But, that didn't quite work out either.

So, both Captain Boomerang and Robin's dad got killed. And so did Sue Dibny, after being brutally raped by Dr. Light, many years previously, but that had been a secret. But now it wasn't. So, I guess that was Brad Meltzer's contribution to DC continuity.

Dr. Light raped the wife of the Elongated Man in the JLA satellite.

And Jean Loring stepped on Sue Dibny's brain and accidentally killed and then accidentally killed Robin's dad by hiring a super-villain to, well, to kill him.


And that's what happened.

Have I mentioned how much I hate that story?

2) Was the central limited series entertaining?

Entertaining in the sense of showing Sue Dibny getting raped by Dr. Light and in the sense of having a mystery that, once solved, made absolutely no sense at all?


The only thing that could have made it more entertaining would have been if Brad Meltzer had actually walked into the reader's room and stabbed him/her with a knife over and over again.

While dressed as a scary clown.

3) Were the crossover issues and related limited series enjoyable?

There weren't too many crossover issues, thank God. After the fact, there were a bunch of comics where you'd find out that someone had had someone else mind-wiped many years ago. I wouldn't say that was particularly enjoyable, but it was confined to just a few titles and wasn't a big deal.

So, I'll give this one a neutral.

4) Were significant changes to the comic-book universe made as a result of the MCE?

Sort of.

It established that most of the Justice League of America had been engaged in some very questionable activities.


I almost forgot that part.

And it did--and this is one good thing to come from this Mega-Crossover-Event--establish a more organized criminal community in the DC universe. I think that change, at least, has been positive.

Oh, and there was some other really minor stuff like introducing Captain Boomerang's son.

[He's just like Captain Boomerang, y'see, but he's also super-fast! So, he can throw boomerangs and run really, really fast! How cool is that?]

5) Were those changes actually good for the comic-book universe?

As far as I can tell, the purpose of all of this was to show the mainstream reading public that comics aren't just for kids anymore, that they've become more mature and gritty and realistic and stuff.

That's my understanding, anyway.

So, here's author Brad Meltzer, who's a best-selling author and whose name will theoretically attract people who wouldn't normally read comics and they'll be amazed that comics are now able to show things like rape and they'll say, "Why, I was all wrong about this comic-book thing. It's actually quite adult and appealing!

And here's why that kind of thinking is so horribly, horribly wrong...

First of all, if you want to show people that there are comics for adults, such comics already exist. Maus. Persepolis. American Born Chinese. Pride of Baghdad. Love and Rockets / Palomar. Dave McKean's Cages. Alan Moore's From Hell. American Splendor.

And the list goes on...

So, when comic-readers and producers say, "We've gotta show the mainstream public that comics aren't just for kids!", I totally support that. But, I suspect that a lot of the time they're not so interested in the mainstream public embracing Maus and American Splendor. They want people to like their comics. The super-hero stuff.

What they actually mean is"We've gotta show the mainstream public that super-hero comics aren't just for kids!"

And that, my friend, is a quest as doomed as Jean Loring's attempt to win back her ex-husband by stepping on Sue Dibny's brain. Because the simple fact is, a lot of people aren't into that genre. It's not that they don't understand it. It's not that they simply lack exposure to the best super-hero comics. It's that they don't like super-heroes. They don't want to read about people in costumes who fly around fighting crime, even if it's a really well-written, well-illustrated story about those people.

And that's okay.

So, no, Identity Crisis wasn't particularly good for the DC universe; it just made it a darker place.

And in the long run, I don't think it did much for the comics industry, in terms of convincing people that they want to read about super-heroes.

End of lecture.

6) Did Superboy bring Jason Todd back to life by punching a hole in reality?

No, but Identity Crisis did help lead up to the story (Infinite Crisis) in which this happened.
And Jean Loring did accidentally kill a pregnant woman by stepping on their brain.

So, that's something anyway.

Final Analysis: Identity Crisis probably shouldn't be counted as a full-fledged Mega-Crossover-Event because there were only a few crossovers; it was mostly self-contained. But, on the other hand, it was a deliberate effort to change the larger tapestry of the DC universe, both by retroactively mucking about with continuity and by setting a tone for future DC comics to follow.

Infinite Crisis
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Phil Jiminez, George Perez, Ivan Reis, and Jerry Ordway

Of all the Mega-Crossover-Epics, I would argue that this was the one spread out amongst the most limited-series, crossovers, etc. It is also the one with the least comprehensible plot. I still don't know what the story was about, and I read 187 of the 214 individual issues that made up this MCE from hell.

Here's what happened...

Infinite Crisis was apparently conceived as a sort of sequel/homage to Crisis on Infinite Earths, which we talked about in the previous column. 20 years had gone by since that MCE had come out, and DC wanted to do something big for its anniversary.

During Crisis on Infinite Earths, several different version of Earth, which had co-existed in earlier continuity, had been mushed together into one. So, the rumor was that Infinite Crisis was going to bring back some of the other Earths.

Another rumor had it that all the bleak, grim crap that was being published by DC at that time (including Identity Crisis, discussed above), was all setting the stage for a new continuity that would emerge from Infinite Crisis. In this new continuity, you wouldn't have Sue Dibny being raped by Dr. Light, for example. It would be a fun, pleasant continuity, made up of entertaining comics that would fill readers with an old-fashioned sense of wonder and awe.

It is interesting, in retrospect, to consider that the stories being published by DC previous to Infinite Crisis were so violent and unpleasant that many readers seriously believed it was all part of a deliberate strategy to get readers psyched for a return to a simpler, more light-hearted DC universe.

No such luck...

The first prequel to Infinite Crisis, aside from the afore mentioned Identity Crisis, was a limited series about Donna Troy.

I'm not going to get into a big discussion about Donna Troy. I simply refuse to go there, because that, my friend, is a digression that might take us hours. Possibly even days.

Suffice it to say, there was some confusion surrounding the character.

So, there was this limited series about Donna Troy and there was Identity Crisis. And everyone knew these were prequels to this big upcoming MCE, but no one knew how it all fit together. Oh, and there was also an Adam Strange limited series that was also allegedly going to tie into this bigger-than-life MCE. That was a pretty decent series.

Next came a one-shot called Countdown to Infinite Crisis. This was supposed to be the official prequel. Not as "pre-" as Identity Crisis, the Donna Troy series and the Adam Strange series, mind you, but still a prequel.

In Countdown to Infinite Crisis, we followed a character, Blue Beetle, who had previously been used mostly for lighter, comedic moments.

That obviously couldn't be allowed because people might accidentally think that comics are for kids, so Countdown was a grim and gritty story about the Blue Beetle trying to solve a mystery and every time he'd go to one of his superhero friends for help, they'd blow him off. Finally, he solves the mystery on his own and gets his head shot off for his troubles.

It was a graphic picture too. You really felt like you were right there, getting his brains plastered on your shirt.

Thank you, DC Comics.

After Countdown to Blue Beetle's Bloody Corpse, DC treated its audience to four more prequels to Infinite Crisis. These were four limited series, each of which were six issues long, so that's 24 more prequel issues. And yet, even at this point, it was impossible to figure out what Infinite Crisis was going to be about.

Was it about Blue Beetle getting his head shot off? Was it about Donna Troy? Maybe it was about the supernatural war that was occurring in Shadowpact. Or the battle between Rann and Thanagar (two planets in the DC universe) that began in the Adam Strange limited series and then continued in the unreadable Rann Thanagar War limited series. Or might it be about the OMAC robot things that kept popping up everywhere and attacking DC superheroes because they were being sent out by some satellite that Batman had launched into outer space because he'd been mindwiped by his friends in the Justice League and so no longer trusted them? Or was it going to be about the organization of super-villains that had formed as a result of Identity Crisis and which starred in the fourth prequel limited series, Villains United?

How would these things all fit together? And how would it all tie in with the original Crisis on Infinite Earths limited series from 20 years earlier?

All of which brings us to the actual Infinite Crisis series itself...

1) Did the Mega-Crossover-Event have a coherent plot/concept that could be explained in 40 words or less?


Ha ha ha.


Uh, no. No, it could not.

And I'm not even going to try, because I honestly still don't understand what that story was about. So, rather than further confuse you, I'm going to see what the good folk at Wikipedia have to say.

Keep in mind, this is going to get confusing. Really, really confusing. But I'll be there with you, providing helpful illustrations as we go...

The story begins in the wake of the crises of the four lead-in limited series, with Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman feuding, the JLA Watchtower destroyed, and the heroes of the world all facing a variety of menaces. Over this backdrop, Kal-L (the Earth-Two Superman), along with Earth-Two Lois Lane, Earth-Three Alexander Luthor, and Superboy-Prime escape from the pocket universe where they had been trapped at the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths.[1] Kal-L seeks out his cousin, Power Girl, also a survivor of Earth-Two. Believing Lois' health will improve on her native world, he hopes to replace the current Earth with Earth-Two, which he considers perfect.[2]

Kal-L tries to enlist Batman's support, stating that the Post-Crisis Earth's inherent "bad" nature caused Batman's recent mistrust and hostility. Batman refuses. Afterward, he learns Superboy-Prime destroyed the JLA Watchtower.[3]

Alexander reveals to Power Girl that he and Superboy-Prime had been leaving their "paradise" for some time, manipulating events to help create an inter-dimensional tuning fork.

Using the Anti-Monitor's remains [Yuck.] and captured heroes and villains specifically attuned to former universes (Power Girl among them), Alex restores Earth-Two, un-populated except for the Earth-Two heroes transported there.[4]

Superboy-Prime attacks Conner Kent, this world's Superboy. Multiple super-teams intervene. Superboy-Prime kills several heroes before the Flashes and Kid Flash force him into the Speed Force, assisted by speedsters already within it. Jay Garrick, the only speedster left behind, says the Speed Force is now gone.[5]

Seeking to create a perfect world, Alexander restores many alternate Earths. The Earth-Two Lois dies, and an aggrieved Kal-L and the younger Superman Kal-El fight until Wonder Woman separates them.[6] Bart Allen (wearing Barry Allen's costume and aged to adulthood) emerges from the Speed Force, warning that he and the other speedsters were unable to hold Superboy-Prime, who returns wearing armor that stores yellow sun radiation to empower him.

strike force destroys Brother Eye.

Alexander selects and merges alternate Earths, trying to create a "perfect" world, until Firestorm blocks his efforts. Conner, Nightwing, and Wonder Girl release the Tower's prisoners.[7] Fighting each other, Conner and Superboy-Prime collide with the tower, destroying it. The multiple Earths recombine into a "New Earth" as Conner dies in Wonder Girl's arms.

When a horde of supervillains attack Metropolis[8], heroes fly off to the rescue. Superboy-Prime takes off to destroy Oa, planning to collapse the Universe. Superboy-Prime kills many Green Lanterns trying to stop him before Kal-L and Kal-El carry him toward Krypton's remains, now essentially a huge cloud of kryptonite. Flying through Krypton's red sun, Rao, destroys Superboy-Prime's armor and causes all three Kryptonians' powers to dissipate. Landing on the sentient planet (and GLC member) Mogo, they fight. After Kal-El finally knocks Superboy-Prime out, Kal-L dies in the arms of his cousin, Power Girl.

Back on Earth, Batman contemplates shooting Alex but is discouraged by Wonder Woman. Alex escapes, only to be tortured and killed by the Joker, who is angry at being left out of the Society, while a gloating Lex Luthor looks on.

Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman later meet up in Gotham. Wonder Woman plans to find out who she is. Batman plans a similar journey of self-discovery, revisiting the training of his youth, this time with Dick Grayson and Tim Drake joining him.

Superman retires from superheroics until his powers return.[9]

Alexander Luthor, Jr. is killed by the Joker as Lex Luthor watches on, in panels from Infinite Crisis #7 (June 2006), art by Phil Jimenez. Hiding in an alley in Gotham City and making new plans, Alexander Luthor is found by Lex Luthor and the Joker. The Joker mutilates Alex with his acid-flower, while Lex taunts his enemy for his various mistakes, including underestimating him and excluding the Joker from the Society (the Joker was the only villain not offered to join the Society, due to him being too unpredictable). The Joker then shoots and kills Alexander, while Lex mockingly asks, "Now who's stupid?".

The Green Lantern Corps imprison Superboy-Prime inside a red Sun-Eater. The series ends with him carving an S into his chest with his bare hands and declaring that he has been in worse places than his current prison and has escaped.[10]


That's what happened, I guess.

Honestly, I still don't understand Infinite Crisis.

I don't get how all the pieces fit together.

Like, what did the magic war thing have to do with all of that? There was something about Jean Loring (the lady who stepped on Sue Dibny's brain) becoming the new Eclipso and seducing the Spectre... what was that??? How did it fit in with the rest of the story???

And why was Maxwell Lord (the guy who shot Blue Beetle) suddenly evil? He used to be a good guy, you know. And he was friends with Blue Beetle. Did they ever explain why he suddenly turned into Mr. I-Hate-All-Super-Heroes guy?

And what did Alexander Luthor really want? Or Superboy Prime, for that matter? And why was Superboy Prime so kooky-crazy? Isn't he just like Superman, but younger? So, why was he all "I'm gonna rip your arms and legs off and then carve a big "S" on my bare chest with my own fingers?"

And what was with the big, cosmic hands and the tuning fork? And why was Donna Troy's return relevant to any of that? Why was the Adam Strange story considered a prequel? Or the Countdown story where Blue Beetle got shot? How were these things prequels to this story about multiple Earths and cosmic battles?

2) Was the central limited series entertaining?

Uh... no.

Was it supposed to be?

3) Were the crossover issues and related limited series enjoyable?

There were so many, it's really hard to make an overall assessment, but let's give it a try...
The Good: Secret Six (both limited series) and 52.
The Not-So-Good: Shadowpact, most of the One Year Later books, the Omac limited series by Greg Rucka, a mediocre story made slightly less than mediocre by the fact that there was no way to distinguish between the two lead female characters. An interesting choice by the artist. Oh, and also Countdown to Blue Beetle's Bloody Corpse.
The Bad: The Rann-Thanagar War (what the hell happened???) and all of those crossovers where fill-in-the-blank superhero would be attacked by an OMAC robot, fight for a few pages, and then stare in bewilderment after the OMAC robot disappeared at the end of the fight.
The Very, Very Bad Indeed: The OMAC series written by Bruce Jones that followed Infinite Crisis.

4) Were significant changes to the comic-book universe made as a result of the MCE?

Lots and lots of characters were killed and maimed.

The rules of magic are allegedly very different now, but it's unclear what that actually means since no one knew the rules before and no one knows them now.

After the story was over, Batman went on vacation for a year. To Tibet. With Robin and Nightwing.

Wonder Woman went away for a year to think about stuff.

Superman took a year off because he lost his super-powers.

And... let's see... there was one other thing...

It's on the tip of my tongue...

Oh, yes... and Jason Todd was brought back to life.

More on that in just a moment...

5) Were those changes actually good for the comic-book universe?

Well, the series that followed, 52, is very enjoyable. The "One Year Later..." stories have been kind of a mixed bag.

Honestly, I can't say. I think it'll be a long while before it's even clear what changes have been made or how they'll play out.

So, I'll give this one a half-No and a half-Maybe.

6) Did Superboy bring Jason Todd back to life by punching a hole in reality?


Yes, he did.
For months and months, readers had been teased with the secret behind Jason Todd's return.
He'd been beaten to death by the Joker many years earlier. His corpse had been found and buried by Batman. Suddenly, years later, he returned. Batman dug up the coffin and found that no one had ever been inside it. There was tons of speculation about how this could be...
Had Jason Todd been dug up and placed in a Lazurus Pit? Was it really Clayface? Had Jason Todd somehow faked his own death? But, if so, how had he managed to deceive the world's greatest detective?
No, it was because, in a completely unrelated storyline, Superboy Prime had punched a hole in reality, sending out ripples, one of which--quite arbitrarily--brought Jason Todd back to life.

Final Analysis: A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. With lots of deaths (and maiming) of C-list characters. Infinite Crisis and Identity Crisis are perfect examples of everything that I don't like about comic-books. They mistake gratuitous violence with realism and convoluted storylines with complexity and depth. They set up mysteries, build them up over months and months, and then reveal that the solution has nothing to do with the mystery that has been presented. It's just a load of nonsense.
These are bad comics.
NEXT WEEK: We'll take a break from the Mega-Crossover-Event for a week to focus on reviews of new comics. In an ideal world, I'd like to start doing reviews of non-Marvel/DC books, but the truth is that I'm out of touch with the indie world. So, if you have any indie books that you'd like to recommend, I'd be pleased as punch to give them a try and review them here.
And I promise next week to have some positive reviews so y'all don't think I'm Mr. Negative Comic-Book Bashing Guy.
Really, I love comics. I do.
I just don't love bad ones.

Until next week, may Superboy Prime never punch a hole through your reality...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 5: Mega-Crossover-Events and the Comic-Book Readers Who Love to Hate Them [Part One]

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!, the online comic-book review column that critics are calling
“Inspiring...” “Chocolate-y...” and “...a triumph of the Human Spirit!”

This week we’re going to take a look at Mega-Crossover-Events and the Comic-Book Readers Who Love to Hate Them. This is going to be a three-part column, with this first installment looking at the original Mega-Crossover Events and the second and third parts focusing on more recent ones (Infinity Crisis, Identity Crisis, Civil War, etc.).

First of all, let’s define our terms... A Mega-Crossover-Event (MCE for those of you who enjoy acronyms) is a comic-book event, spread out over several different titles, that is supposed to have repercussions far beyond the story itself, rippling throughout the comic-book universe in which the story takes place, altering the status quo in a significant and meaningful way for the betterment of human society.

And, too, there is lots of punching and kicking.

The first real Mega-Crossover-Event was a twelve issue monthly series (May 1984 - April 1985) published by Marvel, titled Secret Wars, which we'll talk more about later. But, in the grand scheme of things, the real grand-daddy of the MCE was DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths, which came a year later in 1986. Secret Wars was more of a 12-issue limited series that tied into the other titles, but it didn't have that frenzied you-have-to-buy-all-152-crossover-issues-to-grasp-the-magnitude-of-this-comic-book-epic quality that puts the Mega in a Mega Crossover Event!!!

Written by Marv Wolfman and illustrated by George Perez, Crisis on Infinite Earths sort of set the ground-rules for what an MCE should be. There were pre-event issues of regular ongoing series, then there was the limited series that actually told the tale of the MCE, there were crossovers with ongoing titles to highlight how the events taking place within the central limited series was affecting specific characters, the status quo was significantly altered by the end of the story, and readers bought it in massive numbers while simultaneously complaining that it was ruining all of their favorite comics and making them feel unloved.

Thus it was and thus shall it ever be...

Some MCEs are obviously more successful than others, of course. First of all, from the perspective of the publishing companies and the retailers, a crucial criteria for evaluating the “success” of a Mega-Crossover-Event is actual sales. Did the central series sell well? Did the crossover issues sell better than the regular issues of various series? And was the increase in sales sustained afterwards or was it only a temporary bump?

Generally speaking, the answers to these questions are Yes, Yes, and No, it was only a temporary bump.

Of more interest to me, as a reader and a reviewer and a man with an outdated music collection, are the following criteria...

1) Did the Mega-Crossover-Event have a coherent plot/concept that could be explained in 40 words or less?

2) Was the central limited series entertaining?

3) Were the crossover issues and related limited series enjoyable?

4) Were significant changes to the comic-book universe made as a result of the MCE?

5) Were those changes actually good for the comic-book universe?

6) Did Superboy bring Jason Todd back to life by punching a hole in reality?

Using these six criteria, I want to take a look at some of the most important and some of the most recent Mega-Crossover-Events. Won’t you please join me...?

Crisis on Infinite Earths
Written by Marv Wolfman
Illustrated by George Perez
Published by DC

1) Plot in 40 words or less: The villain of the story, the Anti-Monitor (he refuses to watch things?), decides to destroy all the parallel dimensions of the DC universe. All but five of those universes are, in fact, destroyed and the surviving ones are merged into a single universe.

There was a bunch of other stuff, mostly about the history of the Guardians and the origin of the Monitor and this guy called Pariah, whose super-power was that he would show up at various Earths moments before

their destruction to say, “Hey, guess what’s about to happen...” and then cry and act like a big sissy after everything was destroyed, but essentially this Mega-Crossover-Event was about one big cosmic guy, the Anti-Monitor, fighting another big, cosmic guy, the Monitor, with the heroes and villains of the DC universe sort of caught in the middle.

So, yes, the plot was more-or-less coherent.

2) Was the central limited series entertaining?

This one is not so easy to answer. Any attempt at reading Crisis on Infinite Earths today is certain to result in a migraine, but that’s more a case of it being dated than anything else; the thing is 20 years old, after all.
Back in 1986, however, I remember thinking it was all pretty cool and awe-inspiring. The deaths of Supergirl and the Flash, in particular, were big moments. So, I give this a mild, conditional yes.

3) Were the crossover issues and limited series enjoyable?

Well, there were about 20 billion crossover issues and the quality definitely varied. There were crossover issues that are today referred to as “Red Sky” issues, which would be a regular issue of whichever series but with a one-page-or-less moment of someone looking up and saying, “Huh. The skies are all red. I wonder why?” Those were kind of a rip-off and made readers very, very grumpy.

But, for the most part, I’d say the crossovers were taken very seriously by the various editors/writers/artists of DC and there were some legitimate events taking place in those issues. In fact, probably the best issues of the whole Crisis on Infinite Earths Mega-Crossover-Event were the Alan Moore scripted issues of Swamp Thing that showed John Constantine and Swamp Thing sort of passively observing everything that was going on.

So, we’ll give this one another mild yes.

4) Significant changes?

Oh, hell yes. More than any other MCE that has come along since, Crisis on Infinite Earths shook things up. Supergirl and Flash were killed. Earth 2 was destroyed. Heck, all sorts of stuff got destroyed.

Even more importantly, series were allowed to have a fresh start. John Byrne and Marv Wolfman made some major changes to Superman's history, most of which were huge improvements on the past. For one thing, he got his parents back, which I remember thinking was a mistake at the time.

Another big change: Lex Luthor was transformed from an evil, bald scientist to an evil, bald scientist who was also a very successful businessman. Even more importantly, they got rid of his idiotic origin story which was this:

Once upon a time, back when Lex Luthor was but a young lad, he and Superboy were buddies. But one day, Lex's experiments caused a fire in his lab. Superboy (in this continuity, there was a Superboy, a Superbaby, Super-horse, etc.) rushed into the lab and blew out the fire, but the chemicals from the accident made Lex Luthor bald. Furious, Lex Luthor became an evil son of a bitch and the sworn arch-nemesis of Superboy (and, years later, Superman).

Now THAT, my friends, is a really dumb origin story.

The guy could create weapons that could shrink you to the size of a mouse, create clones, travel to other dimensions, etc., but he couldn't find some way to deal with the loss of his hair???

It might have been worth all 12 issues of the Crisis on Infinite Earths just to get that out of continuity...

Anyway, the list goes on and on. Without Crisis on Infinite Earths, the DC universe would look radically different today.

So, a BIG yes to this one.

5) Were those changes actually good for the comic-book universe?

That’s a tough one to answer. I still miss Earth 2 and the interactions between, for example, Earth 1’s Batman (that’s the one we all know and love today) with the daughter of his counterpart on Earth 2 (the Huntress) and all those wacky JLA-JSA crossovers. And I’m sure there’s no shortage of long-time readers who still mourn the loss of many of those classic tales to continuity. Some characters, like Bizarro-Superman, never really made a successful transition to the new, unified DC universe.

And, of course, it’s impossible to know how things would have played out if Crisis on Infinite Earths had never happened. So, I’m going to leave this one unanswered. Probably the answer is yes, but it’s really subjective.

6) Did Superboy bring back Jason Todd by punching a hole in reality?

No, but Jason Todd did get his origin story completely re-booted as a result of the Crisis. He was originally almost an exact duplicate of the original Robin; his parents were trapeze artists who were murdered before his eyes, Bruce Wayne took him in as his ward, he was a gymnast with an unfortunate zest for bad puns, etc. Crisis on Infinite Earths gave the powers-that-be an opportunity to change all that; suddenly, Jason Todd was a street kid who originally met Batman while trying to steal the hubcaps off the Batmobile.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Final analysis: For all its flaws, Crisis on Infinite Earths was pretty darn impressive for its time. Significant changes resulted from it and it really set the trend for all Mega-Crossover-Events to follow, for good or ill.

[NOTE: All of the above pictures were taken from Alan Kistler's Guide to THE CRISIS, which has a far more detailed summary of the story and goes through all the repercussions of Crisis on Infinite Earths. If you have any interest at all in this subject, his web-page is THE place to go. Informative, easy to navigate, and very entertaining, it's much more enjoyable than reading the actual series itself. Seriously.]

Secret Wars
Written by Jim Shooter
Art by Mike Zeck
Published by Marvel

As mentioned previously, Secret Wars has the distinction of being the very first Mega Crossover Event. The main 12-issue series itself occurred within one month of the regular, ongoing titles. So, issue #138 of Capt. Whatever showed the hero leaping/swinging/falling into a weird construct in the middle of Central Park and then issue #139 began with that hero returning, making vague references to all the amazing things that had happened in the time he’d been away.
But you had to buy Secret Wars to find out what had actually happened between the two issues.

This was actually a pretty unsuccessful way of doing a Mega-Crossover-Event, as it turned out, because you knew from the very start how the story was going to end. You knew who was alive, who had a new costume, etc.
So, that kind of killed some of the excitement of the Secret Wars series itself.

But, I suppose it was nice for the people doing the regular ongoing series because they could carry on just as they had before with minimal interruption.

1) Did the Mega-Crossover-Event have a coherent plot/concept that could be explained in 40 words or less?

An all-powerful cosmic being named the Beyonder decides to test Marvel’s greatest heroes and villains by luring them to a universe he has created. There they battle one another with the promise that whoever wins will get a big, fat reward.

So, yup, that was a pretty simple plot, easily explained.

2) Was the central limited series entertaining?

Again, the answer is relative to when it was produced. My recollection is that there were certain segments that seemed idiotic (I have a vague, unpleasant memory of Hawkeye playing patty-cake with the Lizard) but the fun of the series was watching the various factions of heroes and villains re-align themselves. The X-Men, for example, didn’t really trust the Avengers and so the two groups sort of went their different ways. Sometimes they would work together but sometimes they would wind up fighting each other.

And Doctor Doom was a lot of fun in this series as the one guy who refused to play by the Beyonder's rules and actually tried to kick the Beyonder's butt.

You gotta love Doom, when he's being written correctly.

So, we’ll give that a mild yes.

3) Were the crossover issues and related limited series enjoyable?

Because of the way this thing was constructed, I don’t recall there being much in the way of crossover issues. All the comics had the one month where the hero got sucked into the thing in Central Park, but that was kind of cool because it was so mysterious and you knew something big was going to happen but you had no idea what it was.

I’m going to give this a big Not Applicable.

[Marvel more than made up for this oversight with their follow-up Mega-Crossover-Event, Secret Wars II, in which the Beyonder came to Earth to learn the meaning of life. Secret Wars II had a bazillion crossovers and, let me tell you, they were excruciatingly bad. Even today, those crossover issues give off a rank and persistent odor that can contaminate the rest of your comic-book collection if they aren’t kept separate.]

4) Were significant changes to the comic-book universe made as a result of the MCE?

They really tried to convince their readers that the answer to this question was yes, but the answer is a big, fat NO.

Here are the changes that resulted from Secret Wars:
  1. The Hulk broke his leg. It was in a cast for a few issues afterwards. Even back then, no one cared.
  2. The Thing stayed on the Beyonder’s planet and had a year’s worth of really lame adventures, during which I believe he called himself Rocky Grimm, Space Explorer or some damn thing.

  3. Kitty Pryde and Colossus stopped dating.

  4. Spider-Man got his new, black costume.
Of the four, the only one that really mattered was Spider-Man’s new costume, but that could have easily been achieved without Secret Wars, so the answer to this question remains NO.

5) Were those changes actually good for the comic-book universe?

Not applicable.
Although they certainly weren’t too good for Kitty Pryde. That poor girl was heart-broken for months...

6) Did Superboy bring Jason Todd back to life by punching a hole in reality?

No, but when the Beyonder came to Earth in the sequel series, he had a mullet and wore a white jumpsuit.

Final analysis: Secret Wars failed in terms of shaking up the status quo of its comic-book universe, but it wasn’t an awful MCE, per se. The main story was reasonably enjoyable and, hey, the Hulk broke his leg!

Next week, we’ll take a look at the more recent Mega-Crossover-Events, including Identity Crisis and Infinity Crisis, and we may even toss in a comic-book review or two for good measure.
In the meantime, drop me a line and let me know what you think about the new "It's not easy being greeeeeen!" motif to this blog. I have a natural inclination to hate all change, so I'm not sure if I like it or not, but you've gotta admit, it's a hell of a lot easier on the eyes than the original template.
Also, I'm still anxious to hear your absolute favorite obscure story-lines of all time, to be included in a future column.

Until next week, here's hoping all your comic-book-y dreams come true... and in continuity...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 4: All the new Yum-Yums!!! (The Best and Worst of April's solicitations)

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!, the online comic-book review column that, much like yogurt, is made by introducing specific bacteria into milk under controlled temperature and environmental conditions, especially in industrial production. In both yogurt and Hoopla!, the bacteria ingest natural milk sugars and release lactic acid as a waste product. The increased acidity causes milk proteins to tangle into a solid mass (curd, denature). The increased acidity (pH=4–5) also prevents the proliferation of potentially pathogenic bacteria.

Interestingly, in the U.S., to be named yoghurt, the product must contain the bacteria Streptococcus salivarius subsp. thermophilus and Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus. Often these two are co-cultured with other lactic acid bacteria for taste or health effects (probiotics). These include L. acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei and Bifidobacterium species.

These stringent requirements are not, however, necessary for Hoopla!

So... Hoopla! vs. Yogurt... Who wins?

That's right... Hoopla! wins.

Anyway, this week we're going to take a look at some of the comics coming up in April... I wanted to point out some extra-cool neat-o things that you might want to order a copy of and also to heartlessly mock a few truly hideous covers. I should note that Comics Should Be Good, one of my favorite sources of online comic-book reviews and general merriment, does a very similar schtick each month, in which they look over all the new covers and talk about which ones they like and such and so forth. It's well worth reading...

Oh, and don't worry... there will also be a comic-book review (featuring my own, home-grown artwork!) tossed in for good measure...

And lots of ellipses...

So, I wanted to start with this, the cover for Teen Titans #46. One of DC's top-selling books.

I'm not sure what's supposed to be going on in this cover, but it definitely involves a LOT of white stuff. Like, maybe the Teen Titans are fighting Chalky, the White Chalk-aholic from the 10th dimension. With white steam pouring out of poor Chalky's chest.

Where do you suppose they are? What are those white, hastily drawn things on the sides of the cover? Are they related to the white icicle things dropping to the ground? Are they somehow connected to that one lumpy potato drifting into view from the upper left-hand corner? Or are they a part of Chalky himself? Perhaps a physical manifestation of all his chalk-y rage?

I guess you'll just have to pick up Teen Titans #46 to find out.

On the other hand, here's a cover that looks downright cool...

I've got no interest in JSA Classified, per se, and I'm not a huge fan of the Alan Scott/Green Lantern character, but I think this cover by Steve Uy is very nice indeed.

Very atmospheric.

And an excellent use of lighting.

Does anyone know who this Steve Uy guy is and what else he's done? And why he isn't either doing covers or interiors or both for one of the Batman titles?

Now, this next one is just plain odd. The odd thing is not the cover itself, which is straightforwardly hideous. No, the thing that really cause me cranial discomfort is that this is allegedly a solicitation for a new Alan Moore hardcover book.

Here's what I don't understand...

1) If this is truly all-new Alan Moore material, why have I never heard of this before? You'd think there would have been some build-up hype...

2) Why would Alan Moore, who has retired from doing super-hero stuff, make an exception to do something like this? I mean, Spawn vs. WildCats??? Deathblow??? I just don't see it...

3) If this is truly all-new Alan Moore material, why such a crappy cover? You'd think they would have taken the time to really put out something special.
So, here's what I think. I think these are some old half-finished scripts they found lying around. Or maybe not even half-finished.

We'll have to wait and see, but my Spider-sense is definitely tingling...

[Hey! That feels kind of good!]

We'll get to an honest-to-gosh comic review in just a minute, but first let's take a look at the cover to The Spirit #5. For those of you who don't know, this book is being written and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke, one of my absolute favorite illustrators. The first issue was a ton of fun -- very light-hearted and silly. Looks like that's going to be an ongoing theme in this series...

Um... if you don't want to buy this comic-book, you have no business reading comics at all.

Or even reading at all.

Or anything.
That, my friends, is a lovely cover.

I mean, seriously, who hasn't woken up on a Monday morning, trapped on the label of a can of beans, feeling like that...?

Anyway, this is supposed to be an online comic-book review column, so let's do some reviewing, shall we?

Civil War: Casualties of War
Written by Christos N. Gage
Art by Jeremy Haun and Mark Morales
Published by Marvel

Back when I was just a wee grasshopper, I used to love watching really bad television. One of my favorite shows was Happy Days and one of my absolute favorite things was when they'd have a "Do you remember when...?" episode. That's when the various characters was stand around and say, "We certainly have changed over the years. Do you remember back when Joanie used to hate boys?" and then you'd see clips from earlier episodes showing Joanie kicking boys or saying "I hate you!" or something to demonstrate the point.

And then they'd say, "Of course, some things never change..." and then you'd see a montage of Fonzie hitting the juke-box over and over again, from a bazillion different episodes, to help demonstrate that point.

As a kid, I loved that because I'd seen all the original episodes that they were referring to, so I felt sort of "in the know."

I mention this not to depress you but because Civl War: Casualties of War (also, oddly, titled "Rubicon" inside the book itself) pulls the same trick. The set up of the story is that Captain America and Iron Man have gotten together to try to work out their differences before things get any worse. This involves a lot of reminiscing about the past.

For example...

Iron Man: That wall. That's the one I came through. Remember?

Captain America: How could I forget?

And then we see a flashback to their first fight, when Iron Man crashed through a wall and they, well, fought.

Throughout the story, we also see flashbacks to Gwen Stacy being pushed off the bridge by the Green Goblin (an odd thing to include in this book, since it's not even tangentially related to what's going on), two past secret identities that Captain America has taken on in the past, Hank Pym hitting his wife, Tony Stark being an alcoholic, Operation: Galactic Storm, the "Armor Wars" storyline, etc.

The point of this issue, ostensibly, is to help establish that each character's current actions can, in fact, be traced back logically through their history. That's been one of the major complaints, after all. Readers keep saying "Tony Stark would never do that!" or "Captain America, back in issue #265 of the first volume of his own series, once said that he'd never punch Hank Pym in the face, so this completely contradicts that bit of established continuity!!!"

So, the idea is that we should read this and then say, "Ah, it all makes sense."

To a certain extent, writer Christopher Gage succeeds in this task. I think one of the strongest points he makes is that Tony Stark, as an alcoholic, believes that there needs to be someone watching over the heroes in case they screw up. He has seen himself act recklessly because of his drinking problem and he feels like he and his colleagues need to be accountable to someone. Captain America, however, doesn't have flaws like a normal person (this is Tony's argument, anyway) and that's why he doesn't see the need for oversight. But what he's not understanding, according to Tony, is that no one else is as perfect as he is and so they really do need to be trained and monitored.

It's a good argument, I think, and it's the first time I've seen that particular insight into the characters.

I also love Captain America's response:

You know, even after all these years, that's one of the things about the modern world I've had the hardest time adjusting to. All the damn psychobabble. What's right is what's right. If you believe it, you stand up for it.

Gage has a solid grasp of the character and how he views the world. This is a man who fought inWorld War II and he's a man who has always accepted full responsibility for his actions. It stands to reason that he wouldn't be impressed by Tony Stark's psychological insights.

Despite the many things that Gage does right, the book is certainly not without its flaws. A lot of the flashbacks seem completely pointless (did we really need to revisit their dispute from Operation: Galactic Storm?).

Worse, the art for the final battle sequence is laughable. Iron Man discards his armor suit but is wearing something underneath it that looks very much like a body-condom. He looks completely ridiculous. And there's no 'flow' to their movement during the fight itself. There's a full-page shot of them where the only motion is Captain America's knee sort of twitching in space.

Ultimately, I enjoyed this book. I felt like it added something to the overall Civl War storyline and provided some very solid character moments. The last few pages hit a very melancholy note by contrasting a scene between the two heroes, taken from a classic issue of Iron Man, with the current rift between them.

It's certainly got its flaws, though, and if you're not enjoying the Civil War storyline overall, there's nothing here for you to enjoy. But I was well-satisfied with it.

One last comment... on the actual cover, it does not look like Captain America's arm is sprouting out of the side of his head.


So, this next cover really, seriously confuses me. In a sense, it's a really well-drawn cover, in the sense of being sort of eye-catching and all.

But what is it a well-drawn cover of ?

I mean, it sort of looks like there's a guy (?) in a purple jump-suit, tearing off his shirt as he jumps on the back of a normal-looking guy. And the normal-looking guy is running away, but he's also projectile vomiting some green liquid.

That's a real flow coming out of his mouth, isn't it?

I guess maybe that's water he's spewing? It looks more like water than vomit. But, water doesn't really make sense, either.

I don't know. I honestly don't.

And since we're being so honest, here, I'm not too sure about the background, either. It's purple, so that sort of ties in with the undressing purple jumpsuit guy, but what is it, actually? Are those speed lines, perhaps? The top one stops at his head, suggesting that, yes, those are speed lines, but all the other ones continue way beyond the character, indicating that they are not, in fact speed lines.

Here's what the solicitation says:

Things Reach a Breaking Point in the FRESHMEN!FRESHMEN II #5 "Fundamentals
of Fear x153: The Question" pt. 5
(W) Hugh Sterbakov (P) Will Conrad (Col)
Blond (Cov) Conrad, Migliari

The Puppeteer has jumped into many minds,
but never one as terrifying as the one she
finds herself trapped in now! As
she battles for her life, the Freshmen risk
everything to save her! The true
evil of the Jupiter Corporation is revealed
while the kids struggle with a
cataclysmic rift in their team! And the final
fate of Mr. Fiddlesticks is
revealed, in a special issue he narrates!
Co-created by BUFFY and ROBOT
CHICKEN star Seth Green and written by Mr.
Universe runner-up Hugh

Hmm... that didn't really clarify a damn thing.

I wonder what the Marvel family thinks about that...?

One of my favorite solicitations for April is this promo for Aquaman:

AQUAMAN: SWORD OF ATLANTIS #51 Written by Tad Williams Art by Shawn McManus & Walden Wong Cover by Michael Wm. Kaluta Acclaimed fantasy writer Tad Williams continues his run on the title that's already garnered a great deal of attention! Black Manta is trying to move in on the remains of Sub Diego, and Tempest tries to help Arthur recover the Trident of Poseidon! On sale April 18 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99

I love that it's already garnered a great deal of attention! That's such a half-hearted attempt at hype. Sort of like saying, "Several different individuals have already expressed an interest in this title!!!"

Maybe it's the word garnered. I don't know. Other comics get This amazing debut issue! or Don't miss the pulse-pounding conclusion of Dragon's Blood!.

Justice League of America really made full use of all the hype words this month with this solicitation: Beginning the long awaited, epic crossover between the new Justice League and the new Justice Society, uniting the combined writing talents of best-selling author Brad Meltzer and comics mega-star Geoff Johns for the ultimate team-up!

See? That's how you do it. Not Tad Williams continues his run on the title that's already garnered a great deal of attention!

There's also an ad for a four-issue Spider-Man/Fantastic Four series titled, appropriately enough, Spider-Man/Fantastic Four. The cover is generic and dull, much like the title, but it's being written by Jeff Parker, who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite new writers, so I'm very much looking forward to this!

Also from Jeff Parker comes Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #12. This series is "for kids" but every issue written by Jeff Parker has been a total blast! Here's the solicitation for issue #12...


Written by JEFF PARKER

The skies of Earth are a boiling tempest. Tidal waves threaten the coasts. A large dark force draws closer. Is it Armageddon? Naw, that's love in the air, baby... Ego style! 32 PGS./All Ages

Ah, sweet comic-book bliss...

If you haven't been picking up the Jeff Parker-scripted issues of Marvel Adventures: The Avengers, you've been missing out on some BIG fun...

Let's see... we've also got a pretty cool cover for Iron Man...

And for the first of DC's new Minx line of books, The Plain Janes...

Damn... that's a sweet cover!

I actually went ahead and got one of Cecil Castellucci's books (Boy Proof) from the library to help me decide if I should pick this up. It's ten dollars, y'know, and that's a fair bit of money for a book I know almost nothing about.

Anyway, I must confess, I wasn't all that impressed with her book. But then, I'm not really the target audience for this sort of thing, either.

In any case, I hope it does well. It's nice to see the big two publishing companies trying to reach a wider audience and it can only be good for the industry in the long-run...

This next cover is for Fables, which is a wonderful, wonderful book that I plan to write more about in a future column.

Great idea for a cover and very nicely done. And especially for a book like Fables, which is normally about faeries and magic creatures and stuff. Good stuff!

This next one is for 52. That series has had pretty outstanding covers all along, but I particularly like this one...

This next cover is for Tranquility #5.

First of all, I want to say this: Yuck.

This is an ugly cover on a couple of different levels.

Level #1: It is ugly in the sense of not looking very nice.

Level #2: It is ugly in spirit.

There's something about a woman in pink lingerie getting beaten bloody (while another woman cowers helplessly behind her) that just really doesn't cry out "Comics are fun!!!" to me.

I know, I know... not all comics have to be fun. But this is a series about a retirement community for old super-heroes and super-villains. It's supposed to be fun.

More than that, it's a Gail Simone series. Gail Simone is a funny, funny woman. Her books certainly have their dramatic moments, but she's not trying to be Frank Miller or Brian Azzarello.

So, I'm guessing this is a case of the artist (Neil Googe) being on a totally different wave-length than the writer. Further, I think it's in poor taste and it makes me dis-like Neil Googe's art even more than I already did.

The writing on Tranquility is pretty good... definitely not Simone's best work, but it's okay. But Googe's art has kind of ruined it for me.

Yeah, "yuck" pretty much covers it.

I want to close on an "up" note with a very fun cover for the new Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century series, based on the popular cartoon series.

If I were a kid and I saw this cover in the store, I'd be pretty damn excited.

Oh, who am I kidding? I'm pretty damn excited anyway.

It just looks neat. And fun.

I've been a big fan of the Legion for a long, long, time and the current incarnation just doesn't do much for me. It's boring and grumpy and pseudo-rebellious.

[That whole it's-us-against-the-grown-ups thing is just tedious and silly.]

Anyway, I hope this is good, because I'd love to have a Legion of Super-Heroes book that I could pick up regularly...

Well, that's all for this week...

Be here next week when we look at Mega Event Crossovers and the Comic-Book Readers Who Love to Hate Them. In particular, we'll be taking a look at Crisis of the Infinite Earths and Secret Wars and asking by which criteria these things are best evaluated. It's the first part of a two-part column (the second part will focus on more modern Mega Event Crossovers, such as Infinity Crisis and Civil War) and it's going to be swell, I promise.

Here's what we in the business like to call a "teaser"...

Oh, yeah, and we'll probably have some comic reviews too...

In the meantime, I encourage you to drop me a line and let me know what you're reading and enjoying these days. At some point in the future, I'd love to have a Readers' Recommendations column.

So, until next week, here's hoping that all your comic-book-y dreams come true...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 3: Taste the fury of my Snap-Crackle Bolas...!

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!, the online comic-book review column that Kofi Annan calls “The last, great hope of a free and just world.”

This week, as part of our on-going committment to global peace, we’re going to look at four new comics, but first...

A special request for you, the reader: I have absolutely no idea how to get word out that this blog exists. If you could please link this to whatever blogs you're reading or somehow spread the word that this exists, I would be very grateful. For that matter, just sending me an email ( to let me know that you're reading Hoopla! would mean a lot to me. Right now, I feel like that one-handed falling tree that's trying to clap in an empty forest... and no one wants to feel like that, right?

Also, I wanted to give a special kudos to Gail Simone for winning The BEST USE OF A CHARACTER THAT NORMALLY IS REALLY, REALLY LAME Award for 2007, for her use of the Mad Hatter in the just completed Secret Six limited series. There aren't many characters with so little to recommend them as Jervis Tetch; his usual schtick is to use hats to mind-control people into fighting Batman. Traditionally, Batman then knocks the hats off the people and punches Jervis in the face. End of story.

Not the stuff that great characters are made of.

In the latest Secret Six limited series, however, Gail Simone manages to make him hilarious, terrifying, and tragic all in the space of just a few pages. Particularly in the final issue of the series, the Mad Hatter comes across as a serious threat and a man whose mental condition is beyond precarious. And she does this without altering the character (no new super-powers, no revelation about his origin, no sodomizing the wife of a member of the Justice League of America, etc.). She simply took what was there and, through the magic of good writing, made it interesting.

Nicely done, Ms. Simone!

And now, on with the reviews...

GODLAND #15: O Sister, Where Art Thou?
Written by Joe Casey
Art by Tom Scioli
Published by Image

How do I love thee, GODLAND? Let me count the ways...

1) Basil Cronus - a floating skull in a space-helmet that lives to try new and ever-more intense narcotics. Part super-villian, part junkie and all woman, now that Basil’s floating skull has been attached to the body of Discordia, daughter of the Tormentor. 'Nuff said.

2) Maxim - a huge, cosmic dog. Very cool. Says things like “Belay your New York Yankee bravado!”

3) “Make room for the coup de grace... Death-Snake Attack!”

4) Friedrich Nickelhead. Cool name, cool smoking jacket, and his headquarters is called the Funhouse. Says things like “Peeling the onion--especially when it’s such a tantalizing onion--can reveal as much about yourself as it does about the onion. But enough vegetable analogies... we’ve got an unconscious astronaut to play with,” and “My name is Friedrich Nickelhead. I’m a swinger with a sinister style."

5) The Psychotronic Wheel of Influence.

6) “My volcanic eruption technique will serve as your teacher.”

7) The servants of the Tormentor (sort of a Darkseid-esque character) are little cartoon mice, each of which is dressed either like Clark Kent or like Superman. No explanation for this has been provided. Oddly, none is needed.

8) “The She-Creature explodes from its vaporized prison. She is terrifying beauty. She is a sexual crime against all that is natural in this world.”

9) Basil Cronus/Discordia talking ‘street-talk’ while purchasing drugs in an alley. “Put your pecker in park, kid. Homey don’t play that...”

10) Lucky, the huge octopus head attached to a little human body that plays with a Rubik’s Cube while scheming from beneath the Pentagon. [Granted, that scene was pretty much directly swiped from the introduction of Yankee Doodle Dandy in Morrison's Doom Patrol, but that does not in any way diminish my affection for Lucky, the Octopus-Head!]

11) “Observe, Supra... flaccid like a vegan tropospheric serpent.”

12) “Uranium... plutonium... substances to be savored! A confectionary treat of ultimate destruction!”

13) The hero of the book, Adam Archer, in the midst of battle with an amorphous, nameless monster, thinks to himself, “This creature... smells like paste! Like the Elmer’s Glue I used to eat in kindergarten!”

14) “...The Never. He is the great leveler of this dimensional plane. He makes the impossible possible. I love him like a second cousin.”

15) The Great Gonzo-God.

16) “...Many a night I have awakened in a glorious sweat... my sheets sticky with the revelations seeded within me...”

17) “You come at me with aggression...?! Then taste the fury of my Snap-Crackle Bolas...!”

The good people at Image have been kind enough to have already put out two trade paper-backs of GODLAND, collectingthe first 12 issues, so you can easily get caught up on what you've been missing. And... the next issue (#16) is only going to cost 60 cents. So, what are you waiting for? An invitation?



Astonishing X-Men #19
Written by Joss Whedon
Art by John Cassaday
Published by Marvel

Is it okay to admit that I’m not enjoying this? On the one hand, I am a huge fan of Joss Whedon. I’ve got all seven seasons of Buffy on DVD and I lend them out regularly to help convert new victims. Whedon is up there on my Top Five Writers of ALL TIME list... or he would be, if such a list actually existed. And the art... sweet Christams, the art!!! John Cassady is good at the big explodey moments but even better at the small, character moments, which are crucial for a series being written by Whedon. Yup... I love everything about this comic except the actual story itself.

I don’t care about Ord (the alien guy trying to save his race by killing the X-man that is destined to destroy them). I less than don’t care about Danger. I enjoyed the storyline where he/she/it first appeared, but I can see no purpose in its inclusion here except to further complicate an already much-too-convuluted story. I extra-especially super don’t care about the SHIELD agent who has abducted the X-Men, Ord, Danger, and whoever else. She’s supposed to be cool and ruthless and funny in a Warren Ellis sort of way, but she comes across as a tired cliche. So, nope, don’t want to read about her.

And then there's the whole thing with the Hellfire Club. That was interesting for a few issues, until it turned out that there really isn’t a Hellfire Club. I’m still a bit confused about why that whole subterfuge made any sense... What was the point of all that? Why introduce new characters into the Hellfire Club if none of them actually exist? Why show them conferring and arguing with one another? It simply doesn’t make sense in the context of the story and it’s kind of a weird bait-and-switch to play on the reader. “Look! It’s an all-new Hellfire Club and they’re attacking the X-Men! Let’s watch their masterplan unfold over the course of several issues and then reveal at the end that they don’t exist!! It’s fun!!!”

So, that leaves us with some beautiful art and a few truly excellent character moments, all stuck inside a very long, drawn out, not-so-great story. I don’t hate it, by any means. I mean, it’s worth picking up. But, I won’t be sad when it’s over, either, which is really too bad. With Whedon and Cassady working together on an X-Men title, I expected so much more...

Spider-Man: Reign #1

Written and Drawn by Kaare Andrews


Bad, bad, bad.

Before I actually got Spider-Man: Reign in the mail, I saw a few very negative reviews of the book. They mostly complained that it was an obvious rip-off of The Dark Knight Returns.

Well, as much as I hate to jump on the band-wagon, it's completely true. If you took your 12-year old cousin (the one who still eats his own boogers) and let him read your copy of The Dark Knight Returns and afterwards, he was like, "Dude! That totally rocked! That was so fuckin' hard-core! That makes me wanna write a comic! Only, mine's gonna be about Spider-Man!!!" and if you then hired a very talented artist to illustrate your cousin's book, you'd have Spider-Man: Reign. It has all the outer trappings of Frank Miller's story, but with none of what made it good.

Oh, yeah. And it's really, really bleak. Kaare Andrews went just a wee bit overboard with the bleakness. Sure, it's good to start with things looking grim and then having the hero overcome tremendous odds and all that. But, seriously, there are limits. This comic is so bleak and the world portrayed in it is so completely without hope or joy that there is absolutely nothing about it to keep my interest. It's just... misery.

Relentless... misery.

So, very... very...

... bleak.

The Irredeemable Ant-Man #3
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Phil Hester and Ande Parks
Published by Marvel

And then there's this. Which is not at all bleak. In fact, after reading Spider-Man: Reign, this is sort of like tooth-paste for the soul, following a week of raw onions.

Or something.

Anyway, here's the thing...

I'm not a big fan of Robert Kirkman. I wanted to like Walking Dead, because I'm a big zombie fan, but I find Kirkman's writing... well, I find it dull, for lack of a kinder way to put it. His comics are always almost good, in my opinion, but they always lack that certain something I'm looking for. Invincible...? Dull. Marvel Team-Up...? Really, really dull. Ultimate X-Men...? Oh, man, don't get me started...

But then there's this. This beautiful thing. This shiny, happy tooth-paste-y thing.

The Irredeemable Ant-Man is about this guy, Eric O'Grady, who's basically a jerk. He's not a villain, mind you. He's not out to rule the world. But he's lazy, he doesn't really care about anyone other than himself, he's cowardly, and he's not particularly motivated by ethics or morals. He accidentally got his own best friend killed and, in issue #3, takes the opportunity to hit on the guy's girl-friend, "comforting" her through her grief.

In a way, what makes this book so fun is the way it plays off your expectations. Ant-Man will save a woman from a mugging, but then instead of doing what you expect a super-hero to do (swing off into the distance) he'll stick around and try to pressure her into taking him out to dinner.

As the ant on page one says, "He's a pretty crappy super hero."

If you're looking for something a little different and enjoy dark humor, I highly recommend The Irredeemable Ant-Man. I don't imagine it will be around for long... the market for this kind of thing seems pretty limited. (Insert rant about everyone who reads comics who doesn't like the same stuff that I do and thinly veiled implication that it's because they're not as clever as I am and they watch too many bad Hollywood movies.)


Well, that's all for this week! Next week I'll be taking a special look at the solicitations for comics coming out in April, and pointing out things that look particularly nifty, some super-cool covers, and some covers that made me weep like a child.

The week after that is going to be an extra-special posting on mega-crossovers and the people who love to hate them. More specifically, I want to take a look at the most recent company "events", such as Identity Crisis, Infinity Crisis, House of M, and Civil War and talk about what makes a good "event" and what makes a stinky-poopy event.

Also, I'm going to start an ongoing list of ALL-TIME GREATEST COMICS THAT TOTALLY KICK YOUR ASS, which will feature some of the usual suspects (Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol, Alan Moore's From Hell, etc.) but will also tell you about some books I'll wager you've never come across, most of which are available in trade paperback form. I encourage y'all, in the meantime, to send me your own list of candidates for ALL-TIME GREATEST COMICS THAT TOTALLY KICK YOUR ASS, particularly any obscure ones that really rock your boat.

And, of course, there will be a review or two tossed in, just to keep Kofi happy.

So, until next week, here's hoping that all your comic-book-y dreams come true!!!