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!!!

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