Sunday, April 29, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 19: In which the Hulk Smashes...

Hello and welcome to Hoopla! This week we're going to take a look at Marvel's solicitations for their July books and... not much else. I had some glorious plans for this week's Hoopla! but it looks like they're going to have to wait until next week, because time--as usual--is my enemy.

I do want to mention, however, that Newsarama just released a very brief interview with Sienkiewicz about the upcoming 30 Days of Night title I was telling y'all about a few weeks ago and the first issue has officially been scheduled for September. Yee-haw!

Well, July is the month when the sun is out shining its sunbeams of love at the world and a young man's heart naturally turns to... the Hulk. Marvel, anticipating that seasonal change, has cleverly scheduled a bazillion books featuring the Hulk for July.

Don't believe me? Well, just take a look...

And my personal favorite, from IRREDEEMABLE ANT-MAN #10...

Plus a couple of others that don't have covers posted yet.

The story behind all these Hulk crossovers/limited series is that about a year ago, Hulk was shot into outer space by a bunch of super-heroes (I forget who all was involved, but Iron Man, Reed Richards, etc.) because he'd become too much of a menace to remain on Earth. That led to a year's worth of stories about Hulk being on this faraway planet where he was a warrior-hero.

Now, the Hulk's coming back with his army and it's payback time.

And this time... it's personal.

So, be afraid... be very afraid.

Because you wouldn't like him when he's angry.

He's going to kick some ass and chew some gum. And he's all out of gum...


So, essentially what you've got here is a big ol' "Hulk Smash!" kind of story. Which is fine, I suppose, but I can't help thinking this might be a few too many Hulk fights for one month (and it will be continuing throughout the summer). How much Hulk can one person reasonably be expected to take? And some of these crossovers and limited series sound pretty lame.

Exhibit A: World War Hulk: X-Men.

THE STORY: When the Illuminati voted to shoot the Hulk into space, Professor X wasn't there...but the Hulk just found out he was supposed to be. So he shows up at the Xavier Institute to ask a few pointed questions, Hulk style. With the other teams away, only Beast and the New X-Men stand between the massive rage of the Hulk and the Professor...not to mention the younger students who'd be caught in the crossfire. Can the X-Men-in-training survive the wrath of the Jade Giant until the other X-teams get back? Or will the young mutants become casualties of the World War Hulk?

So, this is a three issue series about the Hulk going to the institute so he can beat up Professor X, who wasn't even one of the people who shot him into space. C'mon, Hulk! Focus a little, here! Getting side-tracked into a three-issue battle with the Beast and the New X-Men is only going to slow you down. And what's the payoff?

I mean, assuming the Hulk does beat up the Beast and the New X-Men (and I should hope he'd be able to do that much), then what is he going to do? Beat up Professor X? That's going to be a pretty quick fight.

Silly Hulk. Silly Marvel Comics.

There's also a new Bendis/Maleev limited series coming out, which would normally be a must-buy for me, but...

HALO: UPRISING #1 (of 4)


Pencils and Cover by ALEX MALEEV

The Eisner Award-winning team of superscribe Brian Michael Bendis and artist extraordinaire Alex Maleev unleash an epic story of mankind's struggle against the alien threat of the Covenant. Picking up from the conclusion of blockbuster video game Halo 2, the must-read issue reveals how the Master Chief, while onboard a hostile ship headed towards Earth, is battling against Covenant forces! Intertwined with Master Chief's interstellar one-man-war is the saga of a great American city's rebellion and downfall, two disparate lives' collision and shared fate, and the Convenant's hunt for an ancient relic of untold power and value. With hope dwindling and the fate of humanity hanging by a thread, is there any chance for a future? Read this debut issue to start the journey into the Halo universe!

40 PGS./17 and Up ...$3.99

This comic book is based on a Mature-rated video game.Microsoft, Bungie, the Bungie logo, Halo, the Halo logos, the Microsoft Game Studios logo, Xbox 360, the Xbox logos are either registered trademarks or trademarks ofMicrosoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries and are used under license from owner. © 2007 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Um... it's based on a video game? That's rather... unexciting. [Although it's true that Death Jr. was also based on a video game and that was one of the best books to come out last year. But that was by Ted Naifeh. The normal rules don't apply.] Besides which, it's science fiction. When I think Bendis and Maleev, I think dark, gritty, urban stories. I think Daredevil. I do not think "epic story of mankind's struggle against the alien threat of the Covenant."

Of course, it's always possible that this will end up being great. It could happen. Bendis and Maleev... that's a heck of a team. But, I'm Mr. Dubious on this one.

Meanwhile, those of you who love Keith Giffen's writing are in for a treat in July. At first glance, ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST – STAR-LORD (4-issue series) doesn't look all that interesting. Too many words in the title, for one thing. And the cover is sort of a generic sci-fi comic-book-y thing.

But... the solicitation copy looks very promising...

Peter Quill is once again Star-Lord - - but what could possibly make him take on his former identity? And what brings together the motley crew that includes Bug, Captain Universe, Deathcry, Mantis, Groot and Rocket Raccoon? Grab your blaster and say your prayers as Keith Giffen (ANNIHILATION) and soon-to-be star Timothy Green (Rush City) deliver a sci-fi twist on Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos!32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99

Keith Giffen writing a story that stars Bug, Rocket Racoon, and something called Groot? Ah, yes. Life is good.

And, in the two-great-tastes-that-taste-great-together category, we've got this...

Marvel Adventures: The Avengers by Jeff Parker is pure fun. Agents of Atlas (also written by Jeff Parker) was one of the best limited series of the past year. And what we've got here is a Giant-Size Marvel Adventures: The Avengers that guest-stars... the Agents of Atlas!!!

What's not to love?

Further evidence that Joe Quesada loves me... Dan Slott's Great Lake Avengers, who later changed their names to the Great Lakes X-Men, and who are now apparently going by the Great Lakes Initiative, have their own one-shot coming up in July. The Great Lakes Avengers limited series (about two years ago...?) was one of the best comic-book-y things I've ever read. Absurd, hilarious, tragic... it blew me away, quite frankly. And now there's this...


Written by DAN SLOTT



Wisconsin’s only greatest heroes team-up with the world’s most annoying deadliest merc in this slightly larger than average super sized special! Marvel as DEADPOOL and the newly--crowned GREAT LAKES INITIATIVE face off against hitmen, ninjas, and the POWER OF THE GODS! Swoon as the scintillating SQUIRREL GIRL is reunited with her first love, ROBBIE BALDWIN! And prepare yourself as DEADPOOL trains a GLI’er in one of the deadliest killing arts of all time!!! Ye gods, man! What are you waiting for? This thing’s got time travel, strange bodily functions, and NINJAS? Did we mention the ninjas? Sick of ninjas yet? We thought so. That’s so 80’s, right? Forget about the ninjas. (They are there, though.)48 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

And finally from Marvel, there's a new limited series, titled SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP/M.O.D.O.K.'S 11. I'm not quite certain why Marvel is being so good to me this summer, but take a look at this...

While the heroes are away fighting World War Hulk, the villains can play...M.O.D.O.K., sick of being hunted and hounded by A.I.M., gathers together an eclectic team of Marvel's Most Wanted to pull off one last, big score. But news travels fast along the grapevine of villainy -- and pretty soon every bad guy in the Marvel Universe is gunning for the Big-Headed One's unspeakably powerful prize. Executing their heist may be the easy part, because getting away with their loot alive is going to be the real challenge for M.O.D.O.K.’s 11!32 PGS./Rated A …$2.99


So, yes... July looks to be a damn fine month for comic-books.

Well, I was going to do an extra-special feature about The Shield, which I personally think is the single best TV series currently on the air. However, time does not permit, so I'm going to save that for next week's Hoopla!

This gives you time to prepare, though. So, quick rent all five seasons of The Shield so as to maximize your Hoopla! enjoyment next week. Otherwise, you're really just wasting your time and mine, no?

Next week is also my birthday, so be sure to send me lots of gifts, okay?

Until then, here's hoping you have a kick-ass week and that nobody tries to stomp on your continuity!

- Paul

Friday, April 20, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 18: Does anyone love Jimmy Olsen?

Hello and welcome to Hoopla! This week we've got three (count 'em!) reviews plus a look at what's coming up from DC in the month of July. And, if you're really good, I just may tell you Green Arrow's origin story and share my inner feelings about Jimmy Olsen with you.

Let's get started, shall we?

Nova #1

Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Sean Chen and Scott Hanna
Published by Marvel

Sometimes you just feel predisposed toward enjoying something. You're in the right mood for it and you sort of make a deal as you start off, "As long as you don't totally suck, I'm going to have a good time. So, please, don't suck."

That's kind of how I felt while reading the first issue of Nova. I knew it wasn't going to be brilliant. I'd seen some preview art and I knew that it wasn't going to astound me with other-worldly visuals. But, I just kind of felt in the mood for a slightly-better-than-mediocre sci-fi super-hero comic-book series.

And that's exactly what this is.

One of the things that Abnett and Lanning do right in this first issue is that they manage to catch the reader up on the status quo of the main character. During the whole Annihilation storyline (about 1/3 of which I've read) the Nova Corps (think Green Lantern Corps, but without the rings) was completely wiped out by Annihilus and his minions. The only one to survive is Richard Rider, Earth guy, and so now he's trying to fill the vacuum left behind by the obliteration of the entire Corps.

Not an easy job.

This first issue shows poor Richard racing around from emergency to emergency, trying desperately to help everyone, but it's clear that he's in way over his head. Further complicating matters, he has the Xandarian Worldmind stuck inside his head, which is sort of like having complete internet access to the entire universe but the downside is that you have to put up with lines like "I am the sum total of all Xandarian art, science, and knowledge, and you are carrying me inside your obstinate human head! I am a resouce too valuable to be jeapardized by engaging in haphazard police actions!"

So, yeah, the Xandarian Worldmind is a total backseat driver.

Anyway, Abnett and Lanning do a good job of getting all us readers caught up on the necessary backstory and the premise of the book looks potentially fun. Nova is incredibly powerful, but he's also been saddled with the impossible task of watching over the entire galaxy by himself. He's a bit overwhelmed, but not whiney. Which is good, because I hate whiney heroes.

The art on Nova is a bit lackluster. This is most notable when Nova encounters 'Planetfall,' a global deterrent weapon that has accidentally been activated. We have a page of build-up about how huge and horrifying this thing is, but when we actually see it, the thing is actually pretty goofy looking. Sean Chen's visuals are simply too mundane to fit with all of the incredible stuff that Nova is supposed to be experiencing in this book, and I can't help but wonder how much better a ride this would have been with someone like Bryan Hitch or Jim Starlin doing the art.

But, it is what it is, and I have to say I enjoyed this comic. I can't give it a strong recommendation, but it might be a good series to trick your friend into buying so you can read his/her copy.

Ha-ha. Stupid friend.

Grifter/Midnighter #1 (of 6)
Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by Ryan Benjamin
Published by Wildstorm

If there's a story in this comic-book, it's well-hidden.

I'm assuming the purpose of this limited series is to have Grifter (tough guy from WildCats) and Midnighter (tough guy from The Authority) fight. And, hey, why not?

The problem is that the first issue doesn't do much of anything. The main chunk of the book is Midnighter having a nightmare that his super-team, the Authority, are all being killed. He wakes up, strapped to a table, rescued by the Authority. Someone's been mucking with his mind, but no one's quite sure what it is exactly that they've done or why. In any case, now he keeps having flashbacks to the nightmare and thinking that his allies are the evil aliens.

So, there's that.

Then the last few pages switch over to Grifter, who's on some mission that's never really explained to the readers. Also, he seems to be using some sort of mind-control super-powers which I have no recollection of ever having seen before. Granted, I'm not up on my WildCats backstory, but I thought that Grifter was just a tough guy with guns.

Anyway, his allies (I have no idea who they are; are these established characters or new ones?) say something about his cool mind-control powers and then Grifter uses his powers to make them both sing and aim their guns at each other (?). He stops them just before they kill each other and one of them aims her gun at him, shouting "You sick son of a bitch! I'm writing this up!" while her massive breasts float upwards.

I understand setting up mysteries in the first issue, but I really have no idea what's going on here or even which things I'm supposed to be confused about. Why does Grifter have mind-control powers? Who are the people he's working with? What mission did we just watch them do? Why did he use his powers to make them sing and aim their guns at each other? And what, if anything, does any of that have to do with what happened to Midnighter?

Chuck Dixon is usually pretty reliable for the action-y stuff, but Grifter/Midnighter is just a big ol' waste of time.

The Loners #1 (of 6)
Written by C.B. Cebulski
Art by Karl Moline
Published by Marvel

The Loners is a spin-off from Vaughan's kick-ass ongoing series, Runaways. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

The premise of The Loners is cute; it's a self-help group for b-list super-heroes who are trying to quit using their powers. There's Mattie Franklin (the third Spider-Woman), Julie Powers (of Power Pack), Darkhawk, Phil Urich (the 'nice' Green Goblin, who had a very brief series of his own), and two former members of Slingers (a group that consisted of four people wearing costumes that Spider-Man had thrown out... now that's a compelling premise for a superhero series!).

I would have liked this first issue more if they'd stuck with the whole "I'm Mattie Franklin and I was a teenage super hero," feel of the book, but by the end of the issue half of the non-team are back in their costumes, rationalizing that they have "one, last mission" that they need to perform before they can finally quit forever.

The problem is, once they're in costume and doing their super-heroey thing, there's nothing to really distinguish The Loners from any other super-team book. Sure, they're reluctant about putting on their costumes and none of them is particularly competent, but I just wish Cebulski hadn't gone the easy route on this one.

Still, The Loners is a fun book and it will not poke you in the eye.


Anyway, my psychologist tells me that it's counter-productive to always be living in the past, so let's take a look at some new stuff that'll be coming out in July, shall we?

This week we're going to focus on DC's books and then next week we'll take a look at Marvel's. After that, God only knows...

Generally speaking, July looks to be a pretty lackluster month for DC, but there are a few potential treasures hidden among the muck. Amongst the stuff that's not so interesting is a too-little-too-late attempt to muster up excitement about The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive, one of the least successful new titles to come out of the whole Infinite Crisis / One Year Later wave of books.

At this point, it's hard for me to imagine anything they could do with the character that would really interest me. Bring back Wally West? Bring back Barry Allen? Introduce yet another Flash? Make the new Flash older? Younger? Sideways? Make him wear roller-skates and a pretty yellow skirt? It's all been done a bazillion times by now. (Well, not that last one...)

But, I'll give 'em credit... they're really doing their best to drum up some interest...

Written by Marc Guggenheim
Art by Tony S. Daniel & Art Thibert
Cover by Joshua Middleton
DC Comics announces the second month of a special FLASH promotion as the Fastest Man Alive’s world changes forever! Retailers: please check your the Previews order form for a special incentive designed to help you meet the demand for this story. Fans: remind your retailer early and often to order you a copy!On sale July 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

See, if only I didn't dislike the character, the writer, the artist, and the editorial direction of the past year, I'd be all over this.

I do, however, like the reminder to tell your retailer early and often to order me a copy. Yeah, like that isn't going to drive him completely insane. "Hey, Joe, just calling you up to make sure you haven't forgotten..."

"I know, I know. I wrote it down. Just like I told you last week."

"Ah, that's great. Well, I just wanted to make sure that you didn't forget..."

"Goddammit!!! Stop calling me!!!"

DC is also beginning the Countdown crossovers in July with a couple of Jimmy Olsen stories in the Superman titles. I'd always assumed that no one actually likes Jimmy Olsen; that he's there because of tradition, but that it's universally understood that he's an annoying character and should be left in the background as much as possible. You can't really kill him off, but there's no way you could ever make him interesting either. He's worse than a sidekick; he's Jimmy Olsen.

But, maybe there is a niche market for Jimmy Olsen stories out there. Maybe there are people who really get excited at the thought of a year-long spotlight on Jimmy Olsen. In any case, the Powers That Be at DC must think so, because Jimmy Olsen seems to be a big player in their new weekly series, Countdown.

Jimmy Olsen and Mary Marvel.

I just don't get that.

Anyway, if you're one of those who have been clamoring for some new Jimmy Olsen stories, July is your month! Check it out:

Written by Kurt Busiek
Art and cover by Brad Walker and John Livesay
3-2-1-ACTION! (part 1 of 3) Hot on the heels of SUPERMAN #665's "Jimmy Olsen Countdown Dossier" comes this true blue COUNTDOWN event! Superman has always been Superman's pal. Will he now become Superman's partner?! More secrets of Jimmy's past revealed, the Kryptonite Man on the loose, and more! This issue ties into the events of COUNTDOWN #40!On sale July 25 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US


Written by Kurt Busiek
Art by Rick Leonardi & Ande Parks
Cover by Jesus Merino
A special Countdown dossier issue with amazing guest art by Rick Leonardi & Ande Parks, revealing for the first time how Jimmy Olsen came to the Daily Planet! On sale July 5 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Amazing guest art? Oh, yeah, let's bring in the best artistic talent we have for this special Jimmy Olsen dossier issue. We'll need the best that money can buy to really give this story the oomph! that Jimmy Olsen deserves!


Anyway, enough of that silliness. Let's get to the good stuff...

First of all, I'd just like to point out that issue #668 of Batman has a super-cool cover...

And this description:

Written by Grant Morrison Art and cover by J.H. Williams III

Batman, Robin and the Club of Heroes are stuck on an island rigged with elaborate death traps. And even as the villain behind it all begins to explain his twisted motives, he continues to pick the heroes off one by one.

I haven't really enjoyed Morrison's Batman thus far, but I remain (foolishly?) hopeful...

Then there's this cover for the first issue of Green Arrow: Year One.

Nice stuff. And very green, too.

Unfortunately, Green Arrow has one of the most uninspired origin stories of all time. Here it is:

Oliver Queen was a rich guy. Then he got tossed off a boat and ended up alone on an island where he had to become Robinson Crusoe to survive. Once he got off the island, he dressed up in a green costume and fought crimes using his amazing new archery skills.

Neat, huh?

See, the character didn't actually become interesting until much, much later when he lost his fortune and became the left-wing hot-head that we all know and love today. But that was years later. Poor Andy Diggle (a pretty good writer) is stuck telling the Robinson Crusoe part of the story. So, even though I like his writing and I think Jock's art is pretty (he did the cover and also does interiors), I won't be picking this up.

And then there's this...

THE PROGRAMME #1 Written by Peter Milligan Art and cover by C.P. Smith

From the brilliant mind of critically acclaimed writer Peter Milligan (X-Statix, SHADE THE CHANGING MAN, JLA CLASSIFIED) and with the incredible art of C.P. Smith (Punisher, Wolverine) comes a tale a half century in the making! In 1991, the Cold War ended without the two primary players ever facing each other in direct conflict. The vast arsenals of democracy and communism were put on ice, and the world moved toward a new millennium. While the U.S.S.R. disintegrated, the United States rose to unchallenged dominance, but now a long-forgotten Soviet weapon is awakened on one of America's many battlegrounds, threatening the global balance of power. Conventional warfare is suddenly outdated: the new weapons of mass destruction wield super-powers. Does America have an answer to...The Programme?

The premise doesn't particularly grab me, but I am a HUGE fan of Peter Milligan's writing (The Enigma, Shade, the Changing Man, X-Statix, Millenium Fever, etc.) and that cover is... well, it does me right.

Oddly enough, I can't quite figure out if this is a Vertigo book or a Wildstorm book. Then again, who really cares?

Anyway, while we're on the subject of freaky new series, take a look at this:

This cover doesn't work quite as well for me as it should (Maybe it's the choice of sky-blue for the background? I can't help thinking a dark, dark red would have worked better...), but the promo text piqued my interest...


Written by Mike Carey Art and cover by Jock

In the numbing cold of a Minnesota winter, Jessie Kidby and her freshman friends kick off their second semester with a wild party. But in the aftermath of the big blow-out, things start to go horribly wrong for all of them. Jessie is troubled by nasty memories she's been suppressing for years, while her best friend Nick Philo has become an un-person: Nobody outside their tight-knit little clique can remember seeing him before, and his records have been erased from the college's computers. At first, it doesn't seem like a big deal, but it becomes increasingly obvious that one of them is not what he appears to be. Chock full of ruthless characters with hidden agendas, FAKER takes place during freshman year in college; the ultimate time of reinvention, where, if you're up for it, you can lie, cheat and fake your way through almost anything. FAKER is by the Eisner-nominated team of Mike Carey (LUCIFER, CROSSING MIDNIGHT) and Jock (THE LOSERS). On sale July 5 o 1 of 6 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US o MATURE READERS

Mike Carey is hit-or-miss for me, but the above summary sound very interesting. Color me intrigued...

And finally from the DC solicitations comes the latest Minx book, Good as Lily. The cover is unimpressive, but it's written by Derek Kirk Kim, who I've heard amazing things about, the plot summary sounds nifty, and the interior art is by a different artist than the cover. So, we'll see...


Written by Derek Kirk Kim

Art by Jesse Hamm

Cover by Derek Kirk Kim

Grace Kwon is about to meet three of her closest friends - the only problem is that they're her past and future selves. What if your biggest competition was yourself? Following a strange mishap on her 18th birthday, Grace Kwon is confronted with herself at three different periods in her life. The timing couldn't be worse as Grace and her friends desperately try to save a crumbling school play. Will her other selves wreak havoc on her present life or illuminate her uncertain future? Writer Derek Kirk Kim scored the "triple crown" with his debut graphic novel, Same Difference and Other Stories, winning all three major industry awards: the Eisner, Harvey, and Ignatz. It was also selected as one of the best books of 2003 by Publishers Weekly. Jesse Hamm's cartooning has appeared in various mini-comics, anthologies and on the web. All MINX books contain 176 pages, black and white interiors with gray tones and color covers. Each title also includes previews for other MINX books as a special bonus. Advance-solicited; on sale August 15 / 176 pg, B&W, $9.99 US

I probably won't preorder this but will take a look when it comes into the store. Might be very, very good. Might be dull. I just don't know...

Well, that's about it for DC this month. I'm going to pick up my usual ongoing titles (Detective Comics, Superman Confidential [the final issue of the Tim Sale/Darwyn Cooke storyline... sigh], Brave and Bold, Justice League of America, Justice Society of America, The Spirit, Fables, and The Atom) and the two Green Lantern titles look like they'll pretty good in July (that whole Sinestro Corps storyline) but, other than that, a pretty quiet month.

Be here next week when we look at what Marvel's got coming up in July, although I can tell you right now that, for Marvel, July is all about the Hulk. Seriously. If you really like the Hulk, you're going to be in heaven this July.

And if you really like the Hulk and Jimmy Olsen, then I think you should brace yourself now for the smorgasbord of orgasmic delights coming your way in July.

I'm just sayin'...

Until next week, here's hoping no one messes with your continuity...

- Paul

Monday, April 16, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 17: In which Grant Morrison and I collaborate on a very special story...

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

This week I'm going to help out my good friend and highly-regarded comic-book writer, Grant Morrison, with a recent comic-book fart that he inadvertently released. I'm speaking, of course, about Batman #663, which consisted of pages and pages of prose, with occasional illustrations tossed in somewhat randomly.

It was an experiment and there are many who would argue that it was a failure. The prose was too dense, the metaphors and similes too cliche, and the whole thing was just kind of... dull. And crappy.

In Morrison's defense, however, I think the problem lies not with his prose, but with the illustrations provided by John Van Fleet. He simply wasn't up to the challenge of interpreting Morrison's vision.

And so it is that I, Paul Weissburg, shall now share excerpts from the aforementioned comic-book, but provided with all new illustrations which will, hopefully, better serve the story.



Rain goes clickety-clack-tack through the sticks and branches of bare, bony graveyards elms, the kind that stand as if ashamed, like strippers past their best--danced out to a standstill in the naked lights, all down to nothing but fretwork and scaffolding, jutting hips, nicotine-stained fingers, and summer gone south for the winter.

Welcome to Gotham City, a party ten miles long and six miles wide. From The Hill to Cathedral Square, from Amusement Mile to Blackgate Penitentiary, a 21st-century American Babylon has shouldered its way up from the mudflats and sauntered into the spotlight, eager to dazzle and seduce the world.

Gotham City, where the greasy electromagnetics of human need, hope, and fear radiate into a new January night so rank you can taste it like tinfoil on your fillings. Where crime swaps spit with high society and everything's for sale. Where grimy clouds snag and burst on the vicious needle points of world-famous Deco-Industrial superscrapers on Wall Street and Levi and spill out more, and more, and more of the burning, glamorous downpour Gothamites call rain and know so well.

Deep in the dense architectural reefs of midtown, primary reds and yellows and the hot purples of gigantic moving advertising hoardings are turning the rain to something that might as well be liquid stained glass, braiding it through the wound-tight sinews of the Aparo Bridge, scything across the docks and railway sidings, then crowding into the narrow floodlit canyons of 8th Avenue, Finger and Crescent, to rise the lowlifes and the high rollers off the bustling streets and back into the bars, the theaters, the crack houses, restaurants and clip joints, as if the sky itself, in some spontaneous creative frenzy, has chosen to empty an ocean of raw printer's ink on the gaudy, just and unjust citizens of Gotham alike.

He goes in, and they slam the door behind him, as quickly as they can, the way you would if you thought something might escape in the form of a cloud of evil gas if you didn't act fast to trap it.

Batman nods curtly, very still and silent, scanning for the pattern he knows is there. When he finds it, the corners of his mouth twitch upwards. The Joker always plays to his theme. Rebirth. Snake scales, red and black. Blood on the tuxedo. Red Hook and Black Brothers and the Red House. And red, and black. The big game is there in plain sight, as always. Life and death transformed into one more ugly, unfunny gag.

Like a grub growing all wrong in a tiled cocoon, like a caterpillar liquefying to filth in its own nightmares, or a fetus dissolving in sewage and sour milk, the Joker dreams. His is the mal ojo, the evil eye. He wills Death upon the world.

In less time than it takes for this second to become the next, Lou Perroni (37, a bodybuilder and collector of Ramones momorabilia, GSOH) is pedalling backward, making the noises cattle make at the slaughterhouse gate, clawing at his face where the adhesive spit burns black holes in his skin.

He's laughing red and balck and red and black till there's nothing left to laugh. Until, almost tenderly, he turns inside out through his mouth.

Sliding in the rubbery red chaos that was lately a drinking buddy, Cassius Collins (26, fond of violence, karaoke, conflicted) performs a spectacular, impromptu pratfall, then, astonished, watches the Joker rising from his wheelchair, the way a rabbit watches car headlights bearing down, unable to move a single, spotlit muscle.

"You're going nowhere," Batman says. It's the sort of all-purpose, semi-hypnotic phrase he often uses to draw fetish-compulsive criminals like the Joker into familiar patterns of interaction, to elecit familiar chains of response.

The eyes of the two men lock into place like dancers in a tango. It's as dangerous to look the Joker in the eye as it is to train a telescope on the sun, they say, but Batman has faced down this blue-hot blinding lunacy before.
"Clickety-clack-tack," replies the rain.

See what a difference the right artist makes?

And now for a very special treat... in keeping with the theme of this week (our homage to Grant Morrison, that is) I very proudly present...

WHAT IF... Grant Morrison wrote comic-book reviews?

Civil War: The Initiative
Written by Brian Michael Bendis and Warren Ellis
Art by Marc Silvestri

Fingers fumble nervously with the first page, like a teenager trying to unclasp his first bra, so anxious am I to inhale deeply of that comic-book scent--old paper and nostalgia and something else... some essential ingredient of lost childhoods that vanish like the opening credits to the Star Wars movie--but my olfactory senses are immediately assaulted by the techno-chemical bitter stabbing odor of slick Kraft-American-Cheese-textured paper and perfect inks, frightening in their clarity, vicious in their perfection.

Page One. Previously.

Summary scrolls past my eyes, recounting events long debated on the internet--Whose side are you on? I'm on the side of good old fashioned storytelling and once upon a time's and the heroes never surrendered to facism or sales boosting marketing campaigns--I'm on the losing side, Quesada.

We all are, this time.

Captain America is dead, like Bela Lugosi and Gene Siskel and Mark Twain. Like Carl Sagan, eyes fixed on the stars like some prehistoric prophet reading morse code in the solar flares too far away to see without a telescope.

Captain America is dead, and I turn the page, eyes glazed over like cheap pottery.

Opening shot of Iron Man, racing across the sky, the righteous fuhrer, the triumphant scab. Words scattered across the page like mosquitoes at a picnic on the Fourth of July. A single word balloon hides in the bottom right corner, seemingly from out of Tony Stark's eye, as he says, "Show me."

Next page features a bald man confronted with a smug Reed Richards but my eyes are pulled to the cross page where I'm notified that "Casino Royale is the most exciting Bond film in decades." A grim face and an undone tie, a gun in his hand, and a backdrop of some European stereotype utopia, Disney-fication of all our hopes and dreams. Captain America is dead and James Bond is a nancy-boy.

I turn the page.

I brace myself like a camel in the desert about to be whacked over the head by an angry Arab on an angry day as images of Alpha Flight's demise force their way through my consciousness, like angry computer viruses, assaulting my synapses, reprogramming me to purchase the upcoming Omega Flight limited series. Or is it? Omega Flight was originally solicited (like a call-girl with chapped lips and a strangely oozing scab) as an ongoing series, but then Quesada (head imperial sultan of Spider-Man's unmasking) changed his mind like a street light changes colors when you're only halfway across the road.

Captain America is dead and so is Alpha Flight. No one's left living but Sasquatch and a host of b-grade characters stuck posing in a c-list double-spread.

It's time for Warren Ellis' chapter.

Two pages stick together between my fingers like desperate lovers clasping hands as the Titanic seeks. I force them apart (wave goodbye, fretful lovers, wave goodbye) and read of villains who beat and maim heroes while worshipped by the general public, who are blind like three blind mice in a dark room. Penance was once Speedball (named-for-narcotic comic-relief) but now the New Warriors are dead and he inflicts pain upon himself like an angry priest with a barbed whip and a secret to hide.

Moonstone's breasts heave forward, swollen like alien eggs, waiting to hatch.

I turn the page.

Life is one great big Blue Plate Special and Civil War: The Initiative is no different; a series of advertisements interspersed with more advertisements, selling themselves, selling each other, selling the American dream for a price not worth the paying. Selling World War Hulk to the frightened masses.

War. What's it good for?

It's good for sales, of course. Just ask Quesada, laughing his way to the bank like a fat man laughing at a racist joke.

Spiderwoman snaps the Grey Gargoyle's head like the brittle cold shattering a dead man's face in a mirror of cracked reflections made rebellious by antibodies poured out, limp and flacid, from the blood that once spilled from his body, now dried like crusty brick-colored paint on the cold, wet pavement. The blood, that is. The blood is dried. Not the Grey Gargoyle's head, which has been THUMPed onto the pavement with a single "Agh!" to mark his fall.

Ms. Marvel appears, her tight, black leather costume clinging to her butt-cheeks like the skin of an apple. The two women argue, thick red pouting lips hinting at a kiss that will never come, keeping the fanboys hoping, like a gambler at a horse-track where every horse is a loser and midgets pass out cheap cigars like pig's intestines.

The back cover advertises the U.S. Army, and why not? This techno-colored glorification of war is all part of the plan, ennit? Recruiting pot-bellied teens with thick glasses and names like "Chad" and "Brett" and "Pete." The final words ring with false truth: Army strong. Captain America is dead and there's no one left to aim the spotlight on the hypocrisy of a nation gone overboard, gone mad with greed, gone fat and bloated like a fat and bloated mosquito that's sucked all the life out of third world nations and now needs to quick launch missles at Mars and faraway planets, like some madcap science fiction wet dream, so that it can find new lifeforms to feed off of.

All told, I give Civil War: The Initiative a 3 out of 5.


Well, that's all we've got time for today... I hope you enjoyed our special Grant Morrison homage column. Just for the record, I think Morrison's an awesome writer most of the time; he's written some of my all-time favorite comics (Sea Guy, Doom Patrol, Animal Man, All Star Superman, The Guardian, Klarion the Witch Boy, etc.) and blah blah blah.

But, man, the prose on Batman #663 stunk like a cloud of evil gas that you can't quite close the door on, y'know?

Anyway, until next week, I leave you with this heart-warming photograph of Saddam Hussein and a rabbit, back in the day.

Back then, who knew?

- Paul

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Be sure to be here next week for a VERY special Hoopla!

How special, you ask?

Well, suffice it to say that Grant Morrison and I are going to team-up to bring you a very special story...

Sort of...

- Paul

Monday, April 9, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 16: Life is good.

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!, the comic-book review column with a song in its heart and a stain on its t-shirt.

This past week has been an extra-especially good one for me... Mie (the woman I recently started dating and about whom I wrote that lovely song many weeks ago) and I are getting along wonderfully and spent last Tuesday strolling around, looking at the Cherry Blossoms.

Sweet, sweet bliss.

Also, a big ol' box of comic-books arrived a few days ago, with some mighty fine new comics in it. And my dissertation is coming along well, and I'm not sick anymore.

Hurray for life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, I just placed my order for June and WOW! there are a lot of good comics coming our way. My pull list, by far the longest I've had in years, looks a little something like this:





Batmen of America! See my column from two weeks ago.

I don't normally buy this, but I'm picking it up for the Secret Six storyline.

Zombies, continued.

Really, really enjoying this series...



The Minx title I talked about a couple of weeks ago...


I continue my bizarre policy of buying approximately one issue per month. Why does this make sense? It doesn't, unless you're me. Which I am. See, I figure that if I actually picked up every weekly issue, it would quickly bore me. I just don't think it's going to be that good a story.

But, if I just pick up an occasional issue here and there, mostly at random, it will make the story more interesting. I'll have the fun of filling in all the missing pieces in my head.

This is the sort of thing that makes perfect sense to me but that makes my friends scratch their heads in confusion.

Silly friends.




Haven't been enjoying the ongoing series for a while, but I think the idea of a Sinestro Corps. is pretty neat and the art is by Van Sciver. My guess is that this is going to be a LOT of fun!



Last issue. Sigh.





I have no interest at all in this title, but it's one of the featured titles from the company I order my comics from, so it's only 74 cents.


Last issue. Double sigh.


SILENT WAR #6 (Of 6)
Last issue. Why are all my comic-book friends abandoning me?





Collecting the Jeff Parker limited series. Yes!!!

And this starts up that series again as an ongoing. Extra-triple-super-deluxe Yessss!!!

Our LINK OF THE WEEK is a sequel, of sorts. A couple of weeks ago I linked to a review column by Tracy and her two kids, Sarah and Shelby, called All Ages Reads. As you may recall, I lamented at the time that there's no archives for their column, which made me weep uncontrollably.

Well, I just heard back from Tracy and they have now archived their past reviews and so, as promised, here's the link. I really cannot recommend their columns enough. They're funny, clever, and it's the only source of reviews I know of that almost always discusses comics that I'd never heard of before but, after reading what they have to say, I realize that they're exactly the kind of comics I'm looking for.

Hurray for All Ages Reads!!!

Anyway, we've only got time for two comic-book reviews this week (insert usual excuses) so I thought I'd pick one that nobody's really talking much about, that being Silent War #3. Written by David Hine with art by Frazer Irving, Silent War has been consistenly unpredictable since the very first issue. A part of that is because the story features the Inhumans, who are such peripheral characters in the Marvel Universe that Hine is free to do pretty much whatever he wants with them. There's no firmly set status quo that needs to be restored by the end (it's a six issue limited series) so that opens up a lot of possibilities.

As mentioned in a previous column, the opening premise of Silent War is that the Inhumans have declared war with the U.S. government. [Actually, everyone in the comic keeps insisting that they've declared war with Earth, but thus far there's been no mention of any country other than the U.S. and no real reason why the Inhumans would want to pick a fight with, say, Uzbekistan or Somalia.] They want to retrieve the Terrigen Mists, which were stolen by Quicksilver and then taken from him by the U.S. military (hence the conflict).

In issue #3, the Inhumans have tracked down Quicksilver only to discover that he's... um... well, you really need to see what he's done. Suffice it to say, he has a few fragments of the Terrigen Crystals (from which the mists come) and he's sort of... er... well, let's just say that getting them back doesn't seem to be a viable option. And, too, that Quicksilver is perhaps a little bit nuttier in the cabeza than anyone originally suspected.

The Inhumans are rather unhappy about this situation and things only get worse when Madrox and Layla (of Peter David's X-Factor) show up, we get some weird time paradoxes tossed into the mix (courtesy of Pietro's new powers and Layla's manipulations) and meanwhile, from behind the scenes, Black Bolt's creepy brother, Maximus, is mucking around with people's minds.

Despite everything that's going on, the story reads well; I had to go back a second time to fully understand what had happened with Pietro's time-jumping, but it all made perfect sense the second time around. The art, as mentioned in the previous review, is gorgeous. Frazer Irving is not an artist I'd expect to see on a (sort of) mainstream Marvel title like this, but his art really brings it to another level. Pietro looks totally deranged, Black Bolt looks super creepy (especially on the bottom of page six, when seen through Luna's eyes), the Inhumans all look thoroughly pissed off, and that final page of Maximus is phenomenal.

Frazer Irving, I salute you.

The second comic I wanted to talk about is Batman #664, written by Grant Morrison with art by Andy Kubert.

I didn't like it.

The opening seven pages are a quick glimpse of Bruce Wayne skiing and then eating dinner with a beautiful woman named Jezebel. I don't think we've seen her before, so perhaps Morrison is setting her up to be a reoccuring character? Or, then again, perhaps not. It's a cute scene but there's nothing particularly noteworthy about Jezebel or about the scene itself. It's just kind of... there.

From there, the scene shifts abruptly to Gotham City at night. It's raining and Batman is watching some cops argue with a pimp and some prostitutes. It seems that the prostitutes are being killed by some kind of monster. Batman investigates.

I'm not quite sure what Morrison is going for but the whole scene is kind of ugly and not at all entertaining. One of the prostitutes is a young girl who looks to be about 12 years old, with a clown face, who's trembling with fear as she huddles near a garbage dumpster. On the following page, as Batman goes in to find the big bad, we see one prostitute (again with a clown face) lying dead amongst a pile of pizza boxes and another, blood dripping from her many wounds, hanging from a couple of ropes.

Are we having fun yet?

The villain, when we finally do see him, is a cop wearing a Batman mask and who's pumped up on that testosterone-ish drug that Bane uses. There's a brief fight and quasi-Bane stamps his foot down on Batman's back and wanders off.

To be continued, I suppose.

Clearly I'm not the target audience for this, and that's fine, but I'm not quite sure who the target audience actually is? The few reviews I've seen of this particular issue have focused on the humor of the James Bond line from the first half of the issue and the 'wacky' pimp in the second half, but to me the whole thing just doesn't fit together very well. It's not as if the lightness of the first half and the darkness of the second half are being used as a sort of juxtaposition; they're just two unrelated pieces stuck together with some Grant Morrison Crazy Glue. And neither of part is insightful, clever, or fun.

So, I say "Blah" to that.


Before I go, I want to say a very special Happy Birthday! to my friend Sarah... she's one of the coolest people I know, has almost perfect taste in comics (despite a fatal weakness for Strangers in Paradise) and if the Celestials (from the Marvel universe) ever come down to Earth to judge if our species deserves to continue living or not, Sarah would be my number one argument for why they shouldn't end the experiment just yet.

Happy birthday, Sarah. You rock.

Chompy the Crocodile says, "Happy birthday, Sarah!"

See y'all next week!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 15: Sienkiewicz, Vampires, and Zombies

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!, the li'l comic-book review column that could. This week is going to be kind of brief; I've spent the past few days presenting at my first conference (it went very well!) and dealing with dating-related stuff (some good, some annoying) and now I've really got to do some work on my dissertation or disaster will surely ensue.


I did want to bring your attention to this article from The article is about Steve Niles' next big "30 Days of Night" project, 30 Days of Night: Beyond Barrow. As you may or may not know, 30 Days of Night was a limited series by Niles and Templesmith about vampires showing up in the small town of Barrow, Alaska, for 30 days of no sunlight. It was kind of a clever idea and the art was good, but I can't say that I'm really a big fan of it or of the several sequels/prequels/spin-offs that followed. Just not my kind of thing.

However, there is one thing that makes the upcoming 30 Days of Night: Beyond Barrow limited series extremely interesting to me, and that's the artist: Bill Sienkiewicz.

Like many comic-book readers, I was first exposed to Sienkiewicz's art in those early New Mutant issues he did with Chris Claremont. I remember picking up the big bear storyline because of the bizarre cover and being completely overwhelmed and mystified by the story inside. My first Sienkiewicz experience was very similar to my initial reaction to Alan Moore's work (early issues of his run on Swamp Thing) which was sort of a horrified cognitive dissonance. I couldn't figure out what the hell I was looking at and I wasn't at all certain that I liked it. It was different, but it wasn't what I was expecting.

In both cases, I originally put the issue away and thought, "Well, that's not really my kind of thing," but then kept thinking about it afterwards, pulling it back out to look it over, until finally I realized that what I was looking at was absolutely brilliant.

I followed Sienkiewicz's work through his limited series, Stray Toasters, the art he did on Big Numbers, and his various "normal" super-hero titles.

Sigh. Beautiful, beautiful stuff.

So, I am VERY much looking forward to 30 Days of Night: Beyond Barrow. Unfortunately, the article doesn't specify when it's coming out, but as soon as I learn anything, I'll be sure to pass the information along.

My other recommendation this week is a book that I just recently finished reading: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. Written by Max Brooks, World War Z is a series of interviews/oral histories with various people who have lived through the zombie invasion of Earth. The stories are in chronological order, so you really get a sense of what it was like in the beginning, before the plague was officially acknowledged, how various nations reacted and the politics involved in those responses, the panic as the news of the zombie invasion became official, various military campaigns (some successful, some not so successful), the efforts of some people to head up north where the cold would keep the zombies away, etc. A couple of stories don't work quite so well as others, but most of them are pretty damn good.

What I really enjoyed about World War Z is that it felt authentic. Reading World War Z, it feels like you're reading an actual history, which is no small feat, considering the subject matter. Brooks has really thought through how life on Earth would change if zombies were real and if every time someone died, they came back as the unliving dead. And what I extra-especially enjoyed was the politics of how various governments ignored the threat or tried to exploit it and how international squabbles and distrust prevented world leaders from sharing information and planning cooperative strategies.

If you liked Romero's Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, and Dawn of the Dead or if you're currently enjoying Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead or Marvel's various zombie titles, this is the larger scale version of those. It's smart, it's funny (in a macabre sort of way), it's strangely realistic, and it's very enjoyable.

Well, that's all for this week, but next week I'll get back to reviewing comics and such and so forth. Until then, I hope you have a most excellent week and that no one messes with your continuity!