Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 30: DC Comics, all is forgiven...

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

This week is going to be a super-quickie as I put the finishing touches on my Field Statement, but to make up for it I'll be posting the next column a little bit earlier than scheduled, and that one will have reviews and stuff.
This week's column, exercise in brevity that it is, is dedicated to some of the upcoming projects that I'm psyched about...
And, in a bizarre twist, almost all of them are from the good folks at DC Comics, a publishing company that has been getting on my bad side this past year or so with all their "Hey, look! We're going to re-set our continuity again! And again! And again!" nonsense.
Not to mention that abysmal failure that is Countdown... and Amazon Attacks... and the huge disappointments of Frank Miller's All-Star Batman and Robin and Grant Morrison's run on the ongoing Batman series.
And that whole horrible thing with Bart Allen being the Flash.
And the way they've completely ruined The Teen Titans.
And... and... and...
But never mind. I come today not to bury DC, but to praise them...
And here are just a few of the reasons why...

Dwayne McDuffie's upcoming run on Justice League of America!!!

Honestly, I can hardly believe they're doing it, because he's totally perfect for the title! It must be some kind of trick, right...?

And then to start off with a humongous Injustice League of America storyline...

Sigh. DC, you are too good to me...

And then there's this...

I don't exactly what this is or when it's coming out, but this cover was released at the San Diego Comic-Con this weekend and I think it's lovely.

Clearly it's some sort of Teen Titans project and I'm guessing it's their "Year One" limited series that was being talked about earlier.

I don't know who that artist is, but I hope s/he is doing interiors too, because that's the version of the Teen Titans that I want to read about!

And from the good folks at Marvel, we have this...

You know why this is going to kick some serious butt? I'll tell you why...

1) It's a limited series about Omega the Unknown, arguably the strangest and certainly one of the most obscure characters in the Marvel Universe. And yes, I read the original series way, way back when it first came out.

2) It's written byJonathan Lethem, a highly-regarded novelist who has written, amongst other things, The Fortress of Solitude. Which, by the way, I haven't read. So, really, I don't know what the hell I'm talking about...

3) The art is by Farel Dalrymple & Paul Hornschemeier, two outstanding indie artists. And I have actually seen their art, so please to be trusting me when I say that it's yummy-yummy goodness!

Getting back to the DC stuff, however, for all of you Legion of Super-Heroes fanatics, such as myself, there's this...


Written by Geoff Johns

Art by Gary Frank & Jonathan Sibal

Welcome superstar Gary Frank as he kicks off his run as the new monthly artist on ACTION COMICS with the extra-length first chapter of "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes"! Spinning from "The Lightning Saga," the original Legion of Super-Heroes returns! When he was a boy, Clark Kent was isolated and alone until he met this teen team from the 31st Century. Today, it's been years since Superman saw his childhood friends. Why haven't they returned to visit him? What's become of the symbol of Superman in the future? And just why is the future so dangerous for Superman? They warned him away, but now he's determined to help his friends - even if it means his life! On sale October 31 o 40 pg, FC, $3.50 US

The original Legion of Super-Heroes?


DC Comics, why are you being so good to me??? What have I done to deserve this???

They've even put Mark Waid back on The Flash, just for me...

Not to mention Gail Simone's upcoming run on Wonder Woman...

And the thoroughly enjoyable "Sinestro Corps." storyline that's currently running through Green Lantern...

It's like someone at DC woke up one morning and said, "You know what? Maybe our books would sell better if they were really, really good!!!"

And this is some kind of crazy experiment that they're trying out. Maybe it won't work out. Maybe what they really need is a few dozen more Countdown crossovers, but... they're going to give this new idea a shot and see what happens.

Speaking of which, as much as I was already looking forward to the new Booster Gold series, this solicitation has exponentially increased my enthusiasm...

BOOSTER GOLD #2 Written by Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz Art and cover by Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund Variant cover by Arthur Adams Booster Gold's bizarre timequest to prevent an evil force from unraveling the origins of the world's greatest heroes continues in Part 2 of "52 Pickup!" Journeying years back in the past, Booster is forced to team up with an egomaniac that rivals even himself - the world's greatest Green Lantern - Sinestro! Plus, what does Dan Garret have to do with any of this? On sale September 12 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

So, I've learned to forgive DC for all their past transgressions. Well, almost all of them...

In next week's column, which should be coming at you a little earlier than scheduled to help make up for this ultra-brief Coming Attractions Extravaganza, I'm hoping to feature a showdown among the three worst comics I've read in the past month.

One of our contestants has already been introduced and reviewed in an earlier column, one was briefly alluded to, and one is an extra-special crappy comic from a publisher that isn't DC, Marvel, Image, or Dark Horse.

Who could it be? And who will win the title of Most Craptacular Comic of July 2007???

You'll find out in the next action-packed installment of... Hoopla!

- Paul

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 29: Daredevil: Why are you such a bummer?

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

A quick word to all (both?) my loyal readers... Please let me know you're out there. Last week I was actually grateful that a spammer took the time to leave a comment. It's gotten that bad.

Think of me as one of those elephants that lived with Horton. I need to hear the Whos.

And you, and you, and you... you are the whos.

So please join together and cry out: We are here! We are here! We are here!!!

That is my heartfelt plea to you.

So, I had a kind of epiphany while reading the latest issue of Daredevil. And that epiphany is this:

I'm not enjoying this series at all.

Generally speaking, I think Brubaker is a great writer, but sometimes he overplays the misery card. For example, I loved his Catwoman series right up to the point that someone (Selina's sister, maybe?) was tortured for pages and pages and was eventually forced to eat her husband's eyeball or some such thing.

I didn't really need that.

I was completely enthralled by Season One of Sleeper, although there were times it was a bit dark for my taste. And Season Two just never seemed to really go anywhere. Just round and round. I'm actually not even certain if it ever ended. Did it?

His current work on Captain America is kicking some serious butt, although even there he could stand to mellow out on the "mental torture of Sharon Carter" business.

Loving Iron Fist. Loving, loving, loving it. And I'm not even a big fan of the character. Or of co-writer Matt Fraction. But Iron Fist somehow feels fresh and unpredictable in a way that most comics simply aren't able to pull off.

On the other hand, I didn't care for Criminal at all. Criminal is Brubaker's non-super-hero comic-book. It's the comic series where he really gets to indulge his passion for crime noir.

Personally, however, I don't share that passion. I've read a couple of books by Jim Thompson that I thought were outstanding and I loved the movie version of After Dark, My Sweet, but as a general rule when I'm watching or reading crime noir, I get stuck on the props of that genre rather than the story itself.

I have the same problem with the fantasy genre, incidentally. It takes a truly superlative piece of fantasy for me to be able to overcome my natural resistance to elves and dragons and wizards.

Anyway, my original point was this... Daredevil. Too bleak. Not so fun. At all.

Brubaker's first storyline, where Matt Murdock was in prison, was outstanding. Very suspenseful. Entirely satisfying.

After that, though, it felt like nothing really happened ever again. Yes, Daredevil went around Europe and fought some people and there was something about some woman who smelled really good.

Then that ended and all of a sudden the Kingpin's wife solved all of Daredevil's problems.

[I didn't totally understand why she would do that or why Daredevil would then feel compelled to meet his end of the bargain, given that he very clearly told her that he wasn't going to, but whatever. I could live with that.]

But now we have this Gladiator story. And it's just going on and on.

The story, as best I can recall, is about former villian, Melvin Potter, aka. the Gladiator. He's been framed for some murders, but then it ends up that he hasn't been framed. Or, sort of. He is the one doing the killings, yes, but there seems to be some kind of mind-control or hypnosis involved or something.
Which, y'know, is not so very interesting.
But it's okay.

The real problem is that the story isn't moving forward at all. Every issue feels the exact same as the last. Characters debate whether or not Melvin Potter is truly the one committing the crimes. Then we see him actually commit the crimes. But then we see that he feels bad about it, or doesn't remember having done it.


On top of that, this latest issue featured the Gladiator attacking Matt Murdock's wife while she was alone in their house. And, as it happens, in her underwear.

Now, there are a couple of things about this that give off a rank odor.

First of all, the whole "hero's girlfriend gets attacked and is all helpless and stuff" routine has been done 20,000 times before. And that's just in comics. Include movies and TV and novels about detectives pursuing serial killer masterminds and the number goes up to 800,000.

It's not interesting, it's not fun, and it's definitely not original.

And then there's the fact that she's in her bra and underwear for the whole sequence. That's an interesting choice.

'Interesting' in the sense of not being interesting at all, that is.

It's difficult to think of a single reason why they would have her dressed like that throughout the attack except to titillate the audience. Which, given the brutality of the scene, kind of rubs me the wrong way.

And not only is it offensive, but--possibly even worse--it's just so typical, you know? I mean, of course she's in her bra and underwear. Of course she's completely helpless and being attacked by the big, brutal Gladiator. Of course she's being used to hurt Daredevil. It's all so... expected.

Anyway, I've had enough.

I could forgive that one exercise in poor taste if I were really enjoying the rest of the series, but in fact I'm not enjoying it at all. The covers are ugly, the stories don't seem to be going anywhere, and there's no lightness to juxtapose against the incessant darkness. Everyone in this series is miserably unhappy. Everyone's a potential victim.

"But," you cry out, "Perhaps it's about to get better!"

Well, I checked. Here's the solicitation for the September issue:

Written by ED BRUBAKER
Penciled by MICHAEL LARK

Things couldn't be going worse for Matt Murdock. Everything he thought he'd gotten back teeters on the edge of a precipice, ready to shatter all around him, as he fights a battle on both fronts of his life-in the courtroom and on the rooftops of Hell's Kitchen! The searing second chapter of "Without Fear!" 32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99

There's nothing inherently wrong with any of that, but there's also nothing that suggests any sort of change in direction. I mean, really, how many times have we seen his life shattering all around him in the past few years...?

It's just not that interesting anymore.

If Daredevil were my friend, this is what I'd say to him:

"Daredevil, I want to be there for you because you are my friend, but you are really starting to drag me down with all of your problems. I think you need to seriously put away that costume and just focus on doing something fun for a while. Maybe go to the zoo with your wife. I just went to the zoo with Mie, and we had a really great time. I think that you and Milla might have a great time too."

"What's that? You can't go to the zoo because of your hyper-sensitive sense of smell? Hm. Good point. The zoo can be rather stinky. Tell you what, then, how about you and Milla go camping? Or spend a few days at a beach. Work on your tan. Play in the water. Read a John Grisham novel. Sleep late. Have kinky sex with your wife. Learn to play the tuba."

That's what I would say.

And then, because I am Daredevil's friend, after all, I would be brutally beaten and perhaps killed.

So, maybe it's all just as well...

- Paul

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 28: This week... the Hulk kicks some butt!!!

If you think about it, more than any other comic-book character, the Hulk is a thematically one-note creature.

With Batman, you can focus on his detective abilities, or his whole "criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot and I'm scary as hell" persona, or you can play the tragic "his parents were killed in front of him" card.

Superman is most often simply "the best hero of them all." You see him being good and kind-hearted and all the other heroes looking up to him. But he can also be the tragic "last son of Krypton" who will always be the last of his kind (well, kind of), the ultimate immigrant, etc.

But Hulk?

He's all about the rage, baby...

Pure, cathartic rage.

Juicy, mouth-watering rage. Zesty.

Think about it. Here's the plot of pretty much every Hulk story ever told...

Bruce Banner doesn't want to lose his temper, because if he gets angry he'll lose control.

So, for the first chunk o' story, he tries to hold his temper while various forces provoke him. He'll be attacked, insulted, beaten, chased around the country, imprisoned, poked in the eye, etc.

His mother will be insulted.

The waiter will deliberately drop his burrito on the floor.

Verizon will put him on hold for over an hour before simply disconnecting him.

The fat lady will sit next to him on the Greyhound Bus and pull out her photo album.

Jet Blue will make him miss his conference at the Harvard Business School.
[No, wait... that was me!!!]

Bush will decide to revoke Libby's prison sentence for no good reason at all. And not even feel bad about it.

Battlestar Galactica will get cancelled, despite being one of the best TV programs in the entire galaxy.

But still, Bruce'll keep holding it back...

"Not gonna lose my temper. Not gonna lose my temper."

And then, finally, inevitably, someone will push him one step too far and BOOM!!!

The Hulk!!!

And what does the Hulk then do? He smashes.

That's his whole schtick.

Especially when some bratty kid is sticking his hand in the Hulk's eye while the Hulk is trying to enjoy a leisurely day of floating around in the pool...

The Hulk is all about the mindless rampage, the throwing around of tanks and crushing of enemies. He's not necessarily stupid, although he has been written that way at times. Really, though, he's savage. That's different than stupid.

The Hulk isn't interested in discussing his source of frustration. He doesn't worry about social niceties.

He doesn't even care if you're the Easter Bunny!!
He'll still give you a whuppin' if he thinks you've got it coming...
All of which brings us to World War Hulk...

World War Hulk was prefaced with a set-up that lasted over a year. The basic premise is that a bunch of super-heroes (Iron Man, Black Bolt, Dr. Strange and Reed Richards, to be precise) decided to shoot the Hulk into outer space because he's a menace.

For a year, he fought a lot on some faraway planet and slowly found new allies, fell in love, and became a leader.

And then, after a year of this, everything he cared about got destroyed, his wife and unborn child were killed, and the waiter dropped his burrito on the floor and then stepped on it!!!

And so now the Hulk is going back to Earth to do some smashin'.

Clearly, Greg Pak (the writer of this storyline) understands what makes the Hulk so great. I mean, to spend an entire year just to establish that the Hulk is more pissed off than he has ever been before...? That's quite a build-up.

But now it all pays off, as we get to watch the Hulk beat the crap out of all our favorite Marvel heroes.

The reader realizes, of course, that the Hulk has gotten some of his facts mixed up. It seems very unlikely that Iron Man and Richards and those guys set up the bomb that killed the Hulk's wife and destroyed most of his planet. Probably someone else did that.

But, you know what? It doesn't really matter.

The Hulk is going to kick some serious butt. And that's all that really matters.

Go, Hulk, go!!!

Favorite scene from World War Hulk #1...?

The Hulk goes to the moon to visit Black Bolt, leader of the Inhumans. As soon as he arrives, Black Bolt and Medusa show up to 'welcome' him. Now, Black Bolt can't actually say anything, because his super-power is that if he does speak, it'll have roughly the effect of several nuclear bombs. And Medusa, acting as his translator, points this out to the very angry Hulk.

"You cannot want this fight," she tells him. "Black Bolt's master blow can shatter your bones. And his merest whisper will blow your broken body into the sun."

And the whole time, Black Bolt is just standing there, staring at the Hulk as if to say, "I hope you're hearing this, girlfriend. I will swat you down like a big, green bug. Just give me a reason..."

Hulk expresses a lack of interest in what Medusa says and moves forward, at which time Black Bolt opens his mouth and whispers... "Enough."

And the Hulk is blown away... shattering the surface of the moon as he's propelled back far, far away.

End of fight, right?


Because as Medusa and Black Bolt turn around and start heading back home, Hulk comes up from behind and says, "I didn't come here for a whisper."

[Full-page shot of Hulk.]

"I wanna hear you scream."

End of scene.

Yeeeeeeeaaahhh, baby!!!
That's what I'm talking about!!!

World War Hulk... that's some good, good stuff.

In next week's column, I'm going to talk about some new stuff that's coming up, but I wanted to hit a couple of highlights before signing off...

I really love the solicitation for Booster Gold #3...

Written by Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz

Art and cover by Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund

This is it! The DEATH of BOOSTER GOLD!! And nothing will ever be the same aga...wait. We already tried to kill him? Really? Well, in this issue Booster Gold heads back to the Old West and runs into Jonah Hex. You know, that crazy looking gunfighter! But what does Jonah Hex have that Booster desperately needs? Plus: the Death of Jonah Hex!! What? We can't kill him either? Well, someone’s going to fall off a horse at least!*

(*Warning: This issue may not contain a scene of anyone falling off a horse.)

On sale October 10 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

I actually thought there was a strict rule prohibiting any kind of humor or levity at DC these days, as they oh-so-merrily go about killing off all their characters in gruesome and strangely uninteresting ways. I wonder if there's any chance of them getting whoever wrote the above solicitation and making him/her the new editor-in-chief?

And then there's this cover for Action Comics #857...


Written by Geoff Johns & Richard Donner

Art and cover by Eric Powell

Geoff Johns, Richard Donner and master illustrator Eric Powell conclude “Escape From Bizarro World”! On the run from the population of Bizarro World, Superman comes face-to-face with Bizarro's most horrific allies. But what unexpected turn of events will save the day? And whose day is being saved?

On sale October 17 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Here's a little math formula for you... Eric Powell + Bizarro Superman = Happy Me!

And then, finally, there's this...


Written by Geoff Johns & Alex Ross

Art by Dale Eaglesham & Ruy Jose

Cover by Alex Ross

Alex Ross joins Geoff Johns as co-writer for Part 1 of “Thy Kingdom Come,” the epic story years in the making, springing from KINGDOM COME! Not a hoax! Not a dream! Not an imaginary story! Welcome the newest member to the Justice Society of America: the Kingdom Come Superman! Coming from an Earth plagued by heroes-gone-extreme, how will this Superman react to an incarnation of the Justice Society he never knew? This Superman’s world needed better heroes. So does ours.

Forgive me for saying so, but that looks so good I want to eat it up for dinner.

And I don't say that lightly. I like dinner. A lot.

Yes, yes... there's the very real danger that the story will devolve into some overly-convuluted continuity Countdown spin-off, but I am strangely optimistic that this is going to be good.

I'm fancy that way.

Anyway, until next time, here's hoping that all your days are full of four-color magic comic-book-y goodness and that no one steps on your burrito!!!

- Paul

Friday, July 13, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 27: They're Baaack!

Hello and welcome back to Hoopla!, the (sometimes) weekly column that (occasionally) features comic-book reviews and comic-book related chitter-chatter!

Well, I hope y'all enjoyed your two week vacation from Hoopla! as much as I enjoyed not having to think about it for a couple of weeks... I love writing this column, I love comics, and--most of all!--I love you, personally. Just the same, it was nice being able to focus on other stuff for a little while.

Now, however, I'm back and full of comic-book mania which I am ready to share with you in large heaping portions...

Let's plunge right into some comic-book reviews, shall we...?

The All-New Atom #12
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Mike Norton and Dan Green
Published by DC

All-New Atom has been pretty hit-or-miss for me thus far... I really enjoyed the first few issues, with art by John Byrne, but found later issues to be more irritating then anything else. I don't really like all the caption-box-quotations (if you're read any issues, you know what I'm talking about) and sometimes the series tends to get a little too 'wacky' for its own good.

Some wackiness is good. Too much, however, is... not so good.

Anyway, I figured I'd give the series another try because they've finally got a regular artist (Mike Norton, that is) and his art fits very nicely with this series. So, that's a plus.

Ostensibly, at least, this issue begins the Search for Ray Palmer (he's the previous Atom) but I don't actually care about that, particularly since that storyline will also be taking place in Countdown, DC's dreary sequel-of-sorts to 52, as well as in an 8-issue limited series titled Countdown: The Search for Ray Palmer, which stars Donna Troy, Jason Todd, and Kyle Rayner.

[There's a very brief interview with Ron Marz about that limited series here and, frankly, it sounds awful. If nothing else, it really drives home the point that Ron Marz, who's writing the first issue of the mini-series, has absolutely no idea who Donna Troy is at this point or how to write her.]

[And who can blame him, really?]

Also, it sounds like he's going to try to create a 'love triangle' with the three characters, which is about the most obvious and uninteresting approach he could possibly take. Beyond that, it's just plain weird, considering Jason Todd (post-death and nonsensical resurrection) is supposed to be a psychotic killer. But, I guess they're retro-adjusting that so that now he's more of a Wolverine-type good-guy-with-a-dark-side.


I really don't care about Jason Todd. Or Donna Troy. Or that mini-series.

My point is this... All-New Atom #12? Damn good comic. Entertaining, funny (very!), nice art, good last-page reveal...

I liked it quite a lot.

So, I'm just going to ignore Countdown and Countdown: The Search for Ray Palmer and not worry about the larger continuity-driven crap that DC is currently indulging in. The DC universe is a mighty dull and and convoluted place, these days, but there are still a handful of really good titles that are being published by them anyway, and All-New Atom is one of them.

So there.

Captain America #27
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Steve Epting and Mike Perkins
Published by Marvel

Oooh! Good stuff...

Captain America is still dead, the Winter Soldier has decided to kill Tony Stark (Iron Man, director of S.H.I.E.L.D., and all-around schmuck), Sharon Carter is being driven insane, and there's some great back-story about Winter Soldier and Black Widow, back in the day when both were working for the Soviet Union.

This is a great comic.

As a matter of fact, I'll even say it a second time, just to show I mean it...

This is a great comic.

Brubaker is doing a lot of excellent work, these days, but I think Captain America is his best title at the moment. It's got tons of good, emotion-twisting moments that make you go "Daaamn."

Highly recommended.

New Warriors #1
Written by Kevin Grevioux
Art by Paco Medina
Published by Marvel

...And then there's this.

I wanted to include at least one negative review this week, just so y'all don't think I'm going soft.

And what better place to start on the negativity than with New Warriors #1? The only other comic I've read in the past month that really compares with it for sheer crappiness would be Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. #18, which I'm sure I'll be covering later this month.

What makes New Warriors so very, very bad?

Well, the premise itself isn't so awful. Basically, a group of teenage ex-mutants have formed together to antagonize Iron Man and all of the pro-Registration forces in the Marvel Universe by fighting crime and doing good deeds but not registering, as required, and leaving graffiti messages that say things like The New Warriors Were Here.

Okay, so it's not a brilliant premise, but it's workable.

In this issue, a young woman named Sofia wanders around the city and bemoans the loss of her mutant powers. I think she's someone we're supposed to recognize from earlier X-Men comics, but I have absolutely no idea who she is, so that part didn't work so well for me.

Anyway, a lot of the story is just her daily life which, as it turns out, consists of poorly written dialogue and cliche characters and situations.

For example, there is the old-but-wise homeless guy who exchanges witty banter with her as she heads to work. This guy isn't like any homeless person I've ever met... he's more like a Disney version of a homeless guy.

Here's a sample of the dialogue...

Sofia: Sammy Sam! How you doin'? You eat today?
Sam [homeless guy]: I had a little sumthin' sumthin'... you know how it is.
Sofia: You need to come by and see me. Get a hot meal and a cup o' joe to go. We can't have you wastin' away on us, now.
Sam: You're my guardian angel, you know that?
Sofia: What can I say? We all gotta be somethin', right?

This is dialogue as written by someone who's never had an actual conversation but has learned about them from watching TV. Bad TV at that.
Or, consider this exchange between two cops (?) as they survey a crime scene...

Granville: Sykes, Givens, I was wondering when you guys would show. The Feds finally let you out of the big house?
Givens: Granville. As I live and spit. Solve any Easter Egg hunts lately?
Granville: As a matter of fact, I found a trail of shells leading to some house the bunny's been creepin' to. Apparently, he's been seein' some loose broad named Mrs. Givens.

Sykes: Alright boys. Put 'em back in.

And, not to belabor the point, but here's someone complaining about Tony Stark...

Unnamed Character: Super hero turned politician. Smells like something I pinched after my wife's salisbury steak last night.


What does that even mean?

This is followed by a two-page sequence of Sofia making playful banter with her boss about the fact that she's always late and he's a bad cook.

Sort of like watching old re-runs of Alice, for those of you old enough and unfortunate enough to remember that show.

Anyway, I could go on and on about how awful this comic is, but I think you get the point.

Utter crap.

That's the point.

Anyway, that's all we have time for this week. In the weeks to come we'll be looking at some comics that'll be coming out in August and September, finally doing that column about tips for motivating your employees, finally doing those reviews of Republican presidential candidates, looking at some more comic-book reviews, featuring an extra-special review of Kalahari, and God only knows what else.
A little song?
A little dance?
All things are possible...
Until next week, here's hoping that you don't smell like something someone pinched after their wife's salisbury steak last night.
Cause that doesn't sound like any fun at all...
- Paul