Conservative Comic Book Pundit

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Just in case...

Anyone is still reading. I plead dissertation.

Also, I'm in small town Alaska with no comic shops at the moment. Back where I'm going to college, the shop is holding my comics for me, so when I get back in August I'll have a lot of reading to do.

Look for new posts in September.

{And the Director's Cut of Ghost Rider is better, but it's still not a very good movie.}

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Ghost Rider movie

was terrible. But y'know, I'm tired of being told that it's wrong to complain about a movie where the guy is a stunt motorcyclist with his head on fire. A commentator at E-online said:
Seriously, people, if you're going to go see a movie you know is about a
biker with a flaming skull and magic chains, you forfeit the right to complain
about how the plot isn't logical or realistic.
Sorry, but that's the lamest criticism of complaints about the movie I've ever heard/read.
You might as well say "it's about a guy who got bit by a spider and can then stick to walls and shoot webs out of his wrists and he wears a goofy suit" or "it's about an orphaned alien who just happens to look human but for some reason a yellow sun gives him super powers and he wears his underwear on the outside of his pants" or "it's about a guy who when he gets angry he turns green and gains muscles but his pants never tear."

OF COURSE the inherent principle behind any comic hero sounds silly. But if Spider-Man had been this bad, we would have had reason to complain. Same with Ghost Rider - we have the right to expect a good movie, even if the basic concept sounds silly out of context.

In the comics, Ghost Rider was sometimes (unintentionally) hilarious, but overall it was a series of dead serious morality plays about dealing with inner demons. Why is it that people claim Spider-Man has inherent gravitas, but GR doesn't? In the comics, Spidey is much more easy going and flippant than Ghost Rider ever was.

Of course, I liked the Hulk movie, so what do I know?

(this post was partly self-plagiarized from a message board post I made elsewhere on the net).

Saturday, December 09, 2006

This week's comics!

Hulk 101 - Planet Hulk continues to be the best comic Marvel puts out. Totally free of all political context, adolescent angst and pseudo-armchair psychology, the Hulk just basically kicks butt and takes names. Not totally mindless fun.

52 needs a kick in the pants or some caffeine. Slow, slow, slow. Still, I need to find out what is up with Skeets. Too bad Lobo is being totally wasted and Ambush Bug disappeared.

Dr. Strange: The Oath #3 - There's some standard "evil big business" cliches here, but the main storyline is fun and full of cool twists and turns. The art is very Ditko-ish as well, which is always a plus.

Justice Society of America #1 - "The Justice League is a strike force. The Justice Society is a family." In those words, writer Geoff Johns summed up why I prefer the JSA over the JLA. This issue is a rather standard #1 - the team gets organized and a new mystery crashes the last page in order to set things up for next issue. Good stuff.

Stan Lee meets the Silver Surfer - Stan Lee gains even more coolness by parodying his own overwrought Silver Surfer dialogue. Considering how earnest his early Silver Surfer monologues were, I am surprised at his ability to self-parody what was likely his most heartfelt words.

Supergirl 12 - an issue the interrupts the flow of the ongoing storyline because of some crossover I don't understand. But that doesn't matter - what I see is that I want this writer to be doing Supergirl. He did it a lot better. The writer of the last few issues (and the next few) thinks he's the James Joyce and Samuel Beckett of comics, and he's failing at it miserably. This issue was pretty good. I'm probably dropping the book if the writer doesn't change soon.

Red Prophet Tales of Alvin Maker #4: Well, the Alvin Maker series is Orson Scott Card's best work, IMHO. I'm a bit confused by the decision to adapt the second book in the series first, but whatever makes them happy. However, the adaptation is too straight. The pictures add nothing - this just makes me want to read the books themselves again. I can't really see the point of this version of the tale.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Red Menace #1 from Wildstorm Press

The guy behind the counter, knowing I am a fan of old school, JSA type comics, recommended this comic to me. It takes place during the McCarthy hearings and the Red Scare era.

The basic run-down in issue 1 is that a superhero agrees to cooperate with the McCarthy commission by revealing his identity, but he stops short of naming names. Of course, McCarthy paints the hero as a commie sympathizer because during WWII he fought beside a Russian hero (never mind that the Russians were our allies then).

There's nothing here, though. There is a subplot about a new, upcoming superhero but the story left me cold. The main hero is, of course, getting screwed over, but I have a hard time feeling any sympathy for him, as the characterizations in this tale are either non-existent or too standard.

I am, however, glad that someone has finally decided to speak truth to power about how evil McCarthy was. It's good someone really has the guts to take on such a controversial issue.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Civil War #5 and other thoughts.

Re: The ending of Civil War #5.

What a joke. Obvious, contrived and an attempt at gravitas that jumped straight past pathos into bathos. Rather than being appalled, I laughed out loud at Daredevil's idiotic attempt to allude to the New Testament.

Just when I thought Civil War couldn't get anymore obvious, Marvel decides to smack us upside the head with even more heady, pretentious moralizing.

Supergirl #11 was a joke. The writer (Joe Kelly) aims for art by following a stream of consciousness approach to time, what with the abandonment of linear storytelling. Too bad he doesn't have the skill to pull it off. Plus, this is the second Supergirl issue by Kelly to contain an incest joke. What's up with that?

52 chugs along at its slow, marketing gimmick pace.

Moon Knight continues to kick several shades of ass, though. I generally like Batman, but Batman wishes he was this cool.

Friday, November 10, 2006

What? Comic Reviews?

(New) Battlestar Galactica #3: Well, I've discovered that there aren't very many (percentage wise) people who are fans of both "New" and "Classic" Battlestar Galactica.

Dynamite is publishing comics in both universes, though their shipping schedules have been erratic so far. However, it seems they are intent on merging the two universes in small ways, making me wonder about the canonical status of these comics. The Classic BSG comic series deals with Starbuck returning to a colonial world and finding a resistance group there, paralleling a plot line in the new BSG. The third issue of this New BSG comic series ends with - well, go look at the last page, if there's still a copy at your local shop.

The first few issues of the New BSG have been rather odd and confusing. This third issue was better, and the story suddenly made a lot of sense (so much so, I went back and re-read the first few issues and they made a lot more sense in the light of this issue - perhaps this is a problem with the "paced for trade" storytelling in modern comics). So I now look forward to new issues in this series - although the artist has apparently never seen a woman smile, since all the women in this issue have odd, unnatural smiles.

However, the mixing of Classic and New BSG elements bugs and thrills me. On one level, I think: COOL!!!! But I wonder how well it will go over with the many fans who are only fans of one series or the other. Most people I know think the Classic series was horrid and love the New version, but there are those who have such fanatical loyalty for the older series they hate the new series on principle.

It will be an interesting ride.

Oh, and Dr. Strange: The Oath is the best comic (outside of Planet Hulk) that Marvel is currently publishing. Too bad it's so underhyped. Ignore the crappy, unnuanced politics of Civil War and enjoy a good, fun ride with the "Hoary @#@!$@ing Hosts of Hoggoth."

{As for the recent election - My verdict: Great for conservatives, but horrid for Republicans. The Democrats only won because they ran very conservative candidates in many districts, and the ballot referendums that passed were for the most part, conservative in nature. Basically, the Democrats won by becoming more conservative, and the Republicans lost because they had become more liberal. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.}

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Snapshot reviews!

52, weeks 24 and 25: Well, issue 24 let me see what this series is missing: Ambush Bug! In fact, any DC series could use more Ambush Bug. Otherwise, this series is spinning its wheels big time.

Stan Lee Meets the Thing: It's nice to see Stan can still write and write well (Ravage 2099 had me worried), and while this is quite hilarious, I also worry that maybe Stan can only write humor anymore.

Daredevil 90: This series gets weirder and weirder, but in a good way. It's nice to see Tombstone as a serious villain.

Exiles 87: Still the only "X book" worth reading. Avoid the mutant (read: perpetually adolescent) angst and read something fun about reality hoping heroes. Bonus for this issue: Galactus as the good guy and the Silver Surfer as the really, really bad guy.

Classic Battlestar Galactica 1 from Dynamite Press: Only one issue of this series out so far, and it's already behind schedule. This is the reason why nearly all the other BSG comics didn't last. This one seems to be set sometime very early in the series (Serina is still alive), and it seems to be pulling in elements from the new series as well (resistance fighters back in the colonies - sort of). This one was fun to read. Meanwhile, the New BSG series from the same company is a confusing mess.

Angel: Masks one shot: Over priced, but a nice read for fans of Buffy and Angel. The stories aren't really for newcomers, and they don't add anything to the mythology, but they function as comfort food for fans of the Buffyverse.

Planetary 26: I can't believe this actually happened. The wrap-up. The final confrontation with the Four. It basically ends with a whimper rather than a bang, but what a whimper! (that was meant in a good way. Just don't expect wild theatrics. It's good, but very low key).

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Christopher Priest on Civil War (not really, but sort of)

Christopher Priest is one of the better comics writers out there - Marvel should be ashamed it doesn't give him more work. His politics are to the left of mine, but he usually writes good stories that put characters and story first. Here is a post from his blog I found intriguing in light of Marvel's heavy handed Civil War. Some excerpts:

Half the fun of reading comics (or any serialized literature) is The Rules. Birds of Prey Must De-Cloak Before Firing. The bane of most fantasy fiction has been the trend, mostly by people who have run out of ideas, to break or ignore these rules, seemingly at will.
To help figure out Captain America, I once posed this question to Jim Shooter. Billy Bob has a farm. Magneto, Thanos and Dr. Doom have a bunker at the remote end of Billy Bob’s property. Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four and Captain America arrive at the farm. Do they cross Billy Bob’s property to save the world?
Spider-Man doesn’t even stop at the property line. He just goes right in without giving the matter any thought, followed by Johnny Storm (and, likely, Sue Richards, who nobody can see anyway). Reed Richards asks permission (as Ben Grimm scoffs), Billy Bob says no. Reed regrets having to go against Billy Bob’s wishes, but there’s simply too much at stake. They go in, leaving Cap at the property line.
Reed turns, tells Cap to come on. Cap says he can’t. The man said no. Cap won’t violate the farmer’s rights in the name of saving the farmer’s life. Reed says time is running out, what will Cap do?
Cap heads off in another direction, saying, “I’ll find another way.” And he will. That’s Captain America, and those are The Rules.
These days, writers seem to change the rules whenever they feel like it.


I’d be much more impressed by writers who can thrill and entertain within the conceit of The Rules rather than coming up with new ways to ignore or break them simply because they’re either burnt out or don’t really know the character or the universe. The resultant music may seem exciting, but if you know what you’re listening to, it all has a dissonant sameness and disingenuousness that just makes you long that much more for the real thing.

Go read the whole thing. Now, think about Civil War and how Reed and Captain America are being used by Millar and Marvel.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I'll have reviews for this week up in a day or two...

But as for last week?

Well, Plant Hulk chugs along at a fun pace, and the new Dr. Strange comic shows promise (and makes a good introduction to the character for new readers).

However, I haven't posted on last week, because every time I do, it devolves into an angry rant over JMS' awful, awful Fantastic Four #540. I like to think I'm better than that, but I don't know if I am. Here are some small points and then I think I'll go to a happy place where writers don't subvert beloved characters to make cheap political points:

1. JMS always insisted that both sides would be represented fairly, and even the pro-reg side would make good arguments. Except in this issue, Reed Richards can't refute any of Sue's "ripped from the Democratic Party's press release" talking points. When he tries to convince Spider-Man he's right (after Sue leaves him), he basically argues that opposing Senator McCarthy back in the day was the wrong thing.

2. Okay - Sue Storm can drag out the Nazi analogies (yes, she does) and Reed can't refute her. But when he finally does make an argument, the best he can do is come up with a really bad historical analogy? There is no balance. Sue Storm was clearly the moral center of this issue, so there's no going "well, that's the character talking, not the writer" - the writer lets us know loud and clear just who is right in this issue. If JMS actually thinks a modern conservative (other than the wildly over the top Ann Coulter) would argue "support McCarthy" he suffers from too much liberal propaganda.

But then, JMS has defended Michael Moore as a powerful truth teller, so the man just doesn't write fiction - he lives in a fictional world.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

So - how is DC's 52 shaping up? (spoilers)

Well, DC's foray into a weekly non-anthology series hit issue #21 this week. From a scheduling standpoint, this is amazing - especially in an industry that is (in)famous for comics coming in months late (I think I saw a copy of Ultimates 2 #12 in the store this week as well. Issue 13 will be out in mid 2007 at this rate), DC deserves serious kudos for keeping this series on track and on-time.

But it adds up to very little. There is only one seriously intriguing mystery: What's up with Skeets and why is he evil? The other mysteries make little sense, and the Ra;[h Dibny/Elongated Man storyline seems rather pointless.

The Lobo/Starfire story arc has the potential to be fun, but so far it seems to exist merely to give us "peek-a-boo" T&A shots of Starfire. Lobo as interstellar Pope should have been more fun, but instead it seems rushed and unnecessary.

Luthor's dastardly plot seems to have potential, but given that the rest of the comics in DC's line-up are "one year later" there's no suspense as to what happens to Luthor.

All in all, it seems more of a marketing gimmick than a serious attempt at a series. Plus, the Question isn't on panel enough.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Blade #1

Well, Marvel is trying once again to capitalize on a character that is a media icon. After the moderately successful movies and Spike TV series, this Blade comic feels not only inevitable, but late as well (why release it AFTER the series is over?).

And as with any other hot Marvel property, there is an attempt to make it more "user friendly" by melding the comic universe character with the TV or film version (we had a Betsy Ross who got plastic surgery and looked a lot like Jennifer Connley, a Spider-man with Organic Web Shooters and X-Men with Black Leather Outfits). In the comics universe, Blade wasn't half-vampire (just immune to vampire bites) and didn't have any bloodthirst or special powers (at least not until the 90s when he got bit by Morbius and gained some powers). This series, which is explicitly set in the current Marvel Universe, decides to ignore all that and go the route of the TV series: Blade was born half-vampire, thirsts for blood and had a parental figure feed him blood as a child to sate his thirst.

I liked Blade the TV series: it wasn't great, but it was entertaining. However, I also like Blade the comic character for entirely different reasons: And now we have something neither fish nor fowl. It gets rid of the comic Blade's uniqueness, yet still keeps him distinct enough from other versions to cause confusion for the newbie and the seasoned comic fan.

Well, I'll give the series a few more issues. This first issue moves a nice quick pace and ended on an interesting note. Only time will tell if these retcons stick or get explained away.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Beowulf #1

Wait - didn't I review this comic way back when? Nope.

Heading into the comic store this week, I encountered a pleasant surprise in my pull box: Antarctic Press' manga-ized version of Beowulf. Apparently, the title "Beowulf" was still listed on my subscription list, so the comic stores guys ordered this, even though it was the Speakeasy comics version I had in mind (too bad about that company - they produced some quality comics, even if their Beowulf had a severe drop in quality when the creative team changed).

This one billed itself as a "manga" version (though it is in standard comic book format) of the original legend, so I figured I'd give it a try.

As Napolean Dynamite might say: Freakin' awesome.

It follows the original tale very, very closely (though it skips over things like long drinking parties and boasting competitions), even though the setting has changed into the futuristic wasteland often found in anime. I don't want to give away too much, because a lot of the fun is seeing how naturally the changes made in this adaptation fit the story.

Go get a copy of this now - this series deserves to be a best seller.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Superman Returns non-review

Finally got around to seeing Superman Returns. Rather than review it (there are plenty of those on the net already), I'll just give my random thoughts, which may be a.) profound, b.)obvious, c.) too idiotic to merit serious consideration, or d.) all of the above.

1. Okay - I get it. Superman is Christ (or something). If any of my literature students try to write a paper on this, I'll tell them to do something that isn't as obvious, such as the connection between Joseph Campbell and Star Wars.

And the movie reminded me of that symbolism every few minutes. It was almost like the director was using the techniques of propaganda instead of dramatic fiction.

2. Anyone catch that basically the kid is now in a very non-standard family? Two dads and a mom? The picture he drew at the end shows the kid even thinks of it that way. I'm not claiming that this is part of the director's agenda to destroy the family or change the definition of marriage (though I'm surprised the 700 Club hasn't done an attack on the film for that reason). It was just an interesting point. I am glad they didn't make Lois' boyfriend a cad - making him a decent guy was a very smart thing to do.

3. Did Lex Luthor's plan make sense to anyone?

4. Parker Posey/Kitty was fun to watch, and Kevin Spacey/Luthor did a good job (so did whoever played Jimmy Olson). Other than that, the main actors were a bore. And what's up with Lois looking like she's 15?

5. I can't really say I enjoyed the movie. It moved too slowly, made little sense and I felt like I had been preached to for over two hours. On the other hand, I did come away impressed by the visuals.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Summer Comics

So, I just finished reading through my stack of summer comics, and here are some thoughts:

1. Planet Hulk is the best storyline in comics right now. Totally unpretentious - it doesn't pretend to be anything other than it is: Hulk fighting a whole lot. It's as sophisticated as a buddy movie, but it works.

2. Marvel's Civil War is way too pretentious. The main series plays it (mostly) straight down the middle, but spin offs like Civil War Frontline make it rather clear the whole series is really about the evils of the current American Government (and they aren't subtle about it - the short but well-done piece on Japanese internment camps was about as subtle as a pitchfork up the nose).

3. Spider-Man revealing his secret identity: The gutsiest move ever made in comics. Killing off Superman was a cheap publicity stunt: Everyone knew he would be back. Killing off Spider-Man would have the same reaction. But the reveal of the secret identity? Now that is serious status quo shakeup. I don't like it, but now that they've done it, I hope Marvel has the guts to stick with it. Having a mystical memory wipe a la the Flash would be a cheesy cop out.

4. The new Battlestar Galactica comic has horrid art and a barely comprehensible storyline.

5. Peter David's Fallen Angel at IDW comics is, hands down, the best comic he has ever written. (Fair Warning: it's "mature readers" with some nudity and language). It's incredibly cynical, but I find myself enjoying it far more than any other comic currently on the market - except for Fables, which is the best comic Vertigo/DC produces.

6. Marvel's Exiles remains a nice guilty pleasure. I generally can't stand mutant books, but this one manages to be very fun and avoid all the mutant angst usually found in the X books. Plus, the latest issues make fun of Wolverine's overexposure by giving us more Wolverines in story arc than you could have thought possible. (best scene: 14 Wolverines and they all say "Bub.")

7. The new Moon Knight comic outs Frenchie, in a totally unnecessary scene that basically says anytime two men are really good friends, one of them is gay and in love with the other one. Whatever. Instead of outing old characters, I think it would be better to create newer ones that happen to be gay. The scene in Moon Knight took up too much space, made little sense given Frenchie's history, and attempts to justify it by (in essence) declaring that heterosexual men can never be really, really devoted friends. Ugh.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I'm Back!

Back where there are comics to be bought. I just spent a whole lot of money (that I had saved up over the summer) on the comics I missed.

New posts and reviews of summer highlights and new comics start tomorrow. See you then!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Summer hiatus

I should have posted this earlier, but since May 25th, I've been at a summer job in a small town in Alaska - and there's no comic store nearby.

If I happen to stumble across some comics, I may post some reviews, but otherwise, wait until September first, when I will return to college.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Review: Spider-Man: The Other (Hardcover collection)

Okay - I'll state the obvious first: Didn't we just read this story over in Jenkin's Spectacular Spider-Man? Well, not really, but the similarities are rather striking. I guess the mystical spider force needed to give Spidey a dry run.

But this story arc is the one that got reprinted in Oversized HC format, so it gets the publicity and the review.

There were three writers on this 12 part story arc: Peter David, Reggie Hudlin and JMS. Each one has strengths and weaknesses, but overall they create an interesting synergy that I think works more often than not.

The weakest writer was Hudlin - his sequence with Aunt May and Mary Jane using outdated Iron Man armor to take out Doombots. Sorry - they would be dead within seconds. However, Hudlin has two huge advantages over the other two writers: He scripts an awesome battle scene (the fight between Morlun and Spidey was very well done), and he has a much better feel for the integration of the Marvel universe. Of course Spider-Man would visit the Black panther and Dr. Strange and the Fantastic Four if he was terminally ill.

Peter David has the snappiest dialogue, and his "Tracer" character (the self-proclaimed god of machines) shows a lot of potential. His stories also move at a nice clip, whereas with some of the other authors seemed to be spinning their wheels for several pages in order to make sure the chapters of each arc fit a particular pattern.

JMS, of course, dovetails into the mystical aspects as he always does. While I love Babylon 5, the man is starting to sound like a broken record. What is interesting is that JMS is a proclaimed atheist yet holds many "mystical" beliefs.

He seems to be the perfect example of the "voodoo atheist" that they've been discussing over at The Corner. Someone who rejects traditional religion but can't help but believing in something mystical anyway.

Overall, this is a recommended read. Very intense, even though you know it will (more or less) end with Spidey alive. A nice chapter in the history of Spider-Man, even if it doesn't seem quite the major milestone Marvel hyped it to be.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Whoa! (Civil War and "I'm Back")

Let me just say -

The last two months of the semester were a bit too intense for me. Especially with this "dissertation thing."

Reviews will start up again, now that I have a summer break. Except that I will be working over the summer in a small town with no comic store. I'll find a way.

A few thoughts on Marvel's Civil War:

JMS (J. Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5 and current writer on Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man) keeps insisting that "there is no right or wrong side" in this debacle. Yet he sends very mixed messages about this.

For example, he has said
in the first Spidey issue of mine that actually deals
straight-on with the topic, I went to considerable pains to spell out
exactly why the senators and others involved with this genuinely
believe they're right in doing so...and some of their points even Peter
can't argue with.

and late he claimed

And that was the job of the story, to make sure that both sides were
presented as honestly as possible, with each having legitimate reasons
for believing what they believe, not because they want to take over the
planet or advance some evil cause.

However, what do we make of this statement, made in the midst of defending "no right or wrong side" of the story?

there have been any number of Gallup
polls and others that ask straight up, "Would you be willing to
sacrifice some of your liberties in exchange for better national
security?" and the majority of those polls have, sadly in my view, come
back in the positive.

What do we make of this? It seems there is a right and wrong side after all. Given other statements made by JMS (such as his defense of Michael Moore as an accurate presenter of the unbiased truth) and Mark Millar's constant refrains of Bush hate, that Civil War will likely turn out to be yet another volley in the "current administration bad, liberals good" war of words.

Whatever. As recent track records show, DC puts out better mega-crossover anyway. Marvel seems best at small, intimate tales. But I should withhold final judgment until the whole thing has finally come out. But I don't hold up any hope.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Review: Pulse #14

Brian Michael Bendis (BMB hereafter) ends yet another excellent series.

I'm not sure how to review this one. With BMB off this and Daredevil, he has in essence jumped from, except for the Ultimate titles, the types of comics that show off his strengths. BMB writes best when dealing with small character dramas only occasionally punctuated by moments of grandiose importance (witness his most recent Ultimate Spider-Man issue "Deadpool: Part 1" and you can see what I mean). He fails when doing multi-level crossovers and epic level events. House of M sold well, but I was unimpressed. It moved too slowly for its genre and, in the end, it seemed less like an epic crossover and more like an excuse for an epic crossover. Marvel's next epic event will be Civil War, and one can only hope BMB does a better job with it.

Despite his rather odd public persona (which always seemed more affected than real) and the fans' near revulsion of him, Bill Jemas did many things right at Marvel comics. He got the Ultimate Universe going, and he helped oversee BMB's duties as a writer for Daredevil and Alias (a very "mature" comic, not the TV series), both of which were comics that played to BMB's strongest skills. The Pulse continued Alias (but without the nudity and swearing). With The Pulse gone, we have lost (except for the Ultimate brand) the last, best remnants of the Jemas era.

Now is the era of the return to the 90s: Multiple covers, massive crossover epics. Hopefully Marvel learned something from the 90s, and they can strike a middle ground between the post-bankruptcy Jemas era and the pre-bankruptcy 90s. For me, I'm going to miss Bendis dealing with nitty gritty bad side of the street level superhero comics.

As for this issue of the Pulse: It's sweet. Jessica Jones is a treasure and Luke Cage is a lucky, lucky man. We finally get to see how they first met, as well as her response to his proposal of marriage. Nothing much political, although I'm sure liberals will think conservatives must hate this issue, since it contains all those things liberals tell themselves conservatives hate: interracial couples, out of wedlock births and bad attitudes. But really, none of that is important. It deals with those things conservatives really care about: individuals (as opposed to many liberals who seem to have decided group identity trumps everything). What we have is the story of an individual who makes the most of her otherwise cracked and distorted life, rises above it and finds some measure of redemption and happiness through her decision to start a family.

I smiled the whole way through the issue.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

What is up with JLU?

Justice League Unlimited: consistently well written, even if I prefer the now cancelled Teen Titans (though Speedy from the Teen Titans appeared in last night's episode).

Last night's episode started out as a fun, insightful look at heroes. Five non-superpowered heroes have to take on the gray Hulk (well, being a DC show it wasn't "The Hulk" but other than some weird saber-teeth, this was the Hulk) - or at least a rouge general who hates the Justice League so much he's willing to turn himself into a Hulk like being.

Overall, it was fun with some clever dialogue and neat fight scenes (even if Stargirl was underused). And then the writers tipped their hand. The main villain went off on the usual "reveal everything" monologue/rant and we find out: The whole episode is really an attack on Bush's actions in the war in Iraq. Lines about doing this to protect America from possible threats or even-though-I've-become-what-I-hate-you'll-realize-I-was-right-all-along show that this wasn't just an adventure about the JLU.

Instead it's meant to say: Bush's polices of pre-emption are evil and he's become just as bad as those he's fighting.

Interesting. Anyone else recall a few months ago, when in an episode of JLU, Wonder Woman threatened the nations of the world with invasion (by the super-powered Amazons) if global warming didn't stop?

So, pre-emptive war is okay to save the environment, but to protect America it's not. Sometimes I wish the creators of the JLU would do what they do best: Tell good stories and let the viewers draw their own lessons from the stories. Instead, they seem to fell they have to bludgeon us over the head with "Conservatives bad, Liberals good" crap.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Nothing I bought was worth reviewing in depth,

So here are a bunch of capsule reviews of several recent comics:

Supergirl #5: What a waste. Loeb is a truly talented writer, but this series has (so far) had no point. Moving past the point there's way too much skin and T&A for a comic starring a 15 year old girl, this issue wasted a promising revelation with a backhanded dismissal.

After four issues of pointless fight scenes, this issue starts off with a rather cool new take on the idea of Supergirl. I was about to be impressed, but at the end of the tale we are told it might or might not be true, but in any case it doesn't matter because Supergirl is the coolest, bestest hero ever.

And what the hell is up with Superman's solution? "I can't tell who is good and who is evil, so I'll beat the hell out of both of you and sort it out later." Ugh.

Fantastic Four #535: The last few issue have been more of a Hulk tale than an FF tale. The interesting storyline dealing with Child Protective services gets resolved as almost an after thought. JMS is not in top form here, though he writes the Hulk well.

Nick Fury's Howling Commandos #5: Does anyone have any idea what is going on in this comic? I didn't think so.

Spike: Old Wounds: An unremarkable tale set in between episodes of the last season of Angel. However, it was nice to see Los Hermanos Numeros again.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Ghost Rider #6

Ghost Rider #6

Well, the art by Clayton Crain was wonderfully spooky. It had all the right details, the perfect aura of depression and magic, and it created a world both bizarrely supernatural and oddly attractive.

Also, Miss Catmint was a great character I wouldn't mind seeing more of. I'm not sure how she's going to get off the top of that building, but she'll likely manage. She has guts and verve.

But the story for this series - ugh. Garth Ennis on cruise control AND asleep at the wheel. This gets my vote for the most gratuitous high profile comic of the last 5 years. Without giving away the ending, I will say that it renders the entire story more or less pointless. Yes, it allows Ghost Rider to find a bit of pleasure from his torments in Hell - but otherwise it maintains the status quo set up at the beginning.

Also - most of the characters were pointless. Only Hoss and Ruth really had much to do - it was their tale. Malachi and the other Angels do a few things, but after the first two issues of the series, they barely register on the radar until a near pointless cameo at the end. The Preacher who blew up a church adds nothing to the tale either - he could have been eliminated from the plot entirely and not a thing would have changed. He seems to be in the script for one masochistic scene only. And it's a rather trite one.

And then there was the ultimately irrelevant gratuitous character: Ghost Rider. Even worse than Batman in the Batman Returns movie, Ghost Rider becomes a cameo in his own comic book - ultimately irrelevant and generally ineffective.

The story seems like one left over from a rejected Hellblazer or Preacher script. Nothing that happens matters, everything is reset, and heaven and hell are *yawn* just as bad as each other.

The clearest thing I can say about this comic is that it was predictable.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Lack of Reviews

Comes from a lack of money to buy new comics.

But I have some money and will go to the comic shop tomorrow.

My local comic shop, however, did not and will not order the "Liberality for All" comic, so I'm going to have to order that one online somewhere. Then I can see if it's any good and then review it.

Two interesting items of note:

1. Dan Jurgens has signed an exclusive contract with DC comics. I wonder if Marvel's shoddy marketing and treatment of Combat Zone had anything to do with it?

2. Joe Quesada makes a rather odd comment here about Chuck Dixon. Since Chuck is one of the few openly conservative comic writers, and he hasn't had a lot of work at Marvel lately, I wonder if Joe really was "just kidding" or if there's something a bit deeper.....

who knows?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Anyway - After the hiatus, Back to the reviews

Hope everyone had a good Christmas and a great New Years.

Fallen Angel #1 (IDW)

Yes, this was a series published by DC comics, but since DC couldn't find a niche for a comic that straddled the line between their more adult oriented Vertigo line and the all-ages superhero titles.

However, as this comic contained the best writing Peter David has ever done (period), IDW comics picked it up. And so the story of Lee continues.

This new series takes place around 20 years after the last issue of the DC series. This makes it easy for new readers to jump in. And despite heavily referencing the original series, enough explanations are given that Fallen Angel novices won't find themselves lost.

The art is gorgeous (and painted) and Hitler runs the local bar. What more could you ask for? Beyond that, this series explores important themes of good vs. evil, the nature of right and wrong, and what to do when pretty much every choice you have available is an undesirable/possibly bad one.

In the non-fictional world, Peter David is a far left wing wacko, willing to believe any odd conspiracy theory concerning Bush (he actually believed Bush was going to declare martial law and postpone the 2004 elections), but at least in his fiction he writes stories that aren't just worth telling, they're so powerful they must be told.

Friday, November 25, 2005

A Review! A Review! (three issues in one review!)

The Book of Lost Souls # 1 - 2 and Fantastic Four #532

JMS (J. Michael Straczynski) writes both of these comics series. Both are for Marvel comics, though The Book of Lost Souls is being released under the "Icon" imprint (which is reserved for creator owned projects from what I hear).

I must say this first: I love, love, love JMS' Babylon 5 (B5) TV series. I'm even a fan of some of his other work (scripts for the old He-Man cartoons and the TV series Murder, She Wrote). In comics, I actually rather enjoy what he has done with Spider-Man. Some fans have complained about the mystical "mumbo-jumbo" he's introduced, but I feel it adds an air of mystery and freshness to the character. Midnight Nation is an overlooked classic (though with a bit too much unnecessary cheesecake "good girl" art), and even the meandering Rising Stars was an enjoyable read.

However - well.... I'm not sure how to say this. Perhaps he needs to take a long break, or write less, or actually get that B5 theatrical movie made - because he's starting to sing the same tunes over and over again. I'm not talking about exploring the same themes over and over again - some great writers do that their whole career and excel. But JMS is now just taking whole plots and even exact phrases from his earlier works and plopping them straight into this newer work. Phrases like "All love is unrequited" and "the universe trying to understand itself" were fresh back in B5. Now they seem stale and overused. If it is possible to plagiarize yourself, JMS has done it with this last Fantastic Four arc and the first few issues of The Book of Lost Souls.

That said, The Book of Lost Souls has my attention. The basic idea is powerful enough, and there's enough mystery to keep me reading. But the next Fantastic Four arc had better be good, because this one was just "blah" - a straight wash. Nothing serious, nothing that good. Reed Richards gets to be God for a few pages (I though we discovered Jack Kirby was God during Waid's run on the FF?), and then somehow feels that Ben Grimm is "happy" because now he's filthy rich (and so that makes up for the years stuck as a rocky monster who only wants to be human again?). Otherwise, nothing much happens in the arc because of (yet another) cosmic reset button.

Oh, well.
(hope y'all had a good Thanksgiving).

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Essential Ghost Rider Vol. 1 and Essential Werewolf by Night vol. 1:

During the 1970s, when the Comics Code was loosened a bit, allowing for more "horrific" approaches to comics and superheroes. Marvel began experimenting fairly heavily with the super-hero/horror genre because of this, and while some iconic characters came from this period (Blade, for instance), most of the experiments from this era have been relegated to guest-star or forgotten status. Some of the titles included: Monster of Frankenstein, Werewolf by Night, Tomb of Dracula, Ghost Rider, Son of Satan - and a few others. Of these, only Ghost Rider and Tomb of Dracula had any real "staying" power. The others lasted a while, but only those two titles lasted beyond the initial "strange" period Marvel had during the late 1970s.

I gleefully have all FOUR Essential Tomb of Dracula comics on my shelf, and these two add to my collection of horror comics. I have to say that the B&W format of the Essential Books adds to the horror element of these titles (though that's not to say I wouldn't mind a full-color version as well).

One fascinating aspect of these "experiments" comes from the way the characters shifted so often. In Ghost Rider especially (but also in Werewolf by Night) a constant bouncing back and forth between tormented soul horror stories and basic superhero tales. The writers seemed unable to achieve any real mixture of the two, opting instead for tales that were clearly one or the other.

Either way, Ghost Rider still rocks. I, of course, have all the original issues reprinted here (and am mystified by the exclusion of an early Marvel Team-up appearance that introduced GR's early main archnemises, Orb), but these tomes allow me to revisit the early tales without having to dig out the old longboxes.

Monday, October 03, 2005

No review this week. Sort of. (sensitive topic ahead - keep the kids away)

Well, I started out reviewing Defenders #3, when I realized something.

Without giving a whole lot away, Umar RAPES the Hulk. This is played for laughs. Umar is, in this comic, forever searching for sexual satisfaction, but she can't get it. She uses her magic to force him to have intercourse with her (none of this is shown on panel, but it is heavily implied). That's rape, pure and simple.

Why is this funny?

In The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, there is a scene where Mat (a notorious womanizer) is tied to a bedpost against his will and forced to make love to a woman at knifepoint. When he complains about this, the other female characters just titter and laugh. The narrative itself treats this as one grad joke. Yet Mat is forced to have sex with a knife at his throat.

Why is male rape considered comic gold?

Of course, we have feminist theorists arguing that given the current patriarchal male hegemony, all heterosexual sex is rape, and we have Susan Brownmiller arguing rape is a conspiracy whereby all men keep all women in a state of fear. Given that, it seems "rape" is something men do to women.

I don't agree - it's an odd double standard, but one that apparently helps a certain liberal cause. Any thoughts from the peanut gallery?

(I hope this doesn't cause me to get bizarre spam).

Friday, September 23, 2005

Weekly reviews

Franklin Richards: Son of A Genius

I have to applaud Marvel. They really are trying to bring kids back to comics, and here they have the perfect concept. Hopefully they can market it correctly.

My six and a half year old daughter loved this comic, and so did I. As many other commentators/reviewers have said, this is Calvin and Hobbes by way of Dennis the Menace and the Fantastic Four. With H.E.R.B.I.E. as his foil/protector, Franklin gets in mess after mess - such as shrinking down to miniature size and exploring his father's nose, or cloning himself with Jello.

Overall, this handful of short tales are pure, plain fun. The visuals perfectly complement the manic goings on, and it doesn't talk down to kids or adults. This is easily the most enjoyable comic I have read in a long time. Buy several copies and give them to your neighbor's kids, or something. This comic deserves more exposure.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Weekly Review -Dracula vs. King Arthur #2

I reviewed issue #1 here.

This is a comic that qualifies as a total, 100% guilty pleasure. I find nothing to illuminate the human condition, redress the wrongs in the world, or realize the counter-hegemonic dialectic.

That said, it's great fun. My wife is a bit bothered because fact when certain Arthurian females become vampires they start wearing rather slutty outfits, but I figure there's a reason for the term "vamp" when referred to females - this comic is just playing on that idea (and my wife still liked the comic overall).

It moves a quick place, and only Merlin gets any decent characterization. Lancelot seems wildly out of character at the end of this issue, but it does create a nice cliffhanger.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Weekly Review - Wah Huh?

I have nothing good to say about this utter travesty of a comic.

Honestly. I could launch into a full on, caustic review, but it would serve no purpose. This was unfunny and too full of in-jokes.

Perhaps I'll post a more positive review of another comic sometime later, but after reading this comic I am too depressed and despair of ever enjoying a comic book again.

(okay - that last phrase was a bit over the top, but really - this was an awful comic).

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Weekly Review - MK 4 #21

A very interesting stand alone issue. This amounts to a "girls night out" among the super heroine set. The Invisible Woman (Sue Storm-Richards), upset that Reed seems to have forgotten their anniversary AGAIN, heads out to a night on the town with She-Thing, She-Hulk, Alicia Masters (one time girlfriend of the Thing and daughter of the Puppet Master) and (?) Emma Frost, the White Queen (Sue expresses surprise Emma comes, and even Emma isn't sure why she came along).

Anyway, that's all just an excuse to tell an amusingly retro tale (complete with retro 60s era Kirbyesque art and campy Stan Lee-ish dialogue) where Sue relates the time she almost had an affair with the Black Panther.

that's it. In the end, Reed Richards has a perfectly valid excuse for missing their anniversary and makes up for it with some touching and endearing gestures.

If I were one of my fellow graduate students, I might write a seminar paper on how this comic deals with Sue's dissatisfaction with her hegemonic suburban/urban upper class lifestyle, and the almost-affair with the Black Panther comes from our culture's deep distrust of black male sexuality (not to mention other trademarked terms like "fascination with the Other"). Let's see:

"In deference to the inaccessible unity with her hegemonically induced spousal unit, the Invisible Woman momentarily transgresses acceptable cultural/normative boundaries in an ultimately futile attempt to achieve union with alien otherness presented in the figure of the savage and countercultural imagisitic icon of the Black Panther. However, cultural pre-conditioning asserts its supremacy, and Sue Storm finds herself unable to breach the boundaries of race and marital supremacy, leaving her subject, once again, to a patriarchal overlord represented by the intricately phallic machines her husband Reed Richards . . . . "

Forget it. I'm scaring myself.

Well, I had a hard time figuring out if the Lee/Kirby riffs that make up about half the issue mock or revere their source material. In the end, I decided, much like the movie A Mighty Wind, in this case the line between mockery and devotion all but vanishes. Overall, a fun read.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A Heads Up!

This is not a recommendation, it's just a simple heads up.

Recall that Liberality For All comic I posted on a while ago? Well, it IS real, and the official website can be found here.

A preview can be found here.

Initial impressions? The preview doesn't give me enough to go on, really. I can say that what I see is okay, but that's about it. I think I'll reserve judgment until it actually comes out. It might be refreshing to see a left-wing totalitarian state, rather than the tired old cliche of a right wing fascist state most comics give us, but it depends on how well the idea is executed.

So, yes I will buy a copy when it comes out in October. But I can promise it won't get a free pass merely because it claims to be conservative. As for now, all I can say is: I'll wait and see.