COMICS WHAT THAT I READ THIS WEEK (March 31st, 2011)

Three comics. A one shot and two Ed Brubaker books bru-back to back (had to, had to that). Count me off!

You're science-screwed, flyboy.

Incognito: Bad Influences #5

I don’t talk about art nearly enough on here. This is after all a visual medium and while I don’t know if I’d say mediocre art can make or break a book, it definitely prevents a book from being “great” or “perfect”. So its a good thing that Ed Brubaker’s got Sean Phillips drawing this book because there’s no other guy who could do it justice. Just look at this cover.  Very simple image that tells you what this issue’s going to be. I’ve been a sucker for using bright colors to contrast with grey tones sinces Johns/Kollins original run on The Flash and I love it here too. Every single cover Phillips has turned out for Criminal and Incognito has been frame-worthy, that’s no small feat, friends.

This is the last issue of the mini, so naturally Overkill and series main bad guy Simon Slaughter meet for the first time and its a fantastic sequence. Brubaker’s clearly a fan of “in too deep” undercover stories but he manages to keep Slaughter’s backstory as a undercover good guy turned-for-real-nihilist bad guy fresh. He also gets this gem:

I’m explaining my revelation…AND my master plan. Now shut the fuck up and listen.

I was genuinely pretty surprised by the conclusion and the new status quo they throw Zack Overkill into, it’s a great end that on a larger level quite naturally sets up the premise of the inevitable sequel. Jess Nevins closes out the issue with an article on the origins of the super-villain that is…ASTOUNDINGLY researched.

In short: If you aren’t reading Criminal/Incognito and you have any kind of interest in noir/crime fiction, then what the hell are you doing with yourself?

How many muscles? All of them. All the muscles.

Secret Avengers #11

Brubaker’s penultimate issue of this title. I’m not sure if its the inking/coloring but Conrad’s fill-in work here does a pretty good job of matching Deodato’s usual work. Not quite as a fluid, but it works well enough. Issue itself breezes right on by but Bru drops some real intriguing hints about whats up John Steele and the origins of the Shadow Council. Wondering how much he’ll be able to wrap up next issue before Nick Spencer takes over in #13.

Bless you, Amanda Conner.

Best of The Week: Jimmy Olsen #1 (One Shot)

As of late, Jimmy Olsen as a character’s been undergoing an unexpected renaissance lately.  He’s been a main-stay Superman supporting cast member forever, but it seems like the strange adventurey silver-age aspects of the character have made a big comeback (I’m sure you could somehow trace this to Chris Sims and/or Grant Morrison). I couldn’t be more pleased with this and Nick Spencer writes a wonderfully Jimmy Olsen-y Jimmy Olsen story in this one shot (which collects the first couple of parts of the story that appeared as back ups in Supergirl plus the story’s conclusion).

Spencer gives Olsen a great supporting cast in the span of only a few pages (By the way its nice of DC to finally find a use for Chloe Sullivan), to the point that I’m kind of bummed this wasn’t an ongoing or a atleast a mini. Jimmy’s rival being a yuppie subordinate of Lex Luthor is spot-on.

In terms of tone, the only thing I can think to compare it to is Scott Pilgrim: cartoony comic book stuff acting as background for Jimmy’s romantic entanglements. It’s important to point out that Spencer’s take on Jimmy and co. (and RB Silva’s sharply expressive artwork) give the whole story a clear identity and radiate this exciting vibe Superman as a property’s been missing, I think.

Without spoiling too much, this is a rrrrreal funny, clever comic and I hope this sells well enough to tell DC people want more of this kind of thing.

“Co-Superman”, guys. “Brainiac Fail”.

****

I think the mere fact that this is…possible the longest new comics review I’ve written thus far tells you enough. Go. Buy. Read.

HIVE OF SCUM. OPEN DE BOOKS AND SMILE.

-Max

Episode By Episode: SUPERMAN: TAS (“Two’s A Crowd”)

I’ll be honest. I’m alittle buzzed. I just got back from bar trivia. In other words, I’m in the perfect mood to watch some 90’s Superman animation. Lets bust a move.

I now own all of SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES on DVD. Each week, I’m going to work my way through the series one episode at a time.  Dig?

Episode: “Two’s A Crowd”

Even Parasites Get The Blues

What Happens: Rogue scientist Earl Garver threatens Metropolis with a radioactive bomb and is left unconscious via severe concussion following a stand-off with Superman. The bomb’s location still unknown, Professor Hamilton suggets they use the Parasite, last seen here, to probe the scientist’s mind. No possible downsides to this plan!

Shh. Shhh.

Thoughts:

  • I love, love, love that this episode opens with Dan Turpin and co. firing on this house with laser guns and SWAT shields.
  • The set piece of a normal house decked-out in Super-Science weapons is well done, reminds me of the gauntlet Luthor puts him through in Superman: The Movie.
  • Sawyer, put on some pants. Everyone, act like you’re posing for a lame album cover!

HRUMPH

  • I dig how this episode utilizes Parasite in a way beyond something like a prison escape or something like that. The good guys desperately need his help and it just kind of goes to shit from there.
  • Hamilton’s whole idea of using a super villain to solve their problem (along with a bunch of stuff in the series finale) arguably goes a long way to explaining his heel turn  over in Justice League Unlimited (JLU’s Cadmus sure did like using super criminals for stuff).
  • So Parasite’s awake, I guess. But we already knew that from the bug touching thing at the end of his first appearance.
  • Parasite refusing to help them unless they give him cable TV is perfect, I love how Parasite’s plans are never “take over the world” or anything, just simple pleasures for a simple guy.
  • Parasite’s “feedback” scream is unnerving as hellllll.
  • Hey so fun fact: Earl Garver is voiced by Brian “Original Hannibal Lecter” Cox. Consistently amazed by the voice talent on the Timm DC Animated stuff.
  • I was going to cry foul on Superman using the special underwater suit but then I remembered this Superman needs to breathe periodically (also, probably doesn’t hurt that you can make an action figure out of it)

STAR labs whole budget goes toward making Superman little mission suits, I guess

  • Teaming up Parasite with a character like Garver whose charisma and intellect act as a counterpoint to his…unmotivated brute strength is a fantastic way to raise the stakes by giving Supes a physical threat that can plan.
  • The concept of introducing a scientist consciousness into Parasite actually predates this in the comics (Google: “Torval Freeman”), I’m not sure if this is intentional or just a happy coincidence. Circumstances aren’t identical, atleast.
  • The difference in the movements of Parasite-with-Garver’s consciousness (very acrobatic, playful almost) is a great touch.
  • Superman not being strong enough to fly out, just kind of super-jumping from ledge to ledge is, again, another great touch.
  • Kind of weird that they gave Parasite the TV after all that but, hey, whatever.

Overall?

I say this alot, but good episode! It’s kind of cool but strange just how many of these Superman episodes are low action and plot-heavy. Obviously not a bad thing, though.

Next Episode: THE PROMETHEON (One of the more memorable episodes from my younger years! Space gollum!)

 

AND NOW…YOUR OBSCURE BATMAN CHARACTER OF THE WEEK (3/26/11)

….Carlo

What the hell am I looking at here?

From The Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes:

A vaudeville mind-reader who turns to crime when he discovers that the delicate brain surgery he underwent following an automobile accident actually endowed him with the miraculous ability to read minds. At one point, Carl reads Batman’s mind and learns his secret identity, but is shot and killed by Pete Jorgen, one of his intended robbery victims, before he can reveal the secret to anyone else (Det No. 70 Dec ’42: “The Man Who Could Read Minds!”.)

We’re about two for two here on one-time Batman villains who are also the victims of prior intense head trauma. Who’s this Pete Jorgen fellow? Sounds like a real tough customer. Guy will not be robbed by vaudeville scum.

AN OBSCURE BATMAN CHARACTER. EVERY SATURDAY. THAT’S THE HIVE OF SCUM PROMISE.

Max

COMICS WHAT THAT I READ THIS WEEK (March 24th, 2011)

New Comics Day, the most wonderful day of the week that isn’t Friday, Saturday or to a lesser extent Sunday, has come and gone. Lets talk about them?

Pretty.

Daredevil Reborn #3 (of 4)

The Jock covers for this book have been gorgeous, this month’s in particular. This was an ok issue. Diggle’s Daredevil stuff has been really hot or cold with me and this mini’s just been alright. The bit with Murdock not being able to drive with a windshield in was a highlight for me, too many writers forget little things like that. Honestly though, I’m more or less just counting the days until Waid/Martin’s soon to be fantastic Daredevil run starts up.

TWILIGHT. IDOL.

Power Man and Iron Fist #3 (of 5)

Fred Van Lente is cramming as much deliberately silly shit into this book and I’m loving the hell out of it. An emotionless villain called POKERFACE quotes “The Gambler”, of all things. This issue does a nice job of balancing a couple of plot threads through the bigger “silent criminal auction” concept. AThe death trap that this issue centers on is well thought out and keeps things rolling. Van Lente’s rarely disappointed me as a writer and this is shaping up to be one of his best. And I will pay him $10 American Dollars to get rid of that god awful white and gold Iron Fist suit (Though the solicits for his appearance in Iron Man 2.0 seem to indicate it’ll be gone soon).

Time Diamond Gangsters

Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine #5 (and 6)

Jason Aaron writes a helluva Mojo, though that makes a fair amount of sense, really.

God, I love this mini. Bedazzling and “DARK PHOENIX WOLVERINE” as plot-points. This whole thing is just so weird and spot-on funny that I never want it to end. I’ve said it before, someone needs to put Aaron on a monthly Spider-Man book and fast.

Really nice use of PERSPECTIVE on this cover, right?

BEST OF THE WEEK: Batman, Incorporated #4

God bless the weird as hell Morrison Bat-book shipping schedule. After nothing for what felt like a while, we get two issues of Batman, Inc within two weeks of each other!

Props to Morrison for working in a multi-generational Batwoman team up into the issue while keeping the main El Gaucho thread chugging. I don’t think anyone’s really used the Kathy Kane Batwoman to much effect post-crisis and Morrison just effortlessly makes you want to know more about her.

I hadn’t seen any of Chris Burham’s work prior to this issue but he just NAILS those flashback sequences. A nice mix between Quietly and Cameron Stewart’s styles in many respects.

The big thing about this issue that stuck with me is how the mood of this issue alternates between dark and light in a way that it reasonably shouldn’t. The flashback sequences introduce some boldly weird history and I’m not sure anyone BUT Morrison could pull it off, but he does. The Silver-age Batgirl/Batwoman elements of the mythos have kind of been treated as a blemish that everyone wants to ignore, but what Morrison does is acknowledge how weird and ill-fitting it is (see Robin’s “It makes it all dumb instead of special. Like it doesn’t matter anymore”) and puts that to work for the story he’s telling. It’s things like this that really just hammer home the fact that Morrison’s the best writer in comics these days.

And, holy shit, the DIALOGUE in this thing is just wonderful. “YOU! SHUT UP OR I WILL PUNCH YOU OUT!”, etc.

I guess it’s not much of a surprise that I thought this is maybe the best Batman issue Morrison’s done thus far. Hard to say if it’s better than Batman, Inc #1, though the last page is an INCREDIBLE piece of payoff.

*****

Yeah. That was a positively Chris Sims-ian Batman review, huh? Seriously though, go buy that comic, tear out that last page, and frame it.

What a great stack of books, weeks like this are why I love comics. Except for Daredevil, which was just “decent”, these are comics by three writers at the top of their game. And the art’s nothing to scoff at either.

HIVE OF SCUM. THESE THINGS I TAKE JOY FROM ARE LIKE STRANGE OYSTERS THE OUTSIDE WORLD WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND.

– Max

Episode By Episode: SUPERMAN: TAS (“Tools Of The Trade”)

I now own all of SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES on DVD. Each week, I’m going to work my way through the series one episode at a time.  Dig?

Episode: “Tools Of The Trade”

Metropolis police officers look alarmingly fascist

What Happens: Intergang! Specifically, Superman goes up against crime boss Bruno Manheim’s crime syndicate, who are being armed with super-weapons by a Mysterious Benefactor.

Thoughts:

  • First appearance of Animated Captain Sawyer and Dan Turpin (loved that they modeled him off of Jack Kirby, by the way)

Police. Cops. Police cops.

  • The Superman vs Ultra-Tank or whatever fight’s a nice way to open the episode.
  • Superman unwittingly undermining the legitimacy of the city police is a rather clever idea that I hadn’t really thought about. It also gives Turpin a kind of valid reason to dislike Superman.
  • Kanto! Our first official New God appearance? I love that he’s dressed like a normal dude except for the Kirby-tastic trident thing

Gotta respect Kanto's luscious head of hair.

  • Totally forgot that Michael York voiced Kanto. And then much later on Ares on Justice League. What a sweet voice that man has.
  • They threw in some cool Kirby weaponry. The giant energy hands gauntlet is neat:

Eh?

  • I’m really glad there’s some build-up to Darkseid/The New Gods conflict over time, it sells the enormity of the threat very well.
  • Someone should count just how MANY trains Superman has saved in the various media. Is it even trackable?
  • Superman pushing apart the energy hand construct things so hard that he BREAKS THE DUDE’S ACTUAL HANDS is awesome.
  • You know, “Superman with angry heat vision eyes” has  become a cliche by now, but this is just used perfectly.

Welp. That's that.

  • LOVE how Kanto, evil demi-god from space, flat out just runs away. Kanto doesn’t need this. Kanto can’t deal with this right now.
  • Animators totally outdo themselves on the brief glimpse of Apokolips we get.
  • Michael Ironside’s 10 seconds of Darkseid dialogue = possibly the best part of the whole episode.

Overall?

It’s mostly “Superman vs. crooks”, so I think the episode’s not quite as exciting in terms of action, but all of the Jack Kirby Fourth World concepts that get used are used very very well. The episode’s basically just a trailer for the AMAZING Darkseid two parter we get alittle later on. But a good episode on its own, for sure.

Next Episode: TWO’S A CROWD

AND NOW…YOUR OBSCURE BATMAN CHARACTER OF THE WEEK (3/19/11)

…”Slippery” Jim Elgin

That's some neck pillow

From the Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes!

An underworld disguise artist, known as the “man of 1000 faces,” who is forced to avoid all metal as the result of an accidental explosion at the Baxter Experimental Laboratory which lodged a sliver of magnetic metal deep inside his head, so close to his brain that a movement by the sliver of as little as one-half inch will prove instantly fatal. Elgin is killed in September 1950  when, in a desperate attempt to escape from Batman and Robin, he grabs an opera hat from a passerby in an effort to meld into the ranks of a passing parade, not realizing that the hat contains a metal spring to make it collapsible (Det. No. 163: “The Man Who Feared Metal!”)

That’s really the most bizarrely complex entry so far, right? I don’t know what else you can say about a character like “Slippery” Jim Elgin, other than he’s certainly a product of his time.

AN OBSCURE BATMAN CHARACTER. EVERY SATURDAY. THAT’S THE HIVE OF SCUM PROMISE.

Max


COMICS WHAT THAT I READ THIS WEEK (March 17th, 2011)

Hey! Hi! So this is still a thing I’m doing. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, etc etc etc. We’re here. I got a stack of six books to read, lets boogie-ooogie-oogie

Buy a damn toothbrush, A-M

Brightest Day #22

Decent issue! Decently done death of a pretty major DC supporting character and I like the new Firestorm status quo they’re setting up here. “Deathstorm” talking like a bro and quoting Star Wars makes me want to see the character stick around.

How have we not gotten a Superboy/Kid Flash race before now is a mystery to me, honestly.

Superboy #5

This is maybe my favorite issue to date? Lemire’s got a good grip on the Teen Titans if their appearance here is anything to go off of, I’d love to see DC put him on that book at some point. Nice to see Superboy and Kid Flash acting like guys who’ve been good friends for years, the Robin/Impulse/Superboy friendship is something I really liked when I started getting into comics and its kinda fallen by the wayside.  The race itself is well put together, ends perfectly. Pier Gallo’s art’s solid, strong Quietly vibe is going strong. Curious as hell as to how Lemire’s going to tie together the supernatural and sci-fi menaces he’s ramping up to.

Party Bus

Best of the week: Knight and Squire #6 (of 6)

Damn. That’s a helluva ending. Cornell has really just done a fantastic job of creating this little UK corner of the DCU that, despite having a rather different feel to it, feels like it fits. This issue, and really the mini as a whole…I think are Cornell’s way of defending and legitimizing “silly” aspects of British culture and kind of striking back against the gratuitously violent aspects of DC comics as of late. This is a wonderful read, I really hope Cornell has another chance to come back to all of this.

Morrison comics are golden brick into my BRAIN

Batman, Incorporated #3

First off, read THIS, because Uzumeri’s annotations are almost essential to working your way through this issue.

As an issue, it’s Morrison’s Batman, so it’s half of a two part puzzle. It’s not an easy read, but the challenging aspects of Morrison’s Batman stories are refreshing in a genre like Super Hero comics where that kind of thing is way too rare. As it stands, a rich read with a damn fine cliff hanger. Morrison’s skilled at making the international Batmen feel unique from each other.

Thor is like THE guy to put on covers if you want shit to get real.

Avengers Academy #11

WEIRD pacing in this issue. Like, just throws you right into everything. That said, Diggin The new Raney’Hanna art team, perfect fit for this kind of book. Korvac’s a weird and convoluted character to use in this situation but he works well as a believable threat to all the Avengers teams that show up in the issue. Fun issue all in all.

Witch-ay Woman

Thunderbolts #155

Luke Cage calling Man-Thing his “dawg”: The Best.

Parker gives us a fun Dr.Strange/Luke Cage team up story and introduces something he’s been building up to for alittle while now with Warden Walker. Felt like a short issue, but considering how quickly this book is coming out (FEELS bi-weekly even though it isn’t), I’m ok with that. Thunderbolts is really the big feather in Marvel’s cap in terms of their top, consistent books.

****

So that’s the last two weeks. I’m really going to miss Cornell’s weird little Knight and Squire mini. Strongly considered picking up the Fear Itself prelude Brubaker wrote but these Marvel events make me wish I waited for the collection. Whatever. A good week (fortnight?) for comics, it seems!

HIVE OF SCUM. STRANGE BONERS AFOOT, GENTS.

 

 

 

Episode By Episode: SUPERMAN: TAS (“My Girl”)

I now own all of SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES on DVD. Each week, I’m going to work my way through the series one episode at a time.  Dig?

Episode: “My Girl”

What Happens: Hey! Superman’s Childhood Crush, Lana Lang comes to Metropolis! She’s dating Lex Luthor! Explosions! Fashion! Mystery?

Very off-model S-shield

Thoughts:

  • At 20 minutes, is this the shortest episode to date?
  • Clark Kent’s immediate reaction to initials “LL” being to guess “Lana Lang” is pretty funny when you consider how many people he knows with those initials (well, maybe not in the animated continuity). LL dating Lex Luthor: also pretty good.
  • Uh hey there Frank Miller-esque criminal amazon woman

Just missing the pointed teeth and swastika pasties, really.

  • Sort of off-topic but not really: the quality of this episode animation-wise is…off. Simpler than usual, almost. And the transfer on this particular episode is not great. Wonder why that is?
  • I like the way they position Lana in contrast to Lois on the show: Lana’s always been the “girl who got away” but now she knows Clark is Superman, so it makes the romantic tension between alittle more interesting. Logically, he WOULD find a girl from his past who knows his secrets, who knows the real Clark Kent, appealing.
  • Sidebar: I love the character of Mercy. Giving Lex a tough-as-nails girl friday who just does his dirty work is a brilliant conceit.

Creep creep

  • Oh man, Lex’s boner face.

You've seen it. You can't unsee it.

  • While we’re on the subject, you get the sense that Lex genuinely cares for Lana here, which is a change of pace from the disposable women we’ve seen him with so far in the show. The only reason he turns on her is because she’s being unfaithful to him. I like it. Lex is human, after all.
  • This episode feels very noiry, with the whole Lana/Lex/Clark triangle/espionage plot. Batman:TAS gets more associated with this kind of thing (because, yeah) but I feel like a number of Superman: TAS episodes have this feel.
  • Superman saving the deer and delivering the corny “open season on terrorists” line is perfect Superman right there.
  • The reference to Batgirl by Lana is, I think, only the second reference to Batman we’ve gotten on the show thus far. Might be wrong.
  • Oh Lana. Stepping out on Lex Luthor with Superman is like the worst idea of all time.
  • Oo a reference to Central City too.
  • Lana’s plan here of “eavesdropping on Lex, fucking up his plans by telling Superman, and expecting no negative consequences” is a pretty shortsighted one.
  • Surely nothing bad will happen at the LEXCORP LEAD & ALLOY?

Lead & Alloy & Kryptonite & Ghosts

  • I can’t imagine liquid lead flows EXACTLY like water but what do I know?
  • Superman: Forever doomed to be the plaything of loud, outgoing women.

Overall? Decent episode, but nothing too showy. The Lex portions of the episode are fantastic, really great to see an episode where he isn’t motivated by power or greed but, well, LOVE. What the episode lacks in the great villains or set pieces of the past few episodes it makes up for in solid character work. Really, have any of these episodes so far been less than “Very good”?

Next Episode: “Tools of The Trade” (No clue what this one’s about)