Monthly Archives: December 2007

Weekly Comic Review for 12/28/07

Batman #672 (Grant Morrison-writer, Tony Daniel-artist)

Way back in the earlier issues of Morrison’s Batman run–y’know, before the International Batmen and Ra’s al Ghul getting all resurrecty–Bats had to deal with a pair of maniac cops running around dressed as Batman (in one way or another).  It was even hinted that there was a “third man” waiting in the wings.  Batman #672 introduces us to the third fake Batman (although this one seems to be a fan of Firefly, as well, since he’s running around with a napalm gun).  If memory serves, one of the other two Batmen had more than a passing resemblance to Bane.  Are these guys supposed to look like Bat-villains?  Are they Elseworldy in nature?

Despite my love-hate relationship with Morrison, the Ra’s al Ghul stuff has gotten me intrigued to see what he has planned for Bruce and Company in the coming months (as long as Damian stays far, far, far away from Gotham).  What Morrison should avoid–like every other Bat-writer should avoid–is the whole relationship thing.  Admittedly, the broad Bruce is escorting around the globe doesn’t have a great deal of “staying power.”  Bruce all but says the only reason he’s seeing her is to get Alfred off of his back.  I do give Morrison tons of credit for The Scene–a Gothamized version of The View where each of the four co-hosts are not only bitchier than their real-world equivalents, but also about 50 times more attractive.

My biggest concern at the moment is the appearance of Bat-Mite on the last page of the issue.  Modern writers need to leave certain Golden and Silver Age creations and ideas alone.  Something that seemed like a good idea in the 1950s or 1960s may not be a good idea in 2007 (or 2008, for that matter); furthermore, some things can not be changed or updated to become “cool” or “relevant”: the concept of a Bizarro Earth is skating close to the edge…any appearance of Bat-Mite just dives right over it.

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Countdown to Final Crisis 18 (Paul Dini with Sean McKeever-writers, Scott Kolins-artist)

With roughly thirty-five issues or so down, this issue of Countdown delivers what might be the series’ best story to date.  With the exception of a short scene where Mary Marvel opens a can of lightning-fueled whoop-ass on Eclipso, this issue focuses entirely on Ray Palmer, a.k.a the Atom (the scene with Eclipso fits in with the overall Ray-centric nature of the issue since Eclipso’s current host is Ray’s maniac ex-wife Jean Loring).

So…what’s ol’ Doc Palmer been up to for the last two years?  After learning that his ex-wife was behind the murder of his best friend’s wife, Ray went sub-atomic, eventually shrinking his way through the barrier between Earths.  He learns of the existence of a new Multiverse and sets off to find a better world to call home.  Ray arrives on Earth-51, shortly before the Palmer of that Earth dies in a lab accident.  Always the curious scientist, our Ray looks over Ray-51’s research and learns that he (Ray-51) discovered a potential danger to the new Multiverse.  Ray decides to take his double’s place on Earth-51, and basically gets a chance to re-live his career.  On Earth-51, all crime has been eliminated and the familiar heroes of the DC Universe have hung up the capes and gotten on with their lives–well, all except Bruce…on Earth-51, Batman is still active.

Despite being happily married to an un-insane Jean and spending time with friends (Ralph and Sue Dibny, and Barry and Iris West), Ray Palmer’s been having nightmares…nightmares about his old life on New Earth.  Even stopping off to see Zatanna (now a Rubenesque shrink at the Arkham Institute for Emotional Disorders) doesn’t soothe Ray’s troubled psyche.  That’s why he’s less than surprised when Monitor Bob and the Challengers arrive on the front lawn during a holiday party.  But, you have to admit, Ray was probably a little bit surprised when Bob threatened to “eliminate” him.  It would be a nifty twist if Bob’s been using Kyle, Donna, and Jason this whole time just to ice Palmer, but we’ve all read enough comics to recognize a potential fake-out when we see one.

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Daredevil #103 (Ed Brubaker-writer, Michael Lark-artist)

Lesson to evil-doers: if you’re going to try and start some shit in Hell’s Kitchen, it’s best if you stay as far away from Matt Murdock’s friends and relatives as possible.  Y’see, the thing about Matt is this: sure, he’s a hard-ass when it comes to crime…but he’s also a slave to guilt, and if he thinks some slime-ball is messing with his friends and loved-ones just to get to him, he’ll go from zero to ape-shit in about 12 seconds.

Case in point: even though Matt’s been trying to stop Mister Fear and his goons from flooding the streets of The Kitchen with MGH and other uber-drugs, he’s been doing so with kid-gloves.  But, now that Matt’s beloved Milla’s in the middle of things, Matt decides to take his hunt for Fear to the streets.  He lets a pair of bad guys rip up the middle of the street in hopes that a higher-rung baddie will show up.  When that doesn’t work, Matt tracks down the sleazy doctor that the super-villains use to patch themselves up.  Finally, Matt gets his hands on Ox, Mister Fear’s go-to muscle, chains the big lug down and breaks out the acetylene torch…looks like Matt’s going to get Ox to blab one way or another.

Back in the day, every superhero was forced to become dark and gritty (the “day” being some point in the 90s).  It didn’t always work.  Superman should not be dark and gritty.  Spider-man should not be dark and gritty.  Batman can be, to a point.  And, so can Daredevil.  Brubaker’s Daredevil books are so good because they remind me of gritty crime novels from the 1950s.  Daredevil is, despite the fancy red underwear, a bare-knuckled, street-level detective looking out for the little guy.

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Flash #235 (Mark Waid-writer, Freddie E. Williams, II-artist)

Sometimes, I feel bad writing lackluster reviews of some books (like Batman or Ultimate X-Men) while I seemingly do nothing but sing the praises of other books (like anything written by Joss Whedon…or, in this case, Flash).  I guess what helps me sleep at night is the fact that I always criticize a book based entirely on what I’m looking for in a comic book–I try to avoid calling a book “bad” or “terrible”, instead I say that a book didn’t “hold my interest” or “deliver what I was expecting.”

Flash always holds my interest and delivers what I expect (with the exception of Bart’s brief tenure as Fastest Man Alive, which is why I didn’t read Flash for those twelve months).  Anyways…this latest issue continues the story of those wacky aliens who attacked Earth just because we happen to be an air-breathing planet.  Wally’s managed to convince a few Justice Leaguers (John Stewart, Wonder Woman, and Black Lightning) to follow him back to the invaders’ home world and stopping the invasion at its source.  What Wally didn’t expect was the aliens using mind-whammy fluids to trick him and his team into fighting illusions.  When Wally returns to Earth, he sees that the aliens have started dehydrating the good people of Keystone City.

This set-up could have led to a basic comic book plot, instead Mark Waid takes this as an opportunity to further examine the relationships between Wally and his family.  Upon returning to Keystone, Wally immediately goes home to check on his wife and kids.  Iris is upset because her brother has run off and she was torn between following him and protecting their mom.  Wally comforts her, telling Iris that she made the right choice and that he’ll go and find Jai.  The scene where Wally finally finds Jai is great for a number of reasons.  Jai tells his dad that he knows that he and his sister are on borrowed time, and that he’s decided to shoulder this burden alone and let his sister live a (moderately) normal life.  Wally is understandably shocked, and touched, at how mature his boy is.  Again, it’s scenes like these that make Flash a satisfying read month after month.

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Gotham Underground #3 (Frank Tieri-writer, J. Calafiore-artist)

For lack of a better phrase, I’ll call this issue of Gotham Underground the “build-up” issue.  Why?  Well, there are plenty of little moments and cliffhangers sprinkled throughout the issue, but very little pay-off.  This is the issue that’s supposed to make you say “Holy Shit!” and come back in thirty days to see what happens.  Since this is basically the end of Act One, I think it does the job well enough.

For starters, Bruce (disguised as Matches Malone) is still behind bars in Blackgate, where he’s mercilessly assaulted in his cell by Mr. Zsasz.  Of course Bruce fights Zsasz off, but not before getting sliced up something awful and passing out due to blood loss.  This puts Bruce is a bad spot: he’s undercover, injured, and there’s at least one (and, most likely more) prison guard on the take.

Elsewhere, Penguin’s bending over backwards to make sure he stays on his perch in Gotham’s criminal hierarchy.  He’s already gotten into bed with the Suicide Squad.  Now he’s trying to cement a relationship with Tobias Whale, head of the non-freak Gotham criminal element.  If you’re wondering what kind of relationship a Whale and a Penguin can have, don’t…Whale already beat you to the punch when he tells Penguin that a penguin is not a whale’s enemy, it’s a whale’s dinner.

Robin’s still in Metropolis, on a fact-finding mission with Oracle.  Babs gives Tim the lowdown on Tobias Whale and why he’s in Gotham: it seems that Whale was chased out of Metropolis by a former underling named Johnny Stitches.  But, before she can tell Tim any more about the zaftig albino bastard, Oracle’s intruder alerts go off.  An invisible assailant smacks Tim around a bit before being subdued by Wildcat.  Tim is shocked to see the invisible intruder slowly revealed to be…wait for it…Spoiler!  Now, I’m not saying that it’s THE Spoiler (although I hope it is because I really dug Stephanie Brown), for the moment I’m going to refer to it as ASpoiler (mainly because I don’t recall Steph having a Romulan cloaking device).  Either way, it’s a big cliffhanger: is Steph back from the dead, or is someone else wearing the Spoiler costume? 

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Green Lantern #26 (Geoff Johns-writer, Mike McKone-artist)

I’m going to take a few minutes to justify my Green Lantern cred.  For most of my life, I considered the Green Lantern to be that dude on Super Friendswho flew around and attacked people with giant green boxing gloves and birdcages.  You can understand why he wasn’t a big favorite of mine…until the Nineties.  When I started collecting comics hard-core in college, Hal Jordan (the Lantern of Super Friends) had gone crazy, become evil, and died.  His replacement was Kyle Rayner, a struggling artist in New York City who was given the last Green Lantern ring in the universe.  Kyle was cool.  Because he was an artist, he was able to come up with some crazy constructs (one of the ones that stands out is a construct of Batman…how cool is that?).  Anyways…I read Green Lantern every month for a few years, bailing shortly after Kyle became Ion (it’s a long story best left to our friends at Wikipedia). 

After discovering Kyle, I started researching the older Lanterns–John Stewart, Guy Gardner, Hal Jordan.  So, when it was announced that Hal–who had spent several years as the host for the vengeful Spectre–would be resurrected and given the ring again, I was jazzed.  The real Hal Jordan (not the lame, 2-dimensional Hal of Super Friends) is a classic, lantern-jawed (pun intended!) 50s hero.  He’s brave and stalwart.  He’s a bit of a thrill-seeker (the sonuvabitch is a fuckin’ test pilot, kids!) and a hit with the ladies (Hal’s the Captain Kirk of DC).  I gave Hal’s new Green Lantern a shot, until economic constraints forced me to drop it.  Then came Geoff Johns and the Sinestro War.

Sinestro was Hal’s greatest foe, whom Jordan killed when he was possessed by Parallax.  With Hal’s return it shouldn’t be a surprise that Sinestro, he of the porn-star moustache, would eventually return.  Not only did Sinestro return, but he brought his own yellow ring-clad Corps. with him (an idea I still say he got from Booster Gold).  A war was fought across the universe between the Green and the Yellow.  Planets were ravaged.  Soldiers were killed.  Heroes were made.  Villains were punished.

Green Lantern #26is the first issue after the conclusion of the Sinestro Corps. War.  It actually serves as an epilogue of sorts.  Sinestro has been defeated and imprisoned on Oa.  While in his cell (a cell on death row, by the way), Sinestro talks with his former partner, Hal Jordan.  Sinestro never thought the Green Lantern Corps. embraced their true potential, and his desire to use the full extent of the Lanterns’ power is what made him go rogue in the first place.  He claims that he orchestrated the Sinestro Corps. War to frighten the Guardians into allowing their Green Lanterns to kill.  And, that is what happened.  The Guardians created ten new laws, the first of which authorized the use of lethal force when facing a member of the Sinestro Corps.  The second new law is revealed in this issue and involves a group called “Alpha Lanterns.”  I have no idea who or what these Alpha Lanterns are, but they look like zombies with power batteries in their chests.  Creepy.

While Hal is chatting with Sinestro, John Stewart goes where he goes after every victory: the sight of his greatest failure–the destruction of the planet Xanshi.  This was the lowest point in John’s life…and, with each victory, he returns to try and recreate Xanshi with his power ring.  If there’s one Lantern who possesses the power to rebuild a planet, it’s probably John–he’s not only an architect in his civilian identity, but he was also made “Master Builder” by the Guardians.  In fact, it’s in his capacity as architect that John’s on Earth, helping the expansion of Coast City.

Why is a super-hero playing construction worker, you ask?  Oh…poor, poor Coast City.  It was destroyed by Mongul, which forced the power-mad Hal Jordan to attempt to recreate it.  It was eventually rebuilt around the time of Jordan’s rebirth, but it was so underpopulated that people called it “Ghost City.”  However, during the Sinestro War, the people of Coast City refused to abandon their homes (or their hometown hero, Green Lantern).  They lit green lights in every window and created enough courage and will to weaken the fear-based Sinestros.  The courage of Coast City’s citizens earned it a new nickname–“The City Without Fear”–and caused a population boom relatively over-night.  With more people than buildings, it fell to the four Lanterns of Earth (Hal, John, Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner) to help with the construction of new buildings.

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Ultimate Fantastic Four #49 (Mike Carey-writer, Mark Brooks-artist)

Mike Carey has officially written one of the best arcs in Ultimate Fantastic Four.  Recent story arcs in this book have stumbled a bit, relying on ridiculously flowery Tolkien-isms to simulate alien languages and too much emphasis placed on the idea of Reed-as-obsessed-genius.  But, the Red Ghost story that concludes with this issue had everything that I want in a Fantastic Four comic: action, adventure, comedy, gee-whiz science.  Plus, it had monkeys.  Lots and lots of monkeys.

I’m not always a fan of fixing what ain’t broke, but at the end of the day, I actually liked Carey’s new Red Ghost.  With Ivan Kragoff stabbed in the back, his assistant, Rutskaya, becomes the Ultimate Red Ghost.  And, to up the creep-factor, Rutskaya’s not just a super-villain, she’s an eco-terrorist who also happens to be a weird, super-powered chimera.  Rutskaya still has a mad-on for killing Sue (kudos to Mark Brooks for giving us a Sue Storm who’s H-O-T), and to do so, she sends forth the various apes that comprise her new body.  Each ape (like the original Red Ghost’s hench-apes) has a different super-power.

Of course the boys show up to help, with Crimson Dynamo in tow, but does Sue need their help?  Not at all.  With the help of Kragoff’s cyber-bear (cybear??), Sue makes short work of Rutskaya’s apes and overloads the maniac with additional DNA samples.  Sue Storm has always been one of the strongest female characters in comics, but Ultimate Sue takes it to a whole new level.  She’s cute.  She’s tough.  She’s wicked tough.  And, after putting up with Reed’s shit as of late, she’s single.  Yup.  Sue’s decided that she and Reed should “take a break.”  To be honest, though, now is probably not the time…y’see, just as the FF return to NYC, they find the city encased in a shimmering CUBE of seemingly COSMIC energy. 

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Ultimate Power #9 (Jeph Loeb-writer, Greg Land-artist)

Taken as individual issues, Ultimate Power was not that good.  However, when viewed as a whole, it’s actually not that bad.  Maybe it was a little confusing here and there–what with two or three different versions of people running around–but, if nothing else, it explains (a) why Nick Fury is MIA in the Ultimate Universe, and (b) why the Ultimates are currently hanging out in Tony’s mansion–Fury was left behind in the Supreme Power Universe to answer to his crimes.

This final issue sees the Hulk cut loose and rampage through the Supreme Power Universe.  Hero after hero falls (and not even Spider-Man, acting as Hulk’s Jiminy Cricket, can stop the carnage).  In what I can only assume is Loeb’s homage to the original Avengers, the heroes put aside their differences and team-up to take down the Hulk.  We get (what I assume to be) the first meeting of Ultimate Thing and Ultimate Hulk–needless to say, without an assist, Thing is no match for the Hulk.  Another fun moment is watching Spider-Man flirting (rather obviously, too) with Sue Storm.  Hey Pete: Sue’s single again, just hold out for a few days.

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Ultimate Spider-Man #117 (Brian Michael Bendis-writer, Stuart Immomen-artist)

This issue is pretty much a straight-forward, balls to the wall, slug-fest between Norman Osborn and his son, Harry.  SHIELD’s broadcast of Harry from last issue was a huge fake-out, designed to lure Norman out into the open so SHIELD can take him out.  Once Norman–in full-out Goblin mode–arrives at the helicarrier, he and Harry–in Hobgoblin mode–go at it.  I like the changes that Marvel made to the Goblin family in the Ultimate Universe.  Instead of becoming a second Green Goblin (like his mainstream counterpart), Ultimate Harry Osborn becomes the Hobgoblin, and a non-evil one, to boot.

This issue’s (and, possible, this week’s) “Holy Shit” moment comes when Norman pounds his son into the deck of the helicarrier, sending blood and meat flying every which way.  Norman is so disgusted by what he did, that he reverts to human form and begs SHIELD to kill him…which they do.  Spider-Man sees this and freaks out.  There have been far too many people in his life who’ve been taken by violence, but I think this might have hit Pete the hardest because he was so close…he could have prevented it…but, in the end, he simply holds his dying best friend in his arms.  Peter then totally flips out on Carol Danvers, basically washing his hands of SHIELD from here on out.

Now, deaths in comics are not permanent.  Sure, some times they last longer than others, but almost everyone comes back (Jason Todd…Bucky…I’m lookin’ at you).  So, while I’m sure one–if not both–Goblins will eventually return.

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Quote of the Week:

In honor of the holiday season, I’ve decided to give you kids not one, but three, Quotes of the Week–all from Ultimate Fantastic Four #49:

“Just past the crazy-looking monkey-ghost girl?”–Ben Grimm, when asking Reed where Sue’s transponder signal is coming from.

“My bad, Rutskaya.  I seem to have extinguished your baboon.”–Sue Storm.

“Making monkeys?  That’s the stupidest super-power I ever–“–Ben Grimm, facing off against Rutskaya…just before one of her apes shapeshifts.

Top 10 TV shows of 2007

Well, here we are…the final “Best of 2007” list that I’m going to be putting together for you guys (you’ll notice that there’s no “Best Music of 2007” list…that’s because I listen to very little music recorded after 1986). So, without any further ado, here are my picks for the 10 best shows of 2007.

1. How I Met Your Mother

Probably the funniest non-animated half-hour show on the air today. It’s like Friends…only funny. What does HIMYM have that others shows don’t? First, it has an awesome cast. Jason Segel, Alyson Hannigan, and Neil Patrick Harris are on fire each and every week. Josh Radnor and Cobie Smulders have only become watchable since their characters split (and, I might add, Smulders’ Robin has become at least three times hotter without being saddled with Radnor’s Ted). Second, HIMYM might be the reigning king of TV catch-phrases (thanks, in no small part, to Harris’ Barney). Not only did this show breathe new life into the waning classic “awesome”, but it also brought us “legendary” (and its endless hyphenated permutations) as well as “Slapsgiving”:

2. Eureka

Eureka is a throw-back to a simpler time in television. The premise is simple: U.S. Marshal Jack Carter finds himself transferred to a top-secret government-run town full of super-geniuses.

Each week, Sheriff Carter finds himself confronted with a new mystery, usually involving some kind of wacky, super-scientific invention created by a resident of the town or by Global Dynamics, the government think-tank at the heart of Eureka. If you want harmless fun with off-the-wall characters and “gee-whiz” sci-fi gadgets, then Eureka’s for you. It’s a mix of X-Files and Twin Peaks, starring the cast of Northern Exposure.

3. Heroes

Might as well get this out of the way, right? Everyone had Heroes fever in the first half of 2007, and with good reason. The freshman season of the show was one of the greatest television experiences I’ve had in recent years (I think the last show that I really, truly looked forward to each week as much as I did Heroes was Buffy). Rewatching the first season on DVD made me realize just how well the show was plotted and executed.

I’m the first person to admit that the second season stumbled out of the gate. The writers and producers came to their senses and did their best to make the last third of “Generations” (the title for the first half of Heroes second season) as exciting as the first season. I think they managed to pull it off, effectively preventing what could have been the largest crash and burn I’ve ever seen.

4. Big Bang Theory

I probably never would have looked at Big Bang Theory if it hadn’t been scheduled after HIMYM. I’m glad it was. If HIMYM is the funniest show on television, this is a close second. The premise is fairly simple: four highly intelligent, but ridiculously socially awkward guys are forced to interact in the real world when “hot girl” Penny moves into the apartment across the hall from physicists Leonard and Sheldon.

I’m usually less than thrilled by the ways that geeks, dorks, and nerds are portrayed in Hollywood. Too often I find that Hollywood geeks are just normal guys with floppy hair and glasses whose geek-cred doesn’t extend any further than the current best-selling video game (I’m lookin’ at you, Chuck!). Leonard, Sheldon, and their posse are true geeks. Many of their conversations and arguments sound like ones I’ve had with my friends at one point or another. Okay, maybe they take it a little too far from time to time…but, what do you expect, it’s television.

5. Drive

In the future, when scientists make a list of the television shows that were killed long before their time, two shows will be at the top: one of them is Firefly, and the other is Drive (both, ironically, starring Nathan Fillion…I hope he’s not the superstitious type).

Drive tells the story of an illegal, underground cross-country race where many of the participants are bullied, cajoled, or otherwise coerced into racing. Fillion’s Alex Tully, for example, is forced to join when his wife is kidnapped. Each week, contestants are given riddles that they must solve in order to make it to the next checkpoint. If it takes you too long to get to a checkpoint, you’re out of the race (don’t worry, sometimes the shadowy group running the race will give you a second chance if you agree to rob a bank or shoot someone in the face). It was probably envisioned as a mobile version of Lost, and I would have been down with that for two reasons: (1) Nathan Fillion and (2) Emma Stone.

6. Burn Notice

Burn Notice is to the action-adventure genre what Eureka is to sci-fi: an homage to a simpler time. Burn Notice would have fit nicely into NBC’s Friday or Saturday night schedule back in the ’80s. It’s the story of Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donnovan), a government agent who pisses off someone in power and gets fired (or “burned”, as the Feds call it). He ends up with no job and no money in Miami, where he does what anyone else would do in his situation: he uses his spy training to become a private detective. As if his life isn’t complicated enough, Michael also has to deal with an ex-girlfriend (Gabrielle Anwar) who used to run guns for the IRA, a buddy (Bruce Campbell) who’s informing on him, and his mother (Sharon Gless):

7. Doctor Who

This show has been around for about 79 years (well…maybe a little less), so if you have no interest in watching it, me telling you about it probably won’t have any effect. But, on the off chance that you’ve never heard of it before (and you like time travel, aliens, parallel dimensions, immortals, and British people), please check it out.

The Doctor is the last living Time Lord, a race of immortal aliens who have mastered time and space. He travels from planet to planet, from past to future, looking for adventures and helping those in need. Currently in his 10th incarnation (when a Time Lord is about to die, they can regenerate into a new person, making it easy to recast the ridiculously long-running BBC series), the Doctor travels with human companion, Martha Jones. I must admit that it took me a little bit to get into the third season, but I’m glad I did.

8. 30 Rock

I know that people say that bad things come in threes, but can’t good things come in threes, too? Along with How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory, 30 Rock is the most consistently funny show on TV. Alec Baldwin and Tracey Morgan are having so much fun being ridiculous that you can’t help but come along for the ride (one of the greatest moments of the year involves Baldwin, Morgan, therapy, and the spirits of half of the cast of Good Times). 30 Rock never shies away from the insanity that is Corporate America and the “Television business”, whether it’s Seinfeld-vision or product placement:

9. Bionic Woman

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you remember watching the original Bionic Woman, then you probably won’t like this 21st century reboot. However, if you enjoy mindless action shows, strong female characters, and Miguel Ferrer, then you probably would have enjoyed this:

Sadly, lackluster ratings and the WGA strike has pretty much killed Bionic Woman. Another fine program bites the dust, and American audiences are deprived of the gorgeous Michelle Ryan.

10. House

There are two kinds of shows that I really love: Procedurals and any show with a lead character who’s ridiculously intelligent but socially inept. House is both of those things. Hugh Laurie’s Dr. Gregory House is a rarity on American TV, a main character who is not a nice person. House is rude, arrogant, and borderline misogynistic. He’s also one hell of a doctor. Give him a mysterious illness and in about 52 minutes he’ll have it figured out.

This current season has gotten some bad press, but I think it’s as good as any of the previous three. I like the idea of House turning his search for three new assistants into something akin to a reality TV show (if we live in a time when Kid Nation is considered viable entertainment, then why not?). I like that Foreman (who quit last year because he was afraid of becoming “just like House”) is forced back to his old position because no other hospital wants him. Why? Well, it seems he’s just like House. The cast is just as good as always, including additions like Kal Penn and Olivia Wilde (whose “Thirteen” might as well have been named “Cameron Two-point-Oh”), although I confess that I will miss “Ridiculously Old Fraud” almost as much as House will.

Weekly Comic Review for 12/19/07

Angel: After the Fall #2 (Brian Lynch-writer, Franco Urru-artist)

Okay, I think the first thing that needs to be gotten out of the way is explaining what Gunn’s deal is.  Yes, he’s a vampire.  It seems that during the big battle at the end of the series finale, Gunn was jumped by a bunch of vamps and turned.  But, he fancies himself to be a “good” vampire.  In reality, unlike Angel and Spike (who have souls), Gunn probably isn’t good…just insane.  He’s taken it upon himself to destroy Angel as being a “pretender”, and to do that he’s rounding up and torturing as many demons as possible, including a rather wry giant-fish demon.

Elsewhere in L.A., Angel and Connor have a father-son reunion that isn’t nearly as awkward as Angel was expecting.  I was never a fan of Connor when he was on the show, at least not until he was erased from everyone’s memories and raised by a normal family.  But, Lynch actually makes the scrawny little bastard likable.  He’s completely non-plussed by the fact that Angel’s let L.A. fall into Hell.  Instead, Connor rolls with the punches and decides to help as many people as he can. 

Of course, the biggest scene in this month’s issue is the reveal of Spike.  Honestly, who doesn’t like Spike?  And Spike and Angel together is pure comedy gold.  They might be one of the greatest television pairings ever.  So, in After the Fall Spike’s managed to find himself in Beverly Hills (of all places), surrounded by a harem of scantily-clad human and demon women.  Spike entertains his bevy of beauties with tales from the “End of Days”, when he was the bravest of the brave and Angel was a blubbering ninny.  Pure Spike. 

Now, while all of this is going on, Angel finds himself drawn into investigating the murder of the demon lord that Gunn and his crew iced in the last issue.  It seems that this demon–one Kr’ph, by name–had in his possession some kind of mystical dingus called the Eye of Ramras.  Whoever killed Kr’ph (Gunn!) probably did it to get their hands on the Eye.  Furthermore, the crime scene is covered in a Primordial Sanskrit inscription written in blood, which only points to one being: Illyria.

Are Gunn and Illyria working together?  That would make an interesting kind of sense.  Gunn and Fred used to be an item.  It would make sense that the demon now controlling Gunn’s body would hook up with the demon now controlling Fred’s body.  If only the real world was so logical.

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Batman and the Outsiders #3 (Chuck Dixon-writer, Julian Lopez-artist)

I like Chuck Dixon.  I think, for the most part, he does amazing work, especially in Bat-books.  What he obviously can’t do is handle homosexual relationships.  Sure, Dixon’s gone on the record speaking out against “gay themes” in comic books.  Why, oh why, then did Chuck agree to write a book with two lesbian main characters?  The “relationship” scene between Thunder and Grace is the most awkward, uncomfortable thing I’ve ever read–although Dixon does get credit for injecting a jolt of heterosexuality into the scene in the guise of a naked, fresh-from-the-shower Cassie Cain.  Dixon also loses a few points for pulling a McDuffie (ie: making an intelligent, college-educated Black Lightning spout pseudo-Ebonics jive-talk during a battle.  Boo, Chuck Dixon.  Boo.)

The bulk of this issue deals with the Justice League crashing Bruce’s covert party and trying to shut him down.  It’s funny hearing some super-powered so-and-so telling Bruce that he’s trying to handle something that’s too big for him.  He’s Batman, dip-shit.  Nothing’s “too big” for him to handle.  He stopped an army of White Martians with a book of matches.  He created fail-safes to disable the most powerful members of the League if they ever went rogue.  If there’s anyone on the planet who can stop Brother Eye and the O.M.A.C.s, it’s Bruce.

Now, a brief discussion on comic book covers.  Most covers do a fairly good job of telling you what’s going to happen inside.  Every now and then, a cover appears on the stands that blatantly lies to you, displaying a scene, character, or incident that does not appear anywhere in that issue.  The cover of this issue of Batman and the Outsiders kind of falls into the latter category.  It shows the Outsiders throwing down with the Justice League.  Did this happen?  Yeah.  Did it happen as the cover leads you to believe?  No.  Finally, roughly half of the characters on the cover do not even appear in the scene being depicted. 

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Catwoman #74 (Will Pfeifer-writer, David Lopez-artist)

Well, we finally find out who that weird-o leather dude at the end of the last issue is.  He’s some dude calling himself “The Thief.”  He’s taking advantage of the sudden vacuum in Gotham’s criminal landscape to try and make a name for himself (but, to be honest, isn’t everyone these days?).  He’s fairly low-key and low-tech.  He’s not as flashy as some of the crazier denizens of Gotham’s underworld.  And, he wants Catwoman off the streets. 

After everything that “The Thief” and Calculator did to Selina, our girl has absolutely nothing left to lose, so she goes old School Catwoman on their asses.  She reverts back to her shorter hairstyle.  She finds a spare cat-suit in one of the safe-houses that Holly was using during her year as Catwoman.  I’m not sure how I feel about sending Selina down a darker road. 

Catwoman’s always been an interesting character, especially in the Bat-books.  She wasn’t insanely evil, nor was she super-noble.  She was the quintessential rogue, always out for herself.  That’s what made her, and her relationship with Bruce, so interesting.  One month, they’re working side-by-side on a case, practically choking on the sexual tension; the next month, they’re at each other’s throats, actually choking on the sexual tension.  What happens if they make Selina a real criminal again?  (This seems a real possibility, since the Suicide Squad shows up at the end of this issue to haul Selina off to Salvation Run.)

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Countdown to Final Crisis 19 (Paul Dini & Adam Beechen-writers, Jesus Saiz-artist)

If there was one thing this week that was close to the awkwardness I felt reading a Chuck Dixon homosexual scene, it was reading a scene where Jimmy Olsen makes out with a giant humanoid bug.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for freaky alien make-out sessions (I grew up watching Star Trek, okay, so sue me), but bug-girls?  I think I might draw the line at that one.  And, speaking of Jimmy Olsen, the little ginger bastard seems to have become a vessel for the Source.  Basically, Jimmy’s become a human Mother Box.  This could explain his powers.  This could explain why the dead New Gods aren’t returning to the Source Wall.  And, this could explain why Darkseid is so interested in Mr. Olsen.

Meanwhile, back on planet Earth (er…or should I say “New Earth”?), Pied Piper is dragging Trickster’s lifeless corpse through the desert.  Not only are they still chained together by Deadshot’s booby-trapped handcuffs, but poor Piper’s hallucinating that Trickster’s still talking to him.  The more time that Piper spends lugging Trickster’s decaying remains through the western half of the U.S., the more it seems that Trickster might be dead for real.

Halfway around the globe, Holly and Harley stumble upon a cave filled to the brim with ancient Amazonian weapons…not to mention an honest to gods Amazonian Queen.  Hippolyta explains that the Athena in charge of the Athenian Women’s Shelter is not the real Athena.  Furthermore, she charges them with going undercover and being her eyes and ears on Paradise Island.  Is DC heading for an all-out showdown between the New Gods and the Greek Gods?  That could be interesting.

Bob and the Challengers arrive on Earth-51, an idyllic version of Earth with no crime, poverty, or secret identities.  Bob is more or less certain that Ray Palmer is on this Earth.  It would make sense that Ray, after what happened to him during the Identity Crisis arc, would seek shelter on an Earth where heroes no longer had to hide behind secret identities.  It should also be noted that, given the number of Earths in the new Multiverse, Ray chose the next to the last Earth to hide on.

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Detective Comics #839 (Paul Dini-writer, Ryan Benjamin with Don Kramer-artists)

The final part of the “Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” and I’m not sure how I feel about it.  Yes, there were stunning moments: learning that Ra’s al Ghul’s sycophantic, albino henchman, the White Ghost, is actually his son, Dusan; watching Bruce swing into action, ordering Ra’s to “Get the hell away from my son!” was cool; Bruce telling Talia that he expects Damian to stand and fight at his side, just like his other sons. 

Now, if there were stunning moments, there also had to be less-than-stunning moments.  The biggest let-down, for me anyway, was the nebulous conclusion.  After Bruce’s team and Ra’s al Ghul’s League of Assassins beat the ever-living crap out of each other, Rama Kushna declares that they must all leave Nanda Parbat forever.  So, in a scene similar to the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Bruce leads his team (minus Damian, who was cold-cocked and spirited away from danger by Talia) out of the sacred city, leaving Ra’s (now in the body of his son, Dusan) seemingly buried under rubble.  Is Ra’s alive or dead?  Does it even matter?  If he’s still active, will Ra’s go back to being Bruce’s greatest adversary, or will DC trot him out every few months until we’re all sick of him?

I do give this issue of Detective Comics high marks for ending with a scene where we see Bruce, Dick, Tim, and Alfred on the private Wayne jet, presumably heading home, enjoying hot cocoa and wishing each other a Merry Christmas.  It’s almost like Dini tore a page out of a Carl Barks Scrooge McDuck comic, which is always okay with me.

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Justice League of America #16 (Dwayne McDuffie-writer, Joe Benitez-artist)

This issue might be the nail in the coffin for JLA for the time being.  I hate to abandon the book, but I really have no interest in seeing what McDuffie is doing on this book.  I was certainly willing to give McDuffie the benefit of the doubt for a few issues (even though the Injustice Legion of Super-Doom Gang was pretty lame), but when I read this issue and saw that he was referencing DC’s Tangent Universe, I damn near almost crapped myself.  I’ve gone on record as being a fan of DC’s new Multiverse (which includes the Tangent Universe), but I wasn’t expecting to have to deal with refugees from some of DC’s lesser universes so soon.  Honestly, McDuffie, why couldn’t you have the Charleton characters from Earth-4 show up instead?  Now that would have been interesting!

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Metamorpho: Year One #6 (Dan Jurgens-writer, Mike Norton-artist)

I almost wish that this issue was really the third or fourth in the Year One story of Metamorpho, the Element Man.  This issue was a goofy throw-back to the days of rollicking ’60s comics. 

Rex, Stagg, Sapphire, and Java are on Stagg’s private jet (everyone in the DC Universe seems to have one of those) giving an interview to Clark Kent, when the jet is mysteriously drawn to an uncharted isle (and not a Billionaire or Movie Star in sight).  The group is soon attacked by Goldface (yeah, you heard me), who offers to cure Rex in return for Rex using his Metamorpho powers to help Goldface attain godhood.  Pretty standard super-villain stuff, really.  What really makes this issue stand out is how it suddenly takes a weird turn and becomes an episode of Scooby-Doo.  You see, it isn’t really Goldface on the island.  The Justice League set the whole thing up to test Rex and offer him membership in the JLA–all of Goldface’s “powers” were just Clark, Barry, and Ray taking turns masquerading as Goldface.  Who knew the League had such a wacky sense of humor?

In the end, Rex declines.  He can’t bring himself to stand next to folks like Superman and Batman looking like a freak (although given the twisted sense of humor that members of the JLA seem to have, maybe they’re the freaks and not Rex).  Rex opts to try and live a normal life, hoping for the day that he finds a cure and can be with Sapphire again.  In the meantime, even though he’s not going to actively pursue super-heroing, Rex vows to help anyone in need that he comes across.

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Ultimate X-Men #89 (Robert Kirkman-writer, Salvador Larroca-artist)

This issue is for all of you Storm fans out there.  Hope you both enjoyed it.  Okay, that was mean and uncalled for.  Honestly, this was a pretty good issue.  Kirkman explores a little more of Storm’s past, while also examining her present.

Before she was approached by Xavier (well, technically she was approached by that hot little Jean Grey telepathically posing as a Fed, but why nit-pick?), Storm led a less-than-law-abiding existence.  In the Ultimate Universe, Storm is friends with Yuriko (who will one day become Lady Deathstrike).  She was also friends (and lovers) with Amahl Farouk, a.k.a. The Shadow King.  During a particularly intense moment, Farouk is struck by a stray lightning bolt and falls into a coma.  While he’s comatose, Farouk’s telepathic powers increase, becoming the Shadow King.  He returns later (possibly telepathically summoned by Storm’s subconscious mind as she wrote a story called, of all things, The Shadow King) and totally messes with Storm’s head–he even brings along the Brood, who in this universe are not aliens, but residents of something called the Mindscape.

All of this is going on while Storm has to decide between old boyfriend Hank McCoy and bad boy Logan.  Storm realizes that she’s always had a thing for the bad boys, and wants to turn over a new leaf.  It doesn’t hurt that she noticed Logan’s interest in her didn’t peak until Hank returned from the dead.

The art in this issue might not have been the best–it was actually a bit confusing from time to time–but Kirkman’s script was solid, providing a stand-alone, character-driven story. 

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Quote of the Week:

“Immortality is overrated.  I finally figured that out.”–Nightwing in Detective Comics #839.

5 movies that earned their 11 bucks in 2007

2007 was the first year in a while when I was able to see almost all of the movies that I wanted to see in the theaters (Netflix is a horrible enabler for those who enjoy sloth).  I enjoyed most, if not all, of them–Fantastic Four 2 was good until the last two minutes; Spider-man 3 was fun despite the scene where Peter Parker suddenly transforms into an emo, jazz-dancing lesbian; Live Free or Die Hard was awesome even though it was rated PG-13; and, although it might not have been the movie I would have made, I enjoyed Transformers.  But, none of these movies truly earned the 11 bucks that I had to shell out for a few hours of mindless entertainment.  What follows are five movies that, for various reasons, truly earned the money I spent to see them.

1. Zodiac

What could be better than a movie about a serial killer?  How about a movie about a real serial killer.  Add a cast that’s a delightful mix of Faces (Robert Downey, Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal, and Mark Ruffalo) and That Guys (Anthony Edwards, Elias Koteas, Charles Fleischer, Donal Logue, and Brian Cox) and put them all into the capable hands of the guy who directed Fight Club and Seven.

I’m a fan of procedurals…straight-forward narratives about men and women doing their jobs.  Zodiac is two and a half hours of men and women doing their jobs, frequently obsessively so.

2. Grindhouse

Who wouldn’t be willing to pay $11 to see two full-length features and a bunch of goofy fake trailers?  Apparently, a lot of people.  But, as a friend of mine pointed out: most people are just afraid of awesome. 

Just look at that.  It’s got it all.  Even fake trailers:

Now, it’s inevitable that anyone who saw Grindhouse prefers one of the features over the other.  Personally, I like the gore-soaked, zombie-fest Planet Terror over the more psychological thriller that is Death Proof (although Kurt Russell kicked seven kinds of ass in that one and Mary Elizabeth Winstead stands around in a cheerleader uniform).  But, you need to see them both, back-to-back, to get the real Grindhouse experience.  That’s why it’s really sad that Dimension released them on separate DVDs.  I’m holding out hope that we’ll get some kind of special edition collector’s something or other…so I can experience Grindhouse again, the way you’re supposed to.

3. Superbad

Possibly one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen (which I know is a very bold statement). 

Most people I know agree with me; those who don’t usually fall into one of two camps: those who thought it was too juvenile and those who didn’t think it was juvenile enough.  Is it juvenile?  Yeah, absolutely.  But, what it has that other dick-and-fart movies don’t have is heart.  I liked American Pie and the Trip series (y’know, Road and Euro), but I never got the feeling that the characters liked each other very much.  But Evan and Seth are friends.  They care about one another.  They might not show it unless they’re wasted, but it’s there.  And who doesn’t like McLovin?

4. 3:10 to Yuma

Maybe it’s just me, but I find westerns (real westerns, not the P.C., namby-pamby Dances with Wolves crap) highly satisfying.  Maybe I like them because there’s nothing more American than a western.  Maybe it’s because like the procedural, there’s very little room for debate in a western: you know what you have to do and you do it.  Or it could be that I just loved Russell Crowe and his hat:

Whatever the reason, I walked out of this movie extremely satisfied.  Christian Bale and Crowe were awesome, as always.  Ben Foster was fucking insane.  Alan Tudyk was goofy.  It was everything I could have hoped for.  Plus there were horses, trains, and shoot-outs.

5. The Simpsons

You run a huge risk when you try to transform a television show into a movie.  It doesn’t always work (I’m lookin’ at you, X-Files).  But, sometimes it does:

The folks behind The Simpsons gave fans exactly what they wanted: essentially three very good episodes of the TV show.  They didn’t try to reinvent the wheel.  They simply used what’s worked on the show for the last 47 years.  The feature film weaves the three usual television plots into one arc–you have the “Family Dynamic” plot, where one or more members of the Simpson family messes up and has to earn the forgiveness of their kin; there’s the “Simpsons on the Road” plot, where circumstances force the family out of Springfield to some other location (in this case, it’s Alaska); and there’s the “Townspeople Go Ape-shit” plot, which pretty much speaks for itself.

The only way this could have been a better movie is if Sideshow Bob, Kang and Kodos were in it.

Is there anything he can't do?

Weekly Comic Review for 12/12/07

Astounding Wolf-Man #4 (Robert Kirkman-writer, Jason Howard-artist) 

Again, Kirkman is a writer whose best work is done with his own creations.  Although I have not loved everything he’s done in Ultimate X-Men, I really dig this book.  It’s about a werewolf super-hero, what’s not to love?

Gary, our lycanthrope avenger, has had it rough.  He gets attacked by a wolf on a family camping trip, learns that he’s a werewolf, and then looses his business and stately manor.  This issue finds his family relocated to a secret lair underneath a strip mall.  It’s a pretty funny way to have a hero reveal his identity to his family: “Hey, we lost our fancy mansion, but I happen to have this top-secret super-hero hideout that we can all live in.  Oh, and I brought the butler along, too.” 

Issue #4 also brings Gary, a.k.a the Astounding Wolf-Man, snout to snout with a clan of werewolves.  These ‘wolves are out for the blood of Gary’s vampire mentor, Zechariah, who they say murdered and fed upon one of their pups.  Zechariah doesn’t deny this, but Gary still fakes his death for the benefit of the pack’s thirst for retribution.  It’s nice that Gary’s so faithful to his mentor, although one could argue that Zechariah doesn’t really deserve it.  See, Gary’s on someone’s shit-list for killing beloved hero Sergeant Superior.  Yes, there’s footage of a momentarily berserk Wolf-Man punching his claws right through the good Sergeant…but, what no one seems to realize is that Zechariah’s been keeping Superior prisoner and repeatedly feeding off of the dude. 

This series frequently leaves me wanting to know more.  Is Zechariah just an evil, two-faced bastard?  What’s the deal with the shadowy agency sending Sergeant Superior’s former teammates after Gary?  Will Gary ever have to answer for the trick he pulled on the other werewolves?  If Kirkman can answer these questions and throw more at me, this series might have legs.  If, however, he just piles on the mysteries without offering the slightest bit of pay-off…well, I stopped watching Lost for the exact same reason.

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Booster Gold #5 (Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz-writers, Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund-artists)

In this issue of Booster Gold, our Quantum Leap-ing hero learns an important lesson that all time travellers must learn sooner or later: some things are just destined to be.  Rip Hunter sends Booster and Skeets back to the time of The Killing Joke to prevent the Joker from shooting and paralyzing Barbara Gordon.  What Rip doesn’t tell Booster is that Babs is destined to be shot, crippled, and to become Oracle.  Rip’s motives are pure (and important), although his methods are cruel and more than a little sadistic.  Booster fails his first attempt, watches Mr. J. shoot Babs and then gets the the ever-loving crap kicked out of him by the Clown Prince.  But, Booster isn’t going to give up just yet.  He tries again.  And again.  And again.  Each time, he watches Barbara Gordon get shot.  Each time, the Joker pounds him into hamburger.  But, each time, Booster elects to try again. 

Finally, Rip reveals his subterfuge.  He tells Booster that he needed to learn that certain things are supposed to happen, and that the death of Booster’s friend, Ted Kord, is one of those things.  Booster is understandably pissed.  Not only has he suffered severe physical trauma from repeated poundings by the Joker, but he had to watch over and over again as the Joker shoots Barbara Gordon.  And why?  Just because Rip wanted to “teach him a lesson.”  Like I said, Rip’s a bit of a sadist (he actually has a set of the Marquis de Sade’s torture tools in his headquarters, which he uses to interrogate rogue time traveller Rex Hunter.

Booster Gold #5 wasn’t a total exercise in sadism, there were a few standard comic moments.  We find out that three of the villains making up this series’ collective “Big Bad” are Ultra-Humanite, Despero, and Per Degaton (yeah…I had to look him up, too)–we meet them for the first time as they stand over Rex Hunter’s crib and kill him before he can grow to adulthood and fail in his mission.  We also learn that there’s something big on the horizon for the space-time continuum, and that it involves various incarnations of Blue Beetle.  Three Beetles (including original BB Dan Garrett and current BB Jaime Reyes) arrive in Rip’s time lab and tells Booster that they need his help saving Ted Kord and, therefore, all of existence.  Oh…and speaking of Rip’s time lab, it seems the crazy ol’ time traveller’s been busy scribbling on his chalkboard again: new questions involve someone (or something) called Gog, a traitor in “the League” whose identity is known to “the vigilante”, a pair of ghost detectives, a second lightning saga, and the number 3008.  It would be cool if Booster Gold stays around for a while and DC uses it to hint at upcoming storylines and plot points.

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B.P.R.D.: Killing Ground #5 of 5 (Mike Mignola-writer, John Arcudi-artist)

If you all were hoping for a clean conclusion to this B.P.R.D. mini-series, then I’m sorry to disappoint you.  This final issue leaves a lot of things unresolved (and the next mini-series won’t hit until June of 2008), but it does answer a few questions about that delightfully cranky Ben Daimio.

Yes, Daimio did turn into a giant monster.  Yes, he did kill a bunch of guys, including Johann Kraus’ new body.  But, y’see, it really wasn’t his fault.  Daimio’s been possessed by a jaguar-demon since a failed mission to Bolivia about 6 years ago.  He’s tried to keep this beast in check with the help of that wrinkly little Chinese dude.  He might have continued to succeed if not for Torgo showing up.  Torgo is actually Manuel Antonio Chavez, a former Marine in Daimio’s unit.  He was there in Bolivia and survived, although he had become mute.  He also learned about the curse that had befallen many of his former comrades and had been given the means to release them from their curse.  That’s what brought him to B.P.R.D. HQ.

Daimio, unfortunately, has managed to escape from the complex and runs off into the night.  He’s last seen (in human form) face-to-face with the Wendigo.  What’s happening?  Is he going to join forces with the Wendigo?  Is he going to kill it?  Does he hope this creature might provide a means for him to keep his jaguar-demon in check?  I hope it’s the third one.  The B.P.R.D. doesn’t have a lycanthropic agent…Daimio could change that.

On the ectoplasmic side of things, Johann is understandably pissed that his new body was mangled and he’s forced to return to life in his containment suit.  Almost nothing is mentioned about the Lobster Johnson extravaganza from the last issue, other than Kate saying that Liz is a lot happier now than she’s been in a long time.  And, poor Johann is so despondent that, when he converses with the ghosts of Chavez and the Chinese dude, his ghost form first takes the form of his recently perished body and slowly returns to his normal appearance.  Using this gradual transformation to show how Johann may be slowly learning to accept the way things are now was a nice touch.

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Countdown to Final Crisis 20 (Paul Dini & Adam Beechen-writers, Howard Porter-artist)

It seems that every few weeks I start to feel as though this series isn’t really going anywhere, then there will be an issue or two with a handful of really cool, “Oh Shit” moments, and then the next few issues will fall flat again.  The issue where Superman(boy)-Prime tortured Mxyzptlk was pretty cool.  Seeing Batman Beyond in the last issue was kind of an awesome moment for me.  But, now I feel like the wheels are spinning again just to fill up 52 issues.

Case in point: why is Brother Eye all jazzed about Bludhaven?  Eye arrives and immediately begins constructing a nice little lair for itself out of the rubble and remains of the obliterated city.  I understand the connection between Brother Eye, the O.M.A.C.s, and the Command-D bunker under Bludhaven…but it feels like a chicken-and-egg situation here, where Dini and Company just send Brother Eye to Bludhaven for the sake of connecting the present-day DCU with the post-apocalyptic world of Kamandi.

Oh…and speaking of apocalyptic shit: on Apokolips, Jimmy Olsen emerges from a fire-pit as a weird green things with claws and golden circuitry all over his body.  He refers to himself as being like a turtle (hello Giant Turtle Boy!), although he doesn’t look anything like a turtle to me.  But, he does find and rescue Forager, who promptly attacks him and shouts “JIMMY OLSEN MUST DIE!!”, which seems to add a bit of weight to my theory that Jimmy’s powers stem from the souls of the dead New Gods residing within him (and, therefore, killing Jimmy would allow these souls to return to the Source Wall where they belong).

And what of poor, lost, confused Mary Marvel, you ask?  Well, despite realizing that Eclipso’s been using her just like everyone else, poor Mary isn’t powerful enough to defeat her former mentor.  Eclipso flies off, leaving our girl floating unconscious in deep space.  My question for Mr. Dini is this: has Mary finally suffered enough?  Has she learned her lesson, or will you continue to lead her down this dark path?  I think Mary knows she’s a bit messed-up and is ready to come in from the cold and take up the white-and-gold again.

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Gen13 #15 (Simon Oliver-writer, Carlo Barberi-artist)

The kids are still in NYC, and most of them seem to be having a ball.  Bobby and Sarah are mere steps away from gettin’ some.  Roxy’s about to become the new “it” girl in fashion.  And, as long as he doesn’t end up in jail, Eddie seems to be enjoying his time with a gang of street artists.  Of course, level-headed Caitlin isn’t sure everything is as rosy as it seems, especially when she realizes that she’s being followed. 

This issue expands a little bit on the “15 Minutes” initiative mentioned in the previous issue.  It seems that Tabula Rasa is going back to basics where the kids of Gen13 are concerned.  Remember, they were originally created as a form of internet snuff-film entertainment.  Well, now it seems as though Tabula Rasa is using them in some kind of weird super-powered Real World–and, what better way to make sure these kids stay in their wired Truman Show environment than giving them everything they could possibly want?

One of the reasons I first picked up the Gen13 reboot was that it was written by Gail Simone.  I was a bit nervous when I saw that her name was no longer on the cover, but Simon Oliver does an admirable job stepping up to the plate.

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Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus #4 of 5 (Mike Mignola-writer, Jason Armstrong-artist)

If you had any doubts that this is a Mignola book, this issue should put them to rest.  Lobster Johnson #4 includes not one, but two monkeys…and, if there’s anything that says “Mignola” more than monkey, I don’t know what it is (okay, okay, “Hellboy” or “B.P.R.D.” probably does…so sue me).

Yes, this issue reveals that the “Yellow Menace” wants to form an army of 369 dragon warriors to help him conquer the entire planet.  Yes, this issue saw the resurrection of Jim as a Vril-powered Atomic Skull-like dynamo who burns the fuck out of the bad guys almost as well as the Ark of the Covenant.   And, yes, it ends with Lobster Johnson getting cold-cocked and kidnapped by Nazis.  But, what I’ve decided is more important than all of that (and, maybe, more important than the monkeys) is how awesome Lobster Johnson’s faithful team of operatives are. 

Mignola and Armstrong give Lobster a team of delightful 30s-era cliches.  There’s the big bruiser who could be a construction or dock worker in his spare time.  There’s the bespectacled intellectual who’s more comfortable with a HAM radio set than he is fighting mutant monkeys.  And, there’s the rail-thin, well-dressed chap who could have joined Eliot Ness and his Untouchables.  These archetypes are familiar to anyone who has read old pulp magazines or seen movies like The Shadowand Mignola keeps them fresh without trying to reinvent the wheel.

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Nightwing #139 (Fabian Nicieza-writer, Don Kramer & Carlos Rodriguez-artists)

This issue of Nightwing is the penultimate chapter of the 7-part “The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” crossover.  Although it ends with a bang–Dick, Tim, Alfred, and Talia arrive at Nanda Parbat just in time to see a triumphant Ra’s holding his grandson Damian by the throat–the meat of the issue (and its strength) deals with Nightwing and Robin facing off.

The cover of this issue states, in bold letters, that Nightwing #139 features “BROTHER VS. BROTHER.”  Yes, Tim and Dick do fight, but the key word here isn’t “VS” but “BROTHER.”  I’ve said this before, Tim and Dick are the perfect brotherly pair.  That’s why I love whenever the Bat-team gets to work together.  The chemistry between Bruce’s older son and his younger son is one of the most enjoyable in comics (that, of course, makes Jason Todd the middle child with all of the emotional problems that goes with it).  Dick’s trying to show Tim that using the Lazarus Pit to try and bring back the loved-ones he’s lost over the last year and a half is not a good idea.  He knows Tim’s hurting and he understands (hell, almost everyone who works for Bruce has lost someone at some point in their lives), but he also knows it’s a BAD idea.  Sure, they fight a bit–and I wonder if Dick was seriously pulling his punches (Tim might be smarter, but I think Dick’s the better fighter)–but Dick eventually lets Tim make his own decision because he knows his “little brother” will make the right choice.  That’s family, kids.

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Quote(s) of the Week:

“Me and fat ladies don’t mix.”

“Not unless alcohol is involved.”–Booster Gold and Skeets (respectively) in Booster Gold #5.

Funny to see where the real power lies

In its continuing coverage of the WGA strike, The New York Times has printed a list of past strikes in the entertainment industry, including how long they lasted. It’s funny that most of the strikes went on for weeks or months…except one:

1988: Writers strike, five months.
1987: Directors strike, three hours and five minutes.
1985: Writers strike, two weeks.
1981: Writers strike, three months.
1980: Actors strike, three months.
1960: Actors strike, six weeks.
1952: Actors strike, two and a half months.