Tag Archives: comics

Top 10 Comics of 2011

I haven’t really read a single issue of a comic in over a year. But, I do love me some collected trades. Here’s a list of my favorites from the last year. (Note: Not all of these were actually published in 2011.)

1. Locke & Key, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

  

I read the first three trades–Welcome to Lovecraft, Head Games, and Crown of Shadows–and, aside from a rather brutal beginning to the first trade, these were pretty darn good. The series is about a family shattered by tragedy, who return to the patriarch’s family home…a mansion in New England with a spooky and mysterious past. Oh, and there are keys: magic keys that possess all sorts of weird powers.

2. Red Robin: The Hit List, by Fabian Nicieza, Marcus To, and Ray McCarthy

I was a little annoyed when DC decided to turn former Robin Tim Drake into Red Robin. Thankfully, Red Robin was one of the best books that DC published in the last few years. This third trade continues the story of Tim Drake trying to find his identity as a former sidekick, and includes a city-wide throwdown between Tim and new Robin Damian Wayne.

3. Atomic Robo: Atomic Robo and the Fightin’ Scientists of Tesladyne, by Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener, Ronda Pattison, and Jeff Powell

As a fan of Hellboy, I shouldn’t be surprised that I fell in love with Atomic Robo. This isn’t to say that the two series are completely identical, although both feature main characters who are one-of-a-kind monster-stompers. But, where HB is taciturn and occasionally broody, Robo is much more flippant. The tone of the books are different, as well: Atomic-Robo being much more ’50s sci-fi whiz-bang to Hellboy‘s gothic vibe.

4. The Amazing Spider-Man: Big Time, by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos

This is probably the best Spider-Man story that I’ve read in years. There was a huge backlash among fans when Marvel decided to “unmarry” Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson (but, when isn’t there backlash among fans?). Now, while I may not agree with how it was done, I loved the result. I like a single Peter Parker. I like watching him struggle and fumble around women. And, giving Peter a job in an R&D think tank was a stroke of genius. Big Time, indeed.

5. Batgirl: The Flood and Batgirl: The Lesson, by Bryan Q. Miller, Phil Noto, Cully Hamner, Lee Garbett, Pere Perez, and Dustin Nguyen

 

Batgirl was the best comic published in the last few years. The. Best. It was fun and funny. It didn’t skimp on action or thrills. And it featured a hero who actually enjoyed what she did. Stephanie Brown may no longer be Batgirl in the current DC Universe, but she’ll always be one of my favorite characters.

6. Sixth Gun: Cold Dead Fingers and Sixth Gun: Crossroads, by Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, and Bill Crabtree

 

Cowboys. Undead Civil War soldiers. Witches. Demons. Voodoo spirits. Gunslingers. Cursed six-shooters. Need I say more?

7. Thor: The Mighty Avenger, by Roger Langridge, Chris Samnee, and Matthew Wilson

 

If you were a fan of the recent Thor movie, these two trades might be for you. Thor: The Mighty Avenger is a fun series that doesn’t concern itself with the often impenetrable decades-long continuity of the Marvel Universe.

8. Young Allies, by Sean McKeever and David Baldeon

The Marvel Universe was a dark place for a while: heroes fighting heroes, alien invasions, Norman Osborn put in charge of the defense of the country. Young Allies was part of Marvel’s “Heroic Age” initiative, a period of rebuilding after the heroes toppled Osborn’s regime. Featuring three awesome characters–Firestar, Spider-Girl, and Nomad–this series got off to a rocky start and was unfortunately cancelled after a handful of issues.

9. Superman: Secret Origin, by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, and Jon Sibal

Prior to DC’s big New 52 relaunch, this was to be “the” Superman origin for the modern age of DC Comics. It reconciles both the numerous Crises that have occurred in the DC Universe, as well as giving a slight nod of the head to Smallville. People always want to know about “jumping on points” for comics and, while I’m not sure if this qualifies, it is a nice, self-contained Superman story that hits upon every chapter in Clark Kent’s life, from farm boy, to reporter, to Man of Steel.

10. Spider-Girl: Family Values, by Paul Tobin, Clayton Henry, and Sergio Cariello

If I needed to find a Marvel companion for Batgirl, it would have been Spider-Girl. Like Stephanie Brown, Anya Corazon isn’t overburdened by grief or angst (although her life has been far from easy, and this short-lived series only added to her troubles). Spider-Girl does what she does because it’s the right thing to do, and she enjoys helping the helpless. Also: you gotta love the way Tobin replaced traditional comic book narration with Spider-Girl’s tweets.

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In Defense of Peter Parker

Peter Parker gets no respect.

This should come as no surprise to people who are familiar with Spider-Man and his alter ego–whether it’s the original Marvel comics, Sam Raimi’s blockbuster trilogy, or the myriad of animated series that have popped up on television from time to time. In every iteration, Peter’s constantly having problems with bullies, bosses, and potential paramours. So, yes, within the fictional world of the Marvel Universe, Peter Parker gets no respect. However, I was somewhat shocked to find out that poor Pete doesn’t get much respect among comic fans, either.

Maybe it’s just the inevitable backlash from almost fifty years of marketing Peter Parker as the “everyman” of the Marvel Universe. I get that comic fans might be turned off by the notion that the publisher equates them with a socially awkward, pathetic mess. I understand why a reader would rather identify with someone flashy like Tony Stark, take-charge like Hal Jordan, or majestic like Wonder Woman. I’ve heard people say things along the lines of “Marvel thinks that Peter Parker reflects who their readers are, well that’s not me.” I understand. I do.

I’ll get the obvious projection-y stuff out of the way. When Spider-Man first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15, Peter Parker was a shy teenager who was more comfortable with his chemistry set than he was with his classmates. The powers he gained from the bite of that radioactive spider not only allowed Peter to swing through the concrete canyons of New York City fighting crime, but they also gave him a boost in confidence, especially while in costume. Out of his mask and booties (yes, he calls them “booties”…what would you call them?), Peter still retained a bit of the shy, socially awkward science geek that he had been in high school. Confession Warning! Yes, I was the shy, quiet kid. I was the kid who got good grades but was (was?) always too shy to ask a girl out. And, like Peter, I was a closet smart-ass. So, on the most basic level, I identify with who Peter Parker is as a person. But, the reason I respect him has more to do with the oft-repeated power-and-responsibility shtick.

Yes, Peter’s life is crap, but it’s crap because he willingly sacrifices the private side of his life to help others. I think this is a very important part of who Peter Parker is, even if it often gets overshadowed by “Uh-oh…Peter’s late with the rent again” and “Oops, Peter missed his date with MJ.” But, these unfortunate things don’t just happen to Peter, he makes the conscious decision to put his life on hold for others. Guys like Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark have an army of employees to handle the day-to-day business of running their multi-million dollar corporations while they’re off fighting crime. Clark Kent can fly to Tokyo, pound a giant killer robot into a pile of used pinball machine parts and still have time to finish that article for the evening edition (and meet Lois for dinner–guess they don’t call him Superman for nothing). But Peter Parker? He can’t do it all. He has to choose. He has to make sacrifices. He has to decide what’s more important: his social life or saving complete strangers from a burning building. And, almost without fail, he’ll choose the latter.

Responsibility.

I don’t know about you, but I wish I had that kind of compassion, that kind of unwavering dedication to total strangers. For that reason, more than any other, I respect Peter Benjamin Parker.

I Got My Hands on a Cosmic Cube and Look What Happened…

Ever since I wrote about how I’d have handled the big DC Comics relaunch/reboot/whatever, I’ve been thinking about what I would do with Marvel titles in a similar situation. I had a much harder time with Marvel than I did with DC—partly, I think, because many of DC’s characters can be boiled down into very iconic (ugh, I hate that word) representations, while Marvel characters tend to be more layered. I don’t know.

Anyway, I thought the best way to approach this was to roll the clock back and just start at the beginning. The Fantastic Four has just gone public with the accident that gave them their powers; the Avengers have assembled for the first time; no one on Earth knows what the holy hell a mutant is.

 

The Amazing Spider-Man

Peter Parker is a freshman at Empire State University. He’s been swinging through the concrete canyons of Manhattan for almost two years, but that doesn’t make it any easier. How will Peter juggle his classes, his job at The Daily Bugle, and being everyone’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man? As always, Peter has the love and support of his Aunt May and his two high school friends Harry Osborn and Mary Jane Watson. Of course things get even more complicated when Peter meets Gwen Stacy and Spider-Man meets the beguiling Black Cat.

The Spectacular Spider-Girl

For two years, teenager Anya Corazon has heard stories about Spider-Man. Inspired by his example, Anya trains herself in gymnastics and martial arts and, making a costume for herself, becomes the Spectacular Spider-Girl. Anya knows she’s really made it when a mysterious benefactor leaves her a new costume and spider-gear, contained in a package of webbing.

Spider-Woman

Jessica Drew, a top agent with SHIELD, was hand-selected to take part in a top secret experiment to recreate the powers and abilities of New York’s famous wall-crawler. Although the results were not what SHIELD expected, Drew became SHIELD’s first super-powered agent, Spider-Woman.

Daredevil: The Man Without Fear

Leaping from rooftop to rooftop, Daredevil is the scarlet-clad protector of New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen. Whether you’re a costumed criminal, a gangster, or a common thug, every crook in the Kitchen knows to beware of the Man Without Fear. And, let’s be honest, anyone who calls themselves Daredevil is not some emo, broody wanker. Or shouldn’t be, at least.

The Punisher

There are enough costumed heroes in the world to deal with the would-be conquerors and the alien menaces, but what about those who suffer at the hands of common, everyday criminals? That’s where Frank Castle, the Punisher, comes in. Frank Castle was an ex-Marine who lost his wife and kids to gangland violence. Using his military training, Castle becomes the Punisher and uses whatever means necessary to clean up the mean streets of New York City.

Black Panther

T’Challa is the exiled prince of Wakanda, forced to leave his people behind when his father’s wicked advisers usurped the throne. Trained as the Black Panther, the legendary Protector of Wakanda, T’Challa could no sooner stop protecting the innocent then he could stop breathing. With his younger sister, Shuri, at his side, the Black Panther travels the world offering assistance to those in need.

Moon Knight

When soldier of fortune Marc Spector nearly dies on a mission in Egypt, he seeks refuge in what he believes to be a simple cavern. The cavern turns out to be an abandoned temple to the ancient Egyptian god of the moon, Khonsu, who appears before the dying Spector and offers him a second chance at life if he agrees to be his avatar on Earth. Upon agreeing, Spector is revived and granted the powers of the Moon Knight. With his associates “Frenchie” and Marlene Alraune by his side—as well as a list of alter egos, including millionaire Steven Grant and cab driver Jake Lockley—Moon Knight faces a variety of foes, both human and supernatural.

The Invincible Iron Man

Wealthy industrialist Tony Stark always has time for another drink or another beautiful woman. But, this playboy is also one of the smartest people in the world. Tired of seeing people using their genius to hurt others, Stark dons the Iron Man armor and tackles hi-tech villains, super criminals, anyone who seeks to use science for evil purposes. Stark’s employees Happy Hogan and Pepper Potts are always ready to assist his armored alter ego.

Captain America

Steve Rogers is a man out of time. One minute he was fighting the Nazis and the next minute he awakes in the modern day. As Steve adjusts to the changes that have occurred in the world, Captain America becomes a symbol of liberty and justice once more. Cap is frequently joined by Nomad—aka Rikki Barnes Proctor, the grandniece of his former sidekick Bucky—as well as SHIELD operatives Falcon and Sharon Carter.

The Mighty Thor

Thor may be a god, but when the son of Odin is cast out of Asgard and banished to Earth until he learns humility, he must rely on the very human Jane Foster to help him figure out the stranger aspects of Midgard, like telephones.

The Incredible Hulk

After the incident that created the monster known as the Incredible Hulk and the battle with the newly-formed Avengers that resulted, scientist Bruce Banner must leave his old life behind and go on the run. Banner moves from place to place, staying one step ahead of General Thunderbolt Ross and the US military, and trying to keep the monster inside of him in check. Banner is aided on the road by teen prodigy—and former student—Amadeus Cho, Rick Jones, and Betty Ross.

The Sensational She-Hulk

After a blood transfusion from her cousin Bruce Banner, law student Jennifer Walters discovers that she can transform into the Sensational She-Hulk. With more control over her jade alter ego than her cousin, Jennifer embraces her new powers, teaming up with countless heroes around the world whenever danger strikes.

The Fantastic Four

When an accident gives them superpowers, scientist Reed Richards, pilot Ben Grimm, journalist Sue Storm, and Sue’s teenaged brother Johnny become the Fantastic Four. When they aren’t fighting supervillains or preventing alien invasions, Reed leads the Fantastic Four on missions of discovery into every corner of this universe, and universes beyond.

Cloak and Dagger

Cloak and Dagger were born when two teen runaways were kidnapped and used as lab rats by an underworld chemist attempting to create a new designer drug. Using their new abilities, Cloak and Dagger decide to devote themselves to protecting the homeless and runaway population of New York City.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Half-brothers Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch wander the backroads of America, taking odd jobs here and there. But, when a soul cries out for vengeance, Johnny and Danny become the host for Zarathos, the spirit of vengeance. Powered by hellfire and driven by vengeance, the guilty can not hide from Ghost Rider.

The Invaders

Set during World War II, this series focuses on the exploits of Captain America and Bucky, Human Torch and Toro, Miss America, Union Jack and Spitfire, and Namor as they face the Axis Powers in both the European and the Pacific Theaters. The Invaders will include a back-up feature starring Colonel Jack Fury and the Howlin’ Commandos.

Power Pack

The Powers—Alex, Julie, Jack, and Katie—never expected to be anything but ordinary kids. But, when an alien ship crashes in the woods behind their house, and the dying pilot transfers his powers into them, Power Pack is born. Shortly after the Pack’s first adventure, their father moves the family to New York City so he can take a teaching position at Empire State University; Alex and Julie befriend Johnny Storm and Anya Corazon.

Runaways

What do you do if you find out that your parents are supervillains? If you’re the children of the Pride, you runaway from home. The Runaways travel the country, trying their best to foil their parents’ evil plans, while avoiding the never-ending stream of “professionals” loosed upon them by the Pride.

The Agents of Atlas

Who are the Agents of Atlas? Are they heroes? Villains? Both? Neither? Former SHIELD agent Jimmy Woo leads a rag-tag team that includes Namora, Marvel Boy, Gorilla-Man, Venus, and the Human Robot.

Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD

Tired of sitting behind a desk, SHIELD director Nick Fury hands control of the agency over to Maria Hill and returns to the field. With more experience than any other agent, Fury takes only the toughest missions. Fury’s old friend Dum Dum Dugan joins him, as well as Sharon Carter, Black Widow, and Falcon.

Blade and the Nightstalkers

     

Vampires, werewolves, zombies, and demons: they exist and they are beyond the skills and training of ordinary heroes. Half-vampire Blade has assembled a team of expert supernatural hunters: vampire Hannibal King and slayers Elsa Bloodstone and Frank Drake, and parapsychologist Dr. Rachel Van Helsing. Dr. Quincy Harker provides the research and Blade’s mentor Whistler provides the weaponry.

Sorcerers Supreme

Dr. Stephen Strange heads a group of the most powerful mystics on the planet. They stand between our world and the worlds of eldritch beings of unlimited power and limited compassion. Strange, Brother Voodoo, Clea, Amanda Sefton, Pixie, Hellstorm, and Wong are all that stand between us and creatures that would fracture our sanity before they destroy our world.

The Defenders

Dr. Strange. Namor. She-Hulk. Valkyrie. Silver Surfer. Moon Knight. They may not get along. They might even hate each other. But, when the Earth is in danger, they will defend it.

The Howling Commandos

In a world where men and women with strange powers and abilities is becoming more and more commonplace, SHIELD would be foolish to turn a blind eye to the supernatural threats that plague our planet. Agent Clay Quartermain leads a special unit of supernatural agents.

Heroes for Hire

When an ordinary person needs a hero, there’s Heroes for Hire: Misty Knight, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Colleen Wing, Jewel, and Shang-Chi.

Young Allies

Led by Captain America’s occasional sidekick Nomad, the Young Allies—Spider-Girl, Toro, Firestar, and Gravity—are not a team as much as they’re a group of like-minded young heroes who band together whenever there’s trouble.

New Warriors

   

Obsessed with eradicating crime in all forms, Night Thrasher assembles a team of heroes he calls the New Warriors: Speedball, Namorita, Justice, Nova, Hellcat, and Squirrel Girl.

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 After a group of heroes forms the Avengers to confront a rampaging Hulk, heroes around the world start banding together to form teams to defend humanity from threats too large for individual heroes to handle. SHIELD (unofficially) refers to this process as “The Avengers Initiative.”

The Avengers

Bruce Banner, victim of a terrible accident, transforms into the Incredible Hulk and begins rampaging through the streets of Manhattan. Heroes Iron Man, Thor, Ms. Marvel, Ant Man, and Wasp join forces to defeat the Hulk. On that day, the Avengers were born. Operating out of Tony Stark’s Fifth Avenue mansion, the Avengers ranks quickly grew to include Captain America, Scarlet Witch, and Vision.

The West Coast Avengers

In an attempt to expand the Avenger’s influence, Tony Stark creates the West Coast Avengers. Stark’s friend Jim Rhodes, aka War Machine, leads the team that includes Hawkeye, Mockingbird, Wonder Man, Tigra, and Photon.

The Young Avengers

Inspired by the Avengers, several teen heroes band together and form the Young Avengers, taking on identities that pay homage to the older heroes: Patriot, Hawkeye, Hulkling, Wiccan, Stature, and Speed. Upon learning of this team, Tony Stark provides them with Vision 2.0, who decides to call himself Jonas.

Alpha Flight

Canada’s premiere superhero team. Led by the husband and wife team of Guardian and Vindicator, Alpha Flight—Sasquatch, Puck, Snowbird, Northstar, Aurora, Shaman, and Talisman—began as a government-controlled strike team. However, they soon grew wary of government interference and political expediency, deciding to go “freelance.”

The Winter Guard

Ursa Major, Crimson Dynamo, Red Guardian, Vanguard, and Darkstar form the Winter Guard, a team with a history that stretches all the way back to post-war Soviet Russia.

Excalibur

Named for the legendary sword of King Arthur, Excalibur is the United Kingdom’s own team of super-powered heroes. The roster includes team leader Captain Britain, his twin sister Psylocke, Meggan, Lionheart, Banshee, Black Knight, as well as the grandchildren of the original Union Jack and Spitfire. MI5 spook Peter Wisdom serves as the team’s liaison with the Home Office.

Weapon Plus

  

A joint U.S.-Canadian operation that dates back to the days of World War II. Weapon Plus was responsible for the creation of the Super Soldier Serum that created Captain America, as well as the adamantium bonding process that was used on Wolverine. Today, Weapon Plus is a special black ops arm of SHIELD and is led by former SHIELD agent George Washington Bridge. Weapon Plus operatives include Maverick, Deadpool, Silver Fox, Kestrel, and Marrow.

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The Uncanny X-Men

Professor Charles Xavier created the Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters as a means to find teenagers with newly-manifested mutant powers and teach them how best to harness these powers. Over time, Xavier also decided that these young people could also use their gifts to fight evil and protect the helpless. The team of mutant superheroes known as the X-Men were born. Xavier’s first class of students—Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Iceman, and Angel—have decided to stay on staff as “adviser” for the newer students: Nightcrawler, Rogue, Colossus, and Shadowcat. Xavier’s teaching staff also includes Moira MacTaggert, Storm and Wolverine.

The New Mutants

Xavier’s newest class of mutants: Cannonball, Magik, Magma, Sunspot, Wolfsbane, Karma, and Moonstar. The New Mutants have little experience using their powers and will have a long way to go before Xavier allows them to go out into the field.

X-Factor

X-Factor is a team of mutant heroes assembled by SHIELD. The roster was chosen by former SHIELD director Nick Fury and Professor Xavier: Havok (the older [yes, older] brother of Cyclops), Polaris, Multiple Man, Quicksilver, Siryn, Strong Guy, and M.

Exiles

Explore the Marvel multiverse with Blink, Morph, and Mimic in this dimension-hopping series.

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And because I love a good anthology…

Marvel Comics Presents: The perfect showcase for characters who don’t appear in any of the above books.

Marvel Team-Up: Spider-Man teaming up with the Human Torch? She-Hulk fighting crime alongside Black Panther? This is the title where you’d find amazing stories like those.

What If…?: Love the crazy hypothetical stories of the old What If…? series.

Astonishing Tales: Two stories every month. Tales of adventures in far-off lands or from times long ago.

Amazing Fantasy: Two stories that focus on sci-fi and speculative fiction.

Journey into Mystery: An anthology title that focuses primarily on horror and fantasy stories.

Tales of Suspense: Each issue would contain two stories of mystery/suspense or the supernatural.

With Apologies to Geoff Johns and Jim Lee: How I Would Reboot the DC Universe

As anyone with more than a passing interest in comics knows, DC has announced their plans to relaunch their entire line of titles in September with new #1 issues, redesigned characters, and tweaked origins. They’ve been rolling out teasers of the new books all week and, I’m not going to lie, some of them seem pretty cool. Of course, as with many things, I would not have made some of the choices they did and that got me thinking: okay, scooter, how would you approach this?

That’s easy.

Brilliantly.

Let’s start with my favorite kinds of comics: Team books. I love me some stories about people coming together and doing shit.

The Justice League of America

I’m not that flexible when it comes to who I think should be on the JLA. After Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man, I have no problem seeing any hero on the Avengers. But the JLA? To me, the JLA should always be the Big Seven: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter. I’d also add Green Arrow and Black Canary. Just because.

The Justice Society of America

One of my favorite parts of the DC Universe is the concept of Legacy. Sidekicks become heroes who train new sidekicks who will one day replace them. The JSA embodies that concept more than anything else I can think of: the older generation of heroes training and mentoring the younger generations. My JSA would include the original Flash and Green Lantern—Jay Garrick and Alan Scott—and Wildcat. Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Power Girl, Mister Terrific and Doctor Mid-Nite would be the “senior class” of heroes with Static, Stargirl, and Jesse Quick as the newbies.

The Outsiders

Sort of a back-up JLA. The Outsiders are former JLAers who handle the jobs that the Big Guns might not be able to get to because they’re off stopping an invasion from Apokolips. As you do. Former Blue Beetle Ted Kord bankrolls the team that’s made up of current Beetle Jaime Reyes, Booster Gold, Fire, Ice, Metamorpho, Vixen, Elongated Man, The Atom, and Firestorm (Ronnie Raymond/Jason Rusch).

Young Justice

What happens if you’re no longer a sidekick, but not quite sure you’re ready to follow in your mentor’s footsteps? If you’re Nightwing, Red Arrow, The Flash, Troia, and Tempest you form Young Justice. With old friends—and former teen heroes—Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, and Beast Boy (who also serve as the mentors of the younger Teen Titans), Young Justice is ready to step out from the shadow of their famous partners and do things their own way.

Teen Titans

Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Superboy, Miss Martian, Aqualad, and Speedy. Teenagers with more things to worry about than just chores and homework. When these young heroes need to blow off some steam, the Teen Titans swing into action.

Birds of Prey

Oracle, Black Canary, and Huntress form the backbone of this team of heroes. If anyone has a problem. If no one else can help. The Birds will be there. Frequent operatives include Batwoman, the Question, and Catwoman.

The Shadowpact

 

Some heroes are specially trained to deal with the darker corners of the world: Demons, dark mages, monsters that defy description. When these things go bump in the night, Doctor Fate, Constantine, Detective Chimp, Etrigan, Zatanna, Black Alice, Deadman, Ragman, and Nightshade kick their asses.

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Now for the bulk of my rebooted DC titles. Let’s start with Big Blue…

Superman and Superman: The Man of Steel

Strange visitor from another planet, Superman will continue to fight for truth, justice, and the American way. Superman will showcase Supes facing alien menaces and giant robots. Huge foes who threaten to plunge the entire planet into chaos. Man of Steel will be more grounded, focusing on Superman’s terrestrial enemies like Luthor, Metallo, and Intergang. And, of course, Lois Lane, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, and the Kents will all be on hand.

Action Comics

Action Comics will be the showcase for the supporting members of the Superman Family. Superboy, Supergirl, Steel, Power Girl, and Krypto will all feature prominently.

Superboy

Like the recent series, my Superboy will focus on Conner Kent adjusting to life in Smallville and learning how to balance who he is with what he can do.

Supergirl

Like Superboy, the current series is pretty much what I’d want to see continue. Kara in Metropolis, living with Lana Lang, and making life miserable for Cat Grant.

The Adventures of Lois Lane

Follow the adventures of Lois Lane, the Daily Planet’s ace reporter as she travels the globe in search of truth, justice, and the perfect headline. Expect Jimmy Olsen to get roped into more than one of Lois’ globetrotting shenanigans.

Batman and Detective Comics

Batman’s solo titles will feature Bruce Wayne as the one and only Batman. While Batman will focus on the Dark Knight’s war on the insane criminals who prey upon the citizens of Gotham City, Detective Comics will see Batman facing more mundane criminals.

Gotham Knights

The perfect showcase for the other members of the Bat Family. Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, and Batwoman enjoy working together a lot more than the broodier Bat. There’s a lot of crime in the dark alleys of Gotham City and, sometimes, two fists just aren’t enough.

Robin, Nightwing, and Batgirl

      

For someone who prefers to work alone, Batman has some of the best partners in the world. Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, and Stephanie Brown all take center stage in their own titles.

Batwoman

Kate Kane is ex-military. When she sees a problem, she’s trained to face it head on and, when that problem is the crime-ridden streets of Gotham, the best way to face it is from beneath the mantle of the Bat.

Gotham Central

It’s not easy being a cop. It’s even harder being a cop in a city that seems to be a magnet for some of the most dangerous maniacs in the country. Follow the brave men and women of the GCPD as they try to protect and serve the citizens of Gotham City.

Wonder Woman

On her first day as the Themysciran ambassador to the United Nations, Diana learns that the world of politics can be a labyrinth as confusing as any designed by Daedalus, even for someone blessed with the wisdom of Athena. Wonder Woman must balance her role as an ambassador with that of a superhero, which becomes more and more difficult as creatures that haven’t been seen in thousands of years begin appearing across the globe. (Honestly, anyone who doesn’t try to draw on Greek mythology for a Wonder Woman book is kinda missing the point.)

Sensational Comics

A showcase for Wonder Woman’s supporting cast, namely Donna Troy and Wonder Girl, not to mention Hippolyta and Diana’s fellow Amazons.

The Flash

Barry Allen patrols the streets of Central City at the speed of thought as the scarlet speedster. Kid Flash will make the occasional appearance as Barry’s partner.

The Speed Force

A showcase for the other men and women who ride the lightning. Focus will be on Wally West and his daughter Iris, aka Impulse, but Jay Garrick, Max Mercury, and Jesse Quick will also feature.

Green Lantern

Hal Jordan has been put on “desk duty” by the Guardians of Oa for…well, for being Hal. Forbidden to leave the Solar System without express consent from the Guardians, Hal will have to spend his time fighting earthly menaces. And making life miserable for Carol. (NOTE: There is no Rainbow Corps. Sinestro is a Green Lantern who is slowly abusing his power. The more he crosses the line, the more his ring becomes corrupt, changing from green to yellow.)

The Green Lantern Corps

Cops. Space cops. Alien space cops. Alien space cops with power rings. The focus will be on John Stewart, Guy Gardner, and Kyle Rayner…but this is, at its heart, a book about the Corps as a whole.

Aquaman

Arthur Curry: superhero, member of the JLA, king of Atlantis. Most heroes focus on one city, but Aquaman is responsible for protecting 75% of the planet’s surface. That’s hard core and this title should showcase that.

Swords of Atlantis

       

For generations, the King of Atlantis has named his greatest warriors the “Swords of Atlantis.” They are to act in the defense of the realm, even in the absence of the king. Aquaman’s queen, Mera, leads the Swords, which include Aquaman’s former and current sidekicks Tempest and Aqualad, as well as Dolphin and Aquagirl.

SHAZAM!

When Billy Batson, his sister Mary, and their friend Freddie Freeman call upon the power of the wizard Shazam, they are transformed into the mystical and mighty Marvel Family. With Tawky Tawny in tow, the Marvels face mad scientists, megalomaniacal worms, and the insidious Black Marvel Family.

Checkmate

Checkmate would be my answer to SHIELD. Headed by Sasha Bordeaux and Amanda Waller, Checkmate would deal with standard espionage scenarios. However, when things get out of hand, there are several metahuman operatives on the payroll: Captain Atom, Black Lightning, Manhunter, Red Tornado, Jade, Obsidian, and Atom (Ryan Choi).

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There would also be a number of anthology titles. Namely:

The Brave and the Bold: DC’s classic team-up book. I’d stick with one-and-done stories, with the occasional two-parter. Issue #1? Batgirl and Supergirl. Why? Why not.

World’s Finest: Batman and Superman team up. A lot. So do their partners and sidekicks. This series would offer up stories that pair various members of the Superman and Batman Families.

All-Star Western: It’s a good idea. A damn good idea.

Adventure Comics: Old heroes. New heroes. Pirates. Treasure hunters. Spacemen. Vampire slayers. Doesn’t matter. The key word is ADVENTURE.

Elseworlds: I love Marvel’s What If…? I’d love to see DC do a similar title. Maybe a double-sized issue every other month instead of a monthly. Yeah, that could work.

Weekly Comic Review for 4/23/08

Batman #675

W: Grant Morrison

A: Ryan Benjamin

Okay, I think I’ve finally gotten the hang of how Morrison writes Batman. He starts with a bunch of issues that don’t seem to make any sense whatsoever–including references to and appearances by characters who haven’t been seen or heard from in over two decades–and he somehow…somehow…ties it all together at the end. This leaves me with a book that, although still good as a whole, has months where it sits at the bottom of the “to read” pile.

This issue has something that I haven’t seen in quite some time: a Bruce Wayne babe with a brain. Jezebel Jet might look like all of the other brainless arm-candy that Bruce escorts around town in an attempt to foster his image as a billionaire playboy, but she’s intuitive enough to recognize that Bruce, the real Bruce, is a much darker soul than his public image might suggest. She senses his true face behind the mask of the bored billionaire. It’s possible that it could have ended there. Bruce would have just walked out and she’d never hear from him again. Of course, when Jezebel stumbles on Brucie beating some blindfolded ne’er-do-well into a thick, scarlet paste–rendered by Benjamin in an almost Frank Miller-esque fashion–she realizes just how right she was. Bruce Wayne is Batman. This revelation means, of course, that Ms. Jet will be dead within the year.

Just for shits and giggles, Morrison throws in a little Nightwing/Robin action, and for that I’m glad. I love the sibling vibe you get watching Dick and Tim work together (plus, they get to fight a bunch of thieves in dog masks…I shit you not). And, since it wouldn’t be a Morrison story without Damian, we get to see that little shit, too. Hey, was anyone else surprised to learn that Talia has some kind of weird spider-sense thing going on?

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Countdown to Final Crisis 1

W: Paul Dini

A: Tom Derenick

Ho-boy…

I guess now that Countdown to Final Crisis is officially over, we can look at the series as a whole and see if it worked or if it didn’t. I think it would be safe to say that some of what DC was attempting with Countdown worked. Some, not so much. Because of the size and scope of the series, there was a lot of padding to fill up 52 issues. And, since the various threads of the story were only slightly connected, there were moments when it felt disjointed (was that bit with Piper and Trickster–fun though it might have been–really necessary?). Also, what was all of that traipsing about the new Multiverse all about? Did that have anything to do with anything?

I think the major problem has to do with intent. 52 was about telling a story. Countdown was about setting up a story. Everything that happened in this series was just a means to get the characters where they needed to be for Final Crisis. I’m not saying that Countdown didn’t have its moments, in fact the last three months or so were quite good (this has a bit to do with the converging of the various plots). Unfortunately, I think it often dropped the ball on more than one occasion. What was the whole thing with Monarch all about? It looked to me to be little more than an excuse to play a big ol’ game of “What If…” (What if Donna Troy had to fight evil Donna Troy? What if Jason Todd came face to face with a good Joker?).

The final analysis: Countdown to Final Crisis had enough fun moments to make it a good read in a collected trade, but as a weekly series, it really couldn’t sustain enough thrills and/or momentum. Plus, what the hell is up with keeping Mary Marvel evil??!!??

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Justice League of America #20

W: Dwayne McDuffie

A: Ethan Van Sciver

I know what you’re saying: “What’s going on here, I thought you broke up with JLA.” Well, all I have to say to that is: “You’ve got a lot of fucking nerve, mister.”

It was a light week–only four books that I read came out–so, while standing in the comic shop, I picked up the new issue of JLA and gave it a quick flip-through. And, what did I find? Well, apparently it’s 1996 again. And I mean that in a good way.

McDuffie gives us a classic, stand-alone story about Flash and Wonder Woman teaming up to stop Queen Bee from stealing a fancy teleportation gizmo. This is it guys, it’s not rocket science. No company-wide, super-mega-final-ultimate tie-in bullshit. No unnecessary naval-gazing ( “Vixen, why are your powers different?”… “Roy, how dare you still care about the mother of your daughter when I’m standing here all sexy and winged?”). This was just a fun, balls-out old school super-hero story. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end, all wrapped up between two covers. And, more importantly, it was satisfying.

I knew McDuffie could deliver a story like this–he did it on the Justice League cartoon constantly–all he needed was to get the go-ahead from DC.

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Ultimate Fantastic Four #53

W: Mike Carey

A: Tyler Kirkham

The deus ex machina run rampant through this issue of Ultimate Fantastic Four. Ben was dead, but he really wasn’t. Reed was dead, but he really wasn’t. One was transported to another planet by Thanos’s pissed off daughter. The other simply altered his body into a form of living light. No points for guessing who did what. Then, Reed manages to get his hands on the Cosmic Cube and switch off the safety that prevents it from making people’s random thoughts a reality (don’t ask). That means that when Thanos takes the Cube and gets a giant hard-on thinking about Death, he dies. Neat, huh? Fortunately, that means that Reed can undo everything Thanos did in the last few issues, thereby saving the world. To paraphrase Mel Brooks: “It’s good to be Reed.”

There’s a little bit at the end that puts the episode of Quantum Leap when Sam saved the life of Jackie Kennedy–erasing the knowledge of her death from the memories of the viewers–to shame. Reed drops the Cosmic Cube he created into a rift in time and space. It falls through the heavens, eventually landing at the feet of past-Thanos. That’s right, kids. The Cosmic Cube that Thanos found all those ages ago was the very Cube that he forced Reed to make to replace the one he lost all of those ages ago. Trippy.

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Ultimate Spider-Man #121

W: Brian Michael Bendis

A: Stuart Immonen

I’ve come to realize that there are three kinds of Ultimate Spider-Man stories. There are the multiple-part super-villain smackdowns where Spider-Man fights a Goblin or Sandman or Doc Ock. There are the low-key, slice-of-life stories that look at Peter Parker’s civilian life. The third combines the first two, showing how Peter balances both sides of his dual life. This issue of Ultimate Spider-Man falls into the third category.

While explaining why the fake baby that he and Kitty Pryde were supposed to be taking care of is in about a ba-jillion pieces, Peter tells their teacher about the day he had. He was at the Bugle when Omega Red stops by. Omega Who? Don’t worry, I’m always surprised when he shows up in Ultimate Spider-Man. Anyways…Omega is pissed that J. Jonah Jameson ran an article about his defeat at the hands of Spider-Man. This article–and the insinuations it contained–has ruined Omega Red’s mercenary cred. Lucky for J.J., Peter happened to be in the newsroom that day, and Omega Red and Spidey meet for the second time.

There are numerous villains in Spider-Man’s rogues gallery who just couldn’t hold down an entire story on their own–Shocker, Rhino, Leap-Frog–so these kinds of issues are great places to showcase them. These stand-alone issues are also great ways to let readers catch their breaths between larger arcs. Overall, Bendis’s Ultimate Spider-Man never disappoints.

Weekly Comic Review for 4/16/08–Now With 75% Less Controversy

Batman and the Outsiders #6

W: Chuck Dixon

A: Carlos Rodriguez

Batman and the Outsiders, in my very humble opinion, is what JLA should be.  Now, that might sound like a giant contradiction, especially if you remember that the reason that ol’ Bats took control of the Outsiders was to use the team for jobs that were just too nasty for the JLA–jobs that need to be done, but that would sully the League’s squeaky-clean image.  I’m not saying that the JLA should be like the Outsiders, I just wish that JLA was as much fun to read as BATO.

Unlike the better known title, BATO gives us a pretty action-packed story without the naval-gazing of JLA.  The plot might not be without a few drawbacks–personally, I’m more than a bit over the whole O.M.A.C. thing–but it’s easy enough to overlook them when you get drawn into Dixon’s globe-spanning (and beyond) action story.  Of course, it could just be that I’m a sucker for any book that stars Metamorpho.  And, in case you were worried, there’s plenty of levity in this issue, too.  From Batman dosing Salah with knock-out gas so he can take him to the Batcave and let him play with the Bat-computer (does Batman still refer to it as “the Bat-computer”?) to Ollie’s self-deprecating admission that he used to have a bit of Bat-envy (Arrowplane?  Arrowcave?  C’mon, Ollie!), this book has plenty of lighter moments to break up the back-to-back action pieces.

Rodriguez’s art is also worth noting.  A perfect example is how he can draw Ollie all smirky and cocksure on one page and then, a few pages later, be just as convincing when he draws him with that righteous fire in his eyes that we’ve come to expect from DC’s biggest bleeding heart.  I’m sure that’s the kind of thing that should be expected from an artist, but it must be uncommon enough that I noticed it.  I don’t make a habit of following artists as much as I follow writers, but I’m going to make an effort to keep track of what Rodriguez does in the future.

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Captain America #37

W: Ed Brubaker

A: Steve Epting

Poor Bucky.  His life has been far from easy–getting blowed-up as a teenager, being brainwashed by the Soviet Union–but things just don’t seem to be getting an easier for the new Captain America.

He had the shield strapped on for about a minute and a half, and some ticked-off civilian calls him an impostor.  He’s outed on TV, forcing Stark to pull any SHIELD backing he might have had (including the services of the sultry Black Widow as his sidekick/handler).  Now, in this issue, he has to deal with Clint “Hawkeye” Barton showing up and causing shit.  Clint’s all cheesed-off that Bucky’s the new Cap, going so far as taking a swing at him.  I get Clint’s beef.  He might not have always agreed with Steve Rogers, but he certainly respected Bucky’s predecessor, and doesn’t think Bucky’s good enough to call himself Captain America.  Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Clint offered the mantle of Captain America and turned it down?  Someone needs to be Cap, especially with the Red Skull trying to destroy the country from the inside.

As if all of that wasn’t enough for Bucky to have to deal with, now there’s another Steve Rogers floating around.  Marvel’s done a pretty good job at trying to convince us that Steve is dead.  Dead dead.  So, it would be wrong of us to think they’re pulling a fast one here.  Besides, it wouldn’t be the first time that the Red Skull got his hands on a Rogers clone.  So, that’s what I’m going with here.  The Steve Rogers that Sharon discovers at the end of the issue is, in fact, just a clone.

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Catwoman #78

W: Will Pfeifer

A: David Lopez

Good news/bad news time, kids.  The good news is that, after this issue, it seems that Selina is finally getting back to Earth.  The bad news?  Well, she won’t have much time to enjoy it because her series is being canceled in the next few months (I believe #82 is going to be the last).  I understand that publishing is a business and, as such, you can not conceivably make everyone happy, but is Catwoman doing that poorly in sales?  And, if that’s the case, maybe DC should spend less money on insanely expansive “events” with more tie-in books than you can shake a stick at.

Anyway, I’ve only been reading Catwoman for a little while, but I’m going to miss it.  I might not have been happy with Selina getting caught up in that whole Salvation Run business, but you can’t fault the book for that.  At least Selina was able to finally get the upper claw in her ongoing feud with Cheetah, thanks in part to one of Joker’s exploding cigars.

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Countdown to Final Crisis 2

W: Paul Dini & Sean McKeever

A: Scott Kolins

I’m totally baffled by Countdown.  DC has claimed that “Final Crisis” will deal with a victorious Darkseid in control of the universe.  Okay, cool.  But…in this issue of Countdown to Final Crisis, Darkseid is pummeled to death by his son, Orion.  So, you can see where I might be confused.

Unfortunately, the confusion comes at the end of an issue that sees Darkseid and Jimmy Olsen (in giant tortoise boy form) have a smackdown in the middle of Metropolis and Darkseid and Orion going at it.  Jimmy’s also returned to the status quo when Ray Palmer finds the doo-hicky that Darkseid put in Jimmy’s head to contain the powers of the dead New Gods and destroys it.

I’m going to go out on a limb and make a prediction based on something Dan Didio said in an interview a while back.  Yes, Darkseid is dead.  All of the New Gods of the Fourth World seem to be dead.  But, all of that power is floating around out there, and it has to go somewhere.  So, I’m sure the New Gods will return when this “Fifth World” that Darkseid was all hyped about comes into being.  A new Fifth World will have new, possibly resurrected New Gods of one kind or another.  And, where there are New Gods, there will be a Darkseid.

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The Flash #239

W: Tom Peyer

A: Freddie E. Williams, II

The people of Keystone City continue to mistrust Flash after new villain, Spin, forces him to use his super-speed to rob them.  Spin ups the ante by using his captured dwarf’s mind-whammy powers on Jay Garrick, pushing the original Flash to go after Wally.  To make matters worse, Jay uses Iris and Jai to get to Wally and then initiates a showdown in the middle of Wally’s block.

The whole “people afraid of the hero” thing is nothing new.  It’s one of the Five Basic Plots of Comics.  I’m serious, check it out…I’m sure there’s a copy in your local library or shady used book store.  (Okay, okay, there’s no such book.)  Anyways, it might be a basic plot, but sometimes it works better than others and, in the case of the Flash, it works pretty damned well.  Let’s look at the facts.  Sure, everyone in Metropolis loves Superman, but he’s a global hero.  Batman couldn’t care less what the good people of Gotham think about him.  But the Flash is Keystone City.  Every Flash has been inextricably linked to his hometown, whether it’s Keystone or Central City.  So, for the people of Keystone to suddenly turn their backs on their hometown hero has real resonance.

To further illustrate how highly regarded Wally is, we have a scene with the JLA.  Realizing how they dropped the ball the last time they stuck their noses in Wally’s life, DC’s big guns decide to sit this one out until Wally actually asks them for help.  However, Red Arrow isn’t about to let one of his oldest friends twist in the wind.  Hopefully Roy will be enough back-up when Wally has to face Gorilla Grodd next month.

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Gotham Underground #7 (of 9)

W: Frank Tieri

A: J. Calafiore

The cliffhanger from last issue involving the reappearance of Leslie Thompkins remains more or less hangery as Dick wakes up in an underground medical clinic with Riddler standing over him.  Tieri gives us just enough to make us think that Dick simply hallucinated seeing Leslie at the end of last issue (although some info in this week’s issue of Robin makes me think that Leslie really was there).  Riddler tells Dick to drop the whole fake name business, because Riddler’s too smart not to realize that he’s really talking to Nightwing.  Unfortunately, Riddler’s not smart enough to talk his way out of a little payback at the hands of Penguin.

Elsewhere, the war for Gotham’s underworld reaches a new plateau.  Penguin’s Rent-a-Rogue forces successfully wipe out Tobias Whale’s goons, leading to a partnership between Penguin and Whale against their mutual foe: Intergang.  While the two aquatically-themed crime bosses reach an agreement, Penguin’s forces are getting picked off by this Vigilante sumbitch.  Luckily, Bats has gotten himself out of Blackgate and is ready to rumble with this fool.  Now, is this new Vigilante connected to Intergang or is he (or she??) also tied to the return of Leslie and Steph Brown?

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Robin #173

W: Chuck Dixon

A: Chris Batista

Not unlike Bucky, Tim’s life has been pretty rough lately.  He’s been trying to chase down Violet–a morally ambiguous chick who’s taken it upon herself to rob from the scum to give to the poor.  He’s also managed to get himself saddled with two less than legit G.C.P.D. detectives who seem to think that Robin’s help will be their ticket to the big time.  And, all the while, someone in a Spoiler costume has been keeping tabs on our boy.

Robin’s investigation leads him to a counterfeit ring run by the Korean Mafia.  Now, this is a kid who’s been trained by Batman.  He can handle himself in a situation like this.  But, he also has to deal with Violet.  And Spoiler.  That’s right sports fans, after months of keeping her distance, Spoiler makes herself known to Tim.  She’s there to help, but Robin goes ape-shit and gives the girl with the nerve to wear his dead girlfriend’s costume the business.  It’s an understandable reaction.  But, suspecting what we’ve been led to suspect–that this really is Steph–you just can’t help but wish Tim would settle down for a minute and let this Spoiler explain.  I mean, Tim…c’mon, she used your real name!  In my book, that probably means something.

This could all be a big switcheroo.  We don’t know for sure that this is Stephanie Brown, as much as I really hope it is.  Is she the same mystery girl that Penguin gave the costume to a few months back in the pages of Gotham Underground?  It would certainly make sense that Steph would want a little bit of revenge on Gotham’s underworld after what happened with Black Mask.  Would she think that’s reason enough to strike some kind of deal with Cobblepot?

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Quote of the Week:

“Superman?  You should be so lucky.”–Green Arrow, after being blasted with a fire hose by a Chinese soldier and asked if he was going to be rescued by Big Blue and the JLA, in Batman and the Outsiders #6 (the implication is clear, right?).

Weekly Comic Review for 4/9/08

Booster Gold #8

W: Geoff Johns & Jeff Katz

A: Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund

I’ve liked the new Booster Gold series from the first issue.  I thought it was a great concept: having a character traipse his way through the history of the DC Universe, “putting right what once went wrong.”  A perfect example of this was the earlier issues where Booster had a hand in making sure that Hal Jordan was chosen as the first Green Lantern, or where he had to save the ancestor of Jonathon Kent.  There was a truly twisted issue where Booster’s “boss”, Rip Hunter, had him try to save Barbara Gordon from getting shot by the Joker.  But, since certain things are meant to be, no matter how many times Booster tried to save her, Barbara still got shot.  Over and over.

Recent issues have dealt with Booster finally getting a chance to save Blue Beetle from getting murdered by Max Lord.  I’m happy that Ted is back and he and Booster are teaming up again.  Theirs is one of the greatest friendships in comics.  Plus, the premise of the series allows Blue Beetle to be alive again without negating the last two years of stories.

The only problem I’m having with this current storyline is the obvious and cliched use of the “evil, dystopian present.”  Let’s be fair, once it was used in Back to the Future II, it’s no longer clever (and I liked Back to the Future II).  Upon returning to the present, Booster and Beetle learn that Max Lord and his O.M.A.C.s have somehow managed to conquer the world.  They’ve eradicated most of the metahumans and forced others into hiding.  And, if that wasn’t bad enough, Max Lord has Superman working for him.  Ooooooo.  You know it’s an evil present when Superman is working for the bad guys–even if he’s just a victim of Max Lord’s mind-whammy powers.  Sure, it was fun to see Green Arrow and Hawkman trying to stop their bickering long enough to lead of resistance of third-tier characters.  But, for the most part, we’ve seen this kind of thing about a hundred times before.

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B.P.R.D.: 1946 #4

W: Mike Mignola & Joshua Dysart

A: Paul Azaceta

The bulk of this issue provides background on the final days of the Nazi’s ill-conceived Vampir Sturm project.  Even though the vampire-hybrids were considered too dangerous for normal service–and immediately placed into cryogenic suspension–Hitler decided that they would be the perfect “occult A-bomb” in the event that the tide of war turned against him.  If the Allies managed to defeat the Nazis, upon retreating from Berlin, they would release the Vampir Sturm subjects into the city, unleashing these horrors upon the Earth.  This is a delightfully evil thing for Hitler to propose, and it works well.  What the Fuhrer didn’t count on was the man in charge of the project developing a conscience at the last minute and sealing the vampsicles away rather than unleashing them.

Of course, none of this explains why one hundred of the cryo-tanks have gone missing.  Bruttenholm, Vavara, the U.S. G.I.s, and the Red Army track down the missing tanks to a vault beneath a government building in Berlin.  Their search leads them to one of the greatest characters Mignola ever created–Von Klempt.  Nothing but an insane Nazi head in a jar, Von Klempt embodies Mignola’s gloriously twisted concept of Nazi steampunk science.  Oh, and he has steam-borg ape goons called kreigaffen.  If there’s one thing that embodies a Mike Mignola story, it’s a Nazi gorilla.

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Countdown to Final Crisis 3

W: Paul Dini & Sean McKeever

A: Freddie Williams, II

This issue of Countdown had two things going for it: (1) the prominent role of Darkseid and (2) the art by Freddie Williams.

Darkseid is ready to harvest the powers that he’s been hiding in Jimmy Olsen for the last year or so.  This, of course, leads to an all-out brawl between Darkseid and Superman.  I’ve always liked watching these two go at it.  Since Darkseid’s such a total bad-ass, Supes can really let loose on him–I mean, when was the last time you saw Clark blast someone in the face with his heat vision?  The clash of these titans benefits from Williams’ clean and stylized art.  Williams makes these guys so huge that you can almost feel the earth shake whenever one of them gets bodyslammed.

The one big downside of this issue (and the last few issues of Countdown) is the sudden re-evilization of Mary Marvel.  We had our sweet, little Mary back for a while and all was good.  Then, the Big D shows up and offers Mary her evil power again and, in about a second and a half, she accepts.  I just don’t get it.  I hate it.  But, if I understood it, I’d be able to accept it through the hatred.  It’s a shame, really.

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Gen13 #19

W: Simon Oliver

A: Carlo Barberi

I have to admit, I’m torn.  I’ve always liked the Gen13 kids.  For the most part, they were pretty good characters (even if some of them were tragically “Nineties”), and most of them had fairly straightforward powers–okay, maybe not Grunge, but the others.  Then it was announced that Gen13 would be rebooted under the guiding hand of Gail Simone.  A fairly good premise and an awesome writer.  What could be better?

Simone crafted a pretty cool origin for the “new and improved” Gen13.  She had the characters down pat.  She even made numerous tongue-in-cheek references to the cheesecake factor of the original series.

Then, the writing chores were handed off to Simon Oliver.  Oliver crafted a story involving a Gen vs. Gen Real World/Survivor-style reality show that works for two reasons: (1) it ties into the premise that Simone began the series with, that the subjects of the Gen program were being used in creepy-ass internet snuff porn, and (2) it reflects the sad fact that America is pathetically obsessed with Reality TV.  So, I don’t think that Oliver is doing a bad job.  It’s just not what I want from a comic book.  I’m sort of over the shadowy conspiracy pulling the strings kind of stories.  There’s enough of that in the real world.  I want to see the Gen13 kids wandering around and having wacky adventures, fighting super-villains or aliens or demons.  Maybe they could time travel.  Okay, okay…I know, I want Gen13 to be Runaways.

So, no offense to Simon Oliver (who is doing a good job), but if Gen13 doesn’t become more super-hero-y, I might have to call it a day.

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Green Lantern Corps. #23

W: Peter J. Tomasi

A: Patrick Gleason

The aftermath of the Sinestro War continues.  The Guardians are still all hell-bent on tracking down and collecting as many of the Yellow Rings as possible.  To that end, they send a squad of Lanterns, led by Kyle and Guy, into the forbidden Vega System.  The fact that those little blue bastards are willing to send what amounts to an invasion force into a forbidden region of space shows just how the recent War has affected them.  Like any group who claims to be interested in establishing and maintaining law and order, the Guardians seem to think that they, themselves, are completely above the law.

While the Lanterns are searching for the Yellow Rings, our old buddy Mongul is also hunting down Rings.  However, Mongul is collecting them for himself.  It’s funny, if you think about it.  When Hal Jordan went bat-shit and started collecting Lantern Rings to gain more power, it was so he could rebuild Coast City, which was destroyed by Mongul’s father.  So, now Mongul Jr. is tracking down Sinestros and asking them to join him–and, if they refuse, he stomps them into goo and takes their rings for his own.

The issue ends with Mongul capturing two of Kyle and Guy’s team and ensnaring them with the “Black Mercy” plants, that Mongul’s father once used on Superman.  These plants put folks into a coma and show them their greatest wish, which eventually goes horribly wrong.  They are the perfect tool for Mongul to, as he says, “turn hope into fear.”

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Justice Society of America #14

W: Geoff Johns

A: Dale Eaglesham

Once again, JSA–one of the greatest team books on the stands today–does not disappoint.

What begins with a scene in the Justice Society’s headquarters (basically a way to reintroduce all of the characters and re-establish all of the relationships in a book with a rapidly growing roster) quickly segues into an all-out slugfest in New York City when Gog teleports into their headquarters.  From there on, it’s pretty much just a huge battle.  Buildings crumble.  Cars get totaled.  Gog rages at Superman for letting Kansas burn on Kingdom Come Earth.  The issue ends with the arrival of Kingdom Come Green Lantern and Kingdom Come Obsidian, just as Gog is about to dispatch KC Superman and Amazing Man.

This crossover story with Kingdom Come still kicks as much ass as it did with the first issue.  It could have gone horribly wrong, but Johns is a pro and Eaglesham’s art never fails to please.  In addition to being a good story, I also feel like this is an homage to the early pre-Crisis crossovers between the Justice Society and the Justice League.  Since the JSA and JLA now inhabit the same Earth, there’s no reason for dimension-spanning team-ups.  But, with the return of the Multiverse, Johns was able to pay tribute to those earlier team-ups by having his JSA interact with the Kingdom Come heroes.

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Serenity: Better Days #2 (of 3)

W: Joss Whedon & Brett Matthews

A: Will Conrad

There’s a lot going on in Serenity: Better Days #2–and the mini-series as a whole–and, I don’t mean that in a bad way.  If there is one person alive who can ably handle layered storytelling, small character moments, cliffhangers, and big reveals, it’s Joss Whedon.

The small character moments come from the crew of Serenity discussing what they’re planning on doing with their share of the giant haul they scored in the last issue.  Jayne is going to become the captain of his own ship (the “Radiant Cobb”); Wash and Zoe would buy a luxury cruiser to raise a family on as they fly around the ‘Verse; Kaylee would open an aircraft design and restoration shop with her dad.  Then, they arrive on the resort world of Pelorum, where Jayne tries to hire a Companion and we get to see all of the Firefly gals in a giant hot tub (thanks, Joss…that meant a lot to me).

Of course it’s all not just fun and games here.  Better Days is adding to the overall Firefly mythos, particularly in the form of the “Dust Devils.”  After the Alliance crushed the Browncoats in the Unification War, some folk didn’t feel like laying down arms.  These rebels among the rebellious continued to use terrorist and guerrilla tactics against the Alliance, earning the name “Dust Devils.”  It’s been hinted that someone on Serenity was one of these Dust Devils.  Sure, the obvious suspects would be Mal or Zoe.  But, when has Joss ever been obvious?  Could it be Book?  Could we finally get to find out what his big secret is?  I really do hope so.

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Titans #1

W: Judd Winick

A: Ian Churchill

I’ve always liked the Teen Titans.  I don’t need much of an excuse to read a book with the Titans in it.  But, one of the things I do need is a group of characters I actually know and care about.  I liked the pre-52 roster: new kids like Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Superboy and seasoned pros like Starfire, Cyborg, and Beast Boy.  That was fine.  Than, 52 and “One Year Later” happened and Kid Flash was now the Flash, Superboy was dead, Beast Boy was leading Doom Patrol and the new Teen Titans included Ravager, Kid Devil (seriously?  what the fuck was he about?), and Miss Martian (pretty hot as green chicks go, but still not for me).

That being said, I’m pretty excited about DC’s new Titans.  The basic premise: someone is offing Titans from past and present.  That brings together what I think might be the greatest characters to ever call themselves Teen Titans: Nightwing (Robin), Donna Troy (Wonder Girl), Beast Boy, Starfire, Raven, Flash (Kid Flash), and Red Arrow (Speedy).  Judging from the cover, it looks like Cyborg (who’s currently in drydock) will be joining their little party soon.

Churchill’s art is pretty decent.  Details like the shards of glass stuck in Nightwing’s costume for the entire issue after he’s blown out of a window by an explosion on page 2 or the numerous quivers that Red Arrow has strapped to his person show that Churchill’s got talent.  The only criticism I have is that all of his female characters look identical.  He has some got characterization on Starfire early in the issue, but for the most part all of the females in this book look like they came from Michael Turner-land.

I just hope that Winick can keep gay rights out of this book.  I’m all for gay rights, just not in my comics.  And Winick has a habit of beating people over the head with a hammer when it comes to this particular issue.  He did it back in Green Lantern, so I stopped reading Green Lantern.

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Quote of the Week:

“Say hello to incomparable pain, ya tub of crap!”–Guy Gardner to the new Sinestro of Sector 2828, in Green Lantern Corps. #23.