Archive for November, 2009


This Week in Panels: Week 9

November 22nd, 2009 Posted by Gavok

This time, I’ve sadly been left high and dry by my 4th Letter comrades. Feh. Guess I’ll have to take care of this week myself. Maybe they won’t have anything to add to my weekly segment, but I’ll have something to add to their little podcast tomorrow, just you wait and see.

Adventure Comics #4
Geoff Johns, Sterling Gates and Jerry Ordway

The Authority: The Lost Year #3
Grant Morrison, Keith Giffen and Darick Robertson

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Two Posts of Note

November 21st, 2009 Posted by david brothers

-Colleen AF Venable at First Second/:01 is amazing. She’s got another design post up on their blog, and it’s a great read. Is there another company-sponsored blog as good as :01’s? I don’t think so.

-Graeme McMillan, the man behind the man behind the man of comics writing, wrote the best post on colored folks in comics in ages, and I’m including ones that I’ve written in that number. It’s very good.

And how did Rhodey get his start as a superhero again? Oh, that’s right; he replaced Tony as Iron Man. Just like John Stewart got his start replacing Hal Jordan as Green Lantern. And John Henry Irons, replacing Superman back when he died. Oh, and don’t forget Monica Rambeau, Marvel’s second Captain Marvel. Or, hell, the Justice Society of America’s Mr. Terrific or Johnny/JJ Thunder, the Legion of Superheroes’ Computo and Invisible Kid, DC’s Mister Miracle (and, for that matter, Manhattan Guardian) or even The Spectre (And, again, who can forget Black Goliath, who replaced Hank Pym’s original White Goliath – except, of course, the “White” was silent in his name).

Graeme pokes at Rhodey’s history and finds something interesting at work, and ends up saying a lot about what it means to be black in comics. It’s absolutely worth a read or two, and it’s something to keep in mind when looking at black characters in comics.

I hadn’t even realized how few black characters were not “fight the power” types. Storm isn’t, but that’s because she’s completely divorced from any semblance of blackness. Just Bishop and Icon? And Bishop is borderline because of how he was placed at odds with the X-Men. It’s just the “Angry Black Man” stereotype poured into a new bottle.

The post’s excellent, go read it.

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The things you learn when you go back through old entries of abandoned communities.

November 21st, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

So, according to Gail Simone, Achilles is gay.  My reactions are as follows:

1.  But Zeus put him in charge of Amazon Island because he wanted the Amazons to lay down their weapons and become wives and mothers.  Is this one of those Greek irony deals, where the gods act like extreme bastards, but in an amusing way?  Telling the Amazons you want them knocked up, and then giving them a gay guy to get the job done, that’s just mean.

2.  And also damn.  I liked how he was in sympathy with the Amazons even as he tried to follow Zeus’s orders.  It would have been interesting if he had developed an actual relationship with one of the Amazons, instead of a marriage of state.

3.  But I suppose there aren’t that many gay guys in DC.

4.  There’s pretty much just him and Obsidian and Creo-

5.  Oh my god, there’s also Creote.

6.  Who is also a Simone creation.

7.  Oh please, Gail.  Give me Creote and Achilles as a couple for Christmas.  I’ve been so good all year long.

8.  For some definitions of good.

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“I have a few problems, the comic is fine.”

November 20th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Tucker Stone, the hands down nicest guy in comics, takes on last month’s books in Advanced Common Sense Episode 6 on comiXology. Click through to see what he has to say, or just press play below. Who knew last month was so awesome?

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Okay. Now I’m Getting Mad.

November 19th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell


Wow, I’ve never read about many female characters giving her a hard time in the comics . . . oh.  Oh.  That was meta.  The ‘most women’ comment.  The character looking out at us from the panel.  This is a little speech given to the women who, for some crazy reason, criticize Peej’s uniform.

You know, I think I’ve heard a similar speech.  It was about how Peej was proud of her body, and if men decided to degrade themselves by looking at her, then that was their business.  And I’ve heard the speech about how she had the ‘S’ and ripped it off, and that patch of fabric would stay absent until she found a symbol that represented her.

And I heard the justification about how Canary’s outfit was in tribute to her mother, even when that means she’s in panties and a jacket in the First Wave books.  And I’ve heard the one about Poison Ivy being a plant and therefore unconcerned about human modesty.  Oh, and I’ve heard the one about Supergirl being invulnerable and therefore not needing pants.  There are a few about how Huntress wanted to show off the fact that she was shot, and she lived, and that’s why she fought in a bikini.  And then there’s the one about Batman and Superman . . . oh.  Wait.  There aren’t that many excuses for how  Batman and Superman dress because, golly, for some reason, the male heroes in this mostly male-controlled medium put their fucking clothes on when they’re going to fight someone.

Are you kidding me?  I’m getting an ‘I choose my choice’ speech from a fictional character?  Feminist fans are getting a slap because they won’t accept one bullshit excuse after another for why male heroes are mostly fully-clothed and female heroes mostly walk around in their underwear?

Let me make this clear:  No matter how many times you have the female characters talk about how they decided on their outfits, they are still fictional characters.  These aren’t women who have decided on what they want to wear for reasons of their own.  These are characters who are dressed as playboy bunnies because a bunch of creators decided to dress them that way for fun and profit.

Jen Van Meter; I don’t know what you were trying to do here, but you failed.

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Food for thought, you do the dishes.

November 19th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Real life buddy Sonia Harris wrote a piece on ten implausible things in comics that I really dug. A sample:

Why can’t you see her food, when she’s just eaten, before it’s digested?
This has always confounded me. As far as I remember, in the Invisible Man, you could see his food, until it was absorbed by his body. That seems logical to me. However, no one talks about Susan Storm’s food, or being able to see it.

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Jormungand 1: Peace Through Superior Firepower

November 18th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Two things surprised me about Keitaro Takahashi’s Jormungand 1 after I finished it. The first was just how much I enjoyed reading it. The second was the fact that Kate Dacey (review on MangaCritic) and Danielle Leigh (review on CSBG) didn’t like it. I usually agree with their reviews, and if I disagree with one writer, then I agree with the other. To have both of them dislike something I dug feels weird.

Regardless! I don’t think I can explain why I like Jormungand without explaining my experience with Black Lagoon. I’d had Black Lagoon recommended to me by several people who thought I’d dig it. It hit a lot of my interests, but never clicked. The script was a little too Tarantino, the dialogue a little too consciously gritty and vulgar, and the action a little too Matrix. Revy’s portrayal felt overbearing. Guns akimbo, booty shorts, bad attitude, and tragic past do not a compelling character make. I think I quit the series seven or eight episodes before the end, just due to being tired of the entire affair.

Jormungand, though, hits the spot in a way Black Lagoon didn’t, but should have. I think that the secret is in its approach. Where Black Lagoon reveled in its excess, Jormungand manages to tone it down a little, but still be fun. Koko Hetmatyr, the leader of an arms-dealing firm, is (and I’m being 100% serious here) a blend of Misato Katsuragi from Evangelion, Sailor Moon, and Sir Integras Hellsing poured into the mold of an arms dealer. Excitable, and seemingly immature, but very, very good at her job. Kate describes her as “garrulous and profane,” and that’s on the money. Rivals underestimate her because she just seems like a young girl in over her head. And then the rivals get shot in the face, because whoops, she knows exactly what she’s doing, and she’s better at it than they are.

Koko’s newest hire is Jonah, a very young kid and experienced child soldier. Takahashi dances in and out of the real tragedy of being a child soldier, picking and choosing what can make a solid story. Jonah doesn’t sleep in a bed. He sleeps in a corner, wrapped up in a blanket, and with a gun in his hand. He’s quiet and withdrawn, almost sullen, and rarely asks questions.

At the same time, he’s very good at his job. He carefully watches possible enemies, delivers that info to his team, and isn’t afraid of pulling the trigger with a detached facial expression. He hates weapons, due to his parents being killed in a war, but he’s good at using them and joins Koko’s company of his own volition. There’s something bubbling in the background there, like Jonah is looking for the people directly responsible for killing his parents, or revenge, or something. There are a couple of brief interludes that seem to suggest as much.

The rest of the team are a motley crew. There’s the old guy who is probably a little washed up, but thinks higher of himself than he really deserves. There’s the girl with an eyepatch and a crush on Koko, who is apparently the best of the best. Think Sakaki from Azumanga Daioh with a knife and one eye. The rest of the cast is a little undefined, but undefined in a way that makes me assume they’ll be fleshed out in the future. They behave like a family, rather than a company, with gentle ribbing, bad cooking, and ridiculous jokes (“A mummy!”) being the order of the day.

The art does one thing I don’t know that I’ve seen in a book before, but really enjoyed. When time passes, the last panel on the page before the change or the first page after has a portion of it cut out and shadowed, kind of like a fade-in/fade-out effect. It isn’t 100% successful, but it is an interesting way to show the passage of time. The art is enjoyable, though it waffles between mostly realistic and anime/manga cliche exaggeration a little too often for my tastes.

Takahashi gets the hardware right, though. There’s a great shot of anti-air equipment, the guns look great, and the BDUs are believable, but still cool looking. The combat only gets overly flashy a couple of times, but when it gets down to brass tacks, it’s very straightforward. And hey, people practice trigger discipline, which is always nice to see in books. Takahashi did his homework. Not quite to the extent that Kenichi Sonoda did with Gunsmith Cats, but close enough for government work.

I liked Jormungand 1. I can see why Kate and Danielle didn’t, but something about it just worked for me. It feels a little like Gunsmith Cats with the gun fetish and light humor, which I am 2009% okay with. The casual approach to violence (the full page dedicated to Jonah using a handgun in the second chapter, the knife fight in the woods for seriously no good reason [as acknowledged by the fighters]) is something that’s morally reprehensible but, pretty entertaining. If the quality of the plotting and characterization picks up, this could be something very cool. As-is, it’s a shallow romp, but a fun one.

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Pluto 6: On Man’s Casual Inhumanity

November 17th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Sometimes, knowing a creator’s work means realizing partway through a book that yes, this guy is seriously going to take everything he’s good at, put it down onto the page, and throw it right into your face. I was a couple of chapters into Naoki Urasawa’s sixth volume of Pluto when I realized that that was exactly what was happening.

Urasawa’s proven himself to be a master of tense, emotional confrontation, believable conversation, and careful pacing. What he isn’t as known for is high impact action scenes, but Pluto 6 manages to put that notion to bed.

The first third or so of Pluto 6 follows a formula similar to the earlier volumes. Gesicht is investigating and talking to people, there are brief asides where small robots break your heart into pieces with an equal mix of adorableness and poverty, a mysterious teddy bear does something frightening, and secrets are slowly passed out.

The difference here is that the secrets are passed out like candy. We find out exactly what Pluto is and where it came from. We find out why Gesicht killed a man. We find out what it looks like when a robot is consumed with hate. We learn just how deep certain characters are, and we get to see true grief in the face of more than one person. We learn the meaning of “500 zeus a body” and it’s the saddest thing.

We also finally get to see Gesicht in hard action. I’m talking wall running, hand turning into a laser gun, fighting a giant monster, dashing through the exploded remains of your enemy action. And Urasawa pulls it off just as masterfully as everything else. It’s horribly violent and utterly tragic all at once, as Gesicht is forced to fight something that either doesn’t know any better or isn’t interested in knowing better, because the truth is too awful to bear.

Pluto 6 is paced in a way that it all feels very inevitable. Inexorable. The first scene in the book is an uneasy conversation between Gesicht and a scientist from Persia. It sets the tone. Where Gesicht was once on top of things and ahead of the investigation, he’s apparently slipped a step. He finds out something surprising at the end of the first chapter, and the hits keep coming from there on out.

Tragedy is the fuel that makes Pluto go. By the end of the volume, we realize that Gesicht, our hero and point of view, has been lied to, betrayed, misled, and hindered by forces beyond his control. All of this despite being a more powerful being than most of the populace. He has to consult a murderous robot to even find a semblance of truth. He’s a good man in a world that doesn’t deserve him.

Pluto is that book where a conversation is just as tense as two robots fighting, and the last eight pages just raise the bar. Two people, one a robot, the other a human, embrace on the border of the past and the future. They open up in a traditional Japanese garden outside of a hotel, as a high-tech city looms menacingly in the background.

Pluto 6 is the best yet. There’s really no other way to put it. It’s everything that’s made Pluto the best series of the year, but simply done better than before. That’s impressive.

Matthew Brady has a good review of this volume. He includes some scans and it’s good reading.

You should be buying this comic. Blah blah blah, I don’t read manga, it’s backwards, it’s black and white, whatever- shut up. It’s the best. You’re doing yourself a disservice by missing out.

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Fourcast! 25: Blast from the Pastcast

November 16th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

There may be a few audio hitches in this one. I tried to even it out, but some of them were unavoidable. Recording problems blah blah blah, it should be fixed for the show after the next.

-Intro drop: Jamaal Thomas of Funnybook Babylon. And he does like comics. He liked Luke Cage Noir, the recently ended Marvel miniseries set in Harlem.
-Theme music: 6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental
-The Shield: I was surprised I liked it, and try to get across a little of why I did.
-Batman & Doc Savage Special #1: I was surprised I didn’t like it, Esther was surprised that Batman grabbed a boob, and we gab about it for a bit.

Some visual aides, words by Azzarello, art by Noto:


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Batman & Robin & The Facets of the Joker

November 15th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

Earlier today I put up another edition of This Week in Panels. When I was getting the one for Batman and Robin #6, I noticed something odd. A striking similarity that didn’t poke out the first time I read it. At first I was wondering if it was a coincidence, but then I looked further into it and noticed that there were even more similarities. Being that this is Grant Morrison, I knew all of these nods had to be intentional.

One of the things about Dick Grayson as Batman is that he needs his own villain. Yes, he can fight the Joker, but it wouldn’t be the same. They wouldn’t have the magic of Bruce and the Joker as rivals. On the other hand, there’s Jason Todd. Ever since he’s been brought back to life, he’s been wasted potential. Whether he’s Red Hood, Nightwing, Red Robin or Batman with guns, he’s been in one bad story after another. And while Bruce Jones’ horrible Nightwing squandered Dick vs. Jason, the potential is still there. Dick Grayson and Jason Todd are meant to be archenemies. Todd would play off Dick far better than he would Bruce.

So if Jason Todd is Dick Grayson’s Joker, then they need to cement this. Most would consider Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s Killing Joke to be the ultimate Batman vs. Joker story. It’s fitting that the first six issues of Batman and Robin have been something of a retelling of that very story. Let’s look at the two:

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