Archive for June, 2010


The Cipher 06/23/10

June 23rd, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Battlefields #7: Motherland, Part 1 of 3. Written by Garth Ennis, drawn by Russ Braun, colored by Tony Aviña, lettered by Simon Bowland. Cover art by Garry Leach. Read the preview.

Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars?
I could really use a wish right now…

Hey, women in comics! People talk about that! Or at least women in superhero comics, which I guess is a little different. This, though, is what we should all be talking about. It’s great. Garth Ennis has taken his War Stories to Dynamite and has managed to keep the quality more or less as high as it was at Vertigo. In Battlefields, each story is three issues long and skips around in the European and Pacific theaters. I reviewed Dear Billy last September.

The third of this current cycle of Battlefields is “Motherland.” It’s the return of the main character from my favorite story from the last book. Anna Borisnova Kharkova is a member of the Night Witches, a group of all-female Soviet bombers in World War II. Read up on them, they’re pretty interesting. In the first book, Anna was a little wet behind the ears. By the time this one comes around, she’s been hardened by battle and seems pretty unhappy with her lot in life. She’s stuck in a situation where she is going to be just one of many soldiers being used for cannon fodder against the Germans. The base she’s operating out of is building up to the Battle of Kursk, for better or for worse. Honestly, judging by the odds, it’s just gonna be for worse.

This is a good one. I’ve read it already and it may end up being my favorite of the latest cycle once again. There’s a couple things that feel a little pat (the plucky girl particularly), but seeing Anna all mean… it works. I’m hooked. Bravo. If you want to get familiar, cop the Battlefields HC. Three stories, nine issues, twenty bones. The individual trades will cost you like ten a piece, so might as well double your dollars for three times the tales.

Also on my list for this week: Amazing Spider-Man #635 (Joe Kelly/Michael Lark), Heralds #4 (Kathryn Immonen/Tonci Zonjic/James Harren/Emma Rios), Joe the Barbarian #6 (Grant Morrison/Sean Murphy), King City #9 (Brandon Graham), and Thunderbolts #145 (Jeff Parker/Kev Walker).

Well. That’s a pretty good looking batch of comics there. I wish that Heralds was all Zonjic, but Harren was okay last time and Emma Rios is pretty talented. And really, when my biggest complaint for the week is “I wish one good artist had done this instead of a few good ones,” hey. That’s a good week.

Big news this week: DC’s joined up with comiXology to push hard on digital comics. Comics Alliance has all the news you need right here, and will have updates throughout the day, including an op-ed from yours truly and an interview with Jim Lee. Here’s the main details.

Digital comics! Time to put up or shut up. How long until I can buy a comic digitally and then grab the trade when that comes out? Someone make that happen. We can do business.

What’re you buying this week? Are you going to take the digital leap on your iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch? I tried to check it out last night when it went live, but apparently my poor widdle first-gen iPod Touch isn’t ready for the app. It crashes whenever I try to download. I’ll try again later, since I know several people who have had no trouble at all.

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The Top Ten Most Ridiculous Things to Come Out of Mortal Kombat

June 22nd, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Recently, Mortal Kombat has been making another push into the consciousness of gamers everywhere. Two weeks ago, a video was released based on the treatment for a movie revamp that would reimagine the series’ story as more urban and somewhat more down-to-Earth. Then a few days later, a new trailer was shown for the new game, simply entitled Mortal Kombat. Much like Street Fighter IV, it’s an attempt at a nostalgic return to glory by emphasizing the franchise’s best game.

While the footage has a definite Mortal Kombat II feel, it’s actually a skewed retelling of the first three games thanks to divine time travel. You see, sometime after Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, Shao Kahn curbstomps Raiden so hard that Raiden realizes how screwed the entire series has gotten. I mean, before the DC crossover, the game’s story was about an over-inflated cast having to climb the Aggro Crag. So he sends a message back to his younger self to cause a massive butterfly effect (butterfly effekt?) and redo history right this time. It’s like the last episode of Mighty Max but without Bull from Night Court being eaten by a giant spider. Or maybe it does have that. I don’t know. The game won’t be out for a year.

I’ve always been a fan of the series. It’s cheesy, violent fun and – as stupid as it sounds – I’ve always loved the mythology that comes with it all. From the beginning, it’s been Enter the Dragon mixed with Big Trouble in Little China mixed with Iron Fist with a dash of Godfrey Ho. I’ve been following the series far longer than I have comics and I’ve experienced many of the nuances of its excessive success. I remember when digitized actor Daniel Pesina rebelled against Midway by appearing in a magazine ad in support for the game Bloodstorm while wearing full Johnny Cage gear. I remember the Mortal Kombat GI Joe figures. I remember the awful knockoff videogames like Way of the Warrior, War Gods and the never-released Tattoo Assassins. I remember how the ARCADE version of Mortal Kombat 3 got its own nationally televised commercial. I remember the Mortal Kombat 3 Kombat Kodes that weren’t even worth the effort. I even read that mediocre prequel novel where Scorpion was revealed to be the ghost of a murdered ninja merged with his son’s body.

That said, I’ve seen the weird stuff come out of the trademark that still causes me to scratch my head. I figured a trip through the stranger and more unfortunate pieces of output from the Mortal Kombat series might be worth the time. Though first thing’s first, I’m not going to go the gameplay route with this list. I don’t care about how it lacks the refined tournament play of Virtua Fighter 5 or how the Run button is the Holocaust in videogame form or how Human Smoke has an infinite. I really just do not care.

Let’s start off the list by getting the most obvious one out of the way.

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“Somehow I Sense I’ve Been Split Into Two Beings”

June 22nd, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

“Yes!  And that somehow our other selves are elsewhere — on some strange world!”

Batman #146 featured Bat-Girl, Robin, and half of Batman and Batwoman sent to other planets.  It’s nice to see that, even split in half, they have spot-on instincts.

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Final Crisis: Almost, But Not Quite

June 22nd, 2010 Posted by david brothers

I reread Final Crisis the other day. I like pretty much everyone involved. Grant Morrison and JG Jones did Marvel Boy together, which is excellent all around. Carlos Pacheco is a good artist. Doug Mahnke should be the only person allowed to draw Wonder Woman ever. I had every reason to like the story, but something in the execution didn’t click with me.

Final Crisis feels like less than the sum of its parts. Morrison’s approach made for a dense and layered read, but it never quite comes together to be something worth reading. I can see the effort, but the effort isn’t enough. The “channel-zapping” style was meant to make the reading experience mirror the events in the book. A lot of stuff is going on, and flipping back and forth from scene to scene, each of them getting only a few pages to breathe, which keeps you disoriented and on edge. It kinda works and it kinda doesn’t.

But enough of its faults. Let’s talk about a couple things that worked.

Batman’s goal is to avenge the death of his parents by spending the rest of his life warring on all criminals. Batman, like the Punisher, has his choice of two endings to his story. He can either die on the streets or fight forever, eventually drafting more and more people into his battle. Final Crisis, though, is the last DC Universe story. It’s the story of the time when evil won and good still persevered. Since this is the last story, Batman gets a chance to do the unthinkable. He gets to end his story. He gets to win.

It is a moment that could only happen to Batman here, where all stories are ending. Everything in Batman’s life built toward this moment. Batman comes face-to-face with the personification of evil itself, and that dark god tells him that the only choice is evil. Instead, Batman steals Darkseid’s idea. “A gun and a bullet” changed Batman’s life forever. A gun and a bullet murdered Orion. And then, at the end of the world, a gun and a bullet are going to be used to destroy their master. With a sigh, he accepts that he actually completed his goal. The “Gotcha,” and the smile, that’s just Batman. Batman doesn’t lose.

Everything about the Flash, any of them, in Final Crisis is dead on. The Flash is the best hero in the DC Universe. He’s got the best enemies, best power, and he’s flexible enough to work on both a street level and cosmic level. More than anything else, though, the Flash is a confident hero. They’re consummate professionals, very experienced, and their very power gives them an edge of everything else. It seems like a contradiction, but their superspeed lets them process things faster than any other hero, which means that they are among the few that can afford to take it slow. They should make being a hero look effortless.

Everything in Final Crisis supports that. The Flashes are supremely confident, they know exactly what they need to do, and just how to go about it. When it comes time to save the world, Barry has a plan. “We start with family.” This is what superheroes are about. It’s about having the power to protect your loved ones, even, or maybe especially, when the entire universe is being pulled into oblivion.

The kiss between Barry and Iris is classic comic book storytelling. How do you cure an evil infection? With love. It’s that simple. And after, everything is fine. It’s business as usual. There was never any doubt about the fact that everything would be all right.

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Live Action Blue Beetle Show

June 21st, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Just when I decided I was fine with not going to this year’s Comic-Con, what with the crowds, and no place to stay, and five days of eight-dollar hot dogs eaten while crouched in the corner of a convention center, Geoff Johns tweets that The Blue Beetle will be a live-action TV show.

Let me say that again:  the 24 issue run that I have pimped time and time again, and that I consider one of the best books in comics.  Ever.  Is going to be a live-action TV series, with previews at Comic-Con.

Damn you, Cruel Fate.

That being said – for all the Blue Beetle fans out there: it is time to start dancing.  Dance!  DANCE RIGHT THERE IN YOUR CHAIR!

This is so fantastic.  Here are five things I hope will happen.

1.  John Rogers and Keith Giffen are involved in this series.

2.  They keep The Family Reyes.  That is one of the best, sweetest, wisest, and yet imperfect groups of people I’ve ever seen in any form of media.

3.  They also keep La Dama.  I loved her as a villain.  She was one of the few villains in comics who was motivated by specific and understandable goals: family, security, and money.  So many villains are just motivated by an abstract desire to be evil.

4.  The Lonar Excursion, complete with tiny little fuzzy aliens whose language translates to hilarious lines.  My favorite one part?  Where they just tried to drink Brenda’s blood, and got beat up by Brenda and Lonar, and then came back all, “eep eep eep” and the translation was:  “We’re cool, you’re cool. Let’s all just be cool.”  You said it, ewok rip-offs!

5.  Oh god you can’t have a Jaime Blue Beetle series without Guy Gardner!  Please, please, please, please.

6.  The Ultrahumanite, too.

7.  This is just to say that The Blue Beetle also had the storyline with the best title. Ever.  Seriously, read comics all your life, you will never beat this one.  It’s one in which Eclipso wants to rip the heart out of a super-powered baby to – something.  That doesn’t matter.  What matters is that the issue was called ‘Total Eclipso: The Heart.”  My god.  It’s full of stars.

8.  I know this is a long shot, but I’d love for Ted to be in there.  It’s canon that he wanted to retire and be an inventor, and that the scarab didn’t work for him.  Don’t get me wrong, I like The Peacemaker, but Ted is just so sweet and goofy and smart and ridiculous.  I miss the guy.

That turned into eight things and every one of them is essential.

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The Roots: How I Got Over

June 21st, 2010 Posted by david brothers

The last album from The Roots was Rising Down. It was the release valve of living under eight years of Bush and the information overload and depression that came from suddenly having all the news you care to read at your beck and call. It was harsh music, with the closest thing to a round edge coming in the form of the Wale and Jill Scott-featured “Rising Down.” The standout track was “75 Bars (Black’s Reconstruction),” which featured Black Thought going in for three minutes straight on a spare ?uestlove drum track and a low, groaning musical accompaniment.

I’m not sure which bars are my favorite. “I’m in the field with a shield and a spear, nigga/ I’m in your girl with her heels in the air, nigga” is incredible, but Thought drops ten about three-fourths of the way through the song that pretty near knocked my socks off. “What’s your networking plan? You better look alive/ ’cause them niggas outside looking desperate again, nigga/ And the blunts and liquor killing our lungs and liver/ The asthmatic drug addict, I function with it/ I put a rapper in a hole where the dust will sit/ for spitting played out patterns that once was hitting/ I got news for you all, let me show you how to ball/ See the legendary fall? I ain’t heard of that/ Y’all niggas is off the wall like Aresnio Hall/ I’ma put you right back where the dirt is at.”

Their new joint is How I Got Over. The title really says it all: it’s about triumph over adversity. I’m on listen three or four at this point, and listen sixty or seventy of the lead single “How I Got Over,” and it’s a great record. The sequencing, the music, all of it sounds on point. Each song flows into the next, and they work together to build an album about getting over when times are hard, whether through hustling, prayer, or just living. It’s a strong album.

The guest appearances come from all-stars, too. Blu is a dope producer and artist out of Los Angeles, one of those guys who releases tunes so rarely that you get mad and think he disappeared, and then he comes back with something that goes hard and all is forgiven. Down to earth, interesting production, straightforward lyrics, Blu is basically that dude. Phonte from Little Brother is on a couple tracks, too, and he’s always entertaining. STS, aka Sugar Tongue Slim, and the always dope Peedi Crakk (Peedi Peedi so he can get on TV) make strong guest appearances, too. Roots staple Dice Raw has several verses, which is always nice to see. John Legend and Joanna Newsom are on the album for all you people who don’t like rappers but loooooove sangas.

Cop it. How I Got Over is pretty good. It’s down tempo, a little more laid back than Rising Down, and a little more, what, mature? Is it grown folks’ music? I’m not sure, but it’s good.

Related: Bobby Ray’s album is five bucks on Amazon, that Janelle Monae record is eight, and Eminem’s latest is ten bucks. It’s been a good year for music.

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Fourcast! 50: Anecdotal Evidence

June 21st, 2010 Posted by david brothers

-Hey, remember when I jokingly suggested that we’d one day do an entire podcast composed of nothing but anecdotes?
-Ha ha, joke’s on you!
-For our 50th show, we decided to do a big fat show where we talk about things we like.
-It’s so that you get to know us better, or something. I swear I had a reason when I thought of doing this.
-This is a fun one, though, so listen to it.
-David: The Book of Eli, Inglourious Basterds
-Esther: Creature features & comedies
-David: Crime shows–no wait, TV on DVD.
The Shield, Homicide: Life on the Street, Dragon Ball Z
Puss-n-Boots, Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves
-Yes, I only know three fairy tales apparently. But Esther doesn’t know Dragon Ball Z!
Journey to the West
-Esther: TV shows–comedies, getting suckered into watching Oz/good dramas, making up memories
-David: Libraries and Fred Saberhagen
-Esther: Libraries and orphans
-The series I couldn’t think of was Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern. Thanks to snackmar for pointing it out from my vague, one-word description!
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music.
-See you, space cowboy!

Subscribe to the Fourcast! via:
Podcast Alley feed!
RSS feed via Feedburner
iTunes Store

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This Week in Panels: Week 39

June 20th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Almost running a little too late on this one, but work and Toy Story 3 kept me busy today. If I could give any warning about this week’s comics, it’s this: don’t check out Age of Heroes if you have any interest in the Young Masters whatsoever. Even though they take up 2/3 of the cover, they do even less than the Dark Reign miniseries that created them. Seriously, two pages of aimless dialogue. That’s it.

Age of Heroes #2
Brian Reed, Chad Hardin, Victor Olazaba and various others

Atlas #2
Jeff Parker, Gabriel Hardman and Ramon Rosanas

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Ghost Riders Variations

June 17th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

I don’t know why it took so long for this to pop in my head, considering I read Ghost Riders: Heaven’s on Fire months ago and the song wasn’t even stuck in my head, but this is what boredom does to you.

Ah, Orb. You’re the worst character ever and I love you for it.

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Smurfs Movie Teaser!

June 17th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

It’s looks smurfing smurfy! Too bad it’s due in August 2011. I’ll just have to make do with The Smurfs #1: The Purple Smurf this August. Thanks to Tim O’Neil for the heads-up.

(Like I wasn’t gonna be a Smurfs fan. I’m an ’80s baby, c’mon son.)

(if the video doesn’t show up, blame Yahoo. I’ll replace it when I can.)

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