Archive for July, 2010


4×4 Elements: Kraven’s Last Hunt

July 31st, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt. Words by JM DeMatteis, pencils by Mike Zeck, inks by Bob McLeod, letters by Rick Parker, colors mostly by Janet Jackson.

I picked up a couple issues of Kraven’s Last Hunt when I was a kid and relatively fresh. It was pretty scary at the time, being that most of the Spider-Man stories I read were pretty middle of the road with regards to violence and horror. KLH is still one of my favorite Spidey stories, and one of the relatively few that stand alone, like Batman: Year One or Dark Knight Returns. Here’s four reasons why it’s great.

Mick Zeck and Bob McLeod get Spider-Man. Zeck’s really good at drawing people, and this gives him a chance to put that into action. Spidey’s a little shorter than Kraven, and a little slimmer. Spider-Man isn’t as buff as other heroes. He’s acrobatic and fast, which suggests a thin, but muscular, build. Kraven is burly, built like a circus strongman or like Superman.

There’s a surprising number of completely silent panels in Kraven’s Last Hunt, and Kraven’s face is the focus of many of them. Zeck and McLeod render him with a deep sadness. When it comes time to draw figures in action, they acquit themselves very well. The ghost of Ned Leeds looks genuinely confused after being told that he’s dead. Mary Jane’s body language when she goes to see Robbie Robertson is tired and dejected. Kraven looks insane when he’s gobbling up spiders. Vermin is creepy crawly, as he should be.

Zeck and McLeod do a better than average job of making this story work, but still manage to keep it within the Spider-Man style. Zeck’s Mary Jane is undeniably a John Romita girl. Robbie sits around smoking a pipe and he doesn’t look out of place. They jettison Kraven’s costume for the majority of the book, but when it does appear, it’s rendered just as realistically as everything else. They did this back in 1987, but I wouldn’t be mad if I saw it on a book nowadays.

Kraven’s Last Hunt placed Spider-Man within something bigger than himself. Rather than just having a hero/villain relationship, Kraven’s mad rantings place Spider-Man under the umbrella of the Spider, the source of all of man’s pain and suffering. Kraven places all of the blame for his mother’s insanity, his father’s downfall, and his own weakness onto the Spider’s shoulders, creating a totem for him to tear down and conquer.

This is a little different than a criminal telling Batman that he’s a demon or a devil. The bat is never really charged with any meaning but fear in Batman, and I’m having trouble thinking of a time when that was examined in any depth. In this story, Kraven comes to realize that the Spider represents a concept, rather than anything literal. The Spider is your enemy, something that exists simply to oppose you. It isn’t necessarily evil.

Spider-Man represents all of the hate and doubt and evil that’s haunted Kraven’s life. Due to this, and his impending death, Kraven has one goal. Kraven must prove himself better than Spider-Man. It’s the only way he can conquer his fear, his feelings about his mother’s insanity, and his own shortcomings. He dons the costume and attempts to do everything the Spider did, only better. He fights crime, but kills the criminals. He takes on Vermin, who had previously fought Captain America and Spider-Man both, and demolishes him. He even rescues Mary Jane, unintentionally repeating another of Spider-Man’s past actions, but she reacts with terror.

Kraven’s entire arc in Kraven’s Last Hunt is about proving his supremacy over his fear, and his own fear is his last mountain to climb. There’s no get rich quick, no world domination… he doesn’t even do it to hurt Spider-Man. Spider-Man is a prop in the fight between Kraven and his Spider.

She only appears on a few pages in Kraven’s Last Hunt. Despite that, Mary Jane plays the role of the average reader’s point of view. At the end of the first chapter, Spider-Man is killed and buried. For the next few chapters, we see Kraven going wild and have no idea what’s going on. She echoes all of our fears and thoughts, and when she encounters Kraven, she has the same reaction we have had: “Stop.”

Kraven perverted the idea of Spider-Man, but he also perverted the Spider-Man comics. Kraven took over the books entirely, and Spider-Man simply doesn’t appear again until the fourth chapter. I can see how this would be a little unsettling, and when viewed through Mary Jane’s eyes, it makes perfect sense. This is Kraven wearing Spider-Man’s skin, and it’s absolutely not right.

And the first thing Spider-Man does when he digs his way out? He goes directly to his wife.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


New Ultimate Edit Week 3: Day Seven

July 31st, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Time to finish off yet another week. Yesterday’s antics saw the Ultimates overwhelm the enemy with their explosive badassitude. Then Hawkeye took Enchantress out of the game with an arrow to the heart. Considering she got shot in the heart and I’m from New Jersey, consider yourself damn lucky that I chose to give this scene a Motley Crue soundtrack instead of Bon Jovi.

After finishing all that up, I instantly got another idea for that death scene, so here’s an alternate take on page 22 for any Morrison fans out there.

As always, thanks to ManiacClown for his assistance. See you again after about three more release delays. Unless you’re the kind of guy who checks out this site normally, which is even sweeter.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


4×4 Elements: Flash: Blitz

July 30th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

The Flash: Blitz. Words by Geoff Johns, pencils by Scot Kolins, inks by Doug Hazlewood, letters by Ken Lopez, colors by James Sinclair, further art by Phil Winslade and Alberto Dose.

I didn’t like Flash as a kid. It’s probably more accurate to say that I barely knew he existed. The TV show was here and then gone and he wasn’t in any of the few DC books I picked up. I thought he was okay in the cartoon, but I didn’t really get him until I picked up a trade of the Johns/Kolins run on Flash. Flash: Blitz is the end of their run, and they go out on a high note. Here’s four reasons why this story that made Flash finally click for me works well.

The threat in Flash: Blitz is deeply personal. The closest Batman comes to a relationship like this would be his relationship with Harvey Dent. In Blitz, Hunter Zolomon is a good friend of Wally West. After being crippled by Gorilla Grodd, Hunter begs Wally to use the Cosmic Treadmill to go back and fix his life. Wally refuses, and attempts to explain that you can’t just play with time like that. Hunter takes his explanation poorly, and decides that Wally simply doesn’t understand how tragedy can change a man’s life.

After circumstances have gifted Hunter with powers that allow him to move extremely fast, he takes the name Zoom and decides to teach Wally tragedy, and therefore turn him into a better hero. A hero that understands tragedy is a hero that understands stakes, and a hero that understands stakes is willing to do whatever is necessary to protect his people. Zoom forces Wally’s wife to miscarry, ending the life of their twins. When that doesn’t make Wally break Zoom’s neck, he decides to up the ante and goes directly after Linda.

Zoom is Wally’s Green Goblin. They have a deeply personal connection, and their relationship isn’t as simple as hero and villain. They are former friends, and Zoom believes that what he’s doing will cause Wally to grow as a hero. He’s clearly a villain, but his motivations aren’t of the world domination variety. He’s focused on the Flash, and more specifically, on Wally West.

Zoom isn’t just a generic villain. He’s specifically engineered so that only Wally West can stop him. Superman can beat the Joker. Batman can beat Lex Luthor. I guess Cheetah is Wonder Woman’s top villain? Anyone can beat her. Zoom? No one can beat Zoom but the Flash. Not a Flash, mind you–the Flash. Wally West. And even then, Wally needs help from his friends to even be able to compete.

There’s always a danger of making your villains too dependent on your heroes when creating new stories. Joker’s dependence somehow turned into a story point, but for most, it just looks kind of pathetic. For some reason, maybe due to the way their relationship was set up, Zoom works because of his dependence. He makes his entire reason for being turning the Flash into a better hero.

If Superman could just pop along and throw him into the sun, he wouldn’t be anywhere near as effective. Shared superhero universes tend to introduce cracks into stories. “Why didn’t Batman just call Superman to use his X-Ray Vision to find the Joker?” is a very good question. In this case, though, Zoom is specific to Flash’s abilities, and those abilities take both of them away from anything but speedster-based help.

So the stakes become Wally’s, and Wally’s alone. His buds in the Justice League can’t help. He can’t wait around looking for a solution. He has to handle it, and he has to handle it himself.

Well, not entirely alone. Blitz also sold me on the idea of the Flash Family. There are a lot of Flashes, or Flash-like characters. Jay, Barry, Wally, Bart, Jesse, John Fox, Max Mercury, and maybe one or two others. Their legacy spans some seventy years at this point. They all have the same power, more or less, with only the magnitude of their abilities separating them.

They work as a family, too. Jay is the wise old grandfather. Barry is the first success story. Wally is following in Barry’s steps. Bart is the rebellious teen. Jesse is the black sheep. John Fox and Max Mercury are the weird uncles from out of town who are probably crazy from the war. They have their own specialties, for better or for worse, and when it comes time for the big showdown, they all have a role to play, whether that is donating their powers, giving advice, or simply figuring out what to do.

Flash has a pretty large supporting cast, and they all have a role to play. There’s his aunt Iris, Detectives Chyre and Morillo, Jay and Joan Garrick, the Rogues (to an extent), Bart Allen, Jesse Quick, and his wife Linda. They all get a moment to shine in this story, and it helps to both turn Flash’s world into a fully-realized one and show exactly how high the stakes are.

When the cops are guarding the hospital where Linda is staying after she was attacked, and one of them complains about how Flash brought all of this upon himself, Morillo and Chyre set him straight. When Wally can’t figure out what Zoom’s deal is, he goes to Jay. When Wally and Linda get together to announce their upcoming parenthood, they call the whole family.

Having a supporting cast that is made up entirely of superheroes or just close family can be toxic. JMS reduced Spider-Man’s cast to Mary Jane and Aunt May, and the book suffered for it. Batman rarely interacts with his civilian friends. It’s like when heroes never stop to eat or take a shower. You may not exactly notice it, but it makes them less than human. Having a variety of friends and family, be they human, superhuman, or otherwise, is valuable. It creates the illusion of a world outside of the comics pages and characters who have genuine relationships outside of their superhero lives.

The fact that everyone shows up in this arc, save for one or two minor characters, is notable. It shows that this is a big deal, but it also shows that Flash has a support system of friends and family standing behind him. It means that Zoom is wrong. Heroes don’t need tragedy to be effective heroes. Sometimes, all they need are friends and a strong sense of what’s right.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


New Ultimate Edit Week 3: Day Six

July 30th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Previously on New Ultimate Edit, the Ultimates regrouped after being made to look like buffoons by some monster army from another world. Carol talked to Clint, Tony talked to Carol and Clint and Clint talked to Steve. That’s enough of a breather for them to raid every gun closet in the Triskelion so they can teach those trolls the American definition of “counter-attack”.

I’m sorry, but that song is the king of improving excessively ridiculous action sequences. This guy knows the score.

Tomorrow, we take it home and another character kicks the bucket. Only two major characters dying in a Loeb Ultimate comic? He’s starting to lose his touch.

Oh, and thanks to ManiacClown. I made Shake-n-Bake and he helped.

Day Seven!

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


4×4 Elements: Icon: Mothership Connection

July 29th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Icon: Mothership Connection. Words by Dwayne McDuffie, art largely by MD Bright, inks largely by Mike Gustovich, assorted art by an army of creators, colors by a horde of colorists, letters by Steve Dutro.

I read various issues of Icon as a kid, though I don’t think I ever read more than one or two in a row. I think as far as Milestone went, I kept up with Static and bought the rest as I could, probably because Static was about a kid. When I got grown, I read, or re-read, Icon and found a lot to appreciate. Here are four things in particular.

Icon has a point. Stories that have no meaningful content may be entertaining, but they don’t stick with you like stories that have a point do. It doesn’t have to be a sermon, it doesn’t have to reveal some profound lesson, and it doesn’t have to use heavy-handed metaphors to examine life. There just needs to be some level of meaningful content, something you can look at and go “Oh, this. This means _______.” This is true of everything, not just comics.

Batman is about coping with grief. Daredevil is about survivor’s guilt. Spider-Man is about being better than you are. Donna Troy’s stories are about how people will read anything, no matter how bad, just because they liked a character as a kid. X-Men has gotten awful muddy, but somewhere under all of the fetish writing and laborious continuity is the metaphor that made them a hit. You can kick over most of the popular heroes and find something underneath their adventure stories that speaks to someone, somewhere.

Icon is about responsibility. Augustus Freeman is living well amongst other rich people, which has unfortunately segregated him from his history. Freeman, comfortable in his own abilities, leans toward believing that each person can pull himself up by his bootstraps. Essentially, he is responsible only for himself, and everyone else should follow that example. After all, if he did it, anyone can, right?

The problem with that is that it simply doesn’t work. Ignorance holds a lot of people back, and if you don’t know better, you can’t do better. Icon the series and Icon the hero are there to show people that they can do better. When Raquel gives icon a name, she tells Augustus that “[i]t means like an example, or an ideal.” Augustus corrects her, and explains that “it’s a symbol, something that stands for something else.” She asks him, “What do you stand for?”

You hear it all the time. “The children are the future.” (“and Wu-Tang is for the babies.”) (Sorry.) It’s both literal and figurative. The children are who inherit the future, but they are also the guides of the future. Their choices decide what’s going to happen.

Writers are the keepers of the past. They take what happens now and make sure that it lasts into the future. It’s very important to maintain a connection to your past while proceeding into the future. That is how knowledge survives from generation to generation.

Raquel represents the past, present, and future. She’s a writer, charged with protecting and judging the past, and she’s a mother, shepherding and guarding the future. Her knowledge of the past informs her present and provides a foundation for the future of her child. She names him Amistad, after the slave ship.

Buck Wild represents progress. Buck is essentially every black comics character, pre-1990, rolled into one. He’s primarily Luke Cage, from his design to his demeanor. McDuffie and Doc Bright amped up his more stereotypical accents, such as slow wit and fake way of speaking, but you know exactly who he is supposed to be.

At his funeral, we get to see Buck’s parodies of several black heroes. All of those heroes were lacking in various ways. Some were sidekicks. Others were dependent upon white heroes for powers. Some just had stupid villains. Buck represents all of these heroes, and by being presented as a backwards, but useful, hero, McDuffie and Bright are saying something very specific about black heroes in comics of a certain time and style.

Icon, at Buck’s funeral, says, “[F]or all his failures, he died as he lived, trying to do what was right. Let us hope that when our day is done, history remembers us as kindly as it remembers him.” His point is plain: Buck was not perfect, but he was an attempt to do right. Extrapolate from that: all of those stupid black heroes who spoke in fake jive and had powers that boiled down to “has muscles, hates the man” were a necessary step. You don’t get to have great heroes without having the wack ones first. Buck Wild paved the way for Icon, and hopefully, one day, Icon will pave the way for something better.

All of the meaningful content in the world don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. You can preach until your voice goes hoarse and your congregation falls asleep in the pews, but it doesn’t matter if what you’re preaching isn’t entertaining. If you want to preach and preach and preach, go write some non-fiction. If you’re doing a comic, bring your biggest guns and entertain. Fortunately, Icon is entertaining.

There’s a wry sense of humor woven throughout the book. The citizens of Dakota are quick with a flip remark, Raquel is smart-mouthed enough for both her and Icon, and Buck Wild is hilarious, in an Uncle Ruckus sort of way. McDuffie wrote a particularly effective black preacher in Icon: Mothership Connection. Every black preacher has a little bit of James Brown inside him, and McDuffie nailed it, even down to the call and response from the congregation.

When it comes time for action, McDuffie and Bright go big, with Superman-class action. Icon‘s populated with aliens, thugs, politicians, protestors, plenty of other heroes, and inky black alien shapeshifters bound and determined to destroy everything Icon holds dear. Buildings get knocked down, cars get thrown, and people get punched in the jaw.

Make no mistake: this is a superhero comic. Icon flies, shoots beams, and beats people up. It’s a very entertaining one, too, and more than capable of keeping your interest. The meaningful content is simply icing on the cake.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


New Ultimate Edit Week 3: Day Five

July 29th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

What happened last time? That’s a good question that I’d rather not answer, but here it goes. Thor want to leave the afterlife of bones and weapons and his arguing with Hela reveals that she’s already about to burst with Thor Jr. Now Thor definitely wants out before he has to do the delivery and put a crib together. Also, Director Danvers told off Hawkeye and said he was worse than Arsenal. Uh oh.

Where is Hawkeye in that group shot? At the vending machine, I guess.

ManiacClown felt that Hawkeye’s missing lucky bow would have been found on a bow rack under the label “lucky”.

Tomorrow means lots and lots of bullets.

Day Six!
Day Seven!

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


The Cipher 07/28/10

July 28th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Return of Bruce Wayne 4, words by Grant Morrison, pencils by Georges Jeanty, inks by Walden Wong, colors by Tony AviƱa, letters by Travis Lanham. Preview

See where the bad guys are to be found and make em lay down! The defenders of the West, crushing all pretenders in the West!

Cowboy Batman! Maybe I should’ve let Esther write this one, I know she was looking forward to it. I don’t even really have anything clever to say!

Book-wise, I got a few from San Diego, B.P.R.D 13: 1947 from Amazon today, and I’m about 15 pages from the end of Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour. SP is kind of interesting. I like it, but I don’t love it. I respect Bryan Lee O’Malley for getting it done and having it become some kind of crazy ill success, too. I’m slowly working through my stack and decompressing from a hectic San Diego, so I’ll have better words next week.

I gotta buy last week’s comics this week, too. Bleah.

The David: Unknown Soldier 22
The Esther: Definitely: Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne 4 Maybe: Batman: The Brave and the Bold 19, Detective Comics 867, First Wave 3, Green Arrow 2
and The Gavin Authority: The Lost Year 11, Batman: Return of Bruce Wayne 4, Green Lantern 56, Green Lantern Corps 50, Justice League: Generation Lost 6, Deadpool Team-Up 891, Franken-Castle 19, Weapon X Noir, Incorruptible 8, WWE Heroes 5

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


4×4 Elements: Superman: Birthright

July 28th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Superman: Birthright. Words by Mark Waid, pencils by Leinil Francis Yu, inks by Gerry Alanguilan, colors by Dave McCaig, and letters by Comiccraft, Superman by Siegel and Shuster.

I didn’t like Superman until I read Birthright. I’d read a few as a kid, most notably the Death and Reign, and the cartoon was okay I guess, but he never clicked. He was generic and boring. Here are four ways why Birthright convinced me otherwise.

Superman gets angry. Most popular interpretations of Superman portray him as fairly long-suffering, good-humored, and kind. He punches robots and rescues children and goes home satisfied. In Birthright, he’s a little different. He’s a little edgier and, as this scene shows, a lot angrier. This isn’t your stereotypical “This ends now!” anger. It’s something smaller and much more personal. I like this, in part because it makes Superman a little more human.

Kryptonian or not, Superman was raised as a human being by human beings. There’s no way that he grew up to be completely emotionally stable at all times. Something has to piss him off at some point. This time, it was a young girl looking down the barrel of a gun because of a man’s negligence. This kind of thing puts me in mind of Action Comics 1, where Superman throws a wife beater up against a wall and generally operates on a completely different level than he does these days.

This manages to ground Superman (“He gets angry at injustice, just like us!”) without butchering him or tearing his character to bits. He has a very reasonable reaction to something horrible happening, and he wants to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. “I want you to know how this feels, because your complete lack of empathy is what allowed it to happen.” Superman is a power fantasy, and a tremendous part of the appeal of power fantasies is that they can do things you wish you could do, but cannot.

Superman has super-empathy, feeling great respect and love for all creatures. One wrinkle Waid and Yu added to the mythology is that Superman is a vegetarian. It sounds a little goofy, and is minor in the overall scheme of things, but it makes a lot of sense. If Superman really was as kind and gracious as people say he is, that obscene level of kindness would extended to all life.

What matters here isn’t that he eats rabbit food all the time. What matters is that the idea that Superman is a vegetarian shows that Waid put a lot of thought into Superman. He went deeper than “Superman is a good guy and does good guy things.” He started with one idea, “Superman is a good guy raised by loving parents,” and extrapolated from there. Superman has a deep wellspring of love for life->Superman is an alien, and is therefore as different from humans as humans are to animals->Superman would consider all life the same->Superman wouldn’t want to kill animals for food. One thought, followed through to its logical extension.

Thought counts.

Lois Lane is annoying. This isn’t the Lois who has settled down with Superman and knocks out Pulitzer Prize-winning articles twice a week. This is the Lois that has had a few minor hits, has gained a well-regarded reputation, but hasn’t quite made her name what it would later grow to be. Except: she’s very, very good. Perry White knows it. Clark Kent has known it for years. Everyone knows it. The worst part is that she knows it.

Have you ever met a really talented person who knows that they’re talented? Lois Lane is that person. She knows she’s good, and she knows that her talent lets her get away with a whole lot of stuff. Yes, she will critique the paper to her boss in excruciating detail. Yes, she will put herself into dangerous situations just because she can. Yes, she will lie and cheat her way into a building to get a story. Yes, she will hit Lex Luthor’s doomsday machine with a lead pipe.

“If you got it, flaunt it,” said the late great Notorious B.I.G. Lois has got it. She flaunts it. And she can, because she’s got the talent to back it up.

This isn’t especially deep or profound. This is just something else that wraps up Superman’s origin in a nice, neat bow. Superman gets to talk to his parents. Originally, Superman was just an orphan. He knew where he was from, he knew his history, but he didn’t know or ever talk to his parents. He was a baby.

At the end of Birthright, a wormhole through time lets him see his parents just after they launch him into space. They’re worried about his future and caught in the despair that can only come when giving up your child. And in the end, when he finally gets a chance to speak to them, he says, “Mother… Father… I made it.”

It’s sweet and it gives a certain measure of closure to a story that you probably didn’t even realize needed it. Later stories would build upon Superman’s relationship to Krypton (“Great Rao!” for some reason took off even though dude was probably raised Methodist), but this right here is the first step, and honestly the only step I need. His parents died at peace. He started his life as Superman and soon managed to make contact with his past. It’s nice.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


New Ultimate Edit Week 3: Day Four

July 28th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Yesterday had the lesser Ultimates rescue the marquee Ultimates and give Hell to Loki’s mindless minions. Now we move to the realm of the undead and get an overdue dose of Thor.

Oh no she didn’t! We’ll pick up on that tomorrow.

Thanks to ManiacClown, who I imagine has some semblance of a clue of what Thor and Hela are talking about. He also thinks that the above headshot of Thor has a Nathan Explosion quality to it.

Day Five!
Day Six!
Day Seven!

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


New Ultimate Edit Week 3: Day Three

July 27th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

As seen last time, Valkyrie is nice enough to show us her origin story long after anyone really cared anymore. She and her Asgardian friends are showing off their prisoners when the cavalry arrives to save the captured Ultimates. Now we continue with that.

Thanks to the help of ManiacClown who really, really did NOT want me to make a certain reference to the way Hawkeye is posed on the bottom of that second page. You can’t unsee it now, can you? I’ll let you come up with your own joke.

We’ll continue tomorrow as we see what’s going down with Thor.

Day Four!
Day Five!
Day Six!
Day Seven!

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon