Archive for September, 2011


I like the sex scene in Catwoman #1. It’s the rest of it that’s the problem.

September 30th, 2011 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

This is a response to the overwhelming talk about Catwoman #1 on the internet.  It started, of course, with Laura Hudson’s post on Comics Alliance, which I have mentioned before and which is now up to over 2100 comments.  (If we could match that on this post, I would be pleased.)  Next I heard about Catwoman on the Wait, What? Podcast with Jeff Lester and Graeme McMillan.  They mentioned that Judd Winick made a statement about Catwoman, which he wrote.  The statement goes like this:

This is a Catwoman for 2011, and my approach to her character and actions reflect someone who lives in our times. And wears a cat suit. And steals. It’s a tale that is part crime story, part mystery and part romance. In that, you will find action, suspense and passion. Each of those qualities, at times, play to their extremes. Catwoman is a character with a rich comic book history, and my hope is that readers will continue to join us as the adventure continues.

A quibble or two: Catwoman has almost always been a person who lives in our times, wears a cat suit, and steals, right up to the last issue of her last run, which I believe was in 2011 or 2010.  None of that is new.  The only new thing that you’re bringing to the book is the explicit sex scene at the end between Batman and Catwoman.  Because the cover of Catwoman let me know it wasn’t for me, I didn’t pick it up at the store, so the only scene I saw from the comic, when reading about this, was the sex scene.

I thought it was great.

The art was not my cup of tea, but I thought the sex scene was a good innovation in continuity.  First, I liked the idea for the relationship.  I like superhero romance in general.  I think it can be fun and interesting and sexy,  and it necessarily turns the focus on the characters.  Batman and Catwoman have been mutually involved before, but not, to my knowledge, when she was still a thief.  I think it brings up all kinds of really uncomfortable dimensions to both characters that would be interesting to explore.  What does it say about Catwoman that she either cozies up to a guy who is out there solely to put her in jail or has sex with him in the belief that he won’t take her to jail?  And what about Batman?  He knows she’s a thief and knows where her apartment is and knows that she’s putting innocent people in danger with her illegal activities.  And yet I didn’t see him bring out the cuffs.  What does it say that if Batman is attracted to you, and you have sex with him, he’ll let you get away with a crime?  Suddenly both characters have serious feet of clay, and they’re in a situation that cannot last.  It’s interesting.

What’s more, I was fine with the explicitness of the scene.  I think the fact that it made clear, through art and story, that both of them are angry with themselves for doing any of this, and the last panel, with them collapsed together, not looking at each other, just before all hell will probably break loose was a good cliffhanger, in my opinion.

Ah – but then I borrowed and read the rest of the book.  And learned that all of that ‘romance’ and ‘passion’ and woman ‘of our times’ stuff was ridiculous.

To see why, let’s work back from the end.  Here we have Batman and Catwoman, two people who are deliberately are in a bad relationship, but are so passionate that they just can’t help themselves.  You can make a case for this being a sexual woman, who makes a romantic choice that will pose problems for her later.  Fine.  Interesting, even.

Just before that, Selina is at a party, trying to pick up tips for where to find high-value items that she can steal.  She’s in a red wig and posing as a bartender.  Suddenly she sees a man, who she says is ‘supposed to be locked up.’  She flashes back to a scene from her adolescence.  She huddles against a wall, terrified and crying, as the man uses a gun to kill a woman right in front of her.  Back at the party, the man goes to the bathroom.  Selina follows him.  She finds him with his back to the door, over the toilet, obviously about to pee.  She gets his attention, and the first panel we see of her in this scene is this:

He makes some comment, she moves to embrace him, and then beats the hell out of him.  She smashes his face against the sink, and then claws and hits him as blood splatters everywhere.  Then she changes into her Catwoman suit and flies out of the party, knocking down everyone in front of her and getting down the hall before anyone at the party can even make it out the door.  She’s hurt and sad, and ‘just wants to go home.’

Here’s the big stumbling point.  Why did she open her shirt just then?  I’m serious.  Consider why she would do that.

Well, maybe she was trying to distract him?


The panel before she spoke to him, he was completely relaxed, facing away from her, his pants undone, and unaware that she was even in the room.  Not to mention this is a woman who is a good enough fighter to fight her way through a mobbed-up party, tackle and pin Batman, and leap out into the air to escape a group of guys with guns.  She doesn’t need a distraction to beat up a white-haired man who needed a gun to intimidate an unarmed woman ten years ago.

Maybe she wanted him to see her coming?


There’s no indication that he ever knows her name,  or she wants him to know who she is.  If she wanted it to be real payback she would have taken off the wig, not the shirt.

The lack of a concrete reason for her to do this indicates that this is a gratuitous and inappropriate shot of Catwoman with her shirt off.  That’s not necessarily true.  There is a character-appropriate reason for doing this, but it changes things.

Remember, this is a guy who stopped her cold a panel earlier.  He literally made her flash back to what had to be one of the most terrifying and helpless moments of her life.  And her immediate reaction was to display herself sexually to him.  This display isn’t the same as sexual power.  She’s not grabbing his crotch, or making him sexually afraid, or even sexually intimidated.  She’s trying to please him in order to make herself feel more powerful and in control, even though it’s clear that she can beat him through strength alone.  This is how she reacts to fear, disgust, and helplessness; being sexy.

Go back to the Batman and Catwoman tryst at the end.  Batman is a guy who knows where she lives, who she thinks might know her name, and who she knows ‘should’ be hauling her to prison.  Kind of puts another perspective on it, doesn’t it?  It’s not ‘passion’ or ‘romance’ anymore.  It’s not Selina being sexual.  It’s a response to fear and powerlessness – a need to use sex to win over a man and make herself feel in control.  This makes it pretty sad when she tackles the guy who broke into the apartment she was using as a safehouse and proceeds to have conflicted, angry sex with him.  If we take these two incidents together, this sex scene is not empowered female sexuality, it’s a panic response.

And then what does that say about Batman?  Before, he was a man who ruthlessly hunted down criminals and brought them to justice – but who let it slide when it came to the woman he was attracted to and who had sex with him.  Now we see that sex is Selina’s response to stress and trauma.  In essence, she has a compulsion that makes her try to bargain her way out of difficult situations with sex, and Batman, knowingly or not, is going along with it.  That’s really awful.  It’s a demonstration of how morally bankrupt it is for Batman to have sex with her in the first place, and how deadened she is.  This book is looking pretty dark.  It’s about a woman who’s clearly been abused and whose first, instinctive response to danger is to try to appeal to people through sex.   It still can make sense, though.  It can still be a good character portrait.

Now let’s go farther back.  The first page has her fleeing her apartment as a gang is pounding down her door.

The more astute reader will notice that the voice is flippant, the boobs are front and center, and she has no head.  Given the intensity and bleak sexiness that we see in the last half of the book, this doesn’t really fit in well, but maybe her introductory panel will show us more of her fear –


This panel can be summed up as, “Wheee!  Mortal danger is fun and my shirt is just coincidentally open!”

And what about the cover to this issue.  Does it expose the fun she has running free through the night ahead of her attackers?  Does it show her desperation and dark past?  Does it emphasize the romance and passion?

I think we can all agree it shows none of them.

And the reason it shows none of them is none of them exist in this book.  This isn’t a book about a dark, desperate character who clings to sexuality as a way of trying to deal with a crazy world filled with mystery and action and violence.  This isn’t a book about a fun-loving, sexy thief.  This isn’t a book about a star-crossed romantic thief in a relationship with her adversary.  This is a book about boobs, and Selina Kyle will be whatever kind of character she needs to be in order for her breasts to be exposed as much as possible.  When people talk about mindless sex dolls, ciphers, or degrading portrayals of women, this is what they mean.  There’s no character there – no story and no mystery and no adventure and no romance and no passion.  There’s whatever will put the character in a suggestive pose.  So let me change the statement.

This is a Catwoman for 2011, and my approach to her character and actions is tits.  There are tits on the cover and there are tits on the front page and the last page cliffhanger is meant to show the promise of more tits in future issues.  In these, you will find action and suspense and passion, and each of those qualities will go to extremes that cause Catwoman to get her tits out all the time, because that’s the way she responded to everything in this book.  Let’s face it, the only reason that we didn’t call this Catwoman #Tits is because we made a line-wide stylistic choice to start all new books at #1, and we’re not going to change that for a flimsy, inconsequential tittybook like this issue of Catwoman.


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This Wonder Woman Really Is Number One

September 28th, 2011 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Well, DC is catching even more internet crap than I ever imagined they would over the Starfire and Catwoman.  But I’ll give them credit where it’s most assuredly due.  They hit a home run with the Wonder Woman title.  I was not even remotely enthusiastic about this title when I saw first saw it, but now that I’ve picked it up, I have to say I’m extremely impressed.  Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang combine their talents to make a vivid and fantastic book.

Azzarello is at his best in noir, and he’s shown us in Flashpoint that he can get a little nutzo with it.  What he’s done in Wonder Woman is transport the Greek Gods into an urban underworld.  Perhaps the better world for it is ‘overworld,’ since the first mythological character we see in the book has taken up residence in a spectacular penthouse.  According to him he’s the ‘sun of a king’ in what I am sure, by the end of the book, is not a misprint.  Mythological creatures flit around the world, committing murder, trying to commit murder, and very occasionally trying to prevent murder.

If the premise of mythology in the everyday world sounds too precious for regular comics readers, Cliff Chiang rides to the rescue with deep neons that stand out against red skylines.  Never have centaurs looked so perfectly in place.  The storyline is pure noir as well, with the thoughtless kingpin (Zeus) at the top, playing around while his underlings, in this case his children, scrambling and scheming to get a bigger slice of the pie.  It looks like the most ruthless of those children wants to knock off dear old dad himself, or at least a few of his brothers and sisters.

Into this world, a hapless innocent – a young woman who was impregnated by Zeus – has gotten in over her head.  Diana is summoned to save her, from the machinations of Zeus and from all of his children on earth.  This book, funny as it sounds, has Wonder Woman playing Sam Spade.  She’s world weary, knows the lay of the land, knows she’s not particularly high up in the hierarchy, but also knows she’s tough as nails.  It’s her job to figure out what’s going on, what needs to happen, and to go up against the powers that be to make sure it does happen.

Let me add a word or two about Cliff Chiang’s art.  (I believe those words will be; Nekkid Ladies Done Right.)

This is Zola.

She spends the entire issue in her underwear, and it’s pink.  I didn’t notice it until my second or third reading.  Although Chiang’s art makes women very ‘pretty,’ there isn’t any scene that looks posed or contrived.  When Zola’s in danger, the art is about Zola being in danger.  When she’s threatening someone with a gun, the pose is one that looks right for threatening someone with a gun.

And here’s Diana:

I would argue that the picture above is hot.  At the same time, the art doesn’t sacrifice personality, context, or the heroic look of the character in order to make it hot.  In fact, the most awkward piece of art in the entire book was this panel:

That magical coverlet has to be held on with magnets, or has to have slid down to her waist one second later, because otherwise Diana would be flashing the reader.  And I would be fine with that.  Surprised that they did it, but fine with it.  (I’d also be fine with her sleeping in pajamas.)  It’s not about nudity.  I’m pretty sure that between Vertigo and Max and independent titles every comics reader out there has seen a nipple or two, and kids don’t read this stuff.  (Even if they did, I doubt a naked boob shot would hurt them.) It’s about the context and the character – and prioritizing both.  Not all nudity is bad nudity, and a nude shot of Diana here would, in my opinion, be better than the fully-clothed gratuitous butt shots of other female characters in other books.

But back to Wonder Woman.  The art and the storyline work together well.  It’s also an interesting story, thanks to good world-building by Azzarello and thanks to the fact that, unlike nearly every other book in the New 52, it isn’t stuck waist deep in yet another re-telling of a superhero’s origin.  If there’s one thing that hampers it, it’s the fact that Wonder Woman remains DC’s version of The Man With No Personality.  (“Some say he robbed a bank and saved a puppy at the same time.” “Is he fer the law or agin’ it?”  “Nobody knows.  ‘Cause he ain’t got no personality.”)  Putting her in the Sam Spade role is a good way for her to stalk through the book with authority and purpose, but the main show will always be the side characters.  Overall, though, I’d say it’s one of the best books to come out of the New 52, and it’s good to see that for this particular part of DC’s Big Three.

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Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 4

September 27th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

We’ve reached our fourth week and if you’ve been following the comic blogosphere (whoa, Microsoft Word accepts that as an actual word!), it’s one filled with two instances of controversy that are bundled together. Don’t let it distract you too much, as we still get a really solid week overall. Am I going to be keeping every book? Hell no. But in the end, it’s a strong set.

Now let’s get to the gratuitous boob—I mean, let’s get to the reviews.

We get a sandwich of fantastic and the first slice of bread is Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. A far stronger showing than the Detective Comics issue we got a couple weeks ago. Both comics used the same idea of trying to lure in new readers by showing what they know as an intro – in Detective‘s case, Batman vs. Joker mystery and in Batman‘s case, a fight against a bunch of known and lesser known villains – but this one simply gets it out of the way so it can move on to the real story. It’s a great scene that doesn’t so much show Batman as being able to beat a bunch of villains on his own, but able to beat a bunch of villains with a sneaky plan and teamwork. In fact, I just realized that with the reveal from a couple pages later that the opening scene of Batman #1 is a modern-day retelling of the Adam West show’s animated opening.

The opening scene is pretty awesome and does something that, to me, makes a good comic. That is, give us a cool sequence but have it make sense. Snyder decided to give us Batman and Joker vs. a bunch of rogues and goes out of his way to give us an explanation that makes total sense and even slightly hints towards the big cliffhanger. It’s opposite of Secret Avengers #13 where Nick Spencer had the kickass idea of having the ghost of George Washington lead a bunch of soldier ghosts and the Lincoln Monument against Nazi mechs, but when it came time to explain it, the entire issue imploded on its complete lack of logic and fell apart.

Capullo’s facial expressions rule the roost here, especially once Harvey Bullock enters the story. I genuinely enjoy it whenever Bullock and Batman get a scene together, mainly due to their mutual respect and Bullock’s inability to give into Batman’s bullshit. In only a few pages, Harvey becomes so expressive that it’s hard not to love the lug.

If there’s any complaint about this book, it’s that Riddler Mohawk. Hey, remember when Riddler was a detective on the level? Remember how promising that was? Well, nowadays he’s in Arkham with a Mohawk shaped like a green question mark. Goddamn it, DC.

Snyder’s Batman is not only better than the other Batman-starred books of the reboot so far, but it’s also better than his work on Swamp Thing. You better believe I’m sticking.

Then we have Birds of Prey by Duane Swierczynski and Jesus Saiz. This is a weird one because it’s a good comic that I quite enjoyed, but it’s the least memorable one of the week. I’ve never gotten into Birds of Prey before, but as an introduction and rebooting of Black Canary as a wanted criminal for accidental vigilante murder, it does its job well. There’s fun action, good art and some okay character interaction. Especially that of Keen and the new heroine Starling. It’s cute to see them play off each other and the ending hits us with a curveball in regards to what we expect to see out of their possibilities. The ending also hits us with a mystery and a major sense of doom in terms of what’s been going on with Black Canary in the last fourth of the issue. I’m interested enough to stick and see where this is going.

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swing anna miss, big frank [holy terror]

September 26th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

(this is long, sorry, but i guess i have FEELINGS :rolleyes: )

In between NBA 2k11 (and soon 2k12) games, I sometimes write about comics. It’s just a thing I do, you know, keep the lights on and the Hawks on my TV. I reviewed Frank Miller’s Holy Terror, his big 9/11 getback novel. If you’ve talked to me for more than thirty seconds, you probably know I really enjoy dude’s work, and was looking forward to Holy Terror with more than a little trepidation. Maybe more excitement than trepidation, but I definitely knew 1) how bad this could get and 2) that Miller doesn’t have a subtle bone in his body. Which makes the fact that Holy Terror is as bad as I expected it to be all the more depressing. Read the review–it’s two thousand words, and I spent a long time writing it (more on that in a bit). People are going buck wild in the comments, I bet.

Here’s a quote for something I want to talk out:

There’s a line from a poem that’s been running through my head ever since I finished Holy Terror: “When she was good, She was very, very good, But when she was bad she was horrid.” It applies very well to Holy Terror. The last page is a stinger as good as anything ever seen on The Twilight Zone. The rest of it? It’s depressing. It feels almost like a betrayal. Miller has done many things that were forward-thinking or intelligent, whether exploring the ideals of black beauty in Sin City or blowing the hinges off what comics could be with Elektra Assassin. For him to do something like this, which is stupid at best, is… let’s call it disappointing. He’s punching far below his weight class. I’m still looking forward to the 300 sequel Xerxes, but my desire for it has definitely been tempered, if not nearly annihilated, by Holy Terror.

And “betrayal” feels like one of those things that the comics fans I hate would say in a review, in-between sentences about how this portrayal of the Vision is something something continuity joke. That got away from me, but you get my point. I wrote it in the review yesterday and then stopped. I erased it, rewrote the sentence, and then put it back, because that’s what it feels like. Not a dramatic, everything-you-know-is-wrong, GOTCHA betrayal. Just a minor one. Something I thought was true was revealed to be false.

I’ve talked incessantly about how The Big Fat Kill pretty much completely rewired my head and is probably the thing that led to my love of straight up crime fiction. I grew up and read more and realized that Miller was bigger than hardboiled books. I was pleased to see that his body of work was not only diverse, but groundbreaking. I mean, count ’em: Daredevil, Wolverine, Born Again, Year One, Elektra Assassin, Dark Knight Returns, Sin City, A Dame to Kill For, 300, and Hard Boiled, to name his more inarguable examples of classics. He’s been in comics for 33 years, so… what is that, around a one hot book every three years average? That’s pretty great. He’s a legend for a reason.

And so, the “whores whores whores” stuff online bothered me a whole lot. If you’re pulling that card, you’re ignorant of Miller’s body of work. There’s really no other way to say it. I did/do a lot of eye-rolling at that stuff and try to correct it when appropriate. Miller’s back catalog is way deeper than that criticism suggests, and I guess because of my attachment to his work over the years, it’s my pet bugaboo?

I expected Holy Terror to be pretty bad. I was hoping for ASBAR bad, where there are these glorious shining spots of fantastic storytelling mixed in with the inexplicable nonsense, instead of The Spirit bad, which was mostly bad except for those parts where I kinda sorta got what Miller was trying to do. Back in July, I said “boy do i hope this isn’t super racist when it drops.” And I kept doing that. I kept making jokes about how it was probably gonna be pretty offensive or racist with each new bit of news. I think it’s because I knew, deep down, that it would be terrible, but hopefully if I joked about it, it would somehow become less racist or something. Denial, son.

G Willow Wilson posted this on her Twitter:

“As a Muslim comics creator, seeing an icon like Frank Miller write a book like Holy Terror is like getting punched in the face. Just sayin.”

And ugh, man! I like Wilson a lot, though I don’t follow her on Twitter, so this was the written equivalent of somebody punching you in the face while you’re asleep. You’re gonna feel it, and you’re gonna remember it for a long time. It will cold ruin your day until you finally man up and take care of it. What she said crawled all the way up into my brain, and it sat there asking me why I was being stupid. I knew better, I always knew better, so why the hesitance and dumb jokes instead of facing up to what Holy Terror was shaping up to be? I knew that I needed to recognize wisdom and do what I should have done ages ago.

So I canceled my preorder. No, really. I did it the same day, a couple hours later:

’cause I mean, I’m a smart guy, but I was being a smart dumb guy by fooling myself into thinking that Holy Terror was something that I would possibly be able to like and still respect myself. I’m a fan–not a stan. Or so I’d like to think anyway.

I got a PDF galley of the book the very next day. I laughed at the timing and read it as soon as I got home. And on the first read, I was stunned. Or not stunned–more like blank. I read every page, some twice, and at the end, I was empty. I didn’t hate it, but I was completely devoid of anything to really say about it. That was it? I read it again and everything fell into place. That blankness was me working through the cognitive dissonance of someone I’d thought was a modern, progressive person doing a book that was filled with wall to wall hate for people I respect a great deal. I mean, no way, no how does that happen.

Except it did, it’s real, and man, yeah, I’m glad I canceled the preorder. I would’ve been furious. I would’ve felt terrible. I would’ve felt a lot of things, probably. Even with not having put money into it, I felt bad about it. I felt gross. Holy Terror was everything I was hoping it wouldn’t be. I was a fool for thinking otherwise.

It took me three hours to write that review. That’s an extremely long time for me to take to write anything of that length. (embarrassingly long.) I spent the whole weekend thinking about Holy Terror, despite going to a Hong Kong cinema film festival, and wrote it on Sunday. Writing the review wasn’t working for me at all–and maybe this is melodramatic but whatever, it’s true–until I put on Spike Lee’s Malcolm X. It came out on my ninth birthday and a gang of my family all drove to Macon as a group to see it. It was genuinely life-changing for me, like a watershed moment or Paul waking up on the road to Damascus. If I had to make a chart of things that have had a huge influence on my life, Denzel Washington as Malcolm X would be one of the top five biggest things. It’s that real to me. I don’t watch it near as often as I should, but every time it’s as good as it ever was. (I forgot about the children saying “I am Malcolm X” at the end this time around, and they caught me completely flat-footed. Long story short, FYI, I got a lil choked up.)

(My man Pedro from Funnybook Babylon also hooked me up with a Kindle copy of the new Malcolm bio while I was watching the movie. Very X sort of day.)

I dunno why, but that made the review flow easier. Writing alongside something I knew and loved, and that was in a very real way directly relevant to what Miller was writing about, worked. I got that I needed to make it more of a personal essay than a “Buy this book/don’t buy this book” review, and I wanted to do it from the perspective of someone who loves Miller’s work in general and was disgusted and disappointed. “Betrayal.” I was surprised when I wrapped up the review a little bit before the credits rolled, but there’s something weirdly fitting there. I dunno. Serendipity. It is what it is.

I don’t hate Frank Miller. I’m entirely more disappointed than I expected to be, but I’m still kinda sorta looking forward to Xerxes. I dunno.

I threw some shots Grant Morrison’s way last month, and I didn’t even bother buying (or bootlegging) Action Comics. I’m just not interested any more, and that’s a feeling that’s been growing for a while. I don’t need his books and I don’t think I’m missing all that much these days. I haven’t written Miller off like I have Morrison, though I think that Holy Terror and what it represents are an objectively bigger sin than “has stupid opinions about Superman and needs to openly rep for the Siegels and Shusters or quit comics.” I liked Morrison a lot at one point, but he’s never been as fundamental to me as Miller was. Is that why I haven’t entirely quit his comics? I dunno, but that feels like the correct answer.

But even then, I’m giving a lot of thought to Xerxes. The comic is one of his best, and the movie felt offensive in ways the comic didn’t. Vagaries of the medium, maybe. I don’t think that’s stannery. I feel like that’s probably true. I’ve liked what I’ve seen of it, but I’m still thinking about it a lot. I dunno.

The Miller and Morrison things are sort of identical, in that both situations involve a creator I respect proving that my faith was misplaced. We build up these pictures of others in our heads, and we fill in the blanks based on what we know or what we want to believe. Seeing those differences made as plain as day is always a shocking, surprising thing. It’s unfair, maybe, but we still do it.

I have a hard time separating the art from the artist once I become aware of something I would personally find loathsome about the artist. Sure, they’re still talented, but there are SO many things to take that I can live my entire life experiencing new things before working my way over to them. Other people are better at it than I am, and I’m a little jealous. But I don’t like the idea that my money would go to supporting someone who represents something I hate. And it’s disappointing when people you like give you reasons not to like them.

Every time I see their name, I’ll think of what they did. I dunno if that’s being an informed, responsible consumer or just thinking too much about comics or both.

But you know, whatever whatever. I’m glad I got to see a dozen or so brand new and genuinely incredible Miller pages, despite the words that were on them. You speak of “love and hate.” This is it in a nutshell.

This post is around ten words longer than the actual review and took me around an hour to write. (More words now.) Sorry. I’m kinda bummed out.

Y’all probably shouldn’t buy Holy Terror though.

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This Week in Panels: Week 105

September 25th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Welcome to This Week in Panels: Wolverine Saying Awesome Shit Edition. This week I’m joined by David Brothers, Was Taters and Space Jawa. A good amount of overlap here with the DC New 52 and I had to give all three stories in Fear Itself: The Home Front their own spots because each one was just as enjoyable. There was also a one-page story in there about Dust that was funny because Howard Chaykin drew it. Chaykin drawing a character with a covered up face. That’s too perfect.

Avengers #17
Brian Michael Bendis and John Romita Jr.

Batman #1 (Was Taters’ pick)
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

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Why I put back the Red Lanterns book.

September 25th, 2011 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

To start off, I’d like to link to Laura Hudson’s excellent post at Comics Alliance.  She hits the nail on the head exactly when talking about male and female characters and their sexuality.  It’s worth a read, but for those of you with limited time, it can be summarized in three points.

1.  The ‘sexuality’ expressed by female comic book characters is not female sexuality but male sexual fantasy.

2.  In several important books male characters are shown as heroes first while female characters are shown as expressions of sexual fantasy first.

3.  That is really sexist, and makes her want to turn away from comics despite the medium being both her primary interest and her job.

The post focuses on Catwoman #1 and Red Hood and the Outlaws #1.  Catwoman I knew was not for me the moment I saw the cover.  Red Hood, though, had two characters in it I was interested in and one character in it I was unfamiliar with – but the  images that Laura shows of the male heroes juxtaposed with the female heroes are why I put it back on the shelf, feeling exactly as depressed and turned away from comics as she did.  I thought I’d add one more example.  Two weeks ago Red Lanterns #1 came out.  I thought the rainbow of lanterns corps was a stupid idea when I first heard of it, but seeing what DC did with it, I realized I was wrong.  I grew to love the idea, the wacky joy that it brought to comics, and the many different stories and characters it spawned.  I was excited to pick up the book.  Then I looked through it.

This is the introduction of Red Lantern 1

This is the introduction of Red Lantern 2

This is the introduction of Red Lantern 3

And I put the book back on the shelf.

On the plus side, I will have more money for Batgirl and Batwoman, since I’ve seen the upcoming Birds of Prey #4.

What is this, a Bratz doll catalog?  Even the Teen Titans cover looks more badass.  Why are they all twelve?  Why do they all have the same face?  Why is Barbara knock-kneed?

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“number five said it ain’t worth being alive” [casanova: avaritia]

September 21st, 2011 Posted by david brothers

Y’all read Casanova: Avaritia 1 yet? Two bucks online, get on that. Matt Fraction, Gabriel Bá, Cris Peter, Dustin Harbin.

People (meaning people I follow on Twitter, really) thought that this page was real clever and mind-blowing:

(i forget who said that actually, but it was several people and I love all of you)

And it’s cool–the art is fantastic, obviously–but it’s pretty Jim Starlin-y and a little too “Ha ha here’s a cowboy monkey ninja ape kicksplode whoaaaa” for me. It works in context, but it didn’t knock my socks off. You know what did?

We’ll get there. First:

Remember when Bendis said this?

“So, on top of having a cool team and some cool stories to tell, I thought, ‘If I’m going to be the writer of both books, they both should feel very different.’ They shouldn’t just be the bi-weekly Avengers titles. It should be two unique writing styles and the one I’m using for ‘Mighty Avengers’ has new usage of thought balloons and narrative. It has first person and omniscient first person narrative, which I never do. I want to make sure that each character has a unique voice and point of view that gets across to the reader as well as their actions in the story. I’m not using these techniques to be retro or cheeky. I want to try new stuff with more modern [storytelling] techniques.”

CBR, 2006

The result was this (no context, sorry, but drawn by Mark Bagley):

They weren’t thoughts so much as interjections, insults, brief comments, half-thoughts, and things like that. They’re nowhere near as purple as Claremont’s balloons during his heyday, which is my main benchmark for balloons, but they don’t work for me at all. They aren’t thoughts. They’re internal monologues, caption boxes transferred to fuzzy balloons. No one thinks like that. I get what Bendis was trying to do, which was approach real life a little closer, but he got a bit too close and his wings melted. Or something. The point of that metaphor is that it didn’t work, and also Bendis is Kid Icarus.

Okay, this isn’t the part in Casanova that knocked my socks off, but I liked it a lot:

The balloons coming out of their mouths are great, and super creepy, as if the words (which we can’t see because Cass isn’t paying attention) are parasites. It looks evil, yeah? Like something you cough up. But that’s not it, either. It’s panel four, where Cass is looking at Sasa Lisi’s domino mask. In the scene before this one, Sasa tells him that his father is dying of cancer. He rejects her verbal reassurances (I think she was going to say “Cass, it’s going to be okay” and he stops her, saying, “Don’t. …just don’t.”) and they hug.

But here, though, he’s zoned out, he’s gone, and he’s looking down at her mask and the mask is thinking what she represents. “you’re not alone” is heavy, and I like that an inanimate object is what’s thinking it. It feels like when you look at something with a lot of personal history and you sort of flash over what it has been over the years. “I got this from Sarah, the day after she told me she loved me for the first time, and she’s gone now, but I held onto this thing.” Does that make sense? The domino mask isn’t thinking at Cass. He’s thinking about it, and we’re seeing the result.

“you’re not alone”

It’s not enough though. It never is.

It’s stupid to talk about Casanova as if it were “Matt Fraction’s Casanova.” That’s woefully incomplete. It’s Matt Fraction, Gabriel Bá and/or Fabio Moon, Cris Peter, and Dustin Harbin’s Casanova. The whole team goes in. They’re animals, man. Collaborative savages. Look at these pages. Harbin’s letters are especially great in an industry that often seems to under-sell the importance of lettering, but Peter’s colors are dead on, and blah blah blah it looks great. Best looking Marvel comic? Probably.

I’m getting to what knocked my socks off.

Fraction found a way to do thought balloons, though these are technically captions, that actually feels like real life thoughts. They’re raw, unfiltered, and the sort of thing that actually fits in between speech. They’re the voice of the lizard brain, mean and ugly. I love how Harbin (or Peter?) colors the angry thought caption to red. It comes across like a blast of hate, the sort of thought that makes your eyes narrow and your lip curl before you can make it stop. And then the next caption–petulance.

Colored captions: lizard brain. Regular captions: forebrain.

(or, as a commenter points out, it’s actually Cornelius’s caption and I’m slightly wrong.)

This page is so sad. Cass comes off kind of pathetic and lost. Small.

Here it is:

Lotta build-up for a little nothing, yeah? It’s not even a full page. It’s just one panel from early in the book, and it’s been almost entirely stripped of context by me pulling it out from its page and scene. On the page before, a janitor asks, “Was it the cancer? Lotsa folks dyin’ of cancer these days.” Cass’s response: “It’d take something worse than that. I’m afraid.”

Page two of the comic.

This is one of those things that comics can do that movies or books or whatever can’t. That space between the two balloons speaks volumes. Say Cass’s line aloud and you hear “It’d take something worse than that, I’m afraid.” Somber, yes, but the sort of thing you say with a sad smile. A deflection, kind of.

The space changes the tone of the sentences, though. “I’m afraid” is a complete thought. Taken in context, he’s saying that it would take more than cancer to kill him, and he is literally afraid of that fact.

There were a few phrases that echoed through Gula: “What thing can kill me?” and “No one ever dies.” Those are paraphrased, maybe. Cass said “What thing can kill me?” early in the first issue, and it was a bit of mid-fight sass, something to show off and strike a bit of fear into Dokkktor Klockhammer. Panache.

Now that we’re in Avaritia, “What thing can kill me?” has become “What thing can kill me? Because I would like to die.” He’s suicidal, maybe overtly, maybe latently, and he wants out. And he’s afraid of what he has done, what he has to do, and what he’s become. He’s the greatest killer mankind has ever created, and it… chafes, to put it lightly. He’s beyond burned out. He just wants everything to be different, but he doesn’t know how to make that happen.

“What thing can kill me?” has become a plea. All of his swagger has paled in the face of the murder of billions. It’s tough to spit wisecracks when you’ve got the taste of coppery blood in your mouth.

And the… the ease with which Fraction and Harbin slip this in there, and Bá and Peter give us this sad, dejected, and slumped super-sexy super-spy with Xs for eyes (what do dead men have in comics?) knocked me off my feet. Or my socks off. Whatever. It’s panel two of the entire comic, of the entire series, and I instantly got it.

Imagine “What thing can kill me?” echoing off the walls of eternity, warping and shifting until it becomes “Fuck your future. Nothing is sacred. Harm everyone. Save yourself.”

Casanova Quinn went from super cool to broken, and you can see it in that little strip between (“It’d take something worse than that.”) the balloons (“I’m afraid.”).

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This Year in Panels: Year 2

September 21st, 2011 Posted by Gavok

I can’t believe I’ve been doing this crap for two years. I just did the 100th installment of This Week in Panels a month ago, so this is less of a big deal, but whatever. This Week in Panels has been about me and people who read this for whatever reason picking out panels that best represent the comics we read. What is the comic? Sell it with one panel without the context. Let the readers figure it out.

Going with what I did a year ago, I decided to do a little look back at the past 52 weeks. The challenge is to showcase a panel from each week without double-dipping on the same series. Let’s see what the last year have given us.

Amazing Spider-Man #664
Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Max Fiumara

Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine #5
Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert

Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth #2
Malachai Nicolle and Ethan Nicolle

Batman and Robin #15
Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving

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Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 3

September 20th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

We’re halfway into the New 52’s debuting month… sort of. Pretending the first week didn’t happen. You know what I mean.

Last week I dropped three books and put a handful on probation. How does this week stack up? Going in alphabetical order again, it’s pretty top-heavy. Bear with me because it’s not as entirely positive as the first half is going to make it look.

To start, it’s Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason. I already hate the villain in this story (in the good way I’m supposed to hate a villain) for taking out the totally kickass design for Russian Batman. The whole idea of Batman trying to finally get past the death of his parents so he can look back at them fondly instead of “MY PARENTS ARE DEAAAAD!” is not only a good selling point for me, but follows up on my favorite moment from Grant Morrison’s final issue of Batman and Robin where Batman looks at a destroyed portrait of his parents, then immediately tells Damian that he’s proud of him for making the right decisions.

Personally, I loved Dick Grayson as Batman and part of it was his relationship with Damian. They had a great dynamic of Damian being a jackass and Dick being cool about it because it’s like working with a younger Bruce. That adds to the story here as there seems to be an underlying feeling that Damian is a child whose real father just got custody when he was really starting to love his step-dad even more. I’m interested in the concept of the one Robin who doesn’t roll with the punches on a regular basis and instead will outright talk back without a smirk. Bruce goes from having sidekicks who become like his strained sons to having a son who has become a strained sidekick. Insubordination is neat on its own, but having it come from a younger version of the guy giving the orders moves it up a notch. I’m sticking.

Even better is Batwoman by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman. This one is all over the place, but all of those places hold my attention. The art is absolutely beautiful and despite never getting around to finishing Elegy (I’ll get to it!), I was able to follow it easily. Everything except the weird possibility that Montoya might be dead. The real talent in JHW3’s work is how different each scene looks. It’s almost hard to understand how Kate and Batwoman are one in the same based on how they’re portrayed. Sure, their basic physical descriptions match up, but Kate is drawn in scenes that show her almost down to earth while Batwoman is this sleek apparition of a figure that can’t exist in that same reality.

It’s like watching Jim Carrey transform into a CGI being. I’m going to stick with this one too.

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Fourcast! 96: Welcome to Pluto

September 19th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

-I was out late doing karaoke before recording, sorry if I sound tired
-Esther made me read Gail Simone and Neil Googe’s Welcome to Tranquility
-I made Esther read Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto
-Esther claims that I’m why we can’t have happy comics, because I like sad things
-We didn’t like each other’s books very much, I think. Can you tell?
-So we switch gears to talk about stuff we do like.
-Esther liked a pretty good bit in Spider-Island with the Punisher
-Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto’s Punisher is aight, it’s aight, but it shoulda been more john blaze than that
-Esther really digs Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon’s Punisher
-I’m not as keen on the changes to the origin story
-(it’s a good comic for someone who’s not me)
-The thing I said was from Daniel Way and Steve Dillon’s Punisher vs Bullseye was actually from Judd Winick and Doug Mahnke’s Under the Red Hood, and also the note said “LOL” and not “gotcha!”
-Here’s something similar from the series though:

Buy John Layman and Rob Guillory’s Chew, thanks.

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