Archive for September, 2011


This Week in Panels: Week 104

September 18th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Welcome to the 2-year anniversary installment of This Week in Panels. This week I’m joined by David Brothers and Space Jawa. Jawa is the one to blame for the Deadpool panel. I said I’m done with that series and I’m sticking to it. I need to write up a retrospective on Way’s hit-and-miss run one of these days.

Also, you see that Herc panel? I wanted that to be the new header of 4thletter and David ignored my pleas. Stay tuned and I’ll give you the address on where to send the dead skunks.

American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #4
Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy

Batman and Robin #1
Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason

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WWF Krozor: The World Champion of Bad Comics

September 17th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

I’ve read and reviewed every WWE comic book under the sun. From WWF Battlemania to World Championship Wrestling to the Chaos Comics stuff to WWE Heroes. As it is, the only thing I haven’t talked about yet is the 2-issue Undertaker/Rey Mysterio team-up sequel to WWE Heroes because I’ve been waiting for the seemingly canceled follow-up where John Cena is a gladiator trapped in the past. Yes, I just typed that.

Anyway, I figured I had seen it all. I had seen the worst that World Wrestling Entertainment’s checkered past could show me. Then one day, a guy by the name of Tato changed all of that. He had some old WWF Magazine issues and had been looking through them for laugh fodder. He ended up striking oil when he got to early 1997.

Now, first let’s take a quick look at what WWF was like during that time. They were setting up for Wrestlemania 13, the Wrestlemania with the worst PPV ratings in the company’s history. Shawn Michaels was so much of a backstage dick that rather than lose the title against Bret Hart, he milked an injury, claimed to have “lost his smile” and put us in a situation where Sycho Sid was the champ set to defend the belt against the Undertaker. Also, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin had been gaining a lot of momentum as a popular antagonist, constantly badgering honorable good guy Bret “The Hitman” Hart. Wrestlemania 13 would be the show to switch Austin into the company’s most popular good guy.

Of course, the company couldn’t know that Austin would catch on so strongly and help bring forth a new, lucrative era to the WWF. As it was, they were moving closer and closer to bankruptcy at the hands of World Championship Wrestling and their hit storyline with the New World Order. WWF was desperate and desperation can lead to some really unfortunate ideas.

In some issues of WWF Magazine, they’d show an ad for… something. Here are the two released.

Yep. They’re coming. I don’t know what they are, but they seem to have distracted Mankind from his psychedelic surroundings and what appears to be a melting ice cream bar in his hand. It looks like Steve Austin’s on Mars and while he has no trouble breathing, he’s bundling up due to lack of shirt. The more I look at the second one, the more I’m focused on whatever that is behind Austin. Is it a drill? A monster? A tree of some sort?

Of course, you can always tell quality when they use three exclamation points. That’s pretty freaking loud.

Who is coming? Who better than KROZOR?! Once you’ve gotten over the art of the above images, you might be wondering what the hell a Krozor is. Look no further than this snippet of an essay former WWE employee Kevin Kelly wrote up about WWE focusing on young viewers.

As bizarre as the concept of wrestling targeting kids, it’s been tried before. After the New Generation nearly bankrupted the company and then turned into the Attitude Era, the company tried to go back and target kids again. It was a laughable disaster. To anyone inside the Walls of Titan reading this, go to someone who’s been with the company more that ten years and ask if they remember “Krozor”? Let’s take you back to early 1997 and the Company Meeting held at a non-distinguished hotel in downtown Stamford, which is the worst town I have ever been in.

Jim Cornette and I sat in the back of the room as some old guy, who was an outsider hired for large coin, got up and began a video presentation. The audio on the tape was unmistakable. It was the theme from 2001-A Space Odyssey. Yes, Ric Flair’s theme! And right as WCW was stomping us in the ratings! So, of course, Corney and me both let out a “Whoooo!” at the right point of the song. 400 people in a room and two assholes gotta ruin it! Goddamn that was funny!

Jimmy and I are practically pissing our pants we are laughing so hard as the preview of “Krozor” rolls along. Apparently the Undertaker is going to be in space and fight monsters or some nonsense in this comic book. There was more but it’s hard to focus on the screen when you are crying from laughter. The preview ends… stunned silence followed by polite applause. It was awkward, like if your babysitter asked you and your wife to review her newest porn movie. You feel obligated to like it but it was wrong on so many levels.

Wow. Okay, let’s dive into this.

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The Summerslam Countdown: Day Ten

September 15th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Man, between juggling the This Week in Panels stuff, the New 52 DC stuff and a full-time job, this is getting done less and less as time goes on. Ridiculous, isn’t it? Well, at least we’re almost there and in one more installment, I’ll be able to put this all to rest.

One thing did inspire me to finish this update. See, before I get to the finale, there’s something else I have to review. A reader showed me a certain thing that’s so mind-bending that I have no choice but to cover it ASAP.

Is it wrestling related? Yes.

Is it comic book related? Yes.

Will it make you go cross-eyed? You betcha! Though… um… apologies if you already are. Sorry, that was insensitive.

Anyway, we’re down to the final five. Let’s get cracking!

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Harley’s corset was just the beginning.

September 14th, 2011 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

This was Amanda Waller.

And this is Amanda Waller.

Because why have a reboot if you have to draw even one female character heavyset, over forty, plain, or with her shirt completely buttoned up.

Seriously, though, a gorgeous supermodel with huge boobs that she is prominently displaying!  What fantastic character innovation this is!  What a change from other female characters in the DC universe!

I guess there’s a chance that this could be an impostor.

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Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 Review Station

September 14th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

A quickie, since today looks to be dumb busy at work:

I reviewed Ultimate Spider-Man for ComicsAlliance. Creative team’s Brian Michael Bendis/Sara Pichelli/Justin Ponsor. Here’s a few random excerpts:

In a development that will surprise absolutely no one, Sara Pichelli (art) and Justin Ponsor (color art) absolutely knock their half of the book out of the park. Since this is a quiet issue, Pichelli doesn’t get a chance to really chew into any action sequences with her usual flair. Due to the absence of action sequences, we’re left looking at Pichelli’s other skills: fashion, body language, facial acting, and everything else that comes into play when drawing people.

Ponsor’s color art is pretty good, too, and a great complement to Pichelli’s art. There’s a page around the middle of the book that features five characters of a few different races. There are five different skin tones present in the scene. That’s something that is painfully rare in cape comics, even when talented colorists are doing otherwise virtuoso work on the page. I don’t know that this is worthy of praising Ponsor to the high heavens–“He got it right when everyone else didn’t, even though they should have!” only goes so far–but I definitely appreciated seeing this sort of attention paid to race in a Marvel comic.

A lot was made of Marvel’s new black Spider-Man by everyone who heard about the character, whether they were for or against the idea. I was pretty pleased to see that the issue of Miles’s race got just the amount of attention it needed in this issue: none. Setting aside the difficulty in explaining the complicated racial and ethnic overlap and intersection between blacks and Latinos — a subject that is probably too complicated for cape comics — Miles and his family are presented as just like any other family in comics. He doesn’t fight roving bands of racists, the Klan, or talk about how he’s from the hood. He’s got a family, his parents want his life to be better than theirs, and they love him very much. He’s normal, and that’s just as it should be.

Despite my qualms about the length and price point, this first issue hooked me. Miles Morales isn’t Peter Parker, his status quo isn’t Peter Parker’s, and his powers have just enough of a twist (hinted at early in the story) that they aren’t exactly Peter’s either. I wanted Bendis to impress me with this issue, and he did. My complaints really boil down to how much space he was given to impress me, rather than anything he did wrong, exactly. This is good comics, and the start of something cool.

And I seriously want to shake Bendis and Pichelli’s hands for introducing an Ultimate version of one of my all-time favorite members of Spidey’s supporting cast.

The new Ultimate character is Prowler, but not Hobie Brown.

I’m mad I left the scare quotes off the one time I said “black Spider-Man.” Turns out being passive-aggressive and snarky late at night is tougher than I expected.

Four bucks for twenty pages is 2011% garbage, but I liked it. If I’d paid for it, I might feel otherwise, I dunno. Anybody read this yet? Spoil away in the comments.

Marvel can seriously blow me over that price, though. Disgusting.

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Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 2

September 12th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

DC’s experiment of desperation goes full blast this week. Instead of going out with the old and in with the new with only two comics as of last week, we have thirteen new #1s to play around with. Naturally, I bought all thirteen for my own little experiment. As I stated last week, I used to read a lot of DC only a few years ago, but over time they almost completely lost me. Now I want to give them a new chance and see how their 52 jumping on points fare by the end of six months of story.

Alphabetical order works, so we’ll begin with Action Comics #1 by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales. Couldn’t really ask for a better way to start. A couple years ago I read through a collection of old 1930’s Superman newspaper strips that featured less of Superman fighting robots and more of Superman standing up for the little man. Considering how unbeatable he was at the time regardless of who he was fighting, there was more enjoyment and will fulfillment in those down-to-earth adventures. I like getting to see a modern take and Morrison’s the best choice for it. He’s already said all there is to say about the previous incarnation of Superman with All-Star Superman and now he gets to go at it from another angle.

It’s fresh and it’s fun. Any shadiness from seeing him play interrogator is undone by his absolute glee in everything he does and the “oh shucks” way he interacts with the people he helps. Luthor comes off as menacing, Lois has her trademark death wish for the facts and the only real drawback is the occasional weird Morales eyes.

It’s a new world in the DCU, so time will tell what Superman will develop with and what he’ll develop from. Either way, I’m definitely sticking with this one for the foreseeable future.

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Fourcast! 95: The New 52

September 12th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

-DC’s in the process of releasing 52 mostly-new comics!
-We’re talking about the first full week.
-Esther picked up Action Comics, Stormwatch, Green Arrow, and Batgirl
-I picked up Static, Justice League, and Animal Man
-I also bought Swamp Thing, but didn’t manage to discuss it. It was fine–I just don’t think I’m much of a Swamp Thing fan is all.
-We have a conversation about whether or not people from the Midwest say “ain’t” in casual conversation.
-I think they do, because I assume all farmers talk like Southerners, and back home, we say “ain’t” like ain’t nothing wrong with that
-Esther says they don’t
-It turns out I have feelings about how cool Superman breaking chains on homage covers are
-Those feelings amount to “Ugh, why?”
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music.
-Here comes a new challenger!
-See you, space cowboy!

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This Week in Panels: Week 103

September 11th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

With the New 52 in full swing (as well as some really good Jeff Parker Marvel stuff. Can’t forget that), we have the first of what’s sure to be a set of very full installments of ThWiP. This time it’s me, David Brothers and Was Taters.

You know, back in the 90’s, when they had Marvel/DC Amalgam, they mentioned a character named Wonder-Gold (he hung out with Blue Jacket). After this week, I’m wondering if the Amalgam universe had Wonder-Gold head Revengers International alongside Anti-Lantern and D-Rocket.

Action Comics #1
Grant Morrison and Rags Morales

Animal Man #1 (David’s pick)
Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman

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Batgirl #1. Again.

September 10th, 2011 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Ah, Batgirl Issue 1.  It’s almost as if I’ve seen you before, recently.

We start with a (presumably) sweet old man being murdered horribly in his front yard by some kind of costumed villain called The Mirror.  The man, Graham Carter (and I kind of hope that this shows up in internet searches so that when a Graham Carter somewhere out there googles himself he gets this result.), was the survivor of a shipwreck years ago.  The Mirror asks why he survived, but instead of letting him answer, shoves a hose in his mouth and drowns him (I suppose.  How do you die when a running hose gets shoved in your mouth?).  We see that the next name on his list is Barbara Gordon.

We then cut to Batgirl expositing about her life as Barbara Gordon.  This is, I guess, for the benefit of anyone picking up the book for the first time.  She talks about how she’s the Police Commissioner’s daughter while she swoops in to catch a group of kids who themselves are expositing, to a terrified family, that they are rich kids from good homes who have been murdering entire families for fun.  She takes them out, but when one tackles her over a railing, she is helped up by the family, thinking to herself how she got lucky and how scared she is.

Next we have exposition about how she was shot by the Joker, has a photographic memory, how she was Oracle for three years (establishing time period), how by some miracle (it doesn’t say what) she can walk again, and how she lives with her dad but is about to move out.

Cut to her moving out.  She goes to a building that, she exposits, is centrally located and that she can afford, as long as she has multiple housemates.  She meets a roommate, who weirdly isn’t named.  Destined for the chop?

Across town, some cops are guarding a nonspecific murderer who is injured and confined to a hospital bed.

Back to Move-In Day.  Barbara’s roommate sees her wheelchair lift and talks about how she would never want to be, “trapped in a chair.”  Unnamed roommate is now the most tactless person in the world.  *Really* destined for the chop?

Back in the hospital, The Mirror is shooting a bunch of cops, on the way to get to the bedridden killer.  One guarding detective, McKenna, draws a gun and prepares to shoot, but doesn’t, even though her partner tells her too.  The Mirror kills the partner, wounds McKenna, steps on her face, and goes after the guy they were guarding, “Theodore Rankin.”  He says he was ‘next on the list’.

Batgirl swoops in, and promptly freezes when she sees The Mirror has a gun.  The Mirror then throws Rankin out the window while McKenna calls Barbara a murderer because she didn’t do anything.


I say this carefully, because it’s the first issue, and I love Gail Simone’s work, but this didn’t work for me at all.

First there’s the violence.  I’m always a little disturbed by how often cops are killed in comic books.  It seems like a way to signify that This Killer is a Big Deal, and I believed that already.  Still, that’s something that happens in every comic book.  Add to that the pleasure-killing family annihilators, the fact that you saw the old man’s eyes popping out slightly from the pressure from the hose, and this feels like Secret Six violence in a Batgirl book.  Not every villain has to be the most horrible killer imaginable.  If it’s a dark book overall, it works, but contrasted with Barbara’s demeanor and storyline, this is jarring.

And then there’s Barbara’s storyline.  When Cass screwed up, it was okay.  She was 17, and didn’t speak any human language at all.  When Stephanie screwed up, it was okay.  She was 16-18, and was kind of known for screwing up.  She’d received no training and had gone through life trying to be a superhero just because she wanted it enough.  When Babs screwed up the first time around – fine.  She was new, too.

But even though the issue number is starting over, and even though this is meant to introduce new readers to the book, Barbara Gordon isn’t new anymore.  She’s not a rookie hero, she’s the freakin’ Oracle.  She wasn’t just a superhero, and she didn’t just lead a superhero team, she led all the superhero teams, everywhere.  She’s was everyone’s go-to source for information and advice.  She trained new heroes.  She trained them in how to fight – by fighting with them.  She fought in virtual reality.  She beat people up, trained fighting people, in actual reality.  She didn’t just face a gun, she faced the Joker.  She faced the Joker with a nuclear bomb.  She also fought the Joker face-to-face.

She bought buildings.  Not ‘house’ buildings, ‘skyscraper’ buildings.  She bought luxury cars for people who came in to fight on her team’s side.  She bought planes, and then paid to have them completely re-done to fit her team’s needs.

This storyline, the new girl spreading her wings and moving out of her father’s place to a bare-bones apartment in the city, scraping by, and managing to do good at work through spunk and determination – that’s not Barbara Gordon.  Maybe it was before any of this stuff happened to her and before she accomplished all the things she did, but it isn’t anymore.  It can’t be.  Put another way, what would the reaction be if Bruce Wayne ‘froze’ every time he got picked up and had dialog in his head that went, “My spine!  He’s going to snap my spine!  Just like Bane!  I can’t move!  I can’t move!”  Or Dick Grayson thinking, “He’s just like Two-Face!  I’m frozen!  I can’t do anything!”

It’s not that I don’t think she’ll get better, and it’s not that I don’t think that the roommates in the new apartment will lead to some funny banter and good relationships.  It’s just that this woman has been a hero for years, and is one of the most compelling characters of the DCU.  She’s a badass. A rich badass.  A rich, brilliant, multi-talented, and ruthless badass.  Having her play the ingénue doesn’t work anymore.  It just feels condescending.

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mama can’t tell me nothing

September 9th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

All of these are taken from the first five (seven, in one case, but I forget which) pages of Scott Snyder’s most high profile work: American Vampire (with Rafael Albuquerque, Daniel Zezelj, and Dave McCaig, Detective Comics (with Jock, Francesco Francavilla, and David Baron), and Swamp Thing (with Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn). Snyder’s had fifty or so comics published thus far, but all of these hit in the last 18 (or so) months. American Vampire is 18 issues deep, his run on ‘Tec was 11 issues, and Swamp Thing just started.

Do you see what all of these have in common? “[Aged male mentor figure] used to say [anecdote relevant to the plot].” He switches it up in American Vampire 12 with “Someone once told me”, and he pulls out families and tv shows for another. The real twisty one is ‘Tec 875, where Harvey Bullock, the aged male mentor figure, talks about how kids these days just don’t get it and AM radios are a thing that exists and here’s how to survive in Gotham. Never a mother, interestingly. Always either dudes or groups that are traditionally led by dudes.

All of these are basically the same thing. Anecdotes to kick the story off and show what sort of things the issue’ll be dealing with. It isn’t a bad technique, exactly, but it’s in half of ‘Tec, a quarter of American Vampire, and the first issue of Swamp Thing. It’s substantial, and it’s noticeable, when what it really should be is invisible.

It’s like Garth Ennis and Ireland or (expletive)(facial feature), Brian K Vaughan and stupid trivia, Chris Claremont and BDSM, Brian Bendis and his style of dialogue, Greg Rucka and characters like Sasha Bordeaux/Rene Montoya/Tara Chace/Dex Parios/what’s her name, the lady cop from Adventures of Superman/Elektra/maybe the newlywed widow from Punisher I dunno/the marshal from Wolverine/etc, Mark Millar and really specific numbers and/or really out of place diminutives, Frank Miller and hardboiled/Dirty Harry-style heroes, Warren Ellis and his hard-drinking British dude or lady who takes no guff off anyone and comes up with clever insults while moblogging all the way up and down the Web 2.0, Alan Moore and rape, Nick Spencer and writing terrible comics, Grant Morrison and dead cats, Frank Cho and impeccably drawn but super out of place boobs/butts, Ed Brubaker and women being arm candy for troubled dudes, Peter Milligan and identity issues/questions, and Bruce Jones using “______ THIS!” as a response entirely too often. It’s a tic, and once you notice it, you can’t not notice it, and it yanks you out of the story. It’s the FedEx arrow.

I don’t know how I noticed it, or how whoever told me noticed it (it was my man Luis, as a matter of fact), and his editors didn’t, but man. I opened Swamp Thing 1 and immediately rolled my eyes.

It sucks, because Snyder is a pretty good comics writer (American Vampire is definitely ill), but this is just so… lazy. Like “How to setup history and foreshadow a resolution to a cliffhanger for dummies” lazy. If this was some wack writer who kept trotting this out, I wouldn’t care, because I wouldn’t be buying his comics.

edit: from Amy K, here’s an example from Severed, Snyder’s creator-owned book, where a kid doesn’t have a father to tell him stuff like “Don’t take wooden nickels” and horrible things presumably happen to him as a result of taking a gang of wooden nickels off some demon-possessed hobo or something:

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