Archive for the 'reviews' Category

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Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 5

October 4th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

It’s the last week of #1s for the New 52 and it’s an interesting one. The last few weeks have been filled with comics that I had been genuinely looking forward to, but not so much for this week. This week it’s nothing but DC trying to win me over. Characters I don’t care for, characters I’ve never read before and a couple comics that feature heroes in new comics that already set the bar high. Let’s dive in.

First is All-Star Western by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Moritat, which surprised me as being one of the top three of the week. Nothing says “western” like a fictional city in New Jersey, but whatever. I bet they figured that despite being a pretty awesome character, Jonah Hex’s name was too poisoned by the recent movie to carry the title. Or they’re going to be doing non-Hex stories down the line. Anyway, it’s an interesting pairing with Hex and Dr. Arkham, with the latter reminding me of the biographer character from Unforgiven, only with actual talents to keep him useful. It’s a murder mystery from the past mixed with a buddy cop movie… only the two will surely still hate each other by the story’s end.

I like that with Arkham around, we have a protagonist who could talk down at Hex to us as being something of a monster (though he’d never have the balls to do so to Hex’s face) and yet we have our cake and eat it too by being able to follow and root for Hex as the other protagonist. A prostitute gets fridged because, well, there’s nobody else to really get at someone like Hex through and even that only shakes him up verbally. With his gritty know-how and Arkham’s occasionally helpful brilliance, it feels like it’s only a matter of time before they have this wrapped up with no problem. Then the ending turns it all on its ear where even our two main characters accept that they may indeed be fucked. I’m drawn in and definitely want to see this story through. Between that and Moritat’s Tony Moore-like art, I’m sticking.

Aquaman by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis is probably the best intro we can get that doesn’t involve turning him into the beloved Zap-Brannigan-meets-Hank-Scorpio incarnation that Batman: The Brave and the Bold gave us. I don’t know when the whole “Aquaman is worthless” thing truly came into being. I’d like to think that it was something people silently agreed on for years, especially in relation to the first season of Superfriends and didn’t fully explode until that skit on the State where Superman gives the Superfriends missions, tells Aquaman to “go talk to some fish” and everyone begins laughing relentlessly at him. Either way, the guy has been a laughing stock and DC’s been trying so hard to make him work. Personally, I loved what they did with him last time they gave him a reboot with the One Year Later underwater Conan concept where he carried a sword and hung out with King Shark. That ruled pretty hard until Busiek left the book.

It’s a strong start. Aquaman acts like a badass to the point that getting shot in the head causes him to get slightly cut open in the temple, but he’s considered to be this big joke by the police and public. After years of stories about superheroes doing the right thing only to be hated for being menaces who everyone thinks are really evil, it’s pretty great to see a different, more light-hearted take on it. Granted, no matter how Aquaman tries, he’ll still never measure up to Namor. I bet if that asshole blogger guy asked Namor about what it’s like to be nobody’s favorite superhero, he would have flown off through the wall and come back later to tell him that he’s now that blogger’s mother’s favorite superhero. Then he’d punch him in the dick for good measure.

I tend to have faith in Johns’ storytelling and I like what he’s doing so far. As long as he doesn’t draw out the “Aquaman sucks” gimmick too long, I’m sticking.

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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?

No.

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?

No.

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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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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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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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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99 Days: Hooked on Mobb-phonics

September 6th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

I’m reading 99 Days by Matteo Casali and Kristian Donaldson and it’s sort of driving me crazy. It’s not bad, exactly. The cover’s great, and the art is pretty good. There are just a few minor things that are crawling under my skin and making me put off finishing up the book.

I’m 40 or so pages in, and the word/phrase “knowwhuti’msayin’” keeps popping up and it’s always italicized. Setting aside my feelings on seeing that phrase in print aside–psyche, all of my opinions must be expressed lest they be lost to the ages. “Nahmean” and “namsaying” scan a lot better in written dialogue (and speech, arguably) and they mean/represent just about the exact same thing in terms of cultural/location/demographics. Close enough for gov’t work, at any rate, right?

The italics and compressed nature of the compound word makes it annoying to see in text. It’s like a full stop when reading. It kills the momentum of the dialogue dead, and it’s so generic and… graceless, I guess. The gold standard for natural black dialogue (dialogue in general, really) in comics is easily Garth Ennis, with Azzarello taking the crown for lyrical dialogue. There’s a flow and rhythm to their dialogue that pushes you deeper into the story. You dance from character to character. In 99 Days… you don’t. As soon as you hit this cat saying “Estelle was mah bitch, so what? I loved her, nigga. She was cool with me and I was cool with her, knowwhutI’msayin’?” or whatever, you just stop dead.

It’s boring, it’s graceless, it’s dunn language for dummies. You’re overdoing it, when the post path to take is to give us a little and let us fill in the rest. “Estelle was my bitch, nigga!” still doesn’t scan quite right, it doesn’t feel right, but it feels better than what we got. I dunno, maybe I expect too much, but I don’t think so. If you overdo the vernacular, you make it more likely that it’ll feel less real, and that’s murder on a comic.

So’s this, from a character a bit earlier in the book: “¿Cómo puedes estar parado a este individuo, ese? Qué tonto–”

And I get it, she’s talking about how another hispanic cat can ride around with as stereotyped of a white racist cop as you’ll see (he rants about quotas or affirmative action, butt kissing, blah blah talking points). But the Spanish is wrong, isn’t it? It’s been a few years, and I don’t really speak Mexican Spanish (¡Vamos, Madrileños!), but I’m like 99% sure parado doesn’t work like that. Parado/parar has to do with stopping or being stopped. Google Translate tells me that it comes out as “How can you stand this guy?”–which makes me think that “estar parado” should’ve been rendered as some form of soportar–support/endure. Unless “estar parado” is something specific to Los Angeles Spanish, but I sorta doubt it.

Bam: yanked right out of the story.

More verisimilitude killers: Casali overdos the specificity of the dialogue, rendering each inflection and non-traditional syllable, but underdos it when it comes to talking about the Crips and Bloods. There are several references to “the Crips leader” and “the rival Blood gang” for example, and my thought was… which Crips? Which Bloods? It’s not one giant organization. There’s not just one giant Crips gang with one cat sending down instructions like a CEO. There’s a ton, sorted by neighborhood or group or history or whatever whatever.

Here is where specificity, or going real specific with a fake gang, would’ve been a boon. “Word on the street is that the Eight Deuce Inglewood Crowns are out for blood because some fool from the blah blah blah set did blah blah blah.” Instead, we’ve got… I can’t even think of a good comparison here. “Talk to the European leader before all these Europeans kill all these Africans!” I guess. (This racism is killing me inside.) Anyway: Make up a gang! It worked for The Shield and Grand Theft Auto (and probably a lot of rappers).

99 Days isn’t a bad book, judging by the little I’ve read, but apparently this stuff was bugging me enough to a) put it down for a while and b) write about it on my lunch break.

Art’s real nice, though. Check out the first four rows on Donaldson’s site to see some pretty black and white images. I pulled the one at the top of this post from that page because I liked the faces.

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Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 1

September 6th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Sometimes I get identified on this site as being a Marvel guy as compared to Esther being all about DC and while I’d like to argue against it, my latest buying habits in the past year don’t back me up. I seem to skew more on the Marvel side with only a handful of DC stuff on my plate. It wasn’t always that way. I seem to remember that in the mid-00′s, I was either pretty even with it or maybe even more on DC’s side. Thinking back, things were actually pretty exciting during the lead-up and follow-up of Infinite Crisis. It was really Countdown to Final Crisis where the company started to slope downwards in my regard.

As of a month ago, the comics I was reading under the DC banner were as follows: Batman and Robin, Batman Inc., Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Booster Gold and Secret Six. And you know what? I didn’t even like Secret Six that much by the time it ended. I liked the promise more than what happened. There’d be a good one-shot story in there every once and a while, then it would go into six issues I didn’t care about. At least it gave us the happy-go-lucky characterization of King Shark. At the same time, I feel guilty reading that when I should have gotten off my ass and started reading some of the series that I kept hearing were good like the latest run of Detective Comics, Batgirl, Action Comics and Doom Patrol.

When I first heard about DC’s reboot/relauch I raised an eyebrow and initially had the same, “Can they do that?! HOW CAN THEY DO THAT?!” reaction as everyone else. I just used my inside voice. Then I looked back and decided that maybe this is for the best. Oh, sure, it can and may be a failure in the long run. That’s their problem and the problem of whichever readers got screwed over by the big change. Me? I was only reading six comics by them. 52 new comics are being thrown against the wall and if even seven are still there when gravity kicks in, who am I to hate? Yes, this could definitely work out for the best.

I think back to when we got One Year Later and how enjoyable it was, despite how a lot of it returned back to the status quo. While it did turn me onto a couple good comics I wouldn’t have otherwise read, it did also allow me to join in and laugh at some of the stupider moments with the masses, like everything in that first Nightwing comic. Hey, remember when Nightwing is fighting this guy and he kicks him and practically shits himself while going, “Y-you’re a *gasp* m-metahuman…” as if he had only heard of such a thing before and never met one? Ah, man, that was the dumbest thing. I think the balls-out drive behind this new initiative can lead to an interesting six months at the very least.

So since I’m genuinely interested in this editorial stunt and I owe my comic guy for always having me at his place for wrestling PPVs and never having me pay for the show or food, I decided that I’d go headfirst into the new 52. I’m reading every single one of those fuckers. Yes, even the Liefeld one. Every week, I’m going to give my thoughts on them and decide whether I’m going to stick or drop it. Since these are all supposed to last six issues at the least, I’m going to try and keep going throughout that time so we can see what I’m still reading by the end of February. Who knows, by then I might just be doing an update about what I thought about that week’s issue of Blue Beetle because it’s the only thing left I care about. Though in the beginning, I’m giving every #1 a fair shake. You have my attention, DC. Wow me.

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