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A Few Good Comics

March 14th, 2007 Posted by david brothers

What comics are you reading? Good stuff, I trust. Personally, I have impeccable taste. Okay, maybe not impeccable, or even good, really, but at least I don’t read Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose or Fantagraphics’ porno comics so shut up you pervert. :doom:

Anyway.

I’ve been really enjoying Ed Brubaker lately. Criminal was one of the best comics I’ve seen lately, and is proof positive that the Brubaker/Phillips team is the proverbial bee’s knees. They tell a tragic noir tale full of the usual twists and turns that you’d expect from both Brubaker and films noir, and then hit you with a downer ending that feels oh-so-right. His run on Captain America has revitalized the character and quietly done away with the story-arc focus that Marvel had a while back, when each story was modular. Here, the issues are composed of multi-part arcs, but each arc builds organically into the next. Bru’s first twenty-five issue all tell one story. It’s pretty impressive, and the quality of the work has been ridiculous.

Of course, you can’t talk Brubaker without mentiong Immortal Iron Fist, and therefore Matt Fraction. This book is practically perfect. The story promises us(and delivers) new insights into the Iron Fist lineage and manages to pull off the “long, lost X” angle very well. It nails Danny Rand as a character almost as well as David Aja is nailing the art. There’s a nine-grid in the latest issue, #4 I believe, of Danny flitting around the building that is just a perfect comics page.

Talking about Fraction dovetails into Casanova. I haven’t read the entire series, due to me missing out on two or three issues of the seven issue series, but what I’ve read, I have loved. It’s another nigh-perfect comic, from the words to the art to the back matter. Casanova Quinn is both a sympathetic and alien protagonist, but I love him nonetheless. Casanova, the book, is pure id on the surface, but there’s a scary intelligence working underneath. It’s whip-smart and clever. It wants to fool you even while beckoning to you. It’s passionate, and that may sound a little corny but it’s absolutely true. You can feel the emotion coming off this book. But then, you check out the back matter and you realize that with the things he says and the feel the book gives off that you’re reading an amazing book. It isn’t just id or ego, it is Fraction himself in those pages. There’s an amount of “This is cool, so we’ll do it,” but 90% of that book is about or mirrors Fraction, just like The Invisibles mirrored Morrison.

Kyle Baker’s Nat Turner cannot be praised enough. I’ve got volume one and I’m ordering volume two asap. It’s a tale I remember hearing rarely in school, and then it was always painted as something to skip over in class and unimportant. I’m rather fond of the story myself, and Baker has definitely done it justice.

This is going to sound dumb, but I really like Jimmie Robinson’s Bomb Queen. I picked up the first trade (Woman of Mass Destruction) the other day. On the one hand, its gratuitous nudity, language, and violence are exactly what’s wrong with comics today. On the other, this kind of winking-at-the-reader lowbrow humor just pushes all the right buttons. Jimmie Robinson’s official position is that it is parody, and I can see that at work, too. It’s charming, in a smutty, violent, lewd kind of way. Maybe charming is the wrong word?

Anyway, Bomb Queen tickles that same funny bone that Garth Ennis’s humor work does. Adventures in the Rifle Brigade, for example, is a completely non-serious book with really, really dirty jokes. There’s a bad joke in there about America still being a colony of England is funny just because of the earnest way that Hugo “Khyber” Darcy delivers the line. Plus, it’s a story about the most bungling bunch of soldiers this side of Beetle Bailey going after Hitler’s missing testicle, so how “mature” can it be?

The Authority: Kev cycle of four miniseries is another good example, and it blends a message into all the jokes about poop and people with hideous and/or hilarious facial deformities. How do you find the strength to march to the beat of your own drum? How do you become a better person than what you are? Kev, More Kev, The Magnificent Kevin, and A Man Called Kev almost all explore this while doing Ennis’s usual “Superheroes are jerks” and “guns are awesome” stuff. The first three minis are collected in two trades. Hopefully A Man Called Kev will hit soon, as it’s easily the best of the lot.

Speaking of Ennis, though, I finally own my most favorite of his stories. It even beats out Punisher MAX, which is quite a feat. It’s 303, the book he did out of Avatar with Jacen Burrows. It is about one man, empires, wars, costs of wars, and what it means to be a man. It is, of course, in Ennis’s He-Man, War is Interesting, Guns are Awesome, Mind the Gore, Luv mode. Quite a lot of people die. The story has a point, though, as one man begins a trek for, if not revenge, honor, armed with his 303 Lee-Enfield rifle. 303 says a lot about war and the effect it has on later generations. It talks about how history chews up and spits out people. I should stop now, as I kind of want to do a dedicated post to this book later on this week. Suffice to say that it is one of Ennis’s best works. If you’re an X-Men fan, it’s everything Wolverine ever said about duty and honor but failed to deliver on. It’s played completely straight, too. No jokes, no maimings, just drama. Well done.

I’m slowly making my way through Sequart.com’s Modern Master: Grant Morrison: The Early Years. It covers Zenith through Doom Patrol, I believe, and it is pretty fascinating. I already knew a lot of it, but it’s neat to see someone else’s perspective on the same things. I’m making my way through the Animal Man section at the moment. Lit-crit applied to comics is so cool in such a nerdy way!

100 Bullets, Loveless, and Tales of the Unexpected are all obvious favorites, too. Loveless is building suspense, and genuine suspense at that, something that is rarely seen in comics. Things are heating up to a fever pitch, and Atticus, Ruth, and Wes are going to go from knee-deep in it to neck-deep in blood in only a few short issues. I can feel it. The Dr. 13 special in Tales is in a book that features Dave Lapham and Brian Azzarello both writing, which was sure to get my attention, but it’s so much better than I expected. I’d never heard of any of these characters before, save for Dr. 13, but he’s written a story that is both continuity porn and its polar opposite. I don’t have to know anything about these guys, since everything I need to know is there. Frankly, I thought he was making people up for the first few parts. I, Vampire? Infectious Lass? Seriously?

On a more sour note, Incredible Hulk‘s Planet Hulk is starting to lose me, I fear, which does not bode well for World War Hulk. I just kind of stopped caring about what happens to that planet. I’ll be mighty glad when these events are over and done with, but I do hope that WWH at least delivers on its premise.

What’re you into?

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Googling Destiny: Reader Appreciation

February 14th, 2007 Posted by Gavok

Ah, it’s Valentine’s Day. A day that honestly means nothing to me. But I can pretend. I did have a huge, ten-page article written up, but before posting, I remembered hermanos’ warning that he would bludgeon me to death with a life-sized bust of Ultra-Humanite if I were to ever write up Galactus/Giganta erotic fanfiction. So that’s out.

I swear, the scene with the Seattle Space Needle was one of my finest works.

Instead, I think I’ll show a bit of appreciation to our fans. No, not our regulars. You, who come to 4th Letter every couple of days to check for updates. This isn’t about you.

No, not the people who stumble upon 4th Letter by clicking on links in forums and other comic blogs. We appreciate you guys too, but this isn’t about you. Not today.

(Note: Article not totally work safe. You’ve been warned)

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Ruining the Moment: Volume 2

February 3rd, 2007 Posted by Gavok

Hal Jordan watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That’s his dream. That’s his nightmare.

Hey, now. Looks like it’s time for another installment of Ruining the Moment! Let’s roll.

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Like unto a thing of iron…

December 29th, 2006 Posted by david brothers

The new banners are in effect! We’ve got around 53 in rotation right now. New ones, old ones, ones with NFL Superpro in them. I like the new look and the logo is clean.

Let me review a couple things before I get into the meat of it, though.

Black Panther 23: This book has gotten better and better thanks in no small part to Civil War. One problem: Koi Turnbull’s art is completely inappropriate for the book. He reminds me a lot of Larry Stroman, from old school X-Factor and Tribes, I think it was called. The characters are big and chunky in general, and Panther in the sewer? I thought it was a new character. The surprise Soviet guest star had a cool scene with some interesting storytelling, but the storytelling in the rest of the book was just kind of soso, particularly in the last confrontation between Panther and an old friend. It’s decent, not good, solely due to iffy art.

Loveless 14: Obviously, I’m an Azz fan and this book is staying true to form. Daniel Zezelj provides appropriately moody art as we find out exactly why Ruth and Wes hates Blackwater so much. It is extremely harsh and pretty chilling.
The Union army, after raping Ruth, drag her into the city and talk trash. The top dog humiliates her in the city square and not one person lifts a finger, though they’re all watching. That’s heinous.
Azz is playing with time on this one, too. It takes place during July 17, 15, and 10, with July 10 featuring a not-so-surprise in terms of a death. The requisite flashback also pulls the present day (or past day, rather) person looking at their own past. it’s a technique I like quite a bit. One thing that’s certain is that Blackwater and her citizens deserve the hell that’s coming. Harsh book, but earns its A.

Okay. This next bit isn’t quite a review, more like a ramble.

I like Iron Fist. I like Luke Cage. I like Iron Fist and Luke Cage because it’s a merge of two of my favorite genres of film: blaxploitation and kung fu. The Heroes for Hire is one of my favorite duos and a great gimmick, I think. The slumming rich kid and the slum kid who wants to get rich.

The Immortal Iron Fist captures what I love about the duo and makes it work. The series gets better with its second issue as we get another glimpse of an old Iron Fist protecting what’s hers, the Iron Fist from the previous issue using the Fist in a new and intriguing way (these are not the droids you are looking for), and some wonderful Heroes for Hire interplay. Also, John Severin (yes!) does art on a wonderful flashback with tremendous payoff.

The idea of an Iron Fist lineage is one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?!” ideas. It’s so blindingly obvious and perfect that you cannot help but wonder why no one has done it before. A big part of kung fu movies (and actual kung fu, I assume) is passing down what you know. Kung fu is your techniques, your style, and your heritage. Having there be previous Iron Fists gives Danny Rand something to both live up to and pass on.

(This, of course, means that when I get a job writing for Marvel in the future, I’m going to have Danielle Knight, prodigal daughter of Danny and Misty, take up the Iron Fist in a rocking adventure across the United States to reclaim her heritage.)

The best part of this is that, if Marvel is feeling really brave, we can get an Iron Fist miniseries or one-shot about one of these old Iron Fists, be it about Wu Ao-Shi, the Iron Fist of 1545 or whoever. Please Marvel!

Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker are doing a ridiculous job with this book, and David Aja’s art is top notch. Very moody and it really fits. He does dopey Danny Rand (Helllloooo Nurse!) just as well as he does fight scenes, especially the aftermath of Randall’s scene. Danny’s father issues sound quite interesting, too.

Best new Marvel book in ages, I think. Brubaker is hitting on all cylinders with Daredevil, Criminal, and Cap, while Fraction is rocking the house with Casanova and Punisher War Journal. Two great tastes that go well together.

Oh, and Mike Carey and Humberto Ramos on X-Men is as smooth as butter. Lovely issue, lovely art.

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Reign of the Supernovas: A Real Mystery in Real Time

December 15th, 2006 Posted by Gavok

That’s a damned good question, Michael. First appearing in the pages of 52 Week 8, Supernova’s since been a mystery. Where does he come from? What exactly are his powers? What is his role in the grand scheme of things? And just who is this guy?

First, let’s take a look at Supernova’s various appearances up to this point:

Week 8: Over the course of several days, we see the first appearances of this red, white and blue stranger. On Day 3, he appears before an old woman and her grandchild, glows real bright and brings them across the street before they can be crushed by a falling monorail. The next day, he appears among firemen who are about to get crushed by falling debris. Glowing brightly once more, the new hero makes the debris vanish. The next day we get reports of him cleanly shearing a gunman’s rifle in half, as well as saving one woman’s daughter from a riptide. Booster Gold, whose image has just been destroyed a week earlier, rants about this new character in front of one Clark Kent.

Week 10: Clark Kent, having just been fired at the Daily Planet, sees Supernova flying around the city. With sudden inspiration, he hops out the window and freefalls. Supernova swiftly catches him, assures him of his safety and asks if he’s okay. Clark pulls out a tape recorder and asks for an interview. As Clark later explains to Lois, they didn’t get too far before seeing Bahdnesian terrorists stealing a military all-terrain vehicle. Supernova puts down Clark and uses his glowing power (which Clark describes as “peculiar eyebeams”) to take away the pavement under the vehicle, locking it into the ground. Supernova poses and answers a couple questions from Clark, trying hard to conceal himself. He sees a child almost walk into the hole in the ground, teleports in a bright light and appears in front of the child. The way he responds to the boy shows that he has some semblance of a personality under the mask. Clark tells Lois that he believes that Supernova’s on the level and that he has an air of experience about him. Elsewhere, Booster is growing more and more frustrated, while Skeets admits that even he doesn’t know who Supernova is from his historical files.

Week 15: The big one. Booster takes on a giant sea monster in the middle of Metropolis. He fails pretty badly, including a bit where he causes a massive power outage. Supernova flies in, soars to the monster and with a bright blast, zaps him away. Supernova offers his hand to Booster and makes a comment about Booster not caring about the people he saves. Noticeable frown under the mask. Booster snaps and tackles Supernova. The two brawl, showing that Supernova is at least strong enough to trade fists with Booster. Supernova’s only use of powers are to momentarily blind Booster. Supernova highly disapproves of Booster, saying he’s too pathetic to be considered a joke. Skeets mentions a radiation leakage. Supernova wants to stop it, but Booster sucker-punches him and tries to stop it himself. Beaming at his return to greatness, Booster saves everyone, but is engulfed in an explosion. Supernova, shocked, flies upwards and catches Booster’s body. To the horror of Clark and the noticeable surprise of Skeets, Booster Gold is just a skeleton in futuristic tights.

It’s worth noting that there were two alternate endings to this issue. In one ending, Booster turns to dust upon landing in Supernova’s arms. In the other, there is no radiation leakage. Supernova tries to teleport Booster back a few feet. At the same time, Booster turns on his force field. The result causes Booster to be cut in half. A horrified Supernova swears he didn’t mean for it to happen and Clark Kent believes him. Supernova covers one half of Booster with his cape while Clark uses his jacket on the other half.

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The Top 100 What If Countdown: Part 18

October 30th, 2006 Posted by Gavok

It’s a good time for a new What If article. Not only does What If: Avengers Disassembled come out this Wednesday, but Halloween’s right around the corner. What If and Halloween go together hand-in-hand. On Halloween, children dress up as their favorite superheroes. In What If, Frank Castle dresses up as Captain America. On Halloween, the theme is horror and gore. In What If, characters die by the dozen if you ask them politely. Halloween is represented by a bald kid with a big head, whining about how all he got from trick-or-treating was a rock. What If is represented by a bald guy with a big head, telling us about times when Ben Grimm didn’t get covered in rocks.

Okay, this is going too far. Let’s get to the article.

15) WHAT IF NOVA HAD BEEN FOUR OTHER PEOPLE?

Issue: Volume 1, #15
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist: Simonson Wiacek, Infantino Springer, Andru Giacoi and Perez Palmer
Spider-Man death: Yes
Background: The Green Lant—I mean, Nova got his powers when the previous Nova Rhomann Dey was mortally wounded while around Earth’s atmosphere. He transferred his powers and spot in the Nova Corps to a human at random. That human turned out to be Richard Rider, who continues to fight as Nova to this very day as the main hero of Annihilation. So if he was randomly picked, that opens up a lot of possibilities.

The first story begins with a mugger killing a man and running off in a panic. The victim’s wife, Helen Taylor, screams a vow that she’s going to find this guy and kill him. Months pass and Helen stands at her husband’s grave, sad that the police are no use and there’s nothing she can really do to help him. Only a miracle can set things right.

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Iron Fist!

October 18th, 2006 Posted by david brothers

I am not supposed to be posting right now! I’ve got eight hours until a beast of a games deadline and holy crap am I not even close to being done!

Couple quick procrastinatory things, though.

ironfist003_cvr_col.jpg My secret shame is that I’m an Iron Fist fan. I love kung-fu movies. I used to own dubbed copies of nearly the entire Wu-Tang series, crap spinoffs and all. Putting Brubaker and Matt (Casanova) Fraction on a Danny Rand ongoing is icing on a cake… but when you give me covers like this? You guys are trying to make me fall in love. I love everything about it, from the awesome Iron Fist sweater (I would buy it) to the properly worn pants (off the hips is the only way to be) to the guns.

Guns! In an Iron Fist comic!

In other news, why are we not number one in a google search for Mary Jane Watson vs Lois Lane?

Do none of you remember “Who Would Win In A Fight? Mary Jane Watson vs Lois Lane?” I give you guys gold like this:

This seems pretty evenly matched. Rough’n’ready tomboy vs Super-hero trained model. Assuming no weapons, this would probably be a pretty even match. Lois Lane has experience, but she’s also got to be pushing 40 by now. Mary Jane is somewhere between 27-30. I will say that Kate Bosworth is an adorable Lois Lane, but she’s adorable because she looks to be roughly twee and a haff yeaws old.

and we’re only the fifth result on Google? We’re barely beating some nutball pervo’s story about Mary Jane and Lois getting into a catfight, which leads into frankly gross and violent sexual proceedings?

C’mon! Strike a blow for the power of not being a pervert!

Link that article, kids! Link it everywhere! We want to be number one! If we’re number one, then you’re number one! That doesn’t make any sense but believe it anyway!

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Catching up…

October 13th, 2006 Posted by david brothers

Okay, I’ve got some room to breathe, so let’s close some tabs and hit you guys off with some knowledge!

Seven Soldiers #1 is almost here! Scope the seven page preview for a look at what is sure to be a great finale to the best megaseries ever. Oh, baby, October 25th can’t come quick enough!

I’ve got a three part interview with Brian Azzarello that is honestly a must-read. Part one, part two, and part three. As usual, 100 Bullets is the best comic ever go buy it blah blah Loveless blah blah Deathblow blah blah awesome. Seriously, Azz writes great stuff, so check his interviews and buy his books. We get confirmation (again, possibly) that DC is going to support 100 Bullets through to the end, so I’m a happy camper.

Lisa Fortuner discusses the uncanny valley in comics and I pop up in the comments feed. This could turn out to be an interesting discussion, but only I’ve commented so far.

Gavok is a stupidhead. That’s not a link or anything, I just wanted to let you know that he’s got a funny face.


Now, I’ve got a personal rule on this site, which I’ve technically already broken by writing about Patriot a while back. I don’t like to talk about comics that I don’t like. I do enough of dealing with stuff I dislike in real life, you know? I don’t hold Gavok or Thomas to this rule, it’s just a personal thing. I don’t like to talk about bad comics unless I can get a laugh out of it or there’s some larger point behind it. Bruce Jones on Nightwing? :loleyes:. Winick on [variable]? :lol: again. Millar on Civil War?

I could say a lot. Instead, I’ll just say this: read Giffen on Annihilation instead. It’s the best “big event” going on right now. Civil War has had some sweet tie-ins (Wolverine, Captain America) but the main series is a joke.

On the other hand, Annihilation has Drax and his young sidekick Cammi, a not-stupid Richard “Nova” Rider, Gamora, planets exploding, Galactus as a weapon of mass destruction, Annihilus with the quantum bands, Annihilus killing Quasar to get the quantum bands, Quasar being killed, Thanos as scheming trickster god, and Phyla-vell. It is excellent and well worth your time. Also, Quasar died in it.

More detailed content later on. I need to take some time to chillax. I updated the sidebar, by the way. Can you tell what’s new?

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The Top 100 What If Countdown: Part 12

September 18th, 2006 Posted by Gavok

This is a longer one than usual. I just had to rank two two-parters so closely together, didn’t I.

45) WHAT IF THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN HAD NOT MARRIED MARY JANE?/WHAT IF THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN HAD MARRIED THE BLACK CAT?

Issue: Volume 2, #20-21
Writer: Danny Fingeroth
Artist: Jim Valentino
Spider-Man death: No
Background: Peter Parker had proposed to Mary Jane. It was a battle with a Spider Slayer involving them both that convinced Mary Jane to say yes. That’s all well and good for her, but how would things have turned out if that adventure didn’t go so smoothly? In this reality, the Spider Slayer strangles Mary Jane a bit longer than normal and although she’s rescued, she is still injured. Peter keeps having flashbacks to Gwen’s death and can’t bear to see the same thing happen to someone like Mary Jane. For her own protection, he leaves her at the alter.

Look at that last panel. Man. I will never, ever forgive John Byrne for turning Sandman evil again. But enough of that.

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Notice!

August 24th, 2006 Posted by david brothers

Slight interruption of service!

I just started back college, so I should probably, uh, focus for the first week of class before I start back goofing off. I’ll be back to posting regularly probably on Saturday, but until then, you’ll have to scope out some low-content/no-content from the David side of things. Gavok may have some good stuff for you soon, though.

Til then, have an image from Casanova #1.
Casanova #1, Fraction and Ba

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