The Cipher 12/29/10

December 29th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

girls who are boys, who like boys to be girls
created: Not a whole lot, but I’m pretty happy with what we’ve got.

-We’re in the home stretch of Digital December. Two more pieces this week and done. To catch up, peep my interview with Fantagraphics about their run up to digital publishing. You can also check out seven things you want to see in digital comics, where I pull reax from Twitter and talk about them. Finally, I look at spin and call it out in terms of ownership and digital books. Non-digital–here are ten Marvel books to read in 03/11.

and I’m too tired to care about it. can’t you see this in my face, my face
consumed: Still on comics hiatus while I’m on vacation, which is somehow simultaneously grind time (bang bang bang). I got through a few things, though.

-I’ve been burning through Akira Toriyama’s Dr. Slump. I knocked out the first four volumes over the course of four days. Good bedtime reading, and so densely packed with jokes that each page is great. There’s a chapter early with a joke that revolves around Arale being a robot without a vagina, and Senbei is like “I didn’t put one on because I haven’t seen one before! All the magazines are censored!” Weird reading a comic for kids that’s like, “Dirty magazines? Yeah, our main dude reads them constantly and is a huge pervert. Also this chapter is about vaginas.”

-Sort of makes, “Hey kids! Comics!” look stupid in hindsight, don’t it? I vote we all stop saying that.

-I read Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy’s Shang-Chi: The Hellfire Apocalypse. I’m trying to wrap my head around Gulacy still. His art style doesn’t quite appeal to me, but I like the way he does fight scenes. He can dip into the T&A well a little too much, but his camera angles and staging are good. More on this guy later, I’m sure, as I figure out who he is and how he came to be.

-This is what happens when we allow moe to run wild:

-Speaking of moe:

-I’ve been listening to a lot of The Beatles this past weekend. Just on a whim, really. I’m not very familiar with their catalog, so I asked around to see where I should start. That ended up meaning listening to Revolver about ten times from what, Thursday to Monday? Then I switched to Rubber Soul. I like a lot of it. Deeper thoughts as I continue my trip through their library. A post of its own.

-“Eleanor Rigby” is fantastic, though. I had no idea that that’s where Bobby Ray got the chorus from “Lonely People” from, but that’s another song I dug. I bet this pissed off however many Beatles fans listen to southern rap when it came out, huh? Video’s mildly nsfw, I guess, though everything is blurred out.

-Marty over at TFO didn’t like it much, I don’t think, and apparently I did know that it was a flip of “Eleanor Rigby,” because I’m in the comments down there. I just didn’t know that it was “Eleanor Rigby” from The Beatles, is all, I guess.

-More Marty: His review of Das Racist’s Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man is great. I liked Shut Up way more than Sit Down, but this is the kind of review that makes me want to go back and bump them back to back to back to back. He pulls out what works about the music, provides context for the albums, works in the sociopolitical context, too… this guy is good. Das Racist is good, too.

-The Deborah Solomon interview he mentions is here. She’s completely out of her depth. This is the best bit, though:

Like most musicians, you dislike the process of categorizing your work. That said, how would you categorize your work?
Suri: It’s a realist painting of a collage. Vazquez: I would say we are proto-postworld pop.

Ha. Is that capitalized?
Vazquez: It’s all capitalized! Suri: All caps everything!

-“ALL CAPS EVERYTHING.” I think Jay-Z once said, “I might type in all caps for a year straight, I might bring back Cazal shades.” Look it up.

Here’s Witzke on the Gorillaz’ Plastic Beach:

Gorillaz is a 21st century project as it is larger than just songs on wax, and how much work/knowledge the audience brings to their time with it. If you are a Jamie Hewllet fan, who’s been reading all his comics for years, Gorillaz is a completely different experience if you’ve never heard of the him before this. There is a matrix of “if, then” questions that determine what you can and will take away from Gorillaz as a project, most of them are deliberate on Albarn and Hewlett’s part, some of them aren’t (consider – this is the first Gorillaz project without any overt George Romero zombie or Exorcist references – did you know that? Do you care? Do I?).

Basically, you should be reading that.

-Listen to these while you do so. “Rhinestone Eyes” (dig those Jamie Hewlett storyboards) and “Welcome to the World of Plastic Beach” with tha Doggfather. (“Helicopters fly over the beach/ Same time everyday, same routine/ Clear target in the summer when skies are blue.”

I love his letters (BOOM!) and how he draws De La and the other guests of Plastic Beach.

-Some idle thoughts on Plastic Beach: Murdoc is the villain of the Gorillaz. That much is true. Noodle and Russ are pretty self-sufficient. Russ has his mental issues, but he knows better than to trust Murdoc farther than he can throw him. Noodle, though, is 100% in control, with Demon Days being her Jean Grey in New X-Men moment. 2D, however, just kinda follows along. He’s been stuck with Murdoc for years, and at this point, Murdoc’s kidnapped him and taken him to Plastic Beach. That makes 2D the damsel in distress, doesn’t it?

-2D and the clown mask–is it a coping mechanism? Intentional dissociation? Transference? There’s an interview someplace where he talks about wearing the clown mask in the “Stylo” video and how it got shot up. Did I imagine that? Maybe it was on the iTunes Sessions EP. He’s terrified of Cyborg Noodle, though. Does that make his participation in “Doncamatic” a cry for help? “Talk to me talk to me talk to me” while wearing an outfit that Murdoc clearly picked out for him.

-Jack Sullivan agrees with me. “If you invert the island it’s like he’s trapped in a tower, and the whale is like a dragon, so pretty much yeah.”

-What’s “Doncamatic” mean? Nonsense word?

-What’s it mean that Murdoc made such an extremely pop-sounding album that’s actually kind of sad and foreboding once you get past the sound?

-Here’s Gorillaz covering The xx’s “Crystalised.” You can see Daley in this one. Also “Doncamatic” and “On Melancholy Hill”. “Empire Ants” on Letterman.

-I should stop. There’s a ton of official live Gorillaz on Youtube, and turning youtubes to mp3s is easy and I should stop now before it’s 3am.

-The time between me writing that “I should stop” bit and actually stopping watching youtube: enough time to save like eight or nine fresh new live Gorillaz tracks, including the entire Letterman sessions.

-I have a problem.

i got my head checked by a jumbo jet. it wasn’t easy, but nothing is, no
David: New Mutants 20
Esther: Action Comics 896, Tiny Titans 35 Possible: The Dark Knight 1, Detective Comics 872
Gavin: Green Lantern 61, Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine 4, Avengers 8, Captain America 613, Carnage 2, Daken: Dark Wolverine 4, Deadpool Team-Up 886, Hulk 28, Secret Warriors 23, Ultimate Comics Avengers 3 5, (maybe) Ultimate Comics Thor 3, What If 200

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The Cipher 12/22/10

December 22nd, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Sittin’ in the mornin’ sun, I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ come
created: Oh yes, we’re still going strong with this Digital December ish on CA.

DC Comics! IDW launching something new! Marvel Comics and their vault! I also contributed #s 7 and 4 to the Best of the Year over there. King City and The Outfit, of course. Who loves you, baby?

-Anyone notice which question almost everyone skipped? Pay attention. There will be a quiz, and after the quiz comes beatings.

-Over at TFO’s Best Music countdown, I chipped in number 14 (Gorillaz, “Stylo”), definitely one of my favorites this year. I’ve got another song coming and I’m really happy with how that review turned out, plus a bigger piece that I’m collabing with somebody on. Yes.

Watching the ships roll in
consumed: I’m about to consume a bunch of burgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, and steaks, but I gotta cook them first, right? So pardon if these are short. I’ve got 4th of July BBQ for Christmas Eve Eve Eve to get to.

-Warren Ellis’s Supergod: Sucks, manages to combine several of Ellis’s worst tics into one terrible, poorly paced, and clunky story.

-I played some more Persona 4. I’m back burnering it for a couple months, though, since I think I’m close to the end.

Boardwalk Empire is good!

-Newsarama’s poll probably should’ve been better thought out.

-Paul Cornell and Gail Simone have both done some pretty net-pleasing things lately. Using “mansplaining” like that’s a word people should say out loud, getting revenge for Ryan Choi. Ehhh. I’m not down with all the pandering. Just do good stories, that’ll please us plenty. Those of us that aren’t insane, anyway. Cheap pop is just that, so don’t be that guy.

-I listened to a lot of Dungeon Family apparently.

-New music and books are on pause while I work this Digital December thing, not counting new Rock Band songs for extracurricular activities. Plus, next week, Amazon should have some crazy music deals for me to indulge in, so I don’t need to be buying new stuff anyway.

-With that said, I bought the new Ghostface for five bucks and reread Darwyn Cooke’s The Outfit and Graham’s King City (three or four times on that last one, actually).

-Marty’s review of Gil Scott-Heron’s new album is great.

-Spurgeon has interviewed Matt Seneca and Joe Casey. These are always worth a read.

-Dirk Deppey has been laid off from TCJ, and he was kind enough to mention us in his outgoing post. I really do appreciate that, because when I was first getting into blogging, it was Dirk and Tom and Graeme and Heidi who I learned the most from. Curious to see what he does after taking a couple weeks off.

-These burgers ain’t gonna grill themselves, so let me see what I can do to wrap this up real quick…

-[Generic dismissive thought about Marvel’s upcoming Fear Itself event]

-[Clarification that I love Stuart Immonen and that I hope it makes him eleventy million bucks]

-[But on the real, you’re sick if you think I’m buying a seven part event at four bones a pop]


And then I watch ’em roll away again, yeah
David: Batman, Inc. 2, Hellblazer 274
Esther: Batman/Superman #79, Batman Incorporated #2 Possible: Batman Annual #28, Green Lantern: Larfleeze Christmas Special
Gavin: Azrael 15, Batman Incorporated 2, Green Lantern Corps 55, Green Lantern Larfleeze Christmas Special 1, Justice League Generation Lost 16, Chaos War Dead Avengers 2, Deadpool 30, Deadpool Pulp 4, Incredible Hulks 619, Namor First Mutant 5, Punisher In Blood 2, Secret Avengers 8, What If Dark Reign, Incorruptible 13

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The Cipher 10/13/10

October 13th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

keys open doors
-NYCC shouts: Witzke, Jared, Tucker, the whole FBB4l! death squad, Tim Callahan, Sims, Julian, Deb Aoki, Ed Chavez, Laura Hudson, Prof Gray, Kiel Phegley, Caleb and Anna, Bergen St Tom and Bergen St Amy, Cheryl Lynn, the iFanboys, and everyone else I met whose name I instantly forgot when I blinked my eyes after being introduced. I’m sorry, it’s just that my brain is so full of cut-n-paste snark blogging that I can’t even build short-term memory any more.

-Anybody else attend the X-Men panel? I thought it was funny when PAD showed up and announced that whoever placed the panels so far from either the show floor or Artist’s Alley should die? A couple years back he was going off on people online for that, but I guess it’s all to the good in person!

-See?! It’s a compulsion! I can barely type a whole sentence without mentioning how there hasn’t been a good Typhoid Mary story since Ann Nocenti left the character!

-Special shouts to everyone who said that they a) listened to, b) enjoyed, c) loved, or d) all of the above the Fourcast!. That was pretty flattering. Also everyone who mentioned the posts where I say things about race and comical books. This was a super flattering con. Good thing my ego’s already as big as humanly possible, you know?

-Kicked off the con weekend by giving a guest lecture to two classes and two and a half hours of karaoke.

-How good is The Outfit? I’ll have to hire a 4l! intern to scan some pages out of it so I can talk about it some.

-What was up with fans behaving badly at NYCC? Apparently some Lian Harper cosplayer got invited up onto a DC panel and then went on to complain about Jason Todd’s hair color and some other crap? There was also a belligerent Sgt Rock cosplay who was real upset about Frankencastle and accosted another panel. I’m sure there was some OMD/BND strife, too. C’mon, son. It’s just comics. It’s not that serious.

-Every year I go to one of these, I end up adjusting how I interact with comics as a whole. The first year, I was greedy guts, thirsty for signatures and books and panels. Attending a World War Hulk panel killed all that noise real quick, though, and now I only attend corporate comics panels if I gotta. They’re awful. The panels to go to are ones featuring either smaller publishers, like Oni or Top Shelf, or focused on a specific creator. Creator spotlights are great.

-Last year, it was all about original art and sketches. I got a Risso sketch and a gang of others.

-This year, I realized that I don’t care about signatures (though I do still like sketches/art) and it was all about 1) books and 2) my friends. Meeting creators at a con is nice and all, but it’s too one-sided for me. “Hi I like your books it’s nice to meet you can you make this out to David?” I don’t really get anything out of that.

-I’d rather meet someone at a bar or somewhere less formal than stand in a line to shake their hands and then catch them hand sanitizing it up thirty seconds later, you know? Email, over drinks, anywhere outside of the context of a comics convention is great. Within the building, though? I’d rather talk and walk with my friends.

-I do like those brief moments where you run into a creator you know or a friend on the floor while traveling in opposite directions, though. I saw Tim & Ryan Callahan, Geoff Johns, Kate Dacey, Marc Bernardin, and a few others that way.

-There was a super fine Ramona Flowers running around the con on Friday. She was quickly dubbed Ethnically Ambigious Ramona Flowers by the crew, and if you’re reading this: you won the con. Don’t let anybody tell you different.

-We gotta get rid of the Sexy Jailbait Anime Costume cosplays, though. If you needed to get parental permission to attend the con, please put some clothes on.

-I wore a three piece suit on Saturday.

-Sims talking about how he would kill Stephanie Brown “9 times” on the Comics Alliance panel killed me. Hopefully the video will be up soon, and hopefully I didn’t make too many stupid faces.

-Oh yeah, from the preview for ASM this week:

Bringing back Hypno Hustler, however briefly? Mark Waid, you are the dreamiest. Truly.

keys open doors
Wrote: I wrote a bunch of panel recaps while I was at NYCC, but there’s not a single bit of news in there I thought was ground breaking or worth paying attention to. Instead, read about Chi’s Sweet Home, 7 Billion Needles, and Redline, an anime that makes the Wachowski Speed Racer flick look like a fraud.

I’ve got a column at Moviefone now, too. The first is about five non-cape comic movies we need to see.

Read: I bought a gang of French and Alan Davis comics at NYCC, including an ill Eduardo Risso/Carlos Trillo book I’ve never seen before. On the plane, I read Twin Spica 01, Twin Spica 02, Twin Spica 03, Power Girl Vol. 2: Aliens & Apes, and Spin Angels. All of them were good to very good, and I’ll have longer bits on them later. And now that the Palmiotti/Gray/Conner Power Girl is done, I can go back to pretending like Power Girl doesn’t exist.

keys keys open doors
David: Amazing Spider-Man 645, Thor 616
Esther: Definitely: Knight and Squire 1, Maybe: Return of Bruce Wayne 5, Bruce Wayne: The Road Home – Batgirl, The Outsiders, Batman and Robin, Red Robin, Doc Savage 7
Gavin: Batman Return Of Bruce Wayne 5, Booster Gold 37, Green Lantern 58
Justice League Generation Lost 11, Knight & Squire 1, Welcome To Tranquility One Foot Grave 4, Daken Dark Wolverine 2, Deadpool Corps 7, Incredible Hulks 614, New Avengers 5, Irredeemable 18

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The Cipher 10/06/10

October 6th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

they believed in machine guns.
New York Comic Con is this weekend. Gavin and I will be there. Short cipher, then.

-Charlie Huston has a new novel coming out in 2012 from Mulholland Books. Skinner is going to be about poverty, seems like. Here’s a pretty good introduction to the headspace he’s working in.

Speaking of putting a bullet in the head of irony, 1 in 5 U.S. resident children are currently living below that line.

You can’t, as the comedians are wont to say, make this shit up.

Facts, in these situation, kick the shit out of fiction every fucking time.

The present moment is born of the past. The future moment is born also of the past, and the now.

1 in 5 children born from the past into present poverty. How the fuck did that happen?

If you want to get into his work, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death: A Novel is a pretty good starting point. Brutally funny, brutal pacing (in The Shotgun Rule especially), brutal violence… this guy is the one novelist whose books I buy on release and tear through in two or three sittings, max.

-Continuing the trend of the extended FBB4l! family being the best people to read when it comes to writing about comics, Tucker Stone has a positively fantastic interview with Darwyn Cooke up at Comics Alliance. Parker: The Outfit drops today, and it’s basically already book of the week.

-More Richard Stark: The Hunter, The Man with the Getaway Face, and The Outfit are on Kindle now.

David Grofield: Unknown Soldier 24, Parker: The Outfit
Esther Parker:
Handy Gavin: Incorruptible 10, Metalocalypse Dethklok 1, Secret Six 26, Avengers Academy 5, Chaos War 1, Deadpool Pulp 2, DeadpoolMAX 1, Hawkeye & Mockingbird 5, S.H.I.E.L.D. 4, Taskmaster 2, Ultimate Comics Thor 1, Young Allies 5

I was gonna buy Ultimate Thor off ComiXology, but if you think I’m paying four bucks for a regular old comic book, you’re insane.

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Fear of a Black Panther Part Four

August 21st, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Tucker kicked it off, I followed up, and then Tucker went and raised the stakes again. I’m wrapping up the story of Don McGregor and Billy Graham’s Panther’s Rage story in Jungle Action, covering issues fifteen through eighteen.

Here’s the end of the story: T’Challa makes his peace with his mistakes, in part by rejecting a certain portion of them, rediscovers his self-confidence, and goes after Erik Killmonger for his sins. They battle, and a rejuvenated T’Challa definitely holds his own… until Killmonger reasserts his dominance, explains that he was just playing with T’Challa, and easily lifts T’Challa’s body over his head and gets ready to snap his spine. That’s right: the hero makes his peace with his conflict, rediscovers himself, and does all the things that people are supposed to do before going off to fight the dragon, and he still loses. The battle isn’t even in question. Killmonger toys with him and then prepares to make a show of destroying him. No chance. There is no dignity, no honor in violence. Hey T’Challa, how’s failure taste?

But there’s one thing that Killmonger, T’Challa, and the other larger than life characters in superhero comics forgot, and forget, about: the little guy. You know, the normal humans who provide so much flavor to superhero stories, and dead bodies when the need arises. In this case, Kantu, the son of the man who was killed by zombies, is the one that saves the day.

T’Challa had a brief meeting with Kantu on his way to battle Venomm for the last time. It’s brief and depressing, as Kantu is mourning his father’s death and T’Challa has no answers for him. McGregor’s typically florid prose has T’Challa asking “if there is any hope left at all.” Kantu, however, “does not know the words to ask such a question, but wonders the same thing.” After this meeting, T’Challa, like Spider-Man on a bad day, gives himself over to being the black cat, which “does not ask any questions. It needs very few answers or truths.” Violence is an escape.

Kantu is a casualty of T’Challa and Killmonger’s war. T’Challa gave birth to Killmonger’s rage. Killmonger’s rage resulted in the revenge scheme that killed Wakandans by the dozen, including Kantu’s father. Kantu is therefore, in the end, the ultimate representation of the effect of Killmonger and T’Challa’s conflict. The back and forth chess match, the tug of war of intellects between these two men are what formed all of the exciting scenes and drama. Kantu is a reminder that nothing happens in a vacuum. When a villain knocks down a building or idly kills a bystander, it counts. When a hero mows down dozens of bad guys with a machine gun and a one-liner, that is dozens of orphans being introduced into the world.

The idea of collateral damage being something that isn’t meaningless at all is an idea that Grant Morrison explored in The Invisibles in “Best Man Fall.” King Mob killed a nameless foot soldier early in the series. Issues later, Morrison dedicated an entire story to that nameless foot soldier, showing his life, his history, and the tragedy of his death.

We read stories and the only people that matter are the heroes and villains. Joker breaks out of jail, kills dozens, and then Batman pops him on the jaw and sends him back to jail. Six months later, it happens again. Stories that actually deal with the repercussions of that are rare compared to the ones that indulge in wholesale slaughter for the amusement of the audience.

Kantu, then, is what gets lost in the action. His father died something like eight issues ago, forever for a character created to die, and yet, here he is, taking center stage. Kantu demands attention, and when a young boy says, “I could kill him!” and speaks of hate, you should be paying attention, because something has gone horribly wrong.

The real world, the place that hates you for existing and where people are cruel because that’s the only way to get results, came to Wakanda and took Kantu’s father away. When Kantu slams into Killmonger’s back, saving T’Challa’s life and knocking Killmonger to his death, that’s the end of his battered innocence.

With two pages to go in the chapter, Kantu reappears and becomes the most important, and most tragic, figure in the book. T’Challa will go on with his superheroing, suffering larger than life wins and losses, but Kantu is normal. He doesn’t get to have the big wins that boost your confidence, the impossibly attractive temporary girlfriends, and the team of friends who smile and let you ride around in their jet. No, he’s just got his father’s remains, which T’Challa’s failure left out in the sun for two whole days, and his grief.

Now: Billy Graham.

I like a lot of artists. Both Romitas, Jack Kirby, the entire Kubert family, Jim Lee, Chris Bachalo, Kevin Huizenga, Akira Toriyama, and dozens more. With his work in Panther’s Rage, Graham is solidified in my mind as one of the greats who has been sadly forgotten. He has inventive layouts that run counter to traditional comics thinking but are instantly understandable, grotesque and burly heroes, and a fantastic use of type.

(The last true chapter of Panther’s Rage features the word “Epilogue” integrated into the sky on three pages. It doesn’t bring any new angles to text or push a certain theme. It’s just an artist who knows exactly what he’s doing flaunting his skill, and more power to him.)

Graham can flipflop from Kirby sci-fi to hard realism between panels, and manages to make it all look cohesive. Embracing lovers, a broken marriage, a desperate run, and a little boy getting caught crying by the bank of a river all look exactly as they should.

He uses scale to great effect, he draws detailed backgrounds, his people look like actual people, his black people look like black people, and Kantu in particular is that kind of awkward and gangly mess of arms and legs that kids tend to be.

He drew the first seventeen issues of Luke Cage, Hero for Hire before moving onto Jungle Action. That’s the first issue of the first, or one of the first, ongoing comics starring a black American.

Billy Graham’s black, too. Comicbookdb suggests that he left comics after the ’80s. He died back in 1999. Check out his Wikipedia entry for more info.

Pay attention, because black history is everywhere.

Next: It’s not over.

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Fear of a Black Panther Part Two

August 14th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Tucker spent some time talking about how Panther’s Rage is about T’Challa’s failure as a leader. There’s a good reason for that: it’s the glue that holds Panther’s Rage together. You can’t not talk about it.

Except now that we’re fully into the story and all the preambles are out of the way, McGregor starts to stack the deck against T’Challa. In part four, the one drawn by Gil Kane, T’Challa wrestles a rhino to the ground to rescue a child. He kills the rhino in favor of the child’s life, which is a pointed statement in and of itself, I think, but the way in which he does it is what’s important. He wrestles the rhino to the ground and snaps its spine, something he learned by watching westerns. T’Challa’s buccaneering habits are learned. The Black Panther, with initial caps and constant swashbuckling, is an act. He saw them on tv, or read them in books, and have adopted them as his own.

T’Challa easily and casually remembers the name of a farmer, stunning him. (Grant Morrison would use this technique thirty-some years later for Bruce Wayne in his run on Batman.) The farmer’s wife is unimpressed, focusing on his “outworlder” girlfriend. She sees the Americans he has emulated and the fact that he has brought back an American girlfriend, Monica Lynne. She feels the pain of desertion. Her husband feels the love of his king. Both are correct.

The conflict is easy to see, but McGregor doesn’t stop there. Before the farmer and his wife appear, Panther slumps over the rhino’s corpse and says, “No loss this time, Monica. This time I won.” He’s four issues into this story and he’s already cracking under the pressure.

T’Challa’s constantly struggling, and not in the way that heroes struggle against villains. He’s fighting to not actually choose between American culture and Wakandan culture. He’s fighting to keep his kingdom, despite the fact that he left it behind at will in the past. He’s fighting to keep both Monica and W’Kabi. He’s fighting Killmonger and he’s fighting the results of his own swashbuckling. He wants it both ways, and even though he knows he can’t have it, he’s still fighting for it. He’s selfish. When the pressure becomes too much, what does he do? He goes to the river to brood alone, like a child.

Panther’s battles manifest themselves in several ways over the course of Panther’s Rage. At the heart of each of them is the question of Wakanda versus America, in one way or another. Sometimes he outright fails. Sometimes he triumphs. He never actually wins, however. His victories are caked in loss.

The farmer who T’Challa recognized was killed by zombies that very same night, leaving his wife and child alone. When the wife comes to the palace, requesting that the king go find her husband, T’Challa immediately goes to investigate. He runs afoul of those zombies and is beaten easily. He eventually escapes and runs back to the castle. He doesn’t win. He doesn’t even retrieve the farmer’s body. In fact, the farmer’s body sits there, baking in the sun, until the next night when T’Challa gets his nerve up to go back to the graveyard. The wife doesn’t find out that her husband is dead until later because T’Challa is preoccupied with his own problems. Result: failure.

Yes, there are zombies and monsters in Panther’s Prey. The villains have names like Baron Macabre and Lord Karnaj. Yes, their names are goofy and stupid, about as generically superheroic as you can get. Except: Macabre is a mask, someone playing a role. Karnaj emphasizes that Erik Killmonger, the villain behind the villains, gave him that name. The zombies are rebels, dressed up with fake talons and ghoulish makeup.

This is Killmonger’s plan, and it’s a doozy. He’s using T’Challa’s language, superheroes and faked up gimmicks, to terrorize Wakanda. He’s playing on the superstitions of the populace to get the job done, and he’s using the very thing T’Challa deserted Wakanda for to do it. It’s America vs Wakanda, but viewed through a twisted mirror.

Monica is accused of murder partway through these chapters and exonerated in the final one. Just before proving Monica’s innocence, T’Challa approaches his prey and idly makes a reference to Alfred Hitchcock in his thoughts. “Damn! he thinks. Must all of his reference points be so foreign to his native land?” Wakanda attacked his American woman, and even in the middle of that, he’s fighting Wakanda vs America on the inside.

Panther’s Rage puts me in mind of Ann Nocenti and John Romita, Jr’s run on Daredevil, where every act of violence was a sign of Daredevil’s shortcomings as a hero. A hero can solve problems without making mistakes and without anyone getting hurt. T’Challa, however, has already made his mistakes, and now the only thing that’s left is the pain.

What’s sad about that is that T’Challa won’t be the focus for all of the pain. The farmer dies and his wife and son suffer. Monica is harassed and imprisoned. W’Kabi has lost faith in his king. Wakanda is being battered by Killmonger’s Death Regiment. Taku, T’Challa’s good friend and a definite pacifist, is forever tainted when he experiences the horrors of the war against Killmonger firsthand.

T’Challa? Some people just kind of point out how much he’s screwed up and he gets beaten up every once and a while. These three chapters lay the consequences for his actions on everyone but T’Challa, which in turn serves to increase his burden. Everyone around T’Challa ends up twisted and distorted by the pressure of the situation. Monica is miserable. W’Kabi is furious. Taku is understanding, but even he’s losing his patience. This is T’Challa’s fault.

Taku is the saddest casualty of this war, for my money. He’s quiet and sensible, seeking only to help where he can. The narration describes him as a man who “listens instead of inflicting his personality upon others.” Despite this, he’s not afraid to call T’Challa out on his crap. When T’Challa is pulling his ‘woe is me’ act beside a river, Taku sits beside him and they speak. T’Challa laments the fact that he has lost W’Kabi, and Taku says, “Part of it is Killmonger. Surely you know that?” T’Challa, clearly misreading Taku, goes off on how Killmonger only wants to govern Wakanda according to his own desires. Taku, though, brings the ether and asks T’Challa if he has been any different.

Taku befriended Venomm, a villain from chapters one through three, and refers to him by his first name, Horatio. While Venomm did side against Wakanda, he is still a human being, and Taku manages to pull that out. When it comes time to strike back against Killmonger, Taku must betray his friend. When he expresses that thought, W’Kabi reacts with shock. What betrayal? They don’t owe Venomm anything. Taku knows the truth, though. He says that by betraying “a confidence,” he has “betrayed [himself] as well.” Being true to yourself means being true to yourself at all times. Bending your rules just shows how little you believed in those rules. Taku is a man of integrity, and T’Challa’s actions have forced him to break with that integrity in a way that he is not comfortable with.

While W’Kabi is eager to do battle against Killmonger, Taku simply did the best he could to intellectually prepare for it. It didn’t work. When Lord Karnaj kills a child as a side effect of trying to kill Panther, Taku loses it. In a killer and mostly silent Billy Graham page, Taku approaches Karnaj, shrugging off two sonic blasts. He drops his spear, because certain jobs just require the satisfaction of working with your hands. He beats Karnaj near to death, ranting at him all the while, before Panther stops him. Even W’Kabi, who believes that everything that Killmonger’s lackeys get is what they deserve, is troubled by this new change.

I feel like there weren’t a lot of superhero comics working in this mode back then. You can trace every terrible thing that happens in Panther’s Rage can be easily traced back to T’Challa’s betrayal, which places a certain measure of responsibility on his shoulders for the entire situation. Amazing Spider-Man flirted with it during the death of Gwen Stacy storyline for about three pages and a half (also in 1973), and Green Lantern had the hamfisted “What about the brown skins, Mr. Charlie?” scene, but this is an extended takedown of a hero and a deconstruction of him at the same time.

McGregor, Graham, and Buckler are going hard at who T’Challa is and what he represents, and the result is a story where the superhero doesn’t look so superheroic any more.

Next is Tucker, with parts seven, eight, and nine. It’s got a winter wonderland, dragons, and marital strife.

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Friday Fun Linkblogging

April 30th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

The Boondocks returns on Sunday 🙂 I don’t have cable, so I can’t watch it live, but please believe I’m excited. On to the links!

Paul DeBenedetto and Marc-Oliver Frisch take me to task for my Death to Canon post the other day. They raise some good points. I do want to say, as a meager defense, that I don’t hate the idea of the narrative, I just hate that perfectly good tales don’t get read because they aren’t important. That’s silly to me. I think we should treat all stories with the same level of importance. That was the point of the Spider-Man Noir vs Amazing Spider-Man comparison. I should have expressed that better. You should definitely read their posts, though. They say a lot of good things.

Tucker Stone talks about comics, ads, and audiences.

Nina Stone serves up a good review of American Vampire, a series I have been enjoying much, much more than I expected to. I’m hoping Vertigo’s got another hit on its hands, because I want to see this one continue. That’s a good review there, you can see exactly what she likes about it.

-Kate Dacey’s Manga Critic turned one! Kate’s great.

-Look at this lady talking like an idiot in public! Let Obama define himself, stay up out of his business.

-Music video!

Lupe Fiasco – I’m Beaming

Pac Div’s new mixtape is heat rocks. It’s free music. Go on ahead and get that.

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Monday Moaning Linkblogging

March 22nd, 2010 Posted by david brothers

-Over at ComicsAlliance, I’ve got a pretty good idea on what major Marvel comic Charlie Huston’s gonna be writing later this year.

While “Deathlok” is currently being serialized, Huston doesn’t have any announced work coming out of Marvel’s stables. Until now, that is, as he spilled the beans on a few projects on his site on Thursday. Longtime readers will know that he’s written a year’s worth of stories on a major Marvel series which should debut this fall, but he also revealed that he’s doing a two issue story “about a guy who never misses [his] mark.”

-And at Tucker’s spot, I talk a little bit about How to Make It In America and Archer.

How to Make It In America is, at least theoretically, about Ben Epstein and Cam Calderon getting off their butts and making something of themselves. Now that they’re pushing 30, they’re gonna strike it rich, or at least solvent, by creating a new line of jeans. Along the way, they’ll have to negotiate with Cam’s menacing cousin Rene, played by an aging but still talented Luis Guzman, coordinate with one of Ben’s rich friends, and fight against everyone who is telling them that they can’t do their thing. And then, in the end, they’ll win. They’ll stick to their guns, believe in each other, and their jeans will be the talk of New York City.

-Archer’s last episode for a while aired last Thursday, and whooo. It was something else. Vile, obscene, disturbing, hilarious.

-David Welsh on the appeal of One Piece:

One observation that really caught my ear was about Oda’s world building and his willingness to plant tiny, seemingly irrelevant narrative seeds that come to full flower later, sometimes much later. Natsuki Takaya did this all the time in Fruits Basket (Tokyopop), turning seemingly oblique observations and sideways glances from volume two into searing heartbreak in, say, volume nine. It’s quite a skill, that kind of callback work, and it displays a great deal of confidence on the part of the creator that they’ll be able to tell their story according to plan.

-Esther writes about five ways you probably wouldn’t die in a vacuum at io9, and it is good:

Because a vacuum does not carry sound very well, you would not be able to hear the many, many alveoli in your lungs pop like bubble wrap under a child’s fingers, but don’t tell me that you wouldn’t imagine it.

-Judd Winick and Sami Basri are taking over Power Girl as of issue 13. Coincidentally, I have three extra dollars to spend a month now.

-Dave Johnson talks about his first cover for Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain.

-I haven’t talked about BPRD on here at all, I don’t think, but please believe that it has better than every single comic put out by mainline Marvel or DC for the past four or five years. Maybe All-Star Superman stacks up, maybe.

-Cheryl Lynn has a line on the hottest new t-shirt of the spring.

Treme, the new show from David Simon and others, is gonna be a problem.

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The Moral of the Story

March 11th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Tucker Stone compares baby killing at Marvel vs toddler killing at DC:

We at Marvel have always worked to support the trend towards ultraviolence–our readers like it, we like it, and you’d have to be fucking terrified of money to put a leash on Mark Millar. But we’ve always tried to remember that, at the end of the day, we’re making a product, a bit of fun, and that if we take it too seriously, if we try to make some kind of philosophical statement about justice or heroism, we’re going to end up with a dour, boring slice of poorly written shit.

How do you like your brutish and child-like extreme violence? Do you like it to look deeply into your eyes, desperately asking if you get it? Do you understand what has to happen to make a good man do wrong? Do you see how he can’t stop killing, as if he’s developed a taste for blood? Did you see those bloody socks? Do you get it? This is horrible, do you finally understand the stakes?

Or do you like it to be off the cuff violent, an act done simply because That’s What Bad Guys Do, something borrowed from Crank 2 or the best of crime cinema? No message, and no meaning beyond, “Yeah, this guy? He’s a douchebag.”

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You Ain’t A Crook, Son.

March 10th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

I quote:

Okay. You ordered a bunch of Marvel Omnibus titles from Amazon as part of The $14.99 Glitch and they’ve been cancelled. You probably knew they would do. But you may have received a previous e-mail saying that you would get at least one at the magic price. Or maybe Amazon never got round to emailing you at all, they just deleted the order from your account. And you’re feeling a bit miffed.

I’m geting reports that people who have complained, even using the Amazon Call Me Back feature on the website, have been getting recompense from the multinational online retailer.
Me, I’m not complaining. I don’t think Amazon owe me anything. I understand however, that you may feel differently.

If you feel differently, you’re the laziest kind of crook there is. Tucker Stone breaks the situation down better than I can right now:

But when they get called on it, what do they say?

“I’m going to file a class action lawsuit” – some random infant, repeated exponentially

That’s the kind of response that would make George Washington weep. A class action lawsuit? Really? That’s the legacy you want written across your face, attached forever to your name?

Crime is a holy profession, and to join its brotherhood is to put oneself alongside this country’s greatest heroes. After oil and weapons production, it’s the most successful industry on the planet, with a storied history that stretches further than any religion. Getting caught out in it–even if all you did was take advantage of a gigantic corporation’s obvious pricing error–is something that should be handled with nothing short of the pride of a Dwayne Michael Carter. Playing the hurt consumer in this situation is the equivalent of standing in the door of the bank after the ATM accidently farts out an extra 20 and refusing to hand it over. It’s spitting on the flag, it’s saying that you’re only willing to play the game if everybody agrees to do it by your rules, and your rules are these: you can’t have done anything wrong, because it’s somebody else’s fault.

Amazon doesn’t owe you a single solitary thing. They’d be well within their rights to cancel every order and not lose a few thousand bucks. There’s even a note in their TOS that sometimes, on occasion, books are mispriced, and sucks to be you if they charge you the full price. Until the book ships, they do not charge your card, meaning that there is no sale. That means they owe you nothing until the book leaves their warehouse.

So to call them up and ask for a refund for time wasted ordering obviously mistakenly marked down books makes you something like a jerk. They don’t owe you anything. If anything, you owe them whatever the actual price of the book you ordered was. It’s a blessing that they honored any of the orders, considering it was such an obvious cheat that we were all taking advantage of. I got a few Ultimate Spidey HCs and I’m pretty happy about that. I didn’t get a Tomb of Dracula, but so what? I don’t expect Wal-mart to let me buy eighteen computers that got marked down to 50 bucks because somebody dropped a decimal point, and they’re under no obligation to let me do that.

Basically, don’t be the old lady at Kroger with a fistful of coupons, trying to game the system and score a dozen eggs for free and getting pissed off and demanding recompense when the manager is like “Sorry, we’re all out.” You played the game with a few aces hidden up your sleeve. If you lost, so what? You lost what, ten minutes of your time? A couple megabytes off your bandwidth for the month?

Get real.

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