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“There’s Zo, but…”

June 24th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

I read the Robin/Spoiler Special the other week.

Basically, the special is two stories. The a-side is about Robin and Spoiler catching up and going out vigilante-ing sometime after she revealed that she was back. They go out as Tim and Steph to hang out in an abandoned warehouse with a bunch of a kids in a rough crowd (where there are water guns, but somehow no drugs) and rescue a toddler from kidnappers together. There is also flirting and an examination of their relationship. The b-side is a story about what Spoiler did after she left Gotham. She went to Africa with Leslie Thompkins after the events of War Games. They stay there for over a year, doing charity work, when some… well, I don’t know what to call them. A mix of medicine men and a death squad come to the village they’re at and Spoiler has to dress up to save the day.

Both stories have pretty awesome art. Rafael (Blue Beetle) Albuquerque does the art chores on the first story, while Victor Ibañez gets it done on the second story. It’s a seriously handsome book. We all know how awesome Raf is, but Ibañez has a style that reminds me of the great work going on in Secret History of the Authority: Jack Hawksmoor. Rock solid and visually interesting.

It’s also basically the book that explains why Spoiler is back in Gotham after War Games. If you think of it as an apology or peace offering for War Games, which is basically the worst crossover I’ve read in years, you’d be more or less right. (this is a dope cover, though, and i own a print of it signed by dustin nguyen) She was done dirty there, so here’s what basically amounts to Spoiler: Rebirth.

Yeah, I gotta say, I didn’t feel it at all. I realize Chuck Dixon has had a hard week or whatever, but that comic was no good, man. I’ve got three reasons and I bought visual aids.

Leslie and Steph are in east Africa. Kenya, Somalia, I dunno. Maybe it’s Outer Heaven. I just know that they have to know Swahili to be there. They’ve been there a little over a year, according to Steph, and she’s had trouble with the language. The whole reason that they are there is that Leslie Thompkins faked Spoiler’s death after the torture and near-murder she experienced in War Games to rescue her from the life of a vigilante and give her a chance to start over.


from robin 174

Dr Thompkins felt that she’d suffered enough, and Stephanie agreed, so they left the country. She voluntarily went with Leslie to Africa in order to catch a break, but felt guilty about it. This makes sense, because Stephanie forgot about something important while she was skipping town.

Whoops.

So, think about it. Since War Games, Stephanie’s mom has had to go through 1) her daughter disappearing without a word or a trace, 2) finding out that her daughter is dead, 3) finding out that her daughter is Spoiler in War Crimes, which was inexplicably worse than War Games, and now 4) finding out that her daughter is not only alive, but faked her death and moved to Africa.

Why did Stephanie and Leslie fake her death? To protect Steph from being a vigilante. Essentially, she got in too deep and had to find a way out. That way out just happened to be going completely off the radar.

One problem with this is that I don’t think anyone knew who Spoiler was until War Crimes, which happened specifically because she “died.” She still had a secret identity. It’s been a while since I read it, though, so I’ll grant that I may be off, but I don’t think I am.

My other problem with this is actually also why I feel like the return damaged Spoiler as a character. Batman, more so than pretty much every character other than Peter Parker, has family as an important backdrop to his franchise. He does what he does to both avenge and please his parents. They are a constant specter over his work. He’s chastised other characters when they screw up their parenthood (Plastic Man) and respected others for their relationships with their parents (Superman). Family is important to him.

I can’t really imagine his reaction to Stephanie having faked her death just being a “Yeah, I figured.” If Batman is going to put Huntress on blast for almost killing Prometheus, or fire Dick Grayson for whatever reason that was years ago, he’d definitely put the boot to Stephanie, too.

Faking Stephanie’s death put her mother through a ridiculous amount of trauma. There’s the old saying about how no parent should ever have to bury a child– it’s true. What makes it worse is that Stephanie did it for reasons that boil down to “I had something horrible happen to me and I didn’t want to be a hero any more.” What was stopping her from just quitting being a hero and living with her mother? Why did she have to fake her death and leave the country? She could’ve told her mom she was Spoiler, explained what happened, and then moved to Metropolis. What would her mom say? No? Yeah, right.

That’s my breaking point with the character. I guess family is really important to me, too, because I just find this ridiculous. Anyway, Stephanie went along with all of this, save for maybe the faking, voluntarily. She felt guilty (“I kept feeling like I’d run away”), and with very good reason, I’d say, but didn’t do anything about that until after she’d tried to forget that feeling and over a year had passed.

Also, she went back to being a hero before telling her mother she was alive. Slick move, that.

Now, it’s like, why should I care about this character? She hasn’t had the wealth of stories that’d let you skip past a negative character development. Is the terrible return going to be played down like Spider-Man trying to kill his pregnant wife was? I figure yes, because it frankly makes Stephanie look like the worst kind of selfish idiot.

They could’ve easily New Earth-ed it– Infinite Crisis had the Earth come back with little minor changes all over. One of which was Stephanie didn’t die after all, she was just convalescing before coming back! People act like the One More Day/New Earth retcons don’t work, but they do and have for decades. That’d be much better than the faked death that we got, if only because Stephanie comes out of it smelling like roses. She almost died, but she fought through and recovered and did therapy and now she’s back. Easy.

My second problem– those were some idiot Africans in that b-side. I mean, I realize that thugs are generally portrayed as slow-witted idiots and stumblebums, but seriously. You don’t exactly get to be a witch doctor feared throughout the region by being stupid. Case in point:

Ayo.

At least the stupidity is shared, though, yeah? Leslie has her own dumb thing to say, I’m sure because she doesn’t want to be shown up by African Joker.

“Medicine goes back to the Greeks.”

Leslie obviously forgot about Imhotep, who predates Hippocrates by a couple thousand years or so, and the fact that Hippocrates studied Greek medicine. She’s too busy bringing light to a blighted region to worry about minor worries like that. You keep on fighting that good fight, Les.

(Ha, does this make medicine the original rock & roll?)

So, anyway, African Joker gets all het up and straight up orders the murder of Pinkeye. His men turn on Leslie just in time for Spoiler to reappear… wearing the goods that she and Leslie were traded in exchange for medicine in what is apparently an accurate representation of Katavi, the village’s protector. Google tells me that Katavi is also a national park in Tanzania. Maybe that’s where they are.

Anyway, she dresses up like Katavi and does the ooga-booga Batman thing and scares the death squad/witch doctor/militiamen/whatever. There’s some firing into the darkness and then she beats all of them up. Let me rephrase– the sixteen or seventeen year old girl from the suburbs of Gotham, whose skill set as a hero amounts to “adequate” or “needs improvement,” puts on some scraps that were given to her, such as animal heads and skins, to make a costume of the village’s boogieman to scare away some grown men with guns who have terrorized the region for years.

Like I said before, you don’t get positions of power by being stupid. (If you really think that Bush is as stupid as you think he is, you’re just as stupid as you think he is. Dude got into office twice. That’s no accident.) You can’t sustain that power by just sheer thuggery. It’ll work for a while, but eventually, sense and desperation are going to win out. You’re gonna keep telling people “I’ma kill you!” and then you’re gonna find that one dude that’s like “Well, shoot me!” and then you got a martyr on your hands.

So, you’ll pardon me if I don’t quite buy that scene at all. That’s an entirely different class of criminal Spoiler is going up against.

Finally, my third point. This is a short one.


If Tim leaves another girlfriend for Stephanie, I’m gonna be pissed. He’s already lying to Zoanne about where he’s going to be so that he can hang out with his ex.

Tim, seriously though? Why are you hanging out with your ex-girlfriend, who let you think she was dead for over a year, like things are all good? That’s at least twice as bad as getting cheated on. You’re looking like a sucker. Don’t get caught up and have to explain yourself.

Do you really want to have to beg to be taken back after Steph fakes her death again?

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4thletter is… dead characters. (Blue Beetle Talk)

December 31st, 2006 Posted by david brothers

Sorry, just a bit of sarcasm there. Seriously guys, I know you love Hawkeye/Beetle/Spoiler/The Aquarian/New Warriors/JLI, but no one actually has a vendetta against these characters. Do you know why companies kill them? They kill them because you love them. They know that every character, from Skin to Ronnie Raymond to Doug Ramsey to Bill Foster, is someone’s favorite, except Wyatt Wingfoot, of course. This is especially true on the internet. Killing a character, or hinting that you will kill one, is a surefire sales and word-of-mouth bump. That’s why they do it. They’ll get a rise out of you each and every time.

It’s okay to be upset, but not to the point that you’re throwing out ad hominems and death threats at writers.

Just… be real about it. It’s just comics, dog, it’s not that serious. It sucks, yeah, but that’s life, right? It’s cool to come up with scenarios to bring them back to life or critique why they died, just have some perspective.

Anyway, Blue Beetle.

Like a lot of the DCU, I first encountered Ted Kord in the pages of the Death of Superman. He, along with Booster Gold, were part of the JL(A?) that went up against Doomsday before Superman. I had no idea that those two were the jokey-jokesters that they apparently were in JLI. I thought that they were just two heroes with cool costumes, but that’s possibly because I’ve always thought of goggles as being kind of cool. (Don’t tell anyone I told you that.) Plus, geez, they went up against the guy who killed Superman!

I thought that Blue Beetle was pretty cool, and then promptly forgot about him and the rest of that Justice League until probably about the time that Formerly Known as the Justice League hit. That was good stuff, so I became a mild fan. Countdown hit after a while and bam, Beetle was dead.

And the internet knew the sound of a billion angry keyboards, epithets and incensed forum posts a-typing.

I thought that the Beetle parts of Countdown, save for the bits where Bats and J’onn were jerks to him, did a good job of showing that he was a hero. I particularly liked the bit where Beetle realized that he had a choice between doing wrong and living or remaining a hero and dying.

“My name is Ted Kord. I am the second man to call himself the Blue Beetle. I tell myself there will be a third. And I hope whoever he or she may be, they do better at it than I have.”

He realizes that he can’t stop what’s happening, not even remotely. Lord’s plan is going to take effect, and it’s “Join me or die time.” Beetle’s response?

“Rot in Hell, Max.”

That, lads and ladies, is a true hero. Defiant to the end and ready to spit in a villain’s face.

He was right about there being a new Beetle, too.

The new Beetle is Jaime Reyes. (It’s not Jay-me, by the way. It’s pronounced more like High-may. Sorry, I’m a stickler for Spanish.) He’s the brainchild of Keith Giffen, John Rogers, and Cully Hamner. He’s from El Paso, Texas, and got the Scarab that gave Dan Garret, the first Beetle, his powers.

I really, really like Jaime. He’s quite a believable teenager, thanks in no small part to some smart dialogue from the writers. Jaime was missing for a year thanks to the events of Infinite Crisis, unbeknownst to him. While he was gone, his family came apart. His father was shot, but not killed, and his mother turned into a wreck. When he got back, the very first thing he did was reveal his powers to his understandably freaked-out family.

Yes. That is excellent and it was so nice to see. Jaime is still a teenager, still in high school. He isn’t super smart, or agile, or whatever. Shoot, he doesn’t even know how to fight. But, he understands that family is one of the most important things in a person’s life. He trusts them enough to give them his secret. His best friends, too.

After that, Jaime is almost a traditional Marvel hero. He’s inexperienced, flawed, and honestly, he doesn’t even want to be a hero. He didn’t ask for this, and he definitely didn’t ask for the JLA to take him into space and leave him there. He’s been dealt a raw deal, but he’s going to deal with it as best he can.

I like Jaime. I think that he’s a worthy successor and his book is a lot of fun. It sucks that Ted had to die to make way for him, but that’s comics. You can either embrace the illusion of change and hold onto your favorite characters until they stagnate, or you can embrace actual change and watch your favorite characters grow old, die, retire, or whatever, only to be replaced by new and improved versions or, heaven forbid, actually new characters!

It’s just comics, baby. Love them or leave them. Bad stories are a given in any medium. Whether it’s War Games or Onslaught, something out there is going to rub you the wrong way. Enjoy the good stories, ignore the rest. Just don’t be afraid to try something new.

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Round Up

October 28th, 2006 Posted by david brothers

It’s been a minute! Let’s chat.

-Did I tell you guys I’ve got One Volume Bone? I’ve got the first four colorized volumes, and I may continue to buy them, but I’ve got the big phone book now. I’m waiting before I start to read it, though I’m not entirely sure why. Anticipation?

I also scored Doom Patrol v4: Musclebound. Volume 5 is being solicited in January, and I’m hoping that Flex Mentallo trade is right around the corner!

-Gavok still wants artists! Show us your funny bone and art skills!

-Stephanie Brown died in War Games, the Crossover That Blew. Her treatment was pretty shameful, and some would like to see a Robin memorial case dedicated to her. I’ve thought hard about this issue (no lie, i think about things sometimes!) and I just can’t agree. My argument, boiled down to its basics, is that “Steph wasn’t ever really Robin and she doesn’t need a Robin case.” That’s selling myself short, however.

Johanna Draper Carlson made a post on this subject a couple days ago and I ended up responding. I make an appearance in the comments thread and try to articulate why I feel that way. I really do have (what I think is) a well-thought out and reasoned point, so give it a look. I wonder if I could expand it into a better-edited post for here…

-Anyone else playing Marvel Ultimate Alliance on 360? If you’re not a jerk, add hermanos to your friends list and we can get our game on. The cast list is spectacular, Sue Storm is ridiculously good, and Deadpool is hilarious. Solid game all around and I wish I could’ve reviewed it in the magazine.

gtahgm.jpg-Speaking of the mag! HGM17 is out and about and ready for downloadin’. Our site is at Hardcore Gamer and here is the direct link to our magazine download page. Want to pay money for a print copy? Check out our subscribe page!

Go forth, my children, and make me rich read my magazine. We’ve got a dope Grand Theft Auto: Vice City cover story (complete with foil cover, no lie), a gaggle of galloping previews, some great reviews of video games due out soon, and a couple of sweet features. I think the Lost in VR feature ran this month, which dealt with VR in games. Check it out!

-More content later! I’ve got a Wildstorm post half done for you and those guest articles I promised before my business life exploded. Stay tuned, true believers!

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On Ninja Girls, Dames, and War Games

August 1st, 2006 Posted by david brothers

“What people often forget, of course, is that Magneto, unlike the lovely Sir Ian McKellen, is a mad old terrorist twat. No matter how he justifies his stupid, brutal behaviour, or how anyone else tries to justify it, in the end he’s just an old bastard with daft, old ideas based on violence and coercion. I really wanted to make that clear at this time.”
–Grant Morrison

I’m not usually one to complain about comics companies “destroying” characters. In fact, I think it’s kind the kind of stupid invective that gives comic fans such a negative fanboy image. “Destroying” is a loaded term, and there’s much, much better ways to express your feelings on the matter. This may be my attempt at that, or my attempt at putting my foot in my mouth. U DECIDE.

I do think, however, that comics companies can make/allow some fairly terrible narrative choices. Turning Xorn into some kind of Jerry Springer-esque twin brother was one. Actually, every time Xorn has been mentioned outside of Morrison’s New X-Men has been a mistake, I think. Identity Crisis left a bad taste in my mouth, despite Rags Morales’s excellent art. I liked the scene where Batman and Robin are trying to get to Tim Drake’s house before his dad dies. That was powerful, but the death of Jack Drake? Bleh. He was a cool dude. Mark Millar turning the New Warriors into patsies? Bah, Doom says.

So basically what I’m saying is, not everything comics companies do is great. Big surprise, huh? I once read a comment Keith Giffen made about the death of Blue Beetle. He said he wasn’t mad about it, and that his only feelings on the matter were “I would’ve done it differently.” I think that’s all any fan can really say. “I would’ve done it differently.” Mark Waid once said something like “Comics is the only industry where 90% of your audience thinks that they can do it better than you.” It’s true.

Long, rambling introductions aside, DC screwed the pooch on the Batbooks when they made the main man overly angry, right? Well, what about the satellite titles? Catwoman went from a must-read book to “Peace out, homey!” all in the space of one issue for me. Batgirl has renounced her title and is pretty much a villain now.

I am okay with one of these things, but I do not like the other. Let us begin, then.
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