Cripes on Infinite Earths Part 6: The Unholy Three

March 7th, 2012 Posted by guest article

Guest article by Fletcher “Syrg” Arnett

JSA: The Unholy Three
Written by: Dan Jolley & Tony Harris
Art by: Tony Harris, Ray Snyder, JD Mettler
Focuses on: Every damn hero they could think to cram into it (so, the JSA and change)
Self-contained/Multiple books: Multiple books (is a sequel)
Published in: 2003
Central premise: The Bat, The Clock, and The Super-Man, Clark Kent, have to track down a pair of Soviet KGB agents gone rogue looking for a weapon called “The Trigger”.
Martian Manhunter Out of Fucking Nowhere? Nope.

This is draft number one two three four of this article. Rereading The Unholy Three, I realized something: the first issue is really good (in fact, it contains a scene that my brain had thought was the end of Liberty File), and works even better on a second reading. The second is where all my dislike came from. Let’s get into it and hopefully this isn’t going to lead to me scrapping the whole damn thing again…

We come in on an abandoned theater, where a man is being tortured for information. The place is Berlin, the year is 1948. A second gentleman enters…

…and we’re off.

Meanwhile, in Gotham City, Bruce “The Bat” Wayne is writing in his journal again. He hasn’t felt the need to since the war ended, but his recent activities leave him with few people to talk to, as he begins trying to clean up the eternally-strange streets of Gotham.

This one isn’t nearly as egregious as later examples, but this is where we get the start of Unholy Three shoving in every reference it can to other DC characters. Look at that, we’ve got three villains in passing in one dialogue bubble.

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Cripes on Infinite Earths Part 5: Liberty Files (2 of 2)

January 30th, 2012 Posted by guest article

Guest article by Fletcher “Syrg” Arnett

When we last left off, our heroes were… oh, that’s right, it looked like the war had gone to hell and in the aftermath of the brawl in the desert, The Owl was injured and currently resides in a nearby hospital.

The two spies are to meet with a field officer for debriefing, Terry Sloane. I’ll bet some of you will be absolutely shocked to discover that he has a mocking nickname from his underlings, “Mister Terrific”. As Terry dines with a beautiful woman, the two spies go to check up on a local contact.

And thus we meet the antagonist of book two, a Nazi spy/torturer known as the Scarecrow. He’s already killed the Owl (who held out against his techniques before dying), but the dead contact has given him all the intel he needs. The Bat cautions that he’s dealt with the bastard before and they need to use guns. The Hour ignores this, pops his pill, and lets everything go to hell.

The Bat and the Hour chase after the Nazi, and Terry is left with Eva in his arms. The ring he had been palming to propose to her does him little good as she slips away.

Cut back to: 1939, somewhere inside Germany. Hitler attends a demonstration by one of his scientists, who believes he can open a wormhole to other times, places, or dimensions. Something unseen emerges from the portal – something bulletproof. As the few guards in the room are cut down by their own ricocheting ammunition, Hitler places a pistol to the back of the other survivor’s head and fires, walking forward to greet the being, and give him a name.

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Cripes on Infinite Earths Part 4: Liberty Files (1 of 2)

January 19th, 2012 Posted by guest article

Gavok note: Back in 2010, Fletcher “Syrg” Arnett decided to review just about every DC Elseworlds title he could get through. Due to personal scheduling issues, he had to take a break, but now he’s back in the saddle and ready to go. Glad to have him back.

I could go on about how awful I am with deadlines or make excuses, but nobody cares, you’re here for the alternate realities. So how about a string of some really good Batman-centric books, eh?

JSA: The Liberty File
Written by: Dan Jolley & Tony Harris
Art by: Tony Harris & Ray Snyder
Focuses on: Batman narrating, various JSA reimaginings
Self-contained/Multiple books: Multiple books (one sequel)
Published in: 2000
Central premise: Bruce Wayne, “The Bat”, is an Allied spy trying to follow the trail of a new weapon the Nazis have developed. Two partners are assigned to the lone maverick due to the case’s importance: Rex “The Clock” Tyler, and Charles “The Owl” McNider.
Martian Manhunter Out of Fucking Nowhere? Quite.

The Liberty File is easily in my favorite Elseworlds (thus far? probably of the entire run) because it manages to pull off well a concept that gets screwed up often: a harder Batman. But it makes sense. This is a man who’s wanted by every enemy that knows of him in a wartime era, while behind enemy lines. He has reason to be paranoid. Working alone is what keeps him safest.

There’s also the fact that this is a Bruce Wayne who knows the value of a gun. They’ve saved his life in the field, and, well… Bruce himself sums it up at one point:

Despite that, the book never dips into anything ill-advised in his narration (which we later discover is being written in an actual journal he burns the pages from after writing, from one of the army psych team’s recommendation). It has a bit of a pulp novel feel in places, honestly, and the tone is consistently solid. Anyhow, I should actually discuss the story itself here.

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Cripes on Infinite Earths Part 3: Two Faces

September 30th, 2010 Posted by guest article

Guest article by Fletcher “Syrg” Arnett.

Probably the biggest sin the Elseworlds line committed is that for every breakout hit or disaster the line produced, there were two or three bland piles of tripe released. Batman got the most Elseworlds, so he got the most dull stories- it’s simple probability. Today we’re going to start peering at those.

Batman: Two Faces
Written by: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by: Anthony Williams & Tom Palmer
Focuses on: Batman
Self-contained/Multiple books: Self-contained
Published in: 1998
Central premise: Stretches the “duality of criminals/vigilantes” metaphor to its limit via the use of Two-Face, while Batman is also the Joker (oh like you couldn’t guess that from the cover)
Martian Manhunter Out of Fucking Nowhere? No

To be honest, I think the framing device for this story is a bit clever: inside the Iceberg Lounge, a gentleman’s club in late Victorian Era Gotham, Peregrine White and James Gordon swap tales of the bizarre and exciting from their lines of work, sworn to secrecy within the club’s walls. This evening, it’s Gordon’s turn to tell the tale, and he fills in the details on a case that was “the talk of every broadsheet in America” at the time.

There’s a recurring theme in a lot of Elseworlds of putting Batman a) in a Victorian-ish time period (fun note: this story takes place three years before the similarly-timed Gotham by Gaslight, the ur-Elseworld), and b) making him some sort of psychologist or similar skillset. Here he’s a criminologist “and amateur sleuth” of some renown. It doesn’t really have much to do with this story aside from his wanting to help cure the schizophrenia of Harvey Dent, but I just thought I’d point it out, being that this is the first we’re getting to that touches on those themes.

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Cripes on Infinite Earths Part 2: Scissors, Paper, Stone

September 21st, 2010 Posted by guest article

Guest article by Fletcher “Syrg” Arnett.

Well looky here, already we’re having a change of plans. After reading Empowered vol. 6 this week the blurb at the end informed me Adam Warren had written an Elseworlds story. Given that I’d rank Empowered as my book of the week (if not for the solid month), pulling this out of the stack took precedence over the first of the Bland Bat-Batallion of stories.

Titans – Scissors, Paper, Stone
Written by: Adam Warren
Art by: Tom Simmons with Adam Warren
Focuses on: Teen Titans
Self-contained/Multiple books: Self-contained
Published in: 1997
Central premise: Far-future teens taking on the role of the Teen Titans to stop an immenent “gigaclysm”
Martian Manhunter Out of Fucking Nowhere? No

I’m going to be entirely honest: I’m terrible with the Teen Titans. I don’t know a fucking thing about them, I’ve only read Terror Titans and a couple of issues of the latest series, and that was all for Static, baby. (Consequently, I’m not reading another issue of the damn thing, because two mistakes were enough, and I don’t like being the jilted lover. Fuck you, DC.) I picked up Tiny Titans for a bit but dropped it when my kid sister stopped reading it as well and I needed to slash the budget.

This is very much not the usual Titans story. (Or maybe it is? I’m willing to bet not though.) Rather than run through some massively-plotted concept and try and cram it into 50-60 pages, Warren just gets us into the thick of things pretty quickly and alternates explanation (mostly origins for our motley crew) and action, with small bursts of character building beyond the hero template each mimics.

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Cripes on Infinite Earths Part 1: Superman’s Metropolis

September 15th, 2010 Posted by guest article

(Gavok note: On the heels of Marvel announcing What If #200, it’s fitting to take on the topic of alternate reality stories. Truth be told, the idea of doing an Elseworlds list much like how I did one with What If has been a looming menace hanging over my head and for years I’ve been afraid of forcing the other shoe to drop. Thankfully, Fletcher “Syrg” Arnett was inspired enough to fight the dragon in my stead and has offered to do a series of guest articles on the subject. You might remember Syrg from his fantastic take on the comic disaster Marville last year. If you don’t, go read it anyway. He’s good people. I plan to throw my hat into his series here at least twice before he’s finished, since there are a couple Elseworlds that I feel the need to talk about. This includes one that I’ve considered to be the worst comic I’ve ever read that I’ve been putting off writing on for years. But enough about me. It’s Syrg’s show. Enjoy.)

Marvel has their What If…?s, and DC has their own brand of “But what happens if we take X and change Y?” tales, called, depending on when you ask, Elseworlds/”Tales of the Multiverse”. (Juuuuust kidding. I don’t think anyone aside from Dan DiDio has ever used that last one seriously.)

The thing is, though, Marvel’s usually (I added the qualifier for a reason, Gavok, I know about that Timequake crap) come from a formula of “take big event/origin of character, change outcome slightly, go from there”. DC runs a little looser with the format, like that one where Bruce Wayne is an amnesiac immortal and Alfred is actually Merlin. Or the time the Justice League had to mount an assault on the Planetary Organization to break their shadowy hold over the planet. Maybe you know the one where Lex Luthor, singer-turned-record executive, sold his media empire to Darkseid?

Elseworlds are almost always entertaining, intentionally or not, because before 2010 and a run of titles like Rise of Arsenal and that other trainwreck I forget the name of*, you never thought you’d be buying a DC book where Superman got turned into a gender-swapped nazi centaur. (We’ll get to that one. Later.) Point is, the fact that so many of these are out of print and forgotten is a damn shame, and so just like Gavok running through all the What If…?s in the world, I’ll hit every damn Elseworld I can get my hands on, and probably a few other eccentric DC projects that didn’t earn that banner, usually because they were written too early or too late.

There’s going to be a lot less order to this than Gavok’s project. For one thing, I don’t think there’s any way to come up with a coherent set of criteria/checklist to hit for all of these, and I’m unsure as to what the “Peter Parker Dies” of Elseworlds is. Probably “Martian Manhunter Out of Fucking Nowhere”, that dude shows up a lot in the otherwise-grounded stories (and it’s usually to inspire Superman to go use his goddamn powers, that guy takes pacifism way too seriously in these).

Also: no order, no rankings. Some of these are books I haven’t even looked through since I picked them up, and this project is good motivation to finish looking at the beaten-down copies of a couple. There’s no way I’ll be able to come up with a full scale to judge them on and pick a favorite. (Even if I did, people would bitch at me forever because technically, Kingdom Come is an Elseworld, and lord knows the kvetching if I put that below something like Speeding Bullets.) In fact, let’s just say it: I’m skipping a lot of the big ones. Kingdom Come/The Kingdom, Red Son, Destiny (since Gavok covered it a while back), Dark Knight Returns/Strikes Back. (I want to skip True Brit because it’s rather awful, but I suppose I’ll play canary in the coalmine for people who might go “John Cleese? Sold!”) I leave myself wiggle room on this as I go, but rest assured I’ll give you more than those and then some in extras by the time we’re done.

This is getting to be a bit text heavy. Let’s dive into the first book, Elseworlds: Superman’s Metropolis.

Superman’s Metropolis is an interesting book for a variety of reasons. It’s why I started off with it. But first, let’s look at the stats:

Superman’s Metropolis
Focuses on: Superman (for now)
Self-contained/Multiple books: Multiple (trilogy)
Published in: 1996
Central premise: Superman and cast as placed into Fritz Lang’s Metropolis
Martian Manhunter Out of Fucking Nowhere? No

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Fourcast! 07: Read on a Wednesday

July 13th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

DC Comics’ Wednesday Comics and David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp are the two big books of the past week. We sat down on Saturday to talk about the former, since I’m probably going to be writing about the latter. Here’s the breakdown of our 7th Fourcast!:

-The volume is a little low on this one, because I suck. Slight issue with our recording process, and one which I’d fixed halfway through the show. However, so that we don’t blow your brains out (we just want to blow your mind), I kept all the volume at the same level. So, crank it up to eight or put some earphones on!
-We waffle on which number we’re up to on the Fourcast!, finally deciding on seven.
Other people are cheating.
-Our anthem is going to be 6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental until Four Minutes to Lockdown becomes free.
-We lay down our verdict on Wednesday Comics: It’s fun, regardless of whether it’s a gimmick or not.
-Why is that? Because Mark Chiarello is a genius, that’s why.
-Remember SOLO? That was Chiarello.
-Remember Batman Black & White? Chiarello, baby.
-We’ve got another You Made Me Read This!, this time featuring Superman: A Nation Divided, about Superman fighting for the Union in the Civil War.
-I thought I won because it was a war comic. Naw.
-Wouldn’t it be awesome if Superman fought for the South in an Elseworlds, though?
-We wrap it up with a few anecdotes about kids in comics. Do bad guys really have daughters while good guys have sons? Comics are messed up, man.

Next week! San Diego.

If you’re new to the Fourcast!, subscribe to the podcast-specific RSS feed or subscribe on iTunes. Our full-blown RSS, with space-age things like “text” and “images” is here. I hear that the kids like Facebook, too, so if you’re so inclined…

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The New What If Batch

September 13th, 2008 Posted by Gavok

The December solicitations are on the horizon and what better Christmas present for me than a heaping helping of new What Ifs? I had heard a couple brief mentions of this year’s batch, but just today I finally got to reading what they’re all about. Let’s give it a look.

What If? Spider-Man: Back in Black, written by Steven Grant: Rather than Aunt May, Mary Jane is the victim of the Kingpin’s hit. Apparently, this deals more with Spider-Man vs. Kingpin than anything involving Mephisto, which I’m glad to see.

What If? Captain America: Fallen Son, written by Marc Sumerak: During the aftermath of Civil War, Captain America isn’t the one who gets assassinated. This time it’s Iron Man. If anything, I’m interested in this comic for the can of worms that it brings. They’ve pushed the idea that Iron Man’s been putting too much responsibility on himself to the point that once he’s dead, the world is fucked. Now we’ll see where that avenue would lead us. Plus it would be cool to see what kind of impact Cap could have on World War Hulk.

By the way, here’s the cover.

What If? World War Hulk, written by Greg Pak: Hulk wins. Now what? I’m wondering if the tangent point will be the Sentry deciding not to interfere or just Hulk beating the crap out of him with no problem. It also is set to have several pages of a WWH Mini Marvels comic, which is always a plus. Despite that, Pak’s on board so it has to be good.

If they go for the depressing “everyone dies” ending, I’d love it if Sorcerer Supreme Doom just happened to show up out of nowhere at the end.

Speaking of Doom…

What If? Secret Wars, by Karl Bollers: Remember when Doom stole the Beyonder’s powers? This is what happens when he holds onto it and moves upwards by going for the Infinity Gauntlet. The concept and the cover lead me to Boner Town.

What If? Runaways, by CB Cebulski. Iron Lad comes back from the future in hopes of fighting Kang the Conqueror. He never does discover Vision’s Avengers fail-safe program and never goes after Patriot and the others. Instead, he puts together a team based on the children of the Pride. It does fit well, considering Iron Lad himself is a runaway of a different flavor. This won’t be a single issue, but will be told as a backup across the other five issues.

That leads us to one more…

What If? House of M, by Brian Reed and Jim McCann. Replace “No More Mutants” with “No More Powers”. Considering the writers, I have faith in it, but at the same time, I feel a bit cautious due to the DC take. A few years ago there was an Elseworlds called Act of God where a black shroud covered Earth and took away everyone’s powers. Even guys like Superman and Martian Manhunter, who aren’t even human, lost whatever made them special outside of appearance.

While a good idea, the miniseries was worth reading because of how ridiculously dumb a lot of the characters reacted towards losing their powers. Superman and Kyle Rayner became the whiniest bitches known to man, leading to Lois and Jade leaving them. Wonder Woman immediately hit the Superman rebound (Elseworlds rule #6). Booster Gold and Blue Beetle had to fill in for the Justice League to the point that they were constantly exhausted. Steel was mankind’s most powerful hero. Aquaman had a buzzsaw hand and, my favorite part, Martian Manhunter changed his name to The Green Man and started using exploding skulls as weapons.

Not to mention, this panel.

I need to review this one one of these days.

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Elseworlds Destiny: Some Guys Age Like the World’s Finest Wine

June 10th, 2008 Posted by Gavok

I’ve talked about the differences between Marvel’s What If comics and DC’s Elseworlds comics before, but another major contrast has made itself apparent to me. They are both about taking a cool out-of-continuity concept and running with it as a full story. The problem with Elseworlds is that a lot of the time they get bogged down by either the need for familiarity (how many times has Kal-El become Superman when the entire idea of the story is that Kal-El is not Superman?) or the over-complication of the storyline.

Take JLA: Destiny for instance. The four-issue miniseries is based on a concept that is so full of promise that it could have carried the story itself. They could have just plugged it into the DC Universe and let loose a great story. Writer John Arcudi decided not to, seemingly going for more of an epic clusterfuck of a story. So this big twist in DC history is made into part of a bigger theme. It also becomes merely a subplot to the whole miniseries and this big shocker that should have been the selling point for the comic isn’t fully revealed to the reader until the third issue.

A couple years back, when I first read Destiny, I scoured online for reviews. I’m too lazy to check now, but all the reviews I found were for the first two issues only. Some didn’t make it past the first. Nobody knew what the point of the story was yet and had no indication that they were going to discover it in the final two issues, so everyone dropped it like a rock.

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Remember the Fiff-dee-tuu

November 26th, 2007 Posted by david brothers

This goes out to d00gz and the 52 worlds.

The end of 52 revealed that there are 52 earths in the DCU, each of which ripe with imagination and new ideas and wonder.

(from 52 #52)

Today, DC Comics revealed their list most of the 52 worlds over on Newsarama.

Hang on, can I start over?

Today, DC Comics revealed that most of the new worlds promised in 52 have been replaced with a bunch of crappy Elseworlds that no one read, less people liked, and even less people cared about.

Earth-2: Home of the original Justice Society (first appearance 52 #52 – this earth’s Superman and Power Girl are missing)
Earth-3: The Crime Society’s world (first appearance 52 #52)
Earth-4: Home of the Charlton characters (a.k.a. – the Watchmen-esque world) (first appearance 52 #52)
Earth-5: Home of the Fawcett (Shazam) characters (first appearance 52 #52)
Earth-8: World of Lord Havok and the Extremists – called Angor by its natives (Countdown #29)
Earth-9: Tangent Universe (upcoming in Tangent: Superman’s Reign #1)
Earth-10: Home of the Quality (Freedom Fighters, Uncle Sam, the original Ray, etc) characters (first appearance 52 #52)
Earth-11: World of reversed genders ( Arena #1 and The Search For Ray
Palmer: Superwoman/ Batwoman #1)
Earth-12: The Next Generation, beyond Batman (i.e., Batman Beyond?) (Arena #1)
Earth-13: World of dark and arcane heroes ( Arena #1)
Earth-15: World of heroes realized (Donna Troy as Wonder Woman; Jason Todd as Batman) (Countdown #30 – the earth of this universe was destroyed in Countdown #24)
Earth-16: Home of the Super-Sons ( Arena #1)
Earth-17: A post WWIII, apocalyptic universe (first appearance 52 #52)
Earth-18: World of the Elseworld’s Justice Riders ( Arena #1)
Earth-19: World of Elseworld’s Gotham by Gaslight (The Search For Ray
Palmer: Gotham By Gaslight #1)
Earth-21: World of Elseworld’s New Frontier ( Arena #1)
Earth-22: Elseworld’s Kingdom Come Universe (first appearance 52 #52)
Earth-26: Universe of Captain Carrot and the Amazing Zoo Crew (Captain Carrot
And The Final Ark #1)
Earth-30: World of Elseworld’s Superman: Red Son (Countdown #32)
Earth-32: World of Elseworld’s Batman: Darkest Knight (Arena #1)
Earth-34: World of Elseworld’s Amazonia ( Arena #1)
Earth-37: World of Elseworld’s Thrillkiller ( Arena #1)
Earth-40: World of Elseworld’s Liberty Files ( Arena #1)
Earth-43: World of Elseworld’s Batman: Red Rain (The Search For Ray Palmer:
Red Rain #1)
Earth-48: Forerunner’s world (Countdown #46)
Earth-50: Wildstorm Universe (first seen 52 #52)

Just in case you’re keeping score at home, here are the genuinely new Earths, ones that we’ve never seen before:
Earth-15: World of heroes realized (Donna Troy as Wonder Woman; Jason Todd as Batman) (Countdown #30 – the earth of this universe was destroyed in Countdown #24)
Earth-17: A post WWIII, apocalyptic universe (first appearance 52 #52)
Earth-48: Forerunner’s world (Countdown #46)

There are three new Earths out of 26 announced now, one of which has already been destroyed and the other I think is barren of life or populated by Forerunner’s race or something stupid like that?

Good going, DC. You have the opportunity to create a gang of new characters, settings, and stories and you go right into Fanboy Masturbation territory.

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