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AICN COMICS! @$$Holes Review SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT, DETECTIVE COMICS, AGE OF BRONZE, & FORMERLY KNOWN AS JUSTICE LEAGUE!

Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

It's an AICN Comics overload today, with all sorts of excellent review to read in addition to Alexandra DuPont's sensation BONE interview. Dig in! There's more than you can handle!!

Cormorant here! Comics are exciting and you should read them! Here's what we've got this time around…

We open with Ambush Bug telling us that SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT is dangerously close to being a good Superman story for non-fans of the Big Blue Boy Scout. Then out comes Lizzybeth with her review of the Norwegian murder mystery, THE IRON WAGON, and she's all like, "If you read only one comic this summer, this should be the one, sucka!" Later she reviews AGE OF BRONZE, a sex-and-violence-packed tale of the Trojan War that will make you wonder what kind of stick was up your history professor's ass to make it seem so boring. Next up, Village Idiot has the gall to suggest that Ed Brubaker's run on DETECTIVE might curb stomp Lee and Loeb's populist BATMAN run. Vroom Socko finds himself uneasy about Marvel's "Aunt May was a ho-bag" miniseries, TROUBLE. Jon Quixote offers up a furshlugginer translation of a German's look at ENEMY ACE: WAR IN HEAVEN. And rounding things out, badboys Ambush Bug and The Comedian double-team on FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE, one of the few 80's nostalgia projects worthy of your hard-earned money. Bug's "Casting Call" for the project may be his most epic ever, and all old-school JLI fans better recognize.


SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT #1

Writer: Mark Waid

Pencils: Leinil Francis Yu

Inks: Gerry Alanguilan

Publisher: DC Comics

Reviewer: Ambush Bug

SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT #1 begins with an extended prologue featuring a retelling of baby Superman’s first flight from Krypton to Earth. This sequence is as epic and dramatic as any summer blockbuster. It’s an extremely powerful scene where Superman’s parents debate whether they should send their child into space to be the sole survivor of Krypton or have him perish with the rest of their race. Beautifully rendered and patiently paced, these opening scenes are things I would love to see in a Superman film. Krypton is an expansive city-planet, not unlike Metropolis, which brings up an interesting question. Is it a coincidence that Clark Kent is drawn to Metropolis when he becomes a man? I think not, given the skyscraping cityscape of Krypton that we are shown in this opening sequence. The attention to detail and high technology is top notch, but I’ll get to the art later in the review.

I dive straight into my critique with this attention to the prologue because it was my favorite part of the book. Mark Waid does an extremely effective job of re-telling one of the most retold origin stories in comics and makes it all seem fresh and new. The big budget feel and interaction between Superman’s parents are nice additions to the story, providing new depth and emotion without taking away from established continuity. It has been said that this book is Waid’s attempt to “Ultimize” the Superman mythos, an attempt to make Superman hip for the new comic book reading generation who seem to love those Ultimate books over at Marvel. I can see where some may think this to be true, but Waid sticks pretty close to the origin, veering away with details only a long time fan would notice. Then again I am not much of a Superman-fan. My knowledge of the hero and his origins is mostly based on a few comics I read when I was very young, the WB cartoon, and of course, Christopher Reeve’s films, so forgive me if I don’t know specifically what was changed and what remained intact in Waid’s version.

What is important was that this opening sequence actually made me care about the Superman character. It made me wonder why I had avoided reading mostly anything that involves Superman. Ideally, I love what Superman stands for. He’s a great character for others to play off of. Maybe that’s why I loved reading DC COMICS PRESENTS where Superman would team up with another hero of the DCU from month to month. Or why I enjoy his presence in the JLA’s monthly adventures. I think it’s interesting to see a perfect hero play off of less than perfect heroes or heroes with less idyllic personalities. But for the first time in a long while, I wasn’t bored when I saw the Superman insignia by itself and I think that is an important thing to consider if you’re deciding to buy this book. I’m a non-fan and I liked this part of the book. If you’re a fan of the Big Blue One, you probably have picked this up already. But to those people out there who wonder what all the hubbub is all about when it comes to Superman fandom, this might be the book to clue you in.

But enough about this grand opening sequence. What about the rest of the book?

Well, that’s where things start to get tricky. After the opening, we flash forward 25 years. Clark has grown up and is now traveling abroad, experiencing the world outside of Smallville and doing what every lad in his mid-twenties tries to do: he’s seeking to find out what kind of man he wants to be. Clark is faster than a speeding bullet. He can use his heat vision. He flies. He’s got all of the powers of Superman. He just doesn’t have the name and costume yet.

This section of the book is decently written. There’s a great discourse about masks and Clark’s feelings about wearing one. It offers a little insight into why Superman doesn’t wear a mask later on down the line. I really like little snippets of detail like that. Waid peppers them in here and there without making it seem like filler, although one might attest that the glasses Clark Kent wears is a form of a mask, since Clark Kent might be considered as the “made up” persona hiding the “real face” of Superman. But I digress.

I didn’t dislike the writing in this section of the book, but I must say that it didn’t sit well with me that Clark doesn’t go directly from Smallville to Metropolis. To me, Waid’s choice to have Clark “walk the earth” to find himself before he settles down in Metropolis goes against something I believe to be a core aspect of the Superman character. I always saw Clark as the wide-eyed farm boy, experiencing the world for the first time in Metropolis after living a quiet life in the farmlands of Kansas. I always thought it was in the big city when Clark actually had the opportunity to use and perfect his powers. Forget all of the exploits as seen on the SMALLVILLE TV show. The worst thing Clark had to face in Hicksville was tornadoes and bad crops. That’s the way I always saw it. It made sense that someone with amazing powers would move away to a place where he was needed more. If Smallville was the hotbed of horror and crime as it is depicted in the TV show, I can’t see why Clark could or would ever choose to leave. He was a super boy in Smallville and became a Superman in Metropolis. Life got complicated once Clark left the farm for the big city.

But now, thanks to Waid, all that has changed. Now Clark will waltz into Metropolis with a little experience. He’ll be a bit more wise as to what goes on in the real world and how bad it can actually be. I think this takes away from some of the impact of Clark’s decision to live in the big city later in life and his first experiences while getting accustomed to such a different environment. Metropolis is where I want to see Clark come of age as Superman, not in some African country in the middle of civil unrest. Waid may (and probably does) have a master plan behind this addition to the Superman mythos, but this is the part of the book that started to slide into “standard Superman fare” for me—the kind of stuff that makes me zone out and become disinterested. The dialog was crisp and interesting and the action was okay, but that “oomph” from the opening sequence quickly died for me after the 25 year flash forward and got me thinking about the above rant concerning the transition from Smallville to Metropolis instead of what was going on in the book.

Art-wise, this book cannot be topped. The previously mentioned Krypton scenes are awe inspiring. The people behind the production of the new Superman film NEED to consult Leinil Francis Yu as a production designer. The buildings are monumental. The people are statuesque, but filled with emotion. Yu’s attention to facial _expression with so few lines is something that should be noted. The opening credits panels as the ship flies from Krypton to Earth is original and epic in scope. The splash page depicting the key moments in Clark’s time in Smallville is poster worthy. Aside from the cover, we haven’t seen Superman in costume yet, but based on the art in the rest of the book, Yu may be THE man to go to when you want to see Superman drawn correctly. This is truly one of the best looking books I’ve read in quite a long time.

This was a good, although uneven, read. The seventeen page prologue made the book for me while the latter half kept this from being a completely positive review. It started out (literally) with a bang, but the rest of the book had me questioning the writer’s motivations more than caring about the plot. I’ll buy the next issue though, just to see if it can surpass the quality of the first few pages. Check it out. For the most part, it held the interest of this non-Superman fan, which is something I can’t say about the rest of Superman’s monthly titles.


THE IRON WAGON

Jason

Fantagraphics Books

Reviewed by: Lizzybeth

It was suggested in last week’s Talkback that a comic book review should not be any longer than the text of the book under scrutiny. In the case of Jason, this would be the first time such a review could be longer than these two sentences. Minimalist in both art and dialogue, the Norwegian known only as Jason can portray a story of devastating impact in a few simple, wordless images. The majority of his work, and all of it that has been translated into English previous to this, has demonstrated an extreme economy of storytelling. No narration, few words, bare minimum dialogue, and a swiftly-paced, deeply felt tone. HEY WAIT is a heartbreaking volume about childhood friendship and the lingering effects of tragedy, and SHHHHHH! is a wordless graphic novel depicting a string of alternate turns one character’s life can take. Both projects have used anthropomorphic (read: animal) characters to personalize universal situations. As many cartoonists have discovered, characterizing your protagonists as animals rather than extensively developing specific quirks or personal histories can in a strange way make them easier to identify with. The plot, in both volumes, is hard to pin down since much of it can be symbolic – which actions actually happened, and which scenes are dreams or thoughts or emotions? And how much does it matter which is which?

THE IRON WAGON, on the other hand, has real, plot-driven dialogue, and it falls into a much more familiar format of storytelling: the mystery yarn. It’s a detective story, a murder mystery, but not exactly typical: the story is adapted from the century-old novel by Norwegian Stein Riverton. Obscure even by Norwegian standards, the novel predated Agatha Christie’s wilder plot twists by decades, and as Jason would have you believe, carried them off with equal aplomb. Since the novel itself was never translated, it’s hard to tell where the storytelling skills of Jason end and those of Mr. Riverton begin. But if the full novel has anything of the subtle unease and skillful misdirection of this comic, it must have been a lost classic. It’s possible, though, that Jason’s minimalism makes some of Riverton’s hat tricks more palatable, underplaying those details that would leave me with some sense of a cheat.

The story is set in 1909, where a huntsman is murdered on a country estate – the first in a string of violent confrontations that may or may not have to do with the legendary “Iron Wagon” that is heard in the woods whenever someone is about to die. Detective Asbjorn Krag (helpfully explained in the editor’s notes to be pronounced to rhyme with “pass turn now”) takes over the case, but is maddeningly unpredictable in his investigation, much to the discomfort of our protagonist (a friend of the deceased). On top of all this, characters who seemed to be dead are appearing to the living, though what they want is unclear. The answer to what exactly is going on is not nearly as clever as the way it is revealed – but that’s something you’ll have to debate in the Talkbacks, as I won’t be spoiling it here.

I wouldn’t want to see Jason turn entirely away from his personal, silent dramas, but the change of pace is welcome, and suits him. The book even gets wordy at times, a little exposition being necessary to any detective story, but it is never more than necessary, and the most powerful moments once again are entirely wordless. The secondary red coloring brings an unsettling, occasionally chilling effect, particularly in the nighttime scenes with skies the very color of blood. The connecting thread between these projects seems to be the specter of death – not in the special issue A Hero Falls!! manner where the most expendable character gets the hook and shows up two years later in a more appealing costume - but death as a force, almost as a character in itself. The iconic, skeletal death’s head image shows up here again to plague a character perhaps wracked by guilt, perhaps haunted by the possibility that it will come, one day, for him too. Each of Jason’s works is deeply affecting in its own way; THE IRON WAGON is troubling in the manner of Edgar Allen Poe, demonstrating that there is no real way to cheat death.

If you were only going to buy one single comic this summer, I would say: make this the one.


TROUBLE #1 (of 5)

Mark Millar: Writer

Terry and Rachel Dodson: Artists

Marvel Comics: Publisher

Vroom Socko: Troubled

Sixty years from now, a thirteen year old boy is going to be visiting a friend's home, when this friend says he has something he wants the boy to see. They'll sneak into the friend's elder brother's room, where the friend will pull out a mini-HD/DVD from behind the headboard. They'll go into the friend's room, turn on the 2D holograph monitor, and put in the disc, labeled "Girl's Gone Wild!"

The boy will be entranced; oh my god, TITS! One girl in particular draws his attention, a lusty vixen who not only takes off her top, but strips down to a g-string, shakes her ass, and then starts getting REALLY wild. The boy and his friend will rewind this section a good three or four times, entranced by this girl's "magic swirling ass."

The instant this boy realizes the girl he's watching is his grandmother, he'll know just what it feels like to be a lifelong Spider-Man fan who's read Trouble #1.


SAME DIFFERENCE (AND OTHER STORIES)

Derek Kirk Kim

Alternative Comics

Reviewed by: Lizzybeth

I wonder if it’s a breach of etiquette to repeat another writer’s pull-quote in your review? Well, this is just too interesting to pass on:

"Rocketing out of obscurity in 2001. A powerful storyteller in 2002. No American cartoonist has more promise in 2003 than Derek Kirk Kim."

--Scott McCloud

First of all: whoa. That’s some high praise there, especially from the comic industry’s envoy to the literary world (via UNDERSTANDING COMICS, an essential part of your collection I hope). I’d be a little surprised by this praise for such a low-key project as this, if I didn’t already know where the interests of these two artists converge. Scott McCloud became very enthusiastic about the internet as a future distributor of comics back when most folks were still trying to figure out how to work their e-mail, and has been one of the preeminent supporters of online comics projects (including web versions of his own ZOT comic and other projects at his homepage). Derek Kim is publishing some of the most consistently high quality online comics content around, with attractive site designs, steady updates, and polished artwork. His site, Small Stories, has serialized his short stories for the last few years, including most of the stories included in this first print collection. Online, his comics stand out against the still-developing and often erratic field of self-publishers.

In print, however, the competition is a little more stiff, and indie quarter-life crisis comics a dime a dozen. Probably literally, at your local comics convention. And while I may relate fairly well to self-obsessed twenty-somethings (*ahem*), your average comics reader may not be automatically thrilled at the thought. My recommendation is perhaps a little duller than McCloud’s, because I’m firmly placing SAME DIFFERENCE at the Semi-Autobiographical Aimless Young Adult Short Story table – at the good end, approaching Adrian Tomine and Jessica Abel. These are the comics that may appeal more narrowly to that certain crowd of young adults, but I’m sure that group will love this comic.

What Kim offers that puts him above the pack is a combination of unique perspective and refreshing honesty: his Korean-Californian-American background, unusual to this tradition of comics, and a willingness to examine himself and his peer group, not just to come out on top in the misery competition, but to genuinely observe, reflect, and question. The title story in this collection, “Same Difference”, was serialized on Kim’s website over a period of many months, adding as little as a single panel daily. It’s a slightly different experience to read it in collected form, and maybe a little less satisfying. Reading the story all at once, I’m sure many will wonder how people managed the patience to read so slowly, and stick with it so long. The installment format, however, really gives you an appreciation for the details of each panel, and gives you a chance to think about what’s happening. It’s not that the story is particularly complicated, but you really come to identify with the characters given some time for each development to sink in. Here, reading straight through makes a few plot details more superficial, and makes you spend less time with the characters, which is too bad. Nancy and Simon, the two main characters, have a really believable friendship, and their repartee is fun to read. Here’s one conversation from the book:

Simon: “just what the heck is ‘Oriental Flavor’? Is there one specific flavor that encapsulates the entire Oriental sector of the world?”

Nancy: “It’s very simple, Simon. Here you got Chicken Flavor and here you got Beef. Deductive reasoning would indicate that they grind up “Orientals” into that one.

Simon: “Ah. But that still doesn’t answer my question – what does “Oriental Flavor” taste like?”

Nancy: (bites his arm) “Let’s find out! Gah, very greasy with a hint of pork rinds apparently.”

I like these characters; I enjoy the time with them and I feel like I know them by the time the story’s done. And their situation is all too familiar. They’re mired in those years between the end of school and the beginning of something else, trying to decide whether to fix the past or to forget about it. By the end of the story, both of them are forced to admit things about themselves that no one really wants to think about. Maybe they’re not so nice after all. Maybe they have been stagnating, while other people have moved on. Maybe they’re the ones who are clueless, not everyone else.

There are a number of short pieces included in this collection as well, two of which are nearly as effective: “Hurdles”, a two-pager with a sucker punch, and “Pulling”, where a guy copes simultaneously with the relationship and the yardwork that’s gotten away from him. Kim shows a nice range of artistic styles in this book, with varying levels of detail and originality. Several pieces are laugh-out-loud funny, especially the self-deprecating autobiographical bits. I’ve enjoyed reading his website for some time, and I hope to see more material from him, both print and web-based, in the future. Potential he’s got - we’ll just have to see what he does with it.

Same Difference can be ordered directly from Small Stories, or ask your retailer to order you a copy.


DETECTIVE COMICS #784

Ed Brubaker – Writer

Patrick Zircher – Penciller

Aaron Cowd – Inker

Jason Wright – Colorist

Published by DC Comics

Reviewed by Village Idiot

Back during the days of the proposed Andrew Kevin Walker-scripted, Wolfgang Peterson-directed, Jude Law and Colin Farrell-starring SUPERMAN VS. BATMAN movie - AKA “The Dodged Bullet” (how I like to think of it, anyway) - the inevitable comparison that has plagued Batman throughout his history in the wider DCU came up, yet again: “Superman versus Batman? How exactly is that a contest?.” Batman is a very effective hero, but there’s just no escaping the fact that at the end of the day, he’s a regular, non-powered human being. On a very sound ostensible basis, he’s really no match for the powered DC “meta-humans” like Superman, Wonder Woman, and basically the rest of superhero pantheon; a pantheon with which he’s nevertheless expected to hold his own and pull his own superhero weight.

I’ve noticed two strategies to deal with this dilemma. The first is to simply ignore the rest of the DCU, and keep the battles local. Most of Batman’s classic rogues gallery (Joker, Penguin, Two-Face, Riddler, even Bane) aren’t really meta-human. They’re essentially just human beings, either really crazy, really evil, or both. The scale of this kind of villain is safely proportional. These kinds of stories usually appear when Batman is in what could be called “Detective Mode,” when he draws on more of his low-key detective skills.

The other strategy is to bring in the rest of the DCU and give Batman the de facto superpower of biggest smarty-pants in the world. Well, okay, that’s overstating, but the key is to give Batman enough cunning, smarts, and skill to play with the big boys. Sometimes it stretches, but it generally works. Ironically, Batman’s intelligence in these stories is almost a little too facile, and often takes a seat to the more action-oriented elements. I’ve noticed that these types of stories naturally tend to occur in the JLA stories, thus this Batman is could be said to be in “JLA Mode.” Generally speaking, in the BATMAN title, Batman seems to be more in JLA Mode.

I bring all this up because in DETECTIVE COMICS #784, the story has the meta-human presence you’d expect in a JLA mode story, but it’s played distinctively in a Detective Mode tone. And I liked it. Brubaker and Zircher created an interesting, nicely-drawn tale that’s leading me to believe that while BATMAN may be giving off the smoke, DETECTIVE COMICS is where the fire is.

In DC #784, the guest meta-human is Sentinel, the original 1940’s Green Lantern; a character about as powerful as you can get these days in the DCU. His appearance wasn’t an intrusion; it was a presence that felt very organic, and very much part of this world. Perhaps this came from the fact the Sentinel’s history in Gotham was presented with little self-consciousness. Gordon, the most human character in the book, and perhaps our reality anchor, so fully took him for granted, I did too. Also, Sentinel/Alan Scott is himself presented as quite human, and at times, quite vulnerable.

Or perhaps the plot kept me distracted. A gruesome body with some particularly disturbing markings shows up in Gotham Park, markings that turn out to have a connection with Scott. As I said, Batman is in Detective Mode on this one, tracing down the leads brought by the evidence. I already have some hunches as to what’s going on in the story, but there’s enough Thomas Harris-like mystery to the situation to keep me curious as to where the story is headed. Also, I’m anxious to see how Batman and Sentinel interact. (Although both present throughout the issue, their paths only cross at the end of the story.) Moreover, the issue makes a suitable jumping-on point, not only because it’s the beginning of a new arc, but because the story seemed like pure Batman, with very little baggage brought to the table.

One of the main selling points of BATMAN is Jim Lee’s art, and there’s no denying it’s some pretty snazzy stuff. On the other hand, and forgive if this sounds grossly unsophisticated, but I thought Zilcher and Cowd’s work packed as much punch. Really. There was a nice realism to the presentation, and the story seemed to move economically, but not hurriedly. Jason Wright’s colors were pretty effective too, whether bringing out the peach ambiance of Gotham in the morning twilight, the reds of a demented dark room bulb-lit room, or the greens in Sentinel’s majestic appearance. The issue looked great.

After I reviewed BATMAN #616 last week, one of the recurring comments in the Talkback forum was that as good (or bad) as Loeb and Lee’s BATMAN may be, the best and most undeservedly unsung writing going on with Batman right now is in DETECTIVE COMICS. I investigated, and guess what? I think they’re definitely on to something. I enjoyed DETECTIVE COMICS #784 a lot, at least as much as I’ve enjoyed most of Loeb and Lee’s BATMAN outings. Granted, this was only my first issue, so it’s a little early to be breaking out the champagne just yet. Nevertheless, it was a well-drawn, well-plotted mystery, that in one issue has me sucked in pretty good. I’m looking forward to next month.

Oh yeah, Josie Mac Back-up: a nice jumping-on point for that story too.


ENEMY ACE: VAR IN HEAVEN TPB

Herr Ennis – Vordzmit

Herr Westen, Alamy, Heath – PensilSkratchens

DC – Publichtenscher

A Baron Von Quixote Judmenkation

So, you don’t vant to read ze ENEMY ACE comikbooken, ja?

We have vays of makink you read ze comikbooken.

First, we explain zat ENEMY ACE is about ze Great Deutschland Aereopilot Hans Von Hammer, ze Hammer of Hell. In ze First Var of ze Bullies against Deutschland, Von Hammer ruled ze clouds vith ze Iron Mitten of a Kaiser over his royal spankenfrauleines. Ze evil Allies vould be flyink over Germany, droppink zeir bombs on our worshipvenchurches and chocolaterians, and zen Von Hammer vould take the air, so ze Bullies vould tuck tails betveen legs und run home.

Ze Legend of Von Hammer vas so powerful he vas not to be restrikted even by ze powerful Propaganda of ze Amerikan Government. In ze 1960’s, comikbookens started documentink his exploits. Amerikan kinders vould see Von Hammer vinnink battle after battle, and zen say “Ven I grow up, I vant to be German!” vich made your governments panic. “Oh No! Our kinders vant to be German! Already zey all drive the Volkswagon! Vhat to do?” They make the Hogan Heroes on the television and zen all the kinders see zat dirty lie instead.

But now ze ENEMY ACE is back in the comikbooken and if it is stronk enough to overcome ze Amerikaner Propaganda, you must be impressed, ja? Von Hammer has returned, and he is fighting now Commies und Nazis! You should be readink ENEMY ACE to continue ze impressiveness.

Sekondly, we tell you ze wordinks are typeted by Garth Ennis, a great Vestern typeter. And then you think “vhy vould ze Vestern typeter vant to storytell ze story about ze glory of ze Paterland?” But is ze draw of Germany to be denied? Nein! Zis Ennis, he is smarter, he knows more than ze bleating swinehunts of ze Anglo vorld.

We Deutsch, we are not ze monsters your Bands of Brothers or your Indyvana Jönes pretend we are. We are zimple volk; all we ever vanted vas to sit in our lederhosen, read some Goethe, and be served weinerschnitzel by French slavenses. Ennis, he is understandink zhat. He shows ze Hammer of Hell to be noble man, who fights vith honor and courage because he is good Deutschland soldier, not Nazi swine. We Germans, even in ze Sekond Var of ze Bullies against der Paterland, vere not all Nazis. I vasn’t a Nazi. Mein mother und father vere not Nazis either. Ve had a neighborman who was a Nazi, but ven summer barbequeink time come around, ve all took turns spitting in his frankenfurter. Das is güt, ja?

Ennis he shows zat during ze war, zere vas good people on both sides, und zere vas bad things done on both ze sides. Und vhile ze Nazis vere very very bad for vhat zey did to ze Judens, ve said ve are sorry. Now we show ze world we are a peaceful, kindly country, wit no more killinks, and we are friendeschiens vit ze Amerikaners again. In ze spirit of friendenliness, you should be buying ze ENEMY ACE.

Zirdly, if you do not buy ze ENEMY ACE, we vill invade Poland. You don’t vant us to invade ze Poland. We don’t vant to either, but we vill if we haf to. Our Chancellor, he has been craving the Kielbasa anyvay.

So buy the comikbooken! Schnell!!!


AGE OF BRONZE #17

Eric Shanower

Image Comics

Reviewed by: Lizzybeth

AGE OF BRONZE is one of those titles that I’ve eyed from a distance but not really delved into, mostly because I tend to have low expectations for adventure comics, especially historical adventures. I don’t know much about Eric Shanower, the writer/artist behind this project, and looking in from the outside I wondered if a project this complicated would actually be any fun to read. Shanower is attempting to unite the existing versions of the Trojan War myths into one narrative, setting it as realistically as possible in the Bronze Age by visually modeling his comics according to the archaeological record (the style of the ships, clothing, facial structures, etc.) and by focusing on the human participants rather than cutting away from them for the antics of the Greek gods. It’s a pretty ambitious project, tying in everything from the works of Homer on through the plays of the great Greek dramatists, up to relatively modern writers such as Jean Racine and William Shakespeare. To my delight, not only does the comic successfully accomplish its goal of drawing together disparate (and sometimes contradictory) sources to tell one focused story, it is also involving and exciting.

Well, I know it’s exciting if you already have some background in Greek history, myth and literature, which happens to be another of my geeky areas. Picture how a superhero fan reacts to the idea of the next Marvel movie having the Hulk, Spider-Man and Daredevil teaming up against the Kingpin - that’s me looking through these comics and going: “That’s Oedipus’ grandson! This includes Herakles and his original sack of Troy! More references to the Orestia! Cool!” So I get a kick out of seeing what Shanower does with the source material. Since there are so *many* stories about the Trojan War, and so many interpretations of these stories already, it’s interesting to see how he makes them all work side-by-side. There’s so much to tell that even now, six years and seventeen issues in, the characters haven’t gotten to Troy yet.

Because Shanower refuses to censor the material, there are plenty of aspects to these stories that you didn’t cover in your high school chapters of The Odyssey, and if you aren’t well versed in ancient myths, you may be surprised to find how racy their stories really were. There’s a good amount of sex (tastefully depicted here), fairly gruesome violence (most of which is still to come) and some fairly shocking traditional beliefs such as, for an example most pertinent to the current storyline, human sacrifice.

The current story arc, “Sacrifice,” has the Greek troops gathering at Aulis to sail for Troy. Agamemnon, General of the Greek fleet and one of the most interesting figures in the tales of the Trojan war, has angered the goddess of the wind. According to his trusted prophet, to pacify the goddess and secure the victory of the troops at Troy, Agamemnon must sacrifice his only daughter, Iphigenia, something he is extremely loathe to do. Still, he summons the girl to join the fleet under the excuse that she is to marry the great soldier Achilles. Unfortunately, nobody told Achilles about this, which is going to lead to some confusion. Like the tale of Abraham and Isaac, the father is finally persuaded to perform the sacrifice for the greater good, with a number of traditional outcomes to the tale. In some versions, Iphigenia is sacrificed, pleasing the gods but enraging her mother Clytemnestra (to dire consequences once the war is over). In other versions, Iphigenia willingly undergoes the sacrifice to save the fleet; in still others, a goddess steps in to removes her from harm, swapping her for a stag in the completion of the ritual. This is just one example of the complications involved in compiling the many tales of the Trojan War into one narrative. I’ll be interested to see how he handles this particular juncture. So far, I have been impressed with Shanower’s ability to create something that's both old and new, the sum of its sources and something other, as well. What we’ll have when this is finished will be entirely unique, and something I think that the industry can be proud of.

AGE OF BRONZE does its best to accommodate newcomers to the story, including a story summary and a guide to the characters in each issue. While #17 could be a disorienting first issue even for readers who remember their mythological figures, being part 8 of a long storyline, I suggest you have a look at the artwork depicting the agony of Agamemnon. Many of the images are very traditionally drawn, sort of a Prince Valiant Goes Classical look when the images include many characters, but Shanower does astonishing close-ups, with facial features and expressions that just leap off the page. Never is this stronger than when Agamemnon is wrestling with his duty to his army and to his family. The masterful pencils really bring these ancient characters to life, justifying the effort of condensing so much prose text into the comic page.

The first AGE OF BRONZE collection, A THOUSAND SHIPS, is still available from Image comics.


FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 (of 6)

Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis

Illustrated by Kevin Maguire

Review by The Comedian

On a hot summer’s day back in 1987, an impressionable 11 year old walked into a 7-11 for a Slurpie and a pouch of Big League Chew (remember that shit, the bubble gum that was packaged like chewing tobacco?). Next to the checkout, a crazed, red-headed, lunatic in an ugly green costume, eyes blazing full of hatred, stared angrily at the boy from behind a plastic wrapper on a revolving comics rack. He tried to ignore the stares of the thuggish Irishman (he had to be Irish, the kid thought, with the red hair and the green outfit), but the kid couldn’t look away. Shazam and some green guy with a big forehead were the only ones keeping this freakish crack-head Leprechaun from jumping from the page and doing God knows what. “Batman Vs. Guy Gardner: SHOWDOWN!!”. “JUSTICE LEAGUE”. “You mean the Superfriends?” the kid thought to himself. “Who the fuck is this Guy Gardner? I wanna see Batman kick his ass.” The kid thought as he picked the book from the rack. And thus a four-color habit that has lasted some 16 years began.

My cousin Alan gave me his comic collection in 1985 after he’d decided to join the Marines. He was a hardcore Marvel junky, through and through: X-Men, The New Mutants, Starbrand, The Fantastic Four, Web of Spiderman, The Silver Surfer. He was trying to pass his habit onto me but it didn’t really take. I was only 9 and trying to follow all these characters I’d never heard of confused the hell out of me. The following summer my mom threw out Alan’s collection while I was away at camp. I wasn’t even all that mad about it.

Justice League was the first book I cared about. It was the one that hooked me into this stupid hobby in the first place. The characters were not just “funny”. They were fully realized. They acted like normal people and did awful, incredibly stupid things to each other, still managing to save the world on more than one occasion. In my pre-adolescent mind I thought this was what superheroes would be like if they actually existed. For all the comedy there was just as much deep human drama involved. Even an icon like Batman wasn’t let off the hook and allowed to simple fall into the grim and gritty cookie cutter Miller-mold every other writer was doing with him. This was a book that pushed a whole different kind of “realism” in superhero comics, one without all the doom and gloom. You can see Justice League’s influence in every comedic superhero book that’s come since, including titles like Milligan and Allred’s X-Force (when it was still readable).

So now 16 years later this 27-year-old man is here to tell you that you can "BWA-HA-HA" your way home again! Formerly Known As The Justice League is a godsend. It’s not laugh-out-loud, spray-milk-through-your-nose funny, but it sure as hell is just as charming as the original series. There was actually one moment during the Captain Atom fight with an alien that did make me laugh pretty hard and loud: “Goodbye Captain! Or as my people say, “BlkstBlgmfGlbrnklGLK!” The scenes with Booster as a gigolo and Fire as an internet-fetish-porn queen were just the kind of happy-go-lucky subversion I’d loved so much in the first series. Artist Kevin Maguire’s uncanny use of facial expressions is just also animated as it’s always been. My fellow reviewer Village Idiot swears he almost saw them moving. The one thing that’s jarring for me is that Max Lord doesn’t look like Sam Neill in Omen III any more.

The one minor critique I have is that they’re only (as of now) using these seven characters. I hope Oberon and Mr. Miracle find their way into this book at some point, if just for a cameo. It’s not like there’s anything going on with the 4th World characters right now and Scott and Oberon are never used in those crappy books anyway. As for everybody’s favorite belligerent, obnoxious former ring jockey - from a characterization stand point I’m sure Max, Beetle and the gang probably wouldn’t want Guy Gardner anywhere near this new venture of theirs. Which would make it all the more funny if he just showed up one day or better yet tried to start his own hero for hire business, “just to spite those gutless pansies!”

Formerly Known As The Justice League isn’t merely a nostalgia book. It’s actually just the break from “dark, decadent, deconstruction” that we need right now in comics, almost exactly the same way that its predecessor stood in stark contrast to the grim and gritty books of its time. I’m sure you newer, younger, hipper readers who missed out the first time around will dig the shit out of this book too. All you people who stopped buying X-Statix two months ago should pick this baby up. The characters might not be “too cool for school” like Milligan’s but shit actually happens in this book.


@$$HOLE CASTING COUCH (click on the links to see the actors!)

Hey there Talkbackers, Ambush Bug here with another @$$hole Casting Couch. This week we have a special couch to commemorate the release of the first issue of FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE. Do you notice that when reviewers focus on re-launches they tend to get all nostalgic? Comedian did in the last review, didn’t he? And I couldn’t hold back the waves of nostalgia when I read FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 either. I guess it’s kind of like that first cassette or CD you ever owned. I know I get a warm feeling in my heart every time I hear the hauntingly beautiful melodies of TWISTED SISTER.

To me, the JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL of the 80’s was the best of the best. They may not have been as powerful as the "Big Seven" JLA of today, but what they lacked in force, they made up in personality. The JLI writing team of Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis, along with the amazingly expressive art by Kevin McGuire, put the 'funny' back in funny books. It was interesting to see these larger-than-life characters squabble about the pettiest of things. It humanized the heroes and shattered their iconic status. Some hated the use of heroic mainstays such as Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, Green Lantern, and Captain Marvel as comic relief, but I saw it as a way to tear down all of the grim and grittiness that plagued the 80’s and 90’s comics. It poked fun at a genre that, when you really looked at, was a bit ridiculous. Well, the grim and gritty has been toned down these days in favor of deconstructionist fiction that takes apart and examines every aspect of being a hero. Just like the grim and gritty comics of old, these books are taking themselves way too seriously. So what better time for the JLI and their dream team of creators to stage a comeback in FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE?

With all of the comic book films out there today, I think that a team of heroes who can’t stop arguing in order to save the day would be a refreshing look at the superhero genre. This film should be heavy on the comedy and character interaction, with some fun and thrills thrown in for good measure. A talented director able to handle a truckload of extremely different personalities going through offbeat situations is necessary. I can’t think of anyone more qualified to handle the world of the offbeat than THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS director, Wes Anderson.

The story: A major off-world catastrophe forces the Justice League to leave the planet. Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, and Green Lantern disappear, leaving the Martian Manhunter to recruit a new team of heroes to carry on the good fight. But since J’onn J’onzz is from another planet, he doesn’t exactly understand this culture and the heroes he recruits are not your average icons. The team assembled is less than successful at carrying on the good name of their predecessors and more than successful at entertaining us all while driving each other insane. So let’s cast a good old fashioned JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL film. Shall we?

For J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, many people would go for a CGI creation, but I don’t think that’s necessary. I feel that the Martian in the Martian Manhunter should be highlighted and a talented actor could pull it off without looking like Lou Ferrigno in need of Propecia. Actor Tom Noonan’s name may not ring any bells, but if you’ve seen MANHUNTER, you know his performance as the truly bizarre Tooth Fairy would give J’onn the creepy alien vibe needed for this role. He’s extremely tall with a prominent brow line. His speech is gentle and strange. The guy may not be built for the part, but he’s got the size and weirdness factor going for him. Seeing him in a cloak floating around and shooting fire beams from his eyes would make me forget all about his lack of physique.

Sure, J’onn J’onzz is the one leading the team, but the real man with the plan is the slimy Maxwell Lord. This billionaire bureaucrat wants a super team in his back pocket and he wants the JLI to be that team. The Comedian suggested it earlier and I was thinking the same thing: Sam Neill is the man to play this part. Kevin McGuire’s Max Lord designs in the original series were a dead ringer for Mr. Neil, so why not cast him for the part?

The wacky hijinx of the Blue and the Gold were one of the highlights from the of those old JLI stories. Booster Gold was always the opportunist, looking to make a quick buck and get his picture in the paper. Blue Beetle was always dragged along for the ride, knowing that “this is definitely not a good idea,” but helping Booster nonetheless. The actors playing these characters are going to have to work well together. Hell, they could even be brothers. And since Wes Anderson is directing this faux pic, Tannenbaum alum, Luke and Owen Wilson would be the perfect match for this less-than-dynamic duo. Luke could play up Beetle’s neurosis while Owen could exasperate everyone with his energy and vapidity. It’s a match made in heaven.

Another memorable pairing made their debut in JLI. Fire and Ice were exact opposites in every way, but they had one thing in common: these two girls were tough enough to hang out with these morons. I’d cast half-Puerto Rican actress, Rosario Dawson, as Fire because she’s hotter than a tamale on fi-yahh! Here’s another picture of her because…well…DAMN. And although the movie sucked, Milla Jovovich kicked ass in RESIDENT EVIL and showed her more innocent side as the alien Leeloo in THE FIFTH ELEMENT. These are the qualities I’d like to see in Ice. She can do the accent too.

Aside from pissing Sleazy G off and casting a Jack Kirby’s Fourth World film, I don’t think I’m ever going to have a chance to cast Mister Miracle again, so I’d better make this one good. I love the dynamic between married couple, Mister Miracle and Big Barda. There’s something about the pairing of a nebbish escape artist and a muscle bound warrior-goddess that makes me laugh uncontrollably. I’d go with minuscule actor Giovanni Ribisi and WWF she-monster Chyna for this happy couple. Just picture these two together. Can’t…hold…back…BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Ahem. And then there’s Mr. Miracle’s manager and the team’s crusty coach, Oberon. Who wouldn’t want to see a CGI shrunken down Gene Hackman trying to whip this team of losers into shape?

What’s a JLI without a little cheese? The Big Red Cheese, that is. In my second ever @$$hole Casting Couch, I cast Billy Zane as Captain Marvel. And I think I’ll do the same this time around too. He works well with comedy and drama. Something needed for this role.

Every comedy needs a straight man. The guy who just doesn’t get the jokes. The guy who takes himself and his job too seriously. Captain Atom is that guy. He wants to be a big gun. One of the icons. And now he has his shot, but he’s surrounded by idiots. I’d go with versatile character actor, Gary Cole, to rattle off clichéd lines with a straight face. He did it as Mike Brady in THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE and I’m sure he could do it in this film too.

For sheer fanboy glee, I’d have to include a cameo from Batman. His purpose would be to check in on the League to see if they are up to snuff, but the real reason he is there would be to have a dramatic reenactment of the classic “one punch" fight between The Dark Knight and Guy Gardner. That is one of my most favorite comic book moments ever and I’d love to see it onscreen. Let’s go with fan pick, Christian Bale, to don the bat ears and wind up for a KABLOWIE right in Guy’s kisser.

And what about Guy Gardner? He hasn’t appeared in FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE yet, but you just know he’s right around the corner with a whole lotta attitude. He’s the O@, Original @$$hole, and I think Matt Dillon would be the best actor to bring this dumb but brave, idiotic but well-meaning, insensitive but noble, one-of-a-kind character to celluloid life. Check out Matt slingin’ brews at Warriors. Yup, that’s our Guy.

Now, this group would be really busy fighting each other throughout the film, but we’ve gotta have a bad guy. So how about that intergalactic entertainer, David Bowie as Manga Kahn. This tin-plated, would-be world conqueror was the closest thing to an arch-nemesis the JLI ever had. Bowie’s eccentricities would make this villain just the type of world threatening menace needed to have the team prove themselves capable of protecting the planet.

Whew, what a cast. The chances of a film like this being made is slim, but wouldn’t it be damn cool if it came together like this? As always, I invite you all to agree, disagree, tear us a new one, or put together your own cast. I’m sure every @$$hole in the Talkbacks has an opinion or two. Let ‘em rip.

Readers Talkback
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  • July 10, 2003, 6:24 a.m. CST

    Batman V SuperMan

    by fevriul

    Brains vesus brawn, if given time to prepare, Batman would hand Superman his arse end of story. However if it just started on a street, say they bumped into each other, started giving out a few choice views on the fidelity of the others mother, then superman would win that one.

  • July 10, 2003, 6:24 a.m. CST

    By the way......First!

    by fevriul

  • July 10, 2003, 6:54 a.m. CST

    Gary Cole is the best comedic actor the world has!

    by Louis Cyphre

    Him and the guy who played Shooter McGavin. Have you seen Gary Cole in Office Space? I Spy? Brady Bunch? The man's hysterical, but SO underrated. The master of nuance. Three cheers for Gary Cole! Hip-hip!! ...

  • July 10, 2003, 8:30 a.m. CST

    Soundtrack For LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN Revealed!

    by RenoNevada2000

    Yes ladies and gents. In a bold, last minute move, The Producers of The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen have dumped the original soundtrack at the last minute to replace it with an all pop music score by none other than 1980s great pop band Men At Work! Thrill to the first "appearance" on screen of the Invisible Man to the strains of "Who Can It Be Now?"! Whatch in amazement as Dr. Jekyl boogies down to "Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jive"! I could tell you more but I don't want to spoil the surprise.

  • July 10, 2003, 8:45 a.m. CST

    Sean Penn was, and forever is Guy Gardner...

    by King Rhythm

    That face...that attitude. Penn is Guy. John Hurt as the Grey Man. Patrick Warbuton as General Glory. Ithangyew.

  • July 10, 2003, 8:57 a.m. CST

    Trouble pisses me off

    by holidill

    First, this could be the origin of Peter Parker, Jemas is saying that he will leave it up to the readers. Granted it was supposed to be about them when the original series was announced calling it Parents, but here is what I have a problem with. When Peter is about 16, around the time he gets his Spider Powers, Aunt May and Uncle Ben are all ready frail older people, probably in their late 60s, early 70s. Now, let's say we ignore that Spider man was created in the 60s, let's say he is about 30 now in the comics, maybe younger, his age is never given, that would mean he was born in 1973, and became Spiderman in 1989. Let's say Aunt May is 70 when Spider man was created in 1989, making her roughly 84 now. She would have had to been born in 1919. Now if Trouble takes place when they are 18, that would make it 1937. Now Aunt May and Uncle Ben are frail and older, but Peter's parents are much younger. So how does that work? In this book they appear to be around the same age, which would mean that if his parents had lived, when he was 16 they would be around 70 themselves, I know there are some parents like that, but I think the majority are usually only 25-30 years older making his parents roughly in their 40s when he turns 16. Now, if this is the birth of Ultimate Peter Parker whose Aunt and uncle appear to be a little older, but not as frail, then maybe. As for me, I do not believe that this is a story about Peter's relatives, I think it is a blatant marketing tool by Marvel to increase their sales on a book that was not doing well order wise before they mentioned this. I liked the art and the story was ok, as a stand alone story with no connection to Marvel. And that is my 2 cents.

  • July 10, 2003, 10:18 a.m. CST

    FKAtJL

    by Squashua

    I love this book. Wonder what happened to L-Ron that turned him back from inhabiting Despero's body.

  • July 10, 2003, 10:21 a.m. CST

    SUPERMAN is BORING...has been for over 60 YEARS!

    by KAWS

    You know this to be true.

  • July 10, 2003, 10:46 a.m. CST

    Mark Waid did not ruin you're wet dream Ambush Bug

    by 4641

    Superman walking the Earth after leaving Smallville shouldn't be any thing new to anyone that has followed Superman for awhile. Dan Jurgans wrote quite a few flashback stories about it. Ones that come to mind are Lois meeting a guy in Nepal somewhere who used be a pickpocket untill a bearded Clark saved him from getting his hand cut off by the authorities and inspired the kid to quite stealing. And other flashbacks took place in Paris involving the short lived villian Conduit discovering Clark had powers and years later he deduced Superman's secret idenity. I do hope you find you're naive wide eyed unexperienced farmboy fresh off the bus in the big city though.

  • July 10, 2003, 11:09 a.m. CST

    I've gotta back up DevilCat on this one

    by TheWoodMan

    There isn't anyone to play Captain Marvel except Warburton. Face it! So "Seinfeld" was an obnoxious yuppie show and "The Tick" was a non-starter... big deal, that's all in the past. (By the way, does anyone out there know how New England Comics keeps getting cartoons, TV shows, action figures, etc. made for The Tick? Has anyone, anywhere, ever purchased a Tick comic? Someone at NEC must have a vast collection of Polaroids of influential media-types getting it on with farm animals!) Warburton's got the squinty eyes, the eyebrows, the goofy square jaw... stick him in the red suit and slick his hair back in a 1940s Ronald Reagan style and there you go, it's the Big Red Cheese. Also, P.W. has a track record of playing characters who are, shall we say, not exactly rocket scientists. Cap's a great guy and all, but he never struck me as the brightest bulb in the DC chandelier (the S in "SHAZAM!" is for the Wisdom of Solomon... there's no E for the Intellect of Einstein). I'd also like to see The Rock as Black Adam (I hear you groaning, I understand, but picture him with the widow's-peak wig and the pointy ears... there... see?). Sivana would be more difficult to cast, since George "Born to Play Sivana" Burns is no longer with us. Oh well.

  • July 10, 2003, 11:45 a.m. CST

    Udo Kier as Dr. Sivana!

    by Spikes Brain

    I'll forego the obligatory Hulk Hogan joke... I love how Jemas' brain must work. "Aunt May as a hot teenager? Great! Work in a Wolverine cameo and it's gold, baby!" I think I'll pass...

  • July 10, 2003, 11:49 a.m. CST

    Puddy would make the perfect Captain Marvel...

    by JonQuixote

    ...but mostly 'cause of the squint. It really is one of those "Role He Was Born To Play" deals, like Andre The Giant as Fezzik and Chris Reeve as Superman. *** But Cap ain't a dimbulb - I don't know where you got that from. If you look back to that old Cap Limited Series from '86, one of the coolest conceits was that he could use the Wisdom of Solomon to really outhink his opponents. He is, however, very earnest - the guy who brings his guitar to a campfire. S'mores, right, there were S'mores jokes in the original JUSTICE LEAGUE.

  • July 10, 2003, 11:49 a.m. CST

    Oh, and one more thing.

    by JonQuixote

    Ben Kingsley as Sivana.

  • July 10, 2003, 1:08 p.m. CST

    Re: Ambush Bug & 4641

    by The Llama

    Yep, Clark's years of travel after leaving Smallville have been an established part of DC continuity ever since Crisis. Really, Ambush Bug, it's pretty silly to announce that you don't have any real background knowledge of Superman's history and then complain because you think something has been changed that hasn't actually been changed at all.

  • July 10, 2003, 1:08 p.m. CST

    Once again I say "Screw the JLI!"

    by rev_skarekroe

    Giffen needs to call up Robert Loren Fleming and give us back our Ambush Bug! And Jon Quixote, I hate to say it, but that Enemy Ace review was just unreadable. Sorry. sk

  • July 10, 2003, 1:32 p.m. CST

    From "The Wisdom of KAW"....

    by bizarromark

    ..... a piercing pop-cultural insight:____"SUPERMAN is BORING...has been for over 60 YEARS!"______Hmm. Hey, Kaw....I heard the same thing about your mom and her...abilities.

  • July 10, 2003, 3:54 p.m. CST

    Just read 'Spectacular Spider-Man'

    by Ribbons

    It's OK. It seems like more of a concept series than anything else. As I've heard Jenkins say in interviews, the villains are, indeed, reflections of human nature (taken to the extreme of course). So far, the interaction between Spider-Man and the villains seems to have been handled with a lot of finesse, and that dynamic is the most thrilling in the book. Besides for that, it's the same old melodrama and bland humor from 'Peter Parker: Spider-Man,' only they've added an annoying gorilla from New Zealand who goes by the name Big John. King Kong would have sufficed, but whatever.

  • July 10, 2003, 4:34 p.m. CST

    WORST casting EVER

    by jinX

    @sshole casting makes Wizard seem GOOD.

  • July 10, 2003, 5:30 p.m. CST

    Jinx and The Llama

    by Ambush Bug

    To Jinx, thanks for that insightful, well supported criticism of my casting. I really, really, really mean that. I really do. Well, not really. And Mr. The Llama, my rant about Clark walking the earth had more to do with the impact the move from Smallville to Metroplis has on the character. Having been a small town boy myself who moved to the big city, I know that interesting stories can come from such a dramatic transition. I knew nothing about Clark's "Kane from Kung Fu" days, walking and experiencing the earth. As I said in my review, I rarely read Superman and this fact was unknown to me, but now that I know it, I still think it's a bad idea for the character. It was a review from a Supes outsider, giving the big guy a chance to prove why people like him so much. And once again, it kind of failed in that aspect. So my question to you, or any other talkbacker, why do YOU like the character so much? I've talked about this with our resident @$$hole Superman expert, Village Idiot, but I'd like to hear what you all think. And maybe, just maybe, I'll be convinced that Supes is cool.

  • July 10, 2003, 5:46 p.m. CST

    JLI

    by ErichRino

    Man, the JLI made me laugh like no other serious comic ever did. Not just the silliness, but the human interaction. When Blue & Gold showed up in Scott Free's hometown, in full uniform, there were a million ways to build the story. Having it turn out that Scott "hired" the two 'actors' as a publicity stunt is somehting tha hadn't been done in a comic before, and I haven't seen it since. Giffen and DeMatties were/are geniouses in that they could take real personalities, put them in semi-established comic characters, and make it seem natural. From Captain Whitebread to Guy Gardner's post-beating sweetness, to Black Canary's obvious depression at having missed the beat down, the first seven issues of JLI (collected in a great paperback) are some of the best non-Miller/Moore works of the 1980's. I reccomend that paperback everytime I talk to someone who wants to get into comics.

  • July 10, 2003, 5:46 p.m. CST

    In defense of Ambush Bug

    by Village Idiot

    First of all, he ran the review by me before he sent in, and I have a ridicuous amount of Superman knowledge, second only to Mark Waid himself, or maybe even Bizarromark. I sent it through because Bug was obviously speaking from his understanding of the character -- what is probably the understanding of the more casual fan. Sure, you and I know about "The Odyssey" and all that jazz (did you know that Clark worked in a diner and dated a single mom while attending Metropolis University? No? Read WORLD OF METROPOLIS); and maybe Bug was thinking more along the lines of the pre-Crisis Superman (did you know that Pre-Crisis went straight to Metropolis U, where lived with a hippie, and with a geeky kid that knew his identity? No? Read SUPERMAN: THE EARLY YEARS); but I think the audience that this book is trying to reach would see it from a vantage point more akin to where Bug is coming from. It may bear mentioning that Clark walked the Earth like Caine from Kung Fu in Byrne's reboot, but I really don't think it's worth busting Bug's chops over. So lighten up, and redirect whatever anger you have left at Bill Jemas where it belongs.

  • July 10, 2003, 5:52 p.m. CST

    If you're reading this Talkback post...

    by Village Idiot

    If you're reading this Talkback post and you haven't read Comedian's review of FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE, shame on you. And if you've already read, maybe you should read it again. Meanwhile, I'm going to check out the issue again right now. Great review Com.

  • July 10, 2003, 6:04 p.m. CST

    Waid's Superman

    by bizarromark

    Yeah, stuff like "the Odyssey" and "World of Metropolis" portrayed aspects of Clark Kent's pre-Superman years, but keep in mind Waid's "Birthright" is clearly a blank slate that hits the "Cosmic Re-Set Button" on the modern Superman mythos. The Kryptonian sequence alone is so profoundly different from what Byrne served up in the mid-eighties that all bets are off concerning how closely or loosely "Birthright" follows (or even acknowledges) previously established continuity. So, it's not so much a matter of "I didn't know Clark wandered the world before he became Superman", but rather "This is what we NOW say Clark Kent did before he became Superman."

  • July 10, 2003, 6:10 p.m. CST

    Thanks VI...

    by thecomedian

    I've got tons to say about Birthright and my own cooky alternative to Bug's JLI casting but it'll have to wait till I get off work. Be back in few.

  • July 10, 2003, 7:04 p.m. CST

    Multiculturalism and Mayhem: My thoughts on BIRTHRIGHT #1

    by Village Idiot

    I must say, I'm really getting mileage out of these next few paragraphs. This makes three message threads (and one email) now. Mark, Bug, move along, nothing for you guys to see here. But for the rest of you, read on...__________All in all, BIRTHRIGHT #1 was mixed bag: a good intro issue with a some interesting themes, but all tallied, without enough of the high fantasy aspects to Superman that I prefer.__________Many of the scenes with Clark in Africa seem to be about raising his consciousness about the value of culture: a consciousness that might eventually be expressed in his costume, and perhaps other elements as well. This is a vaguely "Multiculturalist" statement, and to it's credit, innovative in creating an internal logic for much of what wlll come. I'm not sure how far (or how politically) Waid will be trying to press it in terms of the overall story; probably very little. What is curious is that if you look at this trajectory, rather than intergrate his Kryptonian heritage into he being-at-large, Clark is going to compartmentalize his culture influences, i.e., Krytonian Superman, Earthling Clark Kent. Which, on some level, is not very Multicultural at all.__________Another thematic strain in the African section, and one that seems to be a little less picked up on in the discussions I've read, is the role of the African president Kobe in relation to Superman's later role as hero. Amidst a very dangerous political environment, Kobe seems to be clearly wearing the white hat, finding enlightened compromise between cultural value/pride and cultural factionism, and assumedly, working to create a better society via democratic structures (we can assume he is elected president). Of course, I would assume that Clark would learn a few lessons about patience, compassion and wisdom from Kobe, that he would be "an inspiration."__________And on that note, I can't help remembering a BIRTHRIGHT interview where Waid talked about how he now wanted to write characters "who give voice to their anger at the world and who act to change the landscape," because the audience today feels that "the moral visionaries and inspirational figures of history--from Bobby Kennedy to Martin Luther King to Gandhi--got the same reward for their efforts: a bullet in the head." (!)__________In other words, I think there's a good chance that Kobe may not make it through the next issue, despite what we've seen in the previews in WIZARD. Maybe he'll have a more specific influence on Clark's worldview by that time, and maybe, if he passes, he'll give Clark the deathbed speech that Jonathan may not be able to provide. Purely speculation at this point, (considering my first take on Red Son, best take this in stride), but I think perhaps Kobe will have a more defined thematic role to play. Maybe.__________As for the book's entertainment value, as Bug mentioned, the prologue was top notch, but the meat of the story was a little dry of magic for my tastes, reminding me of a more social message-tinged outing of THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN. ("Steve uses his bionics to save an African president - who teaches him that it takes more than bionics to lift the hopes of a people. Sunday, 8:00, ABC.") As an old school comics guy, I love the message, really, but I also love the fantastic. This one didn't have a whole lot of fantastic, and I could only get so excited. On the other hand, I think there's a good chance the we will see some in issues to come. Here's hoping.

  • July 10, 2003, 8:59 p.m. CST

    Nice one, Buzz!

    by Elliot_Kane

    Hilarious stuff as usual. *** And for anyone who has never read it, Enemy Ace: War In Heaven is indeed a darn fine read.

  • July 10, 2003, 9:02 p.m. CST

    Generally good reviews, guys...

    by Elliot_Kane

    I just liked Buzz's best :)

  • July 10, 2003, 9:09 p.m. CST

    Reviews

    by sexyfanboy

    I liked Enemy Ace: War in Heaven, but I thought that the change in artist midway through the story takes away from the feel of the book. I wish Ennis would tackle more subject matter like this instead of collecting his monthly paycheck for that wreck of a series known as The Punisher.

  • July 10, 2003, 11:06 p.m. CST

    FKAJL

    by Scribe34

    I remember buying this book when it first came out, wanting to look at it for no other reason than the fact that I had no idea who half these people were. I hadn't collected comics since the first issue of the Perez & Wolfman Titans and this got me right back in. Anyone who did not love the Joker's appearance in their second annual is just as insane insane. Joker being actually relieved when Batman turns up and our dark knight hitting the accelerator and LEAVES because he just wasn't in the mood to deal with his team mates and the Joker, still leaves me giggling my ass off. I need to go dig those comics out now. And I haven't read the damn mini-series yet because its sold out in a day at my local comic book store and I have til next week to get it! ARGGGGGGHHH... I'm not sure about all the others but my favourite choice for Booster Gold would be Ryan Reynolds from Van Wilder. Dean Cain as Captain Marvel because he actually looks like the guy. Briget Fonda as Ice. Luke Wilson is okay for Blue Beetle, but I kinda of think Ben Stiller would actually rock. Guy Gardener....god my feminist side outta hate this guy but he's so fucking cool that I have no idea who could play him. For some reason I keep thinking Stephen Zahn. Batman, get someone really known for being an utter hard ass. I heard the JLI once described as throwing in Dan Ackroyd, Steve Martin, Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy (when they were all funny), and just for the hell of it, Clint Eastwood. That's the kind of hardnose I mean. Going off to pout now and eat chocolate, until said comic shows up at my doorstep

  • July 10, 2003, 11:37 p.m. CST

    M'Kay. BIRTHRIGHT, The Trouble with TROUBLE, And The Comedian's-

    by thecomedian

    'Kay, haven't talked back in ages so hopefully this long-@$$ post will make up for the time. First BIRTHRIGHT- I don't know VI, I think you're reading waaaay too much into the Africa thing. Keep in mind this series is gonna last a whole year so Clark could be in a completely different situation two issues from now. I liked that the Africa stuff was grounded and not over-the-top spectacular as far as Clark's powers went. Remember, If they've got him flying and lifting yachts over his head before he even puts the costume on then there less of a payoff and everybody in that village will know he's Superman. The Krypton stuff was fantastic. I hated when Loeb brought back that crappy Pre-Crisis Flash Gordon Krypton and stepped all over Bryne's. Leinil's Krypton designs and use of the "S" as Jor-El's family crest(lifted from the Donner film but still pretty cool)coupled with Waid bringing back Jor-El and Lara's humanity(launching an actual child into space and not an embrio)was far more iconic that Bryne's cold scientist's Utopia bit. The Super-Laptop seems kinda goofy to me though. Still, it's been 17 years since Man of Steel. I can live with the change. The only thing that bothers me about this series (and it's hinted in some of Leinil's art on the title page)is that DC is making some concessions to the "Smallville" set. Ma & Pa Kent bare a passing resemblance to John Schneider and Annette O'Toole. And incase you missed him, that shady looking, skinny bald guy with the Oakley shades looks a hell of a lot like "Smallville" Lex. And that WOULD suck if they turned Luthor into the spoiled richboy punk that he is on that show. Waid, if you're reading this, make Luthor as young and skinny as you want but don't fuck with the "cunning sociopath who killed his own parents for the insurance money and ruthlessly climbed his way to the top on the backs of countless innocents" origin. THE UNAUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY OF LEX LUTHOR is one of the best villain stories ever written, a perfect companion piece to The Killing Joke. Don't throw it out the window to copy some TV show that'll be off the air a year from now. Second, TROUBLE- Didn't pick it up. Have no desire to. Why? I think the whole idea of this book pretty much symbolizes everything stupid about Marvel right now. NO, I don't give a crap about it soiling the image of Aunt May or bastardizing the integrity of Spiderman. What's stupid is that they could be telling COMPLETELY ORIGINAL STORIES FEATURING NEW CHARACTERS with the Epic line and instead they're falling back on the same lame ass, "shock value through bastardization" formula that they've been ramming down our throats for the past two years now. The controversy will bring decent 1st issue sales and then no one will give a shit(See Truth, The Rawhide Kid, The Thunderbolts Relaunch, MARVI..well you get my point). This stupid formula is actually lamer that the "variant, foil, hologram, multiple covered" #1 fiascos that almost buried Marvel 10 years ago. They probably sold more comics that way. When I first saw that picture of those two jailbait meat puppets and I didn't know the first thing about the storyline I thought, "cool, they're letting Millar spread his wings and do some cool freaky, sick shit completely uninhibited and outside of the Marvel U." Wouldn't this series have been cooler if it WERE The Adventures of two Jailbait Meat Puppets who cause all sorts of violent mayhem in a small beach town. But, what do we get? "OUUUU, Aunt May got laid once." Wow, that's just too edgy for me. Bottom line is this is Marvel's second attempt in the past 2 years at copying Vertigo and they still don't get the basic hook of it. Originality. Finally, MY JLI CAST- I loved Bug's choices but I'll try to one up him. Since this is all theoretical why not set it circa 1988(the height of the JLI) and use a cast and director from that era. Here goes. Director- SAVAGE STEVE HOLLAND: Yeah, Savage Steve cheesed off into animation, but he did make two essential movies from that era,

  • These days...you couldn't give Superman comic books away. The Comic Book Guy, would probably pay you, to take the leftover dust covered Superman titles off of the shelves for him. Speaking of The Death Of Superman...yep...he's dead alright. ;)

  • July 11, 2003, 12:27 a.m. CST

    Formally Known as the Justice League

    by MisterE

    Damn, this was a great start to a new (mini?) series. Like a few others have posted, the original Giffen/DeMatteis run of JL is some of the best comics out there. After reading this new book, I realized that most of the stuff that I'm reading is a dark, convoluted mess. I need some fun in my books, and "Formally Known as" has delivered in spades.

  • July 11, 2003, 12:28 a.m. CST

    By the way...

    by MisterE

    ...did someone finally fix the posting order bug on this forum?

  • July 11, 2003, 12:29 a.m. CST

    Ambush Bug!

    by MisterE

    By the way, someone mentioned that Giffen needs to get off his ass and put out some Ambush Bug. I don't think that Fleming will be along for the ride, but Ambush Bug is going to show up in Giffen's new Lobo series, I have read.

  • July 11, 2003, 1:39 a.m. CST

    AGE OF BRONZE...

    by Dave_F

    Man, I so wish this series came out a little more regularly, but when you look at the insanely detailed art of Shanower and consider the sheer depth of research obviously required, it's impressive that it comes out as often as it *does.* Anyway, Agamemnon's anguish in the issue is absolutely palpable, and Liz is right, even though this chapter occurs mid-arc, it's pretty open to newbies. Really, the core of the issue is the back-and-forthing between Agamemnon and Menelaus, with a few key scenes featuring fan-favorite schemer, Odysseus, so there's not a lot you need to know. Very approachable, mythology geeks, and I call you coward if you let this book slip past your radar. Give it a sample. ******** Sidebar: One of the coolest things about the issue is actually just a "special effect," but one I found extremely effective. There's an omnipresent "wind" sound effect that runs across the bottom of every single panel that takes place in an outdoor setting. It's a constant reminder of the fierce winds that are keeping the Achaean fleet from setting sail and dramatically underscores the rising tension of everyone as Agamemnon debates sacrificing his own daughter. Fantastic.

  • July 11, 2003, 2:36 a.m. CST

    This is why mainstream comics get blander: "Waid's Birthright i

    by Commando Cody

    Bizzaromark said in his post (quote): "Waid's BIRTHRIGHT is clearly a blank slate that hits the Cosmic Re-Set Button on the modern Superman mythos...So, it's not so much a matter of I didn't know Clark wandered the world, but rather this is what we NOW say Clark Kent did before he became Superman." This sums up why as an adult I find it harder and harder to find any real passion in buying comics anymore, or why I barely can muster a real passion for them anymore -- least in regards to the traditional superheroic, spandex wearing superheroes I grew up on. Maybe it's my age and me just growing old, but there's too much of exactly THIS that goes on in comics these days. Namely, companies hitting this so-called cosmic reset button and just starting things over, wiping out all the continuity you previously invested your collecting passion into. It just gets too boring and bland to have to deal with a company saying "Oops, did we say THAT was the character's history? Oh, no. We meant THIS is now the character's history." I recognize that characters get a bit old or some concepts get stale and they need a jumpstart or infusion of fresh juice, but it USED to be that these so-called revamps were big deals and as such they occurred few and far between. To make them an event. Now, whenever I hit the comic store and scan the racks, it just seems that Marvel and DC do these instant cosmetic makeovers whenever they want to boost sales for a given month. So the revamp reeks FAR more of a cynical spreadsheet accounting decision made by an exec than an actual creative one where there was a REAL need to do the makeover to begin with. To me, a shining example of how you can take years of history and still make a character sing was what Alan Moore did in his 2-part story to end the run of ACTION and SUPERMAN right before Byrne did his revamp in the 80s. In short, that was a talented writer (Moore) taking and USING decades of continuity and turning out a story that STILL made things fresh. A true mark of a writer's talent. Sorry, but just because you started something over doesn't make it better. For example, I don't care how many times you re-do the FF, no writer is EVER going to do Galactus threatening the Earth and the Silver Surfer interfering better than Stan and Jack did it back in FF #48-50.

  • July 11, 2003, 4:37 a.m. CST

    Wait, as much as I said it's hard to get into many of today's co

    by Commando Cody

    ...Boy, I still haven't washed the taste of that summer stinkfest out of my mouth. What a staggering disappointment. How could they go SOOOO wrong and make an utterly BORING movie about a comic character whose one prime motivation and power is to be super strong and then go around destroying shit left and right? Talk about a movie that on paper was tailor made to the whole "let's get out of the heat and into the theater to enjoy a fun, summer popcorn blockbuster" mentality that went totally astray. HULK was so misguided and off course it left the planet! Oh well, I see Universal realizes it's a dud and is ramming out the DVD in record time for October. Least I can skip to the good ILM parts then...

  • July 11, 2003, 7:22 a.m. CST

    I'd like to thank Bill Jemas-

    by RenoNevada2000

    For making me feel like some kind of kiddie-porn pervert for buying TROUBLE #1.

  • July 11, 2003, 7:42 a.m. CST

    Alternate JLI/ Ice casting-

    by RenoNevada2000

    If you're going to set a JLI movie in the `80s, how can you not include "Real Science" hottie Michelle Meyrink as ice. Just dye that Louise Brooks style page boy bob white and slip her into that blue and white jumpsuit.

  • July 11, 2003, 10 a.m. CST

    Martiain Manhunter should be played by...

    by Raja-Man

    Tony Todd. He was "the Candyman" in that same movie, and co-starred in "The Rock", "Final Destination" and had guest spots on Star Trek:TNG and DS9 (as Worf's brother and an old Jake Sisko), and on "Hercules" and "Xena". He has the build and the spooky deep voice that would be perfect. And it would be nice to have an African American in the role. After all, J'onn J'onzz can look like anyone, right?

  • July 11, 2003, 10:08 a.m. CST

    iphegenia

    by qtheeskimo

    The most commonly beleived myth has Agamemnon sacrificing a bear in her stead...pissing off artemis brauronia and implementing the Athenian passage rites for young girls called the Arktoi--they would spend time in the temple of Artemis Brauronia weaving flowered wreathes and engaging in dances where they would pretend to be young she bears. Thought you might like to know. Gr-eek. And I thought that degree in Archaeology would never allow me to do anything notable at all. and i was right...

  • July 11, 2003, 10:19 a.m. CST

    Dennis Leary for Guy Gardner

    by aeschenkarnos

    Who better than the "World's Biggest Asshole"?

  • July 11, 2003, 10:44 a.m. CST

    Sorry Ambush Bug

    by 4641

    To tell the truth I'm new to posting here and didn't think you guys read these. Had I known I would not have been such a jerk. So please accept my apology. I will also have to check out those issues Village Idiot was talking about.

  • July 11, 2003, 11:13 a.m. CST

    Dennis Leary as Guy Gardner . . .

    by hulkdog

    . . . is friggin' perfect. Lucy Lawless as Barda. As far as JLI villians, I could really see Lucy Liu as Queen Bee. CGI for Despero. If they want to reenact the famous Blue Beetle-is-under mind-control issue (with the great Exorcist-style cover), they could go with Queen Latifah for Amanda Waller. Who could play G'Nort?

  • July 11, 2003, 1:36 p.m. CST

    Why don't they just release the Justice League TV pilot from the

    by rev_skarekroe

    What? sk

  • July 11, 2003, 2:59 p.m. CST

    Guhreaht Enomy Asch Rebiew, Chon Keyohte!

    by Buzz Maverik

    Fohchunahtly, I sprech Goymohn!

  • July 11, 2003, 8:11 p.m. CST

    really have no idea.....

    by terrific

    I watched this....let's say MOVIE, once, Jla movie, on TV. a mix of JLI (ice, fire,Guy Gardner) and the original team (yeah, Wally West, the flash, was there too for some reason, he was the "Jar-Jar" of the team)... I still dont know where that thing came from, dont know the year ot the director and the actors, the purpose (because it was kinda cheap, very cheap). Maybe I dreamt it....anybody gotta clue? Oh, yeah, one more thing, strangely, the FX for the green lantern's power were really well done!!! weird!!!!!

  • July 11, 2003, 11:28 p.m. CST

    Birthright was done much better over 10 years ago

    by johnnfla

    When it was called Man Of Steel,Better Writing and Superior(pun intended) Art by John Byrne. Why everyone has to bow to wizard magazine and only review the crap that they are getting payola to promote is beyond me.

  • July 12, 2003, 3:11 a.m. CST

    DETECTIVE shuts Lee and Loeb's BATMAN *down*!

    by Dave_F

    Well, in *quality*, if not in *sales*. I'm surprised more folks didn't post in the TalkBack to champion BATMAN, though, after Village Idiot had the audacity, the outrageousness, the unmitigated presumptuousness to for one minute entertain the idea that DETECTIVE was its superior. Doesn't everybody wuuuuuuv BATMAN?! Me, I'm happy Lee and Loeb are putting the "superhero" back in Batman and sexying the book up with some costumed villains and curvy dames, BUT...I'm not so impressed with the story per se. It plods along mechanically - overly long, peppered with contrived guest stars, and lucky to have glitzy art to buoy the mediocre writing. Not terrible, but not worthy of being the number one selling book in the country, certainly. Now Brubaker's opening arc on DETECTIVE ran a bit long itself, but the moment-to-moment writing had it all over Loeb's stuff, and this second arc is off to a very promising start. What's more, I daresay this Edward Zircher guy on DETECTIVE (never hoid of him until recently) could draw rings around Lee.

  • ...and I wasn't particularly impressed with BIRTHRIGHT. The Kryptonian scenes were very flat for me, suggesting far less of Kryptonian culture in their handful of pages than Byrne managed in his. Also, I have to say that I'm a fan of the "Krypton in decline" concept that Byrne cooked up (with some visual influence from the Donner movie, it seems). One of the immutable elements of Superman myth is that Jor-El's warnings of pending destruction go unheeded by the best and brightest of Krypton, and that to me does not sound like something that would occur in an advanced (sometimes clearly utopian) society. I don't have BIRTHRIGHT in front of me, though

  • July 12, 2003, 10:30 a.m. CST

    waid, lee &loeb

    by johnnfla

    Don't get me wrong, i loved waid on Flash, he made it worth reading again after so many years of screw ups. But with Superman, he just seems to jettison everything that came before , unless editorial is demanding he writes that way. Byrne just made him seem more 'real', and ctually had me caring about the characters. when i bought birthright, i was hoping for a great story based on waids past work, but i just wasnt impressed with how the first issue turned out. and yu's art would look better on something like wolverine or punisher, not Superman.its just way too rough for my tastes. as for batman, i agree that lee's art is awesome, it usually is, but loeb just doesnt do anything for me as writer of these stories.brubaker does pace a story better, but then again, i dont think batman will ever again reach the level that o'neill and adams took him to years ago.damn i feel old.well, i guess i am old.

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