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AICN COMICS! ULTIMATES 2! GREEN LANTERN! SLEEPER! HULK! DRACULA VS. KING ARTHUR! AND MORE!!!

#3 5/25/05 #4

The Pull List
(Click title to go directly to the review)

ULTIMATES #6
GREEN LANTERN #1
ESSENTIAL THOR VOL 2
SLEEPER SEASON TWO #12
THE INCREDIBLE HULK #81
BATMAN: DARK DETECTIVE #2
FANTASTIC FOUR #527
DC SPECIAL: THE RETURN OF DONNA TROY #1
HERO CAMP #1
INDIE JONES presents DRACULA VS. KING ARTHUR #1
CHEAP SHOTS!

THE ULTIMATES 2 # 6

Written by Mark Millar
Art by Bryan Hitch
Published by Marvel
Reviewed by Samuel L. Maverik



In the last couple of weeks, we've learned from both REVENGE O' THE SITH and ULTIMATES # 6 that troubled, violence-prone guys with hot wives should not turn to Sam Jackson for mentoring. In almost identical scenes, the Bald-Bad One gives the royal brush off to Anakin Skywalker (while using the info Skywalker provided); and to Henry Pym (while using the scientific innovations Pym developed).

Funny how both Dr. Pym and Skywalker are later turned by shadowy forces.

Every now and then, comics should challenge long time fans. Our perceptions, preferences and attitudes need tweaking. It keeps us sharp and loose. A good challenge to our sensibilities keeps us from turning into that rigid, dogmatic cliche of a fanboy we all dread.

ULTIMATES # 6 did that for me. I'm not a regular ULTIMATES reader these days. The first two trades worth of ULTIMATES did a great job for me, although my infatuation was starting to fade by the end of the Skrull arc. After the first issue, I couldn't be bothered to follow this series they're calling THE ULTIMATES 2. But I've long planned to pick up ULTIMATES # 6 because I'm a big DEFENDERS fan. THE DEFENDERS was an offbeat, often brilliant Marvel B-title originating in my beloved Bronze Age. How could I pass up the Ultimate Defenders?

Then, I read the issue. A down and out Hank Pym is in talks to join a new team called the Defenders (just as Yellowjacket joined them in the Marvel Universe – and Hawkeye did, too. Could that be him with Pym on the last few pages?). The Ultimate Defenders are portrayed as a band of geeks, namedroppers and wannabees. They don't have a super power among them and really don't have any hero experience. As a group, they're kind of Reality Show Pretty, but that's it.

These are the Ultimate Defenders? Ultimate Power Man, Ultimate Valkyrie, Ultimate Son of Satan, all played for laughs?

I loved it!

It was a great perspective adjustment! Good satire can do that for you! I've always been a fan of the loser-superhero subgenre. THE MYSTERY MEN. Marvel's own, underrated THE CRAPTACULAR B-SIDES. THE GREAT LAKES AVENGERS. I even remember an FF story by Roy Thomas and George Perez in which the Frightful Four took over the Baxter Building and held an open audition for a fourth member. A bunch of losers, including one guy who was afraid of fire, turned up. Trussed up, the Thing and the Torch kept making all kinds of sarcastic remarks, prompting the Sandman and the Trapster to threaten to release them for ass-whoopins. To which our heroes naturally replied, "Okay, go ahead."

Challenges of perspective. No doubt Ultimate Cap will be called a thug because he tells Pym to take a walk or he'll put his head through a wall when he catches Pym talking to the Wasp. The Wasp, as you know, is Pym's ex-wife whom he brually assaulted. Millar doesn't really take us into Cap's head for this one, but I still think Cap did the right thing. You ask me, even Ultimate Jan is a little twisted and creepy. If you've been anywhere, you've been there.

This is Pym's story. As the saddest and most flawed Ultimate, Pym is the most human. This poor slob is so tortured that he can score with a hot, 19 year old shield maiden and still feel bad. While practically none of you would have a problem with that, I'm sure you can see that we're all closer to Henry Pym than most of the Ultimates.

Likewise, the Ultimate Defenders, whose crime fighting debut is a hilarious debacle, bear an uncomfortably close resemblance to comic book fans...except the Defenders are cooler looking. I have to admit, the Fanboy in me kept saying, "But the real Defenders never wanted to be a superhero team! And they were initially a quartet of very powerful Marvel characters, without the useless supporting characters that always fuck up the team books."

Then, I'd start laughing all over again.


GREEN LANTERN #1

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Carlos Pacheco/Jesus Marino (with a little help from Ethan Van Sciver)
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewed by: Prof. Challenger




In Brightest Day…

(Alex Ross Cover)

In Blackest Night…

(Hal Jordan: Spectre)

No Evil Shall Escape My Sight…

(Ron Marz)

Let Those Who Worship Evil's Might…

(Marble's "House of M")

Beware My Power…

(Geoff Johns and Carlos Pacheco)

Green Lantern's Light!

(Hal Jordan Returns!)

GREEN LANTERN #1 featuring the return to prominence of the greatest of Green Lanterns, Hal Jordan, and his famous oath appears nowhere? What the?!?!?

Other than that, this is superhero comics in the Prof's favorite style: old-school. Can't wait to see issue 2 with the snazzy new DC brand logo gracing the left-hand corner. Top-notch GREEN LANTERN logo gracing a cover with an Alex Ross painting of GL bursting out at the reader through the clouds like Christ returning for the final end-times battle. I want it in a landscape format so I can make it my computer wallpaper!

Let's see, how much does the Prof love his Green Lantern? Let me count the ways. Well, first of all, when Prof was a mere child and the gang and I weren't playin' SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN or PLANET OF THE APES, we played superheroes. The other kids always fought over who got to be Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man. I, on the other hand, always (except for a handful of exceptions) chose GREEN LANTERN. Why? Well, in my 8-11 year-old brain, GL was always the choice hero to be because he could do anything so long as he kept that ring charged up. In a one-on-one fight with any of those other heroes, GL was the winner because even in a fight with Superman, my brain reasoned, GL could just conjure up some Green Kryptonite and…goodbye Supey. Not to mention, GL (Hal Jordan) has the absolute, hands-down, best Silver-Age costume design ever. Even the new mild redesign involving the removal of the green shorts retains the elegant simplicity of the costume design. The white gloves are what makes it stand out from all other designs -- black and green with white gloves. The missing white gloves have kept me from fully enjoying John Stewart's costume for quite awhile. Nice to see Johns and Pacheco have fixed that costume design error and replaced Stewart's annoying green armbands with Hal-style white gloves. Anyway…GL is also the only superhero with a prominent position in my living room (much to Mrs. Prof's annoyance, but acceptance). I've got two of my 5 Hal Jordan action figures on the bookshelf: Original Gil Kane costume design standing next to Hal in his current costume design. Behind those are two figures of my all-time favorite superhero, the Golden Age Green Lantern, one in his classic Golden Age costume and one in his Kingdom Come armor, which, dammit, does not have that fancy GL sword because when I bought the thing years ago, I happened to grab the ONE off the shelf that was missing the sword and since I didn't KNOW it was supposed to have a sword I didn't know to go back and ask for it. Many months later when I DID find out it was missing a part, I contacted DC Direct and they told me they don't have replacement parts. Aargh! Anyway, flanking these are my signed and framed Marty Nodell print of GL, my GL hologram card, my glow-in-the-dark GL ring giveaway, and finally my original drawing of Hal/GL by Prof Jr. that was given to me on my birthday 2 years ago.

Did I say I love Green Lantern? Did I mention that I did not particularly enjoy the last 10 years or so of Green Lantern comics? Not that I have animosity against Kyle Rayner as a character, it was the manner in which the writer's got rid of Hal to set up Rayner as the next Green Lantern that I ultimately couldn't stomach and it burned my bridge, so to speak, insofar as my willingness to support the GL comic with my money.

Well, Geoff Johns and Carlos Pacheco have rebuilt that bridge faster than an Amish barn-raisin'.

Like all good first issues, the first four pages gave us the origin of the character. But this time, probably only noticed by us oldsters, Johns has added a few new retroactive tweaks to the classic origin. Get this. Ok, you still have Hal getting picked up by Abin Sur's ring. Only now instead of being grabbed while he's test-piloting, it's while he's been "grounded" for some "stunt he pulled at Edwards" AFB. Don't remember whether this was part of the ancient Giffen EMERALD DAWN mini-series or whether this is something Johns threw in to pick up on later. Doesn't really matter. It's new to me. There's also the use of this new interpretation of the ring as acting, and communicating, almost sentiently. So, this time in the retelling, as Abin Sur is introducing himself at a distance telepathically to Hal, the ring keeps adding info sort of like Kevin Nealon's old Subliminal Man character from SNL. The key thing that stuck out to me though is that the reason Hal is chosen by the ring is not that he is a "man without fear." Now, it is because he a "man that will OVERCOME great fear." That's quite a difference and is consistent with the way Hal and the ring were reintroduced in the GL:REBIRTH miniseries. Also, Abin Sur's dying words are "An Earthman..heh…I never thought I'd LIVE to see the d--" Now, I'm not sure what exactly that means since TALES OF THE GL CORPS introduced a GL from Earth back in the wild west days of the 19th century and Alan Scott had been around since the 40s with a GL ring that was at least peripherally connected to the GL Corps according to some old GL comic. But I trust that if Abin Sur's last words are really important, Johns will pick up on it in a later issue.

This new first issue presents Hal Jordan as he should be. He's self-assured. He's a take-charge guy. He's kind of cocky, but name me a hot-shot fighter pilot who's not. I don't know if the intention is to keep the setting here, but this issue spends a lot of time with Hal at Edwards AFB. It also shows him setting up a new apartment in the newly rebuilding Coast City. Which was nice to see and is a unique set-up for a hero: being first-resident of an all-new city. Noticed one panel with a shark fin off the coast of the city. One of Green Lantern's old villains was The Shark. Foreshadowing? I hope so. I'd love to see what the team of Johns and Pacheco could do with that character.

There's a great set-up for this first story-arc involving some unknown malevolent alien entity that's killing people. Presumably this is the alien from the abandoned "yellow" alien space ship that's in orbit around Earth that Hal and John Stewart investigate in this issue. This sequence introduces the cool new concept that, even though the Parallax-entity serves as an impurity in the power ring that makes it ineffective against yellow, the limitation can be overcome by the ring-wearer allowing himself to "feel fear." I like that. There's also some shadowy bad guy heading towards Edwards that has robot sort of eyes and talks with a stutter. Uh-oh, Tin from the Metal Men's gone evil! Run away! Run away!

Here's the best thing of all about this comic. It takes a long-established character and sets him up for the future with a new purpose and brings in some new supporting characters like Hal's brother Jim. But, here's what I dug majorly. You know how there are just a handful of "love interest" characters who make an impression immediately? Probably the most famous is Mary Jane Watson's "Face it Tiger, you hit the jackpot" appearance. I mean, who remembers the introduction of Gwen Stacy? I would say, for me, that the first appearance of Bethany Cabe during the Michelinie/JRJr on IRON MAN was one of these types. Well, the first appearance of blond bombshell, ace fighter-pilot, and most excellent new Hal Jordan love-interest, Jillian "Cowgirl" Pearlman ranks right up there with the best of them. I love Hal checking her blond head out and thinking "Yellow. My ONE weakness." I also love that after he's dramatically saved her butt from a deadly jet crash, he apologizes "Sorry I had to intervene" and Jillian, noticing how he's checking her out, smiles and retorts "Funny. Ya don't LOOK so sorry." She had me and Hal in that first panel. I can't wait to see how this relationship develops. Just please please please no Star Sapphire nonsense involving this girl. Keep her in the MJ/Bethany mold and don't overly mix her up in the superstuff. It helps for such a cosmic-type hero like Green Lantern to have a civilian love-interest, especially one like this who can be an equal or superior to Hal Jordan, test pilot.

I am totally groovin' with this comic. This may already be my favorite current comic series.


ESSENTIAL THOR VOL. 2

Written by Stan Lee
Art by Jack Kirby
Published by Marvel
Reviewed by
Buzz Maverik Vol. 2



I hate Thor.

All comic book fans have big time characters they hate. I'm not talking about hating the Vision or Orion, or some character like that. I'm talking about hating a mainstream Marvel or DC superhero who has been able to sustain a solo title since his or her inception.

A lot of people hate SUPERMAN. Or THE X-MEN. For me, it's THE MIGHTY THOR.

Why am I telling you this instead of talking about the book? Because critics who don't tell you about their prejudices and perspectives aren't giving you a clear picture of why they like or dislike something. I can talk about me and you can decide if we're alike enough for you to agree with my review or if we're too different to share the same opinion.

Thor is one of those Marvel characters that I look at and go, "Huh?" Why Thor? If we're going to go mythological, the Greek and Roman gods are easier to relate to and were created by cultures that had greater influences than the Norse, who were primarily responsible for prolonging the Dark Ages until the Celts and Gaels handed them their asses in Robert E. Howard's swell story THE GRAY GOD PASSES. The cultural differences with the Norsemen are just too great. Apollo or Hercules would make sense. But Thor?

In the early 60s, when the Marvel Universe was starting up and taking off, I suspect they needed a solo strong guy. THE INCREDIBLE HULK was such an original, outrageous take that even today you still have fans and pros who don't understand that the Hulk was and is in fact a superhero...just the most bizarre, antiestablishment superhero ever created. Power-wise, Thor sort of falls more in line with such Philip Wylie-inspired characters as Superman and Captain Marvel. He's strong, invulnerable, can fly, has that magic-but-nonlethal-hammer that can fire lightning bolts and transport you to Asgard, etc.

But he's a Norse god...who is sometimes trapped in the body of a handicapped doctor. Dr. Don Blake found a magic stick that turns him into Thor. Yet, Dr. Don Blake is Thor. So what was it: the magic stick or Don Blake. If anyone got the stick, would they have become Thor? Don't even mention Beta Ray Bill to me! For some reason, Thor performs super heroics on Earth and (more understandably) godly heroics when he's in Asgard. Apparently, Odin the head god and Thor's father, exiled Thor for his arrogance. We never see Thor behave arrogantly or brutally. He's always perfectly heroic and decent, except he talks in bad pseudo-Shakesperian English like all good Vikings didn't.

In fact, Thor is nothing like a Viking or like his mythological incarnation which was always described as red haired and bearded. Thor doesn't raid British seaports and ravage their wenches. Okay. The people in Nordic countries have changed over the centuries. Maybe Marvel's Thor reflects that. Similarly, maybe Kirby's version of Asgard, set in outer space but with blue skies, gleaming spires and a beautiful mix of the archaic and futuristic, may reflect the progress of the gods. In his book COMMUNION, alien probee Whitley Strieber wonders if the fairy folk of legend had their own technological revolution. UFO researcher Jacques Vallee has posed similar questions. It appears that the Norse gods have also made great scientific strides.

Why am I recommending this volume? Because I recommend all the Marvel Essentials. This is where you learn about the lost continuity. More importantly, I'm recommending it because of Jack Kirby. THE MIGHTY THOR was a title that really let the King go nuts with favorite sensibilities of lost civilizations, space gods, intricate architecture and weaponry, the melding of science fiction and fantasy, the melding of pseudo-science and mythology. The Thor stories, especially set in Asgard (and the back up TALES O' ASGARD feature), really let the King get cosmic.

Jack Kirby's art is perhaps the most amazing that 20th Century comics produced. It was neither cartoony or realistic. His sense of anatomy was certainly fanciful, to say the least, but there was powerful detail and conviction in the work. Looking at the Kirby pages here, you believe them because Jack believed them!

Out of all the Marvel Essentials, this is the one where I most miss the color. Jack penciled his big bold lines with the intention of color. If you look at such Essential Volumes as TOMB O' DRACULA, DAREDEVIL, IRON MAN, HOWARD THE DUCK and DR. STRANGE, you can see that Gene Colan's work is even more enjoyable without someone else's color. But with Kirby, it's like he's demanding color.

Stan Lee is my idol. I hate the school that gives Jack all the credit for the Marvel icons. Stan was in on most of them, but...with THE MIGHTY THOR, I have to wonder. All of those old time comic pros always claimed credit for everything, even things they clearly had nothing to do with. Stan did it. Jack did it. Everyone else. I know that Stan didn't write the first THOR stories. His brother, Larry Lieber, was the author. THE MIGHTY THOR, in execution, is so much more like the work of Jack Kirby than that of Stan Lee, that at least in this case, it would seem like Jack deserved the bulk of the credit.

I hate Thor. But I like Jack Kirby's THOR. I also like Walter Simonson's THOR, by the way. Two good versions of THOR. That means there's one person in the world now who can produce a THOR comic that I'll enjoy, because the King is gone.


SLEEPER SEASON TWO #12

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Publisher: Wildstorm/DC Comics
Reviewer: Ambush Bug



I got into this story late into the first series of SLEEPER. After taking the advice from fellow @$$holes Dave F. (AKA The Reviewer Formerly Known as Cormorant) and Jon Quixote (currently on hiatus writing his manifesto in a shack somewhere near the Weapon X Complex in the Great White North), I bought the first issue and was immediately hooked on it’s hard-edged depictions of espionage, noir, and seamless mixture into the stew that is super heroism. Noir stories are so often about the black and white; the nature of man and all of the temptations and conflictions that entice him to do either good or bad deeds. Throughout the last 24 issues of the last two “seasons” of this series, Double Agent Holden Carver has walked the fine line between the dark and the light.

In super hero books, the line between the good guys and the bad is bold, in four colors, and easy to distinguish. Pick up most mainstream comics and you can tell from first glance who’s on the side of the angels and who’s out to challenge that hero. Writer Ed Brubaker has chosen to blur these lines and he’s done it so well in SLEEPER that by the end of this series, I wasn’t sure which side to root for.

Many have said that this series lost its punch — that the pizzazz and excitement from the first series faded as Holden’s alliances switched and flip flopped between the government Nick Fury-type Lynch and Lynch’s creation turned international terrorist Tao. Brubaker cleverly avoided clichés and allowed the reader to discover that Lynch was a manipulative bastard even though he worked for an agency Holden initially believed in. Bru also made it a point to show us a sympathetic side to Tao in his origin story where he turned out to be a test subject who turned out to be too smart for his own good. By making the “villain” sympathetic and the hero’s mentor unsympathetic, Bru kept me questioning which side I wanted Holden to choose. In the end, Bru made it pretty clear that the both paths were pretty fucked up.

SEASON TWO of SLEEPER is basically Holden’s long fight to get out of this predicament alive. Choosing sides is not an option any more because he’s deceived so many people and so many have deceived him that trust is not a factor any more. Holden Carver is desperate, flailing around, trying to find something and someone to hold onto as his life quickly unravels. Despite it all, though, Holden has a plan and a glimmer of hope that if everything works out, he can live that life he dreamed of, away from all of this double-agentry, super powers, and lies. Maybe on a beach somewhere, sipping on a tropical beverage, and cuddling up close with someone who understands him. It is this hope that riveted me to this story and had me cheering for Holden to make it out of this one alive, even though I knew that Holden had dug himself into a hole so deep that this hope was highly unlikely to become a reality.

I don’t mean to short change the artist here. Sean Phillips is damn good and I don’t know of any other artist capable of matching the mood and emotion in Bru’s words and scenes. His ability to depict action and character with the least amount of lines and details is inspiring. I’ve gone on about the writing, but I am sure that if the story were in the hands of a different artist, it wouldn’t have been so powerful.

Writer Bru eloquently pulls at the yarn that holds Holden’s life together. It’s because of his skill at illustrating both the utter desperation and inspiring hope that permeates this character that I was biting my nails trying to find out how this was all going to end, and then feeling sad because the series was actually coming to a conclusion in this issue. I’m not spoiling who gets out alive and who doesn’t. Let’s just say that it is a powerful read and issue twelve is a perfect end to the second season. If Bru decides to never visit this universe of intrigue, deception, and, yes, hope again, he can be content in that he has written one hell of a tragic, yet inspiring, exciting, yet introspective story in SLEEPER SEASONS ONE and TWO.


INCREDIBLE HULK #81

Writer: Peter David
Penciller: Lee Weeks
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee



In the midst of all these big summer “events” going on in comics these days, I can’t help but feel a lot of people are glazing over something that in and of itself should be an event: the return of Peter David to the pages of the HULK. Really, I don’t think there’s anyone out there in comics who can write the HULK besides Mr. PAD and I think I prefer it that way. This arc has been nothing if but an exercise of how you do a HULK comic right, of how you mix the personalities of Banner conflicting with the Hulk, and how you hold the reader in suspense before unleashing the Hulk and his patented Hulk-style smashing. But let’s turn this back into a review instead of fanboy-like rambling.

First off, I have to say just how stunning I find the cover of this book. The idea may be a little cheesy to some, but I find it as a great homage that looks absolutely beautiful. I very much enjoyed the “apologies to Frazetta” comment made on the bottom-right corner, but I don’t see what they’re apologizing for, the detail and coloring are stunning and, guess what folks? Yes, the cover actually reflects some events within the book! Speaking of within, the art inside is just as capable as the cover is. Everything looks nice and detailed, the panel to panel pacing is fantastic, and I have to say Weeks’ facial expressions are some of the best I’ve seen, at least in recent memory. I really, really look forward to more of his work on this book as I’ve always thought that it just seemed this was a natural for him.

As far as storytelling goes I really did enjoy the twists and turns this issue took, as well as the arc as a whole. I loved the slow build that David did from issue to issue, starting us off at a total “What the hell is going on?” beginning and slowly feeding us bits and jumbled pieces of a puzzle, as well as further insight into Bruce Banners’ very damaged and troubled psyche. Throughout the arc we’ve been given all sorts of flashbacks in Banners’ life, and also images of characters from the past interacting with the Hulk now. What David managed to do here was play a very good game of sleight of hand as he definitely got us, well, me at least, to the point where you were questioning everything going on until we get hit with the reveals of this issue.

As I said earlier, his usage of Hulk’s smashing skills is about perfect. One thing that was made abundantly clear to me during Bruce Jones’ run on this book is that this is one title you can’t take what I like to call the “Bendis Daredevil” approach. In this book, your title character needs to be seen, and needs to take up a little bit more time than his secret identity/alter ego/whatever. But what David has learned over the years is that just because the Hulk needs to be seen, doesn’t mean he needs to be seen just doing his wanton destruction gimmick. Here we see more of the smart Hulk that I prefer. He’s not the super-genius as he was once written, but he’s smart enough to fit the purpose of the story, and when the time calls to start putting down the hurt, he does it with a great mix of savagery and style.

I want more of this. That’s really all I want to end this with. After dropping this title more than a year ago I knew it would take something major to bring me back… and this is it. We’re seeing a perfect combination of art and writing that has made this one of the best books on the market again. I know that PAD has said that he doesn’t know how long he’ll be on this book again. If I had it my way, though, he’d be doing it for another 100+ with Weeks bringing his pencils with him the whole way.


BATMAN : DARK DETECTIVE # 2

Written by Steve Engelhart
Art by Marshall Rogers & Terry Austin
Published by DC
Reviewed by Tar D. Maverik



The Scarecrow is in the wrong area of crime.

Think about it. He's developed this drug, called fearomone gas, that makes the experiencer have powerful hallucinations of things they fear or of their worst fears coming true.

What does the Scarecrow always do with his creation? Since he's a BATMAN villain, he uses it to try to destroy Batman, as in BATMAN: DARK DETECTIVE # 2.

What a dumbshit. What a waste of a cool designer drug. The Scarecrow ought to know that he's never going to destroy Batman. He should take his invention and start marketing it at raves and in dorms and to old hippies.

"But, Buzz," you say, "who'd willingly take a drug that makes them experience their worst fear?"

I say, how do we know that Fearomone Gas always makes you experience your worst fear? Has it ever been given to a willing test subject, under laboratory conditions? Or at least in a cool party atmosphere?

Hell no!

Maybe if someone took a dose of Fearomone in a friendly, peaceful environment things would be different. You know, where they could listen to some Grateful Dead, drink some wine or some Mexican beer; look at some comics with some fine art, like that of Marshall Rogers; if they had someone to hug, especially someone who looks like Batman's chick Silver St. Cloud. They might see something other than their worst fears.

The Scarecrow would have to change the name. He could call it Tripomone Gas or Partyomone Gas.

He'd probably still be hassled by the Batman. But he'd be making a lot more money. I'm sure that the DC Universe is full of people who would be willing test subjects. Speedy, Green Arrow's sidekick, comes to mind. If necessary, Dr. Crane might have to recruit from the Marvel Universe, but I'm sure that Harry Osborne and Rick Jones would sign up.

The only drawback would be that the Joker would want to test his Joker gas. You don't want to mess with that stuff. Bad vibes.


FANTASTIC FOUR #527

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Pencils: Mike McKone
Inks: Andy Lanning
Publisher: Marvel
Reviewer: Ambush Bug



Writer JMS and I have had a turbulent relationship. Like a yo-yo dangling from his finger, JMS has thrown me away and reeled me back in too many times for me to count. He really won me over with MIDNIGHT NATION (which is still his finest work to date), yet disappointed me with his inconsistent and uneven RISING STARS. I absolutely love his slow boil of a super hero epic in SUPREME POWER, but was so frustrated with his lazy and unfocused AMAZING SPIDER-MAN run that I have stopped reading the title for the first time since I started reading comics. It seems that JMS works best with high concepts – ideas that sound great when you first hear it, kind of like movie pitches to big time film execs – but sometimes a good idea and a great product are as different as night and day. Take for example, JMS’ heady concept in his ASM run that there was more to Peter Parker’s transformation from man to Spider-Man than just the radioactive aspects of the spider that bit him. JMS asked the question, was it the radiation itself that gave Peter his powers, or did the fact that the radiation’s host was a spider have something to do with it? This is an interesting question, but after reading the meandering cosmic storyline of spider totems and spider-men from the past, the notion that this was a good idea faded fast. It was a high concept, sure, but it was a bad one.

But this isn’t an AMAZING SPIDER-MAN review, it’s an FF review. Because I have been pleasantly surprised by some of JMS’ work in the past, I picked up FANTASTIC FOUR #527 to see what it had to offer. And once again, I am confronted with a pickle of a dilemma because dammit if I’m not intrigued by this new challenge and high concept to erupt from JMS’ fevered imagination that will surely cause the FF problems for months to come.

Government researchers have discovered that, although there have been many cosmic storms that have occurred in the past, a cosmic storm with the exact same attributes that lead to the FF’s creation is set to occur, not once, but twice over the next two years. The readings match up perfectly. SHEILD and a government researcher that looks a hell of a lot like Paul Giamatti from SIDEWAYS approach Reed Richards to oversee a project to send up a rocket filled with a troop of soldiers – creating a Fantastic Forty, if you will.

Now, this is an interesting concept and one that inspires hope that JMS is in for the long haul with this title as he maps out a story that looks to be taking place over the span of the next year or so. It’s an imaginative enough concept to inspire many stories with the potential to exploit the best and worst aspects of each of the members of the Fantastic Four. Now, when I read this concept, I immediately had the reaction, “There’s no way Reed would agree to do this. He’s basically cursing an entire squadron to the same fate his family has had to endure since that perilous flight all those years ago.” But the Paul Giamatti look-alike frames the discovery with the notion that the FF have done an awful lot of good with their super powers. Imagine the amount of good a well trained and disciplined troop of forty super powered soldiers could do. Of course nothing good is going to come of this, but the idea that Reed and Co. have the responsibility of training, mentoring, and most likely beating the snot out of forty or so people with powers derived from the same source as their own is an intriguing one and one that has me thinking that this is a story I’m willing to follow for a while.

But the FF has always been about family and character. Does JMS get this right? Well, yes and no. One of the things I admire Mark Waid for being able to do is that he actually got Reed right and made him an interesting and unique character. For years, Reed was the one character that writers consistently got wrong. It’s tough to write a smart character because (let’s face it) writing comics ain’t rocket science. You don’t have to be a genius to write this stuff. It helps, but you don’t have to be one. So of course, writing about the smartest man in the Marvel Universe would be a tough thing to do. Reed is often characterized as a bumbling Ward Cleaver/Father Knows Best-type. Waid stayed away from this image, making Reed an extremely complex and conflicted man – tortured with the sharpest intellect of the universe and the guilt tied to that one fateful rocket ship ride that changed the lives of his family forever. JMS continues to heap the guilt onto Reed in the first few pages of this book as he watches a tiny culture evolve from primordial goo and eventuality destroy itself. Reed says this is inevitable with every culture. JMS’ Reed is logical and scientific about it all, but Waid always grounded Reed with a strong familial anchor that I found to be lacking in this first issue. Sure, Sue and Reed share a few quiet and tender moments together, but Reed was cold and distracted throughout the entire issue. These moments lacked the heart that an FF comic needs. Waid nailed it. JMS is going to have to work a little harder to get there though.

One thing JMS seems to be having fun with is a side story where the Thing finds out that he is filthy rich. There’s an especially funny scene involving a copy machine, Bill Gates, and a Grand Canyon reference that had me rolling. This scene and Ben’s subplot made this book, filled with somber and ominous moments with Reed, a more even read. I’m looking forward to seeing Ben let loose now that he’s found out that he’s a ga-billionaire.

Art-wise, this book is rock solid. Mike McKone can sometimes be a bit stiff with his figures, but his mastery of strong lines and great facial expressions is evident throughout this entire book. The only thing that bothered me was the fact that he draws the Thing too short. In some panels, he’s damn near midget-like. Despite this one beef of perspective, McKone puts together some truly cosmic scenes with the alien landscape at the beginning of this book. He seems to have a firm grasp on the fantastical — a talent that I’m sure will prove to be useful in this book.

You had me at hello, JMS. Make me feel like you did with SUPREME POWER and MIDNIGHT NATION and let’s not relive the hurtful things you did to me with AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. FF #527 is a good start. Let’s hope this will be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Please be gentle, though, because I’ve been hurt before.


DC SPECIAL: THE RETURN OF DONNA TROY #1 (of 4)

Writer: Phil Jimenez
Artists: Jose Garcia-Lopez/George Perez
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewed by: Prof. Challenger



Wow, dude. Flashback. Those wacky DC folk introduce their nifty new logo on a cover that's a throwback to an earlier time with that "Collector's Item" starburst. Even the title of DC SPECIAL gives it a retro feel. I still remember when comic stands were filled to the brim with all these generic titles like DC SUPERSTARS, DC COMICS PRESENTS, DC SHOWCASE, MARBLE PREMIERE, MARBLE SPOTLIGHT, MARBLE TALES, etc. etc. etc. Well, this DC SPECIAL features the return of Donna Troy! How do I know that? It says so on the cover. But, but, but what if I'm one of those seemingly nonexistent "new" readers? Why would I care about that title? I'd be asking myself who Donna Troy is and why should I care. Hence the DC SPECIAL title I think. That way, even the ignorant among us will realize that this comic is…special. So, in what ways is this comic "special" enough to earn such a prestigious title?

The first way this comic is special is because the cover is cool. Presumed dead Donna Troy is flying out towards the reader in all her cosmic black bodysuit star-background glory. Judging by the sig, this cover was drawn by PJz and FoPz. I'm guessing that's Tamaranian for Phil Jimenez and George Perez. At least that's what it looks like to me.

Second way this comic is special is the interior art by Jose Garcia-Lopez and George Perez. Both of these guys are gods of comic book art and to see them teamed together in a grand story involving the Titans of myth is glorious to behold.

Third way this comic is special is simply the fact that it is accomplishing for Wonder Girl/Troia what the recent GL: REBIRTH mini-series did. It is taking a silver-age fan favorite and thrusting them to the forefront of modern DC continuity with respect and marketing support. That's nice to see.

Now, why might this comic not be so special? Well, I thought it a tad overwritten. Simply too much story setup by drawn-out internal narration and/or exposition about Donna's past and setting up who each character is. I guess it's something of a necessary evil, but after reading this, I can understand the rationale for why those old JSA and JLA comics would give you a roll-call on the first page or why those old Marble Comics included those classic origin blurbs across the top of the splash pages. They gave the reader the basic set-up for who the characters were and then just let the readers jump right into the story. This comic has lots of pretty pictures, but the set-up for Donna's return has not reached out and grabbed this reader like it needed to. In fact, I was never quite sure what the Titans' intentions were with this planet Minosyss or exactly how Donna's memories were returning. It was so wordy I found myself confused at times. I especially can't figure out what that sphere was that appeared on the last page talking like it thought it was Donna. I'm all for mysteries, but the set-up needs to flow a bit more logically to set up the mystery. Instead, I felt like I was presented with dues ex machinas and out-of-the-blue mysteries.

The comic looks so good that it's definitely worth getting just for the art. The Lopez/Perez interpretation of the look of the Titans of Myth was really nice. Much more impressive than their first appearance in the NEW TEEN TITANS when Perez made Chronus look like Robert Loggia with mutton chops. Heh. However, I cannot imagine that a "new" reader with no preexisting emotional connection to Donna Troy would be hooked by this story enough to commit to the four issues that make up this story. Instead, I can see the mentality of that same reader, who's interested in all this INFINITE CRISIS build-up, after finishing reading this issue and just deciding that he'll wait for the trade…if the buzz builds on the book.

So, I guess the Prof would give this issue a mixed review. Art = A+ and Writing = C+.


HERO CAMP # 1

Written by Greg Thompson
Art by Robbi Rodriguez
Published by Image
Buzz Maverik

, Camper of The Day

Camp @$$hole? It's only the best darn camp in the free world!

Am I associated with Camp @$$hole? I should say so! I'm Buzz Maverik, head counselor. At Camp @$$hole, we've been teaching kids how to be comic book critics since the Golden Age! Why, here's a final critique turned out by Ernest Cohen, age 16, in 1939:

Sue me, but the latest issue of Timely Comics' LARRY LIBERTY was just more blah, blah, blah and zzzz...zzzz...zzz. Larry wasn't even in the comic for the first half panel and then, writer Boris Bendis wasted two whole panels by having Larry talk to his archenemy Axl Axis before beating his brains out...

Sadly, the budding young critic was blown to pieces on Iwo Jima but a few years later. We persisted through the decades though! Another example of the fine criticism by our campers was turned out in 1952 by counselor-in-training Stevie McGeek:

...and in reading EC's GUNS & DOLLS # 35, I had a strong urge to machine gun the corner candy store, steal from the church collection plate before blowing up the church, smoke some opium-reefer, and have sexual intercourse with a leggy blonde gun moll. Just like reading OPOSSUM MAN & OPIE made me want to be a homosexual! My God! Dr. Wertham and Senator Kefeauver were right!

Stevie would have been a great comic book critic if he hadn't turned the whole staff into HUAC and named names! You would have certainly heard of Camp @$$hole's 1960s star critic Johnny Starchilde if he hadn't blown his mind on acid and forced a Hell's Angel to stab him at Altamont. At the Fireside Bitch, Johnny read this about DC'S GREEN ESTABLISHMENT/GREEN HIPPIE:

...social relevance at its' finest! You will cheer when Green Hippie, aka Olivier Queer, not only joins the Black Panthers but becomes their leader. The character Dewey Dewton, clearly modeled on Panther Huey Newton, officially changes the name of the group to the Green Panthers and decides that blacks, whites and greens should all be friends. A major bummer is brought on at the end when the Man, Green Establishment, uses his power ring to make shields and truncheons and bust everyone's head...

Me? I was a camper myself during the Bronze Age. You can see the Darkseid bong, the Mother (stash) Box and the Silver Surfer pipe I made in arts 'n' crafts. I was a counselor in training in the '80s and lead such seminars as "Which Love Interest Should Be Addicted to Heroin?" and circulated petitions asking the Big Two to let us vote to kill all of their characters. In the '90s, I taught poly bagging classes and we got into all kinds of variant camps. Earlier in this decade, we decompressed the camp experience, letting it stretch over a full year, but the smarter campers grew bored.

Now that I'm head counselor, I'm proud to present to you a review of HERO CAMP # 1 by the boys in Cabin Rant:

Sure, it's a gimmick series but it's a really good one. HERO CAMP, a summer camp where superheroes send their superkids. The interesting wrinkle devised by writer Greg Thompson and artist Robbi Rodriguez is that our hero, Eric, may not have superpowers at all, even though his parents looks sort of like Supreme and the Scarlet Witch, and he's got a Krypto-like pooch who makes an appearance. Poor Eric is still subjected to the superhero like activities, such as flying class, etc. Mr. Rodriguez' art seems to be pleasantly influenced by the work of Mike Allred, without going overboard in that direction. Aside from Eric, the most distinguished characters are the villains: the disfigured, but hot Bloody Mary, whose power seems to consist of holding Eric's face to her bosom (he seems to want to be rescued anyway) and her two goons, Hook and Goat. The back-up story, featuring Hero Camp's Hulk/Thing/Badrock character Block is even better. Some dude's should not read philosophy. When we were done, we wanted to see more of HERO CAMP. So will you.


DRACULA VS. KING ARTHUR #1 (of 4)

Adam & Christian Beranek: Writers
Chris Moreno: Artist
Silent Devil: Publisher
Vroom Socko: The Devil’s Concubine



This is one of those books that takes any and all of your expectations and twists them right around. I know that when I first heard about this book, I didn’t think much of the idea. Sounds a little too much like some sort of Freddy vs. Jason piece of shit. But then, I managed to get a copy. All it took was the five-page introduction to have me wondering why nobody thought to bring these two classic characters together before.

Vlad Dracul is facing the dying days of his kingdom, and his own death at the hands of invading Turks. At the last possible moment, he is brought into the presence of Satan himself. Lucifer, it seems has a most intriguing offer. There is a realm of virtue he wishes to see destroyed, one that would make for a splendid new kingdom for The Impaler. And so, Vlad is transformed and then sent back in time, eager to conquer a kingdom recently vacated by a king in search of the Holy Grail.

What makes this story work, however, is not the plot as much as the characterization. The Beraneks have done their homework on both these legends. These two are mirrored masterfully. The rest of the characters aren’t too shabby either, although I’d have preferred Merlin to be less Stephen Dillane and more Nicol Williamson. But that’s just me.

As for Chris Moreno, this guy must be having a blast. From the golden splendor of Camelot to the pits of Hell itself, Moreno’s covering all the bases with style and flourish. I especially love his hellhounds, which resemble a mad cross between rottweilers and giant frogs. Then there’s his closing scene, where Dracula confronts… well, that would be telling.

The best part, though, is that this book features 38 pages of story for the usual price of three bucks. Those 38 pages even manage to feel like sixty, what with all the content crammed into this thing. I haven’t had this much fun reading a comic in a good long while. Sure, it may sound like a silly premise, but I guarantee this’ll be a book to remember. Fun, yes. Creepy and cool, yes. Silly? Not on your damn life.

Remember if you have an Indie book you’d like one of the @$$holes to take a look at, click on your favorite reviewer’s link and drop us an email.


DAY OF VENGEANCE #2

I’m still digging this miniseries in that it is bringing some pretty obscure characters to the forefront and avoiding the inclusion of such yawn-inspiring go-to mystical characters as Dr. Fate, Dr. Occult, and the Phantom Stranger. These lesser known mystical heroes are flawed enough to make their involvement in this cosmic debacle interesting. The Spectre and Eclipso have set out to destroy all of the magic in the DCU and only Blue Devil, Detective Chimp, the Enchantress, and Ragman (yes Ragman) can stop him. My one beef in this issue is that two new characters are re-introduced in this issue without one mention of them in the first issue and writer Bill Willingham doesn’t even give us their names in this second issue. Now, I don’t have my WHO’S WHO IN THE DCU handy, but I believe these guys are Nightmaster and Nightshade, but since their names aren’t even mentioned in this issue or the previous one, I can’t be sure. If a dude like me who is pretty well informed on the characters in the DCU is asking these questions, I’m fairly sure a new reader would be pretty lost at this point. It’s sloppy storytelling like this that really turns me off of big crossover/event books. - Bug

JLA #114

It sucked. I’m sitting here writing this, and I’m trying to think of something intelligent to say, something critical, yet a bit snarky, but to be honest being concise is really all that this book prompts me to be, and my being concise on the subject equals my saying “It sucked.” Maybe it’s because there’s so many ideas and plot threads being bounced around, maybe it’s because a lot of those fall flat due to the horrible pacing and the so-so dialogue, and maybe it’s because part of this spins out of a cross-company miniseries that felt just as cramped, but all I know is that this arc lost me by part three and by the time it hit part eight my brain was mush. Pity really because I love both the writer and the artist of this book, and have seen such higher efforts by them. But yes, it sucked, and now it’s over. Let’s move on shall we… - Humphrey

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #520

Why is it the best damn Avengers story I've read in over a year isn't in an Avengers book? The fight with the HYDRA doppelgangers has some excellent character beats from Iron Man and Cap that are slicker than slick while rocking old school style. Not to mention the sweet as all hell showdown between Wolverine and Aunt May. You heard me. Hey Marvel! If you're listening, if you hand over some of the "retired" characters from Avengers to JMS for an NEW AVENGERS WEST COAST book, I'd be eternally greatfull. That Straczynski, now HE knows how to write a team book! Oh yeah, and Spidey does have plenty of cool stuff to do in this issue too. Don't want to forget that. - Vroom

FLASH #222

One word can sum up this current “Rogue War” arc: Chaos! Virtually all of Flash’s enemies are running wild in the streets of Central City fighting each other and destroying everything in their wake. In this issue, one powerful foe meets a chilling end while another dives into the fray for the first time. Everything uber-writer Geoff Jones has put into this series is coming to a head with this arc. The action moves as fast as expected in a comic about the Fastest Man Alive. In this issue, Johns gives yet another example of how to write superb and thrilling super hero graphic literature. - Bug

Readers Talkback
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  • June 1, 2005, 2:55 a.m. CST

    Second

    by powerfuljedi

  • June 1, 2005, 3:08 a.m. CST

    So, uh... how was that Batman: Dark Detective book?

    by Robert_G_Durant

    I was kinda hoping that the review would review it.

  • June 1, 2005, 3:20 a.m. CST

    fifth

    by TheJoker

  • June 1, 2005, 4:13 a.m. CST

    Craptacular 2000

    by P0PB0T

    I was intrigued by the Drac v. Arthur idea until my suspension of disbelief had to be popped by the time travelling. Is it really necessary? Why not just tamper with timelines all together, and just get to some badass fightin'. For some reason, the mention of time travel in this context reminds me of bloody tampons. And what a Context it is! You can make fantasy grounded in realism, without cheap, inane bamboozlin. Strikes me similar to the stupid retarded writing Lucas no doubt thought clever for how Anakin turns to the Sith! BAH. Yes, that movie boils down to about how good even Frankenstein v. Robin Hood adapted by first graders would be.

  • June 1, 2005, 6:36 a.m. CST

    10th Anniversary of the Clone Saga!

    by RenoNevada2000

    I've heard rumblings that we'll probably see a ESSENTIAL CLONE SAGA book before the winter and maybe something else that ties in.

  • June 1, 2005, 7:51 a.m. CST

    Schleppy and Batman

    by speed

    just want to know if youse are going to let poor little Schleppy out of his cage to review Batman begins?

  • June 1, 2005, 8:17 a.m. CST

    totally late and unrelated post (but I am bored so fug it):

    by Shigeru

    I literally had a nightmare about that demon baby in Daredevil. The end.

  • June 1, 2005, 9:23 a.m. CST

    Where the hell is Shleppy???

    by jloder24

    A chain-smoking, alcoholic monkey leads a bunch of DC magical b-sides against the Spectre and a female Loki, and Shleppy is nowhere to be seen??? WTF??? "Marble". Funny name for Marvel. Ha. We get it. Enough already.

  • June 1, 2005, 9:25 a.m. CST

    Green Lantern #1

    by bizarromark

    A somewhat underwhelming debut following the crash-bang excitement of the "Rebirth" mini-series. Nice to see Hal phasing back into life as a non-Ultimate Traitor of the GL Corps and Spirit of God's Vengeance. However, it seems a little disjointed to see Hal just sitting around having coffee in the pilot's lounge after going through all of that...but part of that comes from Geoff Johns' desire to get right into the "Top Gun" stuff he's obviously done his homework researching. While Johns risks overdoing the inside-baseball jet pilot stuff, at the same time I really appreciate seeing military-types portrayed as REAL PEOPLE for a change, and not the sinister and/or psychotic caricatures that show up with depressing regularity in comic books. Yeah, Johns hints at (yet another) sinister conspiracy the military is taking part in...but the pilot friends of Hal we've seen so far seem to resemble *actual human beings*. Bottom line: It's great to have Hal Jordan back as Green Lantern. Let's hope the other FOUR human Green Lanterns hanging around Earth find somewhere else to go....since Hal's got sector 2814 MORE than covered on his own.

  • June 1, 2005, 9:31 a.m. CST

    Days of Vengeance #2

    by bizarromark

    After a somewhat promising start, this series falls flat on its face with its second issue. Not only is the overall premise tragically weak (Spectre believing getting rid of "magic" will rid the universe of evil), but we now find that the Spectre comes to this naive conclusion via seduction through the Jean Loring "Hot Punk-Rock Chick Eclipso". So....even though the Spectre is (allegedly) the incarnate Wrath of God (oh...excuse me...it's now the "Wrath of the Universe")....he can't resist Jean Eclipso's feminine wiles! Who knew the Spectre was such a horn-dog?____ Next came a sub-plot with some surviving C-list mystics putting together a "plan" to take down the Spectre (yeah....right) and a clumsily-staged final page leading to.....what? Pretty bland stuff for a series that should be wall-to-wall "Finale of 'Raiders of the Lost Arc'-style fireworks. But...instead...we get low-wattage mystics, Spectre-seduction and.....Detective Chimp(!)? I'm officially bailing on this series.

  • June 1, 2005, 9:51 a.m. CST

    Judd Winnick is a Crappy Hack

    by Squashua

    Judd Winnick and whomever writes Day of Vengeance: You both suck. I picked up Flash #222. There are about 378 different characters and I know who EACH AND EVERY ONE that is central to that story arc are. I could have been a total newbie to the comic, but I could pick it up and read it. I picked up last week's Outsiders, the issue where Indigo ends up being Brainiac 8. Now, I've never, EVER read an issue of Outsiders, and let me tell you, I never will. Or at least till Judd leaves the book. There are at least 16 characters in that book and only TWO of them are named in that issue; "Indigo" (which is not actually her name) and that Metamorpho clone, "Shit" or something. A new reader could NOT in any way have picked up that issue and read it to understand it. Flash #222? There are 18 different situations and each one was explained within the context of that ONE BOOK. Yeah, there was a lot ogiing on, and it would help to have read the preceding issues, but I DID NOT HAVE TO. I didn't have to know who anyone was. Flash #222 was excellent. Outsiders? Crap. I am lucky I know who Starfire is, but her actual presence isn't even KNOWN until halfway into the book when it's a complete surprise that she's even there. I sure can blame a crappy artist for not drawing her into a background, but that's also SLOPPY CRAP HACK WRITING. You SUCK, Judd Winnick. I am never purposefully purchasing anything that you write ever again.

  • June 1, 2005, 9:58 a.m. CST

    Unapologetic THOR fan!

    by bizarromark

    After a somewhat promising start, this series falls flat on its face with its second issue. Not only is the overall premise tragically weak (Spectre believing getting rid of "magic" will rid the universe of evil), but we now find that the Spectre comes to this naive conclusion via seduction through the Jean Loring "Hot Punk-Rock Chick Eclipso". So....even though the Spectre is (allegedly) the incarnate Wrath of God (oh...excuse me...it's now the "Wrath of the Universe")....he can't resist Jean Eclipso's feminine wiles! Who knew the Spectre was such a horn-dog?____ Next came a sub-plot with some surviving C-list mystics putting together a "plan" to take down the Spectre (yeah....right) and a clumsily-staged final page leading to.....what? Pretty bland stuff for a series that should be wall-to-wall "Finale of 'Raiders of the Lost Arc'-style fireworks. I've noticed a new "meme" seeping into the collective group-think of comics fandom: "Thor Sucks". In this age of angsty navel-gazing and too-cool-for-the-room dialogue, I suppose the mythic bombast and Shakespearian speech patterns of classic THOR comics are no longer the books you want to get caught reading. Buzz asked "Why Thor?" Why the Norse pantheon of gods? It's precisely the Norse pantheon's "B-list" status (compared to the more familiar Greek/Roman pantheons) that allowed Larry, Stan and Jack to cross-breed these tales with their own brand of wonky space-age grandeur without feeling bound to the more faithful adaptations Greek mythology and its scholars always seem to demand. Plus, unknown to even Stan and Jack, Thor's Scandinavian "long-hair" look would prefectly coincide with the long-hair chic of the later 60's, inadvertantly creating (in a sense) a "Super-Hippie". From the "trippy" cosmic concepts to Thor's own flower-child musings, "THOR" wonderfully captured the crazy zeitgeist of the times. I agree with Buzz that Kirby's artwork, especially here in THOR, is some of the best stuff the 20th Century gave us....but Stan Lee's narration and dialogue are also a thing to behold. Yeah...the Shakespearian dialogue is a bizarre, foreign thing to modern sensibilities...but (at least to me) it all somehow worked. The whole crazy mix of operatic drama, space-gods, "thee's", "thou's", Mighty Vows, whirling storms and Odin's inexaustible wardrobe all came together to form comics' most powerful and enduring "epic". THOR "sucks"? I say thee NAY!!!!

  • June 1, 2005, 10:03 a.m. CST

    Well.....THAT was weird!

    by bizarromark

    Sorry for the confusion, guys. Looks like my "Days of Vengeance" blatherings somehow got stuck into my THOR musings. Here's the THOR stuff without the confusing intro:_____________I've noticed a new "meme" seeping into the collective group-think of comics fandom: "Thor Sucks". In this age of angsty navel-gazing and too-cool-for-the-room dialogue, I suppose the mythic bombast and Shakespearian speech patterns of classic THOR comics are no longer the books you want to get caught reading. Buzz asked "Why Thor?" Why the Norse pantheon of gods? It's precisely the Norse pantheon's "B-list" status (compared to the more familiar Greek/Roman pantheons) that allowed Larry, Stan and Jack to cross-breed these tales with their own brand of wonky space-age grandeur without feeling bound to the more faithful adaptations Greek mythology and its scholars always seem to demand. Plus, unknown to even Stan and Jack, Thor's Scandinavian "long-hair" look would prefectly coincide with the long-hair chic of the later 60's, inadvertantly creating (in a sense) a "Super-Hippie". From the "trippy" cosmic concepts to Thor's own flower-child musings, "THOR" wonderfully captured the crazy zeitgeist of the times. I agree with Buzz that Kirby's artwork, especially here in THOR, is some of the best stuff the 20th Century gave us....but Stan Lee's narration and dialogue are also a thing to behold. Yeah...the Shakespearian dialogue is a bizarre, foreign thing to modern sensibilities...but (at least to me) it all somehow worked. The whole crazy mix of operatic drama, space-gods, "thee's", "thou's", Mighty Vows, whirling storms and Odin's inexaustible wardrobe all came together to form comics' most powerful and enduring "epic". THOR "sucks"? I say thee NAY!!!!

  • June 1, 2005, 10:20 a.m. CST

    The first sentence of the "Ultimates 2" review was great.

    by rev_skarekroe

    And that's about all I've got to say about this week's set of reviews. But maybe I'll come back if somebody belittles the French or something and sets off some verbal fireworks.

  • June 1, 2005, 11:19 a.m. CST

    The Ultimates line is fast becoming redundant

    by cookylamoo

    with the mainstream Marvel books themselves becoming more and more ultimatized. No wonder interest in these books seems to be flagging. What was once a big departure is now just muddying up the waters. Bizzaromark is dead on target with both GL and DOV. Buzz, interesting comment about why critics talk about themselves, but best to keep it short in any case. Revealing your prejudice is one thing, giving us your life story....??? I think the Norse gods were a better choice than the Greek or Roman Gods for one big reason. They generally didn't go around knocking up mortal women and then turning them into animals and trees as spiteful pranks. If Stan and Jack had gone with Zeus instead of Thor, he would have knocked up Jane Foster and then turned her into a fire hydrant.

  • June 1, 2005, 12:05 p.m. CST

    Hal Jordan should not be back.

    by Darksider

    Why bother reading comics anymore when no one really dies and nothing, including costumes, every change? I was reading GL before Jordan went renegade and it was boring. The sales at the time support this. I was one of the only guys at the store reading DC for that matter. The GL revamp was a good story and was the most realistic of the Supes, Bats, GL, and Wonder Woman revamps that DC tried to do in the 90's. None of it lasted. Surprise. The story was great, it was logical, plus we got rid of all the other GL's that weren't being utilized and a single GL became something to behold again. Besides, Jordan is a very dated character and Rayner was much deeper and had to suffer a lot to stay GL. If Jordan was to come back, this story was not the one to do it with. I mean, Johns is just like, everything and everybody is back, unexplained, and oh yeah that Parallax guy was somebody else and the Guardians who have the knowledge to remake the universe seemed to forget about it and how the rings actually work. Oh, and there's like four GL's in sector 2814 now. Outstanding. Sorry for the rant.

  • June 1, 2005, 12:46 p.m. CST

    Thor

    by JonQuixote

    I also like Thor, but couldn't really appreciate him until I hit my 20's. I think it was the HEROES RETURN stuff that inspired me to go back and check out the early 80's stuff that I kind of glossed over & ignored (odd, because in addition to comics I was a huge mythology buff in my pre-teens). And. I. LOVED. It. Marvel's Thor is where their most imaginative stuff seems to hide - I love the juxtaposition of seeing, for example, Thor fight a medieval dragon in a construction site before getting whipped off to a SHIELD helicarrier, flying around on a mechanical horse, and asked to go off into outerspace to check out a mysterious ufo. Science Fiction and Fantasy are not mutually exclusive concepts and THOR comics tend to get that through in spades.

  • June 1, 2005, 12:54 p.m. CST

    Hal Jordan should have died forever, Ultimate Defenders great, T

    by tombseye

    I gotta say that I was dismayed to see Hal Jordan killed off or removed as GL, but I got used to it and I kind of thought of Kyle Rayner as useless and was expecting John Stewart to become the GL mainstay. He works well on tv AND it would have been an interesting love triangle given the current situation with Hawkgirl and Hawkman. So much potential. Hal Jordan, because of his history, overshadows all the other GLs. As for Thor, well I thought that Walt Simonson made one of the more interesting Thors by making him more interconnected to the modern world and Millar's Ultimate Thor is great imo as well. Thor doesn't suck. The people who have usually written have sucked. The gods/demigods theme can work, but the aloof deity thing is dated. The Ultimates is still awesome too. The new Defenders heh heh. Well they only work on certain levels anyway. JM Demattis did an interesting take on the Defenders back in the 80s by going for an X-Men type thing where they dealt with more bizarre and strange threats and were themselves composed of outcasts of sorts from the Son of Satan to the Gargoyle to the Beast and Valkyrie. I thought it worked quite well personally. This new Millar take though is cool with me too though.

  • June 1, 2005, 1:10 p.m. CST

    The problem with Thor is that he's the most boring character

    by superninja

    Wonder Woman has this problem as well. Thor's best when playing off of the other characters and he's usually depicted as sort of a one-note blockhead (been played effectively in the past with Loki taunting him for being such a moron). But I feel one of the strengths of the character is that he really knows he's not as gifted as the others in many ways, he's just stubborn and has a bad temperment and a great amount of responsibility. I've always enjoyed the large supporting cast of heroes and villians in Thor and obviously Simonson did great work making Thor a more likeable guy.

  • June 1, 2005, 1:45 p.m. CST

    Downloadable Cover Art

    by Trevor Goodchild

    How come you can't click enlarge all the cover thumbnails? Anyone know where's a good place to drag off some good comic art? Not for naughty reasons. Purely for reference.

  • June 1, 2005, 3:37 p.m. CST

    Superninja: What sayeth thee?

    by bizarromark

    Sorry. Couldn't resist. Here's Superninja's take: "Thor's best when playing off of the other characters and he's usually depicted as sort of a one-note blockhead (been played effectively in the past with Loki taunting him for being such a moron)."_______Hmmm.....I'll have to disagree with you there. While it's true that many writers *have* depicted Thor as a "one-note blockhead", but I can confidently say that the majority of Thor's glory days, namely his Silver and Bronze Age runs, make the guy look pretty good. I'll grant you that Thor is usually the "Too Good To Be True" noble foil to the nuttiness around him...as you acknowledged in the quote above, but Thor (particularly under Stan Lee's watch) was also quite a deep-thinking kind of guy, often ruminating about his dual loyaties to Asgard and his dysfunctional-yet-beloved Midgard (Earth)....or the boudaries of tradition and family loyalty...or simply taking the time to help out some poor Earth schmuck. Plus, in the romance department, I don't think any other superhero ever devoted as much panel-time to "relationship talk" than our fair-haired thunder god...in fact, I'd go so far as to say Thor had "....lovin' on his mind." (insert Barry White vocal here). Certainly not "blockhead" material in my book. True, the modern trend in depicting moral "straight arrows" like Thor and Superman is to portray them as genial, corn-fed naifs who don't possess the stark, hard-edged cunning of the Wolverine & Batman crowd. I guess if that's the current criteria for "non blockhead status", then I suppose Thor is, indeed, a bit of a "one-note blockhead"......but you might want to take a look at some of those old stories just to make sure. You may be surprised by the passionate, headstrong, cunning, occasionally ruthless and sometimes even funny THOR you find there.

  • June 1, 2005, 4:12 p.m. CST

    gl

    by suck_it

    Kyle Raynre is the defintive GL. he was teh one to fight off the yellow guy in Rebrith wiht the ring. And also, beign abetter pilot than hal is a must, too. hal jordanm turned into that grim reaper guy and was evil. Rayner was alkways shining bright in the Corp. EVen more than Ganther.

  • June 1, 2005, 5:07 p.m. CST

    Bizarromark

    by superninja

    The Stan/Kirby Thor is an internal monologuer in a long line of internal monologuing heroes from Silver Surfer to oh, just about any character from that period. They all have that "deep thinking" quality and get moody over women. But most of my Thor knowledge comes from his appearences in the Avengers and the DeFalco/Frenz and Simonson runs. I am not equating Thor with a schmuck, but rather if you read the rest of my post above, that he has more depth than that and Thor is another one of Lee's "with great power comes great responsibility" creations, although a little less average joe than Spider-Man. Thor may even be one of the few heroes that gets disciplined by his parent. I actually enjoyed the teen Thor series that came out recently because it didn't portray him as a one-note character although I would be reluctant to recommend it because it was a little plot-lite.**** Characters like Thor, Wonder Woman and Superman could be fairly complex, but today's writers aren't so interested in the morals question as they are in nihilistic navel gazing.

  • June 1, 2005, 6:30 p.m. CST

    I liked ULTIMATES #6 too

    by Dave_F

    Millar's style can be endlessly annoying to me in its cynicism, but when I can occasionally find myself caught up in his oeuvre, he's a pretty compelling writer. I think Millar's best characters in ULTIMATES are Pym and Banner, two "born to lose" types actually suited to his approach. Good readin'. I still wouldn't care if THE ULTIMATES disappeared tomorrow, but a good issue nonetheless.

  • June 1, 2005, 6:35 p.m. CST

    About that demon baby in DAREDEVIL...

    by Dave_F

    Anyone else get a TOTAL RECALL "Kuato" vibe off of it? Kuato lives! **** As for the issues themselves, I'm bored to tears as we reach the third installment of "The Daredevil Support Group", but it's a readable kind of boredom. Usually is with Bendis.

  • June 1, 2005, 7:34 p.m. CST

    Always wantd to do this....

    by HunterDan

    FIRST!!! Woo Yay

  • June 1, 2005, 7:44 p.m. CST

    Keith Flint?

    by Homer Sexual

    Admit it, you have had three previous secret identities here, haven't you? Oh, I agree that Thor has been great and has been terrible. One thing, he depends more on art than other characters. For example, Simonson writing and drawing was outstanding, Simonson writing and Sal Buscema drawing, I dropped the book. I enjoyed the latest incarnation of Thor, too, except for M.A.O.'s final, and awful, storyline.

  • June 1, 2005, 7:52 p.m. CST

    A drug that makes you really paranoid and realize your worst fea

    by sideshowbob

    I call that "marijuana".

  • June 1, 2005, 7:57 p.m. CST

    I dislike AMS and Supreme Power, and I love the FF, and was brac

    by sideshowbob

    Yet I really enjoyed JMS's first FF issue. What do you know? Sometimes an open mind does pay off.

  • June 1, 2005, 8:32 p.m. CST

    Hey, I'll talk about DARK DETECTIVE #2

    by Village Idiot

    It was disappointing. I actually enjoyed the first issue of this series, riding my own sentimentalism, depite a few reservations. But this time around, the reservations seemed to overpower my goodwill. (A man can only take so much.)_____Biggest problem: Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin's art. In a word, the art looks *amatuerish.* It's simply not Bronze Age standards, which is the level where it should be for a project whose cachet is a reputation for being classic. It's like going to a BTO concert, and all they play is stuff off their new album. Nor do I think you can fairly attribute the art to "style," unless the style you're referring to is from "early Jr. High notebook." Again, it looks amatuerish. And can someone tell me what the heck was going on with Silver St. Cloud's purple tiger-print stretchpants? ____The dialogue had a few problems as well, including a "Let me show you my etchings" reference which hasn't been current since about 1947. But the story went off the rails writing-wise when Batman had a Scarecrow induced freak out while showing Silver St. Cloud the Batcave. You'd think Batman has been fearamone gassed so many times, he'd be able to ride it out like an acid trip; but no, instead he actually engaged in some pretty irrational behavior, even by bad trip standards. Luckily, it wasn't too tramatic for either of them; he was able to turn on the Batcave's AC, clear the room of the gas, then get shag Silver on the floor of the Batcave._____But despite the weird writing and the art, I still *want* to like this series, and I'm feeling kind of guilty for this snarky little post. As penance, I'll probably let my wistfulness talk me into buying the next issue. And this concludes my contribution to Classic @$$holes Old Home Week at AICN comics.

  • June 1, 2005, 8:41 p.m. CST

    Hey Buzz, if you like the "Loser Super-hero' genre

    by BrashHulk

  • June 1, 2005, 8:43 p.m. CST

    Hey Buzz, if you like the "Loser Super-hero" genre

    by BrashHulk

    You should pick up the movie "The Specials" and allow the hilarity to ensue. Good stuff, bebe.

  • June 1, 2005, 9:09 p.m. CST

    bizarro, ninja, homer regarding Thor

    by tombseye

    See now Thor was actually quite clever in that he would outsmart Loki even though it was always implied that he had the brawn and Loki had the brains. Loki would hatch some plot and Thor would counter it (somewhat like Supes and Mxylplkxs, however you spell that damn name). Simonson did a great take by getting rid of the Donald Blake "persona" and had Thor just pose as a human in his secret identity while defending the earth from mostly his fellow mythological figures from Asgard. That worked quite well. Now Millar has taken that one step further with Thor being a bit nuts and he's directly involved in the anti-war and anti-globalization crowd who seek social justice etc. That has worked to great effect and he's now more godlike in some ways as well. Hell, when you think about Thor is not unlike Capt. Marvel (Shazam) in that he's a larger than life figure with a mythological background etc. He requires a scifi take and more of a reason to want to come to earth than simply, "I was sent here b/c I'm an arrogant prick and my Dad thought I'd grow out of it if I was made to live like a human weakling." Actually, Odin should have tried that with Loki, but hey he's got his favorites.

  • June 1, 2005, 9:14 p.m. CST

    Millar's cynicism has a point to it though

    by tombseye

    He writes the characters as if they are just that more in the real world and this is a trend that has been going on since Watchmen obviously. Aside from Fables, Y the Last Man, and for some reason Hawkman, the Ultimates is all I can read of late. Replace the Marvel Uni with the more adult versions. It's not as if the PG13 versions matter anymore since the kids can't afford comics anyway. And honestly, as someone who is always political, I like what Millar and Vaugh do by injecting the political stuff in. Too many people react like vampires to garlic when it comes to politics and thus our current leadership in the White House and Tom Delay etc.

  • June 1, 2005, 9:39 p.m. CST

    Question: Whatever happened to Kaare Andrews?

    by Ribbons

    I loved that guy's "Hulk" covers, especially the "Where the Wild Things Are" one, even though they ultimately had nothing to do with the comic.

  • June 1, 2005, 10 p.m. CST

    Kaare Andrews

    by sideshowbob

    He's doing the last issue of Millar's Wolverine run. Maybe not last, but some issue that JRJr isn't doing. He was last seen in the truly excellent Spidey/Doc Ock Year One trade that came out a month back. I remember one of the @$$holes said they'd review it, but I guess they were booked. Kind of a shame, but not really.

  • June 2, 2005, 1:48 a.m. CST

    dark detective

    by Homer Sexual

    I agree that this englehart/rogers pairing really pales in comparison to the original run. I am sad to be one of the "oldies" lamenting the inferior present to the superior past, but this incarnation of the only time I ever really liked batman is lame. I am not feeling anything, and this is especially disappointing considering Marshall Rogers. And on a side note, is this whole Crisis thing making Bats the uber-asshole of DC or what?

  • June 2, 2005, 2:08 a.m. CST

    Nice call Tombseye

    by kisskissbangbang

    It had never occurred to me that Loki & Mxyzptlk were comparable; but now that you pointed it out, it's obvious that they're both classic trickster characters to their respective foils. And if you throw in the Prankster, the Toyman & Ambush Bug, then Supes has 4 different tricksters; perhaps to be expected with a character so powerful that it's hard to be more than an irritant to him.

  • June 2, 2005, 2:33 a.m. CST

    Where the hell is DOC FRANKENSTEIN???

    by Mr. Anderson

    The first two issues came out several months ago, and it quickly became one of my favorite books, even though I only had two issues to judge it by. Any clue as to when issue #3 will ship?

  • June 2, 2005, 2:44 a.m. CST

    I am as one with Bizarromark this week.

    by Dave_F

    GREEN LANTERN #1 was just "eh", DAY OF VENGEANCE #2 was a letdown, and Thor is one of the coolest oddballs Stan 'n' Jack ever thought up. Now if Bizarromark would just be so good as to make a post to the tune of SLEEPER being repetitive and predictable for its second season, I could just take a nap and leave the posting to others. Since he won't, though, I must elaborate...on that and more! ****** Re: GREEN LANTERN - So if I understand things rightly, Kyle's the one off in space now and Hal's essentially sticking around as Earth's Green Lantern. Me, I'd reverse that. I don't think the test-pilot angle is wholly outdated, but exploring space sure sounds more exciting to *me*. I see Hal as a Captain Kirk-esque spacefarer bringing gunboat diplomacy to intergalactic problems and going toe-to-toe with space cruisers in battles worthy to challenge STAR WARS. In other words, going the route of the '80s-era Silver Surfer when Engelhart was writing it. Maybe it's just me, but Earth seems too small a precinct for a space cop to patrol. ******* Re: DAY OF VENGEANCE - Actually, I think Bizarromark *precisely* nailed my feeling on this one ('cept I think Detective Chimp is sorta cool). I guess this means the only DC COUNTDOWN spin-off I'm actually enjoying is VILLAINS UNITED, and even that one's a bit iffy. ******* Re: THOR - Hey, Bizarromark, I've only read a sampling of classic Lee/Kirby THOR issues, but...did their Thor really exhibit "flower-child musings"? Say it ain't so! I thought that was strictly Silver Surfer territory! As for the artwork - I think it was Bruce Timm or John Kricfalusi (one of those animator guys) who said they loved Kirby's pencils on Thor but felt they were ruined by the feathered inking over 'em. I'm blanking on the inker's name - was it Vince Colletta? Anyway, the criticism stuck with me and always registers when I look at old THOR issues. There's a sense that the art is a bit at odds with itself, Kirby's power being slightly restrained by the more illustrative hatching of the inker. ****** One other thing: Buzz wrote that all fans have some big-name superhero they don't like, and while I acknowledge I'm probably a total minority on this, I can honestly say that I never really disliked *any* of Marvel or DC's big names - even as a kid. I was pretty much an all-Marvel guy in those days, and once I'd *bought into* the Marvel Universe, I pretty much bought into all the players. Sure there were bad writers, but none that outright put me off a character. Anyone else like this? ****** And as for SLEEPER (Quixote, I know you're waiting on the trades for Season 2, so fer god's sake look away now!! SPOILER WARNING!!!)...man, I felt really let down. 24 issues of Holden twisting in the wind and the best Brubaker could come up with was an ending cribbed from Ambrose Bierce's much-cribbed "Occurance on Owl Creek Bridge"? I call foul. I definitely felt I was having to wade through Season 2 of SLEEPER, so if ever I needed an ending that wowed me, this was the time. I can respect that no good noir wraps on a happy note, but I at least needed the exhileration of, say, THE USUAL SUSPECTS' final beat. I needed some damn surprises! Oh, it wasn't terrible or anything, but I have a hard time seeing myself ever going back to the series for a re-read now. So much of its tension is predicated on Holden struggling to find a way out of the shithole he's dug himself into...knowing how things play out will likely kill me interest in re-experiencing that journey. It feels like Brubaker painted himself into a corner on this one, or does anyone think this ending was what he had planned from day one?

  • That evaluation is kind of genius. Well put.

  • June 2, 2005, 3:05 a.m. CST

    Homer, good point about THOR needing good art...

    by Dave_F

    Who else would be good on that book? I think Barry Windsor-Smith would be cool. Paul Pope's got enough Kirby influence that I'd love to see him drawing Thor, especially in a big city story. Tim Truman could capture the more "grim 'n' gritty" side of Norse mythology - I'd put him on some "Thor versus Frost Giant" stories, stuff set in and around Asgard. I'd say Romita Jr., but he was surprisingly disappointing when he kicked off Jurgens' run. Sometimes Romita's just not on his game, though, so maybe with a stronger writer... ***** Hey, Homer, were you talking about Jurgens' run when you said you liked the "latest incarnation" of Thor? I skipped it for a few years, but was generally liking some of the Thor-takes-over storylines. Oeming really did screw the pooch, though, didn't he? He's ruined Thor for a few years at the very least. Have you heard Gaiman's "new Thor" pitch? Ugh. I have no doubt it'd make a fine prose story if Gaiman just wrote it as a novel outside the Marvel U., but within the Marvel Universe it just pisses all over a good character. It'd just be passing time (probably four or five years) until the real Thor is brought back ala GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH. All that said, Oeming's pending THOR collaboration with Scott Kolins sounds halfway decent: http://www.newsarama.com/forums/showthread.php?s=6d35c8255a5d0287da898a4551a716ca&threadid=35007 Oeming seems too serious when he writes all this stuff, though, the same problem I've had with other THOR writers. I think one of Simonson's most underrated contributions during his run was infusing the book with a sly sense of humor. That actually brought the poignant moments into sharper relief I think.

  • June 2, 2005, 3:18 a.m. CST

    Tombseye, as much as the world can be a shitty place...

    by Dave_F

    I still think Millar's shock value cynicism is too overwhelming. Guy writes *every* character subversively - every one of 'em! - and the thing is, I actually think there might just be a *few* sincere people in the world. Hell, even WATCHMEN had one or two. Personally, I think it's UNrealistic that he portrays everyone as such a snide douchabag. Even Millar's take on Peter Parker was kind of a douchebag (remember him talking smack about Ant-Man for being nerdy? Does this sound like something Peter Parker would *ever* do?).

  • June 2, 2005, 3:57 a.m. CST

    first

    by zigx6969

    first do I get a prize now

  • June 2, 2005, 3:59 a.m. CST

    dont I feel like a dumb ass

    by zigx6969

    yes I do

  • June 2, 2005, 11:06 a.m. CST

    I got one for ya Dave F...two even!

    by Shigeru

    Millar didn't write old as hell Bucky and Gail subversively! They weren't douchebags! Then again if I was one of the world's biggest celebrities and had super powers, I would probably end up being a huge douche too.

  • June 2, 2005, 1 p.m. CST

    I disagree with you on SLEEPER, Dave.

    by SleazyG.

    It's not really much of a crib on "Owl Creek Bridge" at all, really (side note: worst such ripoff ever is the movie "Jacob's Ladder"). If it were, well, not to ruin it for people who haven't seen the "Outer Limits" episode, but the entire layout of the story would have been different. That one little scene you're talking about is really un-"Owl"-ish. I also think it ended the only way it could, and I think Holden got the closest to his kind of escape as he could have possibly gotten. It was also nice to see that he did manage to get the best of at least one of the rat bastards who'd been twisting him up all this time. I found the ending to be logical, appropriate and entertaining. It was also pretty much textbook noir, which is a good thing.

  • June 2, 2005, 1:08 p.m. CST

    More Millar non-douches

    by SleazyG.

    Henry Pym isn't a snide, insincere douchebag. Sure, his wife-beating is an incredibly shitty thing to do, I'll grant. Being a physically abusive spouse/partner is completely unacceptable. But the character never comes off as smartassed, snide, tongue-in-cheek, etc. He comes off as extremely sincere, truly sorry for the ways he screwed up his life, and constantly in search of ways to redeem himself. Of course, I fully expect this to lead him to make things better instead of worse, but that makes him a tragic character, not a douchebag. One screwup that you end up paying for the rest of your life is tragic. Being a smarmy, self-involved prick makes you a douchebag, something the guy has avoided thus far. Oh, and Jan's no douchebag, either. She's stood up for herself against Hank and Cap so far, which is pretty impressive, considering what a douche Ultimate Cap is. The new version of Nighthawk or Darkhawk or whatever from the most recent issue, though? Total douche.

  • June 2, 2005, 6:40 p.m. CST

    Re: Millar and douchebags

    by superninja

    Seems my post didn't make it so I'll repeat. Shiguru said: "Millar didn't write old as hell Bucky and Gail subversively! They weren't douchebags!" I posit that it's because they weren't around long enough to get the full douchebag treatment. Remember, Ultimate Cap was not a major douchebag in the beggining, either. Bucky and Gail were probably destined for the S&M club for the aged if Millar had had them stick around.

  • June 2, 2005, 9:46 p.m. CST

    Damn, Dave, I thought *I* was down on current comics...

    by sideshowbob

    I can at least get jazzed up for DD, 100 Bullets, Fables, Athiest, Goon & Seven Soldiers. YOU, friend, are becoming one cantankerous bastard!

  • June 2, 2005, 11:03 p.m. CST

    It's true, Sideshow. I'm old before my time.

    by Dave_F

    And, Sleazy, Hank Pym might not be snide and insincere, but he IS a wife-beatin', loser douchebag. Millar's still playing it subversive by ascribing only the negative characteristics of the mainstream Pym to his Ultimate Universe counterpart. Shit, man, a wifebeater's hardly "tragic", not as Millar's played him. Do we know anything of Pym's background to give us cause to feel sorry for him? After he bug-sprayed his naked wife and sicced ants on her? As for SLEEPER, I think the whole notion of "textbook noir" is kind of BS, like an excuse to not have to innovate. I'll tell ya, if Brubaker had ended the series the way he did with the wrap of *season one*, I'd have been reasonably accepting of it. But after 24 issues? It's hard for me to be anything but disappointed at such a traditional route. ********* Incidentally, Sideshow, I have found a FEW diamonds in the rough. I chanced across the longrunning cult comic STRANGEHAVEN recently (should've listened to Liz when she talked it up a few years ago), and was just completely taken with it. Been reading a bit more manga lately, too, and finding the gore-soaked survival-fest BATTLE ROYALE to be a pleasant release. Also on the manga front: CROMARTIE HIGH SCHOOL, a brilliantly insane collection of vignettes. FABLES is still great - Boy Blue is a fuckin' ninja! YOUNG AVENGERS? So far, so good. And might I remind the TalkBack audience that this latest Millar discussion is actually stemming from a post where I said I *enjoyed* the latest ULTIMATES?! I mean, damn, y'all! SPIDER-MAN: BREAKOUT is kinda cool, 'cause how often do the friggin' U-Foes get a good spotlight? Am reading EISNER/MILLER - that's real good. ATHEIST, of course, I'm onboard. We3 just got traded - rockin'. SEVEN SOLDIERS might've lost a little oomph, but I'm still enjoying. I suppose I just need to ween my sorry fanboy ass of Marvel and DC altogether and I'll feel a lot more comfortable with things. It's hard to let go, though, innit? One becomes possessive over the years, even knowing, as per Darksider's post earlier in the TalkBack, that it's inevitable that the mainstream will disappoint with its cyclical weaknesses.

  • June 3, 2005, 9:42 a.m. CST

    there's some good stuff out there

    by sideshowbob

    Yah, STRANGEHAVEN is quality. I read it a few years back. Manga? My enjoyment of UZUMAKI has led me now to GYO (by the same guy), which is a step down but still very good. I've finally taken Buzz's advice and am reading ESSENTIAL TOMB O' DRAC (loving it). Oh, another quality indie book hit yetserday, STREET ANGEL. And I DID like the first ish of DESOLATION JONES. Oh yeah, and Captain America is slow going, but I like it. Strangely, lately I've been more into the humor books: Goon, Plastic Man, JLI, Dan Slott. RUNAWAYS, alas, is lacking something in this go-around (I notice the @$$holes NEVER cover this former staple of theirs anymore). Ah, well, more money for me, I guess.

  • June 3, 2005, 3:27 p.m. CST

    This talkback is about 3 minutes from being dead but...

    by Shigeru

    what the hell. So #1 I've never seen an actual "douche bag" and I hope I never do. #2 For the sake of arguement, where is the line drawn between a written character being a douchebag and merely a 'conflicted, complex person'? I suppose the answer is that the conflicted character is a douche some of the time, like all of us, while still exhibiting heroic and/or honorable traits in order to redeem themself. See: most every character in The Walking Dead. So all the Ultimates show only the asshole side all of the time? Cap is a big mean old jerk cause he kicks a dude in the face after said dude murders 800 innocents in a selfish attempt to get his estranged wife's attention? I can sympathize with both Cap and Banner in that situation. And is Tony Stark a douche when he overcomes his paralyzing fear to divert that alien ship crashing into Reno (or wherever that was)? Or when Hawkeye talks to his family on the phone before every mission? To me it's stories about interesting, flawed characters that are told quite well. It doesn't rape my childhood or anything to see Cappy American do something stupid. Anyways, the only thing I thought was interesting in the Marvel U. about the Pyms was the fairly obvious symbolism of Hank turning big and his wife turning small and the spousal abuse/dominance thing that went along with that. It was one of the best moments in the Ultimates so far... "You shouldn't have made me look small, Jan..." End long post.

  • June 3, 2005, 3:30 p.m. CST

    RUNAWAYS

    by Dave_F

    It's sad, isn't it? Season Two of RUNAWAYS ain't terrible, but it's definitely not the lively, unpredictable book it used to be. My biggest beef is that the leads have been coming across as jerks for the last few issues, contrivedly forced into clashes with Excelsior and grilling their captive like wannabe Vic Mackeys. Like Greg up there with DARK DETECTIVE, though, I want to give this book a chance to come through. Vaughan's shakey lately, though. I finally opted out of EX MACHINA, Y has just been so-so, and now RUNAWAYS...dang. To some extent, I think it's a matter of me as a reader becoming overly accustomed to his writing quirks. You follow everything a writer does and you're bound to see some repetition, some recurring annoyances, atc. Certainly that's what happened to me when Bendis hit it big. Was all over his stuff for a time, and then...I got feeling I'd seen his entire bag of tricks and there wasn't anything left to see. I'd like for him to wrap strong on DAREDEVIL, though (last story arc's a'comin'). Been buying that book in hardcovers, more out of habit than love of the book in recent volumes, but I'd like to hope, y'know? I find his stuff very readable, and DAREDEVIL's his one Marvel book that I can see myself returning to because readers get such an intimate portrayal of a single character. I feel like I've been hanging out with Matt, Foggy, et al. for the last few years and, whatever the ups and downs of that time, it's stayed with me. I want their story to end on a strong note. Be nice if it was something a bit hopeful in Murdock's life, but I'll settle for anything good and dramatic.

  • June 3, 2005, 3:41 p.m. CST

    Shigeru

    by Dave_F

    Keeping everything simple: I just think Millar chooses to overemphasize people's negative/cynical qualities over their positive/sincere ones. Anecdotally, sure you can find moments when his characters acted heroic, but it's all in the balance he strikes. His Cap for instance...it's as if Millar's very specifically chosen to emphasize his thuggish side in recent months. There've been compassionate moments in the past, but when he turned on Thor so suddenly, smarting off while he flamethrowered him, it felt like Millar just hadn't gotten his fill of cynicism and chose Cap (inappropriately) as his venue for getting it off his chest. You look at the ending to WANTED, the ending to CHOSEN...Millar likes to shock with people turning away from redemption. And that's fine. It's his perspective. But it makes his "compassionate" scenes ring false to me. They feel tacked on, and the only time I get the sense Millar is being true to himself is when he's writing people being shits to each other.

  • June 3, 2005, 5:29 p.m. CST

    "I just think Millar chooses to overemphasize people's negat

    by JonQuixote

    I think this is very true of Millar's ULTIMATE work, at least what I've read of it. The "How to Ultimize Characters (the Millar Way)" seemed to be a) Latch on to obvious negative quality associated with character b) Crank up to 11 c) Pick celebrity template d) Add earring. Although I found this to be more true with ULTIMATE X-MEN than it was with ULTIMATES, which at least had some surprizes and interesting tweaks. Anyway, it was this Ultimate tendency - combined with his MK SPIDEY attempts to toughen up Spidey's villains by casually ringing a body count (wow. genius) - that made the respect he lavished on the Marvel U in ENEMY OF THE STATE such a wonderful surprise. I can't help but wonder if Millar doesn't really have much of a style or outlook per se, but seems to emulate what works. His ULTIMATE stuff is pretty much AUTHORITY meets BENDIS. His MK SPIDEY & WOLVIE is very much in the Hush template. And now in the post-Jemas Marvel, one that seems to be embracing crossovers and continuity and finds room for more classicist takes (like SHE-HULK), Millar's sensibilities seem to change as well. Which is maybe as it should be?? *** Still, I've dug ENEMY OF THE STATE so much that all is forgiven. Anybody who can write something so gleefully and respectfully superheroic can't be all bad. I only hope that *this* style characterizes his work for a good long while.

  • June 3, 2005, 7:22 p.m. CST

    Vaughan (if anyone's still listening)

    by sideshowbob

    I like to think Vaughan's gonna blow us away with "The Pride of Baghdad" later this year. My main problems with Runaways Vol.2 is Excelsior. Those characters don't act the way they should, even within the "rules" Vaughan has set up. My interest is fast-waning (sorry, the Doom reveal hasn't revived it), but, like you, I'm hoping for a comeback, and I'd be shocked if there wasn't one. *** I hear you about getting familiar with a writer's tics. I could run off a small list of faults with *all* my favorite writers at this point, and the element of surprise is down. Does this mean we need some new blood in there with BMB, JMS, BKV, Millar, Johns, Brubaker, Ellis, Ennis, Milligan, Morisson and Rucka? I say FUCK YES. And I'm not talking about writer X from hot TV show/movie Y either. Slott is a good start; let's see some more.

  • June 3, 2005, 7:27 p.m. CST

    Re: the Doom reveal in RUNAWAYS

    by SleazyG.

    I'm not convinced it's gonna be Doom at all. Vaughan likes to throw a lot of twists and red herrings in, and I can't help but think this is probably one of them. I mean, the kid's first name is *Victor*, fer cryin' out loud. Nobody should be surprised that Doom was the obvious choice for Father of the Year, y'know? Then again, since it's that obvious, I have to question if it's really gonna be the case when we reach the end of the first year of Vol. 2. I'm just waiting to see who it really is.

  • June 5, 2005, 9:45 p.m. CST

    yay

    by blackthought

    last......where you at gusnukem?

  • June 6, 2005, 4:38 p.m. CST

    not so fast , buster ...

    by Gus Nukem

    gus nukem is in the house. the last one in the house.