FINAL CRISIS #6 (of 7)
Writer: Grant Morrison Artists: J.G. Jones, Carlos Pacheco, Doug Mahnke, Marco Rudy, Christin Alamy, and Jesus Merino Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugOK, right off the “bat” for those of you who cast opinions aside if they don’t correspond to your own: I didn’t like this book. And I don’t particularly like this series. So if you are one of those sensitive types who can’t take an opposing opinion, scroll down and scoff at my ignorance for not “getting” the awesomeness that is FINAL CREEZUS.
OK, only the open minded left? Good. I am buying FINAL CRISIS, partially because I can’t turn away from the train-wreckedness of it all and partially because I, like many of you, wanted to tune into this “final fate” of the Batman crap that DC has been hyping all year, first with R.I.P., and now for realsy real in FINAL CRISIS. There are those who want to say R.I.P. and FC are unrelated, but since both series at one point or another were promoted as “the final fate of Batman” and both were written by the same writer, I can’t help but group the two stories together.
I made it clear in the talkbacks that I had difficulty following R.I.P. (and I appreciate the Talkbackers willing to set me straight about a few things, that’s what the Talkbacks are for, ya know, elaborating, debating, and bullshitting comics…) and realize that I simply have difficulty following this new Grant Morrison’s superhero writing style. Grant’s more straight-forward and cohesive style of writing is much more to my preference. WE3 and especially AZTEK were two of my all time favorite Morrison epics. But the Grant who wrote those two series isn’t the same Grant that has showed up this year mapping out the DCU (for Geoff Johns to clean up next year). This Grant thinks in broad strokes and flits around from one story thread to another like a gnat in a sandstorm. This Grant doesn’t want to be bothered with the small stuff. This Grant wants to write something that should be appreciated as a whole, yet it’s sold in increments and suffers from the worst case of delay since, well, SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY.
Me? I read about a hundred books a month. I’ve compartmentalized my mind to accommodate following these books and do a pretty good job of remembering storylines and characters from one month to the next if they come out consistently. When delays occur, though, it’s hard and more often than not, I tune out from a book if I’m not reminded of the story by a consistent distribution schedule. And who has the time to reread every issue prior before reading a new one? I simply don’t. If your comic requires homework and research, then you’ve officially taken the fun out of funny books for me. And that’s probably why I’m having trouble following FINAL CRISIS, I guess.
But you know what? These big event books are famous for being breezy. They are good for telling broad stories. They are supposed to promote the entirety of the universe the event falls in. Problem is, the rest of the comics distributed by DC are trudging along without acknowledging the event even exists. The world has been taken hostage by Darkseid and been turned into a post-apocalyptic horrorworld where heroines don black leather and fetish masks and mount giant dogs and our only hope lies in the hands of face-painters. And the rest of the DCU is carrying on as if it isn’t happening like it’s a homeless person on a crowded subway car. FINAL CRISIS is over there hemming and hawing about how many pickles he can stuff into his hat, while the DCU is trying its hardest to ignore him, occasionally tossing a side-ways glance to make sure he’s not charging with a hat full of pickles.
Now, if I were naïve I would believe that Didio and Co. were thinking of us in keeping the FC crossovers to a minimum, but c’mon, we know the truth. This is a case of one man obsessively writing and rewriting an event and everything else being on hold till he finishes it. No one knows what Morrison is doing, so they can’t do anything til he’s finished. This guy’s got the entire DCU at gunpoint while he tweaks and twitters from one plot to the next. If Grant were telling this broad strokes/channel-surfing style story and there were crossovers elaborating on the corruption of Mary Marvel (maybe taking place in JSA or better yet SUPERGIRL), the trial of Hal Jordan (I’m thinking maybe in GREEN LANTERN), the death of J’onn J’onzz (possibly a JLA tie-in), the resurrection of Barry Allen (hmmm…I don’t know…FLASH?), and most importantly, the death of Batman (possibly a big story running through the Bat-books with a snappy title like…hmmm…off the top of my head, how about R.I.P.?), I wouldn’t have a problem with tie-ins with the series. The reason why crossovers get so much flack is because the tie-ins are often redundant and the main event book is too breezy. FINAL CRISIS is the opposite. It’s dense. Too dense for one comic written by a writer who doesn’t want to be bothered by details. Never has a comic event come along as in need of elaboration for clarity’s sake as FINAL CRISIS has.
I’ve ranted enough bout FINAL CRISIS as a whole; now let’s get to my main beef with issue number six.
If you have a character that is basically the most popular and iconic character of your entire comic book line…
and if you write an issue that promises the death of said character…
shouldn’t you spend more than just two regular pages, a double splash page, and a final splash page on said character during his final moments?
I think so.
This pissed me off on multiple levels. Not only could Morrison not stray away from the Supergirl/Mary Marvel catfight that’s been going on for three issues long enough to give a bit more attention to this pretty important event, the time he does spend on Batman’s demise has him doing something completely out of character. I’ve tried to make it a point to not say things like “this is completely out of character” or “this shatters the core foundation of the character”. A good writer can make me believe any character can do anything or any occurrence, no matter how crazy, could actually happen, given the right amount of care and creativity behind it. Brubaker’s resurrection of Bucky is the perfect example. But this issue breaks one of the few laws of comics that should be left sacred: Batman uses a gun. And I’m not saying that Batman should never, ever use a gun, but to spend two pages on this important action is doing a complete disservice to the character. If ever an issue dedicated to the deconstruction of a single instant was needed, it’s needed here, explaining to us how Batman rules out every other possibility in that genius mind of his and comes to the conclusion that using the one thing that he swore never to use to stop the bad guy was the only choice he could come up with.
Simply put: Bats deserved better.
What does it say about an issue hyped to contain Batman’s final fate when the most memorable scene of the book stars Mr. Tawky Tawny (a cool scene, but it’s unforgivable that Morrison would rather focus on a cat in a suit than the most popular character in the DCU)?
But Morrison doesn’t want to be bothered with all of that. Sure, Morrison may love the DCU, but things like character or common sense or motivation? Those things are a waste of his time, apparently; something for the peon editors and other lowly writers at DCU to deal with once Morrison’s focus goes elsewhere.
I’ve spent as much talking about what FINAL CRISIS isn’t as I have talking about what it is here. And that’s too bad. I want to like this book. I want to like DC, but these days with the blatant and obvious ways in which editorial manipulates and outright lies to the fans in order to make it look like this is some sort of grand plan and the ham-fisted way continuity has been handled for the last three years, it really has made me lose hope for the company.
At least the majority of DC’s books are still $2.99, right?
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, reviewer and co-editor of AICN Comics for over seven years. Check out a five page preview of his short story published in MUSCLES & FIGHTS 3 (AVAILABLE NOW at Muscles & Fights.com.) on his ComicSpace page. There you can also see a five page preview of his short story in MUSCLES & FRIGHTS! Bug was recently interviewed here and here at Cream City Comics.
Writer: Robert Kirkman Artists: Ryan Ottley & Fco Plascencia Publisher: Image Comics Reviewer: Optimous DouchePretty much two books dominated the shelves last week, and one even captured America’s heart. The sad fact that neither of them was INVINCIBLE once again proves my theory that 24 Hour News lobotomizes our country one “special report” at a time.
Our first debutaint to the ball was FINAL CRISIS, the series that has mathletes everywhere trying to conjure up the protective symbol that will stop them from getting stuffed in lockers. Yes, folks, we have waited three years for face painting. When I face painted myself as a Snork at camp and attached a bent paper towel roll to my head, I got my ass kicked, but now in the DC Universe face painting is more powerful than Superman. I’m all for originality, but sometimes ideas aren’t tried for a reason.
On the other side of the “the media couldn’t tell a good comic if you paper-cut their throat with it” coin we have AMAZING SPIDER-MAN with Barack Obama. You might have noticed that your Local Comic Shop had a slew of soccer moms and almost everyone with an Internet connection trying to score a copy of this soon to be revered historic issue. Yet here I am still trying to figure out what was historic about this issue, since super heroes have been canoodling with Presidents for a long time now. I’m also still working out what was so damn good about the story that caused every single copy in Pennsylvania to be sold by 11:00 a.m. An imposter, a fist-bump, and a lame joke by Spidey about being Secretary of Ass Kicking? I was almost compelled to give my copy to a kid outside the store who couldn’t get one…almost.
Instead of giving the poor lost waif nothing, what I should have done is taken him aside and said, “Billy, the media might lead you to believe the only thing on the shelves have Crises, Invasions or Obamas in them. But what if I told you that there was a book with mysteries that don’t require massive amounts of LSD to unravel, a book where the only crossover titles you need are later issues -- and you will definitely be able to get a copy.” I hope he would say, “Mr. Douche, I sure would like to read a copy of that book.” And I would say, “I bet you would, now let me tell you why it’s so fucking awesome and why I will enjoy my copy when I get home.”
INVINCIBLE has been the one book that has not only held to canon, but has meticulously resurrected throwaway moments and characters into stirring drama, and this issue is the sideliners’ time to shine. The Teen Team debates over a new identity and name, Monster Girl finally gets her rapid anti-aging under control and there is a hilarious moment where we get to see what the guardian of the seas does all day. There is also a ton of set-up for tomorrow: a star faced madman, a Mrs. Robinson vibe that could spell trouble for Mark’s younger brother and dear old Dad shows up as well. I’m amazed that Ottley was able to fit all of these plot threads on 22 pages with such great flow and clarity.
Some have been harsh on the constant canoodling between Atom Eve and Mark as of late, and for those whose balls haven’t dropped yet, there is more of that “icky” stuff in this issue. However, I love the fact that their relationship has hit more rocks than a Ryan O’Neil movie and exhibits that all of us at one time or another lead with our heart over our head. Tired of boinking in their parents’ houses, Eve concocts a plan to make Mark some money off of his alien-given powers. Despite misgivings, Mark agrees whole heartedly. There’s many a man that has tripped into misgivings for doe eyes and pouty lips. These are the little nuances that allow the book to not only explore the super hero genre unfettered, but life as well.
There’s something to be said for Kirkman’s manifesto that appeared after comic-con last year. What can you do with a universe that isn’t owned and operated under a corporate umbrella? What can you do with imagery, words and ideas when not fettered by continuity and marketing mandates? INVINCIBLE, that’s what.
When Optimous Douche isn’t reading comics and misspelling the names of 80’s icons, he “transforms” into a corporate communications guru. "What if the whole world had superpowers? Find out in the pages of Optimous’ original book AVERAGE JOE. Read the first full issue on Optimous’ New Blog and see original sketches by fellow @$$hole Bottleimp. If you are a publisher or can help these guys get AVERAGE JOE up, up, and on the shelves in any way, drop Optimous a line."
MANHUNTER #38 (last issue)
Writer: Michael Andreyko Artist: Michael Gaydos Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: BottleImpWell, it’s over… MANHUNTER is cancelled… again. And even though I bought every issue of this series and, for the most part, enjoyed following the adventures of Kate Spencer every month, I think I can understand why MANHUNTER has finally toppled over the brink after being perched on the edge of cancellation for so long. So before I give my two cents on this title’s last issue, here’s a rundown of the little problems that snowballed into the major flaws that most likely brought this series down.
First off, MANHUNTER never managed to deliver on its initial “hook”—the premise of a criminal prosecutor who was so disgusted by superhuman murderers escaping justice that she decided to track them down and kill them. That’s what attracted me to this series in the first place; I was intrigued to see how a superhero who wasn’t afraid to kill would mesh with the other heroes of the DC Universe. Unfortunately, aside from the premiere issue’s death of Copperhead at the new Manhunter’s hand, that “hook” never really came into play again. There were a few nice moments early on in the series when Kate’s conscience weighed on her in regards to her methods, but soon even the moral ambiguity faded from the series. Manhunter became just another superhero who caught the bad guys. And as the series lost its edge, so too did its main character.
Another thing I loved initially about MANHUNTER was that Kate Spencer was…well, kind of a bitch. Sure, she believed in truth and justice, but that didn’t mean that she was some goody-two-shoes. It was a refreshing change of pace from the everyday superhero—the nearest comparison I can think of is Guy Gardner (when he’s being written as kind of a jerk, yet still effective, unlike the buffoon of the Giffen-JLI era)—but as the series progressed Kate mellowed out more and more. She never became a saint, but again, the edge was dulled. Speaking of dull…
One of Andreyko’s influences on MANHUNTER was James Robinson’s STARMAN, and one area where this connection becomes apparent is in the large supporting casts of characters both new and culled from DC obscurity. However, while Robinson made his supporting cast an interesting and integral part of his stories, Andreyko’s cast never quite gelled. Aside from Manhunter’s criminal weapons manufacturer turned tech wizard Dylan, none of the supporting players brought much in the way of personality or plot involvement to the series. More often then not a supporting cast member’s subplot would resolve without ever crossing into the plot of the main character—this was especially irritating when it came to the subplot involving Mark Shaw, the previous Manhunter. Here was a chance for Andreyko to pull together and expand upon the Manhunter legacy, much as Robinson had done with Starman, but instead Shaw went his own way, Kate went hers, and nothing great came of it.
Missed chances—that’s what sums up this series for me. Nowhere is this feeling better exemplified than in the final two issues. Issue 36 ended with an abortion clinic being blown up, which hearkens back to a similar cliffhanger that was seen before MANHUNTER’s hiatus over a year ago. Did we finally get to see why this happened, and what Manhunter was going to do about it? No. Instead Andreyko gives his readers a self-indulgent two-issue trip into Kate Spencer’s future with a plot that doesn’t connect with the bombing, has no suspense or tension, and features some of the lamest supervillains ever to grace the comic pages. The purpose of this time-jump? To show that Kate’s son grows up to be a superhero in a Manhunter suit to match his mom’s. What? Why? This reminded me of nothing so much as those “Imaginary Stories” of DC’s Silver Age, where Batman and Batwoman got married and had kids who became the new Batman and Robin, or Superman ends up going to live on Mars with Lori Lemaris or somesuch nonsense. MANHUNTER’s final issues are a slap in the face to all of us who bought the series regularly and expected to see good storytelling. Instead we got a dismissal of lingering plot threads and a cheesy, “happily-ever-after” ending. Bleh.
Well, all in all, MANHUNTER had some good spots and some rough patches, and it’s a shame that the series had to end. I’m sure the character will pop up throughout the rest of the DC Universe; I just wish Andreyko had given Kate Spencer a better send-off in her own title.
When released from his Bottle, the Imp takes the form of Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from the Northeast who's given up comics more times than he can remember. But every time he thinks he's out, they pull him back in.
SCARLET VERONICA #3
Writer: Jason Moody Art: Justin Greathouse Publisher: Ape Entertainment Reviewer: Ryan McLellandThis week I got my grubby little hands on SCARLET VERONICA #3. While I enjoy many of Ape Entertainment’s great books I was a bit surprised at how underwhelming this comic was. By the sum of its parts SCARLET VERONICA could be a great comic but upon closer inspection it is all too easy to see it as a comic continually marred with silly dialogue and ample clichés.
Veronica is a hottie high school chick that turns into this kinda-cute hulk-like zombie-monster thing who wears Batwoman’s ripped T-shirt. Joined by her geeky buddy Brian, Veronica is deeply embroiled in a supernatural caper that has her joining Chun-Li clone Lydia, Frank the Zombie, and Mr. Grim Reaper to fight off the creatures who have risen up to try and take over the world. Veronica is the one who is the key to saving the world, so with wisecracks that will make any normal person groan, off she goes to fight.
Later in the book the zombies figure out that Veronica and Brian go to high school, so they attack there during the day. We then get to see V turn into Scarlet Veronica and kick some ass while the scared students stand around going “Dude”, “Like, what is going on?”, and, um, “Dude” again. Veronica then gets to kick some major ass in an amazingly drawn fight with an ugly werewolf-demon-monster-guy where she beats the crap out of him while spouting lines like “Batter Up!”
I’m taking that the book isn’t really for intended for anyone over the age of 13 because anyone over that age realizes that kids in high school really don’t talk like that – perhaps if they are all living at some California Beach Surf School. The other supernatural characters speak like they are straight from pop-culture junkie heaven. Maybe it would be nice if one character was the ubersupergeek, but the fact that is most of them act like they are out of fourth grade for the day with the vernacular heard at the Philadelphia Comic-Con.
The art style goes from cartoony to a mangaesque look from here to there as if having a style at a certain panel becomes acceptable to illustrate a point only to revert back to the cartoony look the next panel. As a whole Jason Moody’s artwork on the book is pretty well done, helped out amazingly by the phenom coloring on the book. For the most part this book looks beautiful (except for the out-of-place mangaesque moments) and Moody surely has a great time drawing the undead zombie Scarlet Veronica.
SCARLET VERONICA does get bogged down by dialogue seemingly written in-between World of Warcraft raids. A better grasp of teenage terminology coupled with supernatural characters that don’t talk like they just got done watching the “Star Wars” trilogy might help with that but as this isn’t my book, I can’t help that. SCARLET VERONICA does have kick ass characters, a good plot, and great artwork overall – but you can expect to roll your eyes more than a couple times at the silly dialogue.
Ryan McLelland has worked in movies and comics journalism for the past several years before joining the @$$holes here at AICN. Ryan’s comic work has already graced comic shelves with Arcana’s PHILLY, WISE INTELLIGENCE, UPTOWN GIRL, and THE SENTINELS ANTHOLOGY. He rarely updates his blog but when he does it can be read at www.eyewannabe.com
G.I. JOE #1
Writer: Chuck Dixon Artist: Robert Atkins Publisher: IDW Publishing Reviewer: Ambush BugI’m waiting.
I’m waiting for the day I can pick up a G.I.JOE comic and scream “AWESOME! This…this is just awesome!!!”
You see, I grew up at just the right time, during the height of the G.I. JOE blitz. Sure it was a huge corporate cross-promotional bonanza, but hell, I was 9. What the hell did I know about that? All I knew is that I loved G.I. JOE. I remember one summer I mowed lawns and saved my pennies to buy the USS FLAGG Aircraft Carrier (with The Admiral action figure included, of course) at my local Toys R Us. I was beaming with joy on the day we drove the van to the toy store, I plopped my penny jar on the counter, and patrons watched as it took two cashiers to help cart out the gigantic toy to the car. When I got home I was amazed at the size of the thing. I could freaking lay on it! I fit damn near all of my G.I. JOE figures and vehicles on the gigantic deck and had battles for hours that mostly consisted of me making ‘splosion sounds with my mouth and knocking over figures I took way too much time to place with great care. I’ll never forget the day when I went down to my basement ready for another naval battle, only to find a big hairy pile of shit on deck in between my HISS tank and the Dragonfly helicopter. It was an especially smelly and dastardly deed, one I wouldn’t put past Zartan himself--but I knew it was Thomas O’Malley, the alley cat my brother had taken in as a stray, who was the true culprit. And on that day, Joe soldier and COBRA trooper alike fought side by side against an incontinent and furry foe. It was a day remembered by all, especially Thomas O’Malley who never walked correctly again with a Chuckles figure shoved up where to poop came from. Ahh, the nostalgia.
And that’s the thing. Nothing, no matter what it is, is ever going to match that feeling of nostalgia when you hear the name G.I. JOE: carting the USS FLAGG aircraft carrier home, reading those comics, sitting on my belly in the living room watching the cartoons. Absolutely nothing can compare.
Despite the fact that COBRA is starting to rear its reptilian head in this first issue of G.I. JOE, the nostalgia and disappointment one feels when faced with the fact that “it’ll never be like that again…” is the true villain of IDW’s new G.I. JOE series. It’s going to make people look at this comic and feel a bit sad, somewhat frustrated, and maybe even make them go to the attic and see if those old carrying cases of G.I. JOE figures haven’t melted in the summer heat.
And that’s really not fair to this first issue of G.I. JOE, I know. The makers of this comic didn’t create the blitz that swept up so many of America’s small minds and dollars in the 80’s. Hell, the people behind this first issue are probably just as much fans as I was.
And the story is not bad. Set in a time right before COBRA revealed itself as a terrorist organization, this G.I. JOE team is antsy. They are the best of the best, but spend most of their time in a bunker in the middle of the desert waiting for something to happen. Drill Sergeant Beachhead confesses that he longs for worthy opponents, and from the small rumblings that happen in this issue, it looks like he’ll get his wish.
Writer Chuck Dixon (who is no stranger to adventure) does a good job of depicting the monotony while amping up the intrigue of the oncoming COBRA threat with the aforementioned down-time scene between Beachhead and Duke and an underwater excursion with Shipwreck and Deep Six. He also has a side-plot going on between Duke and Scarlett and the obligatory action scene where Snake-Eyes shows up a bit too late after a firefight with a mysterious disappearing warrior.
Aside from the Snake-Eyes scene, I was surprised by how slow this issue moved. There was stuff happening, for sure. But too much time was dedicated to driving the point home that the Joes are antsy and that COBRA hasn’t surfaced yet. It moved too slowly for a first issue, which should burn my eyebrows off with intensity if it wants to make it in this hard market and wash off a bit of the stank the property gathered from being spread thin and overworked wet over at Devil’s Due. In the end, I was definitely interested and intrigued, but the issue simply lacked the necessary punch to indicate to me that this series will live up to those battles once fought on my living room floor. When I reached the last page of this comic, I actually said, “That’s it?” Not a good thing to say after a first issue of any book.
Robert Atkins’ art is very good. No frills. It’s not flashy. It’s not over-stylized. Guns look like guns. Tanks look like tanks. Equipment looks the way it should. Given that there was little action in this one (the short Snake-Eyes bit was well paneled, I guess), Atkins can be commended for his authentic depictions of arsenals and military clothing, but the verdict is still out whether or not he can put together a good action scene because, quite frankly, there wasn’t one in this issue.
Hopefully, this book will pick up. I see what Dixon is doing here. He’s going for the slow build, but here’s hoping it doesn’t go on for too long. This comic book series may never live up to The Battle of Cat’s @$$, but there’s potential here and Dixon’s history of kick-@$$ action-filled stories leads me to believe that things will start moving soon, so I’ll stick with it for a few more issues to see that happen. Being a Joe fan for as long as I have, I hope for the best when I crack open a new comic book treatment, but the years of disappointment have left me a bit jaded and as much as I long for those wars that took place on the living room floor, I have a sinking feeling that conflicts of that caliber will never translate to the printed page and belong up with the action figure cases in the attic. But I still hope for the best for this series. I didn’t scream, “AWESOME! This…this is just awesome!!!” after adding this one, but it’s too early to give up on the book yet. There had better be some Yo Joe-ing soon, though.
BLACK LIGHTNING: YEAR ONE #1
Writer: Jen Van Meter Artist: Cully Hamner Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Stones Throw
1) Obama owns a complete collection of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN comics, and was in fact one of the biggest proponents of the recent “One More Day” storyline. “It is time for change to come to Spider-Man,” he said.
2) He described Mark Waid’s recent two-parter with Marcos Martin as “awesome.”
3) Despite a hectic schedule, Obama still manages to make a weekly visit to Middle-Earth Comics in Washington, DC, where he enjoys perusing the back issues while his Secret Service guard waits outside.
4) Of Jan Van Meter and Cully Hamner’s recent BLACK LIGHTNING: YEAR ONE he said, “Marvel’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN cover is getting all the publicity, but I think this is a better comic to represent the popular feeling at the beginning of my presidency.”
5) “In Black Lightning’s struggle to reform a tough inner-city high school readers might be reminded of my work as a community organizer in Chicago, recounted in my best-selling book DREAMS FROM MY FATHER, now retailing from Three Rivers Press at $8.99,” the President continued.
6) THE AUDACITY OF HOPE, Obama’s second book, is also currently on sale.
7) Former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani commented, “Black Lightning is immersing himself in Metropolis machine politics.”
8) Obama considers himself a fan of writer Van Meter. “I hadn’t seen much of her work before this, but let me tell you, I’ll be seeking it out now,” he enthused. “Van Meter manages to communicate the emotional reality of Jeff Pierce’s frayed relationship with his wife, the scary but enticing sensuality of his secret power, the larger-than-life environment of Metropolis and the down-to-earth black neighborhood.
“It’s no mean feat.”
9) The President wishes more comic book art could look like Cully Hamner’s. “That guy’s great. And the cover’s a doozy.”
10) Obama fails to see a problem with Black Lightning having the word “Black” in front of his name. “It’s not like BLACK GREEN LANTERN,” he said. “Black Lightning actually sounds pretty cool.
“‘Lightning’ sounds much worse.”
11) Obama, the son of a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas, is an avid reader of the AICN Comics column, on both Mondays and Wednesdays. “I like SHOOT THE MESSENGER sometimes,” the former President-Elect said. “On balance, those guys’ reviews can be a little over-the-top.”
12) The President’s favorite comics are WATCHMEN and Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN. When asked, he responded “I’m looking forward to the movie. I’m glad Warners and Fox could put their partisan bickering behind them and reach an agreement.
“Even if it’s not that good, I’ll still have the books.”
13) Obama credits White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel with turning him onto THE WALKING DEAD.
“It’s an addictive read,” he explained. “Michelle won’t let me keep it in the house, though.”
14) Before his inaugural address, Obama relaxed with a copy of FINAL CRISIS # 6. “What the fuck is going on here?” he asked.
15) The President recommends BLACK LIGHTNING: YEAR ONE # 2, out today, and wouldn’t mind seeing an ongoing BLACK LIGHTNING series from these guys.
BATMAN VS PREDATOR V1 (1ST LIMITED SERIES)
Writer: Dave Gibbons Pencils: Andy Kubert Inker: Adam Kubert Publisher: DC/Dark Horse comics Guest Reviewer: “William”It's rare when lightning is captured within a proverbial comic book bottle. You know that feeling--the one where you read a certain comic book and years later it's still a pretty kick-ass event.
Such is the great BATMAN VS PREDATOR limited series (the original, not the sequels). I remember when it first came out in the early nineties; I would've been 11 or so at the time. Being in junior high I remember hearing that there was this big event going on the BATMAN comics, something involving him and a Predator, but because I was 11 I was in that phase where I was too young to work, and my mother (like most mothers did) thought that comics were a waste of money. I was barely able to get comics at flea markets (a big big thank you to all the uncredited flea-market vendors who were always able to sell like 4 comics for a dollar back then), let alone direct edition ones that came with $4.99 price tags. So no BATMAN VS PREDATOR for me then.
Fast forward to the mid nineties, now I'm in my high school years and I get to work on my own (albeit fast food stuff, ugh) and spend my disposable income on whatever I want. I remember going into a Barnes & Noble one day and seeing their TPB section, and upon going through the B's lo and behold there was the collected edition of the event. Suddenly all the memories popped back on how I couldn't purchase it before, but now here was my chance to give a big Nelson Muntz's haha! at fate's attempts and I purchased it right then and there.
If there's one word to describe the comic it's one that was used before in this article: kick-ass. Batman is kick-ass, Predator is kick-ass, the writing by Dave Gibbons is kick-ass, the art by the wonder Kubert brothers is the most kick-ass of all. To sum it up in one sentence, the comic follows the traditional Predator storyline where one hunter comes looking for worthy challenges and along the way finds Batman; Batman decides that Gotham will not fall prey to this alien, and it's basically mano y mano from then on out. Plus there are some very cool sequences, such as Batman's first fight with the Predator at the junkyard, the Batmobile being torn apart by the Predator, Batman using a very cool looking modified suit for their final fight, etc. Great stuff.
I think what stood out most for me was the fact that I had never seen Batman take such wallop before. I'm a big fan of the Predator from the movies, and one has to know that whomever a Predator decides to take on, it's not going to be an easy fight for his opponent. I mean in the first Predator movie he took on an entire group of tough-as-nails commandos, barely getting beaten by the remaining Dutch. In any case there's one particular panel in this comic that shows the horrific results of Batman's first fight with the Predator, one involving him being heavily bandaged, lacerated in various places, broken bones, severe bleeding involved throughout all of the Batcave as he had barely stumbled into Alfred's waiting hands. And I remember thinking to myself, holy crap--Batman has never been beaten up like that before. I mean he's had fights with the Joker, mob bosses, various villains during decades worth of comics, but nobody (and I mean NOBODY) put the hurt on Batman as this Predator did. Even since this comic, besides the broken back caused by Bane, I don't recall him getting beaten so badly.
Anyways for all five of you who still haven't read this incredible event, I highly recommend you to pick it up whenever you can. Besides the great story by Dave Gibbons, and the incredible artwork by the Kubert brothers (who continue to be vastly underrated, especially when compared to more flavor of the month artists like Joe Madureira), you're going to find a great roller coaster ride that'll make you wonder why on Earth this isn't made into a CGI movie (I know I know, the various licensing issues and whatnot. Still, one can dream can't they?). Plus there's some great intros describing the behind-the-scenes casual luncheons held by the various DC/Dark Horse personnel that led to this event.
On a closing note, because I'm a continuing fan of the PREDATOR VS ??? comic book titles, has anybody else noticed that Predator has fought a lot of DC and various independent comic book heroes, but there's no Marvel characters to be found? How cool would it be to see Predator fight against Spider-Man, or Wolverine, or Venom, or Iron Man? Just my two cents on the matter.
FAIRY TAIL VOLUMES 3 & 4
By Hiro Mashima Released by Del Rey Reviewed by Scott GreenIt's hard not to be won over by a manga in which a stern faced young woman in breastplate and skirt takes to the air like a wushu heroine in clearing a hall full of armed toughs. Magically swapping weapons, in one page she's swatting foes with a broadsword, before bouncing into the air and springing a spear into the side of a guy targeting her. She lands with a short sword in each hand before taking out a section of the opposing crowd with a battle axe, finishing off the sweep with a BERSERK's style giant sword. Though FAIRY TAIL's home anthology SHONEN MAGAZINE skews a bit older than SHONEN JUMP, with a history of manga like AIR GEAR, CROMARTIE HIGH SCHOOL, DEVILMAN, GTO and VIOLENCE JACK, the spirit of the manga is not unlike the quests of JUMP's well known heroes. Its premise has some effect in casting the manga in a distinctive light, but it is the unreserved energy and style that elevates FAIRY TAIL.
If you read American comics in the 90's you're doubtlessly familiar with Rob Liefeld's YOUNGBLOOD. When the comic was launched in 1992 as part of the new consortium of creators, Image Comics, Liefeld was a celebrity. The Levi jeans ad has to be mentioned. He was a top name in the field launching his big, solo project at the height of the speculation fueled comic boom. Perhaps this was to have informed the work itself, because YOUNGBLOOD was premised as a familiar super-hero team twisted to reflect the reality of celebrity. In interviews leading up to the first issue, Liefeld boasted that his characters would have to contend with public expectations, as well as the physical realities of carrying out demanding, high profile work. The professional athlete-like wear on their bodies was mentioned as an example.
I bring up this bit of not-so-well-regarded comic history because, while YOUNGBLOOD was supposed to be the American superhero team grafted to the realities of fame, FAIRY TAIL is the shonen hero story grafted to celebrity culture. Its characters aren't unlike all of those popular SHONEN JUMP champions, but they're also famous/infamous, attractive, destructive and damaged. There's a daring, playful attitude at work in the manga. The characters behave recklessly. The author flaunts the tiny waists and round chests of the cast's young ladies. Yet, rather than foolish or pandering, these potential liabilities fit into the spirit of the manga.
The titular FAIRY TAIL is a guild of wizards, loved by their young fans for their style and flare, loathed by government officials for the path of destruction left during the course of their work. At the center of the manga's focus is the trio of guild-newbie Lucy Heartphilia, a young woman able to summon beings from other worlds using her "Keys of the Gates", Natsu Dragonil, a guy with feral tendencies and a devastating command of fire magic, and Happy, a winged, talking blue cat. Volumes three and four also employ Gray Fullbuster, Natsu's ice wielding, competitive peer, and slightly older guild-mate Erza, who plays the harsh senior role, and who rages into battle with the ability to summon a host of different melee weapons and suits of armor.
In deconstructing FAIRY TAIL, deficits emerge. Mashima is by no means unskilled at any aspect of manga storytelling, but a critical eye spots weaknesses, particularly with progressions. Specifically, both action and plot are whiplash-prone.
FAIRY TAIL is fine with its sequential quests and cliff hangers. Beyond that competency, my early concerns about the manga's ability to remain interesting over the long term have largely evaporated. The pieces being arranged seem to suggest that there's a long term plan regarding the resurrection of a dark lord, whose left over creations and projects will plaque the heroes until the conflict comes to a head.
The model works better than the rudimentary glue that holds together simple fight manga. However, it does not direct momentum or anticipation as well as the kings of the genre. Similarly, the manga does not deliver as effectively as it might. Volume three starts building up the grouping of Natsu, Gray and Erza as FAIRY TAIL's strongest team. They do work together, and when that happens, the spectacle is suitably impressive, but when they start down the split up and fight routine, the manga seems to be bowing to formula rather than leveraging what it has established.
FAIRY TAIL is packed with magical battles that pulse with dynamic energy. The excitement is infectious in these conflagrations; however, I am slightly bothered by the choreography. It's a nitpick criticism, cropping up when the manga is given a close inspection, but I do get the sense that the panel to panel flow of the fights lack some consideration. If you insist on finding it, it takes a couple of readings to really connect the blow-by-blow logic. When considering the space between combatants and the way in which they are oriented to each other, mentally constructing the progression asks for allowances in mid-air contortions and artistic license.
Exhuberance is nothing new to the genre. Like ONE PIECE's Eiichiro Oda and NARUTO's Masashi Kishimoto, Hiro Mashima grew up a fan of DRAGON BALL creator Akira Toriyama. The planet cracking battles of DRAGON BALL Z have been of primary interest to North American fans. In contrast, these manga creators have often mentioned their fondness for the early parts of DRAGON BALL, in which a primal, monkey tailed boy wandered into adventures with the shape changing pigs and desert bandits of JOURNEY TO THE WEST, but also robots, dinosaurs, Universal monsters, Native Americans and just about anything else that Toriyama could gleefully pluck out of the popular imagination.
While FAIRY TAIL goes for irrepressible late-teens rather than a wild adolescent, the verve of early DRAGON BALL is in effect. Hiro Mashima doesn't quite succeed in balancing structure with the potential for anything to happen, but FAIRY TAIL works well enough favoring the latter. Between the charisma and unmediated determination of the heroes and the concussive force of the action, Hiro Mashima succeeds in packaging potent fantasy action.
Scott Green has been writing for AICN ANIME for over seven years. If you like what you see here and love anime & manga, be sure to check out his latest AICN ANIME column here.