iainpj: (hairy hero1)
( Jan. 14th, 2015 02:48 pm)
DC’S NEW POWER GIRL DITCHES THE BOOB WINDOW, LOOKS AMAZING (hitfix.com)

I'm ... astonished, really.

Mind, that second paragraph is a touch confusing. Earth-2 IS the original Power Girl's own universe, in the nu52 (and pre-pre-crisis DCU, for that matter) During the time I was reading "World's Finest", she and Helena (Huntress) were working on ways to get back to their own universe, something that Mr. Terrific found by accident. (I stopped reading because it was ... boring, really. A really huge chunk of the titles that DC put out after the last universe reboot were amazingly dull. There's just so much interchangeable ultraviolence with costumed weirdos you can read before it all kind of melds together, you know?)

To be sure, I don't hugely care, although I should. The only DC titles I read now are Batman, Batgirl, Astro City (which isn't any flavor of DC Universe) and Secret Six. And I only kinda sorta sometimes read the first two. Oh, and Gotham Academy, which is weird fun aimed at a somewhat younger audience. (In comic book stores. Yeah, that's going to work real well, that is.) I can only take so much grimdark/grim/grimmer/grimmest/positively-grimy ... especially since, once upon a time not that long ago, DC wasn't ALL that way.

But still. It'll be interesting to see how the audience reacts. "How can SHE be Power Girl? She's too young! The magickal boob window is gone -- along with the magickal boobies! And she's ... not blonde!"

(Purely a side note: Afro puffs. She has Afro puffs. In this day and age. DC, sometimes I really love the way you think.)

Also, the comments thread on that article is a hoot. (I think one of the artists may actually comment about the costume at one point, though I'm not sure.) Mind, I kind of agree with the general sentiment of "Why retread an old name with someone different? Why not come up with a new character name for a new character?" But then, there are a number of reasons why DC wouldn't do that. They wouldn't want the character name to fade away once she was in some other universe, they wouldn't want the name to fall into public domain (granted, they'd need to wait about 75 years from now for that to happen), they'd want to emphasize what connection there is between new and old, etc.

And, of course, the other thing is that if the audience emphatically rejects her early on, they don't have to stick with her all that long. "Convergence" this spring -- what DC is calling their next universe-reshaping event, as they've retired the term "crisis" -- will no doubt offer the opportunity to make all sorts of course corrections. (I plan to serenely ignore it until it's done and they've either restarted everything with new number 1 issues, or -- and I suspect this is more likely for some titles at least -- returned to the pre-Flashpoint numbering. It wouldn't surprise me at all for Batman, Detective, Wonder Woman and maybe Superman to return to the old numbering if they resurrect the old universe in any significant way.

But we shall see, I suppose. Alas.
Hey, I'm not the one who decided to release 6,789 Batman-related titles every week through the end of time. Anyway, let's try for a few quick(ish) hits on some of last week's singles, shall we? Let's shall.

Oh, and I think, even though this is the end of the week, I shall just note: SPOILERY SPOILERS WHAT SPOIL AT MIDNIGHT AHEAD! ONE, AND MAYBE TWO, OF THE ISSUES BELOW MAY ACTUALLY HAVE THE ENDINGS DISCUSSED! BEWARE!

Azrael 13 (David Hine/Guillem March; DC)

Quite honestly, it's impossible to talk about this issue without giving away major points, so I'll just do it up top. In this issue, we sail from the gnostic gospels straight into Dan Brown territory.

Yes, that's right; we're talking about the descendants of Jesus.

But before we get to that point, we get to bounce back and forth between Michael and Father Day recovering the Shroud of Turin and trying fruitlessly to escape the chapel -- or, really, not actually trying to escape, but angsting about lots of things -- and the Crusader flaying Father Grieve. Which he manages to survive. There's a lovely scene where Father Grieve, muscles and viscera exposed, carries his skin to Michael and Father Day to tell them exactly what's going on and who the suit of sorrows is really meant for.

Honestly, I think this story might work better when it's collected, and you can just immerse yourself in it and go from wire to wire without coming up for air. Although, that said, this story has veered so spectacularly from the early arcs to this that it feels like it's dealing with different characters altogether. Part of that, of course, is the fact that the suit of sorrows is driving Michael messily mad. But there are certainly threads that were discarded; the Ra's al-Ghul/Talia storyline, where Michael was told he would need to go to them to find out the truth of the suit of sorrows, has disappeared entirely, and might not fit the story as it is now. He seems utterly disconnected from anything remotely resembling sane humans. And the story is effectively depicting all Christians, especially Catholics, as dupes of the Church. To be sure, Protestants are merely clueless; Catholics are being actively deceived.

It is a weirdly engrossing story. I think, at this stage, I keep reading to see just how much farther off the rails this story can go, and every issue it keeps leaping even further away. And March's art is actually keeping up with the weird.

Impossible to recommend or qualify, but utterly fascinating, in a train wreck sort of way.



Batman and Robin 15 (Morrison/Irving; DC): In which Dick gets shot in the head to remarkably little immediate effect, the Joker turns out not to be entirely on the side of evil, Damian rescues Commissioner Gordon from Pyg, and we find out more about Doctor Hurt. This issue, in fact, dovetails really beautifully with issue 5 of "The Return of Bruce Wayne". Irving's art is, as usual, spectacular, and well-fitted to Morrison's storytelling.
Excellent; Highly recommended.

Bruce Wayne, The Road Home: Commissioner Gordon (Adam Beechen/Szymon Kudranski; DC): Honestly, alone of the "Road Home" stories so far, this one is kind of awesome. Principally because this is the first issue in which Bruce isn't testing someone; he comes in the middle of a crisis and helps out, only to discover that Gordon has more or less got it covered. The Vicki Vale thread continues, and actually makes absolutely no sense this time through, mostly because it isn't quite about her. It's about Ra's al-Ghul using her for ... something. Offscreen, he lets the underworld know that Vicki has information revealing the secret identities of the Bat clan, basically setting off a free-for-all as everyone tries to get hold of her to get the information out of her. It's not at all clear why he does this; after all, he knows Bruce's secret identity. And causing chaos for chaos' sake isn't really his style. Regardless, this issue is more about showing why Commissioner Gordon makes such a good partner for Batman, and making Bruce realize it. (And also demonstrating that the corruption of the Gotham PD will never ever ever be gone.) Kudranski's art is interestingly dark and textured, and a great match for Beechen's story. It's apparently a hard lead into the Oracle "Road Home" story, which, given that she already knows that Bruce is home and is the Insider, should be a very different story than the other Road Home titles. This one, however, is the only one that really does stand alone, even meant as a lead in. If you want to see something that shows you the core of the Bruce/Gordon relationship, this is a good title for that.
Excellent; Highly recommended

Batman Beyond 5 (Beechen/Ryan Benjamin/John Stanisci; DC)
In which we find out who it was that attacked Terry, the new Catwoman helps Bruce save him, and we discover that Amanda Waller has, sadly, gone brilliantly batshit insane. She has decided that Gotham should always have a Batman -- more importanly, I suspect, a Batman under Cadmus/her control. And the steps she's taken resulted in a murderous lunatic running around Gotham. Oh, and Bruce accidentally admits something important to Terry. This isn't a bad story, exactly ... but I think we got Beechen at his best in the above Commissioner Gordon story, and at somewhat less than his best in this story. In particular, the idea that Amanda Waller, of all people, would decide that Gotham needs her to make it a Batman is just bizarre.
OK; No recommendation because it's the fifth issue of a six-issue arc.

Power Girl 17 (Winick/Basri; DC)
The first issue of the current arc that hasn't felt like it should have a "Brightest Day" banner on it, instead we get ... Batman. Seriously, people, he's everywhere this month. Any road, the villain of the piece, whom we've known about for a while, finally makes an appearance. Bats and PG's new sidekick, Nicco Cho, help her figure out where to find said villain, although not who it is. I hope the revelation of the villain to PG means that we're near the end of this arc; with all the crossovers, it's felt like it's gone on forever. That said, while taking a more serious approach overall, Winick has managed to sustain much of the humor that Palmiotti and Gray put into the character; the one major difference is that whereas Palmiotti and Gray let her enjoy her life and enjoy being a superhero, Winick hasn't let PG enjoy much of anything at all, as all aspects of her life have fallen apart. In terms of the art, Basri manages something really interesting this month; the bulk of the issue looks much like the last one, but somehow Batman looks as though he's come in to visit from a Fraser Irving issue of Batman and Robin. He really looks very different from anything else in the issue, somehow.
Very good; Recommended.

(Purely a side note: Is it wrong that right now, I kind of want a new issue of "The Network" that focuses on some big conspiracy that can only be uncovered by the technosidekicks of the DCU? There's wossername that Barbara sent to handle the Web's tech, there's Proxy who handles Batgirl when Barbara's not available, Barbara is the only person who works with the Birds, and now we've got Nicco and PG. If you could figure out how to make it work, it would be kind of awesome. Though maybe it should be a big one-shot/annual type deal.)


Knight and Squire 1 of 6 (Paul Cornell/Jimmy Broxton; DC)
In wihch THEY ARE BRITISH. THEY ARE VERY VERY BRITISH. OH, THEY ARE SO BRITISH ... Sorry for the shouting, but half the issue is dedicated to establishing the setting and how very different the British do things than the Americans do, and not a lot else. If you didn't see the earlier issues of Morrison's Batman run in which Knight and Squire appeared, you don't actually know much more about them at the end of the issue than you did at the beginning. But you do know that the British superheroes and supervillains handle themselves very differently than the American ones. Even the ones who patterned themselves after American heroes and villains. Because they're British. Thing is, if this had been the first issue of a full ongoing series, it might not be a bad start. As the beginning of a miniseries ... it seems rather a waste of space, really.
No recommendation, because this was an utterly pointless issue to start off a miniseries.

And now, a musical reward for having survived to the end of this entry:



Because Neil Patrick Harris makes everything better, doesn't he?
Just one or two reviews to get my hand back in.

But first, a cover from an upcoming Brightest Day issue.
The new Aqualad standing over zombie Deadman


How ... interesting.

I'm ignoring the melting zombie Deadman thing. After all, the last issue of Brightest Day declared in big zappy letters, "Blackest Night Firestorm!" along with an image of said character. That character -- or at least, that incarnation of said character -- appeared nowhere in the issue. However, as DC notes in "The Source", there will be a new Aqualad. There will also be a new DC Animated version of Young Justice, in which the new Aqualad will appear. (I wonder how they'll explain what happened to the old one. Granted that I didn't watch Teen Titans that much, but the last I saw, the old Aqualad was a going member of Titans East. I wonder if he got killed off somehow?)

I find it moderately intriguing that the new Aqualad is apparently going to be "born", so to speak, in one of the driest areas of one of the driest states in these United States. Seriously, people, I'm from New Mexico, and you have a hard time locating both very large bodies of water and notable numbers of black people anywhere, never mind in Silver City. It's going to be interesting to see how they pull this off, as well as the connection between this and the DC Animated universe.

And I daresay the fanboy angst will be much much more intense and impolitic than this, judging from the recent brouhaha over the suggestion of Donald Glover for Spiderman.

But in the meantime: recent funny pages!

Power Girl #13 (Judd Winick/Sam Basri; DC)

So ... yeah.

Issue 13 of PG, with the new Winick/Basri creative team, is effectively a Brightest Day tie-in -- so much so that I'm astonished that they didn't put the Brightest Day banner on the cover. It jumps back a bit in time, relatively speaking, to give us the early days of the event from PG's perspective. Power Girl and an assortment of JLA and JSA members, including Batman, go after Max Lord, whom they've realized is once again doing Very Bad Things. This does not go well -- in fact, it goes very strangely indeed -- and when she gets back to New York, PG discovers that her life has effectively just blown up in her face.

The only way I can describe this issue is to say that it's basically very well written and very well illustrated, and that I still didn't much care for it. Basri's art is really very good, and impressive to look at ... and not quite right for Power Girl. It's very washed out and pale, and that doesn't fit the character at all. Winick is actually a good choice for a writer who is going to make Power Girl a more dramatic title, while still keeping the odd, infrequent touch of humor, if that's the kind of title you'd like to read.

Here's the thing: one of the things that I truly loved about the Palmiotti-Gray/Conner run on Power Girl was that they created a heroine who really loved her life, even when it wasn't always going the best, and there was more than an odd, infrequent touch of humor about the title. She loved being able to help people. Power Girl was just plain fun, and now that PG is dealing with a life in ruins, it's pretty clear that "fun" is not going to be much in supply around these parts.

In all fairness, I can't recommend it, but I also can't not recommend it. It's a very well done issue, and I think there are people that it will appeal to, expecially with the (oddly unlabeled) Brightest Day tie-in. I'm just not necessarily one of them.


Azrael 8/9 (Fabian Nicieza/Ramon Bachs, John Stanisci, JD Smith; DC): The end of Nicieza's run on Azrael, and a very frustrating one it is, too. He makes the very reasonable case that the eighth deadly sin is Faith -- carried to excess, of course. After all, none of the Deadly Sins is sinful unless carried to extremes; different versions of them are actually regarded as virtues, of a sort, or at least as necessary. And then ... Nicieza backs off. Azrael is effectively taken over and becomes the manifestation of the eighth deadly sin. The story theen takes a turn that, honestly, doesn't make any sense, but which is still kind of fascinating to read. Azrael decides that he then must kill the foremost proponent of irrational faith in the world today. And who would that be? I'll give you a hint: on his way to kill said proponent, Azrael kills the Swiss Guard. All of them. But Azrael gets blocked from his goal by the White Ghost, who tells him that he won't truly understand how the Suit of Sorrows works until he has faith in Ra's al-Ghul. And just like that, Azrael is cured. Um ... what now? How does that work? They spent nearly half of issue 8 arguing and maneuvering him into the position of becoming the eighth deadly sin; the Ghost talks him out of it in only a couple of pages? Really? In any event, it's going to be interesting to see where the new creative team takes the series, and who it will be. It still seems to have a fixed end point, so it doesn't seem like the series can go that much longer, sales aside.
OK; No recommendation.

First Wave: The Spirit #3 (Mark Schultz, Michael Uslan, F. J. DeSanto/Moritat, Justiniano; DC): In which the Spirit's baffling ability to get villainous women to fall in love with him appears once again. Moritat's art is, as usual, wonderful to look at. And the story follows logically enough from the previous issues. It's just a bit ... silly, really, especially after all the grand guignol mayhem. (Seriously, that last scene with Angel Smerti is pretty much begging for Quentin Tarantino to stick it in a movie.
OK, Recommended.
Tags:
The DC previews in the April issue (for issues and items on sale in June) are alternately giving me a teensy bit of hope, puzzling me and making me a bit sad.

The milestone issus for DC's "Trinity" are all being published during June: Wonder Woman 600, Superman 700, Batman 700. And it turns out that J. Michael Straczynski is taking over a series writer for Superman and Wonder Woman. Thing is, he's really a pretty good writer. I'm not particularly worried about what's going to happen with Diana -- I don't read Supes, though I may start now that the eternal New Krypton/War of the Supermen crossovers are finally done. (I wonder if the New Kryptonians survived and/or moved off to some other solar system. Guess I'll find out.) Straczynski writes good women, or can, at least. What I wonder is if he's going to be seriously over-extended -- I think he's still got "The Brave and the Bold" as well (and that's a wildly uneven title; it's either awesome or kind of boring, with nothing in between) or if he'll walk off in a huff the way he did at Marvel. (Said huff, as I understand it, being caused by Marvel going back on their word and wanting to include his Thor title in their never ending crossovers. They'd promised him that they'd leave him alone, and did for a long time, but then, oddly enough, Thor turned into one of their best selling titles, and they wanted to take advantage of that. He didn't want to deal with that, and I can't blame him. The problem is, that stranded The Twelve, Marvel's version of the whole "let's resurrect some of our old characters and some old public domain characters and throw them into the modern era" thing. And frankly, it was far more interesting than Dynamite's version of the same. But, alas, it seems that the series will never be completed. There is, I think, absolutely no chance that DC would leave Superman out of any line-wide crossovers, but they've left Wonder Woman completely out during Gail Simone's run, so maybe they'll keep that up. (Mind, I think that's slightly to her detriment. Not because I think the crossovers would boost her sales -- though it might, if they could avoid the cracktacular messes like "Blackest Night: Wonder Woman" -- but because there are major character developments that happen in the crossoves that never get addressed in the main title.) Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how that works out.

For the Green Lantern fen, there's the never ending crossover, Brightest Day leading straight out of Blackest Night. (My comic book dealer tells me that Brightest Day is meant to be more DC-wide. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Our theory is that somehow, DC's Brightest Day, when it finally arrives, will be The Return of Bruce Wayne, because the idea that they could resist the anvillicious irony of having the universe's Brightest Day being caused by the return of their darkest hero ... well.) The Alpha Lanters are revolting.

Over in Justice League land, there's the reformation of Justice League International. There's also the hook into Green Arrow; Oliver apparently is giving up the bow -- given what he did, and the fact that the League knows, I suppose there's no choice -- and there's going to be a new Green Arrow. I think Roy is having his arm regrown at STAR Labs. And then there's a JLA/JSA crossover starting. (Which JSA, I have no idea.)

Over in Batland, the joint's a-jumpin'. For one thing, Gail Simone is restarting Birds of Prey. This incarnation seems to be Oracle-free, as she's off over with Batgirl. Bruce Wayne continues to return -- this month, as a pirate! (The "yo ho ho and a bottle of rum" kind, not the "let's hold an oil tanker hostage" kind.) And then there are the two things that are kind of baffling.

For reasons that surpasseth all understanding, DC has decided to start one weird new Battish title, and revive an old one. They've decided to do a Red Hood title, exploring what Jason did between his resurrection and 52/Countdown, in a series called "Red Hood: Lost Days." Seriously was anyone clamoring for this? Did anyone care? When last we saw him, Jason was battered, bloody, maimed and headed to jail. (Presumably, like all of Gotham's villains, he'll escape sometime soon.) And the other thing they're doing is resurrecting Batman Beyond. And again: people were asking for this? Continuity has already run over the original Batman Beyond; that said, they're implying that this may be based on the DC Animated version, rather than the old comic book version. If it's not, then continuity is going to be weird. That said, it's possible that Terry is a short-lived Batman; it's difficult to see how hefits around Dick, Tim, and Damian in their Batman runs. (Though ... the interesting thing is that, as I recall, back in Batman 666, Damian never explicitly said that he murdered Bruce. Moreover, given subsequent developments, it's entirely possible that Bruce isn't the dead Batman we see there. It could be Tim or Dick, and Damian could be his Robin. In "Batman and Robin", we get the return of Thomas Wayne. Again.

Elsewhere: DC's experiment in reviving The Red Circle titles seems to be over; both The Web and The Shield are cancelled with issue #10. Sadly, I'm not surprised. I couldn't get into The Shield, but I did like The Web; however, that said, the Web was a complete and total idiot, and the Bat corner of the universe could do without him. The Earth-One/First Wave universe continues, with yet another reboot of The Spirit and of Doc Savage continuing. Great Ten goes on (and on).

And in the development that really makes me sad, Paliotti, Gray and Amanda Connor leave Power Girl, and Judd Winick and Sami Basri take over. Understand: I'm not saying that Winick is a bad writer or anything like that. It's just that ... well, currently, Power Girl is fun. It's the most fun you can get in a 32-page superhero comic. She enjoys her life, she enjoys being a superhero, she enjoys being a woman. Yes, there are a lot of serious parts, but it's still just a fun, fun title. And somehow ... in what I've seen of his other work, Winick has always been fairly serious. I cannot see him bringing the fun. On the other hand, maybe Dini will bring the fun to his restart of the Zatanna title.

June's definitely going to be an ... interesting month in the DCU.
Yeah, been a while, hasn't it? So let's see if we can manage a few short(ish) faster-paced reviews, just to get my hand back in, shall we? Let's shall.

Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love #1 (Chris Roberson/Shawn McManus; DC/Vertigo)
The latest in the Fables series spinoffs, we follow Cinderella, Fabletown's spy extraordinaire, as she sets off on her latest mission: to determine who's been sneaking magical artifacts from the fallen Homelands, post Fables war, into the mundy world and to stop them. She asks Frau Totenkinder for some help, for a price that's left unspecified for now but is certain to be fairly high. We also see that Cinderella runs a shoe shop in Fabletown, with her assistant -- who feels much more put-upon than he actually is -- trying to run a functioning business in the frequent absence of his leader. It becomes clear almost immediately that putting an even mildly ambitious person in that sort of position is the sort of thing that Will Not Go Well -- although, again, that's only set up in this issue, and we'll have to wait for the payoff. Overall, it was a lot of fun, consistent with the characterization of Cinderella as we've seen her in the main Fables series (I've said it before, but Prince Charming married three fairly awesome women). The only small glitch was figuring out when in the Fables timeline the story takes place, as it turns out to be very particular. It's after the Fabletown war, but before the arrival of Mister Dark, as the Underwood still exists at that point; I wonder if perhaps the series was maybe planned to come out about a year ago, and something delayed it. In any event, McManus' artwork maintains the overall look and tone of the Fables series while also being more or less its own thing.
Very Good; Recommended

Stumptown #1 (Greg Rucka/Matthew Southworth; Oni)
In which Rucka goes for the modern noir detective story. We start near the end, in which Dex is being shot by someone, and wind back to the beginning. Dex -- whose first name is apparently Dexedrine, which will tell you something about her background right there -- is a Native American detective living in Portland, Oregon, trying to care for her younger brother, whom everyone in the neighborhood seems to love. They're not so happy with her, however. Dex, it seems, has a major gambling problem. She runs up more than she can repay at the local casino, and gets roped in through those debts into trying to run down the daughter of the casino owner; said daughter has suddenly just dropped off the face of the earth. This being a detective story, we discover almost immediately that there are all sorts of things that Dex hasn't been told about what's going on. It seems to be getting set up to be a classic story of dames and double-crosses, only the detective in this case is a woman, which may or may not also truncate the classic "find the dame who then seduces the detective and then does him wrong" part of the story. (NOTE: I've seen some other reviews, and for reasons which utterly escape me, almost everyone is assuming that Dex is a lesbian. The only textual support for it seems to come from Dex commenting that the girl she's been asked to find could have run away with a man or a woman. It would not be unusual for Rucka to create a tough lesbian detective -- see also: Renee Montoya, Kate Kane's Batwoman -- but there doesn't seem to be a lot more there, at the moment.) Southworth's artwork is hard-edged, heavy-lined and dark, matching the mood of the story perfectly. For what it's worth, I'm glad that this is coming from Oni, which seems to aim for graphic novels and collections more than it does single issues. This story seems strongly like it will read better in collections -- though I assume those collections will lack the backmatter, like Southworth's explanation this issue of how he came up with the look and content of the art -- and may be a harder sell in individual issues.
Excellent; Highly recommended

Invincible Presents: Atom Eve and Rexplode #1 (Benito Cereno/Nate Bellegarde; Image)
In which we go into the past, before the Invincible War, and see how Rexplode and Atom Eve, a.k.a Samantha Wilkins, met. We start with Rexplode's story, which turns out to be very grim indeed. His family is grindingly poor, driving Rex to steal food. He's seen by a man who gets intrigued by his apparent talents, and who then follows him back to his home and makes a proposition to Rex' father ... who sells his son to someone he doesn't know, essentially for a few groceries. Rex is made to endure all sorts of body modifications, which allow him to explode things with sufficient kinetic energy. (He throws balls at his targets. A lot.) It becomes clear to the reader long before it dawns on Rex that perhaps, just perhaps, he's not working for the good guys that he thought he was. But before he can quite figure out what to do with this concept, he meets Atom Eve.

I really really wish that Kirkman would outsource every issue of the main Invincible title in which Atom Eve appears to Cereno so that she could get some more interesting characterization. She only appears on the last page of this first issue, but presents with a lot more attitude and is a much more interesting character, in a one page appearance, than Kirkman has ever managed. This was also true of the first Atom Eve miniseries that Cereno wrote. I get that in the main title, she's a supporting character, whereas Cereno gets to write her as the main character of his minseries, and so she actually has to be more interesting; she holds the center. I get all that, I really do. But Kirkman has only ever written Eve as an archetype of The Girl. You want her, but you can't have her. Miracle of miracles, you get her ... and then your enemy punches her guts out and kills her, motivating you to kill him (you think). But then, more miracles of miracles! she reassembles herself and she's back to life, and gave herself a boob job in the bargain! And yet ... somehow doesn't quite manage to be that interesting a character, despite everything.

Anyway, all that said, Cereno and Bellegarde do their usual excellent work in this miniseries, producing strong characterization and story and artwork. It's very enjoyable, and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the series.
Excellent; Highly recommended


Hector Plasm: Totentanz (Cereno/Bellegarde and others; Image)
Very different in feel from the first Hector Plasm, which told more straight-ahead stories. This one contains not only stories, but recipes, and songs (sort of). The quality does feel rather more variable than expected, but overall, it's still a very entertaining and interesting look at the character and his life and times. And also the occasional ghosts and skeletons and whatnot. One of the stories, "Hector contre la danse macabre", is meant to be read in conjunction with composer Camille Saint-Saens piece "Danse Macabre", with story beats coordinated to the music. Happily, Nate Bellegarde then put together this NOT SAFE FOR WORK piece (contains full frontal comics character nudity), synchronizing the visual and audio beats as intended.
Excellent; Highly recommended

World's Finest #1 of 4 (Sterling Gates/Julian Lopez, Bit; DC)
Adventure Comics 3/506 (Geoff Johns, Michael Shoemaker/Francis Manapul, Clayton Henry; DC)
Red Robin #5 (Christopher Yost/Ramon Bachs; DC)
I put these three titles together because the first two, between them, show how frustrating Red Robin itself is. All three involve Red Robin; in World's Finest, he teams up with Nightwing -- Chris Kent, not Dick Grayson, who's off being Batman -- to take down an operation by the Penguin, who has managed to kidnap Flamebird. (Side note: since I abandoned the Superman side of the DCU back when they were having a terrible time getting any of the Superman titles to ship, I had no idea that there had been "time storms" or some such, which propelled Chris Kent through about 15 years of physical development in only a few months. I also had no idea that he was Zod's son. It was fairly startling. But I digress.) In Adventure, Conner "Superboy" Kent, trying to get back in touch with his past, tracks down Tim and helps him out with a mess he's gotten into. And in Red Robin, Tam Fox winds up delegated to track Tim down, for no apparent reason -- seriously, Lucius would send his daughter after Tim, knowing the sorts of things he could be getting into? His daughter? Sorry, don't buy that. But anyway, there she is. And there Tim is, post mauling. (I will also just note that a biologically human vigilante without a spleen, doing the sorts of things he does, is taking one hell of a risk.) The thing is, World's Finest manages to advance the idea that Tim is still trying to find Bruce, searching for odd and obsure clues -- it feels like it takes place long after the current Red Robin arc has ended. And in Adventure, we see, for the first and only time so far, Tim articulate why he's chosen to be Red Robin, an identity for which he can only have the deepest loathing. Or, more precisely, we see Conner figure it out, and then he and Tim talk about it. We haven't gotten any of that in the main Red Robin title, and at this point, we should be.
World's Finest: Very good; Recommended.
Adventure Comics: Very Good; Recomended.
Red Robin: ... Meh.


Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape #6 of 6 (Ivan Brandon/Cliff Richards, Prentis Rollins)
One of the more headscratching things to come out of Final Crisis. On the one hand, it was different and experimental in a way that DC seldom is. On the other ... by the time you get to the end, all you can think is, "All of this is for THAT result? Why didn't they just ASK him?" In any event, the title ends in a way that seems to set up the new (and dreadfully misnamed, no doubt) Global Peace Agency, with Nemesis as its chief. It seems to be a replacement for the now-destroyed Checkmate, with a broader brief, and fewer checks on its power. Its brief is to prevent the next Crisis; it will, of course, utterly and absolutely fail at that. It is, in fact, failing at that at this very moment, with Blackest Night zombies running around all over the place.

A moment from the High Horse, if you will: One of the terribly frustrating things about DC's various crises is the really odd lack of followthrough in some places. For example, at the end of the Crime Bible: The Books of Blood miniseries, Renee Montoya was accidentally head of the Religion of Crime. And then when Final Crisis came along, she just ... wasn't, anymore, and now in Detective, Alice has come out of nowhere to take charge. At the end of Final Crisis, Renee Montoya had been drafted by Checkmate to be head of the Global Peace Agency, gathering the task force of 51 Supermen who were to defeat Darkseid, only to arrive and discover that Earth-prime's Superman was back and handling things just fine, thanks. And now ... she's not. It does seem that there should be some exploration of what happened and the effects before you go blithely off to the next thing. I mean, it wouldn't take all that much to tell us how she got out of all these commitments, would it? But I digress.
Interesting; no recommendation


Power Girl #6 (Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray/Amanda Connor; DC)
Have I mentioned that I absolutely love this series? No? Well, I absolutely love this series. It manages to take on the sorts of Serious Things that a superhero story must do -- for certain values of serious, of course; New York getting levitated by a hyperintelligent ape's spaceship is only just so serious, after all. At the same time, it never loses its sense of humor and fun. Power Girl actually enjoys being a superhero. At the same time, she enjoys being Karen Starr, if not quite as much -- it's certainly the more aggravating side of her existence.

One of the things I've never understood about superhero comix is the secret identity thing. Take Power Girl, for example: six foot tall buxom blonde, never to be found in the vicinity of Karen Starr even when they logically ought to be. Just how hard can it be to make that connection? And in the last two issues, Palmiotti and Gray have actually played with that a little, having someone discover Power Girl's secret identity. She doesn't know who it is yet, though undoubtedly she will soon.
Excellent; Highly recommended.


Detective Comics #858 (Greg Rucka/JH Williams III, Cully Hammer)
In which we start seeing Batwoman's origin story, with perhaps a tiny bit of Alice's origin story and the modern story mixed in. We meet Kate and her sister Beth as children, and see their mostly happy home lives. Certainly, they're frustrated by their father's frequent absences, and also frustrated when they're made to move yet one more time, but still basically happy. That all comes to an end in London, where their family is attacked, presumably by the Religion of Crime, during the girls' birthday outing with their mother. She's killed, and it seems that Beth is killed as well. In the modern frame, Kate is analyzing some of Alice's blood to see if it's her sister or not, and ignoring her father's demands and pleas for her to talk to him. In the backup story, "Pipeline, chapter 1", Renee Montoya as the Question wraps up the first part of her investigation into a slavery ring, rescuing not only the girl she was after but several more. (One wonders what the rest of "Pipeline" is supposed to be, if chapter 1 ends like that.) I actually feel a bit sorry for Cully Hammer; he's been doing very good work on The Question backup story in Detective, but has been totally overshadowed by the amazing things that Williams is doing with Batwoman.
Excellent; Highly recommended

Wonder Woman #37 (Gail Simone/Bernard Chang)
You know ... I wonder if perhaps Simone is aiming at nothing other than an essential refounding of Wonder Woman's story with this arc. After all, Diana's last two origin stories don't really work any more; she's surely observed man's world quite enough (and the current setup of her story seems to assign that role to Hippolyta as a previous Wonder Woman, anyway), and she's no longer functioning as an ambassador. After "Amazons Attack", the Themiscyran embassy seems to be gone, and she's actually working for the US government. Which brings up the question ... what's she doing here, anyway? If the issue is that she's been expelled because she no longer thinks as her people believe she should, because she also worships unfamiliar gods, then that brings her story into alignment with the other two of DC's alleged Trinity: Batman and Superman both lost their parents to create themselves, as well, albeit at much younger ages, and Superman doesn't really remember losing his. In any event, this issue is sort of wildly unbalanced. I do wish the Donna Troy part of it would just end; having her made insane by Genocide, even though nobody else who contacted Genocide was, makes less than no sense. I'm curious about what's going on with the Amazons; parthenogenic pregnancies after all this time? And Achilles seems like an honorable man being forced to do progressively more dishonorable things; I suspect that he may wind up rebelling against Zeus and Ares sometime soon. (The Ares ghost thing was just ridiculous, really.)

All that said, the one major knock against the most recent story arcs is that, the two issue thing with Black Canary aside, this thing with Alkyone and Achilles and Zeus' big plan is taking FOREVER. I have the vague, nebulous impression that it's in part because Diana isn't really doing anything with Final Crisis or Blackest Night, so she needed some sort of epic storyline to match the guys. (Yes, she had an important role, of sorts, in Final Crisis, and yes, there's a Blackest Night: Wonder Woman on the way. However, neither of those events is going to be reflected back in the main title, whereas Final Crisis rebooted the entire Batman line, and has had some interesting aftereffects over in Superman's chunk; Blackest Night showed up in this week's Red Robin, and is actually going to effectively suspend publication on Batman and Robin for three months.)
Interesting; no recommendation.



Something of a side note: it's fascinating to see how the solo-female superhero titles from the DC universe are doing relative to each other. Surprising, one way and another. From the Top 300 Comics for October 2009 chart from ICV2, the rankings for October for those titles:

#19 Detective Comics (Batwoman and the Question)
#51 Batgirl
#68 Supergirl
#76 Power Girl
#77 Wonder Woman

That Batwoman and the Question have been able to sustain Detective at a very high sales level is very impressive. That Batgirl is doing so well, relatively speaking, is baffling. (Something to judge by: Stephanie Brown is now outselling "Superman: World of New Krypton", Superman and Action -- though that may all be an indication of the weakness of the Superman franchise at the moment, rather than the strength of Batgirl.) To be sure, there's only a few hundred issues between Power Girl and Wonder Woman. Unfortunately, it does seem to show that people just don't quite "get" Wonder Woman these days; she really ought to be doing better.
So. In order to really and truly appreciate this:

Tony Zs Comics n Things: Package Patrol - week of 7.18.2007

you kind of have to look at this first:

comics212.net: afraid of cock

and then this:

Tony Zs Comics n Things: Cosmetic deenhancement

(That thing with Kara's chest is the most disturbing thing I've seen in ages.)

And then the followups to the original "afraid of cock" entry:
comics212.net: afraid of cock 2 (kind of sad, that one, actually)
comics212.net: afraid of cock 3 (only tangentially about cocks to fear, but still somewhat relevant)

I really wish I could find an online copy of Ace Justice's crotch from his fight with Bomb Queen; unfortunately (or fortunately), I don't have a scanner at home, and I am NOT going to do that at work. Granted that the entire title is meant to be way WAY over the top; that picture would still send the drooling fanboys into fun fits! (and then they would stare at Bomb Queen's chest and crotch to get themselves back to normal.)
Well, it's certainly ... different.

Really REALLY different.



And as long as we're being vaguely unsafe for work: Fear the Cock! FEAR IT!

I really wonder what these people would have said about issue 3 of the first Bomb Queen story arc, wherein Bomb Queen and Ace Justice (the guy with his face between her legs in the picture) fight it out, and in the middle of everything, Bomb Queen's top gets ripped off -- it's built with the hole over the chest, like Power Girl's, so it really would come off quite a lot in fights, I think -- and then she points out that Ace Justice is, shall we say, happy to see her. And I don't mean that it's just an large bulge in the crotchal region, as in the above-linked piece and discussion, oh no no no! It's a lovingly detailed rendition of what an erection caught in tight spandex would look like (Ow, by the way), and manages to also make the point that both the observers -- those far enough away not to get blown up or caught in the overflow -- and the perpetrators are turned on by the violence. (In fact, right after one of her big fights, the Queen goes off and sexually assaults one of the people who commissioned Ace Justice to fight her.) Ace Justice doesn't have to be embarrassed about it too long, though; eventually, Bomb Queen sticks a bomb in his mouth, and that's the end of him.
.

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