Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Help Terrorbads On Its Print Run!

Hey, dear readers, just a quick note to let you all know that my buddies Chris Meeuwes and Jeff Manley, authors of Terrorbads, are in the home stretch of their Kickstarter campaign to see the collected edition of their great webcomic see the light of day as a printed graphic novel.

Head on over to their Kickstarter page and chip in to support indie comics!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cherry Capital Con: You'll Want To Go To There


If you find yourself in northern Michigan this weekend...hell, even if you aren't in northern Michigan but you still have the means...you really should check out the Cherry Capital Con at the Grand Traverse Resort in beautiful Traverse City, Michigan, taking place Friday, May 25 through Sunday, May 27.

There are lot of factors that make this annual comic book and pop culture convention special to me:  it's located where I grew up, there's a friendly hometown feel to the whole experience, I got to work the very first one, and it's a hell of a shindig put on by some great friends of mine.  They set out to make something of this kind happen in northern Michigan, and hey, look!  They made it happen. 

There are so many things happening there this year, I can't really begin to list them all.  Rather than me telling you who's there and what you can do - do yourself a favor and head over to their swanky webpage, then do some exploring.  My friends from Terrorbads and Punching The Clock will be there, and so will artist extraordinaire Ryan Lee, and let's not forget the core of it all, my favorite comic book store in the world, Top Comics - visit their tables and buy stuff!

I'll be there in spirit, but it won't be long before I'm there in person again, basking in what is a constantly-growing, hometown-friendly convention that puts fans first.  Maybe I'm biased, but hey, I fully endorse the Cherry Capital Con.

Now go get a ticket and have some serious fun!

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Crisis Trilogy: Infinite Crisis (2005)


And so it came to pass that 20 years after the groundbreaking Crisis on Infinite Earths, that a sequel would finally be released by DC Comics.  With a play on the name of the original, Infinite Crisis was released as a seven-issue epic that was not only a direct sequel to the game-changing COIE, but an event that once again changed everything.  And when I mean direct sequel, I mean direct sequel.  If you read my review of COIE, you'll soon see what I'm talking about.

The prolific Geoff Johns took on the writing duties with Phil Jiminez as the main penciller, with contributions from the great George Perez, Jerry Ordway, and Ivan Reis - all skilled at drawing enormous groups of people.  And much like its predecessor, Infinite Crisis has a cast of hundreds (thousands, if you really want to get technical).  Do you have to know the history of the DC Universe?  It certainly helps.  If this is the first of the three main Crisis books you pick up, you might find yourself a little confused.  Read Crisis on Infinite Earths first, and it'll all flow together.

Some time after that first major Crisis (20 years our time, probably around half that in DC Universe time), things are at an all-time low for the defenders of truth and justice.  Batman's darker than ever.  The world watched Wonder Woman murder the manipulative Maxwell Lord.  Superman can't keep everyone together.  From afar, four mysterious figures watch, worried that the world can no longer be held up by this trinity of heroes.  Not only that, strange things are cropping up:  robotic OMAC's (One Man Army Corps) turn up by the thousands, killing villains.  The faraway worlds Rann and Thanagar are at war.  The realm of magic has gone haywire as The Spectre begins killing various magic-users.  Super-villains are finally getting together as an organized crew.  The original Freedom Fighters are cut down and slaughtered.  Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman can barely get along as it is.

"...they need to be inspired. And let's face it, 'Superman'...the last time you really inspired anyone...was when you were dead." ~ Batman, Infinite Crisis #1

Wicked burn by Batman there.  As the three once-great friends split up in shame, the four mysterious beings finally break through into reality:  Superman and Lois Lane of Earth 2, Superboy of Earth Prime, and Alexander Luthor.  Last seen when Alexander invited them into a pocket reality at the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths, they're back to help straighten out the world.

Superman-2 invites Power Girl - once a part of Earth-2 before everything folded into one reality - to join them in their quest.  A confused Lex Luthor wanders the tundra...but wait...didn't we just see Luthor leading a cadre of supervillains?  For a few pages, the reader does get some exposition as to what led to the quartet coming back, as they have observed the darker times of the world such as Superman's death, the death of the Jason Todd Robin, and Green Lantern going insane.

The Joker, meanwhile, tries to join this huge supervillain collective but is told by a beaten King of the Royal Flush Gang that he's the "only one they don't want."  Of course, Joker doesn't find this funny.

Luthor's supervillains continue to attack heroes, kidnapping certain ones he needs.  He even betrays Black Adam, as Adam is representative of a long-lost parallel world, Earth-S.  But then the armored, somewhat confused Luthor shows up...and now there are two of them?  Hm...something's afoot.  During the confrontation, one Luthor reveals that he is indeed a disguised Alexander Luthor.  The real Lex manages to teleport out when one of Alexander's superpowered allies shows up.  Power Girl stumbles upon a fragment of one of those old Monitor towers from Crisis on Infinite Earths, which contains subdued heroes and villains along with the corpse of the Anti-Monitor.  Something ain't right here...  She's knocked out and Alexander's ally is revealed to be the young Superboy of Earth-Prime.  Elsewhere, Batman figures out who attacked the Martian Manhunter:  also Superboy-Prime.

Alexander explains to Power Girl his master plan:  to erase the current reality and replace it with a more perfect one. In order to do so, he's set multiple plans in motion including manipulating the villains, the magic-users, creating a war in space, and taking over the OMAC's and Brother Eye.  And now she's going to be a part of it as a representative of the original Earth-2.


Superboy-Prime flies off to confront the current Superboy, Connor Kent (a hybrid clone of Lex Luthor and Superman).  They begin a devastating battle that soon involves all of the Teen Titans and the Doom Patrol.  It doesn't take long for the battle to turn ugly and tragic as Superboy-Prime spins out of control. The Flashes (Jay Garrick, Wally West, and Bart Allen) manage to force the now-pyschotic kid into the Speed Force.

Alexander powers up his tower and is able to tune space and time, forcing a recreated Earth-2 to appear.  Superman-2 and Lois Lane-2 appear there, and feel all is as it should be.  But simply existing on the new Earth doesn't help Lois, and she dies in her love's arms.  Superman-1 hears his counterparts cries and tries to console him, but they come to blows.  Wonder Woman arrives in time to make the raging Superman-2 see reason.

Meanwhile, Alexander's experiment really takes off.  Hundreds of alternate Earths appear in the sky as he  manipulates space and reality.  Bart Allen, somehow older and now wearing the basic Flash garments, warns everyone that Superboy-Prime has broken out of the Speed Force, angrier and even more powerful.  From one frying pan into another frying pan.  Through all this, Batman gathers a specialized group to take out Brother Eye and his OMAC's, no small task.

A god-like Alexander literally snatches pairs of Earths, jamming them together to create new ones, searching for that one combination that will be perfect.  The team that went to space manages to use their combined power to temporarily halt Alexander's crazy experiment, awakening the kidnapped heroes.  Everything's going their way until the insane super-brat, Superboy-Prime, returns.  He's given in to his psychotic obsession to bring back his own world.  Fortunately, the real Superboy is there to take him on just before he murders Nightwing.  In the battle, Alexander's tower is destroyed, but at the cost of Superboy's life.


Superboy-Prime and Alexander get away and observe the carnage taking place in Metropolis, as the Secret Society has attacked en masse.  Casualties all around, and when Doomsday enters the fray...yeah, it's pretty much over.  Or is it?  A very angry pair of Supermen join other heavy hitters like Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter in evening the sides.  Superboy-Prime sees Alexander's plans go to hell, so he comes up with one of his own:  fly through the center of the planet Oa, which sits at the center of the universe.  This will cause a new Big Bang and he might get his universe back.  Or he just might kill all of existence.  Either way, he's cool with that.  The heroes that fly take off after him.  The Green Lantern Corps do their best to stop him as well.

Back on Earth, Batman faces off with Alexander, and he's had enough.  Seeing Nightwing get injured, he very un-Batman-like aims a pistol in Alexander's face:

"...I know what Superman is going through.  He doesn't deserve that.  Superboy didn't deserve that.  What do you deserve?" ~ Batman, Infinite Crisis #7

Wonder Woman - she who had been burdened with a recent murder - appears as the voice of reason and Batman stands down while Alexander gets away when debris falls.

The two Supermen engage Superboy-Prime, shoving him through Krypton's red sun and landing on the sentient Green Lantern planet, Mogo.  There, a fierce fight breaks out as pieces of Krypton rain around them, sapping their strength.  But it's enough for Superman-1 to finally take down the brat, but Superman-2 sadly takes too much punishment and joins his beloved Lois.  The GL Corps take Superboy-Prime into custody and Earth tries to get back to normal.

But what of Alexander?  His fate is...well-deserved.  Let's just say he ticked off the wrong guys.

The trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman meet to discuss not being around for a while.  Superman must wait for his powers to return.  Wonder Woman takes on a civilian identity.  Batman decides to travel the world, retracing the steps that made him Batman.  They're not worried as they know the world is in good hands until they are back full strength.

And as for the utterly destructive Superboy-Earth.  He's imprisoned in a miniature red sun, but as he says:

"I've been in worse places than this...and I've gotten out." ~ Superboy-Prime, I.C. #7

Infinite Crisis served as not only a sequel, but the first in a series of bridges between it and the third in the Crisis Trilogy, Final Crisis.  Directly after Infinite Crisis was published, DC Comics embarked on an ambitious and ultimately well-crafted weekly series for one entire year, told in "real time," 52.  Geoff Johns, the writer of Infinite Crisis and one of DC's architects, was in his element here:  a giant cast of characters with accessible personalities in a grand-scale story that seems part Silver Age craziness and modern film-like storytelling.  With artists such as Phil Jiminez and George Perez, who specialize in "casts of thousands," there is a "multimillion dollar blockbuster" feel to it.  It's not overly complicated, but just complex enough that all the strands twist together and tie up at the end.  You had the main plot, but you also had the side plots (which became mini-series to be read along with this main series) in the villains, the OMAC's, The Spectre going crazy on the magic world, and the Rann-Thanagar War in space.

It does help to have read Crisis on Infinite Earths before Infinite Crisis, if only for the emotional impact of returning and betraying characters.  It makes sense that Alexander Luthor would turn out to be such a manipulator...he's a Luthor!  He comes from Earth-3, where good and evil are reversed, but ultimately, his genetics are what they are.  Superboy-Prime is an interesting character.  Many have speculated that he represents the fickle segment of the comic book fan community, those that criticize everything with nothing constructive to offer.  In fact, in a later storyline, he ends up back on Earth-Prime, but is feared by those he loves because they read about his atrocities in the comics of that world.  He literally becomes a comic book message board troll to lash out at those who wrote him like that.  Funny, cheeky stuff, really.  As a villain, though, he's actually quite frightening:  Superman with all the power and none of the filters.

So continue your Crisis collection with this graphic novel, which you might be able to find at your local comic book store or online in both hardcover and softcover.  The hardcover is especially nice, with sketches and a round-table discussion with Johns, Jiminez, Group Editor Eddie Berganza, and Assistant Editor Jeanine Schafer about the ins and outs of the series.

Until next time, dear readers, happy reading!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Crisis Trilogy: Crisis On Infinite Earths (1985)


Up until 1985, the story continuity in the DC Comics universe was all over the place.  Origins changed without much explanation, there were multiple Earths (which I actually like), and with acquisitions of properties from such companies as Fawcett and Charlton, more characters than you could shake a stick at.  There was Earth-1, the regular Earth; Earth-2, the original Golden Age Earth; Earth-3, where villains' and heroes' roles were reversed...so many more Earths.

Infinitely more!

See what I did there? 

So DC made the huge decision to consolidate ALL of those Earths into one, essentially rebooting the universe and streamlining the continuity.  This would be a task.  This would be a monumental task.  Fortunately, this task was placed in the hands of one of the best writers of the era, Marv Wolfman.  Art-wise, who else could you get to draw hundreds of different characters but the legendary George Perez?  Finishing the art would be a real crew of the best inkers in Dick Giodarno, Mike DeCarlo, and Jerry Ordway, someone who was also accustomed to drawing loads of characters.  This all-star team was set to craft a truly all-star event, Crisis on Infinite Earths, a saga that would span 12 issues in what was called a "maxi-series."  Taking its name from past DC crossovers like 1963's Crisis on Earth-One (which saw the first meeting between the Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America), this particular Crisis would change everything.

Now prepare thyself.  This quasi-synopsis will make your head spin.

The story begins with a mystery:  a white anti-matter wall is sweeping through universes, sending countless worlds and people into oblivion, including Earth-3, where good and evil have been switched (Ultraman = evil Superman, Lex Luthor is the only superhero).  A mysterious being watches all of this and dispatches a young woman named Harbinger to collect certain superhumans from so-far-untouched Earths.   Splitting herself into multiple selves, she summons heroes and villains from several Earths.  After a quick battle with shadow demons, the ragtag team meets their summoner, The Monitor.

Back on Earth-1, things are getting wacky.  Caveboy Anthro sees a futuristic city despite being thousands of years in the past.  The Legion of Super-Heroes in the far-flung future deal with a herd of mammoths.  Batman encounters a ghostly image of The Flash.  The Monitor explains that he can stop the anti-matter wave with devices scattered throughout history.  His assembled team is to protect the structures, then activate them when needed.  Of course, that's not easy as they're set upon by shadow demons again.  Oh, and The Monitor?  Seems he rescued Alexander Luthor - Earth-3 Luthor's son - from his escape pod (fired in the same manner that Superman's parents used) and the kid is not only growing at an incredible rate, he houses anti-matter energy.  During this time, the unstable Psycho Pirate gets whisked away by some malevolent force.

The anti-matter wall reaches Earth-1, as witnessed by several heroes like Batman and his Outsiders and the Teen Titans.  The Flash vibrates himself back in time and appears to them before disappearing again.  In space, Brainiac witnesses the wall and races off to find some help in the form of Lex Luthor.  The tower protection team dispatched to World War II battle Nazis alongside Sergeant Rock and his Easy Company as well as The Losers before shadow demons show up, resulting in the deaths of The Losers and one of Rock's crew.  Another team sent to the Old West witnesses a wall - which is advances through all time at the same time (a concept I absolutely dig) - resulting in the death of Nighthawk.  More death as, in the 30th century, Kid Psycho of the Legion of Super-Heroes is consumed by the wall.  On top of all that, Monitor's assistant Harbinger seems to be possessed and goes all dark-eyed evil on her master.

On Earth-6, the mysterious man named Pariah - forced to appear whenever a world dies - rescues the only survivor, a superheroine named Lady Quark.  Around Earth-1, the shadow demons coalesce into larger creatures, plunging the world in darkness.  Harbinger murders The Monitor as the universes of Earths-1 and 2 are cast into limbo.  Turns out Monitor knew this would happen, and his death released enough energy to activate the structures and bring the universes into his being.  On those Earths, though, time and space is compressed and begins to scrunch together.  As heroes and villains join together to save the universes, the big bad is revealed to Psycho Pirate and the kidnapped Flash:  The Anti-Monitor.

Now everything that is good about The Monitor is evil in his opposite, this Anti-Monitor.  He knows The Monitor sent heroes to the remaining three worlds, so he grants his toady Psycho-Pirate vastly increased power to use his emotion-controlling ability on the entire populations.  Earth-X, Earth-S, and Earth-4 see their respective heroes (all characters purchased by DC Comics over the years from Quality Comics, Fawcett Comics, and Charlton Comics) battle the ones trying to save them until, with one last burst of massive energy, Harbinger brings the last three worlds into phase with Earth-1 and Earth-2.  Meanwhile, Brainiac and the Earth-1 Lex Luthor begin recruiting every single super-villain from the five worlds.

Harbinger gathers representatives from six worlds to hear the origin of The Monitor and Anti-Monitor, which intertwines with that of the strange Pariah.  All origins stem from the beginning of the universe, an event that is so catastrophic that to view it creates anomalies and paradoxes that can destroy any timeline.  It's a given that the Anti-Monitor is hiding out in the...yep...anti-matter universe.  The most powerful heroes of the remaining worlds gather as a strike team and dive into the underbelly universe thanks to the grown Alexander Luthor.  Battling the Anti-Monitor's fortress itself, only Superman of Earth-1, Supergirl, and the new Doctor Light make it in.  Supergirl takes on the villain alone to protect her cousin, and she really tears into the creature.  But in a moment of hesitation, the Anti-Monitor strikes Supergirl down before escaping, providing the first major casualty.


The dastardly Anti-Monitor constructs a new swanky set of armor while Psycho-Pirate considers escaping.  Darkseid regards the threat the Anti-Monitor poses, but bides his time.  The Flash, however, bides his time just enough to set about striking back at his captors. He uses Psycho-Pirate to cause Anti-Monitor's underlings to turn on him while he sets off to destroy the nasty anti-matter cannon.  Using his insane super-speed, he runs fast enough to destroy the cannon, but flashes back through time...no pun intended.  This causes the apparition of himself to appear in earlier issues.  As he runs, he disintegrates, turning into the very lightning strike that caused his origin so many years ago.  Oh, and right about then, everyone's favorite embodiment of the Wrath of God - The Spectre - returns.  And he ain't happy.

Brainiac and Lex Luthor set about their plan of taking over the weakened worlds, sending teams of villains out to decimate the ranks of the heroes.  The heroes mount a huge comeback, but not without casualties on both sides.  The Spectre makes his presence known and stops the fighting.  I mean, hey, he's the Wrath of God.  When he says stop, you stop.  He convinces both sides to join forces and stop the Crisis at all points.  The villains head to Oa to stop the mad Krona from witnessing the beginning of the universe.  The heroes travel to the beginning of time to face an enormous, powered-up Anti-Monitor.  The Spectre shows up to grapple with Anti-Monitor.  The villains fail in their quest and Krona opens the window in time...

All suddenly seems normal.  Earth is pretty much as it should be...except for some little things.  Turns out the Earths merged...there is no more multiverse.  People from Earth-2 like its Superman (the original from the Golden Age, mind you) seem to have lost everything, but still remember it all.  The Spectre lies comatose.  And the Anti-Monitor?  Well, he's bigger and badder than ever and is determined to destroy this combined universe.  The final chapter (called "Final Crisis"...hmm...) sees Anti-Monitor let loose all his shadow demons on the world.  Loads of casualties occur.  In space, a band of ragtag heroes join Brainiac in convincing Darkseid to help.  No easy task there.

The heroes put together a bold final strike on the Anti-Monitor.  The mystics lend a hand, and the heroes going up against the big bad get in some great shots in the anti-matter universe.  Thinking he's down for the count, they manage to ensure the safety of the world.  The last ones behind are Supermans 1 and 2, Lady Quark, and Superboy of Earth-Prime (where there are no superheroes).  Superman 2 and Superboy force the other two out and take on the remains of the Anti-Monitor on their own, finally destroying the god-like creature.  But now they're trapped in a collapsing universe.  Yet...here's Alexander Luthor, who can take them to a pocket, heaven-like universe where he has already taken the Lois Lane of Earth-2.

The timeline is then streamlined and there's now only one Earth, and it's "always" been that way.  The only one who remembers the multiverse is Psycho-Pirate, and he's locked away in an asylum.  He was a few capes short of a Justice League anyway.  Wally West matures from Kid Flash to Flash in honor of Barry Allen, who sacrificed himself earlier.  And all is well...at least until the next big crossover.

Trust me:  I didn't even provide all the details in this story.  It's that huge.


Crisis on Infinite Earths was truly one of the biggest milestones in mainstream comics history, a huge undertaking by all involved.  Writer Marv Wolfman had to juggle a zillion characters, and George Perez had to pencil them all with inking from Dick Giodarno, Mike DeCarlo, and Jerry Ordway.  It was exhausting, I'm sure.

I had the good fortune to run into Jerry Ordway at the comic book store I now frequent, Cave Comics in Newtown, Connecticut.  I tried to think of something witty to say, but mostly spit out "Crisisoninifiteearths!"  Really, though, he did say that it was a herculean effort from everyone, and he had significant praise for Perez who has since become known for drawing slews of characters at a time.  Ordway, by the way, is a very nice guy and it was awfully cool of him to chat with me for the few minutes I was there.

But this particular Crisis (there would technically be two more in the series over the years) was significant to me as it - in a way - reintroduced the DC Universe to my eyes after a few years of not keeping up with comics.  It ended up being like playing Where's Waldo with a couple hundred characters spaced across a few universes.  The body count was high, and they weren't fooling around when they killed off popular characters like Supergirl and the Barry Allen Flash. Several duplicate characters were removed, such as the Earth-2 versions of Superman, Robin (both a little grey around the temples), and Green Arrow, among many others.  The streamlined "one universe only" rule would stick around for many years until the notion of a multiverse began to grow more popular until about 2000 with Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's JLA: Earth 2, which featured a new anti-matter universe based on the old Earth-3 "everything is reversed" idea.  There were probably other stories, too, but that's when I started thinking, "hey, isn't there just supposed to be one universe here?"  About five years later in Infinite Crisis, followed by 52, the multiverse would begin making its comeback.

I highly recommend picking up this piece of comic history, whether in individual issues (which might be a tad costly) or in trade paperback form, which features a great introduction from writer Wolfman.  My dizzying synopsis does not do it justice, it really is a wild, superheroic ride as one era ended at DC Comics and a new one began.

Pick it up, or the Anti-Monitor will find you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Punching The Clock and Terrorbads


One of the reasons I started this blog was to get the opportunity to showcase comics you, dear reader, should check out.  Sometimes, those comics will come from friends of mine.  So you could call this a plug, but these are regular webcomics from some of my friends back in my beloved Traverse City, Michigan.

If you're thinking "where?", well, after I say "shame on you," I would point you to northwestern lower Michigan and the beautiful aforementioned area where TC sits.  And don't look now, Traverse City is becoming a positive force in the world of comics through its ever-growing Cherry Capital Con and now its budding comic talent.  Seriously, the Traverse City Film Festival has gotten bigger in each of the seven years it's been going.  The Cherry Capital Con has been growing since its inception in 2009 and is someplace top talent wants to go for a stellar convention experience.

So speaking of talent, three friends of mine who reside there have joined forces to produce two very funny webcomics.  From writer Rob Humphrey and artist Jeff Manley comes Punching The Clock, about what it's like to work in a big box retail store and oh, can I identify with that.  Follow new guy Ryan as he is shown the ropes by grizzled vet Jeff, who may or may not have lost his hold on his sanity from working in said big box retail store.  Pop culture references galore, which I always enjoy, and a snappy sense of humor highlight this strip.

Then, from writer Chris Meeuwes and artist Manley comes Terrorbads, a strip about the most unlikely group of supervillains trying to make their mark on the world.  They're just not very good at it.  Bizarre character design and an underdog appeal make this a series to watch.  Will they work well together?  Will they break out of prison?  The series is up to ten issues now, so it's a great time to catch up and see how main character Mick fits in with the other supervillain "wannabes."  You can catch Terrorbads at the Two for One Comics site along with The Bait and Filler Friday.  Keep your eye on these two writers and on artist Manley, whose clean lines deliver a lot of comedy and expression - you know exactly what each character is thinking or feeling.

This won't be the last time I feature Traverse City in my column, whether it's about what the city offers or about my friends there.  And I can tell you, in the realm of comics, keep an eye on this area.

Until next time, folks, happy reading!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Whoa, Animal Man and The Shade


Y'know, the DC Comics reboot has spawned some pretty good titles, but two I'm absolutely thrilled to have picked up are Animal Man and The Shade.  Two completely different ends of the spectrum, two great examples of writing/art chemistry.

Animal Man is written by Jeff Lemire with art by Travel Foreman, bringing us the new adventures of someone familiar with the weird in the world, Buddy Baker a.k.a. the titular Animal Man.  Long story short, Buddy can tap into the morphogenetic field and take on the abilities of any animal.  Say he needs the strength of an elephant.  Done.  Maybe he needs to fly like a bird.  Done.  Quickness of a fly.  Done.  You get the picture.  Animal Man's always had one foot in the stranger adventures of the DC Universe - as when he was written by Grant Morrison - and he's experienced some more light-hearted journeys in the Justice League.  At the core of Buddy Baker's life is his family, the most important thing he knows.  That's also at the core of the new series.  When Buddy experiences strange bleeding and suddenly-appearing tattoos, he's concerned, but hey, he's a superhero.  Comes with the territory.  When his daughter begins displaying a new, disturbing power (controlling dead animals) and he has horrifying dreams, Buddy knows something has to be done.  What he doesn't know is that the demonic, scary-as-hell Hunters Three are on his trail as he and Maxine set off to find something called The Red using the tattoos as a map.

Lemire, who writes the critically-acclaimed Sweet Tooth, scores huge with Animal Man.  It's superhero adventure meets horror with the tale of a family struggling to be normal at the center.  Foreman's art is perfect for the tone of the series, subtle when it has to be, terrifyingly disturbing when it needs to be.  This series is going to be one strange ride.


The Shade is set to be a 12-issue limited series but the way it began, I'm thinking 12 issues won't be enough.  Writer James Robinson, who wrote the main character in his acclaimed Starman run, returns to familiar territory with the great artist Cully Hamner (who was the artist on Warren Ellis' RED, now a major motion picture).  The Shade is Richard Swift, a true Golden Age character created way back in the 40's to be a villain for the original Flash.  In Robinson's hands, Swift is neither hero nor villain, playing by his own rules - which usually place him on the side of the heroes.  He is intelligent, articulate, and can use shadows for his own purposes.  When this story opens, Swift has lost a little of that "spark" and is urged by his girlfriend, policewoman Hope O'Dare, to seek out an adventure.  And so he does, but there's something underlying that seems to be bothering him.  Something we don't know about yet.  While this is going on, German private detective and possible superhuman Von Hammer battles enhanced beings and discovers that The Shade is in trouble.  By the time the ending of the first issue comes around, a special guest villain appears and...well...I don't know how they're going to start the second  issue, but I can't wait.

Robinson can be a divisive writer.  A lot of people hated his turn on Justice League, but his work on the aforementioned Starman and the heartbreaking, realistic Golden Age are considered classic.  For what it's worth, I really enjoy his writing.  It's dramatic and gritty with affinity for the older characters.  Hamner's art is always pretty to look at.  His characters have distinctive appearances, and everything is laid out so perfectly.  The quiet scenes are just that, and the action sequences rival any big screen fare.

Two great titles and two of the best of what DC is doing with their reboot, in my opinion.  Can't wait to see what's in store.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Assessment of DC's New 52...At Least The 19 I Got

Arguably the biggest story in the world of comics over the last few months has been the "reboot" of the DC Universe.  Hoping to bring aboard new readers and give the continuity a shot in the arm, DC Comics put together a storyline (Flashpoint) that rewrote the universe, giving us younger characters, redone histories, and a fresh new setting.  It's been done several times before, with my first experience of the "reboot" being the amazing Crisis on Infinite Earths maxi-series from 1985.  Like that storyline, Flashpoint essentially reset the timeline, either erasing, condensing, or re-writing major events of the past.  I could write a whole blog or three about how this changes things, story- and character-wise, but I'll refrain...for now.  This entry's going to be more about what I thought about what I bought.

There were 52 new titles (hm, and 52 parallel universes in the DC Universe...but I digress) and I ended up with 19 of them.  Wish I could've gotten all 52, but it just didn't fall that way for me.  I'll grace you all with a capsule assessment of each title I picked up, little droppings from my brain that might compel you to go pick up a few.  Maybe more than 19, but that's your choice.

I'll list them in no particular order, title first with the writer/artist combo in parentheses. They're all #1's, so I'm not putting the numbers in...call me lazy.  And away we go...

Legion Lost (Fabian Nicieza/Pete Woods) Seven Legionnaires from the 31st century track a menace back to the 21st century and are stranded when their time sphere blows up.  Decent beginning but new readers might be lost on the Legion of Super-Heroes.  They're a great team, but admittedly not an easy thread to follow.  I always give writers props when they tackle the mythos.  Still, this might have some good potential.

Suicide Squad (Adam Glass/Federico Dallocchio/Ransom Getty) We're introduced to Task Force X, which has the unfortunate titular nickname.  I was a HUGE fan of John Ostrander's original Suicide Squad during the 80's so I usually will check it out whenever it's put out.  The book was an interesting way to introduce the characters, some familiar (Deadshot, Harley Quinn) and some not (Voltiac).  I'm intrigued about where they'll take the book, so I'll continue to pick it up.  Usually has a high body count as well, so it could get wacky.


Action Comics (Grant Morrison/Rags Morales/Rick Bryant) Superman as a younger man makes his mark in Metropolis as Lex Luthor makes plans to capture him for study.  If you don't know me, Morrison is my favorite comic writer so of course I'd pick this one up.  And it was very good.  Morrison loves writing Superman so this will get even better as it goes.  Definite pick up for the second issue.

Batgirl (Gail Simone/Adrian Syaf/Vincente Cifuentes)  Barbara Gordon is back as Batgirl.  The mystery of how hasn't been revealed, as she was crippled after being shot in the spine by The Joker in Killing Joke (which happens in the new universe).  After fighting crime as information broker to the superheroes, Oracle, she's back in the Bat-family.  Loved the new villain, The Mirror.  Super-creepy with a relentless modus operandi and a just-back Batgirl.  Simone writing Batgirl is a sure-fire treat.

Justice League International (Dan Jurgens/Aaron Lopresti/Matt Ryan)  The United Nations puts together its own Justice League - one they can easily control - to investigate the disappearance of a team of scientists.  A very diverse group from multiple countries led by the easily-swayed Booster Gold and mentored by Batman (without UN approval), this has good potential.  Jurgens never wows me with writing, but he's solid and knows how to write good, entertaining stories.

Stormwatch (Paul Cornell/Miguel Sepulveda)  Stormwatch investigates a strange and gigantic horn that has signaled something ancient and angry, all while trying to recruit a massively powerful superhuman to their ranks.  I've been a longtime fan of Warren Ellis' version of Stormwatch/The Authority and I think I can trust Cornell to bring some good ol' weirdness to the title.  I'm hoping it pulls out all the stops.  Jury's still out on the artwork, though, but that's not a dealbreaker.

Justice League Dark (Peter Milligan/Mikel Janin)  Where one League operates in the light, this one not so much.  Gathering the weirdest, magic-based heroes together to face a mad Enchantress, Milligan might have a hidden gem here.  I mean, come on...a tornado made of teeth?  What's not to like about that?  I think this title will be loads of fun when it gets going.


Wonder Woman (Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang)  Princess Diana is a tough character to write apparently, but Azzarello gets off to a fantastic start here with a chilling tale that is going to pit Wonder Woman against powerful and depraved gods while protecting a young woman carrying the unborn child of...Zeus?  Definitely going to keep up with this one.

Aquaman (Johns/Ivan Reis/Joe Prado)  Johns strikes again with a really nice restart of Aquaman, who, I have to agree, never got the respect he deserves.  His powers are more complex than you think, and they cover that in a little segment during the issue.  Neat setup with the voracious creatures called The Trench as well.  This is another that will be fun to read.

Resurrection Man (Dan Abnett/Andy Lanning/Fernando Dagnino)  Mitch Shelley dies...a lot.  Every time he dies, he resurrects with a new power.  And it seems he's become the main attraction for a massive hunt for his soul and the target of two hot bounty hunters (The Body Doubles).  I trust "DnA" as a writing team, and they created Mr. Shelley, so I think this is headed in the right direction, too. 

Swamp Thing (Scott Snyder/Yanick Paquette)  One of the darlings of the first set of issues, and I can see why.  Snyder's crafted an eerie yet low-key beginning, and the art by Paquette is gorgeous.  Strange things are afoot, and what's this?  Alec Holland is not Swamp Thing...well, at this point...although he was...don't worry, it'll all come together nicely, I believe.  Plus, zombie flies and dead men walking with their heads turned backward...*brrrr*

Green Lantern:  New Guardians (Tony Bedard/Tyler Kirkham/Batt)  Set sometime in the past - I think - Kyle Rayner becomes a Green Lantern and is blamed for stealing several other color Lantern rings.  A pretty fair setup but I'm not sure I'll keep this one yet.  I may stick with a couple other Lantern books, but this one's not bad, just not up to par with the others I'll mention.  Still, a team with all the color Lanterns is pretty intriguing.

Red Lanterns (Milligan/Ed Benes/Rob Hunter)  The Red Lanterns are based on rage and are led by Atrocitus, and here we get some insight into his former life and present life as leader of the animalistic Red Lanterns.  It's interesting, but I'm not sure I'll keep up with it.  Love Milligan's writing, but I'm not sure it'll be enough to keep me on this one.

Green Lantern (Johns/Doug Mahnke/Christian Alamy)  Whaaaaat?  Sinestro re-instated as a Green Lantern?  Hal Jordan stripped of his ring?  Something's up with Sinestro's old crew, the Yellow Lanterns and Jordan tries to adjust to non-powered life.  Lots of fun, and with pretty art by one of my favorites in Mahnke.  Definitely a keeper.


Justice League (Geoff Johns/Jim Lee/Scott Williams)  The flagship title goes back five years to the formation of the League.  This beginning issue focuses on Green Lantern Hal Jordan meeting Batman for their first team-up to track down a creature that - and I really hope it goes somewhere - may be from Apokolips.  Another thing I love in comics:  Jack Kirby's Fourth World stuff.  Neat issue with sweet art from Lee, I'll keep this one for sure.

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. (Jeff Lemire/Alberto Ponticelli)  Indie darling Lemire shows he has great chops here as Frankenstein leads a super-team of monsters into a small town to rescue survivors of a demonic invasion.  Great script and I'm staying with this one, even if I'm not totally sold on the art yet.  But that won't stop me from picking it up.

Batman (Snyder/Greg Capullo/Jonathan Glapion)  Batman investigates grisly murders while Bruce Wayne proposes big changes for Gotham City.  Snyder goes two-for-two with another great book.  The ending sets up a bit of a shocker that will be interesting for the mega-detective to solve.  Great script here, too, along with some sweet art.

Green Lantern Corps (Peter J. Tomasi/Fernando Pasarin/Scott Hanna)  Guy Gardner and John Stewart try to adjust to their lives on Earth, then are made part of an investigative team sent to find out why Green Lanterns are being murdered.  Tomasi put together a fun script with a setup that will likely reveal some nasty villains, and I really enjoyed the art as well.  The second of the two GL books I'll likely keep.

Legion of Super-Heroes (Paul Levitz/Francis Portela)  Legionnaires touch down on a planet for an investigation while there's strife on the homefront.  This book got a lot of thumbs-down, but I actually thought it was OK.  Levitz knows the characters better than most and the art wasn't that bad.  I'm willing to give it a little more of a chance because I trust Levitz with these complex and numerous Legionnaires.

And there you have it:  my look at 19 of the 52 first issues of the rebooted DC Comics line.  There are some I'll end up dropping, and others I still want to read, but they were sold out.

I regret not putting these on the list right away:  Animal Man, O.M.A.C., Demon Knights, All-Star Western, and I, Vampire.  I'll check them out with reprints and update my thoughts on those.

All in all, a decent reboot.  I'm interested to see where they go with it.  Maybe in another write-up, I'll discuss the ramifications and random theories about the new look.  Is this a permanent thing?  Did you catch all the hints at a "back door" to the previous universe?  And how about that strange hooded woman who appeared in the last issue of Flashpoint appearing in EVERY single issue that came out?

Four-color me intrigued.

In the meantime, dear readers, go support your local comic book store and pick up a few of these titles...and titles from other companies.  Ain't gonna play favorites here...just buy some comics!  If you want to check out more from DC Comics, click the links on the sidebar and catch up on the news.

Stay heroic, people!