Saturday, May 27, 2006

Musical Free-Association

If Marvel characters were real world musicians (or vice versa), who would they be? The following pairings came to mind when I was washing dishes to the music of John Mellencamp. This is an attempt at finding some logic in them. Make of it what you will.

  • Captain America characterizes himself as a patriot, but doesn't necessarily support the people running the country. He's not shy about speaking out against them.
  • Bruce Springsteen, also a patriot, doesn't necessarily support the administration. He's not shy about speaking out, either.

  • Captain America is a New York native.
  • Bruce Springsteen is a New Jersey native

  • Captain America is a fictional legend.
  • Bruce Springsteen is a musical legend.

  • Captain America is the de facto leader of the Avengers, a guy that Thor will answer to.
  • Bruce Springsteen is The Boss, a designation he never asked for but has come to accept.

  • Key Song: "Born in the U.S.A."

  • U.S. Agent, who characterizes himself as a patriot, has willingly followed orders from the Red Skull.
  • Toby Keith, who has characterized himself as a conservative Democrat, has supported George W. Bush.

  • U.S. Agent is a Southerner (from Georgia.)
  • Toby Keith is a Southerner (from Oklahoma.)

  • U.S. Agent has made a name for himself (sort of) in the Marvel universe, but he isn't a legend.
  • Toby Keith has made a name for himself in the real world, but he's not a legend, either.

  • Key song: "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue"

On 24 May, 2006

No stories, anecdotes, or random thoughts this week. It's late, and I'm tired so... just reviews.

Reading music: Dusk Till Dawn: The Best of Capercaillie

--Warning: Possible spoilers ahead--

Dabel Brothers Publications

Ptolus: City by the Spire #1: Mmmm. High fantasy. Been a while since I've read any of this stuff. A retired mercenary/master swordswoman teams up with the ghost of a friend (a mage/thief), to steal a brooch from a well-guarded mansion. Of course, things don't go as planned.

There are magical swords, there are werewolves, and there are demons. Pretty typical fantasy RPG stuff, which is exactly what it's supposed to be. The womens' faces all look kind of alike, but that's my only issue, and only because it confused me for a moment.

Since it seems to be a limited series, and it's fun, it might be worth continuing, if only to add a little variety to my reading diet. Maybe I'll even check out the associated RPG. Eventually.

Do I know what I just read? Yes
Do I care? Kinda, yeah.


Blue Beetle #3: He's lost a year. His mother is pissed, his sister is freaked, his dad walks with a cane, and his friends have moved on and away. His personal life is in shambles, and his scarab wants him to kill things. In other words, a lot is going on for Jaime.

This issue, though pretty serious, is laced with humour in the form of Jaime's ongoing dialogue with said scarab. It's a one-sided dialogue, but guessing about the other side is fun. You can almost picture an evil little insect hopping around on Jaime's shoulder, chirping excitedly about violence and doing stuff. At least, that's kind of what I picture.

Do I know what I just read? Yes.
Do I care? Yes.

Catwoman #55: I really like the Film Freak. What a cool villain. "I told you never to call me during a movie. Never." Nice. Why he didn't turn his darn cell phone off, I don't know -- that would have been logical -- but if he had, he wouldn't have had that awesome menacingly geeky line. So all is well.

Meanwhile, Holly gets some training, Selena hires a babysitter, and Film Freak gets an angle. Not sure how Wildcat's advice will help Holly, if at all, since it seems like her fighting style is different by necessity. She's certainly not a bruiser.

Do I know what I just read? Yes.
Do I care? Enough to give it another issue.

Hawkgirl #52: I'm a little on the short side, and have trouble reaching the top shelf of comics in my LCS. This week, both Hawkgirl and Catwoman were up there. So, as usual, I asked S. Or rather, he asked me if I needed any help, and then I said something polite but demure like "Yes, please." But I speak softly (though I do not carry a big stick) and S. misheard Hawkgirl as "Hotgirl." Oops. But we got it straightened out, and I expressed my disinterest in anything with a title like "Hotgirl."

As for Hawkgirl, shady things are happening. Thugs are pursued. Bruce Wayne meets up with Kendra at a museum fundraiser. The museum is strapped for cash and the bank is shady. Kendra has another nightmare, this time about Bast's handmaidens, whatever that means. There's something evil in the basement! ...

I don't know. I was happy to find a DC title that didn't seem to require that pesky background knowledge, but... I guess I'm just not feeling this one. Sorry, Hawkgirl.

Do I know what I just read? Yes.
Do I care? Not really, no.


Fantastic Four: A Death in the Family: "Dead is dead." So it is. The highlight of this whole thing is the kitchen scene, wherein Johnny helps Sue make chili. The story is pretty much a throw-away thing, one little event in the main Fantastic Four timestream, but as a character study (Johnny in particular), it's enjoyable.

Nestled nicely in between the fun cover story and a cute Franklin Richards short is a reprint of Fantastic Four #245, a John Byrne story in which Susan defends her role as a wife and mother on both philisophical and physical fronts. It made me think of Ragnell (scary), to be honest. Not Barbara Walker, the uberfeminazi journalist Sue has to contend with, just the feminist thing in general.

Do I know what I just read? Yes.
Do I care? Yes.

Nextwave #5: Death bears! Combat Pterodactyl Suits! And an Armageddon Horn! Learn all about Dirk Anger's insanity, Monica's honesty, and Aaron Stack's relationship with the Celestials. Ohh lord, this whole book is insane. But fun. Lots of fun.

Do I know what I just read? Surprisingly, yes.
Do I care? Totally.

She-Hulk 2 #8: Two Avengers (and members of the New Warriors) come to Jennifer Walters for (what else?) legal aid. Somebody has posted a New Warriors hate site and is revealing the Warriors' identities one by one. Needless to say, things are getting increasingly uglier for the surviving New Warriors, thanks to the Stamford incident. Did I mention that this is a Civil War tie in? Do I really need to?

There are about three major things going on in this issue. Dan Slott cures Jen's problem in all of two pages, which feels hasty but gets the necessary job done. Transformation problem solved. Sort of. John Jameson can't get his mind off of Jen, and gets some sound advice from a wanted fugitive (i.e., Steve Rogers). And things get ugly in the courtroom. To be honest, I don't think this is some of Dan Slott's best work, but it sets things up nicely for next issue (which will be a blast), adds some dimension to John Jameson (who doesn't come off as quite so much of a jerk as he did), and gets more people to read the comic. Because, after all, it's a Civil War Tie-in. And for a title like this, that's always a good thing.

Do I Know What I Just Read? Yes.
Do I Care? Absolutely.

Week's most memorable moment(s): Attack of the killer koalas in Nextwave #5.

Tentative checklist for 1 June, 2006
All New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A to Z #5
Amazing Spider-Man #532
Ex Machina Special #2
Doll & Creature #3
Runaways #16
Son of M #6
The Thing #7
Ultimate Fantastic Four #30

I'll also be picking up Marvel's Halo Sampler Book for my brother. I may or may not peek at it myself.

Monday, May 22, 2006

In the Headwaters

I have been tentatively wading the headwaters of the mainstream. For the most part that's been Silver Age Fantastic Four, but lately I've set aside Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 2 (for the moment) in favor of Showcase Presents: Superman Vol. 1.

To be honest, when I first cracked this book, I didn't quite know what to expect, but it certainly wasn't the first thing that struck me (or bit me on the toes, because I want to push the allegory as far as it'll go and then some):

Reprinted from Action Comics #241

Now, I can't decide whether that's vaguely creepy or just romantic, but either way, I hope the room is gone. And I don't even want to think about the Jimmy Olson and Batman rooms. I'm just not *cough*brave*cough* enough for that.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

On 17 May, 2006

Wow. Motley little week for comics, and not overly inspiring.

Reading music: Serenity soundtrack

--Warning: Spoilers ahead--


Certain people have been lamenting the untimely loss of Manhunter, which is supposed to be a critically acclaimed series. So is Thing, I think, which is also cancelled. (If a series is "critically acclaimed," does that mean it's doomed? Is that a good rule of thumb?) So, since it was a slow week, and the comic is about a lawyer (!), well, I figured I'd give it a shot.

There were no copies of #20 left, so I jumped in at Manhunter #21 and 22, on the theory that, if this is as well-written as everybody says it is, I should be able to figure out what the heck is going on even jumping in at the middle of an arc.

And dammit, I do like this. Always did like a good courtroom drama, and I'm getting the distinct impression that Marc Andreyko watches quite a bit of Law & Order, not to mention CSI. (They always say "vics" instead of "victims" on CSI.) At any rate, I actually preferred the courtroom and crime scenes to the actual fight scenes. ("Objection! Asked and answered." Beautiful. Yeah, forget the battles with weird robotic things, I'm digging the objections.) Maybe reading issue 20 (eventually, I hope) will help in figuring out the hallucinations and such, and put the fighting in a more interesting light. Hrm.

Not sure I'll pick up the last three monthlies, but I will certainly consider picking up the trades.


Haunt of Horror: Edgar Allan Poe #1: To be honest, I haven't been in the right mood for this. And something like this deserves a reader who's in the mood for reinterpreted classic horror.

Ms. Marvel #3: Blue blazes! 3,000 dead? Carol totally beats out the New Warriors here. You know, looking for a fight to further her own fame, causing lots of explosions. Death, destruction, carnage. At least the villains here were looking for a fight, as opposed to minding their own business and taking out the garbage.

Still. Geez. It's easy to see where this'll be a Civil War tie-in title.

Oh, and an FF guest appearance is always welcome. Hey, here's a thought. From now on, whenever Marvel gets the urge to give Wolverine a gratuitous cameo, they should resist and give one (or more) of the FF members (or certain former substitute members, not including Wolverine) a guest shot instead. That would doubtless make a lot of people happy...

Week's most memorable moment(s): Learning about Hellcow for the first time thanks to Marvel Legacy: The 1970s #2. Comes of growing up on a farm and reading Bunnicula books as a child.

Tentative checklist for 24 May, 2006
Blue Beetle #3
Catwoman #55
Fantastic Four: A Death in the Family
Hawkgirl #52
Nextwave #5
She-Hulk 2 #8

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

On Reverence

So over at Postmodernbarney, I was being terribly irreverent about the Bible, and maybe offended some people (I don't know), but it got me to thinking about how much I actually do respect the Bible as an important work of literature. We can laugh at outdated bits that are funny to us without disrespecting a body of work as a whole, right?

This is a comics blog, so let's take the Fantastic Four as an example. That's a huge body of work as well, a long story that's been going on for decades. It's been written by a plethora of different hands, and most of that story is canon. In spite of continuity clean-ups over the years, there are no doubt conflicting -- even contradictory -- plot points within the accepted canon. Human error demands it. Fans will find them, point them out, and choose to accept them, reject them, or explain them away. It's par for the course.

Fans will also find lots of goofy, dated material to laugh at. The humor may or may not be intentional, but in the end, it really doesn't matter because the people who take the time to read and find the goofy stuff probably have at least some respect for the work as a whole. They know that they'll read stories that are perplexing, pulse-pounding, poignant, even downright poetic*, and it's all worth it. (Well, most of it.)

The Bible is kind of like that. The multitude of writers; the contradictions; the cool stories; the poetry; and the laws about stoning oxen. Yes, the Bible is a million times more important than the Fantastic Four, but it seems to me this mindset works, or can work, whether you're tackling King James or King Kirby.

Seeing as it comes down to the ability to laugh at things, it might even be healthy!


*And they won't agree about the designations.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Fantastically Dexterous

I always did love a good meeting of the well-spoken minds...

No subtext, I hope
From Fantastic Four #28 (reprinted in Essential Fantastic Four Volume 2)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

On 10 May, 2006

When I go to my LCS, usually mid-afternoon on Wednesday of late, there typically aren't many people there. I usually just chat with S. who, as it turns out, is a Marvel kinda guy. T., a DC guy, is cool, too, and knows what I like to read better than I do by now, but S. and I have more to talk about. At least, that's how it seems.

This week, though, I chatted a bit with another customer instead. He was a middle-aged (I think) guy, wearing an ID card from a local hospital (already, a good first impression!), just browsing the comics on the wall as I was. Comfortable guy. So I asked him what I now realize is probably just an idiot newbie question, which I swear I'll never ask again: "So, are you a Marvel, DC, or indie guy?" Or maybe it was "fan," not "guy." Something like that. Whatever. You get the gist. Dumb question however it's phrased. He's a DC, some Marvel. He asked me in turn. "Mostly Marvel." We chatted a bit, mostly about Infinite Crisis, how to understand it I might have to pick up the first Crisis. He pulled Crisis on Multiple Earths 4 off the shelf, flipped through it. Volume 4? Yeesh. He explained that it really wasn't a part of Crisis on Infinite Earths, but... still. (S. is probably right; there are better things for me to spend my money on, meaning things I actually care about.) Anyway... A quick chat about how many layers the DC 'verse has, how much simpler Marvel's is. I came off sounding like a simple-minded idiot but... eh. (I don't want to have to keep track of three competing Captain Americas on a regular basis. That's not wrong, is it?)

So I went to check out, with my three Marvels and two indies. He followed shortly thereafter, a copy of Infinite Crisis #7 proudly in hand. I sort of showed him what I had, but with that She-Hulk cover in there... Okay, yeah, awkward.

At that, I paid, and went on my embarrassed little way, back to the mind-numbing boredom of student work, and the anticipation of reading my modest little haul.

FYI. On an unrelated note, David of Yet Another Comics Blog is generously holding Free Comic Book Month 2, and there is still time to enter.

Reading music: Liz Carroll and John Doyle: In Play

--Warning: Spoilers ahead--


Lions, Tigers and Bears Vol 2. #1 : Oh, gosh, that's adorable. Living stuffed animals and good little children versus the evil beasties. I think this might be something worth passing on to my younger cousins. Might even be worth finishing out, since it's a mini-series, not an ongoing. Hard not to enjoy this. So mind-numbingly cute...

Do I Know What I Just Read? Yes
Do I Care? Sort of, yeah.


Fantastic Four: First Family #3: Okay. Sue displays force-field powers early on (and is therefore not totally useless), in a way that actually fits with the established origin. Plus, it's awesome. There's enough hostage-bait Sue in the early Kirby/Lee days. We don't need any more of that in this day and age.

Not sure what to make of Reed's adversary, especially since he shows up (sort of) in the middle of a big fight with that giant iguana monster. (It was a most excellent battle.)

Do I Know What I Just Read? Yes.
Do I Care? Yes.

She-Hulk 2 #7: Let it be first noted that Dan Slott has found a way to make the Hank Pym joke without coming across as crass. Hardly the highlight of the issue, but still worth noting.

But really, on to the comic. Starfox is creepy. Everybody knows this. He is, apparently, endowed with enough power to turn a straight man gay. Not (in the immortal words of Jerry Seinfeld) that there's anything wrong with that, at least not the sexual orientation aspect. But the turning? There is something awfully wrong about that. I don't care who the victim was. But Eros of Titan gets what's coming to him, as does She-Hulk's gamma charger in a related event, and the whole scene is more satisfying than it really has any right to be. (Needless to say, Starfox may not be wooing anybody for a while, in the event that he ever does again.)

Meanwhile, on the romantic entanglement front, Jen is still deeply in love with John Jameson to the point of submission, which scares the Wasp; and Mallory is all over Awesome Andy like Wanda on Vision, which scares me. The whole thing also disturbs Pug and creeps out Stu Cicero, whose metacommentary is starting to make me wonder if Stu isn't the Marvel incarnation of Dan Slott.

Do I Know What I Just Read? Yes.
Do I Care?
Nextwave #1

Edit/Note: This issue has generated a bit of controversy. Not a huge surprise, given the subject matter, but it's also not something I really want to get into, at least not here, in this blog. So...


You know, I'm really not sure what to make of X-Men: The 198 #5. The ending is ambiguous at best. Okay, let's recap. A big fight, a showdown with Absolon, Johnny Dee working behind the scenes against Absolon and his crew, the apparent death and possible rebirth (or evolution or something) of Absolon.

Do I Know What I Just Read? Not really, no.
Do I Care? Er... No.

SLG Publishing

The Cemetarians #1: I love a good horror (or horrorish) story, but this one just didn't click for me somehow. An evil mermaid in the sewers as a mastermind behind an evil pyramid scheme involving a fake eternal youth elixer made from manitees? Not really my cup of tea, I guess. Hrm. The running manitee gag was fun, though.

Do I Know What I Just Read? I'm not sure. I think so.
Do I Care? Wish I could say I did. But no.

Week's most memorable moment(s): Sue's unexpected yet lifesaving force field in Fantastic Four: First Family #3.

Tentative checklist for 17 May, 2006

Haunt of Horror: Edgar Allan Poe #1
Marvel Legacy: The 1970s #2
Ms. Marvel #3
Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk #3

Friday, May 05, 2006

On 3 May, 2006

It's Spring! What more is there to say? Spring in Michigan is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

Reading music: Serenity soundtrack (Yes, again. It makes for extremely effective background music.)

--Warning: Spoilers ahead--

Dark Horse

Archenemies #2: One of my favorite things about old-school Doonesbury is the unlikely friendship between B.D. (a first generation character, jock and professional soldier) and Phred the Terrorist. B.D. is the "good guy." Back in the day, he was eager to drink, party, and fight both on the football field and in the 'Nam. Phred, a Vietcong terrorist because "his family pressured him into it," saved B.D.'s life (when they were both lost in the jungle) by finding a cache of beer. Needless to say, B.D. overcame his prejudices and got to be good buddies with a sworn enemy. (If you don't believe me, check The Doonesbury Chronicles out of your local library. Or get it used for extremely cheap on Amazon. Either way...)

The relationship between Ethan and Vincent, the Archenemies, has a similar vibe. Ethan is gaining some dimension and becoming more likeable; and Vincent is becoming more sympathetic even as he sets death traps for his roommate. Ethan remains kind of clueless, but he's getting more difficult to dislike. I'm still rooting for Vincent Darko, which seems odd until I remember that, hey, I've always preferred Phred to B.D., too.


Amazing Spiderman #531: Okay, I really don't mind reading a comic rife with testimony before a Senate subcommittee. Chalk it up to growing up with a bureaucrat who is heavily into the policy end of things. C'est la vie. Spidey's battle with Titanium Man and Stark's disturbing subterfuge made up for the contrived Abraham Lincoln stuff.

So Marvel keeps asking, "What side are you on?" I started out anti-Registration, but after reading Civil War #1, I'm not so sure anymore. It would probably help if the writers over at Marvel wrote up the actual proposal and published it somewhere for us to read. They probably won't (too dry), but wouldn't it be kind of cool if they did, just to lend a little authenticity to the whole "event?"

Okay, maybe not. Anyway, this is actually some compelling storytelling, the philosophical debate well-balanced with non-gratuitous action sequences. Nice.

Doc Samson #5: Tina Punnett uses her ubergeek skills to free herself from the virtual reality game and her friends (Jack and Whistlepig) from the slot machine; Doc Samson psychoanalyzes his Earth-617 doppelganger; and the team battles nightmarish beasties from the Dream Dimension. And Doc somehow doesn't get banned from the casino for card-counting. That's it. End of series.

The backup story about Whistlepig and the dreamcatcher is adorable, though.

Marvel Romance Redux I Should Have Been A Blonde: Holy crap. That first 18-page story just dragged on. Frankly, the commentary of the captions from page 12 onwards didn't help much. *sigh* "The Language of Love" and "The Girl with Bogart's Brain" weren't much better. The highlights? "Hedy's Uncomfortable Fanmail" and "Patsy Walker's Battlesuits!" Two pages out of, what, 32? cripes. Ah, well, at least it had its moments.

Week's most memorable moment: In Archenemies #2, Vincent sits in front of his computer, sketching a deathtrap for Ethan. The computer monitor displays AEbay, an auction site selling such things as anvils and Laser-guided Penguins.

Tentative checklist for 10 May, 2006

Fantastic Four: First Family #3
She-Hulk 2 #7
X-Men: The 198 #5

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Ahead of His Time

Fantastic Four #22 was originally printed in January, 1964, when John Kerry was still an undergrad at Yale. Kerry's tour of duty in Vietnam wouldn't start for another two years or so, and he wouldn't really make a name for himself until he joined the antiwar movement.

He still ended up in those funny pages, though.

Jack Kirby: Ahead of his time.