Friday, July 28, 2006

On 19 & 26 July, 2006 -- Part I: Civil War territory

Young Avengers & Runaways #1Calvin Pitt and his anonymous commenter are right. Marvel's Pro-Reg faction is full of intellectual elite. Doctors, lawyers, scientists and what have you. I don't think that smacks of anti-intellectualism, however. Not quite. It's too clearly polarized, a better set-up for a parable than a diatribe.

I think these characters (those with Iron Man) are accustomed to living in their heads when they're not out beating people up. These are characters who, in their civilian lives, work through hypotheses and problems using pure logic and reason. Then they take their logical ideas (which tend to look great on paper), and test them in controlled settings, like laboratories and courtrooms. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don't, and sometimes they actually blow up, but whatever happens, the intellectuals generally live through it and move on to the next logical thing.

Well, Iron Man's headstrong team is sticking with the logic behind the the SHRA. And in a way, they're right. The idea of a little government oversight of superhero activities isn't a bad thing. The intellectuals though, to their detriment, are hanging onto that, apparently forgetting that the the "experiment" is not being conducted in a controlled setting. There are too many people involved, too many variables. And the Act itself, spurred by a rabid Public and rushed through Congress, is fatally flawed.

See, the deeper we go into Civil War, the more frightening the regulatory end of the SHRA becomes. Look at Young Avengers & Runaways #1. "Public Sympathy Ratings" determine how hard the SHIELD enforcers hit "rogue" heroes. Aren't the officers saying, in essence, that "it's okay to beat mercilessly on someone as long as the Public doesn't care?" It's not about what's right or just; it's about what the authorities can get away with. Ugh.

And look at Cable & Deadpool #30. (No, it's not part of my regular pile, but the Great Lakes Champions sold me on this issue.) The CSA hires a mercenary with questionable morals to do the government's dirty work. They do this after Deadpool, without provocation, attacks (and is thoroughly whipped by) Squirrel Girl and friends.

That's the government, and hopefully Marvel's authorities will feel repercussions in due time.

The Marvel heroes are already feeling them. For them, it has become a polarized battle between the head and the heart. In Civil War: Front Line #4, "Embedded Part 4," Ben Urich warns Sally Floyd about her speculations, about "seeing things that aren't there." He is a proponent of the objective fact, while Sally, is playing hunches and generally going with her gut. Guess who represents which side.

In Amazing Spider-Man #534, Peter feels as though he has no choice but to battle Captain America, a warrior for whom he has nothing but respect. His sense of logic says he's doing the right thing, but his conscience is eating away at him. His Spider Sense ought to be tingling.

And Civil War #3? Iron Man's strike team, in its cold logic, sets a trap for Captain America's Secret Avengers. The bait? A fake emergency, used with the knowledge that Cap and his teammates will follow their hearts whatever the risk.

Iron Man sets the trap because he's using his head, not his heart. Captain America falls into the trap because he's using his heart, not his head. Use one without the other, and you are running an enormous risk, aren't you? That's a good warning, whatever your political beliefs. Moderation in all things. (And an inefficient legislature helps, too.)

Look back at the panel up top, now, the one from Young Avengers & Runaways #1. Wiccan is right. Nobody is acting normally (normal being a relative term). Whether they are polarized by a villain or just Mark Millar, the result is the same. Follow the characters alone, and Civil War is becomes less a political diatribe about security versus freedom and more an allegory about the mind versus the... well, the soul. And what's not to love about that?

Monday, July 24, 2006


Late afternoon yesterday, I borrowed my mom's digital camera in hopes that I might capture a bit of the fun that is the barnyard. It was a good day for it, too, warm and clear, and a variety of critters was enjoying the remaining daylight hours.

Julius, who is less than a month old, was putting the moves on ewe lambs three times his age and twice his size. He is nothing if not persistant.

As he pursued the unreceptive girls (who probably think he has the sheep equivalent of cooties or something), they inadvertantly chased Baron, the lonely turkey, around the yard. Baron's mate, Betty, was a native Vermonter with an independent streak. She promptly flew away when she got the chance. Not the sort of behavior you tend to expect in a domestic turkey but, again, Vermont bird. Needless to say, Baron's wings are clipped just in case. Which is why he's not as majestic as he'd like you to think.

Meanwhile, as Julius' mother, Ginnie...

...and his Aunt Matilda...

...looked on, kittens Lorna (the calico) and Pietro (the gray) came out to play.

Their sister Wanda (Yes, that's the comic book connection, right there.) hung back, as usual. She's a little shy.

The sheep played with the cats, too. Sheep and cats get along surprisingly well, though the kittens don't always appreciate the attention.

And Baron continued to wander around, because that's his main function, on the farm. Wandering around, eating bugs, and wishing he had a girlfriend. It's a mundane life, but at least he doesn't have to worry about Thanksgiving.

Gotta love the small farm drama, huh? And this is only the half of it. There are also dogs, horses, and chickens around. Well, not in the preceding scene, but in the vicinity. You know. I just happen to prefer cats, sheep, and turkeys.

So ends this pointless Critterblogging session.

Yes, this is procrastination. I haven't written anything about last week's comic books yet (and I still haven't read Manhunter). To be honest, I feel like I'm running out of ways to say what amount to the same things over and over again...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

On 12 July, 2006

How long have I been putting this off? Wow. I blame the heat.

Reading music: Dusk Till Dawn: The Best of Capercaillie

--Warning: Spoilers ahead--


DCU: Brave New World: Bought this for The All New Atom. Sure, that's kind of backwards, reading the comic before the preview, but it's not like The Atom is about linear chronology anyway. It was worth it to get some clue about those dogs (though now I'm wondering how Duster escaped his Secret Service guys).

Nothing else here really caught my fancy, but that's okay. Never really expected it to.

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


Beyond! #1: The presence of Gravity sold me on this one, I think. That and Scott Kolins, who is growing on me inasmuch as I can identify (and enjoy) his art without much effort. Fun story, too, though it can't decide whether it wants to be goofy superhero fun or dark cosmic angst. I might wait for the trade instead of buying the rest of the floppies. Yes, a trade would look nice, on the bookshelf right next to the first Secret Wars...

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

Civil War: Director's Cut: It's not like I really needed this, but seeing the script, some sketches, and the variant covers is kind of neat.

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

Civil War: Front Line #3: "Embedded" -- Sally interviews a group sof anti-registration vigilantes, and later witnesses a fight between two others, one pro- and one anti-reg. Meanwhile, Ben argues the validity of statistics with Reed Richards. He questions not the calculations but rather asks (in a nutshell) "Can't numbers lie?" Since Reed's rationale for the Superhuman Registration Act (I think I'll just start calling it SHRA) appears to be based largely on numerical projections, Ben's interview is solid.

"The Accused" -- Yes! Robbie Baldwin has retained Jennifer Walters as his defense attorney. Considering Jen has a relatively extensive history of defending people the public has deemed guilty (among them Morbius the Living Vampire, the Juggernaut and, of course, the Hulk) the case is a perfect fit. Anyway, Jen gets Robbie (who is having an extremely difficult time in prison) an offer he shouldn't refuse.

"Sleeper Cell" -- Whales don't run in schools. They run in pods. People need to learn their collective nouns. Silly fictional news crews, not doing their research. Anyway, yes, there is a disaster at a fish store, and there's something bizarre about the owner. (Is he Atlantean? What does this have to do with Civil War?) And it has something to do with a pod of beached whales.

Coda -- A poem by World War I soldier Wilfred Owen is set to art that parallels Army medics and firefighters battling on their respective fronts. This is the best coda so far -- understated and not particularly preachy -- but the Captain America imagery is out of place. This should be about the soldiers and the first responders, not the vigilantes. It doesn't matter that Cap is a soldier, too. He's in costume, not uniform, and that makes all the difference.

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

Ms. Marvel #5: Carol teams up with Dr. Strange to defeat Warren Traveler (whose name is all too appropriate.) She has no idea what she's doing, and I'm not entirely sure either (what with the alternate reality jumping and all), but maybe that's the way it's supposed to be. Big end to a big fight, and then set-up for Civil War.

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

Ultimate Fantastic Four #31: Mind-switching (classic!), evil Zombie Four and... er, yeah. I went back and read the first three trades of Ultimate FF some weeks ago, and, well, I don't think the series has the same charisma that it did. Sure, zombies and Doom and world-eating N-Zone aliens are all well and good (so to speak), but it seems like the plot has sacrificed substance for style. Hopefully that will change soon...

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

Oni Press

Wasteland #1: Can't resist a good post-holocaust story, or even a potentially good one. Wasteland has it all. A civilization struggling to survive, a mysterious wanderer, people with special abilities, deadly humans gone savage, and modified English with words like "Newbegin" and "wulves." Okay, so maybe it's a bit formulaic, but it's a most excellent formula that works here.

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

Week's most memorable moment: Ben Urich and Reed Richards experience an anti-gravity environment in Civil War: Front Line #3

Tentative checklist for 19 July, 2006
(*Indicates a title I've preordered.)
*Civil War #3
Daily Bugle Civil War Newspaper
Manhunter #24
*Runaways #18
*She-Hulk 2 #9

Monday, July 10, 2006

Fun with Photoshop

We had to mess with filters for the most recent Photoshop class assignment. Pretty open-ended. And when in doubt, which I usually am, I just go with sheep. (If not sheep, llamas.) And this time? Mutant sheep, complete with a nuclear facility in the background, seemed to be the (un)natural direction to take.

Source pictures from stock.xchng:
Sheep family
Nuclear Power Station 5 (photo by Henriette)

In the Headwaters

Maybe, eventually, I'll wade the headwaters with more frequency than once a month. (Right.) Anyway, how would the physics of this pan out? And why doesn't Superman just, you know, hide the costume in the ground or something? Yeesh. Show off.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

On 6 July, 2006

I went to the store at a relatively busy time today. Quite a few customers, all guys, enough that chiming in on the Civil War discussion they had going just didn't feel right. Plus, when another woman entered the store, one of the guys joked about it being a sign of the Apocalypse. Two women in a comic book store at the same time, right? Not offensive, just not real original. The only reason I mention it is, well, that's the first "Ohmygosh, a girl!" type comment I've heard in that shop. Either that's unusual and I've been lucky, or people are pretty open-minded in mid-Michigan.

Needless to say, I'm in a pretty good mood. Getting this done early, since one of my aunts is coming to visit from out of town tomorrow, and if I don't do this now... who knows if it'll ever get done? Yeah, best do it while I'm in a relaxed mood and taking joy in seeing the world through a wonderful new pair of glasses.

Reading music: Dusk Till Dawn: The Best of Capercaillie

--Warning: Spoilers ahead--

Dark Horse

Archenemies #4: It's funny. I really didn't expect a bittersweet philosophical conclusion to this series but... that's what this was. A tale told primarily in flashback by an angsting Ethan on the phone with his father. There is a breakup; an origin story; a climactic fight between the archenemies; the discovery that one isn't all good, and the other isn't all bad; and the discovery that both have father problems. There are a few fun moments that sort of lighten the mood, but wow. Quite the departure from the first issue, that's for sure. It's not bad; it just took me by surprise, is all.

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


All-New Atom #1:
Study the following three prologues, which are presented in non-linear fashion. Discuss how the sequence of events differs from traditional story-telling methods. Why did the author choose to present the epilogues out of chronological order?
-All-New Atom
Atom #1 is a symmetrical book. Nothing about the first prologue (pp. 1-3), which I won't try to describe, clicked until the last page. The second prologue (pp. 4-5), the sequence in which a pack of dogs kills a professor, is referenced about halfway through the story. The third prologue (pp. 6-7) deals with Dr. Ryan Choi's past and leads us nicely into his present, and the "meat" of the story. By presenting the prologues in this order, rather than chronologically, the story takes that symmetrical form. The prologues themselves force the reader to ask the questions, "What's going on," "What's up with those dogs," and "Who is Dr. Ryan Choi." In that general-to-specific order. These questions represent a major overarching problem, an immediate mystery, and the main character for whom trouble looms. All are elegantly connected. The order also makes for a tidy wave of a story, from the introduction, to the problem of Ray Palmer's belt (its shrinking capabilities in particular) and the general weirdness of Ivy Town, to the climactic rat scene, to the denouement (the presentation of the belt to the poker-playing scientists.) There is no definite conclusion, but then, this is comic book story-telling we're talking about, and this is a first issue. And a fun one at that. What is up with those dogs?

(Geez, these essay questions... This is graded on a curve, right?)

Do I Know What I Just Read? Yes
Do I Care? Actually, kinda yeah.


This is a Civil War free week for me, which is wonderful. I am generally enjoying that story, but I think I OD'ed on it last week. Last month, even. It's detox time now, though, with three helpings of old-school Fantastic Four!

Fantastic Four: First Family #5: Sometimes, it seems, angst can be energizing. One scene Sue is commiserating with Ben, the next she's leading the team off to rescue Reed from his insane nemesis. In a flying bathtub. The flying bathtub. Johnny's recovery from a rescue-gone-wrong (Human torches and runaway tanker trucks don't mix well.) will now have to wait 'til the cosmic ray-powered zombies (as seen on the cover) are neutralized. Great set-up for what should be a feel-good explosive conclusion.

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

Marvel's Greatest Comics: Fantastic Four #52: I was a negative 17 years old when this was first printed, and the most economical way to get something like this tends to be black-and-white reprints. So this is a treat. Classic Kirby-Lee Fantastic Four complete with the Black Panther, the Inhumans, and the day-saving Wyatt Wingfoot! I'll have to go back and spend some time really reading the old ads and bulletins and fan letters. Because, you know, they're there and they're fun.

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

The Thing #8: Dan Slott concludes his first (but hopefully not last) run of The Thing with a poker party, a Bar Mitzvah, and a couple fun flashbacks involving Squirrel Girl and the Impossible Man (no, not at the same time.) It's wonderful, and it is a huge departure from Civil War. The first two-page spread is proof enough. Everybody's playing (and sometimes cheating at) poker, having a grand time. Namor's not being a total ass. Johnny's not comatose. Iron Man and Captain America aren't at each others' throats. And Ben... Ben gets a long-deserved respite. Not from his form (still the Thing), but from his sorrows. He gets to focus on the good things in his life for a change, namely his friends, his family, and Alicia. *sigh* Next week it's back to business as usual on Earth-616 (which, again, isn't bad), but for now, I'll just relish this.

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

Virgin Comics

Devi #1: Well, darn. I was hoping for more Indian mythology and less, er, cheesecake. The first half of Devi #1 is the story of Devi's deveat of Bala, the evil god. Devi is a god-gifted warrior (kind of like Wonder Woman?) of light dressed in, well, a few tendrils of fire and not much else. So, anyway, she defeats Bala and offers her gifts back to the gods.

Part two? Bala has, of course, escaped, and he's on the phone with a scantily-clad Heaven's Assassin as she systematically slaughters a group of Yakuza. (These Yakuza are everywhere. They need their own Sopranos spin-off or something.) I'm not sure whether the assassin is a reincarnation of Devi or what but... Ugh. I guess I just don't care that much. And next issue has a Greg Horn cover to boot. Suits the book, I suppose, but... eh. Guess I'll pass on this series and learn about Indian legend elsewhere.

Do I Know What I Just Read? Kind of?
Do I Care? Nope.

Week's most memorable moment: The GLX-Men/Avengers get a new name almost nobody objects to Thing #8.

Tentative checklist for 12 July, 2006
(*Indicates a title I've preordered.)

Beyond #1 (Chose Devi over this today. Oops.)
Civil War: Director's Cut (Yeah, I know. Shush.)
*Civil War: Front Line #3
*Ms. Marvel #5
The Next #1 (maybe)
Snakewoman #1 (bigger maybe)
Wasteland #1 (hmm...)

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Pinpointing an Issue

Well, this is depressing. I really didn't want to get involved in Ragnell and Kalinara's Damned List but, at the same time, I like helping to disseminate information. And for me (in regards to The List), since I've nearly assembled an entire run of Sensational She-Hulk, that meant helping to pinpoint the issue in which a sexual assault occurred. Which in turn meant pulling suspect issues and reading them for relevant content. I did not attempt to catagorize, only to catalogue that which is suspect. These are my notes. You be the judge.:

Issue 7 (John Byrne): Xemnu attempts to transform Jen into another of his species for the purpose of taking her as his bride in order to repopulate his planet (pp. 18-20.)

Issue 25 (Simon Furman): Brent Wilcox (an old friend of Jen's from college, introduced in Steve Gerber's "Cosmic Squish Principal" arc) sits in front of Jen's apartment with a pair of binoculars, a camera (presumably with a zoom lense), tapes, notebook, and god knows what else. He's jealous of whoever else she might be seeing, and seems to be stalking her (pp. 8, 10.)

Issue 33 (Byrne): Mole Man attempts to take Jen as his bride, as the price for helping her defeat Spragg the Living Hill. She's not entirely unwilling -- she's given her word to pay whatever price for Mole Man's help -- but she's not at all happy about it, either.

Issue 37 (Byrne): The Living Eraser abducts Jen for the purpose of taking her as his bride.

Issues 38 and 39 (Byrne): Mahkizmo, under the influence of one of Eros' (Cupid's) magic arrows, abducts Jen for the purpose of taking her as his bride. In Issue 38, she breaks the fourth wall to yell at Byrne about the whole running theme, and also complains about Santa Clause making a pass at her in Issue 8, and a zombie hitting on her in Issue 35.

Issue 43 (Byrne): Xemnu attacks and threatens to sell Jen as a slave, whereupon she "will be handled and examined by scores of would be buyers," purchased by someone disgusting, become a "helpless plaything" and forced to perform "acts of unspeakable degradation." (pp. 19-24.) (Luckily, Weezie knocks him out by conking him on the head with a spanner, and his evil plan never comes to pass.)

Issue 54 (Michael Eury): Zapper (Jen's boyfriend from her Savage series, now married to someone else) kisses Jen after resurrecting her and giving her a medical examination. She pushes him away, reminding him that he's married. He apologises, and she forgives him (p. 19.)

Issue 55 (Eury): Zapper kisses Jen again. Again she pushes him away, reminds him that he's married, and suggests he and his wife get marriage counseling. She says good-bye and slams the door behind her as she leaves (pp. 18-19.)


I also went ahead and pulled two other She-Hulk episodes that came to mind. They're not a part of the Sensational run, but they seemed worth including all the same:

Sensational She-Hulk Graphic Novel (Byrne): Jen is abducted by SHIELD. She is forced to strip by SHIELD agent Dooley (on pain of death for Wyatt Wingfoot, who's been abducted with her) in front of a large group of male agents. SHIELD Director Dugan breaks up the "strip search" and yells at Dooley, telling him the required strip search is supposed to be in private and performed by an agent of the same sex (pp 26-29.)

Jen is then subjected to a thorough, invasive and exhausting medical exam (off-panel), again in the nude on Dooley's orders (pp. 31-33.) She later discovers that Dooley has been watching tapes of the "examination" (pp. 41-42.)

Not sure this is worth noting, but evil radioactive cockroaches attempt to invade and take over her body (as they do to Dooley) (pp. 54-55, 68.)

Fantastic Four #275 (Byrne): T. J. Vance, editor and publisher of a sleazy nudie magazine, takes unauthorized topless photographs of Jen (as she sunbathes discretely on the roof of the Baxter Building) for the purpose of printing him in his periodical. (They do get printed, in spite of Jen's best efforts as a lawyer and superhero, but with a mistake that results in a victory, of sorts, for She-Hulk.)


So! There you have it. I've a new appreciation for what the authors of The List are doing. Not envy, just... appreciation. Yeah. That sounds about right.