Covers -- just wanna have fu-un

In an attempt to maintain prompt blogging, today we're just gonna look at some covers in my backlog.

Why? Because it's fun.

Wonder Woman

IN THIS ISSUE: Wonder Woman gets shot by an assassin! Either that or she seriously needs to talk to a better hairstylist. Crosshairs are not in this season.

ALSO: The Flash eats a spoiled meatball! Will the fastest man on earth have . . . the longest diarrhea?!?!?!

Sinister Covers

I can't poke any holes in these covers. Darn.

I just think they're really pretty. I am of course a huge fan of John Romita Jr., the guy whose work you see on the right. His style is like an updated modern-retro style, and juxtaposed with the Byrne cover, it looks even cooler.

I'm really looking forward to the day he comes back to work on Amazing Spider-Man.

Blackhawk151

"It's Lady Blackhawk -- flying through the air -- and smashing that boulder!"

Unnecessary exposition? Check.
Spastic use of dashes? Check.
Hilarious reactions to superpowers? Check.
The mime-like gesture from Blackhawk. . . Check!

Never change, Silver Age. Never change.

Although: Zinda looks like she needs to eat in this cover. Take a hint from the Flash, honey -- I'm sure he's gotten some fresh food by now!

Panel by Panel: The Batman Strikes! #40

Happy Sunday, everyone; it's me again*, your friendly neighborhood komics blogger.
*cue exasperation.

No reviews for this week, but today we get to look at kids' comics. Yep, that's right, kids' comics. Sometimes people take them for granted, but they can occasionally be poignant, and they don't have to resort to any kinds of comic book stunts like deaths or annuals or crossover events.


The Batman Strikes! #40

by Matthew K. Manning and Adam Archer

The Batman Strikes! is a comic series that grew off of the "The Batman" cartoon on the KidsWB. The series is printed on generally cheap paper, but there's always a letters section (with fanart!), and the issues are usually $2.25.

That cover is a half-lie/half-truth. Batman does fight the Riddler, but not with Batgirl behind him.

On the face of it, you might think this is standard done-in-one superhero fare. Hero meets villain, hero beats villain, hero saves day with quippy saying.

You'd be WRONG. Let's look at the first panels, in Arkham Asylum:This scene is important, because it actually follows up on criminal life beyond the crime. Usually it's "send the guy to prison" and then "never hear from him again until he breaks out," but here? Here, it's different. And here, we get some striking characterization of the guy. He has a set routine in the way he lives prison life, and it hurts him to break that; it hurts him that Ms. Phillis isn't the one bringing lunch. Also notice Riddler's obsession with that crossword puzzle. I love Batman villains.

But anyways, cut to Batman and Robin, solving another case of derring-do at a fire. The Riddler's escaped, and it's up to the dynamic duo to investigate:
I love it when characters act in-character. Batman is solely focused on the mission, and he doesn't give a damn about anything else. He lost a lot of heart when he lost his parents.

Also notice that this trait is exactly why Batman has always had a sidekick: because he so desperately needs someone to balance the grim posture he absorbs to cover up the grief over his parents. Robin is there not just for homoerotic subtext, but to bring some light to the Dark Knight.


So Batman and Robin find a clue. They find several over the course of the comic, and I'm just gonna list (some of) them here:
1. the Deux-Ply toilet paper factory

2. the Once-A-Grape wine bottle


3. Zeck's Supply shop

4. S. Buddy Awe


5. Dance Wizard


6. The Zester (the LAST clue)

See, I love these kinds of Batstories, where Batman and Robin have to use their wit to solve a mystery. I love it, because I never expect to see what comes out.

So what could they all mean? Batman? Robin?

Aha! After easily disposing of the Riddler -his mental prowess is a beast, but his physical prowess is a wee kitten- they discover that he was leading them all along to a theatre.

The Giradet Playhouse, to be specific:


They discover that the Joker's been holding someone kidnapped there, so they head on over. The Joker, of course, is not pleased:


I love that. I just love that.
It eventually leads to this inimitable scene:

Yep, this comic is awesome.

So, with the Riddler in Arkham, as well as the Joker, what could possibly be left to resolve?

The Riddler's need for routine, for one:

So it turns out that the person kidnapped at Giradet Playhouse . . .

. . . was Ms. Phillis! The whole reason the Riddler broke out was so that she could keep working at Arkham!

This brings up an incredible paradox: why would Riddler break out to free someone that could only help him if he was in Arkham?

This is exactly why I love Batman villains. They are utterly trapped by their characters. The Joker can't be anything but psychotic and joke around all the time. To him, he has no choice but to see everything as a farce. The Riddler here, he's absolutely obsessed with the need to finish his crossword, and he does this amazing and elaborate behavior just so he can restore routine and answer that crossword of his. If some banks get burnt down, there's nothing wrong with that.

Batman villains are who they are, and they cannot help it. They are victims of themselves. That's one of my favorite aspects of Batvillains: they can get just as much characterization as he does, which just goes to show that everyone in Gotham is truly warped.

This was a real stand-out issue for me in the series. It's intelligent, makes me think, is absolutely buried in characterization and is fun to boot.


Not all of the The Batman Strikes! issues are like this one though. Writers vary between issues, and some just pander to the children age group, but that's the beauty of constant stand-alone stories.


There'll always be a gem.

Straczynski and Schroedinger: a match made in kitty heaven

So, by now, you probably know that I'm historically a big JMS (Joe Michael Straczynski) reader.

I've noticed a few patterns in his writing, but a prominent one is this: the man really likes Schroedinger.

You may know Schroedinger for his thought experiment: Schroedinger's cat.

schroedinger

Basically, you put a cat in a box that has a 50% chance of dispelling poison. You can't see it.
Until you open that box, the cat is neither dead nor alive. It's in what you call "quantum superposition" -- it's alive and dead.

In this panel, Dr. Donald Blake talks about the theory as it pertains to a Thor-in-a-box in Thor #7:

from ThorHere, Spidey talks to Dr. Strange about the quantum possibilities created by an invasion of the Mindless Ones in Amazing Spider-Man #499:

from Amazing Spider-ManIn this panel, physicist Arcanna Jones talks about the experiment in Supreme Power: Hyperion --

from Squadron Supreme: HyperionEach writer has their own personal quirks. It's really nice that I get to observe Straczynski's. If you find it anywhere else, feel free to tell me, and I'll try to get it on the blog.

I also notice that he likes talking about the Doctrine of Unintended Consequences, but I can't exactly remember any specific instances except one.

The "Books That I Read but Never Talk About" Initiative

Hey guys, welcome to another day at chezkevin.

Today I'm not sure what I should have done, but I know that I should be doing it.

DofN1_goodLORD!

Gasp indeed, because, there are several comics that I read that, surprisingly enough, don't get reviewed on the blog. This can be for several reasons; my list, let me show you it:
  1. I get the book on a late schedule, so the title isn't exactly relevant for reviews
  2. I'm not so familiar with the book so I don't have much authority to review it
  3. I don't get every issue of the book and only get the issues that appeal to me
  4. I don't really have an opinion on the book
  5. some other reason that I can't pull out of a hat that doesn't come to my great, great mind currently.
Some of these titles include: Detective Comics, Nova, Countdown to Mystery, X-Men: First Class, The Batman Strikes!, and Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters.

I wanted to talk about at least one of these books, but, darn ol' indecisive me -- I can't choose!

That's where you come in; there'll be a little poll today. It'll be a little contest between titles, and YOU get to choose.

I'm discounting the bat-books, because everyone generally knows what they're about, so I'm going to talk about the four titles that are left, and you get to decide which one I'll talk about! It's like moving my mouth for me -- except not!
X-Men: First Class
by Jeff Parker and Roger Cruz


This is the X-Men in their original roster, with lighthearted and stand-alone stories. Aimed at kids, this ongoing series features stories that are pretty poignant as well as fun.

X-Men: First Class

Their stories never fail to make you feel good.

Countdown to Mystery
by Steve Gerber, Justiniano, Matt Sturges and Stephen Segovia


Kent V. Nelson, an alcoholic homeless ex-psychiatrist, finds the Helmet of Fate in his hands. Unwillingly, he becomes the new Doctor Fate and battles evil in the magical realm!

Countdown to Mystery

There' s also a back-up story in which Eclipso tries to turn everyone evil and the Spectre wants people's souls or something, but I have no clue what's going on there.

The miniseries' writing drifts between occasional black humor to pure doctor babble, as Nelson constantly tries to diagnose himself and battles depression.

Nova
by Daniel Abnett, Andy Lanning and various artists

You've probably heard of Marvel's spaceway event, ANNIHILATION. Well, Nova was its hero. Like Green Lantern, our Nova was a part of the Nova Corps., until the Annihilation Wave wiped out all Nova Centurions except for Richard here.

Nova

Now, he's just trying to save the galaxy one threat at a time. The writing in this ongoing series is always fun, and the science fiction aspect excels at challenging our way of thinking.

Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters
by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and Renato Arlem


Follow a quirky group of government-ordered superheroes as they struggle with internal affairs (Phantom Lady cuts herself), external affairs (alien invasion), and all sorts of other wacky stuff, including --

Mechanical bees. My god.
Mechanical bees. My god.

Themes of legacy, privilege, free will and control abound in this miniseries, but don't let that scare you off. It's fantastically steeped in superhero pseudoscience.

So have you come up with a decision? Check out the poll at the right column and do that voodo that you do! Vote!

Now's a good chance to look at a book that you've never looked at before, a good chance to expand your horizons. If you've been thinking about trying any of these books but never got the chance to, here it is!

If you like a particular book and would like to see my own opinions on it, now's a good chance too! Lots of opportunities here, guys.

If we start with X-Men: First Class, then I'll do the eight-issue miniseries first, at which point we'll go to the ongoing. For the rest, we'll just start at issue 1.

Supreme Update: some sketches from Turini

Just some links you guys might wanna check out:

An Italian website hosts some sketches of the squadron supreme from Marco Turini. Some of them are inked, some colored.

But all are pencilled!

See, now I know how to characterize Turini's art.
The coloring is a bit too comic book-y. It doesn't achieve the refined tone that Gary Frank and Jon Sibal had, and is more appropriate for a book like Grimm Fairy Tales. The lines on the body are too smooth and don't seem to have any contour.
I really dig Turini's pencilling, but that single preview page really took away the detail from the pencilling.

The anatomy is, well, chunky to say the least, but Hyperion's last pose and Doctor Spectrum's pin-up look pretty cool, despite the chunky.Something that's annoying: Why is the Blur so muscled? It always irks me when people draw so much muscle tone on speedsters. They're speedsters! Their muscles should be prominent in their legs!

ALSO: The new series will be called "Squadron Supreme Returns." Intuitive enough, right?

What Black Canary Will Do to You if You Miswrite Her:

. . . this for one:

GABC2_crack!

and then. . .

hester_skreeeeeeeeee

. . . so tread carefully and respectfully, Mr. Winick.

That's all for today, so I guess there's nothing left to say except. . .

JLA6_AH!variant

A FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD NOTE: No reviews this week, sorry guys. I wanted to get Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #7 and X-Men: First Class #10, but I'm saving them for next week. That, and, I've never reviewed those books on the blog, and I don't wanna just jump right in.

All Things Supreme: Chaykin's Squadron

I swear, I need to marry you, Newsarama. For all your idiotic message board ranting, you've given me what no other website has given me.

Joe Straczynski's "Go get 'em." to Chaykin and Turini on the Squadron Supreme.

I am so happy.

We're done with looking at Straczynski's Squadron, but that only means we get to look at the upcoming Chaykin and Turini's squadron.

Marvel.com's released some cover art and a preview page here (it may have updated even more by now).

The cover's by Pornface McGee, but I don't recognize any tracing here, so I'm fine with it. Who is everyone, though, because none of these people are part of the Squadron yet!

The preview page there, well, it's definitely a change from Frank's realistic and mature style. I'd expect this kind of work from something like Grimm Fairy Tales, and it's definitely a step down from Frank.

Still though, the writing should be able to redeem the art if it falls short. You may know Howard Chaykin for, basically, war. Currently, he's working on a WWII miniseries with Garth Ennis. He was charged with a three-issue revamp of the Blackhawk series as well as a critically acclaimed series called American Flagg! (the exclamation is part of the title.)

With those kinds of books behind his helm, maturer but still fun kinds of books, Chaykin sounds like a reasonably excellent fit for the Squadron.

As for the art, you can find Turini's website here, with links to his blog, his art, all sorts of stuff. A lot of it's erotica, but I like his pencils. They're not too heavy; they're fairly expressive and they're very fine. The coloring is surreal-ish, but I know that the Squadron won't be getting that kind of coloring. I hope Marvel sets him up with a fine inker, because I don't want heavy lines on my Squadron.

Here's to the future guys.

Silver Surfer

P.S. If you missed some posts, here they all are:

All Things Supreme
INTRO
PART 1
PART 2
PART 3
OUTTRO (this very post!)

All things Supreme: Straczynski's Squadron (pt3)

And here we are, in the third part of our whirlwind tour of the Supremeverse. Part 1 is here and part 2 is here, if you feel the need to catch up.

Today, we're looking at the non-DC-analogues, who are very fun in their interaction with each other. They were designed as a post-Supreme Power addendum to the Squadron, and it turned out -- great.


Arcanna
Dr. Fate? Dr. Light? Dr. Arcanna?

DC Analogue: none!
Alias: Arcanna Jones
Powers: manipulation of reality (unstable and unreliable, but very, very powerful)
Character traits: intelligent, confident, curious, nurturing

Let it never be said that Straczynski doesn't know how to write female characters. First you have the psycho-sadist (Zarda), then you have the soft-spoken alien (Kingsley), and now you have Arcanna, a physicist with a PhD. She wrote her own book, in fact, titled Quantum Physics: the New Reality.

Not too much to say about her, like everyone else today. She joined the Squadron, essentially, to learn more about her powers of reality manipulation.

She's a very smart character, and it's always fun to hear her talk.


Emil Burbank

Juan Barranco's Emil Burbank

Hey look, it's another sadist, except he's not psychotic. darn.

DC Analogue: Lex Luthor??? Except he isn't rich
Alias: Emil Burbank
Powers: superintelligence
Character traits: conniving, sadistic, cautious,

Emil Burbank is a genius, but a creepy genius, but an awesome creepy genius. He ended up killing his parents and driving his sister insane just for the hell of it.

He joined the Squadron not out of any sense of justice (The Blur), or to make something of his life (Doc Spectrum), or because he's curious about his powers (Arcanna), but just as an "experiment." To see what would happen. Life is a game to him, and he knows how to take advantage of it.

He's so creepy, but it's a cool kind of creepy.


Shape
Man, Shape is great.SPH_shape
DC Analogue: zuh?
Alias: Raleigh Lund
Powers: he's pretty much impervious to any kind of trauma
Character traits: mentally deficient, simple-minded, child-like

Shape is so great. He used to be a janitor, because he wasn't smart enough for anything else (because he's mentally retarded).

But then the government's all, "Hey, this guy has powers. Let's put him on our team."

SQD2_shape and kingsley

Shape is great.


Inertia
a grayish past with a light heart
DC Analogue: none?
Alias: Edith Freiberg
Powers: Impervious skin, superstrength, I think she absorbs energy too
Character traits: easygoing, sad, broken(ish), friendly, light-hearted, volatile, quippy

Man, I love everyone today, and Edie here is no exception.

Her dad was a Christian bigot/hypocrite, and she ended up leaving her small town and leaving him. She was kinda traumatized when a bunch of boys raped her in grade school, so I think she covers up all the trauma with good humor.

You really have to admire that. She doesn't let her past hold her down, and her sense of humor is great.

I didn't really get why she joined the Squadron, other than she has nothing better to do with her life. She's very easygoing about what the regime tells her to do, but she does do it.
stan the man

Sigh.

So overall, the four characters today have a fantastic dynamic together and by themselves. It's a really great cast that made the original cast of Supreme Power even more exciting.

There were other characters too, but they had passing notes and had no field work behind them (because one's a living nuke and the other's a shrinking guy).

With that our look into Straczynski's and Frank's squadron comes to an end. Can you identify each person here?

Squadron Supreme

If you have any questions, or maybe you're curious about something I mentioned but didn't fully talk about, don't be shy! The Squadron was a work of art, and I'd love to talk my mouth off about it.

Upcoming we'll talk about Chaykin and Turini's credentials for the Squadron, and I talk my mouth off about that.

For the curious, here's Straczynski's catalog of the series and its spin-offs at World of JMS.
Here's the Wikipedia for the series.
And here's Marvel.com's catalog of the series. Mike Deodato is actually cited as the artist for issues 8 and 9, but those issues were never released (I didn't think he was a good enough follow-up to Gary Frank anyhow).

Cover to Cover: Run, Batman, RUN! (from Catwoman)

Let's look at the rest of the week in comics. I wanted to get Ennis and Chaykin's War Is Hell but I thumbed through the issue, and it only has 22 pages for 4 bucks (and no cardstock cover). It sounded like a rip-off to me.

Anyways, up on the review block today is Hack/Slash #10 and Catwoman #77. If you missed this week's Birds of Prey #116, you can find it here.

Catwoman #77
Catwoman#77
by Will Pfeifer and David/Alvaro Lopez, gorgeous cover by Adam Hughes


I feel really bad, because I got some water on the cover, and I hate to ruin such a pretty cover, but don't pay attention to my neuroses. . .
An homage to Run, Lola, Run, I believe. The thing is, I wonder if Selina has to have so much rouge on her face; it makes her look younger/ more innocent than I think she should appear to be. As always, I love the whip being shown like a tail. That is so cute.

Enough about the cover, let's get to the comic itself. While this tie-in to Salvation Run isn't exactly the best of jumping-on points, it's definitely a fun read, because --

1) Batman tries apprehending Catwoman (in his very own Bat-copter!).

Poor, poor Batman

Fails.

2) Batman tries apprehending Catwoman again. (now with three other members of the Justice League!).

Boo-YAH!

Fails.

3) Batman tries yet again, with the entire DCU behind him:

Selina v. DCU

Well, I guess you can find out what happens by checking it out, hm? It has to do with Salvation Run and isn't that creative, since we're in the age of the Wachowskis, but it's still a really fun read.

Selina finds herself in a strange Earth, and makes the most of it. Here, on this Earth, she has super powers and everyone fears her, and what does she do with that? She has some coffee. --->

I like Catwoman's voice in the narration. It's very easygoing and friendly, and it's confident as well.

Good stuff, although I can't really expect any more substance from a forced tie-in.

Earlier I resolved to give the title some trial issues, and I haven't regretted it, though after this arc I'm sure we'll get to see more substance. Three out of five bruised and bandaged Batmen.


Hack/Slash #10
by Tim Seeley and Emily Stone (welcome back Emily!)

This cover is really interesting, not just because it's over-the-top gore and gratuitous T&A, but also because David Nakayama drew it. You might recognize him as one of the artists for Marvel Adventures Hulk, a kid friendly Hulk book.

Anyways, I was really, really disappointed by the last three issues, in large part due to the lazy, background-less art from Rebekah Isaacs.

Thankfully, Emily Stone returns on pencilling/inking duties! I am so glad.

This issue is a nice interlude which sets up some upcoming arcs. Cassie and Vlad travel to Montana to find out more information about Cassie's father.

There's a lot and a lot of backstory about Cassie's father's friend, but there's also a lot of exciting action. Cassie and Vlad take down some feral children, and face a moral polarization/dilemma.

The writing here, it's pretty convoluted and requires a lot of prior knowledge. My list, let me show you it:

-reference to Emily Cristy, a skin-eating zombie American Queen in the past issue (I got that one).
-reference to the government guy of past issues (ehhh, he wasn't so prominent in those issues, though, so this reference isn't exactly strong).
-Vlad's oath to Cassie that he'd stop her if she ever went too far (I got that.)
-Muffy Joworski (the lady from Tub Club?)
-revenants (are undead corpses. That's reiterated here).
-the halfway house (What is that? Did I miss something?)

A lot of this issue relies on past issues, which is a big turn-off, BUT we got some classic Hack/Slash writing here. Cassie swears every panel and she's always doing something bad-ass every other panel, while Vlad gets some hilarious hapless dialogue.

Classic.

Two out of five Muffy Joworskis. Overall, this issue isn't as good as it could be, because of the heavy reliance on past knowledge, but I'm just glad that Emily Stone's back on art. Emily Stone!
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