Converging paths

So, somebody up top thought I had something important to say, and as a result, I will be speaking at a manga convention on the relationship between Japanese and American Comic Books.

Yippee
!

Coincidentally, my store in Chicago will be holding a sale on Valentine's Day week, for newer weekly comics, so I don't think I'll be going in next week for my inkly drugs.

Oh yeah, it's also midterm season at school right now. For these reasons, I don't think I'll be able to be with the blog as often as I'd like for the next week.

Time is certainly not on my side, but then -- hey Spidey! What time is it?

". . . you took it all. YOU TOOK IT ALL AWAY!"

For whatever reason, I am hunting for some Amazing Spidey issues, and not finding them.

They're the two issue-arcs from Joe Kelly/Chris Bachalo, and Mark Waid/Marcos Martin. I heard they were good, so hopefully, maybe they'll make me feel better about reading Spidey again!

Ah well, on with this week's comics. I only got two.

Batman #685

by Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen

This is the tail end of Dini's "Faces of Evil" two-issue special, the first part focusing on Hush, this part on Catwoman. Along the way, we get taken from the usual urban and gritty setting of Gotham, to the jungles of Vietnam! Catwoman ended up there, in order to break apart a poaching industry, and Hush ended up there running away from the law.

We've definitely seen this before (Catwoman as an animal rights person), and it's great to see it again. She gets a couple really great lines in the beginning, and then we get into the nitty-gritty of the plot: how she frees the animals, escapes the poachers and screws one over on Hush.


That's one of the flaws too, because while last issue was certainly devoted to Hush, this one, eh, not as much to Catwoman. The plot twist though, near the end, is pretty nice, and the ending is pretty standard. A fun arc that gets wrapped up nicely!

Neil Gaiman is taking over for the next issues of Batman and Detective for a "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" special. Eh, I doubt I'll get 'em. I'm poor, and I can probably get the gist from the blogosphere.


Nova #21

by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Wellinton Alves

So, the last page for this had Richard Rider on his knees in the grass, shouting into the sky.

Naked. It's pretty hilarious. The rest of the issue, well, is kind of offbeat. There are a lot of talking heads here for an issue of Nova, and it's focused on whether or not Richard's lost his marbles due to holding the entire Xandarian intelligence in his brain.

Not really sure what to think of this, exactly. It's pretty different from normal issues.

Nothing to do but sit back and wait, really. Now that Richard is out of the Corps., what will he do? Will he lash out in rage against the Corps? Will the Corps., since it has the power but not the experience, fail somehow and re-recruit Richard?

This is definitely unfamiliar territory, and hopefully next issue provides some answers.

from the DCU this time:

We miss you Steve Gerber!


And we will not forget you. Waaaugh.

Batman: The Long Halloween. . . ABSOLUTELY!

I know Jeph Loeb's been getting a lot of flack, for writing crappy Ultimate Marvel crossovers, and crappy Hulk comics, and shallow Supergirl comics, and getting fired from Heroes. . . heck, I've even taken a few jabs at the guy, but I think we ought to remember his work for Batman. I mean, he pretty much pioneered Batman as he is today.

His work with Tim Sale is one of the fountainheads for the Dark Knight, and today is a perfect opportunity to look over

Absolute Batman: The Long Halloween

by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale


ABSOLUTE EDITION!(PLUS, I got to use University's industrial-strength scanner!)

It is an absolute joy just to hold this comic book, and DC makes absolute editions of only their finest comics. "The Long Halloween" is a great example.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Really, do I need to do this? Gotham sees a string of murders over the course of thirteen issues, all on one holiday or another. The victims, however, all are in the family of Carmine "The Roman" Falcone -- Gotham's untouchable crime lord, to make the story sweeter. Batman, Commish Gordon and D.A. Harvey Dent make a pact to see justice through for this "Holiday." Will they survive it?

WHAT I LIKED: This thirteen-issue maxi-series is too much to say in a paragraph. It's a story of Harvey Dent's descent into darkness. It's a story about Jim Gordon's struggles between his life as a police officer, and his life as a husband and father. It's a story about the nature of justice, and what it means in a corrupt city like Gotham. It's about the new wave of crime replacing the old in a corrupt city like Gotham. It's the story of the corrupt people there as well. It's a romance between Batman and Catwoman, and Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle.
This book is 400 loaded pages of beautiful art and intelligent writing. Gorgeous splash pages. Insightful dialogue. Noir is a huge influence on Sale this go-around, and it is perfect for the dark tone of "The Long Halloween." He plays around with the fact that we all know what Harvey Dent is going to turn into, and uses light and shadows to point it out to us!


This is the ultimate murder mystery in Gotham City, and basically? You have not read Batman until you've read "The Long Halloween."

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: On a critical level? Nothing, honestly.

Although it does annoy me that Loeb's distinct way of telling a superhero narrative is to A) use a lot of ellipses, and B) never, ever use contractions.

EXTRAS?: There's an intro-interview between Christopher Nolan (Director of Batman Begins) and David S. Goyer (one of the writers for Batman Begins), which took place when the movie was still in production. If you've seen any of the two movies, then you'd definitely spot a lot of parallels between them and "The Long Halloween," because that's how influential this thing is.

A closing interview/dialogue is between Jeph Loeb (writer), Tim Sale (Artist) and Richard Starkings (Letterer), and after that is Loeb's original proposal for the story, and then Tim Sale's gorgeous sketches and covers for the story.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Enough of my blabbering! What're you waiting for? Go read it!

Elementary, my dear Gordon

OH MY GOD!

Murder most foul! And what could that pumpkin be doing there?

We're reviewing a trade tomorrow -- what could it possibly be???

Discover the mystery tomorrow! Be there!

wrappin' up the week:.

Birds of Prey #126
by Tony Bedard and Claude St. Aubin

This is the penultimate issue of Birds of Prey, and, strangely enough, it's about a villain.

It's pretty much been about the villains ever since Bedard introduced his ridiculous villains of Platinum Flats, California. Each person is gimmicked around an internet phenomenon (eBay, FaceBook, etc.), but the novelty ends there. We're just supposed to take the villains at face-value, and give them no more of a second thought. The problem is, the comic has been about these characters since he took over.

That's one disappointment of mine. Another is that Bedard is also missing out on some great story potential with our birds. I mean, Helena Bertillini is a teacher now! Do you have any idea of the story possibilities there? J. Michael Straczynski alone wrote a great number of issues with Peter Parker as a teacher in the '01's! There's no point in showing a lot of scans today, because it focuses so little on our Birds.

That said, Bedard has been disappointing me with his run on Birds, and this issue is no different. It is a "Faces of Evil" issue focused on the Calculator, and from that perspective, it's a pretty good issue. It focuses on the Calculator's ingenuity and is from his perspective, but this focus on the villain is not what Birds needs right now.

Bad timing, Bedard. Bad timing. With just one issue left, I have no idea how he can possibly quell the new threat of the Calculator, disband the Birds of Prey, and give them a fitting farewell at the same time.

Oh well; such is the plight of the serial! See you again in Birds of Prey #127, guys!

Dark Avengers: the perfect middle finger to Marvel's superheroes

Call it post-inauguration euphoria, but man oh man, I spent way too much money on comic books this week. Oh man, ohmanohman.

You have the first issue of Dark Avengers, which is a new Marvel title that I'm actually excited about. You have the penultimate issue of Birds of Prey, before the Birds say goodbye. You have the opening salvo of "Character Assassination" in The Amazing Spider-Man, which is supposed to answer questions that we've had since "One More Day." You have the second Annual for Uncanny X-Men, in which we learn what the White Queen, Emma Frost, is really up to. Honestly, there were so many comics out this week that had me excited, I Just Couldn't Get Enough.



Dark Avengers #1
by Brian Bendis and Mike Deodato
back-up by Bendis, Jonathan Hickman and Stefano Caselli

Dark Avengers #1 is pretty much a middle finger to Marvel's superheroes in comic book form, and you know what? I enjoyed every single panel. Like any other first issue of an Avengers comic, the plot consists of rallying around the world (ie: New York), and recruiting individuals to become Avengers. But this time, Norman has a different experience.
Ms. Marvel refuses to work for a man like Osborn, so he finds the pathological Moonstone, gives her the Ms. Marvel costume and calls her Ms. Marvel. Osborn finds Wolverine's estranged son, Daken Akihiro, dresses him up and calls him Wolverine. He takes Bullseye and gives him Hawkeye's costume, dubbing him Hawkeye.

There are a dozen other transitions that I overlook, and the Iron Patriot has got to be the most delicious, along with "the Amazing Spider-Man". Norman Osborn is a conniving bastard, but the ease with which he executes his will here is astounding. In a world where our heroes have failed, it's time for other people to take a stand. This is a mockery and insult to Marvel's superheroes, and it couldn't have come at a better time.


This is definitely a new direction from Marvel, and this is probably one of the first times that I'm actually excited about a story from them.

Read all of my Dark Avengers reviews:
Issue #1: the perfect middle finger
Issue #2: Norman Osborn, noble knight
Issue #3 and 4: There is no Void!
Issue #5: starring Tommy Lee Jones

Batman and Akira

A couple comments on a couple trades I recently read:

Batman and Son
by Grant Morrison, Andy Kubert and John Van Fleet

This was a fantastic read. Morrison delves into some old, old bat-tales and unearths them here for two story-arcs, both of which are a delicious read.

The beginning of this trade has got to be one of Morrison's best feats ever: Batman does away with all his supervillains, and resolves to learn to be Bruce Wayne again.

Of course, things don't work out so well. Two phrases for you: Ninja Man-bats and the Three Ghosts of Batman. Along the way, Morrison fleshes out Bruce Wayne for us as a James Bond-ian character, and it is a fun ride all the way through.
I am so glad my library had this.

Akira vol. 1
by Katsuhiro Otomo

It's hard to deal with critically acclaimed stuff like this. There's usually no point in commenting on it because, well, what new things can I add?

That said though, this is a non-stop action ride with drugs, motorcycles and exploding heads induced via telekinesis.

It's a perfect example of the cyberpunk subgenre (of sci-fi), and I'm at the same time amazed and disappointed that there's a killer cliffhanger at the end of the trade.

It's good, but I wouldn't consider buying it for 25 bucks. Hopefully the library has the second volume.

That's it for today. I'm not sure if I even have time to read the comics I get tomorrow, which saddens me to no end, but hopefully I'll be able to get something in Wednesday.

Ladies and gentlemen, it does me a great deal of honor to introduce. . .

. . . BATMAN:


Friend of hookers the world around!

From the HC Batman and Son, collecting Batman #'s 655-658 and 663-666, by Grant Morrison, Andy Kubert and John Van Fleet.

It's a collection of fun and insightful romps that draw inspiration from the lore of previous Bat-stories!

Cover to Cover: Your face is a cash-grab

FUN FACT TIME!:
Janus was the Roman God of gates, doors, beginnings and endings (from Wikipedia).

The name "janitor" comes from this guy, since janitors take care of the places!

Janus had two faces, so he could literally see behind his head. Useful for teachers!

Janus

We won't be dealing with Roman Gods today, but we will be dealing with two faces!

Faces, that is, of eeeeeeevil! Hopefully you've been aware of DC's recent campaign to run "Faces of Evil" issues in several of their titles, and that just happened to intersect with some titles I collect. Here's an example of a F.O.E. issue done well, in which the spotlight is on and the perspective is from the villain, with incredibly smooth writing, but will today's issues fare as well? WILL THEY????

Secret Six #5

(Faces of Evil: Deadshot)

by Gail Simone and Nicola Scott

Deadshot is a mercenary who left his family to protect them/get lots of money for himself. He's a jerk, but he's a pretty funny jerk with a mustache and a, well, killer aim.

Deadshot

He's one-sixth of the Secret Six and this issue, supposedly dedicated to him, takes place smack-dab in the middle of Simone's storyarc. Deadshot does some narrating, but then, fellow Secret Six-er Bane, also gets a fairly dramatic portion of the story devoted to him.

As a "F.O.E." issue, this pretty much fails. As a story it fares somewhat similarly.

The problem is that Gail's humor has to get through a very dark story, with plenty of sadness and tragedy, and gore for gore's sake. There were two scenes that had to be shaded in red just to blunt the horror of all these deaths, and this wasn't portrayed humorously at all. Bane getting tortured, for example.

Banebite

If only Simone could integrate the darkness of these mercenary lives with her genuine humor storytelling more smoothly. (a good dose of black humor would just make my day!) As it stands though, Secret Six is a title that suffers from bipolar tone disorder: is it supposed to be funny, or is it supposed to be dark? This needs to be reconciled!

Green Arrow/Black Canary #16

(Faces of Evil: Merlyn)

by Andrew Kreisberg and Mike Norton

Merlyn is basically Green Arrow's arch-nemesis. Green Arrow has green arrows. Merlyn has black arrows. No, Merlyn has no magic powers like the eponymous Merlyn of Arthurian legend.

This issue is in no way focused on Merlyn, nor is it from his perspective. He plays the typical "bad-guy-who-gets-beat-up-by-the-good-guy" in the issue, so, basically, this fails at being a "F.O.E." issue.

Excepting that fact, though, this issue isn't that bad. It isn't great, sure, but it's enough for me to look forward to next issue. This is Kreisberg's second issue on the series, and it's shaping up pretty well. I feel like he's trying to bring back the Mike Grell era to Green Arrow -- make Green Arrow a city guy, not just a cape-and-tights superhero, but a city superhero who dealt real issues.

Merlyn doesn't like Green

He makes friends with a police officer, and he even brings up environmentalism!

There's a follow-up on the previous issue, which makes for a stunning cliffhanger in this issue. It's pretty awesome, but that's as much as I'll tell you!

An unfortunate byproduct of the Mike Grell-ification of the story is that it's focusing on Green Arrow when the title is Green Arrow/Black Canary. I'm betting a lot of people, myself included, would like to see Black Canary get a nice spotlight too.

So, there you have it. Two "F.O.E." issues that weren't really that F.O.E.-y at all. One of them feels bipolar, but the other is constructed better.

That's all I got for today, guys. Do you have anything to add?

goshdarnit, my money is on the line here

Spidey appeared in Friday's Chicago Tribune!

And on the third page no less. This analogue between Obama and superheroes is ringin' truer and truer as we reach the big guy's inauguration.

But part of me can't help but view this as a cash-grab. I mean, at least Savage Dragon actually lives in Chicago. And, and Obama's appearing only in the back-up story of Amazing issue 583.

Well, while we're complaining about Spider-Man, let's check on Newsarama's article with Steve Wacker on upcoming spider-developments.

I have to admit-- I'm kinda excited about it. "Answers to the questions I've had since day one"? Explanations of the big changes that happened a year ago? Yeah, that sounds pretty appealing.
And there's even this little time-lapse panel by John Romita Jr!

Photobucket

Granted, it takes up half of a ridiculously exorbitant two-page spread, but I love that kinda crap! I love it.

So once again, I am at odds with coughing up dough for the Amazing Spidey comic and keeping my dignity. Every time I pick it up ( recent examples: New Ways to Die, and the Jackpot annual) is a regrettable purchase, so I've been making up excuses since then.

But that's the thing. I want to read Spider-Man again, but I don't wanna be let down. The preview art is exciting, but I don't know if I can trust it.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Happy Days!

So, for whatever reason, DC is getting villain-happy and doing line-wide "Faces of Evil" issues for several of their titles. Maybe it's tying in to Final Crisis and how "Evil wins." Who knows.

All I know is that in the dominance of superhero comics, it's always nice to get something from the villain's perspective.

Detective Comics #852
by Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen

This issue is so awesome. The last time we saw Hush, he lost his entire fortune by Catwoman's cunning, failed in his grandiose attempt to usurp Bruce Wayne's life, and was just plain disgraced. His plastic surgery (to pose as Bruce Wayne) failed him, as his face broke up in scars, and he walked away in the snow. On crutches.

Miraculously, in the first three pages, we see all that turn around!

It is just amazing to see what happens next. "Bruce" seduces a woman. He goes on a cruise. He travels to Jamaica. Australia. Vietnam. All of it on borrowed time in a stolen identity, and throughout the comic, you can't help but get this sense of dread. When will he get discovered? When will his plans fall through? The feeling that he will fail makes him . . . sympathetic, even for all the treachery he engages in!
The cliffhanger ending was a breathtaker, and simply amazing. The flow from one "Face of Evil" to the other in the upcoming issue is completely genius, and completely natural. You rock Paul Dini!

Lastly, I just love all the details in this comic book. Smeared over the "Detective" in the cover logo is a messy "Hush,"and here's Hush's best imitation of Bruce Wayne's imitation of the Fonz:
Ayyyyyyy.

He even goes to Australia and meets a superhero called "Tasmanian Devil"! Check out his insignia!

IT'S JUST A BIG "T!" Dustin Nguyen, you rock.

Detective #852, you rock.

cover to cover: catching up on cosmic comics

Two comics of Cosmic Marvel today. These two guys have been out for quite a while, but I only got them today.

The first one I really dislike, the second I actually really like.

Guardians of the Galaxy #8
by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and some fill-in artists who AREN'T Paul Pelletier


There was a point where this comic just became more about fighting and beating people up, and stopping the Next Thing That Will Conquer Earth, than it was about the people themselves, and frankly, I'm tired of it. I feel dumb for just picking this up. All these new characters are introduced (Vance Astro, Darkhawk, Blastaar, that one guy I don't remember), when we barely know anything about the established characters! It is frustrating.

Couple this with the fact that there are so many plot threads juggling around, by the time you pick up next issue, you've forgotten what happened last issue because so little time was dedicated to it. The Universal Church of Truth thread, that's been going on since, like, issue 3 hasn't it?

oh skullskullskullskull

"Oh skullskullskullskullexclamation point" is right, Peter Quill! I know that with the computer revolution, we're becoming better multitaskers (at the cost of our ability to focus), but not like this, guys. Not like this. You must punch me if I cave in and buy next issue, okay guys? Okay?

ALSO: The cliffhanger was really boring, and actually predictable. When even I see it coming and roll my eyes, then you're doing something wrong there, buckos.

Nova #20

by Abnett, Lanning, Alves and Burges

This is one of the "downtime" issues, where Richard Rider takes a moment to ruminate over family issues back on Earth. He gets together the ol' gang (the last two members of the New Warriors who're left), and does some heart-to-heart.

pizza

The personal issues come off as a bit contrite, but I think it resolves very well, and, well, how often do you see big-brother-little-brother issues in a comic book? It's nice to see that Richard can be so open around long-time friends. The story is presented very sentimentally, which I thought was a nice change of pace from all the cosmic slugging-it-out we see.

Also: The two-page spread cliffhanger is completely insane.
I find it unfortunate that Wellinton Alves can't handle the art duty by himself, and hasn't for a while, but if the last page is any indicator, at least Adi Granov is back on covers!
Adi Granov NEXT

Yes!

Finally, some fanservice!

Oh gosh, it has been awful here at headquarters. Our phone service has been out for who-knows-when, due to the wind messing up a cable, and we've been without dsl for who-knows-how-long. The days just go by.

Anyways, it gave me plenty of time to get some scanning in, so I just want you to direct your eyes to the sidebar, 'cause I've replaced the "Ollie, where's the Green Arrow I loved to read?" with something else.
GRATUITOUS ETERNAL CROTCH SHOT:
eternal crotch

Heh.
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