Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Plastic Wars

War Stories Volume 2
Written by Garth Ennis with various artists.

Again, more great war comics. In particular I love the story about the four partisan fighters from the Spanish Civil War stuck in a shelling crater waiting for the fighting to stop. I don’t know much about the Spanish Civil War but this did help give me a better sense of it while presenting four separate character arcs that managed to drive the story forward rather than stall it. Anyone thinking of giving background character moments should check this out because it proves you can reflect on a character while driving the over all story forward without interrupting the flow of the story.
Otherwise this collection is just as solid as the last one but with more airplanes – which I love.

Plastic Man: Rubber Bandits
Written and artisted by Kyle Baker

This is a lot more joke oriented than the Jack Cole original crime fighting whackiness but my lord Kyle Baker is a fantastic cartoonist. These are comics in their purest loved until the threads wear out form.

Tired of multi-arc epics dealing with heroes unsure of their roles and places? Are you starting to wonder why characters never question the very obviously artificial barriers created for them? Or do you just want to watch Plastic Man try to catch a mouse? Then this is for you.

Baker thrives in the history of the character who is both a capable hero but was evolved into a goofy stretchy guy. What Baker does is mesh the best of both aspects here and just has fun with the medium, the universe, the characters, the fans and pretty much anything related to DC Comics or comics in general.

I seem to be on a Plastic Man kick, and so far I just haven’t been let down. I just don’t know why people would find the cartoony look off-putting, it’s beautiful – from the lines, to the colours to the layouts and character designs.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Back in Khe San

Will Eisner’s Last Day in Vietnam is more of a sketch book or collection of really short stories than a complete work. It’s almost completely character based with the reader acting as an almost direct witness to the action and stories presented. Some stories more so than others.

The layout is a lot like the lineless panels used throughout The Plot, and I that in part is what makes these stories feel more like character sketches more than complete stories. There is an inherently unfinished look to comic books without hard lines separating the panels. The point here seems to be that the lack of lines draws in the reader and blurs the lines separating the action taking place form the person bearing witness to it – which was what history claims to be the factor that ended the war itself. The blurring of lines between witnesses back home and action on the ground.

And yet this is exactly where Eisner shines. I absolutely love Will Eisner’s ability to capture emotion and character in his figures. When they are happy they are beaming, when they are despairing their entire body slumps over into a heap that is unmistakable. All this is captured with an eye for humanity that knows what it is one person sees in another and is capable of recognizing those emotions. Capturing it on static paper is simply amazing. Hidden under this deceptively simple art are techniques for comic book artists that seem to be forgotten – like using charcoal and textured paper for shading. I love that you can see the tools as much as the story here.

It’s definitely worth your while to look through this book, but I think there is a lot better value for your money out there if you’re looking for Eisner material. What is interesting though is the approach to the subject matter. These are incidents in the life of a soldier and these seemingly amusing anecdotes are what survived in the minds of the people involved in conflict. It’s fascinating to see what it remembered and what is expressed by those in situations that are simply incomprehensible to us as outsiders, and by the players themselves.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Last Wednesday’s Loot – 23 May 2007

Countdown #49
So the big secret is going to be that when the earths all split some people wound up on the wrong ones? Is that it? I can live with that but I’m still on the fence here. I think maybe I wanted and was expecting more than I got. It’s not really bad and I’m actually liking the mysteries being presented so I may give it two months at this point because I don’t think I can judge it yet. And when all is said and done, I am enjoying the read. Plus, I want to see if they can pull of a decent story with these characters. Thank you Paul Dini for bringing back Silver Age Jimmy.
I rate this comic: I have no idea how to rate this comic.

The Spirit #6
Now that was a definite change of pace wasn’t it? This was a nifty flight of fancy issue, something for which the original was also known for. While I enjoyed it, the pacing is much slower than the other issues and because of that I think it feels a bit less polished. Kind of like the jazz and punk it continuously alludes to. This is a very deliberate and probably much more meaty comic than on first read. I’d love to see the author’s notes to penetrate much more of the ideas and thematic references here.
I rate this comic: Still tops.

Godland #18
Yep, another issue of Godland and it’s as good as the rest.
I rate this comic: My one comic I stuck with.

Marvel Adventures: Iron Man

I love that is ends with Tony Stark saying “Is there a law against that?” The Marvel Adventures imprint is fast becoming my Marvel. I don’t mind stories for adults but I’ll gladly read comics aimed at a younger audience when they’re more fun and, frankly, better written. I’m not a huge Iron Man fan so it’s not like I’m getting a rehash of stories I’ve read before, this is me giving a book about a character I know little about a chance. And I love Action Philosophers so Fred van Lente is someone I’ll keep an eye out for. I’m glad I picked this up. It’s action packed, it has great characters, it has a great story, it’s written and drawn exceptionally clear, and all in all is a good technology superhero comic.
I rate this comic: Iron Great.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Sales Results

Okay I sold less comics at the Great Glebe Garage Sale this year but made more money. I stuck to my guns and didn't take any offers along the lines of "I'll give you twenty bucks for the box." Sorry, I took forty last year for like 120 comics. Didn't make that mistake this year.

I made some kids really happy. They would show up with a dollar and ask to buy a comic and inevitably pick something like issue 3 or 4 from a miniseries. I'd either point them to something more kid friendly to make their parents happy or sell them the whole run. There was about an equal number of interested kids and adults this year. One kid bought ten bucks worth of comics, one of which was an issue of Last Planet Standing so I gave him the whole run. A medieval English professor had his young boys going through the box, and I gave the youngest one my stack of free comic book day stuff (minus Conan/Star Wars flip book from last year, although that probably would have worked for the dad) because his older brothers were ignoring his choices. There was a little girl who was maybe five who took my suggestion of Lions, Tigers and Bears but was a big fan of Superheroes - She bought one of my Infinite Crisis books, which I wasn't too keen on selling to someone so young but she was so darned cute the way she flipped through the whole box until she found the perfect superhero cover. Plus her dad was there so I figured it would be okay.

The only real disappointment is that a few series got broken up. Like I said above I only sold one issue of the whole run of Infinite Crisis, and the same with Identity Crisis, so those will be harder to get rid of I suppose.

The other really interesting thing is that about twice as many women stopped and looked through the comics as men, but more men ended up buying - except one woman who bought anything by Warren Ellis.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Today a letter. Tomorrow, the world

Got a letter to the editor printed today in the Ottawa Citizen. Woo hoo.

Now to eat too many chicken wings and guzzle just enough beer that I can still follow the playoff hockey action.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cross posting on two blogs is a sin

Yeah I've been ignoring good old solid hypnoray this last little while, sorry about that. It seems this week's comics are delayed a day because of the two-four weekend. So you all get to read the post I put up on Ottawa Beige about The Plastic Man Archives: Volume 1. You'll notice one panel that someone else put up, but I can't remember who, sorry about that - the whole reefer madness thing. So read on if you like. Revel in my inability to scan anything straight. Be astounded by the sheer beauty of pre-code comic bookery.


Of our dozen or so readers here you’re probably wondering why the heck I’ve listed The Plastic Man Archives: Volume 1 as my current book of choice? Well it’s a simple answer, golden age Plastic Man comics are simply amazing. These are adventures from the time before the comic book code so you’re given unbridled creativity with a stronger basis in reality. Yes, it’s still about a man who has all the properties of India Rubber but there’s also a seedy underworld he deals with where people get maimed and die on a regular basis.
The short history is that Plastic Man debuted in Police Comics in 1941. He was created by Jack Cole who among other works, ghosted for Will Eisner for a little while on The Spirit, worked for Playboy creating Females, by Cole as well as finally getting his own newspaper comic strip Betsy and Me. He committed suicide rather suddenly in 1958 and nobody knows why. Ultimately, he’s best known for his Plastic Man work for which he wrote, drew and inked the stories.
I had no idea what to expect, to be honest. My only prior exposure to any work that was relatively contemporary was to Will Eisner’s The Spirit, which I found to be ahead of its time in many ways and came up with eleven reasons for new comers to comics to read it. However, this is about Plastic Man where the art and stories are rough around the edges, especially compared to today’s exacting standards and hyper-realistic bent we see in a lot of photorealistic works. But these pages have life because they aren’t trying to imitate life rather than be an exploration and interpretation of it. They are alive with ideas and energy that you just don’t see that much these days.
Take for instance this story where this Rosie O’Donell looking woman is using her farm to create an all-female gang to take over Mammoth City. Yes, it’s called Mammoth City, which on it’s own is more genius than anything Hollywood produced this summer. Anyway, here’s two panels where we get to see hilariously dated slang and leggy women boxing.
I wonder if Russ Meyer read Plastic Man? Heffner did.

Inevitably Rosie O’Donell’s gang of beautiful yet unbeatable women take over the criminal underworld. And the gangsters respond in the only way conceivable. That’s right, they steal a bunch of tanks from the local army base and raid the farm. Only it doesn’t work out so well and they all die. But what I want to know is how lax was security at the tank base that a bunch of guys in brightly colored zoot-suits could take a bunch of tanks, drive them across the city and countryside during world war two? I guess the army was more occupied with foreign invaders or overseas.
When the women capture Plastic Man they do the only logical thing a self-respecting female crime syndicate can do – smoke him up on reefer until he goes on a murderous rampage.

But don’t worry, a couple of Snickers bars later he chills, listens to some zepplin and is ready to strike back. Okay, not really. He listened to some far out jazz. Okay, still not really. What actually happens is he gets shot in the head a few times but since he’s rubber it just sort of bounces off him and knocks some sense into him until he realizes what happens. It all ends our nicely with Plastic Man pushing Rosie O’Donnell over onto a spike. This all happens in ten pages.
There’s countless other stories about Plastic Man taking on corrupt gangsters, heck he even busts an opium smuggling ring that originates in Ottawa. What follows is most likely where the idea for Bruce McDonald’s Highway 61 germinated.
That’s right they’re smuggling opium across the border in corpses. And when the hell did we line the border with obelisks? Damn, I know NOTHING about Canadian history. Plastic Man manages to not only round up all the players but he gets a confession out of the ringleader by winding his arm around the guy and spinning him like a top until he confesses.

Riddled throughout this collection are various forms of dated orientalism with swamis and natives being these unknown and misunderstood cultural artifacts. One man gets a curse put on his hands that need to continuously steal. The guy cuts them off but they continue to steal on their own until Plastic Man throws them into an incinerator. There is also this wondrous bit of surreality with a giant 8-ball vehicle not only destroying cities but acting as a magnet that attracts all forms of valuables.
Seriously, back then supervillains had a sense of flare. It wasn’t so much to just reek havoc, you had to confuse the bloody hell out of your unsuspecting victims. You just want Rat Fink to be driving this thing. And in case you’re wondering, the best way to stop a rampaging sphere painted like an eight-ball is to mold yourself into a snake and bite someone in the neck.

But as the stories continued and the war heated up in Europe comics weren’t wont to be left on the sidelines. Oh no, pretty much every comic had the heroes guarding the home front and encouraging the loyal citizenry to be ever vigilant and to buy war bonds. Heck, when faced with ratzi criminals using robots, Plastic Man manages to use the patriotism of his fellow gangsters to keep the home fires burning.

Holy crap, that dude got shot through the head by a nazi robot! But seriously, who doesn’t get excited by the promise of a fight between gangsters and nazi robots? Yep, these stories have it all and are wrapped up before most of today’s comic book stories even get warmed up. And while I know there are a lot of problems with these older stories – racial stereotypes are pretty horrific and I’m totally unsure how to interpret the roles of the women, when they even appear – I also feel we’re lacking something in today’s comic market. The utter density and pace without losing track of the plot or action in the stories is remarkable. Maybe it’s just all the anti-smoking information we have that robs us of costumed crime fighters using pipes to make a last minute escape. There you go folks. Plastic Man. Totally fucking awesome. Put that in your pipe and smoke it – or follow Plastic Man’s lead and put that in the pipe of some random evil scientist who is trying to flood you in his hidden underground lab and smoke it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The shape of things to come

The Plastic Man Archive Edition: Volume 1

I have a confession to make. I don’t really know a lot about comic book history. I also don’t buy or seek out a lot of really old comics. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just a hard nut to crack. That being said, I find myself getting more and more interested in the whole plethora of older works. Sure I find myself reading them in these reissued collections but honestly, I can’t be a collector just yet – not that I particularly want to be. I want to read the material, not own the originals – kind of like any classic literature really, if you think about it.

Reading this collection sort of whetted my appetite for these relatively historic artifacts. Yeah, I know there’s a plethora of crap out there just like today but this is the foundations and beginnings of all the ideas we’re inherently familiar with in the medium. Not only that, there is more than just superheroes in the pages of these golden age comics. They look to be more about adventuring than superheroing. There are jungle explorers, cowboys, space explorers, warfare comics, undersea explorations and just about any sort of man vs. nature/man/himself type of story.

But none of this has to do with Plastic Man. This volume is jaw droppingly fun to read. I guess a lot of it just caught me by surprise because when I tend to think of older comics I think of comic code comics. This predates them and we get stories where gangsters are seen being shot through the head, Plastic Man is forced to smoke enough pot until he goes on a killing rampage, countless gangs of thugs are killed indiscriminately, and the general level of violence and drugs is higher than one might expect. And it makes the stories better because it manages to ground them in some form of reality instead of a whitewashed version of the world aimed at kids. For instance, instead of villains uttering vague threats to rule the world, Plastic Man smashes up an opium smuggling ring.

These stories are as hefty as they are brief. They fly off in tangents as often as they contain follow a direct route to the conclusion. Ideas are flying as hard and fast as the fists and bullets. And all the while we’re given a likable character in the protagonist. Plastic Man is showing us the basis for the Batman we knew before the most recent crisis. He’s trying to do right while being unable to escape his past, and while Batman needed a company wide event to fix his problems, these comics just have Plas knocked unconscious and dream about meeting his creator – long before Morrison did it folks.

You can read this book as a historic artifact but you can also read it as fun comics. You won’t regret either. I’m honestly shocked I enjoyed this as much as I did. I was thoroughly impressed by this collection.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Long Two-Four Week End

It was a long weekend so I'm only back now. I read the second volume of the Justice League Adventures and it's pretty much the same thing as the first volume. Great superheroics for a younger audience but at the same time I'm enjoying it more than the adult version.

That being said I went through the comic book storage facility - i.e. one square box - to pick out the books to go in this year's Great Glebe Garage Sale. I decided it was time for Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis to go. Also up are the JLA: Classified books I have, the run of Batman: Face the Face, that Morrison essay on the Joker and some other recent fill-ins as well as what I have of Justice. There's a few other odds and sods in there but I'm totally waffling on 52. Part of me wants to hold onto it but I also know I most likely won't ever read it again. I suppose I should just lend it to someone so they can have something relatively meaty to read (maybe not in plot but in text, it's meaty).

Any ideas? Should I put it up or no?

Otherwise, if you're in Ottawa this coming Saturday there are 117 comics for a dollar each.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Wednesday’s Loot – 16 May 2007

Countdown #50
I actually didn’t mind the whole Jimmy Olsen bits, he’s the ultimate “suspension of disbelief” character. So, yeah, you’ve got to accept he knows about Jason Todd but not that the Joker’s daughter wasn’t really the Joker’s daughter. Otherwise, I was pretty much lost and this felt like the second issue that DC wanted me to start caring about characters and mini-series I don’t care about or want to buy. Also, that “I found Ray Palmer” advertisement makes me care even less about the series because Kingdom Come wasn’t exactly a favourite of mine.
I rate this series: I’ll give it two more weeks.

Batman #665
This is the kind of big stupid fun I like. My wife asked me what was happening and I had to explain that Batman’s son, Damian, was about to come back to haunt Batman in the next issue #666. She kind of looked confused and I jus said “it’s a long story.” Because, really, now the hell do you explain that to someone who knows the basics of Batman but not the continuity of Batman? At least she really likes Batman Begins and some of the Animated series she’s watched with me so explaining R’as and Talia won’t be totally impossible. Still, nobody does haunted Batman as well as Morrison whose also bringing some of his massive action from that JLA run to this title.
I rate this comic: Another good, if slightly disturbing, comic.

The Ultimates #13
I waited how long for this? I don’t think it was really worth it. Sure, an eight page fold out is nice and all but I’d have rather had each page drawn nicely instead of having some thumbnail sketches colored for a few pages. It’s too bad though, I was liking this up until this issue which just seemed rushed – which is unbelievably ironic in a very sad sad manner. There were many parts I liked – the Asgardian rainbow, Thor hammering out some justice, the Ultron date but for the most part this issue just made it easier to cancel the title on my pull list. I am wondering if that last panel is the start of Ultimate Winter Soldier, which seems a bit too soon. I’ll just wait for the internet to let me in on what’s happening in this book from now on.
I rate this comic: Should have been better.

Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #13
Who doesn’t like a tribute to The Attack of the 50-Foot Woman? This story feels like it was written in about ten minutes because there was simply no need to cut out anything or rewrite anything – it was just all gold. From Spider-Man giving an interview while being crushed, to everyone making fun of Hank Pym, to pretty much anything the Hulk and Wolverine said this comic is really one of the best things coming out these days.
I rate this Comic: One of three comics that I think are tops.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Wednesday's Delay

Yes I picked up comics yesterday. No I haven't had time to read them yet let alone form any type of opinion on them. Senators' Hockey got in the way. A man's got to have his priorities.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Labour of Love

Written by Neil Kleid
Illustrated by Jake Allen

This is a book that I should have liked a lot more than I did. It has pretty much everything I like. Good looking art, gangsters, interesting story and characters plus it’s set in New York City in the thirties. So why wasn’t I totally in love with it.

Well, it seems like a cop out but I really had a hard time distinguishing one character from another, and while the story as a whole is interesting I felt I was lost on more than one occasion. I don’t want to sound like I didn’t like this at all, there was a lot to enjoy and for the most part it is good comics, but there was just something about it that was off. It could be the actual book or it could just be the mood I was in while I read it, if that makes any sense. I sort of feel that I was just not in the right mood or I was distracted and that’s what took away from the work. Then again, maybe not.

What is it about? Jewish gangsters in New York. What happens? Honestly, I can’t remember a lot of it. It feels a lot like a first book for the writer, and with that in mind I can be much more forgiving. There is a great base here from which to grow, I was just hoping for a bit more clarity I guess but if you ask me precisely what it was that was off, I’m not sure I can answer to anyone’s satisfaction.

So it’s good but not the best thing I’ve read. It’s enjoyable but not throughout, and while I did actually like the story as a whole some of the pieces were just confusing to me. Still, there is a lot of much much worse stuff I read on a weekly basis so if you have any interest in gangster comics or comics about New York this is well worth your time. The package that this book comes in is top notch and the actual package you pick up is enjoyable and quite simply fun to read.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Chilling Milk

The Milkman Murders
Writer - Joe Casey
Artist - Steven Parkhouse

This is an interesting book to review. Yes it is good but it is good because it has some really disturbing imagery. And I don’t mean, women with impossibly freakish physiques but gutted animals and a mother on a murderous rampage.

The best way to describe this book is that it is a modern horror comic along the lines of Tales From the Crypt or any EC comic from before the comic code. The content is a bit more hardcore though dealing with the death and myth of the American Dream. It’s about the chilling content as much as it is about the idea that the dream is unattainable by most people no matter how hard we try to reach it. The milkman basically represents the way things used to be, and his actions push a borderline woman over the edge as the shade snaps up and reveals everything in a horribly honest light. The consequenses are quite disgusting but, honestly, up to that point there isn't a lot of beauty to any of the characters - they're all horrible.

This book is disturbing and chilling but good because of it. If you want a quick chill, this is the book for you.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Wednesday's Loot - 9 May 2007

Countdown #51
Okay I’m a sucker for villains playing chess with figures of their enemies. It always makes me wonder if it’s their hobby of if maybe they have a bunch of underlings who are top spies and wood workers. I’m thinking as far as henchmen jobs go, wood worker would be a fairly decent one although it’s probably just contracted out. I mean, Darkseid can’t be playing HeroClix right? Yep, I spent a bit too much time on that didn’t I? Well otherwise this issue seems to be summing up all the miniseries I haven’t read and don’t plan to. I’m just wondering when it’ll be revealed that the Monitor asked three questions there at the end and the answer isn’t for the one he thinks it’s for?
I rate this comic: A decent start but if the whole point is to get me to buy comics I’m not interested in I’m not going to stick it through.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sci-Fi that doesn't make the internet evil.

The Surrogates
Robert Venditti & Bret Weidele

What I loved about this book is that it is essentially an exploration of the internet generation. It reminds me more of how we interact online in places like LiveJournal, MySpace, Facebook and blogs like this. It examines what happens when we remove ourselves far enough from the world around us with the tools we create – it asks us if we can cope with the world if we remove those tools.

So while its core ideas and foundations are a great mash-up of the ideas in The Matrix and Blade Runner the action still feels relatively fresh for something steeped in genre. In many ways it’s the update of Blade Runner for the 21st century but at the same time the focus isn’t on ideas of life as a whole but on people in particular. It’s a well thought out idea, and the story is a fairly by the numbers noir crime type story but all the better for it.

The art is this weird mix of extremely high-techery and scratchy linework. It feels slightly unpolished and unfinished, which reflects the lives of our characters and the foundations of the story’s idea.

This book had a bit of a stint in the comic blogging headlines when it was optioned for a movie, and I can see the appeal. It would definitely be an interesting idea to explore and could help flesh out a few of the areas that can be further explored, like the relationship between partners – both cop and spousal. But honestly, with or without a movie deal this is comics as I like them.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I took a left turn and ended up in jazzy crazy town

I went to see Spider-man 3 last night. There were parts I liked and others I didn’t. I think it all comes down to not having a story and sticking to it. Too many plots spun into the web and some editing would have been nice. It’s not Daredevil bad mind you, but it’s just this side of Fantastic Four – some great stuff, but some cringe-worthy moments as well. Which is too bad, there was some good stuff to work with. I sort of feel the planning session was like “Here’s a great script with Sandman and Harry Osborne” and then someone went, “Where’s Venom? You can use the Sandman if you put Venom in there.” Or something.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

X-men Primer

The New X-Men: Hardcover
The New X-Men Volume 4: Riot at Xavier's
written by Grant Morrison
art by various artists

This is one of the books that if I’d have been in the comic buying public without pause like most other comic book bloggers would have been read (and re-read) long ago. The thing is, I only recently returned. Well, it’s been a few years but there is a heck of a lot of stuff to catch up on and limited time and money to do so. So I’m going to try and create a posting for anyone relatively new or returning to comics. Basically, you should get this book if you have a basic understanding of the X-men.

You see, when I returned to comics there were a few classics I hadn’t read – Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. So I read them and they lived up to all the hype. But the thing is, it took about year of peering into the cracks of the comic blogs to discover a few other books that are assumed classics but don’t really get hyped or pointed out as fantastic works for new readers. I knew about the two classics above, there’s a lot of talk about Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run, everyone and their dog loves Fables, and you can’t go within a block of a comic book shop without someone mentioning Sandman. But there’s a few other gems out there that don’t inherently jump out at you. I was lucky to join the medium again at the height of Scott Pilgrim love, the Hellboy movie got me interested in his adventures, and well there were a few others as well that I found fantastic but I don’t want to go on forever without actually getting to the point. What the internet pointed out to me were two specific books – Kurt Busiek’s Marvels and Grant Morrison’s New X-men. It seems Marvels gets a bit less love but both these books are rather cherished.

I finally read both via the public library system and let me tell you, they are now top recommendations for anyone interested in superhero, specifically Marvel-superhero, comics.

Grant Morrison takes the X-men and strips them down to their core. Because of the movies, like Spider-man, Batman and Superman, people know the core concepts of the characters and won’t necessarily be coming to the title to be lost in decades long continuity resolutions. He cuts to the core of the ideas behind the team and just lets them loose into his mad-cap adventures. All the hallmarks of the X-men are there. Conflict with the humans, love triangles, different interpretations of the message of integration, acceptance and tolerance, melodrama and of course aliens and killer sentinels. Seriously, it can’t be an X-men comic without some garish purple robot.

It works not just because it is both a reboot, yet not a complete reboot. There are short and long character arcs as well as a smaller team that recognizes that the X-men are a part of a humungous cast of characters outside the core book. They deal with their own issues at Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and some stuff around the world but at the same time there are a quadrillion other X-men characters (give or take a trillion) out there dealing with other aspects of the mutant human dynamic.

The adventures here are manic. They are equally horrific while solidly inventive and entertaining. These are the types of ideas that feel so natural and simple that they make you wonder why they are so new. While we have a smaller focus on a specific team of core X-men there is still the sweeping sense of scale with global conflict and interstellar warfare. While the focus is small in some aspects the scale is still grand overall, and the precision of the team allows for the grander action to develop.

For me, what made it work was the characters’ voices more than anything. It felt as if each character had their own voice instead of being the author’s current means of advancing the plot. It’s a hard skill to master but having each character be characterized by their dialogue is what really made this book turn from simple X-men comics to great work of art, for me. There aren’t any visual clues as to who is talking, like having captions with their symbols or different colours, and nothing written with phonetic accents to ensure we know exactly who is speaking at all times. It’s a fine line to walk but Morrison manages to nail it here. We’ve all read stuff that just felt like the delicate balance of characterization was beating us over the head like a rubber mallet.

The actual story is that Professor X has an evil spirit twin who has pretty much planned everything well in advance of her making her move to destroy the X-men. Plus Sentinels thrown into the mix with a bit of the Shi-ar empire. I also read the fourth trade paperback which is more or less a mash-up of American History X and A Clockwork Orange with an exceptionally gifted student being caught up in Magneto’s manifesto and, of course, drugs. Now that’s not a heck of a lot of information I know, or possibly too much, but tossed into the mix are Xavier’s special class, a new mutant with a star for a head, Emma Frost being redefined slightly into a brilliant character, some covers that tend to focus on female anatomy other than breasts – that Lilandra one is a bit more obviously suggestive than the Emma Frost one – and well about every page has an idea being thrown at you and you love it.

This is a great collection that reminds you why you liked or loved the X-men, and reminds you why the movies worked better than the comics have for a long time. You don’t need to totally restart the thing but sticking to the core ideas just makes it work for a reason.

Monday, May 07, 2007

If only ALL my problems were like this.

Gotham Central Volume 4 – The Quick and the Dead.

There is nothing worse than reading a book you really like and then not finding the words to write a simple post about it. If you’ve read my other post on Gotham Central consider this to be more of the same praise. For anyone too lazy to click that link, this is a great street level cop drama set squarely in the real word aspect of Gotham but on the peripheries of Batman’s fight for justice. It captures the core aspects of Gotham, the darkness, the ugliness, and the general complacency that you won’t be able to make sense of the horrible crimes that happen there on a regular basis. It’s not a place where the cops just deal with fender benders and other more dangerous situations, it’s about the cops who show up when The Joker decides to start sniping politicians or poison the city’s water supply.

In this chapter there’s a crossover with one of The Rogues from the Flash family and a couple of Keystone cops. I haven’t read any Flash comics so I have no idea what their history is or how prescient those police officers are in the Flash mythos. While there is a lot of theme crime happening there is also Officer Montoya’s life trying to knit itself back together, which is the right amount of human reality to offset the rest of the action. It’s a great book that is worth every moment you spend with it.

And the only thing I can add to my thoughts on the art is that while a totally different style from the animated series, they do capture the same basic concept of having a city that is dark. The amount of black ink used to set mood and tell the story ensures you know everything you need to know about Gotham City.

Friday, May 04, 2007


I was kind of disappointed 52 never explained why Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock came back. Sure this could all just be on a separate Earth or whatever, but it would have been great to have Montoya's Question back in Gotham with Batwoman in a caper that brings back Gordon and Bullock. Maybe it's been explained somewhere else?

Does it really need to be? I suppose not, but it was one of the things I was looking forward to seeing.

Also, I guess this should be 54, is anyone else worried about Tibet taking over the DCU? I mean they know pretty much all the hero's secrets or whatever. I'm just saying, it could be all zen, zen, zen, Pearl Harbor!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Wednesday's Loot - 2 May 2007 (and last week's)

52 Week 51
Did I mention how happy I am to get a bit of Animal Man and his family every now and again in 52? I’m sad we’ll have less of them. Also, I like the evil-Skeets reveal, although I’m more partial to giant robots.
I rate this comic: Worthy of the kid asking to keep Starfire.

52 Week 52
Has it been a year? Wow, now I’ll have to sit and read them all back to back at some point. How much do you love stories that begin with “It was during one of my strange adventures…”? Because I know I love them a lot! Also, I think this explanation of the multiverse or megaverse works and allows the creators to just make it up as they go along rather than get bogged in continuity. Some nice Booster Gold moments, and Dr. Sivana’s home coming was fantastic.
I rate this comic: A decent ending, but didn’t really question all the one-year later answers, if you follow.

Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil #3
This is still one of the best comics coming out. It’s just a pure joy to read. Even with a dick joke thrown in for good measure – without actually being a dick joke.
I rate this comic: Pure comic goodness.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #3
This still remains a strong comic book version of the show. You’re either really into it or just don’t particularly care about it. I do think if you were coming to this cold it is a lot like the continuity porn of superhero team comics.
I rate this comic: Sweet Buffy.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Unintentional hilarity

So, last night me and my wife went out to meet up with my aunt who is in town as the debate coach for Team New Brunswick - it's one kid trying out for the national debating team. We were at a downtown pub who, kindly, put up newspaper spreads above the urinals so you have something to read as you go about your business and try not to get stage frieght when someone is tying to pee next to you. Well, this Marmaduke cartoon was in the paper and it cracked me up. It's not funny in the way it's trying to be funny.

There's the obvious humour I saw in this but the more I thought about it the more I realized just how utterly freaky it was. For instance, when did this couple start treating their dog like an adolescent child? Seriously. And if Marmaduke is a purebred dog wouldn't he already have a tattoo? I just thought it was funny that the dude had a porn-stache - it makes him look Quebecois.

So, how about some better captions people?

Mine: "I told you peyote makes it better."
Or: "Well that's how I was taught to do the heimlich."