Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chronic Review: Batman Under the Red Hood dvd!

This is the strongest of the DC animated features to date. Actually, let me rephrase that more accurately. Batman: Under the Red Hood is the strongest feature length animated film DC has released to date. The best work they've produced so far is the Jonah Hex short also included on this DVD.

I particularly enjoyed the nearly perfect 50/50 blend of action and drama. No origin story or obligatory buzz killing introductions to wade through, and that helped big time.

I haven't read the original comics work by Judd Winnick, (who also developed the screenplay) so I can't comment on how the movie stacks up against the source. What I know is that the story uses a tried and true vengeance hook that really does work.

Nothing in here tries to re-invent the wheel. You've got all the classic Bat-elements involved. Batman and multiple Robins, multiple bad guys including Ra's al Ghul and The Joker. Under the Red Hood was wise to roll a good dollop of Batman's most iconic ingredients into one satisfying stew.

Are there any flaws? Sure, I could nitpick. If I see one more character deflect multiple bullets with a goddamn sword I'm going to puke. I don't know where that trope came from, but it needs to go away, like now. Here's the thing. If that character is such a badass, and has such incredible reflexes that they can redirect a high velocity round with a blade....why are they being struck with punches two seconds later? If you want to bend the rules of time and space, fine. Just be consistent with it, kay? OK.

There is one particular plot point that I hesitate to say much about, but let's just say that the Red Hood's "master plan" really feels like a stretch. Also, the Joker and Red Hood are having a conversation with each other 1,000 yards apart, which feels a bit strange even while they're shouting, and quite impossible when they aren't.

None of those things are deal-breakers, though. Some of the action sequences in the movie are an absolute joy to watch. There's a fight toward the beginning of the film where Nightwing shows up to help his old mentor take on an android called Amazo. The whole thing is, well, beautiful. Nightwing's color scheme looks particularly good while fighting, which I recognize is an odd thing to say, but just trust me. When you watch it, you'll be nodding your head in agreement with me, and then the person watching it with you will think you're odd. So it will all even out.

The Red Hood makes a good foil for Batman for many reasons, but the most interesting ones to me were the philosophical ones. There's a showdown of sorts between the Red Hood, Joker, and Batman at the end that really pays off for me. I'm not convinced that Batman has the best, most convincing answers to the questions posed to him by the Red Hood, and that's not even the point. The point is how satisfying it is to have a character in the story call Bruce out on questions readers have wondered for decades.

It's hard to talk about these things without getting spoiler heavy, which has never stopped me before, so I don't know why I'm being considerate now. Suffice to say that if you have any interest in Batman or enjoyed any of the other DC animated films, this one will not disappoint.

And then there's the Jonah Hex short. Oh, what a shame we only got 10 minutes of this!

Some may balk at the "anime" style employed, but I thought it looked great. The script is sharp, to the point, true to the character, and ended with punch. Really wish we could have had a full 90 minutes of Jonah Hex, and the live action film crew should have watched this animated film to see how it's done...

- Ryan

Friday, July 30, 2010

Chronic Review: Glamourpuss # 14!

Glamourpuss # 14

Script: Dave Sim
Pencils: Dave Sim
23 pages for $3.00

I think it's healthy to check in on the things you loathe once in awhile. It keeps you fresh, focused and it prevents the mind from spitting out dogmatic nonsense. I'm not suggesting that you should hold a subscription to everything you hate. That would seem counter-productive to a life of happiness. I'm suggesting that after two years of taking pot shots at it, that it was time for Ryan Lee to re-investigate Glamourpuss and experience what I've spent so much energy bitching about.

Just to quickly recap - for the uninitiated, Glamourpuss is a very bizarre hybrid. It combines a history of photo-realistic illustration (focusing mostly on Alex Raymond) with anti-feminist social commentary. By hybrid, I don't mean that this is one narrative that intermingles these things. One half of the book is photo-realism, and the other half is fashionista hijinx.

I think I could probably write a book on this book, but of course we don't have the time or space for that here. A few thoughts on my revisit to the House of Sim:

1) Dave Sim is an extraordinary penciller

I know that should be obvious by now, but I'm telling you the truth - I did not really absorb this fact until I read Glamourpuss # 14. I mean, this guy can really draw. I like his faces, I'm especially impressed with the way he renders hair. I like his lines that convey motion. There are several points during the Alex Raymond bits where he is layering "ghost" lines into a figure or scene, and they look goddamn fantastic.

In the first panel, Raymond is shutting the door of his vehicle, and it casts a shadow on the vehicle that just looks....spookily true. Everything looks accurate. The people, the cars, the backgrounds, it all rings true, and this is not a guy with a stack of photos and a lightbox. This is a penciller with a mature style at what I would assume is the top of the game. If he gets better than this, that would be pretty scary.

2) The Concept Is Still Completely Untenable

I know that Dave Sim is an adult funding this with his own hard earned money, and he can do what he wants. Fine.

This thing is too weird for life. There are certain things that just don't go together well, even if both elements are positive. I know people who like shrimp and people who like ice cream. Shrimp ice cream is a BAD fucking idea.

The photo-realism bit and the social commentary bit just don't work together. Listen, norms are powerful things. Norms are more powerful than laws, and yet they are almost never written. They don't need to be written, they are simply understood. To not understand them is to demonstrate "otherness", and perhaps even madness. It's off-putting.

If you have a friend who walks backward in a circle at the top of every hour and sings "Every Breath You Take", you will not be that person's friend for long. There's nothing illegal about walking backward. And "Every Breath You Take", while overplayed initially, is actually a pretty darned good song.

But you just don't do that. It's weird. It demonstrates that you fail to understand the basic fabric of 21st Century American culture if you do that. That person may have a host of other great qualities, and they are all probably made moot by that personal tic.

I'm betting that you know people in your life who engage in this type of behavior, although probably on a less "in your face" scale. They are crusaders, martyrs to their own cause, and usually quite tragic.

They thrust their fist to the sky and say "But I'm RIGHT! It's silly and arbitrary to dismiss me just because once per hour I walk backwards, plus the Police ROCK! They're the ones who are being stupid, why should I have to change???"

And I suppose the answer is that they don't have to change. Feel free to be shoved under the rug and ostracized if you like, and sometimes the world needs a good revolution, and then you really need a committed fist-thruster.

But my reply to these tragic cases now goes like this: yes, it is silly and arbitrary to dismiss a comic because it combines two completely ill-fitting pieces into one absurd whole. And yet, that's the way it is. It's equally silly and equally arbitrary to ignore a rule you recognize just because it pleases you to do so.

Pick your battles, I say. Perhaps the point of Glamourpuss is for Sim to stick up a black-and-white middle finger every other month and say to the world "I'm doing it my way, and up your ass if you can't handle it!" And if that's the point, mission accomplished. Congratulations.

If the point is to be heard, absorbed, understood....this is just too weird for life. The presentation is getting in the way of the message. Pick your battles. What is it Kevin Spacey said in Swimming With Sharks?

"If you're not anti-establishment at age 20, you've got no balls. But if you're not a company man at age 30, you've got no brains!" I think the Alex Raymond stuff stands fairly well on its own regardless of where you find it. But the social commentary part? The part where we need to trust that the authorial voice isn't shit nuts as it skewers the culture? Glamourpuss shoots itself in the foot there.

3) Incidentally, some of Sim's shots at feminism in this issue are....dare I say clever?

The back half of the book is set up as a parody of the Facebook privacy issues. Glamourpuss industries develops a "microbeCHIP" that infects all connecting hard drives and ISPs and allows one to tear into a target's account that you want to be "more than friendly" with.

The last 11 pages are Facebook profile pictures of women complete with profile information and the results their use of the MicrobeCHIP.

"Belinda S graduated at the top her class and was immediately appointed CEO of her father's worldwide multinational corporation based solely on merit. After doing that for two weeks she ran for and won a seat in the House of Representatives, ran for President and then switched parties. It was a busy year!"

That's funny to me. The obvious fallacy of "solely on merit", even as it's laid out straight faced is funny. The "two weeks" bit is a nice jab. Of course the obvious retort is to deny the stereotype of the "fickle woman", and yet...there's something there. Isn't there? And it's fairly tolerable to digest when it's done in good fun, and that's the vibe I got from these pages.

Honestly, comics could use a good satire book or seven. I'm not convinced I'm in on all of the jokes, (not exactly sure what all of the Teletubby stuff was in the Bunny Frou Frou bit) but a lot of the Facebook stuff was enjoyable.

Nothing in here seemed as toxic or deadly serious as the "Voids" and "Lights" business back in the day. Is this Dave Sim's letter to the ether declaring that he still feels that world's become a bit too pussified (I'll agree with that) but that he sees the lighter side of it all now? I don't know.

It's tough to know how to process the philosophy of an author who doesn't know that the Alex Raymond bits don't go with the fashion plate bits. How do you know when the guy who walks backwards and sings Sting tunes once an hour is kidding?

- Ryan

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Chronic Review: Fear Agent # 28!

Fear Agent # 28
Dark Horse Comics
Script: Rick Remender
Pencils: Mike Hawthorne with Tony Moore
23 pages + 8 pages of "Tales of the Fear Agent" for $3.50

What you are about to read will not actually constitute a review, so just bear with me. I mention it for truth in advertising purposes.

I have a very brief history with Heath Huston. Friend of the show (and just plain old friend of me) Nick was way into this book when it first came out. He was into it with the glazed eyeballs of a man who had clearly discovered something sublime. So I checked it out.

I cannot find the issue of Fear Agent that I read, nor was I able to jog my memory by looking at a gallery of covers. This is how profoundly "meh" I found the book on initial examination.

What I remember was that the hook was kinda cute. An alcoholic space cowboy who hunts down aliens and monsters? Yeah, that works.

Except when I read the issue that I did, whatever that issue was, it really didn't work for me. I don't remember hating it. I don't remember engaging with it strongly at all, which was the big problem.

I attributed the problem to Remender at the time, because I had similar issues with Sea of Red, and I consider his horror mini Sorrow to be a crime against literature. Since then I've rather enjoyed his work on the Punisher, and I decided to take another whack at Fear Agent.

There is a synopsis of past events in the storyline on the inside cover. This is a wonderful tool really every comic book steeped in continuity should use as an aid to help the reader catch up. Every book is some body's first, and all that rot.

As I read through that recap, though, I was convinced that I had made a horrible mistake. As I finished issue # 28, I was able to confirm that I had indeed made a horrible, horrible mistake.

My mistake was not that I read Fear Agent # 28, but that I had failed to read all 27 of the previous issues first. After absorbing what I could of this book, I can tell you that this series kicks about seven shades of demon ass, and really needs to be on your reading list.

So basically what I did was take 84.6% of the fun, suspense, and enjoyment out of the total storyline by reading that recap and watching the very painful plot twists that occurred during this issue. There are major, surprising, delightfully savage plot points spoiled for you if you go that route. The good news is that I still 15.4% of the enjoyment left. And I very much look forward to experiencing that.

But I will not do to you what reading that recap page did to me. And just for the record, I'm not bitching about the recap. The recap isn't the problem, the problem is that I bailed on the book too early. That's on me.

So what can I tell you about Fear Agent? This is more of a character book than a plot book, but the plot has rewarding twists that you will NOT see coming. Provided you avoid reading recap pages deep into the series.

It is a character book, and Rick Remender takes the worst kind of perverse pleasure in subjecting Heath Huston to the greatest abuse in the history of comics. It's positively EVIL, and also strangely satisfying. This is the book Dave Rancor was born to read, just to absorb the psychic pain coming off the page.

Do not make the mistake of filing Heath Huston in the ridiculous anti-hero box. The problem with most "flawed hero" types is that there's usually no compelling reason in the story to buy into that sort of behavior, and it turns into a degenerate testosterone fantasy. No such problem here, folks.

The dialogue is sharp, sharp like Frank Miller back in the day. Sharp like Azarello on 100 bullets or Aaron on Scalped. And that's pretty darned good.

I can tell you that there are only a few issues of the series left. Rick Remender had a planned ending for the series, and issue # 28 begins the final arc of that. He really cares about this book, too. I know that for sure.

The world of Fear Agent expands in scope and sophistication. There are lots of things you know and take for granted at the beginning that are completely subverted by the time you get to # 28. So I'm telling you that I liked Fear Agent # 28 so much that I'm telling you NOT to go get it. Do yourself a favor and read it from the goddamn beginning, so you can actually enjoy the whole process.

And there endeth the lesson. No pictures, no plot synopsis, no review. I know that sounds like a cheat, but you're just going to have to trust me on this. Or not. Up to you. I say the real cheat is to know too much about it before you start. Or maybe missing it entirely. That would suck, too.

- Ryan

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chronic Flashback: Topps Comic Book Heroes Stickers!

Once upon a time, in a magical era of fairies and elves known as the 1970s....the world was a better place. It just was.

This is the era that brought us Topps Comic Book Heroes stickers. It was 1974-1975. Granted, we were in a state of barely functional retardation as a culture. Shag carpet seemed like a good idea, as did bell-bottomed corduroy pants. The hair was unspeakably unkempt, bushy, and undignified.

Somebody decided it would be a good idea to get really baked and create super hilarious captions for Marvel characters. Kids could then purchase these stickers and laugh uproariously, causing their absurdly bulbous stack of hair to sway wildly. They could then affix these stickers to their school notebook they pretended to do homework in. Said notebook was instead largely filled with crude drawings of male genitalia.

Most of these stickers were quite horrible, like the Medusa example up top. That isn't even unintentionally funny in retrospect. It frankly fills one with an intense desire to find the person responsible and then punch his or her kitten in the face. Just to even the atrocity score, you know? It's bad.

Some of them are mildly tolerable. The Living Mummy hiding M&Ms in one of its hands? That's at least in the ballpark of clever. OK, it might not make the comedy Hall of Fame, but it's a damn sight better than a woman with long hair lamenting the quality of her hair spray. Most of the stickers are more in the Medusa range of quality.

Some of the stickers are downright prophetic. How about the Ghost Rider warning Peter Fonda to look out? Yes, Peter Fonda. Be afraid. Be very afraid. In a little over 20 years you're going to be offered a role in a picture featuring a jellybean swilling Nic Cage. Now that's horror.

Fonda of course did not heed Ghosty's Nostradamic utterings, which is fine I suppose. Every scene he was in as Mephistopholes was actually entertaining. Can't say much for the rest of it. Not even the sublime posterior of Eva Mendez could save that thing. Nor could it salvage The Spirit. What is with poor Eva Mendez? But I digress.

The star of the Topps Comic Book Heroes sticker set is Man-Thing. See, he dropped his soap in the shower.

Yup. This is a sticker series for children using a creature called MAN-THING that references prison rape. And that, folks, is why the 1970s are just better than the present.

That shit would never fly in 2010, and we're worse for it. Kids need to be subjected to a little humor regarding forced anal intercourse. Either they get it, laugh, and become more centered individuals, or they don't get it, and you laugh at them for being naive little shits. And then you feel more centered.

Listen, unsanctioned sodomy is pretty damn funny. It sucks when it happens to you for real, but that's my point, actually. We're so busy in 2010 pretending (at least in front of the children) that life is so fucktastically terrific. It's bullshit. Some of life is great, but sometimes a guy sells you for a pack of Newports and then another guy forces his engorged dong into your rectum.

Kids need to know about that shit. Kids need to take their helmets off once in awhile and face life on its own terms, on real terms. A dose of laughter helps that medicine go down. We understood that in the 1970s, although probably not consciously. We just knew that a giant muck monster dropping the soap was a pretty funny thing, and didn't want the children to be left out. I long for those days...

- Ryan

Friday, July 23, 2010

Chronic Review: X-Factor # 207!

X-Factor #207
Marvel Comics
Script: Peter David
Pencils: Sebastian Fiumara
22 pages for $2.99

I think the best thing about X-Factor # 207 is how unthinkable this comic would have been twenty years ago, and how unremarkable it is now. This comic is loaded with gay sex. OK, so nobody gets naked, but there is some serious man-on-man making out.

Remember Alpha Flight # 106, roundabout 1992? Northstar was gay. He was GAY, man!!! And the earth did quake, and back issue prices did rise, and lo there was quite the hullaballoo.

Except when you break it on down, there really wasn't much to it. He announced he was gay, but there was really no reason to believe it, other than the fact that he was French Canadian. That was kind of a dead giveaway. There was, however, no head slapping moment where you went "So THAT'S why he was always trying to feed Puck shots of Bacardi 151!" And there wasn't much after that dealing with it, either. He certainly wasn't making out with other dudes. There was just this hype with no real investigation of his sexuality, and that was enough to create headlines and rancor.

We're in a different place now in 2010. Oh, I suppose that we could look at something like Rucka's Detective Comics and wonder if there maybe wasn't too much excitement over the "lesbian Batwoman." Her sexuality probably gets more attention than it deserves. On the other hand, I would say most of that initial fixation has worn off, and these days we're more worried about how critically acclaimed Rucka's writing was, how fantastic JH Williams' art was, and how sorry we are that it's gone away. And that's a good thing.

And that's the point I was getting to about X-Factor # 207. Rictor and Shatterstar are engaging in the usual soap operatic sexual politics that have been an integral part of this title since it was re-booted. And they're gay. Or bi-sexual. In this issue, it sure as shit looks like they're gay.

And it isn't just a textual announcement with no substance to create histrionics. Of the 22 pages that constitute this issue of X-Factor, 7 of those are devoted to Ric and Shatterstar negotiating their relationship. That, quite frankly, would have been unthinkable in 1992.

The big deal here is that this is no big deal any more. There was no solicitation copy announcing the "hot gay sex" issue, nor should there have been. I don't think we'll see much in the way of picketing from Tea Partyers and that lot.

And to his credit, there's absolutely no hint that Peter David is cackling in the background about how salacious the whole thing is. X-Factor is just loaded with sexual tension as a general course. Jamie and Theresa. Jamie and Layla. Guido and Monet. And now Rictor and Shatterstar. (and next month? Looks like Rictor and Shatterstar AND Rahne!) Same stuff, different manifestation. So maybe editorial will get a few letters, but really, this is what X-Factor is about.

There's plenty of other elements to like about X-Factor, by the way. You never know who is going to walk through Jamie's office door. This time it's Hela in disguise. Lately the X-Factor crew has been in bed with the strangest of fellows. (pun slightly intended) The team is still trying to figure out how to feel about Layla's relationship with Dr. Doom. Monet makes a decision about helping Baron Mordo in this issue as well.

My favorite books tend to be comics steeped in characterization, and X-Factor is near the top of the list. Nothing compares to Secret Six, that book is just magical. Peter David's work is always a cut above in terms of wit, though. He obviously cares about these characters, and that's contagious. That to me is far more important than the hot gay sex, and judging by the non-reaction to this issue, thankfully it appears I'm not alone. Yay progress!

- Ryan

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chronic Review: Sci Fi & Fantasy # 2!

Sci-Fi & Fantasy # 2
Zenescope Entertainment

Script: Tim Cox
Pencils: Anthony Spay
45 pages for $4.99

Sci-Fi & Fantasy is an anthology series, like a comics version of Twilight Zone or Outer Limits. It doesn't hang its hat on the continuing adventures of any specific character, you just get a different story every month that incorporates science fiction and or fantasy, assuming truth in advertising.

For issue # 2, the year is 2027 and television has evolved to the point where it can project feelings and sensations. Reality television is still all the rage, and what people want to vicariously experience more than anything is the murder of hot brunette women. Which sounds about right, given what I know of American culture. It's probably a step up the evolutionary ladder from Jersey Shore, so it's got that going for it.

In the beginning of the story we meet Sara, who is a stripper. I don't want to hear any nonsense about exotic dancing. She's a goddamn stripper. Right after she spies a newspaper article documenting the murder of a girl who looks an awful lot like her, a ridiculously creepy dude buys a little time with her in the old VIP room. Next thing you know there's a Poke-Ball in the air, Bobs your uncle, and Sara's murder is broadcast for the pleasure of the Poke-Channel viewers.

Cut to a scene of another girl who looks exactly like Sara watching Sara get butchered. This one's named Anne. Not five seconds after she gets done watching herself get stabbed to death, (did she NOT know what she was watching, and just decided to get horrified at the end?) Anne gets a cryptic note explaining that she's next. So she calls the police.

Well, a few shower scenes and gun fights later, we find out that this broadcasting company is farming out clones for the purpose of producing murder fodder. Once the dirty secret is discovered, these so-called "red banned" programs are outlawed. Yay for society!

And of course the whole thing is just absolute bollocks from top to bottom. Nobody recognizes that these are clones? How do these women not know that they're clones? Did the TV station have this planned 25 years in advance to grow them naturally, or did they think they could just spontaneously plant hundreds of hot brunettes across the country and nobody would notice? Did nobody think anything was suspicious when they kept killing the same girl over and over and over and over again? And why should they legislate against the programming because of cloning? Would it have been better to just hack up a bunch of different natural girls? It would seem to me the problem was just murder in general, but I've been wrong before.

It is difficult to describe the size and magnitude of the plot holes involved here, and it isn't really science fiction or fantasy. Yeah, I guess a TV show that makes you feel things vaguely qualifies as sciency, but there's no focus at all on how that was achieved. The focus is squarely on that clone woman's mammories. Which I guess qualifies as fantasy. Of a sort. But c'mon. Seriously?
This isn't a science fiction tale, it's low brow horror.

I suppose I'm not religiously opposed to low brow horror. I certainly did enjoy parts of the old CFD comic "Cry For Dawn". Sci-Fi & Fantasy is really just a pale imitation of that old guilty pleasure. The difference I suppose is that Cry For Dawn was just better.

Joe Monks will never be remembered as an industry legend, but his stories did tend to make some logical sense. And Joe Linsner was an absolute bad ass. The art in this book is serviceable, but also uneven in places. There are panels where Anthony Spay was either in a big rush or just not engaged in his work, because the detail is certainly not there.

This sort of pandering seems to be the pattern for Zenescope, who have taken it upon themselves to really put the tit back in titillation and just let the rest of it slide. I often wonder why the publisher doesn't just find a couple of hot chicks in his apartment building and snap a few photos of them eating jelly-filled doughnuts. They'd be naked, of course. Invariably some of the jelly would squish from the pastry and plop onto a breast, and then the other would be a good helper and lick it off.

Because that's the level of storytelling we're dealing with here. If what you're selling is soft core porn, why not just eliminate the middle man and get right down to it? I'm sure the brass at Zenescope know more than a few reasonably attractive women who are willing to take a 17% hit on their already faltering dignities and pose for them. The porn effect would increase, and we wouldn't have to be subjected to this charlatan of a narrative. Better for everyone all around, I would think.

I suppose the target audience are those people interested in soft core porn who can't bear to take it up to the counter. This comic offers that demographic the ability to tell themselves and their mothers that they are simply interested in science fiction. If that's what it takes to get you through the day, I say have at it. Listen, I'm perfectly fine with both self deception and self abuse.

However, if you actually want science fiction, might I recommend the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov. Do you some good to read an actual book book once in awhile, you goddamn degenerates!

- Ryan

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Chronic Review: GI Joe # 156!

GI Joe # 156
IDW Comics

Script: Larry Hama
Pencils: Agustin Padilla
22 pages for $3.99

Look, I don't know the guy, but Larry Hama seems like an interesting cat. I read as many interviews as I can about the Marvel bullpen in the 1980s, and it really seems like the place to be in those days was in Hama's bunker of an office hanging out with Christopher Priest. They were crazy, edgy, and very probably awesome.

Larry Hama knows about samurai swords and archery. He served in the Army from 1969-1971, and he learned a lot about guns and blowing shit up. This is not a guy who grew up a damn nerd wishing he could be Matter Eater Lad and hooked into comics as the next best thing. This is a guy who has probably booby-trapped his home and has a rocket launcher resting in his trunk. You know, just in case.

All of that cool shit is coming to bear in this IDW incarnation of GI Joe. I'm not suggesting that there was no military jargon or tactics in the old Marvel stuff Hama was producing. There was some of that, but let's face it - the Marvel run was campy, and by design. Those were children's toys at the time, and the property was aimed at 12 year old boys. Probably with good cause.

And to be fair, camp-infused as the Marvel GI Joe was, it still represented a monumental leap in sophistication compared to that insipid cartoon. You can still sit down with an old issue of Marvel GI Joe and enjoy it. I bust out my Classic GI Joe trades and do it all the time. But just try and watch that animated series...I dare you.

The point (finally!) is that now it's 2010, this comic knows very well that its audience is in its thirties, and there's more room for Mr. Hama to instill more technical military stuff into the book. He does it with obvious joy, as well.

So you get scenes where Hawk shoots a Cobra operative in the face, and nothing really happens outside of some bruising as the shell slaps into his mouth. All part of the plan, my friend. He's using M406 high explosive grenades, of course. They don't arm unless the round travels 30 meters. Duh! He did it to slow the driver down so that he could create the space necessary to fire a grenade that will arm before impact. BOOOOM! Down goes Cobra! And you just learned a little something about M406 high explosive grenades, didn't you? Double score!

Now, is that cool? Well, yeah, it kinda is. This comic is loaded with little nuggets of military minutia that Hama has rattling around in his brain, just waiting for an excuse to manifest in a scene of testicular prowess. Mainframe maneuvers a guy into a microwave beam to cook his ammo into exploding. Stalker exploits the reflective optics of an opponent to put a round through his eyeball. Snake Eyes sets his own goddamn house on fire to neutralize the infra red tech of his assailants. And then he does a bunch of awesome ninja shit after that.

If you like Tom Clancy books, (does anybody read those any more?) military tech/strategy, or spy stuff like Burn Notice, you're going to have a party with this new version of GI Joe. It's just a collection of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things with extraordinary equipment in extraordinary situations. Isn't that what a GI Joe book should be about?

Nothing much happens here in the way of advancing a plot, and I'm actually OK with that. The hook here is very simple and pure. Cobra has basically taken over America from the inside, almost like an expanded version of Blackwater. They've put out a secret contract on all members of the Joe team, and now the action centers on getting word out for a rendezvous and a counterstrike. Simple. Pure. Fun!

The craft on the narrative is not on the level of say...Neil Gaiman. Fine. What is? The dialogue is all fairly well-travelled tough guy territory. But it isn't horrible, either. Hama has demonstrated the ability to create juicy little character bits in the past, as well. (remember all the Snake Eyes mythos with the hard/soft master, and all the drama with Stormshadow and Billy?) There really isn't time for that sort of thing in # 156. But I'd wager it's coming.

What I enjoyed so much was the fact that this is a comic book that knows what it is and sticks to the plan. I can't tell you how refreshing it is to read something so clear in its purpose and so joyfully executed. Larry Hama has a gajillion little pieces of military "trivia" rattling around in his brain, and every last one of them is going to transmute into a scene where a Joe shows what a badass he or she is.

To be honest, the book isn't for me. I enjoyed reading it, but the whole military testosterone thing is just not in my wheelhouse. I just don't respond well to posturing jarheads yelling "take them down!", no matter how cool some dude's laser scope is. A lot of the juice is lost on me, and I can't justify dropping $3.99 a month on something like that.

But there's a lot of people out there that do like that kind of thing, and I'm here to tell ya - GI Joe is going to be Christmas every month for you!

- Ryan

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Moon Knight: Back to the Shadows With Ye!

Last week I put out the call to arms for anybody and everybody who loves comics at a reasonable price to buy Vengeance of Moon Knight # 10. Hurwitz and company had been pulling out all the marketing stops trying to build an audience before attempting the unthinkable - they went from $3.99 to $2.99!

Friend of the show Nick emailed me today wondering where the rest of the series had gone. There's a "Shadowland" one-shot (for $3.99) coming out next month and then...nothing. Very perplexing.

I took a trip over to CBR and found this from Marvel about the future of the series:

When "Shadowland: Moon Knight" begins in August, Hurwitz's "Vengeance of the Moon Knight" series will go on hiatus, and where the character goes afterwards will be determined by this big and very important story.

Well, folks, "hiatus" is just code for "cancelled." Sorry. Ask Iron Fist how his hiatus is going. Basically you've got a $4 one-shot clumsily tied into an event book, and then curtains. Sad.

Incidentally, as disappointing as this might be for fans of the book, I don't regret last week's call to arms even a little. The principle and strategy remain - if sales go up when the price goes down, that's the message. That's how we let them know that price matters.

When you look at it, the theory was as sound as it gets. If sales go up, Marvel can't attribute it to the "Heroic Age" banner, because that started in issue # 8. They can't credit the addition of Juan Jose Ryp for it, because he debuted in # 9. If sales go up on Vengeance # 10, they will almost have to assign the cause as price related. Nothing else makes sense.

Did the push work? I don't know. Diamond will release the numbers in a couple of weeks. My suspicion is that the book's sales will stay flat, but you never know. Sometimes events begin with the flapping butterfly wings of one blogger. We'll see.

Tales of the Dragon Guard is coming back!

The mighty Moon Knight might scurrying back to the shadows, but obscure little Tales from the Dragon Guard is coming back to the racks very soon in a new mini-series called "Into the Veil!"

Readers of this blog will remember the heaps of praise I've been dumping on this series from the Soleil imprint over at Marvel. Somehow the French actually did something right, because these comics are sixteen megatons of sexy action with a dollop of social commentary.

Sales were never extraordinary, to put it mildly. But I just looked through this month's Previews and there it is. These books are $5.99, but don't let that scare you. Page counts offer a little more than twice an average comic, and they don't suffer from the same level of decompression that American comics do. You won't be getting through a Dragon Guard book in three minutes, I can assure you!

I love this series, and it's a good mix of stand-alone combined with continuity. The book doesn't follow any one particular character, it's about the history of this order of virgin women who slay dragons, because only they are immune to the corrupting effects of these bastard lizards.

As you continue to read the series, you will often meet people you've seen before. There's a sort of "torch passing" phenomenon that runs through the book. Often a young girl who plays a bit part in one story will be adopted by the guard and become an ass-kicking superstar of the next story. Sticking with the title will add depth to your experience, but you never need those back issues in order to enjoy the story in front of you.

It's brilliant, it's fun, and it's a nice change of pace. I'm pleasantly surprised to see this survive.

- Ryan

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chronic Review: Thor - The Mighty Avenger # 1!

Thor: The Mighty Avenger # 1
Marvel Comics

Script: Roger Langridge
Pencils: Chris Samnee
22 pages for $2.99

This hit the stands on Wednesday and I was instantly attracted to it and irritated by it. The art is sort of odd and sort of cool at the same time. There's a little Scott McDaniel to it, certainly on the boots. What's fascinating about it to me (the art, that is) is how much it evokes in its simplicity. My eye sort of creates more depth than what the lines actually address. That's a talent, I would think. Good on Chris Samnee for that!

This comic also pisses me off, because I didn't know how to file it in my head. I'm actually more interested in it as an artifact than a text, if that makes any sense. Probably not. It would have scored me points during my days at the Ivory Towers, for sure. What I mean is that this comic is more interesting to me as a difficult to classify retail object than as a story.

Anywho. Let's start with the story, though, shall we?

Thor: The Mighty Avenger acts like kind of re-booty jumping on point. You point of view character is Jane Foster, who works at a museum in Oklahoma. She just got promoted to Head of Nordic Stuff. Thor bursts into the museum trying to get at an urn in a locked case. It looks like a Donald Blakey type stick, (one of several nods to previous Thor canon) but it's pretty clear that this is not Donald Blake. There is just Thor.

The guards shuffle him out after Jane Foster pulls a Dian Fossey and tames the savage bastard. One look at purdy Jane and Thor is all smiles, although he's not much of a talker at this point.

Fast forward a couple of nights and Jane and her ex-boyfriend Jim are almost struck by Thor as he's pummelled out of a local tavern. Mr. Hyde is making unwanted advances at a young maiden, and Thor stepped in to defend her honor. First he got taken down by a few rent-a-cops, now Mr. Hyde is wiping the floor with him.

Hyde's formula wears off, so he gets scarce after shouting some obligatory warning about future repercussions. Jane wants to take Thor to the hospital, but he wants to go back to the museum and that urn. Against her better judgement, Ms. Foster unlocks the urn for Thor, who promptly smashes it on the ground and recovers Mjolnir. A previously weak-ass Thor now seems ready for some serious kicking of bum. And that's where the issue ends.

As a story, this is not half bad. The players are established clearly and with a little flair. Jane is competent but slightly vulnerable, Jim is a douche, but the kind of douche who will double back and help a friend, even if she is acting a little irrationally. Thor is noble with a just a hint of goofiness. It reads with a 1970s tone, slightly contemporized.

This comic is pretty clearly establishing its own status quo, and starting from scratch with Thor crashing to earth on a rainbow bridge. You're getting this Thor story from the ground floor, no continuity baggage. The character is still recognizable if you've read previous material. They kept the "only Thor can lift Mjolnir" thing, and Oklahoma is obviously a nod to Straczynski, even if there is no Asgard floating around.

When Jane first meets Thor, he has no English skills at all. When she bumps into him two days later, he's pretty much got it down cold. But Thor claims he's been learning English for a week, not two days. Time travel or whatever, he's still a pretty smart cookie to crack any language in a week.

There are a few issues. One of the nods to prior canon is that Jane can't move the urn, because it contains Mjolnir. Only Thor can lift that bad boy. But that being the case, how was it ever transported to the museum then? Nit-picky, I know. Not a big deal.

I think the only thing that really "bothered" me inside the text was Mr. Hyde pimp slapping Jane outside the bar. OK, far more tame than what Kyle Raynor keeps finding in his household appliances. But this is supposedly an "all ages" title, (more on that later) and this is the kind of crap that would send Valerie D'Orazio running for her keyboard with emotional scarring. What's a kid supposed to make of this?

And I guess this is as good a time as any to segue into the artifact part of my spiel. It's just very difficult to just look at this comic and know what to make of it, how to place it, who to sell it to, where it fits in continuity if it does at all.

I believe after reading it that this is an "all ages" book in the vein of Marvel Adventures, only it isn't labeled as such. It just has a logo at the top saying "Thor - The Mighty Avenger". Except in this storyline, he's certainly not a member of the Avengers, nor is there even a trace of the Avengers in the comic.

Why isn't this Marvel Adventures Thor? Is it false advertising to use "Avengers" in the title just to try and cash in that team's current cache? I think so. Is it a hybrid book? The back page includes adverts for Pet Avengers, Super Heroes, and Spider-Man. (the former Marvel Adventures books) Right next to it is an ad for a mechanical Iron Man toothbrush, which is certainly for kids. But a few pages back is an ad for Hickman's Secret Warriors, which is a T+ book, not an all ages book.

The whole thing is confusing, just another in a long line of comics adding to the din of the cacophony. There is nothing in the solicitation copy that would help a reader or a retailer place the book, either:

"Written by ROGER LANGRIDGE Pencils & Cover by CHRIS SAMNEE He's banished, he's mad, and he wants to FIGHT. ROGER LANGRIDGE (Muppet Show, Eisner and Harvey Award nominee) and CHRIS SAMNEE (SIEGE: EMBEDDED, The Mighty) re-imagine the God of Thunder in THOR THE MIGHTY AVENGER! THRILL as he battles robots the size of cities! GASP as he tames the mightiest sea creatures! SWOON as he rescues damsels from the vilest villains! It's Thor as you've NEVER seen him, hammering his way into your hands TWICE this month! 32 PGS. (each)/Rated A ...$2.99 (each)"

OK, great. We know it's an all ages title. Fine. So is Amazing Spider-Man. Let me tell you about Grim Hunt part 3 that hit stands this week as well. It featured a guy in a spider suit tacked to the wall with knives and such to beams in a cross-like pattern. The Kravinoffs were using dark rituals in a blatant desecration of this certain Jewish guy's crucifixion. Plus they're locking up women in dark dungeons while committing a kind of costumed genocide on anybody with a spider in their namesake. The story is also thick with the concepts of suicide, madness, and depression.

Now, just to be clear, I'm fine with all of that. My point is that "A" for "all ages" has a wide jurisdiction. A REALLY wide jurisdiction. This Thor book could be complete fluff, or it could be a drunk dude with a Quixote complex who only thinks he saves these damsels from distress and then goes home to crank off a couple of ounces in front of his computer while watching the Batman XXX trailer, and then beats his wife. If you're a consumer or a retailer, you just don't know.

Is it in continuity or not? Can you tell from the solicitation? The word "re-imagining" seems to say no. But there's nothing in there to sell you on the idea that it's from the former Marvel Adventures line, which doesn't appear to exist any more.

If you're a retailer, how many copies do you order? Is this another Avengers book? There's already been 37, why couldn't this be another? It isn't.

Where do you rack this? There's nothing about the cover to identify it as an all ages book. I can't speak for all retailers, but I can tell you that I bought my copy of Thor the Mighty Avenger at a store that separates the "kids" books at the other end of the store from the regular material. Yet this was sitting in with the regular books. I doubt that they even knew it was an all ages book.

I suppose many people will say that's a good thing. "Good! We shouldn't be type casting and labeling books as children's material, because it's unfair and it basically signs the comic's death warrant, because nobody buys kid's books!"

I can see that argument, and labeling/typecasting sounds pretty heinous. But what about truth in advertising, and what about getting the right book into the right hands? I know for a fact that some people are going to be pissed when they get done with this comic, because it has nothing to do with regular Marvel universe, and they want their continuity. This comic doesn't "matter" in the same way that "Avengers" matters.

There are also going to be people out there specifically looking for comics where they don't want to have to worry about satanic rites being involved, and don't want to learn 70 years of continuity to enjoy their story. They won't be directed to this book, because nobody knows what the FUCK IT IS.

And how could they? Marvel wasn't clear about it, and I believe they were deliberately deceptive about it to try and avoid lowered sales. There's 12 or 17 Avengers books with Thor in it, an ongoing series, and I'm probably missing a couple one-shots as well. Who can possibly know what to pick up to satisfy a particular set of needs.

You know what would be the absolute perfect book to give to somebody after they walk out of that upcoming Hemsworth Thor movie? This comic. Civilians don't want to learn continuity, they want a cool character in stories they can pick up and understand readily. No reason to believe that this couldn't be that book. I only hope that it lives that long, because this is a tough market, the racks are glutted with shit, and this comic isn't being marketed correctly at all.

- Ryan

Friday, July 9, 2010

Chronic Review: Batman Odyssey # 1!

Batman Odyssey # 1
DC Comics

Script: Neal Adams
Pencils: Neal Adams
25 pages for $3.99

I want to avoid just labeling this book as rubbish, because I think I've fallen into a trap lately (or maybe it's been my whole life) of tossing things into two categories; those things which are super awesome, and those things which are sodding rubbish. It's a bad trap to get into, since it spits in the face of logic. Most things should actually fall somewhere in between, of course.

So I don't want to just call Neal Adams' Batman Odyssey a load of rubbish. But it is.

There was reason to be excited, surely. He's a legendary penciller, and not one can deny it. Greatness is great, but legends are created by greatness over time, and that's important to acknowledge.

He's got a lot of passion for the character, and you could hear it bursting out of him in that interview he did with CBR:

"I want to step into the comic book thing again because I'm tired of doing these alternate covers and these little bits and pieces for Marvel and DC that don't amount to a hill of beans. I think I ought to do a project.' I realized that, as usual, there were all these little pieces lying around that I could go vacuum up and turn into a story. And because I like the character and because finally the character out there in the media is in effect becoming 'Neal's Batman' – as the movies and their royalty checks show – I realized that the eggs I laid all those years ago were basically what Batman has finally become. Now, wouldn't it be great if I could go pick up all those pieces I've been gathering up and turn them into a story?"

He's promised to really get at the roots of the character, figure out what makes Batman tick and solidify some of his history into a stronger tapestry. All noble aspirations that I endorse.

It just doesn't really happen in the execution. Like the gun thing. Adams wants to make it clear why Batman dropped his guns. Many don't know this, but Batman carried a pistol in his earliest appearances, as most pulp detectives did. He wasn't afraid to use them, either. So why the philosophical change?

Adams attempts to walk us through that decision with scattered results. Probably the most compelling piece was the simplest - he drew his weapon and then had to scale a ladder, what a pain in the ass! When it comes time to fire that weapon, he balks, which is true to the character and I didn't have a problem with it.

When you think about it, this is a guy scarred for life because a man shot his parents to death with a pistol. I think it's psychologically true for him either to embrace the gun totally (become that thing you hate/fear in order to defeat it) or to abhor it. Batman can't be the thing that he abhors, and I'm 100% fine with that piece of it.

He presents an argument to Robin about it, though, and that gets a bit dodgy. Batman's theory is that the gunless man in a gun fight usually wins. The other participants don't consider the unarmed man a threat and concentrate on the armed. The armed participants are also divided in their attention. While they ponder offense and defense, the unarmed man is simply trying to survive, and so succeeds.

Which of course is a load of bollocks. Maybe if all confrontations were Mexican standoffs, he might have a point. I'll still take the gun, thank you. But in Batman's case, it's going to be a whole lot more likely to have sixteen people with guns all on the same team, namely "not his". It's probably a tactical disadvantage not to have one, although not a critical one. In my scenario with the sixteen guys shooting at him, is one pistol going to level the playing field? Hardly.

So I don't reject Batman deciding not to carry a pistol. I just don't like the aura surrounding that weak argument, that feels sort of like "Bam! I'm a genius, and you just got served!" Not really, buddy. Not really. Your game has holes.

The tone is fine. This is not the Frank Miller Batman who's certifiable and scary gruff, and I actually like that. He's got a different relationship with Robin than I've ever seen before, and it's slightly uneven. It's parts awe and hero worship, and parts buddy cop and calling Bruce out on stuff. I didn't hate it, though.

The Riddler is in play, and the Batmobile is introduced like it's a new thing, and there's a kind of boyish charm to some of the book. There is a sense that Neal Adams really does love this character, and is still struck by how cool he is after all these years. That's probably the most compelling element of Odyssey for me - the enthusiasm layered into it, and expressed openly by Robin.

The worst of it is page-to-page and panel-to-panel clarity. I don't know if I'm just missing pieces of the back story or if it's simply written that way, but I often had trouble figuring out why certain things were happening, or the significance of certain things.

Why does Batman wig out about Kirk taking that formula "two hours ago?" Why is Kirk even there? Why the hell is he taking that formula at all? Where the hell did that Super Bat Thing toward the end even come from? Is it just sitting in the back of the Bat Cave undetected, or this super big secret Kirk didn't tell Batman actually about the Bat Cave?

And while we're on the subject, Kirk and whatever it was he was going to tell Batman that the entire plot seems to hinge upon? Wow. Adams brings it up about nine times, and one would have done for very obvious foreshadowing. And whatever this deep dark secret is, the whole problem could have been avoided by just blurting it out. If it's that important, the listener will stop in their tracks and deal with it.

Instead, Adams is going to build a story around this guy inexplicably shutting his mouth about critical information while whining about how critical it is every six panels or so.

That's pruning your storytelling rose bushes with a chain saw. Yikes.

OK, the craft is not where it needs to be, fine. The comic does look pretty gorgeous, and I suspect fans of the Old School Batman are likely to be happy with the product overall. But for's rubbish. Sorry.

- Ryan

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Chronic Review: Scarlet # 1

Scarlet # 1
Marvel Comics - Icon imprint

Script: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Alex Maleev
29 pages + extras for $3.95

There is a common comic book refrain (Alan Moore, I'm lookin' at you, kid) that goes something like this:

"Why does everything in comics have to be bland superhero testosterone fantasies? Where is the fresh? Where is the innovation? Who is pushing the medium further?"

I have some sympathy for those sentiments. (I will get to Scarlet eventually, I promise) Looking at the current comics palette...yup, we've got a surplus of superheroes, and an excess of excrement. So the system is imperfect, which is a huge shocker.

The problem is that the "solutions" are usually worse than the disease, loaded with froofy people engaging in inscrutable froofery like "Driven By Lemons." If that's pushing the envelope, leave the damn envelope where it is. Superheroes aren't your cup of tea? I get it. But too often we misdiagnose willful confusion as portent. It isn't. Portent is portent. I'm not making this up, you can look it up, folks.

Surely there is something in between, yes? Surely somewhere out there is a creator with a story and a passion for telling it that doesn't look, feel, taste like everything else. The list is very small, but you can add Scarlet to it.

I want to describe Scarlet as an anti-heroine taking you through a living ethics syllogism, but I say "anti-heroine" and it reminds me of the 90s bad girls, and I say "syllogism", and it reminds me of Aristotle, and that's not what it is at all. Even though she is an anti-heroine, and the book acts like a philosophy lesson.

The most striking aspect of the book is that Scarlet talks to you. I'm sure every reviewer will mention the fourth wall and the breaking of said wall. What it means is...she talks to you. Like this:

That decision takes balls. If you screw that up there is no book, and it's a pretty easy thing to screw up. Maleev helps, for sure. You get to see Scarlet squirm and furrow her brow over things she's mulling, obviously wrestling with the ideas and wondering if she's truly communicating. She mentions things she's never mentioned before and then wonders to you about whether she spoke it out loud to you prior.

I was prepared for this having listened to Bendis talk about the book with John Siuntres on Word Balloon. It still knocked me on my psychic ass for a bit. It's not a piece of flair, like Deadpool. The comic addresses you on very intimate terms, and it attempts to treat some outlandish elements in a very "realistic" style.

Again, if that's not hitting for you, the book derails and it's a colossal failure. I'll give Bendis this - Scarlet is one of the most ambitious and daring pieces of fiction I've ever read. He saw a razor wire tightrope with no net and a dragon perched on it and said "Fuck it, let's do that."

There are elements of action, romance, characterization. But probably the strangest fact about Scarlet is that it's an experiment in ethics dressed as a girly Punisher book. There are a lot of the "big questions" introduced in the first issue. Why do shitty things happen to good people? What is the appropriate response to the realization that shitty things do happen to good people?

The problem of evil is a doozy. We've been thinking about it as a species for thousands of years, and to my knowledge nobody has come up with a particularly satisfactory response yet. The Hindus tell us not to worry because it's all just a ride. Paul of Tarsus says "God is God, you're you, so shut the fuck the up and deal with it."

None of that registers as really inspiring to any of us, least of all Scarlet. She has a lot of questions, and occasionally answers herself with things that almost sound profound.

Needless to say, Scarlet is a change of pace next to, oh, New Avengers. It's different. It acts differently, it feels like it matters in the subtext, the way you could just feel that I Kill Giants really meant something to Joe Kelly, or the way that Cerebus meant everything to Dave Sim. Scarlet is important to Brian Bendis, and that...I don't know...urgency translates readily.

The fourth wall obliteration? It worked for me. The philosophy? It worked for me, big time. If you want knock-em-up fluff, and it's fine if you do, this isn't it. Scarlet tells you this herself very early. If you're in that "where's the good non-superhero stuff?" camp, here ya go. No froof required, either.

At the end of the issue, Scarlet mentions that we're going to be helping with her little revolution. That could just mean tagging along for the ride, but I have a suspicion that she means something more literal and direct.

Bendis is pretty active on his forum and Twitter account. This being the 21st century, interactive possibilities are ripe. I have the feeling that the readers are going to be invited to participate in this book. Scarlet surely has access to social networking, I think readers are going to be able to communicate with her, and we'll be able to see her responses inside the text. If she reacts to those messages and it impacts the story, the fourth wall is absolutely vaporized and we're looking at something perhaps unprecedented.

I'm not even going to bitch about the price point, because we got significantly more than the usual 22 pages, and the comic was probably just too goddamn good any way. Scarlet is a smart, gorgeous book with gigantic brass balls. We need to reward this kind of work. I'm in.

- Ryan

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Great Beer Off!

If you listen to our sister show in Canada you know they constantly give us Americans a jab in the ribs on how weak our "American" beer is and I'm sick of it. It just ain't so you filthy Canadians, and I can prove it.

Over 90% of the beer around the world is under 5.5% ABV. Now you might be asking yourself, at least if your an idiot like me, what the fuck is ABV? Well it stands for Alcohol By Volume. That means Canadians, in their infinite wisdom, measure their alcohol by volume rather than by weight, which gives them a bigger number on their cans. (This one goes to 11 type of mentality) Americans measure their alcohol by Weight. How does this make any sense? Well let me give you a small math lesson and we'll see where we're at after that.

If you have 1 liter of 4% ABV Beer, 4% of that liter, or 40ml, is alcohol. However since alcohol only weights 79.6% as much as water, that same beer in America is only 3.18% ABW. So that means to a Canadian, 3.2% beer is really 4.0%. Canadians naturally heard the two numbers and thought their beer was stronger, WRONG! What does this all mean? Well it means our beer is just as strong as yours.

Now are we wimps when it comes to liking light flavored beer? Well that's a different story. We like our Coors, Bud, Miller and other crap, but as far as getting you fucked up on a Friday night, it's gonna do it just the same as Canadian beer will. As a matter of fact the average American beer is actually stronger, alcohol wise, than many of the heavier, more bitter beers in England or Canada. Big Flavor does not mean more alcohol. If you buy a Miller Genuine Draft in Canada it's going to have the same amount of alcohol in it than the ones I buy in the city that God forgot.

So suck it Canadians, we can get just as fucked up as you can on beer and we actually have sections of our country that are warm for more than twenty days of the year. So we've got that going for us. Also friends of the show that drink Coors Light shouldn't throw stones at us for drinking weak beer, which I just proved is not that case. Coors Light is NOT beer, it's fucking water. Guinness is supposed to be strong huh? Well it's only about 4.2% ABV, so yeah not really. It's almost as weak as our 3.2% ABW beer which we can buy at gas stations and grocery stores. YEAH BABY!


Chronic Call to Arms: Vengeance of the Moon Knight # 10!

Marvel have been making moves toward getting Moon Knight in the spotlight lately. I suspect it's being pushed by Gregg Hurwitz, who writes the title. Maybe it's the editor.

Whoever is responsible, the last three months have seen Vengeance of the Moon Knight pulling out all the stops. He got recruited into the Secret Avengers, so instantly about 100,000 people got exposed to the character. Issue # 8 featured the obligatory Deadpool appearance. (bleh!) Issue # 9 featured the obligatory Spider-Man appearance...and they stole the extremely fantastic Juan Jose Ryp away from Avatar to pencil the book. Now we're talking!

So what do you suppose the bell/whistle is for issue # 10 on the stands tomorrow? If you guessed Wolverine appearance, you're pretty bright, but also wrong. Marvel moved the price point down from $3.99 to $2.99.

Yeah. Let me repeat that, because I know some of you are unconscious from falling over backwards in your seats: Marvel comics moved a price point DOWN.

I don't want to overstate the case too much, but this is a wonderful and maybe unique opportunity to show Marvel comics that PRICE MATTERS. See the prevailing wisdom is that we're all just whiners who will pay anything they slap on a Bendis book or a mini. They recognize that a scattered few will refuse to buy a book, and a few will drop a book over price. But if that number is 4%, and the price hike is 25%....well, you can see why we're all wearing a rolling pin in our ass. We've told them that we like it in the only language they understand. Sales. Money.

You want to stop the $3.99 plague and end this madness? You want your voice heard? Go to your comic shop tomorrow and buy a copy of Vengeance of the Moon Knight # 10. Tell a friend to do the same. The guy standing next to you at the rack? Use your sly silver tongue to get him to buy a copy.

This next step is very important - if you get to the store and the book is sold out, do NOT give up and think the job is done. It's not. If the book simply sells out, sales look flat. We need a spike, not a plateau in order to send the proper message. If the book is sold out, ask your retailer to order you a copy. Believe me, they will be more than happy to do so!

And listen, I'm not suggesting you support a dog. If the book were crap, I wouldn't be suggesting this tactic. Gregg Hurwitz is writing the character well, and is obviously passionate about the book. Juan Jose Ryp is an absolute bad ass. It comes out on time. This is a comic worthy of your attention, and this is a critical cause.

Marvel didn't advertise this price dip, folks. They're looking to see if you're paying attention. They're looking to see if price matters. If Vengeance of the Moon Knight goes to three printings, we will definitely have made our case! This is the era of attrition. We don't need to double sales in order to get the proper attention. (although it certainly wouldn't hurt!) Really a 5-10% increase would speak volumes. If you want cheaper comics, let's make a statement with an impact instead of simply whinging about it. Buy this comic!

- Ryan

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Chronic Review: The Week That Was!

It was a big week for cats, folks. I think we all know how I feel about Dex-Starr, the red lantern kitty what pukes up rage enhanced blood on folks. He's awesome. He got a back-up origin story in the latest edition of Green Lantern.

Green Lantern # 55
DC Comics

Script: Geoff Johns
Pencils: Doug Mahnke

We get the big brouhaha with Lobo that was teased last issue, of course. Now, I know on a rational level that I should really despise Lobo. He's a low rent, low brow, previously oversaturated leftover from the 1990s. What Deadpool is now? That was this bastich in the 1990s.

I know I should despise him, but I just don't. Maybe it's the Chronic Insomnia in me that wants to forgive his lowered brow. He's fun, that's it. He's a ridiculously powerful wrecking machine with no moral compass who says a lot of naughty things, and I think there's a place for that in my heart in moderation. And I don't think we're witnessing the beginning of another deluge of the "Main Man" here. It's just a fun little guest spot.

And yes, it's fun to see Lobo cop a bigger attitude and out-Sinestro Sinestro. And you know what? It's fun to watch the jerkwad whisper obscene nothings into Carol's ear. As it turns out, there's a method behind the madness, and from a source we don't expect complex machinations from. As usual, Geoff Johns does good work.

But it's the Dex-Starr origin story that really steals the show, in my opinion. The concept of a blood-puking cat as an intergalactic threat is so absurd that I just can't help but endorse it. You spend half your time thinking to yourself; "How in the world can I take any of this seriously?" You spend the other half thinking; "There's a cat wreaking havoc with it's bloody vomit. Where has this been all my life?"
Turns out that my favorite red lantern started out as baby Dexter, just a regular old kitten. Lived in a house with some folks, everything was all right....for a bit. Horrible things happen to his housemates, and then he gets kicked out into the street, kicked in the bum, and then thrown off a bridge by some guys who just want to hear him go splat. The ring finds him just before impact.

So he's pissed. Which is understandable. His main objective is to find the people who killed his people and then choke death blood on them. He keeps getting roped into side projects by Atrocitus, of course. I don't know if this is legendary as origin stories go, but the more weight they give this character, the more I like it.

Wonder Woman # 600
DC Comics

Scripts: Gail Simone, Amanda Connor, JM Straczynski, etc.

Pencils: George Perez, Amanda Connor, Eduardo Pansica, etc.

Once again we have a major revamp story for one of the DC Trinity by JMS completely trumped by a cute little story that precedes it. Last week we had the Superman overhaul overshadowed by a Dan Jurgens story about Robin.

This week the best element of Wonder Woman's much ballyhooed kick-start is an Amanda Connor story about Power Girl's cat.

Yes, I'm being completely sincere. Nothing wrong with the Gail Simone bit, to be sure. But Amanda Connor's little piece was completely charming, and the story that I'll remember when I think of this book in the future.

After knocking around some tentacled robots, Power Girl asks Wonder Woman for a favor she can't punch her way out of...her cat is unhappy. And leaving messes all over her apartment. So Diana stops by the house, gets a read off the kitty and sets her straight.

You don't own the cat, the cat owns you. Lucky for you, Power Girl, you are his favorite thing. So if you get him in a spot with a few more natural smells and spend a little more time with him, he'll stop freshening up your furniture with his urine.

If this is what Power Girl was like for the first twelve issues, I should have been picking those up.

As for the Straczynski bit that takes a bunch of dynamite to everything we know about Wonder Woman's origin....I don't know what to think about that.

On the one hand, I guess I should expect nothing less. Perhaps even more irritating is the fact the news sites are already littered with interviews that seem to suggest that none of this is likely to stick by design. Maybe I should be impressed that we're at a stage when they're being up front about the illusion of change?

But it still feels like a waste of time to me. And this whole business about an "Odyssey" to find out "who she is" again? Tell me that we didn't just go through this with Heinberg's ill-fated arc when they last re-booted with a new # 1 issue. (entitled "Who is Wonder Woman?", for God's sake) There's just nothing about this that feels like anybody has their hands on the wheel. What it looks like to me is Straczynski doing something thematically similar to what Heinberg just did three years ago, and advertising ahead of time that none of it is going to stick. How shall I get excited about that? Because she's wearing pants now?

Astonishing X-Men # 24
Marvel Comics
Script: Warren Ellis

Pencils: Phil Jimenez

I pretty much dropped this title when Whedon left. Oh, and by the way, Whedon's big swan song with the death of Kitty Pryde? Yeah, they've already erased that "impactful" nugget.

When Ellis first took over, my podcast partner diagnosed his debut as the X-Men sitting around drinking coffee for 22 pages. That was probably a little unfair, but there wasn't anything going on there that compelled me to continue with the title.

What got my attention was the cover. The first comic I ever purchased was Uncanny X-Men # 163, a brood story. So I guess I've got a soft spot in my heart for the alien bastards.

I can't say I have a full grasp on what's going on, because I'm jumping into it at the middle. What I can tell you is that there is wonderful bout of bitching between Hank and Scott that pretty much goes in the "you got served" hall of fame. Hank just verbally takes Scott over his knee and pounds that ass until it's pink. That was more than worth the price of admission right there.

I don't generally think of Phil Jimenez as a top tier artist, but everything in Astonishing # 34 sure looks purdy. The book is still at the $2.99 price point. I'm thinking about adding it back into my mix, because I'm about character interaction, and what Ellis did here was phenomenal.

- Ryan