Tuesday, November 30, 2010

All Points Bulletin: Have You Seen These Comics?

JMS very publicly declared that he was taking a sabbatical from monthly pamphlets and diverting all of his energies into writing Superman: Earth One hardcovers.  I think we were meant to be tearful about this.  I think we're meant to be grateful that he graces us with his simple presence, what with him writing that Changeling movie and all.  In Straczynski's mind, he crafted that press release imagining throngs of fans pleading him not to go.

After watching the wreckage that became of Rising Stars, Spider-Man, Supreme Power, Thor, Superman, and Wonder Woman (you know, just those few titles) I'm confident he'll be doing us a favor if he retires from monthlies for good.

DC did instant damage control, comforting everyone with the news that Phil Hester will take Straczynski's notes and continue with Superman walkabout, while Chris Roberson will do the same with Wonder Woman.  Absent from the spin piece was any mention of the best book he was writing at the time - Brave & The Bold.

You may recall that JMS intended to do something so profound with the title that it would instantly catapult into the top 10 of the sales charts.  After observing Peter David fail a similar attempt while writing the shit out of X-Factor, I was curious indeed to see if he could pull the stunt off.  Whatever it was, reports were that DC brass (at least as it then existed) had signed off on it.

Now it appears that we will never know what could have been, because the last issue of Brave & The Bold was # 35, and that came out in June.  Apparently, I'm the only one in America who cares about this, as DC failed to even acknowledge its existence in the recent JMS press releases.

It was a consistently damn fine book, which is rare and to be treasured.  You could throw whatever sales stunt he had in mind in the trash, I would have been plenty happy to simply receive more of what we were getting.  And now it's gone, with not even a whimper.  Sad.

Speaking of comics that have dropped off the face of the earth since June...let's talk about Ultimate X.  What a pleasant surprise gone horribly wrong.

I sometimes wonder if Marvel really understands its current predicament.  It's hard to launch a successful book in 2010.  If you do everything right, you might just catch 100,000 readers.  If you do everything right, you stand a chance of launching at numbers that would have signalled your cancellation 20 years ago.  It's a tough market.

Marvel launched this thing in the Ultimate universe, which hurts it.  They slapped a $3.99 price tag on it, which is gratuitous, gross, and hurts it.  Then they admit from the get-go that they have no faith in their creative team by announcing it as a bi-monthly title, which really hurts it.

And they can't even fulfill THAT schedule.  It's had a missing picture on milk cartons since June, and somebody or somebodies really ought to be ashamed of themselves.  Listen, I get that Jeph Loeb is now the emperor of television at Marvel, and has stuff to do.  Fine.  I get that not every artist can maintain a monthly schedule.  Fine.  My assumption is that the scripts are in and that we're waiting on Art Adams, because that's generally how these things go.  But to me it doesn't matter who specifically is at fault. 

You can't put out a 22 page comic book in 60 days?  Really?  You know, there was a time when you could print any old rat-faced thing on dog shit newspaper stock and it would go out to the mass market for a quarter and they'd eat it up by the millions.

Note to industry:  those days are gone.

We do not have the luxury of abiding unprofessional primadonnas any more.  Back when the book first came out, I was dug in to loathe this book and it instantly won my heart.  This could have been something, if the people involved actually gave a shit about it, or the people who read these things.  Where is the editorial leadership?  If the crew in place is not up to the task, and clearly they are not, time to either let the constituency know that the beast is dead or find somebody else that is capable of producing work like professionals.

When I first reviewed Ultimate X, I made the mistake of saying that if I had a new reader looking for inspiration to start comics, this is what I would hand them.  Or maybe it wasn't a mistake.  Because that reader would have quickly learned everything they need to know about comics in 2010 - the medium is ripe with creative potential, but there's little point in indulging in it because the norm is to fuck it up.

- Ryan

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Chronic Review: Grant Morrison - Talking With Gods!

Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods
Respect Films/Sequart

Director: Patrick Meaney
Run Time: 80 Minutes

Without running into too many cliches about "groundbreaking" this or "enigmatic" that...this the comic creator you really want to know about, isn't it? Sure we have characters breeding in this funny little medium of ours. Alan Moore, check. Warren Ellis, check. But c'mon. This is the cat who claims he went to India and had aliens take him to Alpha Centauri - is that for real, or a calculated act, or is this guy really shit nuts?

Talking With Gods is satisfying because it embraces all of Grant Morrison, and leaves you feeling that you can wrap your brain around him, if not embrace him. I think that people are curious about his work and his writing process, and the film broaches these subjects. I think people are far more urgently concerned with the man himself; his public persona, the drugs, the magic, the eccentricities.

Obviously it isn't possible to crib anybody down to an 80 minute chunk of video, and surely not someone as complex as Grant Morrison. The strength of this picture is that it respectfully takes on the most controversial Morrisonian matters in a way that cultivates understanding instead of titillating spectacle. If you watch this movie and pay attention, Grant Morrison will make perfect sense to you. And that is high magic indeed!

Another impressive aspect of the film is the depth and breadth of industry talent involved. This isn't just Sequart's Tim Callahan waxing philosophical, although might have been enough. We get to hear a variety of opinions from the insiders involved including Karen Berger, Dez Skinn, Frank Quitely, Warren Ellis, Mark Waid, Rich Johnston, Matt Fraction, and the list goes on forever. While the filmmakers clearly didn't seek out a lot of anti-Morrison vitriol, there may not be much of that to be had. While he might be a polarizing figure amongst fans, most industry professionals respect him and his work. But the closest you'll find to a real detractor in the movie is Alan Moore, who as the story goes shut down a Kid Marvelman story Morrison scripted and then wrote a threatening letter to Grant when he asked permission to pick up Marvelman where Moore left off. But really, who does Alan Moore get along with?

The film covers Grant's early childhood, including a nuclear activist father, a tea-leaf reading mother, and Uncle Billy who introduced him to comic books and Aleister Crowley. You'll learn about his band, his humble beginnings as a file clerk, and his rise to comic super-stardom. And yes, you'll get to hear all about his evolving thoughts on magic, the "aliens/demons", and how it all comes to down to a deep sense of pragmatism.

The trap you fall into with Grant Morrison is to mythologize him, and it's reasonable to fall into that trap since he purposefully set it - but he will also calmly grin and admit it. Talking With Gods does an outstanding job of humanizing the myth. It isn't just the stories that fascinated me, it was watching the "comics rock star" giggle and fidget in his chair like a regular bloke with Frank Quitely, the goofy photos with his wife Kristan, and his yearning to connect with a young writer and impart useful advice. (Don't be afraid to screw up, he says, your mistakes will often show you something even better than what you originally planned)

Morrison says "You'll never get it, you'll never know, and whatever you think I am, that's what I'm not." But he doesn't say that from above you with arrogance. He says it with a sheepish grin, with the same sense of play that Lao Tzu used to write similar sentiments with. Grant Morrison has had the same issues with confidence as you, the same bouts of depression, the same difficulties with the opposite sex. The only difference is that when he had those troubles, he entreated Aphrodite to send him the person he needed. And then his wife to be called him up three days later seeking comfort from her break-up.

I think the film also helps a reader understand Morrison's work. It doesn't parse specific lines of text, and probably would have suffered for the effort if it had tried. What Talking With Gods will do is introduce you to his relationship with The Bomb, and with magic, with other people, and with comics.

What's interesting about Morrison is that while most people begrudgingly accept that superheroes rule comics, he embraces the concept fully, and with pride. First he found comfort in them as an escape from the harsher cruelties of life, and ultimately perceives superheroes as a solution to those cruelties.

"The bomb, before it was a bomb, the bomb was an idea. And suddenly the understanding of oh, OK, Superman's an even better idea, so why don't we make that one real instead of that one." While most creators post-Moore have followed his lead in bringing superheroes into the muck with our reality, Morrison has forged a career on using these symbols as hyper-sigils to raise our muck into their light. That seems infinitely more edifying, actually.

Crazy? Maybe. But before the bomb was a bomb, it was an idea. Why couldn't we use those superheroic ideals to show a better way, perhaps to inspire it. Why not explore a better idea than pain and entropy? Go back and read Batman RIP, Final Crisis, or the latest Batman & Robin stuff. Go back without getting hung up on all the details and pay attention to what it says and how it makes you feel at the end. Superman will not let us down. Batman will find a way. Hope is not lost.

Those are not the sentiments of a drug-crazed nutter. Or maybe they are. If they are, we need a lot more drug crazed nutters.

Is he hard to understand through that thick Scottish accent? Mmmmm, sure. A little. That's what the subtitles are for! It's worth the effort to acclimate, Talking With Gods is an excellent profile of Grant Morrison the character and a brilliant revealing of the man who created it. Thoroughly enjoyed this film, and very much looking forward to the Warren Ellis treatment to follow.

- Ryan

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chronic Review: Batwoman # 0!

Batwoman # 0
DC Comics

Script: JH Williams III/W.Haden Blackman
Pencils: JH Williams III/Amy Reeder
16 main feature pages + 7 Detective Comics preview pages

I'm a little surprised this issue escaped the "Bruce Wayne Road Home" treatment, since it follows the formula. Well, it almost does. Batwoman # 0 avoids the ridiculous cyclopean cyber suit Batman, replacing it with a more down and gritty Bruce.

I guess it makes sense, since the newest incarnation of Batwoman has consistently held itself above the fray as it were, and I'm not being pejorative. One thing this issue does well is make a case for Kate Kane's legitimacy in the best way possible - by treating the character with respect and producing quality work. No need for silly one-eyed Batmen or crossover banners here, the content speaks for itself. Batwoman assumes that it matters, and makes it easier for the reader to believe it as well.

Quite a lot is made regarding JH Williams, his pencils, and his panel compositions. I understand what the pundits are talking about now - there is rarely a page that follows a traditional bricked out page layout. Is it great art? Is it pomp and circumstance? I don't know. The non-traditional organization and tilted panels didn't do anything so avant garde that I was confused. It reads just fine, although the jagged red bat bleeding into Kane's ass whup on Bruce Wayne probably distracted more than it added. Whatever.

Another potentially interesting twist is the split art duties on this issue. Williams handles the art chores where Batwoman appears, and Amy Reeder tackles the scenes out of costume. These are bells and whistles that are lost on me, because I'm a neanderthal. My art sense isn't developed enough to critique these moves or appreciate them.

As for the script, I think it's perfectly functional. The zero issue is to be introductory, and the reader is introduced to the basic Batwoman concepts. She's a good fighter. She's got some tech. She's gay. She's pissed. She's mixing it up with the Religion of Crime, and they don't appear to like her either. It imparts information.

What it doesn't do is compel me to be interested enough in the character to continue. I think the weakness in the script is that Kate never has anything to say for herself. The dossier-style overdub tells me what I need to know, except why I should care. Bruce talks about her, and the resume is impressive. She sure does know how to punch people. There might be somebody interesting in there somewhere....but we're denied it in this issue, because the only things Kate Kane expresses in Batwoman # 0 are kicks, punches, and sneers.

Perhaps we could have had some of that characterization with a full issue's worth of content? The book is a little light at 16 pages. There are also four pages of preview artwork for Batwoman # 1, and more preview pages for Detective Comics. Blah. Keep all that. Sell me on Batowman # 0 and I'll make sure I see the issue one pages then. And even if one considers the Detective previews a worthwhile concept, these same pages are available in multiple other books, and lots of folks are probably "paying" for this commercial over and over again. It's not a good value.

For those worried about the future of the Kate Kane Batwoman after Greg Rucka's departure, I think you can allay those concerns. There's nothing broken or amateurish about the new regime. The art is at least fantastic and possibly genius. I think those who were hooked from Elegy will find that they are in good hands, and I wish Batwoman the best of luck. As a newcomer and a character guy, I didn't find anything in this issue that would require me to jump on board, though.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Chronic Insomnia # 168: The Home Game!

Because my broadcast partner and I are really good at radio, we do a lot of visual bits on our audio show. This week, we'll be referencing this Bill Sienkiewicz sketch and asking the question - who's the real dick?

Stay vulgar, my friends...

- Ryan

Friday, November 19, 2010

John Romita, Jr - Then & Now!

I'm well documented in my distaste for John Romita, Jr's work, much to the chagrin of one Remington J. Osborn. I think it's time for me to amend that claim - I like JR JR just fine...the old one, that is.

I went into Half Price Books yesterday and picked up a handful of old copper age Iron Man books by Michelinie and Layton. Good stuff. I was surprised to find that several of those issues were pencilled, and pencilled quite beautifully by none other than John Romita, Jr. The image above is the opening splash page from Iron Man # 146, circa 1981.

Now, the credits list Romita as doing the "pencil art", and Bob Layton as completing the "finished art", whatever that means. My interpretation is that Layton inked it, and maybe dressed it up a little. For all I really know, Romita just did the breakdowns and we're looking at Layton's work. But I doubt it.

I'm not sure that it makes sense to see muscle striations through an indestructible metal suit, really, but whatever. It might kick logic in the teeth, but it looks fantastic! Compare that with this shot of Iron Man from the cover of Avengers # 1:

It's hard to believe both pictures were drawn by the same guy!

I suppose some will claim that the Iron Man Romita was drawing in 1981 wasn't even really his own style, but a "house style" John Buscema knock-off, so they'll find the newer version superior since it represents Romita's true individual flair. Fine, I guess.

Tastes will vary, and I've spent the past half hour listening to songs off the "Vison Quest" soundtrack, so my taste is suspect. And listen, John Romita, Jr. can obviously draw however he wants, and artist of any stripe should evolve and progress. Great.

But when I look at the newer Iron Man, to me he looks chunky, clunky, and crude. The 1981 Iron Man looks like a sleek, dynamic, and detailed badass. I like that version better, that's all I'm sayin'.

I just thought it was an interesting juxtaposition, and worth amending my position - I like John Romita, Jr. just fine....I just need a time machine to find the version I enjoy.

- Ryan

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Yesterday Nate Cosby blogged about comic book solicitation copy, outlining exactly what I've been shrieking about for the past year, and you should click the link and read it. Of course Cosby made his points succinctly, eloquently, and has the added bonus of being credible. He was an editor at Marvel comics until recently, and actually wrote many of those "never be the same" blurbs that give me an instant migraine. So thank you, Mr. Cosby. For the eloquent distillation of my shrieking, not for the prior headaches.

I was at Half Price Books today, saw the issue of World's Finest #202 pictured above and just had to buy it. (for the tidy price of $5, by the by) I had to buy it because of the hype copy splashed onto the right hand side of the cover which reads:

"This is NOT an IMAGINARY fight scene! Nor a symbolic picture! Nor any other sort of COP-OUT!"

This was 1971. Obviously being suckered into meaningless hype that doesn't pay off is not a new thing. Incidentally, the cover isn't imaginary or symbolic. Superman falls from the sky, conks his head, and loses his memory. A cat name of Brakh takes advantage of this and gains an oddly complete control of Superman, and orders him to attack Batman.

A couple of problems, though. (spoiler alert!) It isn't really Kal-El, but one of the robotic constructs he created as a boy. And just as "Superman" is about to kill Batman, Brakh inexplicably tells him to stop, because he wants him as slave labor. So the fight doesn't include the real Superman, it isn't allowed to conclude naturally, and if that's not a cop-out I don't know what is. Anywho.

We were talking on the last show about how over-saturated we are with "This Changes EVERYTHING!" marketing, and wondering if it actually works. The example I promised to research was the effect that Captain America's death in issue # 25 had on the title long term.

And here's the raw data as reported by Diamond to retailers. Captain America # 1 launches in late 2004 at 67,223 copies. It takes a typical dip between the first and second issues and finds a remarkably stable home in the 45,000 copy range.

Then something magical happens: between issues 16 and 17, Captain America actually gains readers. No creative shift, no marketing push, no Wolverine guest appearance, no event tie-ins...it just gets ordered more based upon word of mouth. This never happens. It happened to Captain America in early 2006. After # 16, Cap picks up steam and gains readers every month. Stunning.

Think about that for a moment, though. Brubaker didn't suddenly learn how to write around issue # 16, and Steve Epting didn't transform from an ugly moth into a beautiful pencilling butterfly. It just took that long for people to catch on - OH, these guys are good! It took 16 MONTHS.

And then comes the Civil War/Death era and beyond:

Issue/Copies Sold
Cap # 20/ 47,351
Cap # 21/ 49,045
Cap # 22 (Civil War) /82,203
Cap # 23 (Civil War) /81,286
Cap # 24 (Civil War) /79,880
Cap # 25 (Death) /290,497
Cap # 26 /126,384
Cap # 27/ 99,046
Cap # 28 /89, 689
Cap # 29 /83,775
Cap # 30 /79,530

And it continues to bleed from there. The latest issue, Captain America # 611 clocked in at 48,788. It's almost exactly back where it started before the Civil War explosion.

Did it work? Did the event marketing help Captain America find more actual readers? I think in this case we have to admit that it did. Civil War nearly doubled circulation, and then the death issue ramped it a bit further.

A couple of anomalies to consider. There was a four month delay between #24 and # 25. Ordinarily, that's enough to take all the wind out of a titles momentum. Obviously it didn't do much to slow things down in this case. Or did it? Would Cap have sold 500,000 issues without the delay? I seriously doubt it. Cap # 25 is a unique deal, driven largely by speculators and in significant part by people who don't ordinarily visit their local comic shop.

What's really interesting to me is how many people stuck around for # 26. I don't think anybody was looking at that one as a money-maker, they were probably there to read. And yes, the issue took a giant dip, but when you consider how many people bought both versions of # 25, (or 20 copies!)I think it's possible that more actual people bought # 26 than purchased # 25, and that's really remarkable.

So it did gain Captain America a quantifiably larger audience...at which point it started bleeding out, as per usual.

The obvious case to be made is that for Captain America, hype marketing beat attrition for three years. They were in the high 40,000s when the Civil War hit in 2007, and it has taken all the way to 2010 for it to fall back into the high 40,000s. You can make that case.

But I wonder if it ended up doing more harm than good. To me, the real story of Captain America isn't the 300,000 copies that # 25 sold. It's the four months of increased sales prior to # 22. Here's your list of comic books that gain sales in 2010 without benefit of creator change or event hype.....ready for this?.....

Walking Dead.

That's it. There's your list.

Brubaker and Epting were doing the impossible before the hype bomb went off. They were churning out books of such quality that word of mouth was building them a larger audience. Maybe I'm wrong, but that kind of gain has durability, provided quality maintains.

When you create an "event" around a thing, you cannot possibly sustain it. If the book is always an event, than the concept ceases to have any real meaning. So if the people jumping onto Captain America are there for the circus, then naturally they are going to leave when the adrenaline wears off. A comic book can't change your life every month, it just can't. If that's what you're there for, you're bound to be disappointed.

When Marvel re-framed the reason for reading Captain America, did it shoot its own foot? If they had left it alone and just let it build, would Captain America be selling 60,000 copies a month right now?

I don't know. It seems a little far fetched, granted. But so does a title, ANY title picking up readers at issue # 16. Doesn't it seem possible that it could have continued to grow with word of mouth saying to potential readers "Hey, I'm reading this comic and it's really pretty good" instead of "Oh my God, you will remember where you were when you heard that Cap DIED!" Word of mouth A doesn't get you on television, but it's a promise that a comic book in capable hands can fulfill. Word of mouth B just can't be sustained.

As another aside, I think that even if you take the position that the Civil War and Death issues helped Captain America, I don't think you can automatically justify the incessant hype marketing were seeing today, because 2010 is a different psychological landscape than 2007.

In fact, 2007 is really what re-ignited all of this event bullshit. DC had phenomenal success with Meltzer's Identity Crisis, and Marvel answered in spades with Millar's Civil War. We haven't had time for a breath since, and the system is showing the strain.

- Ryan

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chronic Review: Osborn # 1!

Osborn # 1 (of 5)
Marvel Comics

Scripts: Kelly Sue DeConnick & Warren Ellis
Pencils: Emma Rios & Jamie McKelvie
29 pages for $3.99

So if you listened to the last episode, you know that I was piqued by the idea of the Warren Ellis backup in this issue, and couldn't yawn hard enough at the prospect of the main feature by Kelly Sue DeConnick. And in what is becoming a frighteningly familiar refrain these days...I got it all backwards.

I gripe a lot about how the comics sky is falling, but one of the many joys left is the influx of new talent. Where are the new guard to take over for our aging (but still very able) legends like Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Frank Miller? They're popping up all over the place if you know where to look. When I read books by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer, I know we have a future, at least creatively.

And it's early, but I think we can add Kelly Sue DeConnick to that list. This one has chops, kids.

Osborn is built on a very simple but powerful premise: what do you do with the guy who inexplicably attacked Asgard and used the registration act to create his own corrupt super-powered toy box? That's interesting to me, and it's refreshing to see anybody actually treat one of these "events" as if they actually happened.

When the story begins, Norman Osborn is being detained at The Raft, and basically lucid. Of course he's still shit nuts, but he's functioning at a fairly high level. While Normie waxes philosophical about a spider's lesson in patience, a senate subcommittee is deciding what to do with him. He hasn't even been officially charged with anything yet, because the top brass wants to be certain that whatever they hit him with sticks. What they decide to do in the interim is move Osborn to a special containment center until the legal ducks are in a row.

Meanwhile, Ben Urich has put Norah Winters (and by extension Peter Parker) on an Osborn piece. She blames herself for everything Norman accomplished during his dark reign, because she backed down from a planned expose piece. This time she means to make good. We also get to meet a strange chaplain at that special containment center in places unknown, and the even stranger inmates of said center.

I won't spoil things any further than that, but it seems evident that Osborn's wheel of schemes is still turning, something is going to go down in that gulag, and Peter Parker will be a part of it before all is said and done. Not a bad hook.

DeConnick's script shows an attention to detail and characterization. Norah has always been a bit manic and goofy - here she's crazy/funny, particularly in her scenes with Peter. Osborn is calculating, head on a swivel, making semi-contemporary "snap" jokes and instantly turning around and referencing Vaclav Havel and Kim Dae-Sung. DeConnick also takes the time to breathe some life into the Osborn's future cell mates, which could have easily been left as ciphers or ignored entirely.

I'm not suggesting off the cuff that Kelly Sue DeConnick is the future of comics. But here's the deal - it's one thing to have good ideas with juice, like a Mark Millar. It's another thing to have a tight, efficient grip on structure and clarity like a Chuck Dixon. It's a rare thing to have both, and she's got it.

Osborn is a well researched, well conceived, well rendered plot with effective characterization and an interest in world-building. That's a pretty good thing to be.

Meanwhile, in the backup feature, Warren Ellis adds depth to June Covington, an inmate of that special containment facility. It's a cute little character piece, but it reads like a voice-over expository dump. It probably works better as straight prose, rather than a comic.

Not bad, mind you. Warren has a flair for the bent of mind, as always. It does add a bit of zest to the bigger picture, at least for me...I'm interested in that underground prison, its denizens, and how they got there. But if you were looking for the definitive Norman Osborn treatment by Warren Ellis, you came to the wrong place - he's in the backup feature for exactly two panels to deliver a throw-away joke.

I really don't advocate paying $3.99 for comics, but at least there are extra pages in the book, and the quality is there. Couldn't be more impressed with Kelly Sue DeConnick, if that wasn't apparent. I'm definitely buying the trade on this mini, and will begin to scout for bargains on other DeConnick work like those one-shots for Rescue and Sif....

- Ryan

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Correction: The Unnecessary Severe Maiming of Reason

So we find out today that Marvel have no intentions (at this time) of pretending to kill Spider-Man, but instead will pretend to kill Ultimate Spider-Man.

So, now what? Am I guilty of premature histrionics? I suppose you could make a case for it. I say that everything I posited previously still stands. It's still a ridiculously transparent hype job, and it's killing comics. At least, I think it is.

I've been thinking a lot about comics marketing these days. Here's some of the press release copy:

Marvel is proud to announce Death of Spider-Man, the groundbreaking new story that forever changes the Ultimate Comics universe from superstar writers Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar. Kicking off with a prelude in Ultimate Spider-Man #153 and going into high-gear with Ultimate Avengers vs New Ultimates #1, this is the story that no comic fan can afford to miss when it all begins in February 2011 because, in the Ultimate Universe, There Are No Rules.

I have several problems with that sputum. Firstly, that second sentence is a monster that desperately needs trimming. But that's not the really diabolical, suicidal crap.

The ubiquitous phrase pounded about our skulls over and over and over again is "forever changes". That shit needs to go away. Yesterday. Whatever it is they've got in mind for that storyline, it will not change jack or shit. What, you mean like Ultimatum? And what was the # 1 reason we were supposed to be reading that garbage again? Oh yeah...all teams changed forever! How'd that turn out?

The only hype we ever get from Marvel any more is "change". Except nothing ever changes. Nobody stays dead, the new creative team retcons everything that came before, and go ahead and try to find something that happened even six months ago that has a damn thing to do with what you're reading now. I dare you.

That has a lot to do with the second thing that really grates me in that press release. There Are No Rules. There are no rules???? There are nothing BUT rules.

I've taken to calling this phenomenon "lunchbox" decision making. Stories at the Big 2 are told with an eye toward protecting the status quo, and the goal is to "protect' the intellectual property to preserve lunchbox sales. Or the action figures. Or the next movie.

I think this is really evident when you look at recent storylines with Daredevil and Green Arrow. You can see actual compelling developments somewhere behind the quagmire - both of those characters were supposed to go shit nuts. I fully believe that JT Krul was going somewhere good with his "Arrow gone mad" arc, and I believe Andy Diggle was considering taking Daredevil down a dark road that we would have remembered for a good long while.

And the nuts got snipped off both dogs before they could hit puberty. Green Arrow turned an about face in the space of an issue before inexplicably heading off into his rebooted pablum. And Daredevil is off the hook for his behavior because the "devil made him do it." No rules? Please.

Any promise of impact in 2010 is an empty promise. And the irony is that in the interest of conserving the lunchbox, Marvel and DC strip all lunchboxability out of their characters. The reason why we have Spider-Man lunchboxes right now is because once upon a time Marvel told stories with balls and passion, and were about those stories.

If you listened to the last episode of Chronic, I tell the tale of reading Amazing Spider-Man # 122 for the first time last week. The dialogue is painful in spots, but here's the deal...that was not about lunchboxes. That was a human being, a fallible human being under great pressure making questionable decisions about vengeance, and about his friend Harry.

And there were repercussions. Gwen Stacy died. When she popped up again later, that was a clone. We can question the benefits of that, I suppose, but Gwen Stacy's death had real teeth. Spider-Man was lashing out at police officers, and Mary Jane, and that whole reading experience has ten times the gravitas that anything coming out now has. Because back then there was one rule - tell a good goddamn story. That story would never make it past editorial in 2010 - too real, too good.

You want to know what has impact for me now? Hickman's Fantastic Four. I like the fact that those moloid kids from the first couple issues are still hanging around, being adorable and asking
Ben if he wants a bowl of the composite dye, sugar and fructose breakfast cereal. I like the fact that if someone told me the next issue was entirely about Valeria or Franklin I wouldn't be disappointed in the slightest. I like the fact that he's juggling about 17 of his own plot threads in the air, but he hasn't forgotten about that Galactus corpse that Millar planted for him from before.

Is somebody supposedly going to "die' in the FF? Yeah, I guess. But that's not why it matters, and that's the crux of the issue as I see it. Marvel is constantly trying to jam a false "mattering" down our throats with these "can't miss" issues that don't mean anything the month after they're printed. Fantastic Four matters because it matters, not because Marvel said so.

And all of this is a roundabout way of saying yes, it makes a difference that Marvel is just pretending to kill a re-boot of their flagship instead of the flagship himself. But in the end, it's still just pretending. When you've got something real for me to chew on for $2.99, I'll be a buyer. That's precious few properties at the ol' House of Ideas, I'm ashamed to say.

So yeah. The death of Spider-Man wasn't actually the death of reason. It was simply the continued unnecessary severe maiming of reason. Congratulations.

- Ryan

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chronic Review: Halcyon # 1!

Halcyon # 1
Image Comics

Script: Marc Guggenheim/Tara Butters
Pencils: Ryan Bodenheim
22 pages for $2.99

Halcyon is a patchwork I haven't seen before constructed of things I've seen before. The antagonist is Oculus, and he's developed the ability to visit other dimensions/realities. He uses that ability to team up with his other selves, share information, and better dominate the respective home dimensions. It' s sort of a blend of Hickman's conclave or Reeds and the Wanted syndicate, except we're dealing with a Von Doom type instead of a Reed Richards.

The protagonists are a super team called Halcyon, lead by Zenith. She's banging an anti-hero named Sabre who has more scars on his back than Kunta Kinte. You just want to shout through the page and yell "Dude, it's not worth it! Just tell the guy your name is Toby and plot his inevitable demise in your spare time! Some day you'll be wearing a barrette on your face aboard the star ship Enterprise and it will all work out, I promise!" But some guys are just stubborn that way. (Now I'm digressing with Roots jokes? Yeesh. American slavery, now there's a comedy gold mine!)

At any rate, the problem on this particular world is that there are no problems. Someone or something kickstarted a phenomenon that is reducing the world's crime at an exponential rate. It doesn't sound like such a bad thing when you type it like that, but the way it's presented in the comic book is actually quite creepy.

My favorite moment in the book is a little (seemingly) throw away scene where we meet Sabre dispensing with some gun-toting hoodlums. There's the usual bravado and big budget action scene, and the criminals are apprehended. As Sabre turns his prey over to the police, they remark on how they kind of miss the usual body count.

Now taken at face value when I first read it, that scene rankled me a bit. It's just too much testosterone for me to swallow. But later, we find out that something is obviously working behind the scenes to prevent crime. And given that information...it's actually really spooky. Because now Sabre has to ponder - why didn't I kill those guys?

One of the great fears for any rational human is losing one's sense of self. If I ever find out I've got Alzheimer's...I'm checking myself out. Can't deal with it, too painful. What Guggenheim has constructed as the threat in this comic is a loss of free will that infects with no fanfare and no visible symptoms. Reality is simply being re-written to erase free will, (if such a thing exists, and I say it does) and that's positively horrifying. But it's a horror that manifests itself in people paying their taxes and not killing the people the turn over to the police. It's an interesting hook, and it's rendered subtly.

A couple of other things I liked. In the beginning of the book, "Jarhead" is ripping his way through Pakistan looking for Bin Laden. From a distance, the font actually looks a little like Urdu characters. But as you read them closely, you can see that it's actually English dressed to look like Urdu. It's a little difficult to read, but you know what? I think that actually helps the effect. I've never seen anything like that before, and I thought it was fantastic.

Incidentally, that scene also reads differently after you're exposed to the "anti-crime" effect. Bin Laden's broheims admit that they've already killed him - because he was an evil man. It's just bizarre on the first pass, and then you think to yourself..."that's the anti-crime effect in it's early stages, infecting their brains and using their still-active aggression to implement a peaceful solution." Kinda creepy-cool.

Also, there's this dude named Enos, and he's a cybernetically enhanced space chimp. And he's awesome.

I'm a teensy bit concerned about the alternate reality nonsense, because I've read too many stories that mistake confusion for sophistication. I'm not convinced that this story requires a gazillion different Occuli from 13 different realities in order to make this story fly. I think the anti-crime effect is a plenty good enough hook without it.

But to be fair, we're one issue in, and maybe at the end we find out that the different realities do make a significant difference to the storytelling. I'm just announcing my concerns now.

The other "problem" with the book is that other than Enos, I'm not really attached to any of these characters. It's early, so that may not be fair. I'm a character guy, though, and the strength of Halcyon seems to be based around the plot. Nothing wrong with that intrinsically, it just places itself outside of my wheelhouse.

I recommend Halcyon because Guggenheim has built a conflict rich with possibilities. It's difficult to read this and not wonder about how much Oculus has to do with this weird phenomenon making everybody act all nicey, how that effect will continue to warp people's decisions, and what the Oculus end game entails. As the first issue ends, his big plans include turning himself in to the authorities.

The whole thing is just a bit off the beaten path, and satisfyingly so. At $2.99, that's more than enough for me to reward this book with my patronage until it disappoints.

- Ryan

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Death of Reason

So here's your cover for the February edition of Previews magazine. What's the appropriate response? Do you vomit? Do you check out a copy of the Anarchist's Cookbook from your local library? Do you grab a bludgeoning tool and wreak havoc across three states? I don't know.

I should probably sit on this and wait for the next show before I vent. That would be the sensible thing to do. But Marvel is actually pretending that they're going to kill Spider-Man....so sensible is obviously out the goddamn window.

First they point-plank LIE about reducing prices, then they cook up that INSIPID "Point One" program which communicates none of what they'd like to communicate and which achieves none of what they need to achieve - new readers.

And now this. The "death" of Spider-Man. How stupid do we look, really? How patently obvious is your marketing bullshit?

Yeah, I know this is just comics, and I ought not allow something so trivial to raise my blood pressure so. But this is so.......aggressively moronic. The death of Spider-Man? You mean the guy that you just had inexplicably sell his soul to the devil? I would not be this angry if you just told me you took a shit on my Secret Six comics.

Fuck you, Marvel.

Fuck. You.

You want to flush the last three grains of your brand integrity down the toilet, fine. Go ahead and embarrass yourselves, children. But also FUCK YOU, and shame on you, because we NEED you, and you can't possibly be this stupid. You can't possibly be thinking of taking dynamite to our future in the name of selling a couple of extra copies to the last five idiots who are so galactically gullible that they would still fall for this shit.

Let me clue you in, kids. Spider-Man is not dying. Nobody in the history of comics has EVER died. Goddamn Bucky is still breathing, folks. This is not storytelling, it is not clever, and it is not funny. If you want to get the effect of the "death" of Spider-Man, folks, just take a stapler, jam it into your ass, and then bounce around a lot so that a couple of staples pop off inside you. It's the same effect, and it's much cheaper. And it won't encourage these pricks to destroy the medium that I love most, because it won't be padding their pockets.

Marvel Comics: WAKE UP. The iceberg is just off the medium's starboard bow, and if you don't start peeling off to port, you're going to sink the whole ship. You greedy, greedy, simpletons. If you need help, gents, just follow DCs lead....they seem to have figured things out nicely.

Disney: WAKE UP. Originally we all cheered the "hands off" policy regarding Marvel. But it has become painfully clear that the inmates are running your asylum poorly. Time to get involved. You need to grab an axe and start lopping off deserving heads quickly, because the situation is officially dire.

I'm going to find something to drink....


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fun With Magnus!

I read Magnus Robot Fighter # 2, and it is so wonderfully.....weird. I'm actually a little surprised that we don't hear more buzz about the re-launched Valiant characters, because they attracted such a staunch following back in the day. It should be bigger news.

What people maybe forget is that Jim Shooter took a couple of cast-off pros and a gaggle of knobs and came a cat's whisker from taking market share from everybody. Left to his own devices, I think it was inevitable. Here we are in 2010, and there's Shooter back at it with the characters that should have been his empire. Nobody seems to care. Diamond reported about 11,000 orders for the book.

Another thing people forget are the subversive elements that would populate those old Valiant comics. When people think about Pre-Unity Valiant, I think they cling to idea that they were Silver Age comics with a modern sensibility, and I suppose that's fair. But if you look closely, you remember that Archer's parents were sex offending religious figures. And Erica Pierce was an incredibly creepy piece of work who ended up fucking her son Albert. Those halcyon Valiants had some vicious teeth. I loved that about them, by the way.

Now twenty years later Shooter is still up to his old tricks. Right now Magnus is trying to save Leeja and her friend Cinnette from the seedy North Am underbelly. He's stumbled onto the territory of Overboss Halolani, and she's into several brands of dirt.

My favorite segment of her operation is selling people to alien cultures for food. This is not an unprecedented concept, but still a little unsettling, especially when you consider the flippant discussion of the nuts and bolts she gets into with Curgorr, who's so ravenous for human meat that he's forced to be muzzled during the negotiations! It's so wonderfully childish, even as it heads down alleys never meant for children to travel.

Halolani explains that she simply won't sell Curgorr any people unless they're ground up first. Not on moral grounds, but because an escaped victim would just be too much pad PR to bear. This stuff is just too cute!

We don't have to worry about that happening to Leeja or Cinnette, however. Some of the average looking captives might end up as dog food in a can, but the pretty girls are sold into sexual slavery, of course.

Our young knight errant Magnus is doing everything he can to stop this travesty, but you can't blame him for being a bit distracted - after all, Cinnette is really hot. While he's supposed to be calling the riot robs or storming the castle, 1A has to wake Magnus out of his erection stupor, because he can't stop staring at the ass of his damsel in distress!

Nobody does this. Either the hero is played straight and would never play the cad like that, or the "hero" is a complete piece of crap that can barely be bothered to get the virtue part of the equation. I don't think anybody else in comics would have written that scene, where the mostly virtuous Lancelot has a moment of bizarre and inappropriate weakness. Is it completely absurd? Sure it is. But it's fun, dammit!

I don't know if Magnus Robot Fighter constitutes must reading. Some of this stuff hits you with all the subtlety of an anvil. The "boss battle" in the front of the comic pairs off Magnus with a complete cipher named Big Guns. Big Guns??? Really???

That's Shooter, man. But I'll tell you this - as usual, he communicates perfectly. Maybe it is a little blunt to hit you with a Big Guns or a muzzled man eater...but you sure as shit no where everyone stands and what's going on. And it isn't as if the man is incapable of complexity. Torque started out a cipher, too. Yeah, he was a giant stereotype jerkwad. But six issues in he's learning to read and treating Flamingo with something approximating respect, and you almost understood why Kris might end up choosing Torque over Pete, which you would never have guessed when the thing started.

No, Shooter still knows how to write. That thing with Cinnette was a multi-tool designed to show us that Magnus is still a man underneath at all, and also to set up a little friendly competition for Leeja's affection when Cinnette asks her to call him at the end of the story. So that's just Jim Shooter sprinkling in a a little character moment with an eye toward simultaneously advancing his romance subplot. Not so silly now, is it?

And Halolani's cavalier dealings with Curgorr have some ghastly consequences, and Curgorr gets his, too. Some of this "nonsense" is part of a very efficient and calculated machine. I think most comics could learn a thing or two by observing Shooter's blueprints.

Must reading? Maybe not. But it certainly is a unique flavor, and I love the subversive dollops in these Dark Horse/Valiant books.

- Ryan

Monday, November 8, 2010

Miracle Keith Review: Vertigo Resurrected!

Vertigo Resurrected
DC Comics/Vertigo imprint

Scripts: Warren Ellis & more

Pencils: Phil Jimenez & more

96 pages for $7.99

I felt an intense desire to write this review after reading this, yet another dreck-filled, overpriced rip-off anthology with half-baked ideas and thin stories. Why did I feel this burning need? It’s the lead-off story, “Shoot” by Warren Ellis that has me hopped up with resentment and indignance.

This was the selling point for the solicitation of this issue; a short tale about a rash of school shootings that was supposedly going to press right around the time of the Columbine High School tragedy. DC/Vertigo decided to shelve the story for obvious reasons, and this is the first time it’s seen press.

I was deeply disappointed in Mr. Ellis’s main theme for this story, and deeply confused by some of the plot elements. We meet a woman who works for some unnamed investigative body who has become obsessed with a rash of school shootings around the U.S., while at the same time becoming obsessed with listening to an audio tape of Jim Jones preaching to his suicidal flock at Jamestown on that fateful day. We never get to know who this woman is; why should we care about her? Because she’s investigating the shootings? Because she loses sleep over video of kids killing kids? Because she’s obsessed with Jim Jones?

And what exactly does a suicidal cult have to do with school shootings? I guess the very thin connection would be some vague conceit about needless death? Wow, what a brave and innovative stance to take, Warren. And then, while watching footage of news coverage of all the school shootings, she begins to notice that a mysterious blonde man in a trenchcoat with a white shirt and black tie is showing up in the crowd at every school shooting.

A friend within the FBI sends her a locked file on a Mr. John Constantine, who of course ends up arriving at her office unannounced during one of her late nights. His message to her is a familiar piece of worn-out armchair psychology: that whole “it’s not the movies, the video games or the music” lecture that’s supposed to help explain a senseless tragedy like a school shooting.

Constantine tells us: “look into the eyes of the children; not the ones holding the guns, but the kids standing around watching it…look into their eyes and you’ll see that they have no connection to their own emotions because they’ve been raised by television...”

What the hell does this mean? Does Warren Ellis really think that the explanation for these shootings is a lack of emotional connection that’s fundamentally infected each child in the school? This premise is as lazy as it is insulting; I’m sure that no child in any school where another child has turned loose a gun has ever run screaming for their lives, or cried out in fear, or begged for their very lives.

I would wager that those children who were victims or potential victims have never felt more alive or more emotional in their entire short lives than in those terrible moments. Not to mention, the “real” reasons behind a school shootings are always complex and can only be speculated on by so-called “experts”. The personality profile on Harris and Kleebold pre- massacre is the same profile you could give to hundreds of high school kids across the country; the “reason” that they went to the ultimate extreme is unknowable by anyone but them. For Ellis to give this trite bullshit as a reason is so inexcusable, especially from someone as obviously smart as he is.

Excellent pencils by Phil Jimenez are wasted on this piece of junk story. It was buried for one reason, should have remained buried for a different reason.

The art throughout this whole anthology is uniformly good, but the stories are pretty thin and don’t really go anywhere new. The one story that almost satisfies is the Grant Morrison tale “The New Toys”. Morrison enthusiasts will recognize shades of his famous Wile E. Coyote one-issue story arc from Animal Man; here we have the first person tragedy of a young child’s G.I. Joe-like action figure, as he goes from wartime hero, to injured veteran, to lover (of a Barbie doll, natch), to transvestite, to a firing squad. Morrison does a serviceable job with the whole take-a-simple-childhood-object-or-pop-culture-character-and-give-it-postmodern-complexities thing, but the ending is very confusing and was lost on this reader.

The art by Frank Quitely is quite astonishing with a distinctive lack of superheroes or the infamous “garden gnomes” that Monster Mike has complained about in the past.

For $7.99, this is a waste of time and money. If you’re a Morrison completist, wait for this one to go to the bargain bins. If you’re an Ellis completist, you should get what you deserve for being an Ellis completist and buy it for full price.

- Miracle Keith

Thursday, November 4, 2010

More Awesome Things That Happened In Halifax!

1) So they gave me a press pass at HalCon because I was tagging along with the Where Monsters Dwell crew, not because they recognized my Eisner-nominated journalism.

What do you have to do to get a press pass at HalCon? Ask for one. That's all we did. We said we wanted press passes, and then the woman took out a marker and put our names on press badges. That's it! Granted, she spelled Remy's name wrong on his, but it still get you from Point A to Point "Inside the Con" for free. If you're looking to save money next year, just tell them you're press. They didn't even ask us what media we were representing, she just went straight to the markers. Awesome.

2) If you want to hang out with Ryan Howard, you had better work on your cardio. He'll get you there, but he's getting there as though he was shot out of a cannon. You need to work to keep up, is what I'm saying. He would have beaten Lewis & Clark to the west coat by six weeks, is what I'm saying.

3) Costumes at the con? There were a metric ton of them. There were pieces of time where 30-40% of all attendees were in some form of costume. And some of them would just slap a pink wig on their head and go as Alterna-whores, but many of them were intricate and awesome.

The most prevalent costume was "Star Fleet Officer", which plays right into Canadian women's predisposition toward wearing hooker boots at all times. We had our picture taken with a hot vulcan nurse, or at least that's what we were calling her.

I said "She's probably like - I've received no medical training at all, you jerks, I'm the helmsman, goddammit!" She just looked at me like I was complete idiot and replied "No, I'm a science officer." Duh!

Best costume at the Con was a zombie nurse on Friday night. Her makeup was impeccable....skin peeling off of her face, creepy contact lenses, the whole thing was top notch. She also had two accessories. One was a zombie baby with disgusting gray veins in its head. She could move it around like a puppet, it was most unsettling. The second accessory was a douche bag with the word "security" written on the back of his shirt. One of the accessories added a lot to her costume. One was a douche bag with the word "security" written on the back of his shirt.

We've got a group photo of all of us with zombie nurse "coo-chie-cooing" the undead rugrat. It's suitable for framing, I'm sure.

4) Fun times at Strange Adventures! I was shopping for TPBs when somebody whispered that "Steve" was here. Steve of course was Steve McNiven. Things happen at Strange Adventures that just don't happen where I live.

I overheard a lovely young clerk talking about playing "Truth or Dare" with the other help:

"I almost always played truth. I only played dare to make other girls kiss me."

Pray continue, lass! Pray continue.....

5) So I asked Darwyn Cooke about Payback, because it's one of my all-time favorite films and he's currently adapting the Westlake novels into comic books for IDW. Cooke fidgeted a bit, measured his words and said that he far preferred the director's cut to the theatrical version. Perhaps sensing some latent disappointment that he didn't like it as much as I did, he admitted that it wasn't bad for a "metrosexual" adaptation.

Then he put his fingers to his head as though suffering a great headache and said "But.....it's fucking Mel Gibson!" And we all did laugh a great while at that.

6) Monster Mike routinely sports gray Crocs, and puts ketchup and maple syrup on his potato chunks. Just sayin'.

7) Remy sneezes in fours. Every time.

8) Talked a little bit with Conor McCreery, and he's just as engaging as Anthony Del Col. It would have been pretty easy to cut bait emotionally on that Con and sulk, because it turned out not to be an ideal situation for selling an indie comic.

He was always upbeat and professional, which for him means sitting at successive chairs on stage at the panel and adopting separate personalities. He had a Kill Shakespeare pumpkin at his table which looked delicate as silk and expensive as gold. Naturally, Remy set to poking it immediately.

9) I made a few nice purchases, none at the Con itself. Strange Adventures was wise to load up on Sci-Fi comics and gadgets/toys - they could see what the Con had morphed into and planned accordingly. That Cal character is a shrewd cat. They sold four Dr. Who "sonic screwdrivers" for $40 a throw inside of a couple of hours.

At any rate, I scored a couple of nice Amory Wars books and very nice copy of X-Men: Blood of Apocalypse. You know you've got a real comic book shop when you're looking at the shelves and they demonstrate conscious planning about what's carried. You know you've got a bad ass comic shop when you see stuff like the Rocketeer Deluxe edition and a boxed set of EC War Comics on the shelves. If you live near a Strange, consider yourself very fortunate.

10) There are a lot of homeless people on the streets of Halifax providing varying degrees of entertainment. There's a particularly good character hanging outside the liquor store bellowing a continuous stream of friendly mush out of his mouth. Mike bought a poppy from the guy, who then invited him to engage in a fist bump.

On the way to the Con, we were continuously assaulted by a guy hawking Street Feat magazine, "the magazine of the poor". Given the quality of the sales pitch, one can understand how they got to poverty.

The best part of the trip was meeting the WMD crew, who took me into the fold immediately, like I'd been part of the family for years. I laughed my balls off that whole trip, and no matter what we were doing, (or not doing, as often the case was) it was always fun. And we only scratched the surface, really. On the way back, I was thinking to myself "DOH! I never asked about an Erin update, or stories about Dr. Mortula!"

Ah well, there's always next time...

- Ryan

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chronic Review: Superman Earth One!

Superman Earth One HC
DC Comics

Script: J. Michael Straczynski
Pencils: Shane Davis
136 pages for $19.99

This is an "Ultimate Superman" origin story, and a pretty darned good one. JMS has made no secret that tackling the Man of Steel has been a lifelong dream project for him, and if you weren't aware, he'll tell you himself in the "dedications" section at the front of the book.

In terms of plot, the action begins with a young (but adult) Clark Kent making an odyssey to Metropolis in order to carve out his own destiny. If you can do anything, be anything, how do you choose? Sometimes the only thing worse than being limited is to be forced to allocate an embarrassment of riches. When everything is available, it's difficult to choose from the list - and the opportunity costs are staggering. When one is capable of all, take the wrong path and what has the world lost?

Don't be alarmed, there is no intolerable emo whinging, or at least none that I could detect. But there is a sadness about him, and why wouldn't there be? He's alone in every meaningful way, and outing his true nature threatens to make him even more alone.

So the internal component is about how Clark will connect to the outside world, and how he finds a home at the Daily Planet with Lois, Jimmy, and Perry. The external component is a twist on his Kryptonian origins, and how trouble has followed him to his adopted home in the form of Tyrell.

He's a worthy adversary. Tyrell comes from a planet next door to Krypton. His technology and scientific knowledge are roughly equivalent to Krypton's, and the yellow sun bestows a similar power set.

Without ruining all of the plot points, it's Tyrell's job to wipe out all Kryptonians, and Clark is the last item to cross off the list. He's got a fleet behind him covering all of earth's major cities, and threatens to wipe out millions if Clark doesn't surrender to him. Hinjinx ensue!

Superman introduces himself to the world defending the planet from this global threat, getting by with a little help from his friends Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. And that supporting cast is one of the strongest elements of the book. Jimmy in particular stands out as a complete nut job who will dare anything for his shots. Perry White is the consummate (and hilarious) old pro desperately trying to stay afloat in a world trying very hard to pass him by. And Lois is every bit the driven career woman (which most writers get right) that you could absolutely fall for. (most writers fail miserably here)

As a modern reboot, Superman Earth one is precariously next to perfect. Straczynski can be proud of the fact that he's created a contemporary origin story that conveys every important truth about the character and his world in a way that makes perfect intuitive sense. When you're done with Superman Earth One, you've got a clear indication of the character's values, motivations, and abilities. The costume is explained, his decision not to wear a mask is covered, and it makes emotional sense that Clark would choose the Daily Planet as his home when the story is finished.

There are a few items I could nitpick. Could Martha really unravel those indestructible Kryptonian blankets and weave them into an outfit? Probably not. Does it make sense for Tyrell to announce to the world that he'll likely just kill a few million of them and then move on if Superman doesn't show up? I can't imagine it. Even if that was the plan, you wouldn't say that. You'd threaten to kill everybody.

Sandra Lee and company come to some very odd conclusions about Clark's decision to dismantle those drills at the end. How does it follow exactly that he expects another visit from these jerkwads because he shuts the equipment down? Occam's Razor says they were a threat, he shut down the threat, end of story. And much like his work over on the regular Superman title, much of the "messiah" talk out of Superman's mouth falls flat.

"I am blinded by the light that burns inside every one of you?" No, that just doesn't land for me. I give Straczynski credit for having the brass balls to try it, though. Trying to put iconic words into Superman's mouth is almost like trying to write a sequel to the Gospels. Not for the feint of heart. So it's not a deal-breaker that these lines don't really work for me.

It's possible that the colors on this book are too washed out, but then again, this isn't a glitzy four-color punch fest. I guess it fits. Shane Davis is able to communicate a lot of reserved pain in Clark's face as well. I like the art in this book, and I enjoyed the format as well. This is about six issues worth of story in a hardcover format, and that comes out to about $3.33 an issue if you were to be purchasing this in floppy form. Not a bargain for a TPB, but forgivable in HC form. Of course I got mine from DCB Service for something just over $2 and issue's worth, and that is a bargain.

Don't know if DC's plan is to release more of this, and if they do, whether it will be in more hardcovers or floppies. Whatever form it comes in, I think it's a buy because this is right in Straczynski's wheelhouse and he's producing really nice work on this project.

- Ryan