Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Fighting the good fight!


When you Zeta-Beam transport alone, you Zeta-Beam Transport with Katar! Join a Zeta-Sharing club today!

Support Science, fight for Rann!

Barbaric Hawk-men and Hawk-women have invaded our world and our homes. Rann needs you to stop them. Join Rann's military and help us clip their wings for good!

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Bloodlines: Rob Liefeld

I HATE Rob Liefeld.

I know, I know, that's a common sentiment. But, I don't hate him because it's vogue, I started hating Rob long before the Internet came about.

See, somewhere in my basement I have a complete set of Brigade, and several issues of Youngblood (including at least two "ALL NEW!" #1 issues). Granted, I picked many of them up for cheap, but I still paid money for them. Good money. And I even read them. I thought Youngblood was cool, even if I couldn't distinguish the characters from one another, even if, at 11, I could see the blatant similarities between Troll and Wolverine, or Badrock and the Thing, or Shaft and Hawkeye.

Then, see, I grew up. I realized how poor Rob's art was, and moreso, how poor his writing was. He draws pin-ups, and for that, he's not entirely terrible. What's terrible is when his art is meant to tell a story. It doesn't.

This is not to say that his art is good otherwise. He has no concept of anatomy (especially feet, hands, faces, and boobs) or backgrounds. Those faults might be forgivable in some people, but the further problem is that Rob doesn't care about his faults. He's so certain of his infallibility that he doesn't even use rulers to make sure his lines are straight. His style hasn't improved in the past ten years. If anything, it's gotten worse.

So, I've gone several years without having to deal with Robby, enjoying a little chuckle every time he solicited another new Youngblood series or another company of his went down the tubes. I was happy with that, with Rob kept at a fairly long distance from my pull list. Then, he got a two-issue gig on one of my top books, Teen Titans, with an otherwise good writer, Gail Simone. Naturally, the preview art is plagued with all the usual Liefeld problems. Like straight lines:
Robin

I could easily nitpick all the little problems of Liefeld's art, but I really don't care that much. Like I said, many of his faults could be accepted in better artists. Ed McGuinness is one of my favorite artists right now, but his characters are often overmuscled; sometimes people look squat and short. But, his style is cartoony and streamlined enough, and his characters are always at least in proportion to themselves, so you don't usually notice. Rob's art lacks internal consistency and a sense of proportion, which only serves to underscore the other flaws. A good artist works to overcome his flaws, and does things to take your attention away from them. Robby's art is like a neon sign over a train wreck. You can't help but see the flaws, and all his stylistic flairs bring out the problems even more.

Some people like his art because it's "dynamic" and "action-packed." Check out the preview pages at Newsarama and tell me how dynamic it is to show three full pages where the main action is "people looking at the reader."

You know how unsettling and unnatural it is to have an actor in a movie or TV show look directly at the camera? Comics can get away with that a lot more, but after awhile it is a little unsettling.

I've really waffled on whether or not I'm going to pick up these issues. I like Simone, I like Hawk and Dove, I like the Titans, and I've bought every issue of this series. Yet, the art is really, really grating on me. I wish DC didn't make me make these decisions.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Bloodlines: The Essential Justice League Primer (Part 2)

Key episodes from Batman: Gotham Knights or whatever you call the WB Batman series:
"Holiday Knights" - Introduces Batman's new costume and the Joker's new look.
"The Demon Within" - Introduces Etrigan/Jason Blood and Klarion the Witch Boy. All right, the latter hasn't appeared in JL(U) yet, but it's only a matter of time, right?
"Girls' Night Out" - Harley, Ivy, and Live Wire vs. Batgirl and Supergirl. It's team-up episodes like this (okay, team-up episodes better than this) that made JL possible.
"Beware the Creeper" - The Creeper, who keeps popping up in minor roles in JLU episodes, debuts.
"Mad Love" - Okay, Harley's not a vital character to JLU, but it's a good episode besides.

Key episodes from Superman:
"The Last Son of Krypton Parts 1-3" - Duh. Not only is this the origin movie of Superman, one of the Big Seven (or the Big One), but it's also our first look at Brainiac, Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, and Jor-El, all of whom make appearances in JL(U).
"Fun and Games" - Gives us the Toyman, Superman Revenge Squad member.
"The Way of All Flesh" - Introduces Metallo. See above.
"Feeding Time" - Rudy Jones becomes the Parasite, who seems far more dangerous in JLU's "Clash."
"Stolen Memories" - Introduces Brainiac, main baddie in "Twilight" and Static Shock's "A League of Their Own."
"Speed Demons" - The Flash becomes the third of the Big Seven to make his debut in the animated universe, and the Weather Wizard is introduced. He naturally goes on to menace the League in "Hereafter."
"Tools of the Trade" - Darkseid's first appearance.
"The Main Man Parts 1&2" - Related to JLU in a roundabout way, in that the intergalactic zoo is a part of the Fortress of Solitude (seen in "For the Man Who Has Everything") and leads to the plot in "The Call" in Batman Beyond, our first introduction to the JL(U).
"Ghost in the Machine" - The first appearance of the Brainiac/Luthor team.
"Apokolips, Now! Parts 1&2" - Our first real introduction into Darkseid and the world of Apokolips. Naturally, many of the New Gods appear.
"World's Finest Parts 1-3" - Batman and Superman team up against Lex Luthor and Brainiac. If anything directly led to Justice League's existence, it's this.
"The Hand of Fate" - Our paltry introduction to Leaguer Dr. Fate.
"Prototype" - JLU member Steel first appears.
"Little Girl Lost Parts 1&2" - Supergirl debuts.
"Knight Time" - Superman and Robin save Batman from Brainiac. Sentences like those are why I love these shows.
"In Brightest Day" - We meet our first Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner, boo-yah!) and Sinestro.
"A Fish Story" - Introduces the League's most useful and versatile member, Aquaman.
"The Demon Reborn" - Batman and Superman against Ra's al Ghul.
"Legacy Parts 1&2" - Arguably the best story of the entire series, fittingly the last. Superman kidnapped and brainwashed by Granny Goodness to believe that he is Darkseid's son. He leads the Apokoliptian invasion of Earth, fights the government, and eventually confronts Darkseid over the deception. Plotlines from this episode, from Superman's betrayal of Earth to Supergirl's injuries to Darkseid's violations, are referenced and followed in JL(U), very subtly in "Secret Origins" and more importantly in "Twilight" and the whole of the first two JLU seasons. Did I mention the episodes were fantastic?

Next time: Batman Beyond and Static Shock!

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Bloodlines: Law and Order: SCU

INT. CRIME SCENE, A COZY APARTMENT, WHERE A DARK-HAIRED WOMAN LIES PARTIALLY BURNED ON THE FLOOR. COPS ARE MILLING ABOUT, WHILE MEDICAL EXAMINER HORNER EXAMINES THE BODY CLOSELY. DETECTIVES HENSON AND GRABLER ENTER.

HENSON: What happened here?

HORNER: Cause of death appears to be the burning or smoke inhalation, but I'll have to do an autopsy to be sure.

GRABLER: What's the victim's name?

HORNER: Sue Dibny. Wife of the--

HENSON: --Elongated Man, I've heard of them. One of the few Justice League members with a public identity. Is that why you called the Special Crimes Unit?

HORNER: Well, that, and there's no sign of forced entry.

GRABLER: So the perp was someone she knew.

HORNER: Maybe, but any visitor would have registered on the security systems. There's more otherworldly tech in the intruder alarm than in S.T.A.R. Labs.

GRABLER: So someone got in, did this, and got out without tripping the alarms? How?

HENSON: Maybe a teleporter?

HORNER: Sounds like a good start. I'll let you know when I have more.

HORNER LEAVES.

HENSON (looking morosely at body): Ever seen anything like this?

GRABLER: Just once, back when I worked homicide in San Diego. A woman and her two kids shot to death in their own home, without tripping the Justice League alarm systems.

HENSON: Whose family?

GRABLER: Animal Man. The whole event ended up being retconned out of existence, but it was pretty horriffic when it actually had happened.

AN OFFICER RUSHES UP TO THE TWO DETECTIVES WITH PAPERS IN HIS HAND.

OFFICER: Are you the SCU detectives?

GRABLER: Yes...

OFFICER: Justice League report just came back on the victim, you may want to look at this.

HENSON (reading report): Says here that Dibny was raped several years ago by a...Dr. Light. The League apprehended him.

GRABLER: So maybe he came back to finish the job.

HENSON: Don't think so. Says here they altered his brain.

DOINK DOINK!

In the super-criminal justice system, sexually-based offenses are considered especially heinous when they happen to fairly minor, comic relief characters. In the DC universe, the dedicated fans who complain about these vicious felonies are members of an elitist squad known as the "Comics Should be Happy Escapism" Unit. "Identity Crisis" is not their story.

Okay, my Law and Order fandom is showing. But I'm a little bit tired of all the pissing and moaning over the "maturation" of comic books. Yes, comics should be escapism, but "escapism" doesn't have to be fluffy clouds and kittens and rainbows. There's as much escapism in the mature storytelling of Justice League Unlimited as there is in the cheery fluff of Krypto the Superdog (which is not to say that Krypto doesn't have good storytelling). Similarly, I find a lot of escapism in following the drama and intrigue and mystery of the rape/homicide stories of Law and Order: SVU, why wouldn't I find escapism in the drama and intrigue of the rape/homicide story of "Identity Crisis"?

Are comics getting darker? Maybe, but it's not a new thing. There was an attempted rape and an eerily similar murder in Grant Morrison's "Animal Man" run 15 years ago. Terra was engaging in a really creepy sexual relationship with the much-older Deathstroke back in the '80s Teen Titans. Catwoman's a former prostitute; the Joker bludgeoned Jason Todd with a crowbar; Superman executed three Kryptonian supervillains; Spider-Man's Uncle Ben...well, you know that one. Comics might be getting a little more explicit with their darkness, sure, but the darkness has always been there.

Not all comics should be explicit with that, and not all comics are. But I liked Identity Crisis and I like the Countdown books. I like Seven Soldiers and Runaways too, and I pick up back issues of Power Pack whenever I get the chance. It's a matter of taste, and I like having variety. I don't like people who act like they want to go back universally to "Biff! Pow!"-style superheroics.

More on this in the future.

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First Response: JLU, Comics released 6/22

JLU: I've watched "Panic in the Sky" and "Divided We Fall" in the last two days, and I can't imagine how JLU could possibly get better. After a season of references galore and a thick, overarching plotline, we're treated to what is essentially a four-part season finale (starting with "Question Authority" and "Flashpoint") that ties all the plot threads together into a story that goes all sorts of places that no one could have expected. I'd say more, and I will, but I'll just mention again how fantastic this show is.

Comics 6/22: Pretty sparse this week, which is good, considering how broke I am. I picked up Legion of Super-Heroes, Teen Titans, and House of M: Spider-Man.

LSH #7LSH: Good issue overall; I'm glad the villain from last issue's backup story showed up again, and even more glad that Brainy showed some forethought that we didn't see before. The art's great, as usual, and the plot is wonderfully unpredictable. Plus, zombies! Oh, and love the cover. I didn't notice at first, but it's a great homage to the first issue.

Teen Titans #25Teen Titans: Part three of "The Insiders," the crossover with Judd Winick's Outsiders. It's a strong chapter, finally finishing the explanation of the retcon of Superboy's origin that they did waaaay back in the first issue of this series. Good plot building, good fight scenes, and some confusing references to the "Return of Donna Troy" series, which is apparently so confusing that it rubs off on any book that references it.

House of M: Spider-Man #1House of M: Spider-Man: Uncle Ben is alive! Gwen and Captain Stacy are alive! Spidey's a wrestler! All this and Crusher Hogan! Okay, okay, so it's actually a surprisingly good issue. I'm not following the House of M miniseries, but I get the jist of it. There's some neat stuff about racism and fame, and it plays with the same twisting of allegiances that are common to "imaginary" stories. I'll be picking up this miniseries, even if I did drop House of M.

More to come!

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Bloodlines: The Essential Justice League Primer (Part 1)

Let's say you're a fan of the animated Justice League. You've seen everything from "Secret Origins Part 1" to "Divided We Fall" (or, if you're stateside and don't have access to YTV's episodes, "Hunter's Moon," which aired after "Clash," inexplicably). Think you know it all?

Well, you don't. Justice League's been building for awhile now, and here's what I'd consider a pretty comprehensive list of necessary viewing: origins, backstories, team-ups, first appearances, etc. This definitely isn't the "minimum required viewing," since the Justice League series is self-explanatory enough that you can just dive right in; no, this is more like the extended family of JL. These are the main (and not-so-main) ingredients that went into the JL series. Part 1 in an ongoing series.

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm: The only DCU animated feature to get a theatrical release, MotP still stands head and shoulders above anything Tim Burton or Joel Schumacher had a hand in. More importantly, this tells the origin of Batman, one of the Big Seven (even if he is only a part-time member).

Key episodes from Batman: The Animated Series:
"On Leather Wings" - The first DCU animated episode. Not much to do with the League other than introducing Batman, but I think that makes it necessary enough.
"Christmas With the Joker" - Arguably the first Joker episode (airdates suggest that "Joker's Favor" was first), and he's naturally a big player in several JL episodes.
"Joker's Favor" - A much, much better episode, and it introduces Harley Quinn to the world. She plays a part in "Wild Cards."
"The Clock King" - Naturally introduces the titular character, who becomes a member of Task Force X.
"Feat of Clay Parts 1&2" - Besides being fantastic episodes, these introduce Clayface, future member of Gorilla Grodd's "Secret Society."
"Moon of the Wolf" - Introduces Professor Milo, who has a minor role in "The Doomsday Sanction."
"Zatanna" - Though she doesn't demonstrate any real magical prowess here, Zatanna goes on to wave a wand and klat sdrawkcab in JLU episodes like "This Little Piggy." It's also important to note that Zatanna's the first non-Bat-family DCU hero to debut in the animated universe.
"Showdown" - We learn a bit about Ra's al Ghul's past, including his experience with a time-traveling lawman by the name of Jonah Hex, who would go on to appear in "The Once and Future Thing Part 1: Weird Western Tales." Or, actually, had already appeared in that, since he's clearly older in "Showdown" than in "WWT." Sigh...time travel's a pain in the butt.

Next: Gotham Knights and Batman Beyond!

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Secret Origins...

And the doors of the Fortress of Soliloquy (better name pending) open wide for all to see. That's right, none of that "gigantic golden key that could only be lifted by someone with the strength of a hundred men" nonsense; this ain't some crystalline arctic hideaway. This is a nice outlet for my desire to make a bigger, better review site than most of the others out there.

Okay, that's not quite true. But, here's the process that led to this site's creation.

I spend a lot of time on comic-related review sites. The Superman Homepage, The Fourth Rail, and so on. Some are arse-kissing pandering fanboy dreck (*cough*TheComicFanatic*cough*). Others are really good--the comic reviews on the aforementioned SH are top-notch, and while I don't always agree with Randy Lander, The Fourth Rail is beyond compare.

So, why this blog?

Because there aren't enough places that do both comics and other comic-related media (i.e., TV shows, movies, etc.). Because, fantastic though the Superman Homepage may be, their Justice League episode reviews are (understandably) biased toward episodes featuring Superman-related characters, and (less understandably) frequently miss the point. Because I'm tired of the backlash against "more mature" comics. Because I'm an opinionated loudmouth and I want to get it out of my system. That all seems about right.

So, here's the format I'd like to have. How this works in reality will be apparent soon. But, each week I'd like to have:
"First Response" - A feature including my initial reactions to the week's comics, JLU episodes, news, etc.
"Monitor Duty" - Reviews of DCU animated episodes, both new releases and classic episodes from "Batman: The Animated Series," "Superman," "Batman Beyond," "Justice League/Unlimited," and even the occasional "Static Shock" and "Teen Titans." Also, any other media adaptations of comic-related stuff, from "Smallville" to "Batman Begins."
"Panopticomic" - Weeklyish comic reviews, covering the new releases and the occasional TPB/Graphic Novel.
"It Came from the Long Boxes!" - Reviews of issues and arcs from my collection and other comics that can't be reasonably considered "new."
"Bloodlines" - Random musing that no one cares about. Kind of like the "Bloodlines" crossover and the resulting characters. Anyone seen Argus lately? Gunfire? Anima? Didn't think so.

So it begins.

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