"Two in the mornin' and the party's still jumpin'
'Cause my mama ain't home."
--Snoop Dogg, Gin and Juice
Early rappers are so cool that living with their parents doesn't make them less cool.
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Friday, October 28, 2005
I fear the ramifications of Infinite Crisis.
No, no, not the dispelled rumor that Wally West will die, not the prospect of someone else in the Batsuit, something far more sinister.
I fear the new architects of the DCU.
Grant Morrison and Mark Waid have been given new, cushy jobs as various types of universe editor people for the DCU. Morrison and Waid, along with Mark Millar and Tom Peyer (I believe) were behind a proposed revamp of Superman. Now, it's been awhile since I read about this, but if I remember right, the idea was that everyone but Superman would forget the last several years of Superman continuity. So, Superman would remember being married to Lois Lane, dying, and all that, but no one else would.
Raise your hand if that's the dumbest freaking idea you've ever heard.
Thank you. You can put your hands down now.
Not only would that be overly complicated, but it'd make Superman depressed and moody, having to bear the cross of his forgotten life. I don't see how that Superman could achieve the sort of "mix of the best of Superman's various eras" that they were hoping for.
Furthermore, Waid's a real hit-or-miss writer, but I get the impression that he's constantly convinced that he's the best there is at what he does. As evidenced by his refusal to compromise with Alex Ross on "Kingdom." Ross's ideas for the series, a prequel to "Kingdom Come" that would explore the lead-up to the big superhero war, were cool. Waid's ideas for "Kingdom," a sequel to "Kingdom Come" where Wonder Woman and Superman's child who can control Hypertime would be the focus of some weird reality-spanning slugfest, weren't so cool. In fact, the miniseries really kind of sucked. The only good thing to come out of it was Hypertime, which has been used well twice since its introduction ("The Flash" and "Superboy"). And yet, the prologue and epilogue from "Kingdom" really set the stage for the revelation at the end of "Infinite Crisis" #1.
Where was I? Oh, right, so one of my big fears is that Waid's awful, awful, awful "Superman: Birthright" will become the official Superman origin across the board. I mean, supposedly this is already the case, but absolutely no one knows why or how it's supposed to fit with established continuity, so it really hasn't had any impact on the stories, except that they draw Kryptonians weird now and Superman sometimes can see people's souls. Shudder.
My other fear is not nearly so great, and primarily has to do with the famous Morrison revamps. Sure, he revitalized Animal Man and the Justice League with his irreverent ideas and weird spins on things, but "Seven Soldiers" has been a showcase of weird Morrison revamps. I'm not saying that's bad, I'm just wary of a universe populated by characters that only Morrison understands. "Guardian" was good, but I kind of miss Cadmus and the related characters, who never got a decent resolution after the last staff change on "Superboy." If all the "second-stringers" and "also-rans" get a Morrison treatment, sure they'll be cool, but I can't imagine too many people knowing what to do with all of them. Notice how often Zauriel has appeared since Morrison left JLA, or how horribly Harras handles the Key. Anyone can write the adventures of an impish witch-boy with a pet cat who likes to cause trouble. Not everyone can write a young boy from an underground Puritan society with ill-defined mystical powers and a strange code of morals and conduct. I don't think Morrison should dumb down his comics or characters, I just don't want to see every DC character revamped by Grant unless Grant ends up writing all of them.
So Infinite Crisis has me a little on-edge. I hope for the best, a universe where we can all quietly forget that "Birthright" ever happened and go on with our lives with Kirby and Morrison characters living side by side, but I fear the worst. And oh god, the worst is bad.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Today, however, we must rely on capsules. I didn't buy much this week, and I'm still way behind on just about everything. Also, Solo #7 was sold out (curses! Foiled again!), so I have to wait for that 'til next week. Here there be spoilers!
JLA #121: I know Morrison is a tough act to follow, but Mark Waid and Joe Kelly did well with it. Morrison showed the JLA as a cosmic pantheon of iconic hero-gods; Waid gave us a JLA with one foot in Silver Age-style superheroics, the other in grounded human personalities and flaws. Joe Kelly gave us a League that was equally important as a political force as they were a heroic one.
Then, by all appearances, DC gave up. "We'll never meet that level of quality again, might as well not even pretend to try." So we got Chris Claremont's plodding, convoluted, boring-as-hell prelude to Byrne's "Doom Patrol." We got Austen's moody, equally boring navel-gazing, as seasoned heroes fell all over themselves like first-year rookies when confronted with death. I don't think a single character acted in-character for that arc. Certainly not Martian Manhunter, anyway. Johns' arc was good, and Kelly's #100 was all right, but didn't match up to most of his other work on the title. What is with DC continuously sabotaging what ought to be one of their flagship titles?
Anyway, I didn't see why people didn't like the last issue. I thought it was a little lame, but not too bad. This, on the other hand, was awful. Leaguers throwing fits and showing off like little kids, Dawn having another "gasp!--revelation!" and Aquaman rebuilding the JLA computer system.
Red Tornado? Sure. Steel? No problem. Snapper Carr? Why not? But Aquaman? I mean, he's a smart guy, but he's not one of the League's many resident techies. Anyway, a general C- or worse for this issue. I really hope the One Year Gap improves JLA, because something should.
JSA: Classified #4: On the other hand, JSA: Classified is such a fantastic book that I really hate to see that it's the last issue for Johns and Conner. Damn, this was a fun arc, and a beautifully-rendered one at that. I would totally buy a Power Girl ongoing if Conner was on the art duties. Or a Superman ongoing. Come on, DC, give the woman something big to work with!
There's a boob joke in there someplace.
Legion of Super-Heroes #11: I can't wait to see the resolution for this, mainly because I want to see Brainiac 5 outsmart death. Flash outran death (twice), why can't Brainy out-think it? Also, I think I see how Lemnos is going to ultimately be defeated: he'll go to Dormir, where people eventually become the ideas they embody, and he will become the embodiment of lost memory and will cease to exist. Just you watch.
JLA: Classified #11-12: Super-decompressed writing, but awesome characterization (though Martian Manhunter seems a bit too hostile). Perfect dialogue between Lois and Clark, but inconsistent art. Great splash pages, but crappy covers. It seems like, for every awesome thing this story arc has done, they've tried to balance it out with a crappy thing. Butch Guice was involved with the art duties on Action Comics for years after I started reading that series, and he was my least favorite of the four Superman artists the entire time. Sometimes his stuff looks great, like that splash page of Superman flying between the buildings, but sometimes it looks terrible; characters look too old, everything gets bogged down in sketchy inks...I just wish he could be more consistent. Overall, this book's decent. Not really worth the $3.00 cover price, especially with the expanded pacing, but the dialogue really makes up for most of the other problems.
Too bad this couldn't be the regular JLA book.
Fables #42: I really like Fables, but I have two problems with it. First, I can't usually remember what has happened from one month to another. The second is a consequence of this: it reads much better in chunks than in single issues. This usually isn't a problem, since I'll often kind of forget about it and leave it in my bag and buy six or seven issues all at once, but when I do buy an issue monthly, I end up feeling like there should be more. This really isn't a complaint about the series, since it's top-notch in every facet, I just don't know why it's like teflon to my brain.
Marvel Monsters: Fin Fang Four and Devil Dinosaur: I picked up "Where Monsters Dwell," too, but haven't read past the first story yet. Both of these are just as good as everyone says they are, though I preferred Fin Fang Four, since I'm more of a Fantastic Four fan than a Hulk fan. Great art on both counts, and plenty of good humor, though the best part about FF4 was when Sue asked if she should turn invisible, for no apparent reason. You never realize how useless Sue was before the invisible force fields, until you read early Fantastic Four comics. Or see that awful, awful movie.
Teen Titans #28: Ha! Not a chance. Maybe if it were free. Or less.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Apparently, the Comics Blogosphere is dead. Damn if I don't hate it when a show gets cancelled right after I start watching.
So, I doused the Blogosphere in bio-restorative formula and set it on fire, then wrapped it in Nth Metal and took it to the Pet Cemetary in Slaughter Swamp, where I prayed to Rama Kushna and Khonshu, and I think I've finally achieved some success. Meet the new, undead Comics Blogosphere! Sure, it smells, it lumbers, and it craves brains, but it's just as fun as the old blogosphere, but with twice the popularity! Welcome, Zombie Blogosphere, may your meals of flesh be tasty and tender!
"The Blogosphere has died, but a mysterious new entity, the Blogohedron, has taken its place. Now it is up to the dark Blogohedron to uncover the mystery behind the Blogosphere's death! But who is the brutal Blogohedron, and what is his connection to the Blogosphere? The answer might surprise you!"
Monday, October 24, 2005
“Infinite Crisis is here!”
At least, the review for it is (and it's a doozy!). I'll be discussing Countdown to Infinite Crisis, The OMAC Project, Day of Judgment, Villains United, Rann-Thanagar War, the last two parts of Sacrifice (you know, the relevant parts), and JLA #115-119, better known as Crisis of Conscience. Here there be spoilers, so read on at your own risk.
Let me start by saying that I've enjoyed the series so far, for the most part. It's certainly not the best group of comic stories ever, but it's pretty damn good (with the exception of Rann-Thanagar War, but we'll get to that).
Countdown to Infinite Crisis was a decent mystery, but was too mechanical in parts. The scenes with the Day of Judgment and Rann-Thanagar War introductions seemed shoehorned into a story that was primarily about Beetle's quest. There were too many moments of plot-necessitated characterization, particularly when Martian Manhunter brushed off Beetle's concerns. Other than that, though, it's a pretty book that nicely sets up OMAC, and plays with your preconceptions of who's behind it all. It also examines the major ongoing themes that tie the Countdown miniseries together.
Day of Judgment is chock full of contradictions. The most powerful cast members are the most impotent against the Spectre's quest against magic. The most jaded characters display the most optimism and hope. The youngest character is also shown to be one of the most powerful, but that power turns out to be in vain. The Spectre, divine agent of an all-knowing God, does not see either that Eclipso is tricking him, or that his attacks against magic will only lead to magic having greater chaos. Characters who have never ventured past the fringes of traditional cape-and-spandex superheroics offer the most traditional superhero story of the four miniseries. DoJ follows a ragtag group of misfits who team up against insurmountable odds, with little regard for their own safety, to save the universe. That's the heart of superheroics. I really hope the Shadowpact gets an ongoing series, because this is the most fun I've had reading comics in quite some time. Humor, misunderstood romance, intrigue, action, and a talking chimpanzee. You can't beat that.
Oh, there's one more contradiction: the miniseries I looked forward to the least turned out to be the best.
Villains United, despite having little to do with any superheroes, told another fairly traditional superhero story. The Six were underdogs, like the Shadowpact, fighting against the unbeatable Society. Naturally, they weren't real heroic...the Six were plagued with infighting and betrayal, but ultimately had deep bonds of loyalty between one another, particularly when you deny Cheshire's place among the Six, and accept the "Secret" sixth member, Knockout. I really underestimated Simone...I figured Knockout's presence among the Society was the result of editorial oversight or unfamiliarity with the character, since Knockout was never really evil. Way to exceed my expectations, Ms. Simone. Kudos.Meanwhile, we discover that Lex Luthor is behind the Six, while the self-described "other Luthor" (with blue eyes, as opposed to regular Luthor's green ones) led the Society. I'll have more on the "Crisis on Infinite Luthors" later in the week, but I like that Simone pulled one last switch on everyone. I mean, throughout the series, it looked like Luthor was going to turn out to be Mockingbird. Simone clearly wanted us to think that Mockingbird was actually Scandal, as she seemed to have the most direct connection with Mockingbird. It seemed like Simone was blatantly misdirecting us, while not-so-subtle hints were dropped to suggest Luthor was leading both teams. When the solicitations hit, we all assumed that Mockingbird would be Luthor, and once you saw the cover on the shelves, that was confirmed. Simone once again managed to surprise me after I thought I had it all figured out to be a cliché or sloppy writing, and gave us two Luthors. I guess I should remember that, just because Jeph Loeb can't write a good mystery, doesn't mean all comic writers are so impaired. Villains United makes me want a new Suicide Squad, if only because Catman and Deadshot are such fantastic characters. A villain with a conscience and a villain who wants to be Batman? Come on, that's fantastic. And the last scene, with Catman sucker-punching Green Arrow, because Catman's the one with the moral high ground? Classic.
Eaglesham's art was fantastic, and I wish he'd gotten to do all of the issues. Hopefully his newly exclusive status will mean more awesome mainstream DCU work from Dale.
Oh, and Villains United made my English Major self ashamed of me. I only realized the significance of Catman's last name, Blake, after reading the miniseries this second time.
The OMAC Project was a decent mystery and, at the very least, an above-average story. People complain that a key event, Max Lord's death, took place outside of the miniseries, in Sacrifice, but that's bull. You don't need to know the lead-up to Lord's death, and all the relevant information for the rest of The OMAC Project was contained in the first few pages of OMAC #4. OMAC wasn't about Superman and Wonder Woman, it wasn't even about Max Lord. It was about Batman, Sasha Bordeaux, and Brother Eye. Max's real purpose in the story was to die and usher in Brother Eye's autonomy and the birth of Blacknight One. It was about what Batman's omnipresent paranoia has done to the Bat-family, and by consequence, the world as a whole.
OMAC had the sort of intrigue and action that I expect from Rucka, and his love for Sasha Bordeaux really seems to border on unhealthy. Still, he has clearly established her, and by proxy, reestablished Checkmate, as vitally important players in the DCU. Her post-OMACization appearance leaves quite a bit to be desired...it's too generic, and the eye thing works better as a symbol than it does as an actual eye. She looks like Platinum, from the Metal Men, with pink-eye and a wig.
The OMAC designs were well-done, evoking Kirby while also looking menacing and inhuman.
Sidenote: how many things did OMAC stand for? "One Man Army Corps," "Observational Metahuman Activity Construct," "Omni Mind And Community"...sure is a versatile acronym.
The series really opened the door to any number of new series, from solo titles for Sasha and Booster Gold (with Fire, naturally), to a book featuring the rebuilt, restructured Checkmate, to a "different side of the tracks" look at the OMACs' quest to eliminate metahumans. I'd buy that in a heartbeat, methinks. Not bad by any means, though it didn't end up being my favorite of the titles.
Crisis of Conscience was the best JLA story in that title since Joe Kelly's run ended. That isn't saying a whole lot, after all, the competition is angsty Chuck Austen garbage, dated Chris Claremont/John Byrne spinoff-pimping, and overly complicated crossover repercussions from Busiek. Even so, it ended up being a good follow-up to Identity Crisis, and it really showed us just how splintered and compromised the League is these days.
It also gave both the heroes and villains a chance to shine. Superman saving Lois, the Flash joking even in the face of the SSoV and the League's internal problems, Aquaman kicking ass and taking names, and Despero being the supervillain he deserves to be. Oh, and freaking awesome appearances by Catwoman and the Red freakin' Tornado! Besides delving into the murky moral darkness of Identity Crisis, it gave us a kickass "primary colors" superhero battle, and I couldn't ask for much more.
Rann-Thanagar War. You know, I love Adam Strange, and I really enjoyed the recent miniseries featuring the character. I love Kyle Rayner, I like Captain Comet, I like Starman, and I'm a fan of the Hawk-people. I love epic space adventures, and Adam Strange made me interested enough in the Omega Men to pick up some back issues of their series.
Yet Rann-Thanagar War was intensely boring. Sure, there were big space battles and betrayals and political struggles and murderous gods, but the sheer volume of characters and locations and events made for a muddled read.
Some of the storytelling choices, too, were suspect. It really stood out to me when Captain Comet talked about how he sent Shayera's body into Polaris, in accordance with Thanagarian customs. Rather than spend a page talking about what they did with Shayera's body, I would have greatly preferred a solemn splash page where they actually committed her body to the heart of the star. "Show, don't tell" is typically the cardinal rule of literature. Unfortunately, there was a lot of telling in Rann-Thanagar, and we sure could have used a scorecard to tell who was where at what time and on what side. I couldn't tell you who the Okaarans were fighting with as opposed to the Durlans, and a dozen other worlds were involved. I really wanted to like this story, but it was a twelve-issue maxiseries, cut up and randomly assembled into a six-issue miniseries.
Then, there's Infinite Crisis, which is a little too early to judge. I wish we could have seen more of the new Freedom Fighters before they were dispatched. The Ray and Damage survived, and Uncle Sam...the man is a symbol of the spirit of the United States. It's no accident that his "lying in the gutter" scene was juxtaposed with the scene of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman's falling out. Sam was defeated because these symbols of the American spirit are divided between shining optimism, militaristic pragmatism, and paranoid isolationism. The scene with Mongul is intentionally evocative of "For the Man who has Everything," a story where Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman were at the height of their friendship, and Superman was driven almost to kill, but refused to do so. Here, we see it play out differently, with the fractured group not only failing to defeat Mongul, but Superman has to stop Wonder Woman from killing Mongul, rather than stopping himself.
Let's all go to the lobby, let's all go to the lobby...
Overall: There are a few overarching themes at play throughout the various stories. The foremost of these is, as I believe Geoff Johns has said, "what it means to be a hero." Blue Beetle starts off the theme, acting even when all his friends have snubbed him, even stripped of his fortune and disrespected by the superhero community. He had several opportunities and reasons to give up the hunt, but he went through with it, staying true to his heroic nature even up to the end, even when he could have traded his integrity for his continued life. We see the Shadowpact and Captain Marvel making the same choices throughout Day of Judgment. They have little reason to be fighting the Spectre on behalf of the magic community, and they certainly don't have the ability or name power or experience to back up their gumption. Sasha Bordeaux doesn't act like much of a hero until after she is tragically altered into Blacknight One, and she finally stops following Max's destructive plan. Rann-Thanagar War shows us that heroes do not owe allegiance to one world over another, but to the universe, to the greater good. Even Villains United showed us that true heroes stick together and fight 'til the end, even when those heroes are villains. We see that heroes aren't necessarily the big seven, in their capes and tights and insignias. Heroes abound in the DCU. Catman struck Green Arrow for two major reasons: one, because Ollie had betrayed Catman's respect of him by involving himself in a group that would engage in such underhanded tactics, and two, because both of them are Batman-based characters. Ollie left the Batman model behind years back, while Catman has only now begun approaching it again, but Ollie betrayed their ideological progenitor. Ollie and Thomas are very similar people, when it comes right down to it, and Thomas felt betrayed when Ollie allowed that line to be crossed.
And that leads to the second theme, the one that I think will have the most effect on the DCU as a whole: there are no "strings." Booster Gold and Blue Beetle talk about their status low on the superhero ladder, Lex Luthor mulls over being turned down by a D-list villain like Catman, a bunch of nobodies take on the Spectre...we see throughout these stories that the caste system, which even the heroes and villains have accepted, is artificial and unrealistic. The writers here seem to be saying that every hero and villain is worthwhile, no matter their background or abilities. The Calculator--the freakin' Calculator!--has become one of the most feared, powerful villains in the world! Infinite Crisis has been about the triumph of the underdog and the importance of the "second-" and "third-stringers."
Of course, to have an underdog, you have to have some insurmountable obstacle. In this case the demon is in the corruption of absolute power and good intentions. Brother Eye was designed by Batman to watch the watchmen, to keep tabs on the metahumans in case someone went rogue. The Spectre's quest against magic started because he hoped to wipe out evil and end the need for his existence. The Rann-Thanagar war was escalated by the Rannians harboring Thanagarian refugees. The splintering of the Justice League and the revenge of Despero and the Secret Society were due to the League's hope to protect their loved ones. Even Luthor's Society was supposedly to unite villains so that they would not be victims of the League's mind-alterations. Powerful forces in the DCU put their power to work for a greater good, yet these attempts are corrupted by outside forces, or by internal difficulties.
I think the Golden Age Superman and his friends there in their paradise see a DCU that, as a whole, has become darker and more pessimistic. This corruption is not just due to the forces at work in the various groups, but to an apparent quality of the universe (hearkening back to JLA: Earth 2, where they said that good always triumphed in our universe). The best of intentions have been turned toward dark purposes, and Superman wants to change that.
My predictions? None of these are right, I'm sure, since I'm not Devon Who Erreth Not, but I might luck out.
Speaking of Professor Stein, he's the alien entity that Jason encountered in one of the recent Firestorm issues. Either that, or it's his successor as Fire Elemental.
Didn't Wally West mention at some point recently that he never met the Tornado Twins? I imagine that his twins will have some greater connection to them than they already have through the family line.
More to come. Damn, that was a long post.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
I love Power Pack.
Like many others, I first encountered the Power family as a kid, in that infamous free "Spider-Man and Power Pack" PSA comic about molestation. I'm not sure where it went from there...I was more than a little convinced at the time that they'd created the Pack solely for that comic. But, some time later, I came across a few scattered back issues, which spawned a background obsession that has plagued me for years.
See, I've had an affinity for young superheroes ever since I can remember. My favorite book series in my younger years was (and almost certainly still is) Animorphs, which will undoubtedly get mentioned again on this blog in the future. My tastes have changed a lot over the years, but I think I'll always be a sucker for the young, brash, naïve, idealistic heroes, and the noble, determined, pure, leader heroes. Naturally, Power Pack falls into the first category.
So, for the last several years, whenever I've had some extra money to blow and I've been in a comic shop with a decent selection, I've picked through the Power Pack issues and added a couple to my collection. It's not complete, but it's getting fairly close, especially since I don't really actively seek out issues.
Naturally, then, I've jumped on both of the more recent Power Pack revivals. The one from a few years back, a 4-issue miniseries with Colleen Doran, was fairly decent and tried admirably to bring the Pack into the modern era by aging the kids a little, updating their costumes, and making several references to their rather long history.
I liked that Julie Power is in Excelcior (in the pages of Runaways), though I think that she's playing up the "celebrity" part of being a superhero quite a bit. The Powers got to hang out with a lot of the big guns, but were never really well-known in the Marvel U.
The newest revival, Marc Sumerak's version, has been a mixed bag. On one hand, I really enjoy the way Sumerak can tell fun, interesting stories with simple plotlines, and that each issue is entirely self-contained. It's got good characterization with the kids, and the sibling rivalries are believable. On the other hand, Sumerak employs what is easily the sketchiest continuity I've seen since "Superman: Birthright" ended. I'm not asking that "Power Pack," which is clearly intended to be a fun book, accessible to a younger set that doesn't know the Marvel Universe inside and out, be steeped in decades of continuity the way "Runaways" and "She-Hulk" are, but I would like a little indication that this book is either completely separate from the regular continuity, or takes place sometime in the past, when Power Pack were kids, had their original (and, incidentally, final) power sets, and weren't jaded teenagers and former New Warriors.
F'r instance, Wolverine made an appearance in this week's "X-Men and Power Pack," wearing the costume that he first started wearing in "Astonishing X-Men." Now, he's worn the same damn costume for ever, except for that ugly brown thing that he wore while Jim Lee was around. If he had worn that costume in this issue, then one could easily slip it anywhere into Marvel's long history with relative ease. But, sticking in a modern X-Man ties the story to modern continuity, which really makes anyone who would like to know where this new Pack fits in, a little confused. It'd be difficult to have a 12-year-old Julie Power running around in a universe that also contains her late-teen/young adult self.
If I wanted to be nitpicky, I'd talk about the needless character addition (throughout the original series, Alex had a crush on a girl named Allison. The only difference I can really tell between her and Caitlin, the object of Alex's desire under Sumerak, is that Allison's hair was brown, and her name was spelled in a variety of ways), or I'd mention that I don't think Katie has disintegrated anything at all in the entire run (she operates like a battery: she disintegrates objects, absorbing their energy, which she can then release as blasts of power), but has frequently used her abilities. But I won't be nitpicky.
Besides that, while these comics are fun, the original Power Pack wasn't just a superpowered Nickelodeon sitcom. I first read about them discussing sexual abuse, but within the regular book they tackled some heavy issues. Gun violence in schools, anti-Mutant bigotry, pollution, child abuse, and Galactus come to mind immediately. "Power Pack" always walked a steady line between fun superhero romps, cotton candy kiddie fare, and realistic sociopolitical commentary. So far, Sumerak has stayed firmly in the "cotton candy kiddie fare/superhero romp" segment.
Now, I don't mean to say that it's not fun; the stories have been a lighthearted blast. But I do miss the depth that was omnipresent in the original series. Cotton candy tastes good, but it doesn't have much substance. The "four-issue miniseries" format that has prevailed for the latest incarnations, coupled with whatever mandate or desire dictated single-issue stories (a fine move, as we need more of those), has cut into the ability to form intricate plots or overarching themes a little, but JLU managed to turn two seasons of single episodes into a single story, there's no reason that "Power Pack" can't have a common thematic element to tie the books together.
I hope Sumerak gets an ongoing series, mainly because "Power Pack" in any form is nice to have. But, I do hope that they'll take a more serious approach to the storytelling if that happens, or at least an approach that shows a better connection with the Marvel Universe as a whole.
"Power Pack" is a fantastic concept with limitless potential. The Power kids fit as naturally in sci-fi space opera as they do in traditional superhero antics or fantasy worlds or the dangerous streets of Marvel's New York City. There's no reason that this new Pack can't tell stories like that and still be accessible to anyone who picks it up.
No-Prize Time: Okay, having gone back and done a little research at The Unofficial Power Pack Site, which hasn't been updated since I last looked at it several years ago, I feel safe in trying to come up with a Pack timeline, fitting this new series in as best as I can (which isn't very well). Um...unless you're a Pack fan, you're not probably going to get much out of this, so you might as well go check out some of the more entertaining parts of the blog, or leave some comments.
1. Alex (12), Julie (10), Jack (8), and Katie (5) get their powers from an alien.
2. The original "Power Pack" series takes place here. A bunch of stuff goes down, powers get switched around, Alex is eventually turned into a horse, etc., but it's all back to normal by the last issue of the series, a Holiday Special.
3. This new series takes place. The evidence for this is that the Powers all have their original powers (they switched twice over the course of the series), which was the status quo at the original series's end. It can't be before the first power switch, because Katie is entering the third grade in the first of Sumerak's issues, which makes her probably 8 years old (leaving Alex 15, Julie 13, and Jack 11, roughly), placing them older than when the first change occurred. After that, they didn't get back to their original power scheme until the series was over, so this has to be after that. Also, this clears up any problems with Allison, since she was with a different guy at the end.
4. Alex joins the New Warriors as Powerhouse.
5. The Colleen Doran miniseries takes place here. The Powers are older in this one, and have their regular powers back. They've also moved to a new area, meaning plenty of new drama.
6. Julie joins Excelsior, having grown up a bit more and left her "jaded" childhood behind. This brings us to the present day.
The difficulties with this are, as mentioned before, Sumerak's sketchy continuity when it comes to the X-Men's appearances, and the fact that the Power parents knew, by the end of the original series, that their kids were superheroes. The kids have taken such strides to hide their secret lives from their parents in the new series that it seems like they aren't supposed to know.
It's possible, given the Doran miniseries' portrayal of Katie as gifted for her age, that she's younger than the usual 3rd Grader, which could possibly place this series back before #25 of the original, where the first power switch occurred. But, I don't have my older "Power Pack" comics here with me at school, so I can't say if that contradicts anything. Even so, that's allowing for a huge amount of time between issues 1 and 25, and it only compounds the already blatant problems with the X-Men.
If Sumerak's series continues, I would like to see the Fantastic Four show up. Papa Power was good friends with Reed Richards, and Franklin was a semi-official member of the group.
What's that? You're actually still reading this? You must be a bigger geek than I gave you credit for.
Friday, October 21, 2005
Just a quick post for the moment...got a couple of longer ones coming very soon (wish comics.org were working so I could get some pictures).
So, without further ado, The Top 5 Superhero Games of All Time (that I've played, anyway).
5. Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu
Sin Tzu has the top-notch voice actors from the WB season of Batman:TAS, a decent plot, and some of the less-used rogues like Clayface and the Scarecrow. The animation is done with some clean-looking cel shading, and you can choose to play as Batman, Nightwing, Robin, or Batgirl, which rocks. Unfortunately, it's a bit repetitive, following the same basic model as the awesome Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game. It's fun, it's challenging, but it's a little on the sparse side when it comes to depth.
4. Spider-Man (Movie)
I've been told that the second game is better, since there's more places to go, more enemies to fight, and since it imports the "random crimes" that Activision had in "True Crime: Streets of LA." Unfortunately, I've not played that game, but the first movie game was pretty dang good. The interface was intuitive and fluid, really immersing you in the Spider-Man lifestyle. It was a bit short, and the Goblin was kind of a big leap in difficulty from any of the rest of the bosses, but otherwise it was good.
3. Batman: Vengeance
A fantastic game all around, with puzzle solving, combat, and the animated series voice actors. "Sin Tzu" was technically the sequel to this game, but lacked many of the elements that made "Vengeance" so unique, like having to cuff thugs to keep them down, the puzzles, and the more interesting plot. The next Batman animated game would do well to blend the two, incorporating the depth of this game with the progressive combat system and character selection of "Sin Tzu."
2. Superman: Shadow of Apokolips
I've often called this the best superhero game ever, but it's recently been unseated. There are problems (Superman should be quicker, for instance, and some of the battles are repetitive and drag a bit), but it combines cel-shaded animation in the Animated DCU style with a variety of game objectives, incorporating all of Superman's powers in a fairly seamless fashion. Hopefully they'll make another game in this style, one that has more to interact with, side missions, and better use of the vision powers (particularly X-Ray vision, which was mostly useless).
1. Ultimate Spider-Man
I only started playing this today, and it's already fantastic. Fast-paced, fairly intuitive, and it brings back an element to Spider-Man gaming that I haven't seen done well since "Maximum Carnage"--you can play as Venom. Add to that cameos galore, and a script and animation style that evokes the feel of the comic series, and you've got the makings of a fine game. There are a few problems; the cutscenes look like they'd fit in better on the PSOne and I don't like having a separate button for sticking to walls, but otherwise this improves on every previous Spider-Man game so far, and given the overall quality of the Spidey games, that's saying something.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Batman #646: Made me miss Mahnke. Decent story, though it felt too damn light.
Firestorm #18: Haven't yet read it, realized I really have no desire to. Can we get to the "omigod, changes!" issue now?
Green Lantern Corps: Recharge #2: Fantastic, and good-looking to boot. Can't wait for the ongoing.
Justice #2: Decent, thick, very pretty, but it has me wondering if Alex Ross can pull off a story as complicated as this one seems to be getting.
Marvel Knights 4 #23: Not nearly as fun as I'd anticipated. Really lame, actually.
Runaways #9: Fun. Isn't Cloak's cloak supposed to be dark blue? That bothered me a bit. Great reference to C&D's origin, and some great moments throughout. Vaughan doesn't disappoint.
Seven Soldiers: Klarion #4: Slightly confusing, hopefully less so when I read it a second time. Very pretty.
Spider-Man: House of M #4: I'm buying this, but not HoM or any of the "The Other" tie-ins. What does that say? Pretty good, still wondering where it's going.
Transformers #0: Still as wary about this series as I was before I bought it. Probably not a good sign.
Pick of the Week: GLC: Recharge #2, hands down.
What about that Infinite Crisis review? Three miniseries down, one to go, plus "Crisis of Conscience" and "IC #1." I'll have "Rann-Thanagar" read tonight.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
My ideal Batman is a normal man at the peak of human physical ability. He has boundless wealth and access to a near-unlimited supply of crazy gadgets and nonlethal weapons. Yet his greatest power is his intellect.
My ideal Batman is not a god, but he can hold his own with the other six most powerful beings on the planet.
My ideal Batman is gruff and dark, and that doesn't necessarily change when he takes his mask off.
My ideal Batman has created a surrogate family to replace the family he lost as a child.
My ideal Batman trusts no one more than Alfred, and trusts Alfred more than himself.
When you read my ideal Batman's dialogue, you can hear Kevin Conroy's voice saying the lines in your head.
My ideal Batman is constantly underestimated by his enemies, except the Joker and Ra's Al Ghul.
My ideal Batman may seem intimidating, cold, and aloof, but his family (Dick, Tim, Barbara, Alfred, even Clark and Diana) knows that he is caring to a fault.
My ideal Batman considers Superman to be his most trusted superhero ally, as well as his best friend in both guises. They have different methods, but serve the same ends.
My ideal Batman is the sort of person who would purchase a posh apartment for his best friend's wedding gift.
My ideal Batman is always prepared, which makes him seem paranoid, but he's usually right, and you could trust him with your life.
My ideal Batman makes mistakes, but is usually able to learn from them quickly and turn the situation to his advantage.
My ideal Batman will probably never admit how much he loves both Wonder Woman and Catwoman.
My ideal Batman is as at home fighting metahumans like Killer Croc and Clayface as he is fighting common crooks and thugs, or white-collar criminals and mob bosses.
My ideal Batman took on Dick Grayson as a ward because he knew how the boy felt and saw how similar the situation was to his own, because he was lonely, and because he genuinely cared about the child, not because he wanted to form an army.
My ideal Batman is one part spacefaring swashbuckling superhero, one part brilliant scientist, one part tactician, and two parts detective.
My ideal Batman owes as much to Sherlock Holmes and the Count of Monte Cristo as he does to Zorro and the Shadow.
My ideal Batman splits his life between two masks: one, the carefree playboy Bruce Wayne, the other, the brooding nocturnal angel of vengeance, Batman. The real man is somewhere between those extremes, a lonely person with a near-obsessive drive for justice born out of a desire for closure. He has trouble allowing people to get close to him, for he has an overactive sense of guilt and responsibility. When people around him get hurt, he blames himself for not doing enough to save or help them. He has trouble forming lasting romantic relationships because he lets his quest for justice get in the way. Few women have been able to see the man between the masks, and Batman's relationships with them all teeter on the brink of romance, surrounded by a churning sea of sexual tension. He is afraid to allow himself to be happy, because he fears that he might lose interest in his mission, thus breaking the promise he made upon his parents' grave. He doesn't realize that his parents would have wished him to be happy.
My ideal Batman is a disturbed man, but not a disturbing one. He strikes fear into the hearts of criminals, for they are a superstitious and cowardly lot. His friends and family know better. He is many things, and different things to different people, but he is, above all, a hero.
Check out that cover. Wow. Totally picking up Catwoman as of #50.
So, anyway, I'm thinking about ogling--I mean, checking out the newer Catwoman trades. Here's an open question to my breeders--er, readers: where should I start? Should I jugs--just! Just go for the first trade, or is there a better one to jump into? Which of the current trades is breast--bust! Er, best. I meant best. Which is best?
I'm thinking I'll probably start with the first one, with the Brubaker/Cooke collaboration, honestly. Darwyn Cooke is a fine, fine artist.
And yes, I'm still reading through Infinite Cleavage.
Monday, October 17, 2005
For those keeping track of this sort of thing, my Infinite Crisis review will be up before the end of the week. I've been rereading the Countdown miniseries in preparation, and it'll easily be my longest post ever. Yay!
Also, my most pathetic. Yay!
So, Simone and Byrne are off Action Comics as of issue #835. Simone's a good writer, and I wish she'd gotten more time to get used to the title. Her first issue with Dr. Psycho was a blast, though the rest of her run thus far has been rather mediocre (which is several steps up from the crap that preceded it). Thankfully, though, we don't have to endure any more of John Byrne's sub-par art or immense ego or problems with inkers trying to make his work look halfway professional.
But that was another post entirely. The point I'm making today has to do with the apparent content of issue #835, the introduction of supervillain Livewire, who made frequent animated appearances, into the comic book continuity. Livewire's a fantastic villain, a fun character all around, and looks cool to boot. I'm all for the translation of cartoon characters into the comic universe. Sure, Harley Quinn hasn't been up to much lately, but I like having her around.
Except...isn't Livewire already a DC comics character? Isn't she just the cartoon version of Sparx?
Sparx was a "New Blood" character, introduced in the DC Bloodlines Annuals, and should have been forgotten like most of the New Blood characters. Sure, some of them have turned up here and there (most notably Gunfire, Anima, and Hitman), but most have faded into utter obscurity. Sparx got her second lease on life with the introduction of spin-off series "Superboy and the Ravers," where she led her friend Superboy to an intergalactic rave. Or something...I only have the first issue, and I haven't read it in years, though I'll look into the rest of the series sometime after I complete my collection of the main Superboy book.
So, Donna Carol "DC" Force (har-de-har-har) was somehow turned into an electrically-powered superhero by the MacGuffin of Bloodlines, which happened to occur while Superboy was occupying "Adventures of Superman." She looked a heck of a lot cooler than most of the New Blood folks, and I imagine that contributed heavily to her appearances in "Ravers." Then, when the folks at Superman: TAS decided to flesh out Superman's rogues gallery a bit, they pulled Ms. Force's design out of the "forgotten character" pile, gave her a new identity (shock jock Leslie Willis), and a new codename, Livewire (at the time, that was also the codename of that LSH's Lightning Lad). I mean, it's possible that the design similarities were coincidental, but they sure are similar.
So, we've come full circle, it appears, as Livewire jumps back to comics. Hopefully, however, some enterprising young soul will recall Superboy's first superhero friend, and we'll see sparks fly in a confrontation between these cross-media twins.
Friday, October 14, 2005
As you can see, The Fortress of Soliloquy has a little captain in it. Captain O.G. Readmore has arrived to truncate posts and generally improve upon the loading time and overall blog layout. So exult, O shores, and ring, O bells, for this Fortress no longer requires a key that only a hundred stout dial-up users can lift. Or, um, something. Many thanks to Brian Cronin, superblogger of Comics Should Be Good and Snark Free Waters for showing me how to do that bit of formatting.
Yes, this was just an excuse to post a picture of O.G. Readmore.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Despite the words of the naysayers, comics right now are pretty good. Here's my cursory, from-memory assessment of what will and will not be fun in the upcoming months from our favorite publishers.
She-Hulk Vol. 2: Fun
She-Hulk Vol. 1 rocked hard. I'm not a huge Marvel fan, so I can't say I picked up on some of the more obscure continuity references, but this series was an absolute romp. I haven't read a comic with this many laugh-out-loud moments since Ambush Bug. I even shared it with a friend who doesn't read comics, and she was thrilled. Last time around, I waited for the trades, and I was not disappointed in the least. This time...well, I suppose I could leave that up to the Fortress-dwellers. Should I add She-Hulk to my pull list, or can I safely wait for the trades without damaging its chances of continuing forever?
Actually, I really think I'm going to wait on this one. Marvel's trades come out frequently enough that I don't feel a distinct need to pick up the "floppies," especially given the price difference and whatnot.
Marvel Zombies: Fun
I haven't read any of Kirkman's "The Walking Dead," but I enjoy "Invincible," and the concept is so far out there that I can't imagine it being bad. Much as I hate accusations of ripping off and copying by the various companies, it'd be interesting to see the DC version of this. Superman hungering for human flesh? Creeeeeepy.
Spider-Man: The Other: Not Fun
Only one thing could make me wait for the trade on a new Spider-Man book by Peter David. A 12-part crossover event helmed by J. Michael Straczynski is it. Especially when it seems to be the catalyst for more Spider-Clone crap, or more "organic web-shooter" style changes. Gah.
Yet, I still plan on buying the trade. A tool is me.
Batman: Gotham Knights and X-Men: Deadly Genesis: Not Fun
Okay, I liked "Identity Crisis," but I don't like this trend of "every superhero has some horrible secret in his/her past" that seems to be dominating about half of comics right now. Barry Allen had Zatanna rearrange the Top's brain, Gwen Stacy had a tryst with Norman Osborn, and Professor X enslaved the Danger Room. Now it looks like Thomas and Martha Wayne may have had a sham marriage, while some villain from Prof. X's past has come back to reveal his darkest secrets, or something. This is a guy who strangled his evil twin in the womb, once carried a Brood, wiped Magneto's brain before "Identity Crisis" made it popular, then went nuts and killed most of the Marvel Universe, and bore a son who warped reality; I really can't imagine how much "darker" his "darkest secret" can be. What next? Was Uncle Ben a serial killer? Did Aqualad cause the Exxon Valdez spill? Are Ma and Pa Kent... swingers? Where does it end?
Superman Secret Files: Not Fun
Another one? Do they really need to do this annually? We know who Superman is, if you're going to do this kind of lame profile book, just bite the bullet, drop the unnecessary stories, and start doing Who's Who again.
Captain Universe: Not Fun
I love Captain Universe. I never read any of his comics (did he *have* comics?), but one of the first memorable comics I ever read was "What if Spider-Man never lost the Uni-Power" or whatever the name of that was. I was so intrigued by the prospect of a cosmic-powered Spider-Man that, many years later, I went and picked up the Captain Universe Spider-Man comics as back issues. It's not a bad story by any means, though I can see why it stopped: omnipotent Spider-Man misses the point of Spider-Man.
So, why does the Uni-Power (Uni-Force?), in this upcoming crossover fifth-week bonanza, decide to bind itself to the Hulk? X-23? Silver Surfer? I suppose it'll be explained, but I can't imagine it being any good. Anything with X-23 stinks of "gimmick" to me.
Now, if they play their cards right, an ongoing Captain Universe comic could be really fantastic. Like Marvel's answer to the too-short-lived "H-E-R-O," except without the endless variety of powers. Still, the Uni-Power's nothing to sneeze at, and it might be good. The event, however, not so much.
Green Lantern Corps: Fun
I don't know if it has yet been formally announced, but with "Recharge" going strong, it seemed inevitable. Dave Gibbons is doing a Green Lantern Corps monthly. There aren't words for how awesome that is.
Actually, there are. Those words are "hopefully it's more awesome than Rann/Thanagar War."
JLA Classified: Cold Steel: Not Fun
Why does the Justice League need robotic exo-suits? "Mega Morphs" at least had a toy tie-in. "Total Justice" was sketchy on quality, but gave a reason to get the heroes into armor. Why on Earth would Superman need a mech? And, furthermore, why is this prestige format?
Spider-Man Unlimited #12: Fun
Tom Beland on Spider-Man might be the most awesome thing ever. Anyone who's read Beland's fantastic "True Story, Swear to God" knows about his love for the character. Couple that with his quirky-but-expressive artistic style, his sense of humor, and his wide romantic streak, and you've got a Spider-Man story that will easily be one of the best this year, if not ever.
Spider-Man Family One-Shot: Fun
Tom DeFalco, Ron Lim, and Spider-Man 2099 in one comic? Sounds like it's the distilled essence of the '90s! Throw in '80s icons Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham and Fred Hembeck, and you can't go wrong!
Marvel Knights 4 #23-24: Fun
I've never read "4" before, but the premise of Impossible Man bringing some metafictional craziness into the Fantastic Four's lives sounds like a solid and potentially awesome one. I'll be giving these issues a try for sure.
Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil that Men Do: Fun
The only not-fun part of this is that I have to go dig the first three issues out of my long boxes. Not a big deal, but I do wish Kevin Smith were more punctual. On-time or years-late, it's still going to have some of the best dialogue and art this side of...anywhere.
Infinite Crisis: Fun
Ah, but more on that in the next post...
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
I'm wary of the new Transformers series.
I mean, let's face it, Transformers has been through enough. If you tally up all the different continuities you have to deal with, the result is staggering:
1. G1 Marvel Comics
2. G1 Cartoon
3. G1 British Comics
4. G1 Dreamwave Comics
5. G2 Marvel Comics
6. G1 Japanese Cartoon (From Headmasters, where it split from the American cartoon by disregarding "Rebirth" up through Victory, or whatever the last series was)
7. G1 Japanese Masterforce Cartoon (was this in regular Japanese continuity? I know God Jinrai became Victory Leo later on...)
8. Beast Wars (the "real" continuity, somewhere between G1 comic and cartoon)
9. Beast Machines and TF Universe (reasonably disregarded by everything else, splitting off of the Beast Wars continuity)
10. Japanese Beast Wars 2nd
11. Japanese Beast Wars Neo (might be same as 2nd)
12. Robots in Disguise/Car Robots 2000 Cartoon
13. Armada/Energon/Cybertron cartoon
14. Armada/Energon Dreamwave Comics
15. G.I. Joe/Transformers I and II from Devil's Due
16. Transformers/G.I. Joe I and II from Dreamwave
Even if some of those coincide, it's over a dozen. Now, IDW's doing an all-new G1 series, a Beast Wars series, and an anthology series a la "JLA: Classified" that can tell alternate universe stories, or something, if I remember all that correctly.
Now, after the awful, awful G1 Vol. 1, by that hack Chris Saraccini and Pat Lee, who can't draw people and shouldn't draw Transformers, I loved everything Dreamwave did with the series. From Volume 2 on up, including Armada (after Saraccini was gone from that too) and War Within, everything at Dreamwave was Transformers gold. James McDonough and Adam Patyk love Transformers, and have the added bonus of being able to write good characters, intricate plotlines, and to craft a compelling, believable universe. I looked forward to Transformers every month, not out of sheer nostalgia (hell, if that had been the case, I wouldn't have stopped buying Thundercats, and there wouldn't be an entire volume's worth of He-Man comics still rotting in my pull bag), but out of a desire to see where their well-done story, the best Transformers since Beast Wars if not the best ever, would go next. Dreamwave's Transformers was more than just a good revival of an '80s property, it was good a comic.
Then, like Fort Max in Generation 2, it got the ax.
Now, IDW has to start from scratch again. Sure, they've got Simon Furman, which means it'll have some good characters, a decent plot, strong showings from Grimlock and Starscream, and a whole lot of death and destruction. What it won't have is the amount of planning and continuity that Patyk and McDonough injected into their G1 series at Dreamwave, and that's a pity.
Will IDW's Transformers be good? I'm going to give it a try, but I'm wary. I've been burned by Transformers relaunches before, and Furman's got a lot to live up to after Patyk and McDonough set the bar. It's a shame IDW couldn't just pick up Dreamwave's storylines. Sigh...maybe someday.
Monday, October 03, 2005
So, I heard over the radio the other day a little snippet about "Project Iron Fist." I thought it was a military operation, but the only info I can find online is a treatise on the various high crimes and misdemeanors perpetrated by people in the upper echelons of the Bush Administration.
Either way, with Project Iron Fist on the way, can Project Power Man be far behind? Project Shang Chi: Master of Kung Fu? Just watch, America.