Sunday, October 30, 2011

Some Bat-thoughts

If I were writing Batman, I'd bring Chief O'Hara into the New 52 continuity. There ought to be another clean cop in Gotham who isn't Harvey Bullock. Gordon's always had a few loyal/clean cops under him, and I think I'd style O'Hara as the field leader of Gordon's team, a squeaky-clean, tough-as-nails fourth-generation Irish cop who trusts Gordon implicitly and admires Batman explicitly. Bullock is great as the detective who seems like he'd be dirty but isn't, and Montoya hasn't been a factor in Gotham for awhile. It'd be nice to see the GCPD getting some development again, and I think O'Hara should be the first step.


I would pay quite a lot of money to see an Arkham City expansion DLC with the Music Meister.

While playing Arkham City, I found myself wondering if they ever thought to take Nora Fries to the Lazarus Pit. As it turns out, they had, and it sounds terrible. Lazara? Fire powers? Internalizing the Lazarus Pit's abilities? That's...that's terrible. The latter-day Batman: TAS solution, where Nora was cured but Victor had been consumed by his condition, was a much better idea.

In other "this would be a good idea oh wait it's already been done" news, I thought it'd be interesting to see Jonah Hex against Ra's al Ghul in "All-Star Western," until I remembered that the Animated Series did that once already. Still, hey, it's not a bad idea.

One thing I've recently realized is how little Batman I've actually read. Sure, I've done the big famous stories, like DKR and Year One and all the Loeb books, but I've missed out on most of the month-to-month stuff, the Greg Rucka and Chuck Dixon and Alan Grant and so forth. With the Batman mood I'm in, what are some books I should check out? What are the best Batman stories I've never read? I saw the post-No Man's Land "Evolution" trade today and thought it looked intriguing, but didn't want to gamble on it--especially having never read NML.

Speaking of Batman books I haven't read, how is this year's 80-page giant? I've passed on buying it twice now, but really considered it both times.

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Still several leaps away

I upgraded to the new iPhone a couple of days ago, and I've played a little with the new Siri feature. I guess I'm just a little unimpressed:

Even Gooshie could have done better.

Sigh.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Missed opportunity

Recent sales figures state that Batman: Arkham City shipped 4.6 million copies.

To my knowledge, exactly zero of those copies came packaged with download codes for free digital comics. Zero came with minidiscs or USB drives pre-loaded with digital Batman, Robin, Catwoman, Nightwing, and Gotham Central comics.

My copy, and so I assume about 4,599,999 other copies, came with a catalog advertising a wide variety of Batman merchandise, including toys, clothes, and posters. Comics and graphic novels are mentioned on exactly two pages. The last two.

DC/Warner Bros. has enough awareness and marketing savvy to release the new Batman DVD movie on the same day as the eagerly-awaited video game, but for some reason continues to miss these easy opportunities to introduce new people to comics, thereby increasing their chances of selling more comics. This one game reached, what 20 times the audience of the most recent Batman comics? Why didn't it come with comics?

This isn't exactly rocket science, DC.

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mr. Freeze and humility

I've been playing a lot of Arkham City when I've had a little free time here and there, and it's reminded me of a bit of weirdness surrounding one of my favorite Bat-villains, Mr. Freeze. Why "Mister"? Freeze legitimately has a doctorate. Intellectual supervillains are typically more than happy to lord their advanced degrees over society and its protectors--Doctor Octopus, Doctor Light, Doctor Double X, Doctor Sivana, Doctor Phosphorus--even when they don't actually have those degrees (I'm looking at you, dropout Doom). Looking through Wikipedia's list of fictional doctors, the only other villain who does the same is Marvel's Mister Hyde, and he took his name from a story.

Is Victor Fries the most humble supervillain in the DCU? Is this just another part of his tragic life story? Was his doctorate revoked? If so, why is Doctor Light allowed to keep his?

Curioser and curioser, the politics of comic book academia.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Retronomicon

I saw Alan Moore's Neonomicon trade at the comic shop today. On one hand, I'd be happy spending this post making more digs at Moore dredging up another author's ideas to put new spins on them. That might be a sign of creative bankruptcy if you do it while the authors are still alive and the works are still protected by copyright, but hoo boy, you let those authors die and those properties lapse into the public domain, and suddenly your script for Lovecraft fans monthly or your 19th Century children's novel heroine slash fiction is a worthy pursuit for a legitimate literary genius. I can't wait for a hundred and fifty years after Joss Whedon kicks it, so my Buffy/Inara slash fic can be published and recognized as the seminal, game-changing graphic novel monument that it's meant to be.

Sorry, where was I? Oh right, Neonomicon. I take my shots at Alan Moore, but I dig Lovecraftian stuff. So I'm curious: is it any good? I've heard that the most recent League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books haven't been so hot, but maybe the alternate setting allows for something different. I'm not enamored enough with Moore these days to check it out sight unseen, but if it's an interesting take, I'd be up for checking it out.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Deadman and the Doctor

Sorry for the lack of content recently. I've been swamped at work; I haven't even been able to read most of my books from this past week, let alone write anything for Nerdy Nothings or this site. But I'm watching a bit of "Batman: Brave and the Bold" as I work on some other stuff, and I caught a fun little in-joke in "Dawn of the Deadman." During a séance, "Thomas Baker" is being contacted by his nephew, "Colin."

That Whovian shout-out, and the Wilhelm scream earlier in the episode, makes me wonder if some of the "Middleman" crew weren't involved in this series.

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Saturday, October 08, 2011

New 52 Reviews: Lightning Round!

After writing several thousand words for Nerdy Nothings, I figured I might as well talk about the other books I picked up over the last month. The other DC ones, anyway; I'm way behind on Spider-Island. So here goes:

  1. Action Comics: Loved it. But you already knew that. I've got some things to say about #2 at some point, too.
  2. All-Star Western: I joked in my Firestorm review about how a comic called "All-Star Western" took place on the East coast, but it's really a very good comic. I'm not entirely sure how it lines up with Amadeus Arkham's story as seen in Arkham Asylum, but it's an interesting pairing nonetheless. It's a little like Red Dead Redemption by way of Edgar Allen Poe, with a bit of Jack the Ripper flair. I can understand people's complaints about Gotham being an almost preternaturally evil place, but that complaint lost quite a bit of traction when fans accepted as the city's second-most-recognizable location a building whose name comes from H.P. Lovecraft. In a post-Return of Bruce Wayne world, we know that Gotham City is a machine, the product of centuries of manipulations by Darkseid and Bruce Wayne, ultimately designed to produce a weapon called Batman. It's not surprising that it would produce its share of psychopaths before Batman's rogues gallery shows up.
  3. Animal Man: Straight-up great. The art is suitably creepy, and with all the unwritten marriages and newly-dead parents in the New DCU, it's nice to see a hero who's still a family man whose wife is worried about him tracking mud in the house. As someone who's only really read Animal Man's adventures in the Grant Morrison issues, I felt like this was a direct continuation, paying the right kind of homage to it without being beholden to it for continuity. The story is intriguing, and the art is suitably creepy, so I'm excited to see where this all goes.
  4. Aquaman: Frankly, this was a little too self-aware for my tastes. I understand the presumed need to counter all the jokes about Aquaman and deal with them head-on, but the scene in the diner and the interaction with the blogger are a little too close to the first issue of J. Michael Straczynski's "Grounded" storyline for my taste. Thankfully, Aquaman isn't a smug dick about it, but Geoff Johns' love of characters who stand in for Internet fanboys wears thinner the more he falls back on the same old tricks for his writing. Plus, you know, Aquaman's a head of state, and superhero or not, I can't imagine, say, Jacques Chirac getting that kind of abuse when he visits America, despite France being the Aquaman of the United Nations. All that aside, this was a pretty fun issue, and showcased some of the things that make Aquaman such an actually cool character, exploring his necessary powers in ways that Morrison and Waid have done in the past. I hope that this issue got all the jokes out of the way, and future stories move beyond them.
  5. Batgirl: See here. The more I think about the issue, the more I feel like I was a little softer on it than I should have been.
  6. Batman: One of the best of the New 52 books, and a fantastic introduction to Batman for people who might have been away for awhile. I'm sad to say that a lot of these #1s really haven't felt like #1 issues, but Batman felt like a comic you could give to anyone, and it would still be entertaining and understandable.
  7. Batman & Robin: See here.
  8. Batwing: See here.
  9. Batwoman: I'm ashamed to say that I've never gotten around to finishing Rucka's original Batwoman run in Detective, so I haven't read it yet. I'm finally caught up on Snyder's Batman oeuvre, so Batwoman is next on the list.
  10. Birds of Prey: One of the more pleasant surprises.
  11. Blue Beetle: Clicky.
  12. Captain Atom: My New 52 resolution has been to try new things, and apparently that even amounts to actually reading a J.T. Krul comic. I've frankly never seen anyone ever refer to the strong nuclear force (or just "strong force" or "strong interaction") as the "S.N.F.," including Stephen Hawking, who Dr. Megala is clearly kind of an ersatz version of. Other than that, though, this was a decent issue, and it's interesting to see that every other sciencey comic has done the science hero thing better than Mister Terrific. I'll check out the next issue, though I wish Captain Atom weren't so similar in powers now to Firestorm. I'd like to see Captain Atom as a character whose power is to manipulate quantum effects, to manifest them at a macroscopic level, which has long been implied by his abilities. Making him another hero who can absorb and shoot energy bolts and transmute matter--especially now that we have two Firestorms--seems redundant. Also, this is a very pretty book.
  13. DC Universe Presents: See here.
  14. Demon Knights: I'd be hard-pressed to find something to dislike about this book. It's very pretty, even the lettering, and its take on the DCU's medieval heroes (and particularly its immortals) is fresh and interesting. I'm not sure how I feel about painting such a good quintessential villain as Vandal Savage in an apparently heroic role, but I'm willing to go along with it if for no other reason than that it's really fun. The return of Sir Ystin the Shining Night is more than welcome, and I'm curious to see more of Al Jabr and Exoristos, who appear to be new characters. Of course, the only thing I should have to say to get people to buy this is "there's a castle riding a brontosaurus and dagger-wielding dragons." And that is awesome.
  15. The Flash: This way!
  16. Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.: What a way to start an issue--not just the big hideous monsters and the skinned dog, mind you, but the reaction: "It's--it's finally happening...isn't it?" Not exactly the response you'd expect from a normal person in that circumstance, and the incongruity of it really serves to underscore the weird horror of the scene. The rest of the issue has a great combination of good story momentum and absolutely bizarre ideas, in a sort of Kirby/Morrison style. I wish the end had been just a little more strange--though it was certainly another turning-the-tables on our expectations--but I'm excited to see the next issue.
  17. The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men: See here
  18. Green Lantern: Easily the best GL book I've read from Johns in awhile, which might be damning with faint praise. There's a real sitcom vibe to this issue, with a heavy emphasis on humor (however clichéd it might be) and the promise of an odd couple setup at the end. I'm frankly getting a little tired of the Guardians of the Universe being a bunch of sinister plotters, but I get that this is still building on Johns' huge Green Lantern arc, and I can tolerate it. Looks like Ganthet got his hand back, though. The art's the kind of great stuff you typically expect from Doug Mahnke, and I'll admit to even liking Sinestro's relcutant return to the Green Lanterns more than I expected.
  19. Green Lantern Corps: See here
  20. Green Lantern: The New Guardians: I'd already decided that I probably wasn't going to buy three Green Lantern books, and New Guardians was the one that got chopped. For one, I just don't really care for the named rainbow Corps members as characters, and the story that we got just didn't do anything for me. It seems like it stripped away most of what was interesting about Kyle's origin to begin with, and did so in a confusing and cursory manner--and then gave him a bunch of rings for no apparent reason. I could see some of this premise working, but the first issue was just a mess, and it didn't give me any reason to think I'd like it better if I came back.
  21. Grifter: See here. I'm not sure why both of the Wildstorm solo titles seem to be taking their plot cues from John Carpenter movies, but it hasn't worked out real well for them.
  22. I, Vampire: Not a book I'd originally planned on buying, but I followed my New 52 resolution--and my enjoyment of Fialkov's Superman/Batman arc--to give this a chance. The entirety of my exposure to the I, Vampire character is from Doctor 13: Architecture and Morality, and it's clear that this is a fairly different version. The art is nice and moody, a little like Ben Templesmith with more clarity, although it is sometimes hard to follow what's going on. The dialogue is fairly well-written, if a little over-the-top, but there are a few places that just sound awkward, particularly Mary's letter. I do like the more traditional vampires, shape-shifting into wolves and bats and so forth, although there's still a little "our vampires are different" going on. I'm curious to see the vampires-vs.-superheroes match-up hinted in this issue, but I think I'll wait for the trade.
  23. Justice League International: Here you go.
  24. Legion Lost: Um...so. How could this book go wrong? Fabian Nicieza is a good writer, especially when working with teams of teenage heroes, and Pete Woods is one of my favorite artists in the industry. Plus, I'm a Legion fan going way back, and I'd been kicking myself for dropping Legion and Adventure earlier in the currentish incarnation. And yet this book was...pretty bad. I think the biggest misstep was leaving out those helpful character description captions that Legion books so often have; even I had trouble keeping track of who was who, and I've read all of Who's Who. This book was a confusing mess, and it makes a decent case for the utility of decompression. It also doesn't help that the issue relies pretty heavily on knowing who the Legion is already, when this should have been new readers' gateway book into the concept. It also doesn't help that the "Legionnaires back in time to stop a deadly disease" was a plot point in Countdown. Ugh.
  25. Legion of Super-Heroes: Right this way.
  26. Men of War: Here 'tis.
  27. Mister Terrific: Probably my biggest disappointment of the bunch.
  28. Nightwing: Another book that I wasn't planning to buy, but I like Dick Grayson as a character, and I liked Gates of Gotham. The story is interesting, and it handles Dick's transition from Batman to Nightwing in a fairly believable manner. The mystery posed here is nice, and as someone who hasn't spent a lot of time reading Nightwing comics before, Dick returning to Haly's Circus is a fairly new story for me. I'll stick with this one, at least for awhile.
  29. OMAC: This wasn't one of the books I'd initially planned on picking up. I like Keith Giffen a lot, but I've never read a Dan Didio-penned comic that I thought was better than mediocre. But there was some positive buzz about it after Wednesday, and I'm a big enough fan of the Kirby DNA Project/Evil Factory stuff that shows up here that I was willing to give it a shot. Now, I've said for years that if you want Kirby's characters done well, the writer to turn to is Karl Kesel, but I'll happily add Keith Giffen to that list as well. I'm surprised to see Mokkari back; despite his background in Kirby's "Jimmy Olsen" work, I always thought he was Apokoliptian, and thus somewhat off-limits until Grant Morrison finished his Fifth World stuff. I'm not exactly complaining, and it's not like Mokkari is Orion or Desaad or anything, but I'm still a little surprised. Overall, this was a really fun romp, with very Kirbyesque art and sensibilities, and the kind of over-the-top insane action one should expect from an OMAC book. After "Superboy," I never thought I'd be subscribing to a Dan Didio book, but here we are.
  30. Resurrection Man: It's like Resurrection Man is back without missing a step. I haven't read the entire original series, but I've liked what I have read, and even the art in this issue feels like it's in the same vein, like Fernando Dagnino is some kind of reincarnation of the (yes, still living) Jackson Guice. The apparently-angels hunting Mitch Shelley are a nice touch, and feel like a tie-in to Zauriel and Peter David's Earth-born Angel stuff, even if it really isn't. I'm really excited to be in on the ground level for this incarnation of this book, and I hope it's immensely successful. So successful that DC considers launching some of the other brilliant-but-cancelled books from the last decade or two (Chase, Manhunter, H-E-R-O) under the new banner.
  31. Static Shock: I feel kind of bad dropping Static Shock, but it's just not distinctive enough for me. Static has never been my favorite Milestone character, and Hardware seems to have lost some of his edge, but really there's nothing wrong with this book. It gets the 'science hero' thing better than Mister Terrific, and the family dynamic is great--almost like Blue Beetle is known for. It's just, it didn't hook me. I don't know if it's just because it feels like Spider-Man with electricity or what, but it just didn't pull me in. It doesn't help that I don't think the art was even as good as McDaniel's usually is, and I can't imagine the book will get better after Rozum leaves.
  32. Stormwatch: What a sadly underwhelming book. I like the high concepts involved, and the ties to Demon Knights and the rest of the DCU, but it seems like Paul Cornell went to the Chris Claremont school of writing for this book. Everyone narrates their powers and provides clunky exposition, and I think this is a book that would really benefit from rolling out the crazy high concepts with a little less explanation. let the reader figure a little out for themselves--or leave some mystery for issue #2. I'll be sticking for at least the first arc, but I sure hope it gets better at distinguishing and juggling its characters.
  33. Superboy: Here you go.
  34. Supergirl: A better introduction than Supergirl's had in quite some time. It's clear that Green and Johnson have put a good deal of thought into Supergirl's character, drawing from some of the work that's been done in the last few years with the character--namely that she remembers her life on Krypton, her friends and family and such. Her costume is pretty terrible, at least with the crotch-shield. I understand the thinking that, if Kryptonians wear form-fitting armor, it doesn't make sense for her to have a skirt, but it also doesn't make sense for her to have bare legs. I liked her thinking she was in a dream, though, and I'm interested to see where all this goes.
  35. Superman: Right here.
  36. Swamp Thing: I'm not entirely sure how I feel about Alec Holland as a sort of David Banner character, but there's certainly interesting ground to mine in the character's history. It may be a little confusing to new readers, and probably would benefit from at least an editorial box touting the in-print hardcover describing the referenced events, but it's otherwise a nice superhero horror-type book that promises a return to the Alan Moore roots that have defined the character for so long.
  37. Voodoo: Let the record show that I was actually quite optimistic about Voodoo. My optimism was misplaced.
  38. Wonder Woman: I'm not totally sure about Wonder Woman as a horror character, but damn if this book wasn't good and entertaining. I'm excited to see where this is going, and it's easily the best take on the Greek gods since Rucka's run. I'm fine with Wonder Woman as a warrior and the heroine of her own Greek mythology, and it's a nice contrast with Batman and Superman.

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