Things About Stuff: Food, Sounds, Comics and Waffle

Braindrops from the Clouds of Earth-X  

Reviews Nov2012 pt2

Posted on January 14, 2013 by     Leave a comment

Reviews are brief and late – partially due to getting delivery monthly; partially due to time taken to get around to reading them!

Week of Release: 21/11/12

Edgar Allan Poe Conqueror Worm (DARK HORSE) – 4.0/5

An illustrated version of Poe’s poem (copy of which is in the backmatter). I wasn’t a fan of Corben’s Hellblazer as he made Constantine look like Harpo Marx but Ragemoor cured me of my foolhardy opinion and this is as good, if not in story. Effortless mood and arid oppression. Lovely.


Justice League #14 (DC COMICS) – 2.0/5

The finalé of the Cheetah storyline; Superman and Wonder Woman kiss and Batman spys on them. The Shazam backstory continues at a sloth’s pace (Shazam, more than most other characters, should have childhood wonder and pace, not this greyed morality dullness).And I just didn’t really care. My last issue as a new arc begins about Atlantis or something.


Hellblazer #297 (VERTIGO) – 4.0/5

The penultimate arc wraps up as Constantine proves the Curse of the Constantines to be essentially untrue, even if he can never convince himself of that or of his own bastardly ways being inevitably driven by sometimes selfless and usually good motives. Milligan has hit a comfortable, confident stride, right at the end and I wonder if Epihpany will exist in the DCnU. Sadly, I suspect not.

Week of Release: 28/11/12


Batman Incorporated #5 (DC COMICS) – 5.0/5

The depth and complexity of Morrison’s run is illustrated here by Batman having seen the future in his psychedelic travels and understanding Talia’s extremely long game for the destruction of Gotham. A horrible scene with Barbara Gordon underlines what a bad future this could be and, in the present, Batman Inc. might have just been decimated. The brat Damian’s vulerability is expertly handled and Burnham’s art is fabulous. Confusing and terrific.


Justice League Dark #14 (DC COMICS) – 2.0/5

At the bginning of the issue, the team is trying to find a way to find Hunter and Zatanna. At the end, they are still are, whilst possibly being pulled in another direction by pompous portents from the Phantom Stranger. A needless bimble around the House of Mystery is, I suspect, reliant on the reader recognising old tales – which I don’t. A filler issue which is attempting to give clues of future events – unfortunately, since this looks like crossovers and Eventing, this is, for me, not good.


Bedlam #2 (IMAGE) – 3.5/5

Second issue in and this does start to look more than just a Joker tale. Truthfully, I’m not entirely sure what is going on, but there’s something compelling about it as it tries to answer the tagline “is evil just something you are or something you do?”. Rossmo’s art, all limited palette and washes, reminds me of Templesmith, which is no bad thing. Sticking around for now but these needs to develop more quickly – at least to give an idea of where it is going!


X-Men Legacy #2 (MARVEL COMICS) – 2.5/5

There’s a neat trick to limit Legion’s potentially narrative-dulling vast powers as the tale is told in headspace as well as meatspace. This may be a quest tale; I’m unsure. In fact, I’m very unsure about this. It’s OK, but with 2 issues a month, weak artwork and bloody horrible paper, the odds are increasing that this will be dropped. Especially if anything promising comes along.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Reviews Nov2012 pt1

Posted on January 14, 2013 by     Leave a comment

Reviews are brief and late – partially due to getting delivery monthly; partially due to time taken to get around to reading them!


Week of Release: 7/11/12

Dial H #6 (DC COMICS) – 4.0/5

Splendid offbeat tale examining the unPC possibilities of dialled heroes. Doctor Cloaca? Shudder! It’s no surpise by now that Nelson is becoming almost addicted to the heroing and I suspect the lack of smoking may reference that – something for future tales? The downside of the dial is touched on again, at a more personal level, and a new story is set up. It’s a pity that this series will surely be cancelled soon!


Earth 2 #6 (DC COMICS) – 2.5/5

Finally, the rot saga wraps up and Green Lantern shows himself to be more arrogant than I’d expected. There’s not a great deal of value here but the promise remains, now that arc is done. An awful lot depends on the next couple of issues for me…


Manhattan Projects #7 (IMAGE) – 3.5/5

This is a bit of an oddity for this series being more political than outlandish mad science. It seems to have set the Project up against governments which will either play out or might suggest that this has become a limited series. Difficult to tell. Laika’s contribution was no surprise but no less fun for that. Good to hear Hickman’s enthusiasm for this series on the back page and I hope it gets on track soon. There’s nothing quite as nuts out there.


Hypernaturals #5 (DC COMICS) – 3.5/5

Thinkwell gets more definition as Braniac 5, the Clones are fleshed out nicely, the expected villain really isn’t and the Fatal Five arrive. Sort of. Ad for “AI Law” is particularly fun. This is turning in to a very good series and sharper art would kick it up a notch.


Action Comics #14 (DC COMICS) – 3.5/5

Well, that’s gravity and electromagnetism unified, then. It’s odd that the moment focusses on the feat of resisting electricity rather than solving that! It’s quite fun, for all that, with a nice use of a fork for explanation and the (not unexpected) reveal of just who the angelic host really is. Except that it’s an imp – though this one seems rather more like the murderous version from Moore’s “…Man of Tomorrow” tale. Nice backup tale, too, if a bit telegraphed.



Week of Release: 14/11/12

Batman #14 (DC COMICS) – 4.0/5

The grimness continues with implied badness to Alfred, clear badness to Gordon and Batman being taken down rather too easily. This is a dark Joker tale and I suspect it has worse places to go and that Snyder has something unusual up his sleeve. It’s good, with excellent characterisation, especially between Bats and Nightwing – though I general prefer the maniac to have a little more humour than here. Capullo is reliable as ever, especially when the estimable Jock is doing the backup.


Saga #7 (IMAGE) – 4.5/5

The inlaws have arrived giving us some background on Marko and Capulet/Montague premise; and some more of the curious mix of sci-fi and magic, including a neat reveal about Marko’s dad. Plot elements (the bounty hunter) are moved along with terrific, natural development through conversation, which is part of what keeps this tale so real. Staples draws the best faces in comics. And also a quite unpleasant full-page giant… Wonderful comic.


X-Men Legacy #1 (MARVEL COMICS) – 2.5/5

Taking a chance on this as I like Spurrier; it carries his (overly?) distinct voice. A promising set up, coming directly out of the death of Xavier, but it really is only set up. This will take a few more issues – not helped by the fact that I’m not a particular fan of Tan Eng Huat’s art.



An epilogue issue, dealing out a little justice, showing that the status quo never changes for business, just the names, and a lovely callback to Hughie’s reason for being here – with a happy ending to boot! Only for those who’ve been reading the series, but what else would you expect? A fair goodbye, sweetly illustrated.


Extermination #6 (BOOM! STUDIOS) – 4.0/5

The battle to save the earth continues and is now much more superhero-ey than the initial dystopian sci-fi issues. Reaper and Nox are separated by their moral values, their differences towards relationships being underlined (and Nox’s showing complexity and humour with the “loner” flashbacks). The art seems to be better – not sure if it’s change of colorist or V Ken Marion being on full duty, but I like it. Also: fabulous porn Hulk. Curious as to how there can be 2 issues still to go…

Tags: , , , , ,

Reviews Oct2012

Posted on January 5, 2013 by     Leave a comment

Reviews are brief and late – partially due to getting delivery monthly; partially due to time taken to get around to reading them!

Week of Release: 3/10/12


As we approach the end, Butcher shows his ability to manipulate has no limits and Jessica Bradley gets royally shafted resulting in a bleakly satisfying hair removal moment. It’s mostly a talky issue with liberal swearing and smatter of violence. All done bar the bolted door, fittingly ending on something of a sad whimper.


Non Humans #1 (IMAGE) – 4.5/5

Image continues to impress! A futuristic police story in a world where toys come to life due to a disease enhanced by imagination. Consequently, kids have imagination damped by drugs and there’s no internet or TV – that’s a neat trick to make something futuristic and yet still a more noir-style thriller. Excellent first issue and Whilce Portacio’s art a perfect fit.


Earth 2 #5 (DC COMICS) – 2.0/5

I still don’t really know why I’m getting this but it is slowly improving. I think I just dislike the rot in this – there is no reason for this to be Solomon Grundy, either, who is a wasted antagonist and lacking any interest. And yet…there is some possibility here, some promise from Flash in particular. The world council, as a direct result of Apokolips invasion, has promise – or may be painting Earth 2 into a bad corner, making it too dissimilar to the world we know. A few more issues, against better judgement!


Dial H #5 (DC COMICS) – 3.5/5

Cock-a-hoop saves the day! The balance between lunacy and bizarre drama is a marvel in this comic. It’s a slight dip after the last issue one-off, I think, but the arc comes to a close in a just-about-understandable way, hinting at more to come and showing just how powerful the dial could be.


Action Comics #13 (DC COMICS) – 4.5/5

A Hallowe’en tale of sorts, with more history of Krypton, the Phantom Zone and Krypto (I’m a sucker for Krypto! Even if he has changed breed). Travel Foreman’s art is a vast improvement for me, though I fear the ongoing 5th dimension stuff as I’ve never like Mr Mxytwat. Heartbreaking backup, for any dog lover or softie, by Sholly Fisch.



Week of Release: 10/10/12

Batman #13 (DC COMICS) – 3.5/5

Death of the Family begins and I fear for not getting any of the multitudinous crossovers. The tale harks back to the Joker’s first appearance smartly and there are certainly going to be no punches pulled on the clown’s psychosis here. However, there are a couple of problems: one is that the Joker’s plan seems far too organised, too little lunacy. But the main one is that he’s not funny – that’s a key component balancing the mad with dark humour. This is more about (well done) fear and the build to some likely death, whoever it may be. Conflicted feelings.


Demon Knights #13 (DC COMICS) – 3.0/5

I can’t deny there are some nice ideas and touches in this – Vandal Savages perfect contentment with his actions; Sir Ystin’s “defence” against demons. But it’s another “personal hell” style story and it seems to be meandering. I have to wonder whether Cornell was already packing his bags for Marvel.


Fantastic Four #611 (MARVEL COMICS) – 3.0/5

The final issue wraps up the situation with Doom as the toybox lid is almost shut, everything neatly back where it was. It’s perfectly fine as a big-scale tale, but doesn’t touch on the sort of Celestial mega-scale that Hickman was hitting at the start.



Week of Release: 17/10/12

Justice League #13 (DC COMICS) – 2.0/5

Daniel’s art hasn’t suddenly made this better. That is all.


Hellblazer #296 (VERTIGO) – 4.0/5

Revelations and deceit; a demon (or not) that wants shoes was fun. Constantine’s own self-loathing has led him in the wrong direction but now most of the cards are out and the all-too-human foibles are, as ever, the root cause of the more grisly supernatural shenanigans. Good stuff!


Week of Release: 24/10/12

Batman Incorporated #4 (DC COMICS) – 4.0/5

Matches escapes in brilliant style, staying in character (“call Guiness!”) and with the visual clues laid down in the last issue. Burnham’s art excellent, characterisation lively (and a lovely touch that reminds you that Damian, for all his training, is still a child). Not sure where the neverending battle with Leviathan is going but I’m coming along.


Justice League Dark #13 (DC COMICS) – 2.5/5

Part of the problem with writing magic stories is in defining the magic; JLD is suffering a little from magicians just being “more powerful” or not without any real detail. Dini wrote a great Zatanna; here, she is continually ineffectual, which is starting to grate. And since when is “hgoune” a definable magic action?? Much of the impact is lessened for me by my hatred of #0, the inconsequence of Necro and Constantine constantly tossing out magic spells. There is still fun here, but it’s really underlining how much I’m going to miss Hellblazer.


FF #23 (MARVEL COMICS) – 4.0/5

Hickman takes the place of Reed’s dad as goodbye’s are made; it’s a fine end with an uplifting last page that is a perfect synopsis of this series. This has probably been my favourite run on FF and now it’s time to leap away!


Journey into Mystery #645 (MARVEL COMICS) – 5.0/5

It’s fitting that Gillen’s final issue uses a narrative trick so perfectly mythic to stop Loki revealing his situation as he endeavours to find one last way out of his entrapment. This has been the best comic Marvel has produced in a decade and the only downside of it is that I am now rather confused as to who the character in Young Avengers will be as I follow Gillen over there…


Extermination #5 (BOOM! STUDIOS) – 4.0/5

Amongst all the action of boarding a psychic train and battling alien beasties, this is really a character issue, illustrating the reflections of relationships in the ragtag group and how the merciless pragmatism of Reaper is not so different, in the end, to the lovestruck selfishness of Nox. It’s getting less original every issue but it’s still great fun.


Week of Release: 31/10/12

Justice League Dark Annual #1 (DC COMICS) – 2.5/5

The finale to the Books of magic arc has some extra guest stars, needlessly jammed in to try to get me to buy other comics. I wish Lemire had gone with my idea here, instead of the appalling Necro, and this could have played out like A Wizard of Earthsea, with no need to stick Amethyst in. The winning ruse is blindingly obvious but there is, at least a nice look between Zee and Constantine. Janin’s art fine except for Frankenstein, needlessly here and looking like Shrek. Ending is the most promising part (Apokoliptian?). And Hunter needs to grow some hair.


New Deadwardians #8 (DC COMICS) – 4.0/5

Not quite the fabulous heights of last issue and a slight anticlimax, I felt. Nevertheless, a fine ending to what has been a terrific series. All the t’s are crossed – I hope there isn’t a follow-up, much as I liked this, just to preserve it properly, like Inspector Suttle.


Bedlam #1 (IMAGE) – 3.5/5

You can’t hide from the Joker-ness of the main character but I think there may be a little more here – or at least the chance to take this to more uncomfortable realms (as long as Spencer doesn’t just go for shock). This might just be Joker as Dexter; if the dialogue is as compelling as this, it’ll still be worth it for a while. Dramatic, kinetic art from Rossmo with nice use of colour (or lack of it) to aid the jumping narrative.


Happy #2 (DC COMICS) – 5.0/5

Lord help me, I love this; the juxtaposition of mayhemic, sweary violence and super-excited, cheerful blue flying horse is great. No surprise that the santa from #1 reappears, and at least now we know who Happy is imaginary friend to. There’s an obvious link from #1 that Sax is good at finding serial killers but I wonder if Morrison has rather more up his sleeve…

Tags: , , , , ,

DCnU Thus Far…

Posted on February 21, 2012 by     Leave a comment

Good comics get shifted to the back of the pile and read late; in this case these were presumed good comics for the most part and so it’s taken time to catch up…

Justice League #1-#5

Disappointing would be the overall conclusion for me. It’s not bad, per se, but my expectations were high. Characterisation is a little too forced and extreme to underline the differences in the characters (Green Lantern in particular) so that, seemingly, the comic can get on with the action sequences. All illsutrated quite nicely if you’re a fan of Jim Lee (I’m not, particularly, and find his style to have become very dated, very quickly).

The plot is pretty thin, giving just enough reason to move on to meet the next Justice League future member and fight them. And because it is almost entirely fight sequences with Bendis-esque blobs of dialogue to “entertain”, it’s not a very immersive experience. There is no real foreboding or underlying threat to Darkseid amongst all battles and he looks terrible. Worst incarnation I’ve seen thus far.

And one aspect I’m uncomfortable about is the killing. The bad guys might be Darkseid’s minions, but parademons are still alive, right? And yet dozens are torn apart by Aquaman’s sharks, whilst Wonder Woman scythes through them without thought or care; even Superman takes a head off. This is not the Justice League. Even if parademons are constructs, unless I missed it, there doesn’t seem to be an indication of our heroes being aware of that.

I’m probably painting too negative a picture, since I’m not dropping it, but I compare this to the Grant Morrison Justice League stories back when I was starting comics again after a hiatus and the thrill I had with those issues has barely even its shadow captured here. There are good elements: the first meeting of Batman and Superman is played nicely and I do have to keep remembering that this is pre-Justice League. I bring too many of my own bigotries and presumptions with a backlog of decades of reading!


Action Comics #1-#5

The only real problem I have with this is that I don’t really like Rags’ art; he seems to make everyone just a little too rubbery. It’s not bad, and better than many, but I would have loved Simonson or someone on this.

The story, though, is fine. It’s not up there with All Star Superman but it’s a kinetic, vibrant, even dangerous re-envisioning of Superman. He seems young, boyish even. It’s been a long time since he seemed that. His liberal leanings mean that he is back o the idea of being a righter-of-wrongs and a symbol of justice, rather than any tugging of kiss curl to the Government. I like that vigilante aspect; government might mistrust him but the people who vote for them won’t. It’s light on politics but this is where I would prefer Superman to be; ever since Superman-as-lackey in the Dark Knight there’s been too much of a tendency to portray him as someone who speaks to the President instead of someone who speaks to the people.

Where the book has suffered, I think, is either slow Morrison, slow Rags or editorial; it seems fairly clear that planned story has needed to be delayed and that does remove momentum – damaging for a book that is all about momentum.

Nevertheless, great fun and I hope it stays at its temporally-challenged position in the DCnU for a while. There is lots of potential here.


Batman #1-#5

With expectations measured against delivery, this is the stand out book of the DCnU for me. Scott Snyder has seamlessly continued into the DCnU, switching from Detective to Batman. Capullo’s art is lovely, detailed and dark, and fits the tone of the book perfectly. There’s lots of text here, but it’s not superfluous; it’s thoughtful and thought out. There’s detection and action – also a good balance of Bruce Wayne to boot.

Gotham itself plays a large role, unveiling historical secrets and the Wayne family history with Gotham is further revealed. I do feel that the Wayne history is being a little overused, coming on the tail end of so much from Morisson, but it’s a small quibble.

My only real quibble, in fact, is that by issue #8 there will be a large crossover to do with the Court of Owls affecting all the bat titles and Birds of Prey. Not happy about that at all.


Animal Man & Swamp Thing

I’m battling, I fear, with nostalgia here. I keep forlornly waiting for Morisson’s Animal Man and Moore’s Swamp Thing. It’s not that these aren’t perfectly fine comics but the whole Green/Red/Rot thing feels like something I’ve been through before. Swamp Thing is just taking too long to move the story: slow does not automatically equal horror! And considering how much I’m enjoying Snyder on Batman, it’s odd to find myself non-plussed here.

Animal Man has something of the same pace problem but my main issue here is that it just doesn’t feel like “Animal” Man. There’s no real reason to have used a superhero in this story, the way most of it is panning out – Buddy Baker, yes, but Animal Man, no. And I signed up for Animal Man.

My detectors start to beep whenever I see hyperbole like “will affect the DC Universe forever” so I think I will have to turn off the battery to my nostalgia-pack and drop both of these.




Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Suicide Bridge

Posted on February 2, 2012 by     Leave a comment

Hellblazer Annual: Suicide Bridge by Peter Milligan and Simon Bisley.

Constantine is called on by some old friends whose dying mother wants to finally know what happened to her son, who disappeared decades before, before she can rest. Did he commit suicide or did he just run away from home?


I’m a long-time fan of John Constantine since he first sloped out of the shadows in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and followed Jamie Delano’s first steps in the seminal Vertigo comic Hellblazer. There’ve been some great contributions to the scouser anti-hero, sometime magician and arch trickster since then, notably Delano himself, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, Mike Carey and (the underrated run of) Brian Azzarello.

I’ve been quite enjoying Peter Milligan’s run on the title, adding a worthy love interest and counterpart in alchemist and daughter of gangster, Epiphany Greaves, and even giving a story arc to the iconic trench coat. Milligan weaves subplots and ongoing character details deftly, never letting us forget that John is a bastard as well as a hero.

But this annual is a fabulous one-off story. The best Constantine I’ve read in ages with the outcome never assured as happy; darkness, heroics, supernatural played will without ghastly demons or even full explanations. And uncomfortable. Suicide is a difficult subject matter and this manages to give some sympathy and understanding as well as ghostly horror. Poignant, thoughtful and creepy.

Bisley’s art, more usually reserved for garishly colourful front covers, and whilst presumably creating a hole in the market where black ink should be, is absolutely spot on for this.


Tags: , ,

DCnU Step 2

Posted on October 25, 2011 by     Leave a comment

The next batch of #1s turned up, so now it really is time to see what this DC new Universe is like. With mild trepidation, I dived in…


Justice League Dark #1

Peter Milligan and Mikel Janin

A set-up and origin issue of sorts. The Enchantress is causing problems, the nature of which are unclear but bad enough that the Justice League can’t sort them out. And so the first hint of an idea of “Justice League Dark” is born via Batman and Zatanna and Madame Xanadu and Shade.

This is all portents and preamble but it’s rather well done for all that and Miligan is the right guy to understand these characters and make them gel (hopefully better, however, than the Flashpoint mini-series did). If this becomes a Shade comic, I may be out but I like the other characters, the writing and the art enough that this is a keeper for now.

The art, point of fact, was quite a suprise and I preferred it to the Ryan Sook cover, which is something of an oddity with comics these days.



Superman #1


George Pérez and Jesus Merino

I have no problem with the change of status quo for Superman (Lois Lane has a boyfriend, the curiously named “Jonathan Carroll”, and the Daily Planet has been taken over by a Murdoch-like Morgan Edge) but this just left me dry. The narration is in the form of a newspaper article and not great writing. Meanwhile Superman fights a fire creature that might have some Kryptonian roots. Clark Kent gets the scoop but Lois Lane is orchestrating the TV cameras.

This is the least enjoyable of the #1s thus far. There’s just no real heart or intrigue. I simply don’t care what happens next. It’s too by the numbers (making sure to drop key, classic phrases, to boot). The art doesn’t help – a comment about the cameras being able to see the face of the fire creature is a confused reference when no such thing is apparent. First casualty of the launch so far, and I didn’t expect it to be this!


Resurrection Man #1

Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Fernando Dagnino

I was late to the original run but loved it and was hoping DnA might bring the same quality back (although was worried after their lacklustre Heroes for Hire, even if theire Marvel cosmic work has been excellent). This appears to be more Vertigo in its leanings with hints of Heaven and Hell trying to capture Mitch Shelley’s soul.

To get up to speed, we have a “birth” complete with requisite new power, heroics, grisly death and rebirth. It establishes the concept neatly for anyone new to this. It’s a bit thin – especially in the characterisation of Mitch Shelle, so fary – but there’s enough here to come back for more.

Mostly because I like the character. The villains, I am so far less convinced about. This one’s on a very short leash…


Mister Terrific #1

Eric Wallace and Alberto Ponticelli

This almost feels as though it’s outside the main DC universe, which is no bad thing. We get an origin to give character backdrop and an indication of just how smart Mr Terrific is (with a little too much emphasis on him being the third smartest person, although I think that will pan out narratively). Beginnings of support characters, too, which is always a better thing for solo comics than most writers seem to remember. There is also a place for Karen Starr which will no doubt infuriate Powergirl fans.

This is trying to be Sci-Fi but it’ll have to be careful as some of the science sounds on the edge of unconvincing – as if the writer doesn’t really understand it. Someone like Warren Ellis would have convinced by being further out there than this.

Still, this is enjoyable enough and I’m sticking around for some more. My only real confusion is: how is it not blindingly obvious that Michael Holt is Mr Terrific?


Birds of Prey #1

Duane Swierczynski and Jesus Saiz

I was a latecomer to Gail Simone’s BOP but loved it, so this has a high watermark to lap up to. So far, it looks as though it might be well safe.

We start in the middle and get some backdrop as we go – Black Canary is wanted for a murder she (obviously!) didn’t commit but in the meantime is still intent on superheroics. Starling is her partner and the BOP roster is clearly about to be expanded.

Art is crisp and enjoyable, the characters similarly. A reporter has been following Dinah, not without her being aware of him, and we open with the reporter in trouble from the mysterious foes that hired him. Luckily, our heroes were aware of this and are themselves there to observe and, as it transpires, save the day…sort of.

Better female characters than Red Hood, methinks. This one stays for a few more at least.


Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E #1

Jeff Lemire and Alberto Ponticelli

Coming out of the less-than-stellar Flashpoint mini, I wasn’t overly hopeful about this but Lemire seems to be effortlessly creating the sort of dark but adventurous mood that he did so well in Superboy.

Frankenstein, as well as being a monster, is something of a man-out-of-time; all honour, seriousness and anachronistic language. It works well – considerably better than a wisecracking version might have been, for instance. Hopefully, this series will flesh out SHADE a bit (Father Time, the head, as a young girl is already a winner for me).

It’s bound to get compared to BPRD, the female Creature Commando looking so like Abe Sapien already having been noted (but it’s only because both are meant to look like the creature from the Black Lagoon, really). I think Lemire can handle that – and the whole “agent of” premise gives lots of varying story opportunities without having to build up any mega-arc. I hope it pans out that way. Keeper probably, although I’m sorry to see an upcoming crossover with OMAC, which I’m not interested in. Cross pollination will not draw me in; rather the opposite.



So far, the relaunch is considerably more hit than miss. The next 2-3 issues will likely show how permanent or not that is. I’m yet to read Action, Justice League and Batman because I figure I’m in safe hands there but I seem to be tending mostly towards the “lesser” characters. Fear of events, no doubt.

Tags: , , , , ,

First Footsteps in the DCnU

Posted on September 17, 2011 by     Leave a comment

Box of comic goodness arrived with the first of the DCnU titles. Figured I had to read these soon, since as #1 arrives I’m about to order #3 and don’t want to be subscribing to toilet paper. Action Comics and Justice League got a bye and went to the back of the pile (I can trust Morrison on Superman – and pretty much anything else – and I’ll stick to the Justice League for 12 issues, regardless). So, for trial by fire, the other 5 arrivals were brought forth….

Swamp Thing #1

Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette

I’ve come to trust Snyder through his work on Batman, so I was hopeful this would be good. The opening few pages so major DC players noticing strange deaths of animals – establishing Swamp Thing firmly back in the DC Universe, rather than out-of-continuity as he was over at Vertigo. Alec Holland, we find, is separate to the Swamp Thing but retains memories of the elemental’s past (like Abby, ST’s lover, indicating that previous history is intact here, but not necessary to know – a comment from Superman about coming back from the dead gives the same idea of this new DCU; much has “still happened” but it’s very compressed).

Half way through the issue, we’re reminded that this is the Dark part of the DCnU, with pestilent flies climbing in ears, a monster and twist-necked zombies (a nod to the creepy invunche Alan Moore introduced, perhaps?). Swamp Thing only appears on the last page, underlining the separation of the characters. The issue is all set up and establishment but it does that well and sets the mood so you know what you’re looking at (and maybe don’t want to!). Certainly worth a few more issues.


Animal Man #1

Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman and Dan Green

I wasn’t a reader of Sweet Tooth but heard good things; enough to test out Lemire with Superboy. Considering that’s a character I don’t much like, he did well enough to convince me to try this – and I needed convincing because Animal Man, under Morrison, was one of my favourite comics ever and I’ve always had a soft spot for the character. I needn’t have worried.

The first page is an “interview” with Buddy Baker, which smartly gets the reader up-to-date with the character. A trick of exposition handled well and saving precious panels! We’re introduced to Baker as a family man with wife and kids, thinking about taking up the superheroics again. There is soon an opportunity which leads to eyes oddly bleeding then a dream sequence that’s quite creepy and leads in to the cliff-hanger ending.

This is a beautifully balanced book. Like Swamp Thing, it lets you know it’s in the same world as Superman then reminds you it’s not quite the same world. There is a very real family, superpowers and then inexplicable darkness; the Rot in the Red. There are some great touches – Animal Man asking his wife Ellen if he has any clean costumes (hey, modern man, do your own laundry!) and Ellen warning him to take his boots off before he comes back in from adventuring. And a sweet and subtle touch of powers: feeling wired after the action of the day and using the napping ability of a cat to get to sleep.

There seems no doubt that this and Swamp Thing are on something of a collision course but that prognosis reads like a triumphant destination at the moment.


Stormwatch #1

Paul Cornell and Miguel Sepulveda

This was the comic I was fearful about – liking the characters but aware that much has changed with the amalgamation of the Wild Storm universe into the DCU. We open with part of the team trying to recruit Apollo – because he may be strong enough to take down Superman, if required – who, at this point, is not with the Midnighter (so whether they are going to be a couple or not, remains to be seen). We’re also quickly introduced to 2 new characters, the Projectionist and the Eminence of Blades (more mundanely known as Harry Tanner), as well as finding out that Adam One is the leader, not Hawksmoor.

There is a lot going on here and the threat is large-scale (the Moon!), setting out the concept that this is what Stormwatch do – protect the Earth from extraterrestrial forces, as they have for many centuries, going back at least as far as Demon Knights. As that is also written by Cornell, it suggests he’s got some major ideas already in the works.

There’s a good side note that Martian Manhunter is part of the Justice League as well – but when he needs to be a warrior, he’s part of Stormwatch. That difference defines the essential thing to get here: these aren’t cape-wearing superheroes.  Book of the week.


 Batgirl #1

Gail Simone, Ardian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes

This was the comic that caused much furore due to the change of Barbara Gordon from wheelchair-bound Oracle back to roof-leaping Batgirl. I’ve read reviews that suggests that the change is handled in a simple reference to a “miracle”. I think that misses the point – there isn’t a full explanation but the change itself is the whole drive of the comic. The villain seems to have Babs in his sights presumably because of surviving the Joker (when her spine was damaged) – the villain is the Mirror, a murderer killing people who somehow survived deadly situations (a sort of dark extrapolation of the ideas in Unbreakable).

She’s also entertainingly impressed to knock out a bad guy because her arms are so pumped (from being wheelchair-bound) but the rest of her needs work. She freezes at a crucial moment because a gun is pointed at her, seemingly aiming at the same spot the Joker hit.

This is fine stuff with a deft touch on humour, peril and narrative balance. Gail Simone is the only person who could have pulled this off. Another keeper.


Men of War #1

Ivan Brandon, Tom Derenick, Jonathan Vankin and Phil Winslade

I’m not a fan of war comics but thought I’d test out at least one different option from the new releases. This concerns the not-yet-Sgt Rock, as a soldier in the modern world and also the world of Superman. I could do without the overly frequent explanations of military jargon or acronyms but hopefully this will not repeat every time a S.A.W.* is mentioned.

But the rest was good. There’s a primary target but the military action is interrupted by unidentified, high-power superhero action. I like the backdrop of this; the notion of the “ordinary soldier” in a superhero world. I’ve not read anything by Brandon before but this is well-written and an alternative to my usual fayre; the ending is expected, as an obvious grounding set up, but not in a bad way. This is a #1, after all. In some ways, the most accessible to new readers of the releases so far.

Back-up story is by Vankin and is more straightforward war comics. And yet I still enjoyed it. Another couple of issues at least.


No fails here. Not great for my wallet but promising for soul. The remaining #1s won’t be with me until October; I can only hope they are of the same overall calibre.


*Squad Automatic Weapon.



Tags: , , , , , ,

Digital Comics #FAIL

Posted on August 9, 2011 by     Leave a comment

When the DCnU launches, the sole digital outlet is through Comixology. They provide content from other suppliers, too – including Marvel, so it looks as though they are winning the race to be dominant provider. Which is fine, except for one thing: when you buy a comic, you are only buying the right to read it, not own it.

I’ve heard it compared to watching a streaming movie, rather than buying a DVD.

And that’s the sticking point, right there. It’s not the same thing. Reading a comic is a shorter and more individual experience; one that I prefer full control of and choice of where I do it.  Long-time comic collectors are just not going to get their heads around this. There is no download: you have to be online in order to read comics you “own”.

Last Saturday, the Comixology website was down for “temporary maintenance” for at least 2 hours – quite probably a lot more but I stopped checking. All that time, you can’t read the comics you’ve paid for. And if they mangle their database or go out of business, bang go your comics. You’re renting them, not buying them.

The problem, I fear, is that they have focussed on stopping piracy instead of producing a good service. I don’t think that’s the way to do this – the scanners will still scan the printed versions and torrent them as CBR files for the scavengers. All they’re really doing is acting on paranoia and, simultaneously, losing me as a customer.

I don’t mind being locked in to your application to read the comics but I want to be able to download them, back them up and read them offline whenever I wish, networked or not. It is possible –* do it, allowing download of an encrypted version that can be read offline (although, it has to be said, it does appear that you need to be online for a minute or so to log the software in).

Android and iPhone apps download a version, but I’m not reading comics on an iPod (too small!) and an iPad is an unnecessary luxury, so not that either. So I guess I’m out of the new digital frontier. No streaming comics for me, thanks.

Print is better, of course, but I’m running out of space so this is a disappointing dead end…


*Home of the excellent Billy the Monster Hunter, for one thing!

Tags: , , ,

The DC Relaunch

Posted on June 24, 2011 by     Leave a comment

Over years, many comic fans have become a cynical bunch – and for good reason. Continual events with the hype saying “nothing will be the same again”, only for it to be pretty much entirely the same; shock – and, more recently, often violent – deaths for no real narrative value; reboots and retcons of characters with whole ideas removed from their history and, perhaps the worst: the lack of permanency of death. So, sooo many characters have now died and returned that there really isn’t such a thing as a shocking death anymore. Nobody believes it.

So it’s maybe that earned mistrust which has created the online ire surrounding the DC relaunch. By September, all current comics will have wrapped up their stories and DC will relaunch 52 titles, all simultaneously starting at #1. Additionally, digital versions of the comics will be available on the same day as the print versions for the first time ever.

That’s quite major. There’s a lot about it over at Bleeding Cool.

There are things I can understand – if your favourite comic is not in the new line-up, for instance (Secret Six and JSA a reason for many people complaining). Or major changes to characters – Barbara Gordon back, roof-hopping as Batgirl, rather than the wheelchair-bound Oracle is source of much fuming (and I admit that I’ll miss Oracle). On the upside it did lead to a heartbreaking illustration by Phil Noto.

Phil Noto's Oracle Au Revoir

These comics aren’t even out yet. We’re promised that changes in the Bat-titles will all be explained in-story and Batgirl is in great hands with Gail Simone. Some of the JSA are bound to be around, even if it takes a while; probably some of the Secret Six, too – King Shark in Suicide Squad already, for instance. So why not look to new stories and new ideas that might be as good or better than the current crop?

And of course, the mentioned cynicism has many wailing that it’s all just a gimmick and it’ll all be changed back in a month/3 months/year. Maybe. But I doubt it.

But some of the hatred – genuine hatred – I just don’t get. There is a sense of ownership about some of the characters and comics that is quite baffling. To paraphrase Neil Gaiman, “DC is not your bitch”. Some of the anger is just the witless barking of Marvel fans that despise DC (I’ve never understood this – and there are just as many people who feel the opposite way, equally ridiculously. It’s like saying “I only watch Paramount pictures”. Or  “I hate soup”). Some of it seems to be by people who really just hate comics, but seem hell-bent on turning up on forums to tell you so.

And there’s the specific reasons. OK, if you don’t like the costumes, that’s your opinion but why does it make you so mad? Most of what has been seen isn’t really that terrible; some of it’s rather good (Batwing), some of it odd (Zatanna with fishnets on her arms??), some of it bad (Midnighter) and some of it just a bit dated. But then, these are superhero costumes: what would a modern one look like anyway? Mostly, there’s actually little change.

Except for Superman, of course: no pants! Well, no pants on the outside.

Is this such a terrible thing? It’s been a joke for decades. Why not change it, exactly? Cape and S-shield intact will do me. I’m yet to see whether the concern about armour is really a misunderstanding of a revamped costume. You know: the costume that’s been unchanged for the best part of 70 years (and yet the same people angry about the change are saying that other costumes are too 90s?).

But that’s nothing compared to the renumbering. Action and Detective Comics starting from #1. Are they mad? Constant renumbering and restarts, as some titles – Marvel and DC – seem to have had, is, at worst, annoying. But the response to Action, especially, being renumbered is crazy. Why does it matter? I’ve heard comments as broad as “it’s disrespectful”, “a slap in the face to fans and creators”, “these hallowed books should not be changed”, “how can I sort this in my collection?”.

Step back and think about such comments. They’re comics. And it’s JUST A NUMBER. Yes, there’s a definite “badge of honour” sense when Action got to #900 recently but it wasn’t a sacred moment or anything (and was a disappointing issue, truth be told, which was a bit more relevant for me, at least).

So are comic fans just afraid of change? Their clutched and hoarded toys will no longer be the toys they remember? Your 500 issues of Action won’t seem as wondrous because any old Joe can get a copy of Action #1 in September?

Here’s the thing: less and less people read comics and the demographic is ageing all the time. The entire industry needs new readers. Younger readers.

Superman remains iconic and it’s a good idea to restore him as the first superhero – because he is. Now that means the JSA can’t really exist because, unlike most superheroes, they are tied to a specific era – World War II. So if you’re modernising the DC Universe, can you really have lots of 80yr old superheroes? Does WWII even mean anything to the current youth? And even if it does, would they want to read stories about their grandfather, let alone their dad being a superhero?

I doubt it.

So DC is going to relaunch its entire line. Wildstorm and Vertigo characters incorporated, some changes, some continuance. And digital, too – to try to entice new readers that might prefer the new delivery medium. More comics in the major shops so that the (sad) misconception of what a comic shop is doesn’t put people off from walking in. TV advertising for comics in August.

Mediaeval demons, westerns, war and plenty of superheroes. And Resurrection Man. Hot damn!

And Grant Morrison on Action, set a little before all else. Maybe giving us a weakened Superman, gaining in power over 5 years as he absorbs sunlight, tieing up with All Star, developing new powers, deciding on his look.

That’s speculation, of course, but what fun, if so! Comics haven’t got long to live if they don’t build a market soon. And of course it’s about money, bottom line, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be about great stories and art.

So you can keep all your ire and complaints. I choose to be excited by the change. Bring it  on.

If it all sucks I’ll walk away. If it’s all great I still might eventually. But not yet. And not before seeing for myself. I’m 44. If comics are still being written for me, that’s a bad thing. If I’m out of here because I don’t like them anymore but meanwhile, Action is selling 150,000 a month, that’s good. Like a friend I no longer see often, I’ll still be happy for their success.



Tags: , , , , , ,

Morrison Action

Posted on June 17, 2011 by     Leave a comment

Grant Morrison takes over Action, restarting at #1 in September.

Superman: “The greatest idea we’ve had as a human species”. I adore his madness and enthusiasm for a medium that most dismiss. Bless.




Tags: , ,