Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Comic Movie Reviews #1

When I heard there was going to be a Punisher movie, the following thoughts ran throught my head:

"It's probably going to suck."
"John Travolta's in it? It's definitely going to suck."
"Wait, Travolta's the bad guy. The Punisher kills bad guys."
"Hmm, maybe this won't be so bad after all."

So I went to see it, and I was pretty happy with the experience. I certainly enjoyed it more than Kill Bill Vol. 2, which came out the same week. In fact, if there comes a day when it feels like they have to update the Punisher's origin, this would be a pretty good way to go; a guy with counter-terrorism experience, rather than Vietnam.

It sets the situation up well, certainly gives Frank his reason to go after Howard Saint's organization, and I think you see Frank sort of learning on the job. He gets in a car wreck, he gets beaten nearly to death by a huge Russian guy (more on him later), he drinks, which I think was to not only forget his family, but to distance himself from the things he had done. In a way, the movie was like Batman Begins: We see what starts the character on his path, and we watch him try to grow into the role he's taking on. Sure it wasn't as good, but that isn't entirely fair. Batman Begins had Morgan Freeman (someday I will discuss my Morgan Freeman Corollary).

If there is one thing I like in my action movies, it's creative violence, which The Punisher had plenty of. The anti-personnel mine on the string, placed in the hand of Travolta's son. Blowing up Howard Saint's car dealership (I don't think the explosions should have formed the skull symbol, however). That car he had (man, I wish that hadn't got totaled). And oh yeah, the fight with the Russian. While it couldn't compare to the one from the comics, I would put it up there as one of my three favorite movies fights of all time, with the Thunderdome battle between Mad Max and Blaster, and the fight on top of the tank in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The level of creative violence, with Frank trying every weapon or trick he had hidden in his apratment, and the Russian just coming right on, using. . . whatever he feels like hitting Frank with. I just wish we could have had the comedy of the Russian telling Frank he is the president of the Smolensk Daredevil Fan Club. Then he could talk about how bad Daredevil was.

I kind of wish there had been more time to get to know Frank's neighbors, for those who hadn't read the comics. Still, I feel they did a pretty good job of showing us the personalities of each, and giving us some idea how these people interact, support, and rely on each other, a luxury Frank doesn't feel he has.

And there were some funny moments. The fight with the Russian, when Frank tries to pull out the revolver, and the Russian smashes it with a barbell, bending the barrel. There's a moment where Frank just sits there, staring at the gun, with this "Now what?" look on his face. The 'torture', of Frank's soon to be snitch and helper, with the blowtorch and the popsicle. Dave and Mr. Bumpo's reactions around Frank. Frank's confrontation with Joan's loser ex-boyfriend. Howard Saint getting gutshot, tied to a car, and then being dragged through his dealership as it blows up around him. Well, maybe that was only funny to me.

One thing I seriously did not like: Harry Heck. I don't mind other hired killers being sent after Frank, but the singing in the diner, damn, that was just irritating. I would have rather Frank got attacked by some Aussie named "Boomerang".

It wasn't perfect, but for a budget of $33 million it was pretty damn close. X-Men 3 will be lucky to be this good, and it's got a budget five times that size. I know money isn't everything, but for that much, a movie has to be awesome. As for me, I'm eagerly awaiting the sequel. I think Frank should be a little more competent now, sustain fewer injuries. He probably won't have a permanent base, and if he does, it won't be as easy to find. At least, I hope he's learned the importance of that. I give The Punisher, 4 "Dead Saint Family Members" out of 5.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Character Archetypes #1: Peter Parker

If you're like me, there are probably certain types of characters you gravitate towards. For whatever reason, their stories interest you, moreso than other characters'. I thought I'd do a few posts about the different types that appeal to me. In this case, I'm probably going to be combining American comics with anime/manga, as I've seen some carryover.

So it only seemed natural to start with my favorite character of all: Spider-Man. What you see here is the cover to the first Spider-Man book I ever read. I'll be honest, my original reason for liking Spider-Man was twofold. One, like Scipio alluded to in his post on Sunday, Spider-Man has an incredible variety of powers. He's not the fastest, strongest, smartest, but the combination of all his powers and skills means he has a chance against just about anybody. Second, that black costume just looked so damn cool. I thought it would be totally awesome, to be hiding in the shadows, up on the ceiling, then just drop down, scare somebody. Plus, Spidey was a bit of a smart aleck, which I readily identify with, being one myself.

This was actually a really good place to jump on because the next part of the story, the Beyonder pretty much lays it all out for you with regards to Peter Parker, the person. He worries, he ties himself up in knots over stuff that wasn't his fault, things he couldn't control, but at the end of the day, he thinks things are going to be alright, and if he can, he's going to help make things that way. That just seemed very unusual to me, as the only comics I'd read before that were my dad's Supermans and Batmans from the '60s. And I had never seen those people struggle with money, or have to repaint their home because some punks burned it up. And they almost never seemed to doubt themselves. On the rare occasions they did, it was something an enemy was doing to them, and it was over by the end of the issue, when they defeated the villain. So Peter, who often had real-life problems, seemed that much more approachable to a five-year old.

Yeah, he stopped the Beyonder from destroying everything, or the Puma from killing an innocent person, but he didn't get any pictures, which means his rent will be late, which means he's in trouble. Since then, I always seem to gravitate towards characters with those sorts of problems (it helps if they look cool or have cool powers).

Speedball was a goofy kid, one with seemingly academic talent, but no real desire to use it. Stuck in the middle of a couple of parents who seemed to constantly fight. Kyle Rayner was just a guy that got handed this awesome weapon, and was told to help save the universe. Plus the whole thing with his love life (well-documented elsewhere). Hey no pressure. Darkhawk (who looked Very cool) was stuck in a single parent household, with a father who had vanished under odd circumstances. Like Peter, he was trying to help the family, unlike Peter, he had the additional strain of younger siblings to watch out for. Tim Drake, who wasn't wearing the shorts, who had a cool staff, was dating, was trying to keep an eye on an injured father, and at the time his ongoing started, was working with an armored up lunatic that called himself Batman (I think it's kind of funny that Batman seems to have moved a lot closer to what Jean Paul was doing, which was part of why Bruce took the title back). The Ray (who looked VERY damn cool), who had been trapped inside his whole life, then finds out he has powers, then his dad pops up as a 'ghost', and tells him he has to be a hero. And now Ray has to adjust to trying to have a real life outdoors, with jobs and bills, and the fact he hasn't ever really known anything about his life.

Ultimately, I guess the common denominator is they're all close to my age (or closer than the Tony Starks and Bruce Waynes), and they all had problems that I could easily envision both interfering with attempts to be a hero, and that wouldn't be easily resolved because of the superhero aspect.

I don't suppose that's anything all that surprising or unique, seeing as that was the whole idea that Kirby, Lee, Ditko, etc., were going for with Spider-Man, make him accessible to young readers, but I did want to start with an easy one.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Random Comic Thoughts from this Week's titles

Blech. I need a better name for this than that mess. Maybe it should fall under "Things I think About". Oh well. Just some questions and random impressions from the week, now that I got that whole "mutant" thing out of my system:

1) I'm worried Starfire won't survive Infinite Crisis. I glanced through what I think was the most recent Outsiders. Her sister, who I take it doesn't like her any better in the comic than she does in the cartoon, is there, extra powerful and looking unfriendly. I hope I'm wrong, because I would really like to see Starfire in Teen Titans when One Year Later kicks off. Nightwing doesn't seem to be in a bad place (at least if IC is to be believed) and that was the whole reason she left the Titans, to keep an eye on him. I guess I'm just paranoid. I start thinking Batgirl might be OK, so now I'm thinking "Which other character I like is DC gonna take instead?"

2) If Cassandra Cain is a living member of the Birds of Prey at the start of OYL, I will buy the title regardless of quality. Come on Didio, I'm not asking for her to still be Batgirl (though I ask why she couldn't be), just that she still be alive. Work with me here!

As for books I actually bought:

Robin #146: What was with those sores on Conner's body? I can't figure his body would start devouring itself in select circular patterns here and there, though it is better for him than his body eating his own heart.

Robin mentioned a program he made that determines how difficult a place is to break into, on a scale of 10. There were 3 tens: The JLA Watchtower (oops, never mind), something in Washington D.C., and something that moves, and was in Coast City at that moment. What is the thing that keeps moving?

Ultimate Spider-Man #89: Is there a reason to have S.H.I.E.L.D. except as cannon fodder? I mean, they are constantly getting shown up. If it isn't six of Spidey's enemies escaping from a prison designed to hold them, it's Norman Osborn managing to hide Harry's "abilities" from the lab guys. Or it's Magneto escaping, or anything that's happening in The Ultimates. I know I said it when I reviewed this book, but I do not feel confident in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s ability to stop Gah'Lak'Tus.

Exiles #76: Should I be expecting the Dr. Doom of 2099 to catch up to and absorb Proteus' abilities at some point? Doom stole the Beyonder's power, and compared to that Proteus is like a firecracker.

New Avengers #15: Would Jameson really have broken his word like that? Saying he will ease off Spidey for exclusive access, then turning around and broadcasting that arrangement to the world.

I mean he lied to CAPTAIN AMERICA! Isn't that considered treason?

Also, doesn't this mean Joe Robertson quit? He told JJJ, 'Say yes or I quit.' Jonah ended up going back on the deal, so I guess Robbie has some people offering him jobs now. Good, now let's see the Bugle fall apart, and Jonah have to crawl to get Robbie back.

And really, why can't Warbird be on the Avengers? I mean, besides Cap, Iron Man, and I would say Spidey, none of the others have proven themselves as much as her. That includes Luke and Jessica, and I'm really glad they're on the team.

Spider-Man and the Black Cat #6: One more time, why did Kevin Smith add rape into Felicia's origin? I would say that when a book is as late as this one has been that your goal should be to take what Chris has described as the Geoff Johns approach: comfort food. Don't go for the home run, just give the fans what they want. Some fighting, the hero wins, his friend is safe, maybe she gets to do some ass-kicking too. Just a simple superhero story. Do NOT add elements of rape to a story that didn't need it!

Wolverine #38: I'm sorry, was there anything to this issue?

Amazing Spider-Man #528: What was the point of Peter being sick? The first four issues of The Other, they made a big deal about how Peter was sick, and there was nothing anyone could do, in the realm of science of magic, to fix it. He was weaker than normal, and then Morlun attacked, and skin was shed, and Spider-creatures showed up, and it just got dropped.

From a biological standpoint it made sense for Morlun to attack when Peter wasn't at 100%. That's how it works in nature, predators attack the weaker individuals. The young that aren't full-grown, or the old, or the sick, or the injured. But there wasn't any need for that in this story. Morlun showed the first time around he was fully capable of kicking Spidey's ass even if Peter is at full strength. Peter won that fight on a gamble that paid off. The sickness was unnecessary. This one has been bugging me for awhile.

If you have answers to any of these, please help the world (meaning me) to understand.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

On Marvel's Mutants and Biology, Part 2

There are two problems for me when talking about inheritance. One, genetics is not my field of study. Two, I don't have a real good idea if the secret behind mutants has been throughly revealed. As far as I can remember, there is this one gene, with two possible alleles. Get one allele, you're Homo sapiens. Get the other, congratulations, you're Homo superior! You now have a lifetime of hatred, fear, mistrust, and attempts on your life to look forward to! So based on that assumption, I'm trying to figure out whether mutants should have powers similar to, or vastly different from their siblings, and/or parents. I mean, I don't know that it's ever been discussed why one mutant gets skin that sheds every four hours, while another gets enough telekinetic power to lift a mountain, as well as an annoying inability to stay dead.

I mentioned the Guthrie's in the previous post, so let's take a look at them. Their mother is apparently human. Their father, who knows? Prior to joking about Apocalypse, I suggested it might be Mimic, except I find out today he wasn't a mutant. Len suggested tampering by Mr. Sinister, and that they could become his new Marauders. Whatever the case, look at these powers.

Sam can form a "blast field" around himself and others, rendering himself invulnerable, as well as allowing him to fly.

Paige can change the composition of her skin to steel, rubber, rock, etc.

Jeremy has wings like Archangel's, a healing factor, and hypersonic vocal cords that make him a really good singer.

Little Guthrie (Josh?) can shoot beams from his eyes, which can burn things. I mean, what's the common denominator here, people?

Compare that to the Greys. Jean is a telepath/telekinetic. Her daughter Rachel? Telepath/telekinetic. Her son, Nathan? Telepath/telekinetic. Meanwhile, neither of them seems to have inherited their father's powers. Maybe that has something to do with being time-displaced?

Magneto has one daughter that had his powers. Another one could run real fast, a third could alter probabilities, and the fourth, who is dead, was human. Their mother was human. I just don't get how it works.

I suppose ultimately, that the best explanation would be that the key to mutation doesn't lie on just one gene. That it actually involves several different genes, like eye color, perhaps one that determines whether you are a mutant, and activates the ones that determine your powers.

It's just somehow, it all seems meesed up. I mean I know siblings can be very different or similar to each other, likewise between parents and children. For whatever reason, mutation just seems like it would be something that would stay fairly similar within a family line.

Am I just overthinking this?

On Marvel's Mutants and Biology

I'm a biology major, which is probably the only reason this occurs to me.

Apocalypse vs. Dracula. That's what put me on this path. I haven't seen a very positive response to it out here in the blogosphere, but Len at the store seems pretty excited for it. We were discussing Apocalypse on Friday and how Len feels Marvel just doesn't quite get what they claim Apocalypse's motivation is: Survival of the fittest. Len argued that Apocalypse wouldn't just kill a bunch of humans, he would use them, draw the bio-energy from the bodies, Matrix-style, so that they could be of some use to those more deserving of life than themselves.

Len discussed how Marvel understands the idea enough to use it as an excuse for a lot of mutant battles, supposedly to determine who is more "fit", but that up until now they had missed the other aspect of fitness: reproduction. Like one of my professors says, "The only things in life that matter are food and sex. You eat the food to get big and strong and get all the babes and have lots of copulations." Sadly, he's not the oddest person in our biology department. But he's right, producing offspring shows how viable your genetics are for the population, because obviously you survived long enough to reproduce, which other individuals can't say, for whatever reason (illness, sterility, death, unimpressive secondary sexual characteristics).

The reason this came up is because apparently we'll be meeting Apocalypse's offspring in this story. Len's theory is that Dracula is killing them, and Apocalypse is perhaps none too pleased with that. Which makes sense; Dracula is disrupting Apocalypse's propagation of his DNA. Plus, if he's strong enough to kill those 'children' (who knows how old they are), then he might be a challenge to Apocalypse's plans, so it might just be time to deal with that.

But still Marvel comes up short. Supposedly, they said that the first born is the one closest to Apocalypse, and therefore the most fit. This had me and Len, who's also in the bio department, both slapping our foreheads saying, "No, it doesn't work like that". The discussion of the children lead to my joke that they're the Gutherie family, which has at least four mutants, all of which have wildly different powers, and have no father in sight, at least none I've ever seen. But that's a discussion for. . . later today, I think.

DC doesn't seem to have an analogue for this, except maybe Ra's, but he seems less about survival of the fittest, and more just about reversing overpopulation. I figure it's because in DC, most powers seem to come from being an alien, or being involved in some sort of magic/accident/experiment. Maybe, I'm wrong, but 'mutants' seem much more rare at DC. Well, maybe they aren't more rare in DC after House of M, but prior to that, when mutants were following biological protocol and outcompeting normal humans, thus leading to their continual increase in numbers, to the point they had devloped their own subculture. Oh yeah, one more thing.

Who the hell told Disney they could make a sequel to Bambi?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Not Quite The Last Thing I'd See Myself Talking About, But. . .

I'm posting about costume changes, and remarkably it's not Spider-Man's. First, the backstory.

I'm cruising Absorbascon. Scipio has provided four new entrees for Galact. . . I mean four new characters for the Marvel Universe. Below that he links to all the previous donations. I admit, I hadn't read them all, so when I see Starfire, I'm a little surprised. I like Starfire. I like the one in the cartoon better, but that's because I've seen her more often. My experience with the comic version is probably less than 20 issues, hasn't really given me enough depth with the character. Anyway, Scip had a lot of reasons for not liking her, most of which are irrelevant to me. Yeah, she has a trail of energy flowing from her hair, and yes, she shoots energy out of her clenched fists, instead of an open hand. So what? I can't figure any reason why Superman has heat vision or x-ray vision. Superpowers often don't make sense. Back to the topic.

Scipio ragged on the costume (uniform? outfit?) she wears, and I have to admit, he's right. it's just absurd, and this is coming from a guy who has played the stupid, drooling fanboy more than once. Prior to his post, I didn't know about her life as a slave girl, so I'd never really understood about the significance of it, or why she'd wear that, other than the creators were guys (which I'd figure is the real reason, but still). So she needs something different.

Now this is where you come in. Because I have very little artistic ability, and less fashion sense, so me designing her a new outfit, is probably not wise. But let's set things up.

1), She needs more clothes. It doesn't have to be be head-to-toe coverage I don't think, but it should probably be near what she has on the cartoon. Personally, I kind of like that outfit, but it feels too young for comic book Starfire somehow.

2) She doesn't need armor. She's not invulnerable, but she's resilient enough that armor is kind of redundant. Plus, would armor interfere with her ability to absorb energy?

3) No capes! With that hair, she doesn't really need a cape, unless you're going to cut the hair, and even then, as a warrior, you think she would understand the danger of wearing something that can be grabbed and used to spin you around and fling you into buildings. Look at Wonder Woman. Top notch warrior, no cape (usually).

4) I like the color, what is that, lavender? Like Aquaman and orange, not many people can make that work, and I think she's one of them.

5) I think the boots and the arm gauntlets (yeah, they're probably just gloves, but 'gauntlets' sounds cooler) are fine.

Anyway, I'm kind of thinking something like the Jim Lee drawn Psylocke only with the different colors, plus maybe some designs that might reflect Tamaranian culture (is there any of that shown in the comics anywhere?) I mean, obviously that's not heavy coverage, but it's an improvement and besides, baby steps people.

But, like I said, I have no clue what I'm talking about when it comes to designs. Help me out. Maybe we get some artwork from people, we can let the people who read this blog decide what looks best. Then we march on DC's offices! How's 10 on Saturday on sound?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Today, On Calvin's Blog. . .

We steal stuff from X-Play! For those who don't know, X-Play is a show on G4 that reviews video games with lowbrow humor. Well, sometimes they go higher, like their "1st Annual H.P. Lovecraft Spelling Bee", but mostly, fart jokes. Which is fine, it's video games, not 19th Century English literature (thank goodness). It's beloved by all my friends, except Tevion, who won't watch it because he's in love with Morgan Webb. He fears he'll get drunk and depressed during the show and decide to drive to California and abduct Morgan. I don't know what he's worried about. When he's drunk, he can't master the simple concept of sitting in a chair, so making it to his car, starting it, and driving over 1,000 miles? Forget it.

One of their single best creations, is Roger, The Stan Lee Experience! He's the fifth best thing to actually getting Stan Lee to make commentary while reviewing The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction! He imparts upon us great stories from the old days like:

'Kirby (pronounced Koiby) walks into my office and pitches the idea for the Fantastic Four. I said "That's the dumbest idea I ever heard! Get the fuck out of my office!" Not five seconds later, I copyright the idea and the money rolls in like gangbusters. Kirby never got a cent. What a dumbass.'

It's funny because it's probably distrubingly close to the truth. So now, because I'm lazy, I present my five favorite Rogerisms:

'So I call Kirby into my office to pitch the idea for Galactus. I say "He's a big purple guy, who has to eat planets to sustain life, kind of like how I fucked your wife." The analogy didn't hold up, but Kirby, he got the message.'

'So I'm fucking Kirby's wife, when he walks into the office, and we just freeze, and we're all standing there looking at each other, and that was how we came up with the idea for The Moleman."

'So I call Ditko into my office to talk about how he's drawing Mary Jane. I tell him "Draw her more like this", and show him a naked picture of his wife sitting on my lap. He says, "Stan, that's my wife!" I say, "Yeah, your kid took the picture." He drew the best Mary Jane.'

'Excelsior! That means "DC's for douchebags".' (Note: from 1988 through 2000, I whole-heartedly agreed with that sentiment, even if I'd never heard the word 'douchebag'. Depending on how Batgirl ends, I may adopt that philosophy again)

And finally. . .

'We used to prank call Bob Kane. We'd say we was the real Batman, and we was gonna kill him for stealing our idea. Then we'd throw a rock through his window.'

I told you it was mostly lowbrow. Something more substantive tomorrow, I hope.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

What I Bought 1/25/06

SEVEN! That's right, seven titles this week. Let me see you tremble in awe, and let me hear the lamentations of your women. Actually, forget lamentations, just send the women hither. Or is it thither? Over this away. Spoiler warnings, because I'm sure there will be some.

Robin #146: Willingham continues Operation: Kill The Clock, and Robin heads to Titans Tower. Meanwhile, Bludhaven goes up in green smoke. However, the Veteran sent units to get Dana Drake and Tim's "Uncle Eddie". My prediction, they're still dead. Call it a hunch, and a lesson to not look through Previews ever again.

So Conner has come down with a mysterious affliciton. It's called "Got Your Ass Whupped By Whiny Superboy-Prime" Syndrome. Anyway, Tim immediately analyzes the problem, and says they need a device Luthor created to counteract it. How does he know Luthor has such a device? Because Lex is interested in Connor, and would have anticipated the problem, and created something to deal with it. Personally I don't buy the idea of what's wrong with him, but whatever.

Robin, Wonder Girl, Speedy, and Beast Boy travel to the location Tim found. There's fighting, tender moments, and lots of ragging on Beast Boy. And, there's a halfway interesting conversation between the Veteran and Batman. What can I say? Anytime someone actually stands up to the pointy-eared psycho I enjoy it. 4 "What are those things on Conner's body?" out of 5.

Ultimate Spider-Man #89: Stuff actually happened, I think. Bendis managed to fit two sort of quickie origins into this issue, Silver Sable's and the head of Roxxon's. We find out why the head of Roxxon would be stupid enough to think Peter had some interest in Roxxon and that's why he kept helping it. Oh yeah, Peter experiences mask malfunction - again. I think he's reached the point where he should take a page from Juggernaut and weld the mask to the rest of the costume. Or he could evolve into a half-man, half-spider, who can change between his normal face and spider face. . . Forget I said anything. I said forget it Bendis! Straczynski, don't you tell him anything! I have a pen! It can be sharpened!

Oh yeah, and Shield is really lame in the Ultimate Universe. If Norman Osborn isn't leading a prison break, then he's hiding his son's abilities from Nick Fury. Or Magneto is suckering them with the aid of Havok, Polaris and Northstar. Or well, just look at The Ultimates. I hope the people of Earth aren't counting on them to stop Gah'Lak'Tus. They better call in Ultimate Supreme Squadron. Or is that Supreme Power? 4 out of 5.

Exiles #76: New title. The last few months, there's always an extra copy (I think Eric may have dropped it since Mimic died). I've been skimming them, and I figured, what the hell. Proteus is inside Hulk 2099. So he has a body that should last for weeks before it burns out. I guess that's good for him, bad for Exiles. Spider-Man 2099 faces a decision, and makes it. This is a possible spoiler, so those concerned with that, go to the next paragraph. They gone? Ok. He joins the Exiles, I'll let you read it to see why, or ask me in the comments.

Hey, thanks for waiting for us to get finished with spoilers. So, Longshot is in the book. I like Longshot. I always thought luck powers were cool. Of course, I like Stacy's phermone powers and HATE telepathy, so take from that what you will. For a new reader, I knew what was going on, I enjoyed it, I'll be buying next issue. 4 "Oh Shocks!" out of 5.

New Avengers #15: This is the "meet your Avengers" issue. Whoop-de-do. Bendis got my hopes up. I was sure Warbird was going to join, and Captain America offered, but no, she had to want to feel like she was "worthy" first. Are you kidding? What the hell has the Sentry done to earn it? Join the team already woman! Would anyone actually mind having another woman for Frank Cho to draw, to distract us from Bendis' "story"? And I was proposed Warbird as someone for my New Avengers, because she's got the history, the powers, and a sash.

There was one moment I found interesting. The Avengers call Jonah Jameson in to make a deal: You get exclusive access, and in return, you stop ragging on Spider-Man. Jonah's actions didn't seem in character, which is odd, because I thought Bendis understood him pretty well in Ultimate Spider-Man. So this book has one arc left. "The Collective" had better blow my socks off, though the holes may make that difficult, or sayonara. I can read bad stories that involve Spider-Man elsewhere. 2 out of 5.

Black Cat and Spider-Man: The Evil that Men Do #6: Speaking of bad stories that involve Spidey. The more I read this book and see that subtitle, the more aggravated I get. For some reason I keep emphasizing "Evil that MEN Do" and it's driving me up the wall. I know the main bad guy is well, a guy, but still, quit disparaging my gender. Here come spoilers, so you may wish to jump to the next review. Or not.

Why was it necessary to add a rape to Felicia Hardy's origin? I was fine with "Felicia loved her father, he was a burglar, so she followed in his footsteps, and besides, it's fun!" Why did need she need a sexual assault to spur her on? What, because Frank Miller turned Selina Kyle into a prostitute, Felicia has to have sexual abuse in her past? Cripes. Frank Miller is insane, and should not be imitated, especially not in the Spider-Man Universe. Spidey is supposed to be relatively cheerful, this was freaking depressing.

I notice I haven't talked much about the book. Well, it did enough talking for the both of us, which is pretty much what I predicted after the last issue. Man, I know there was a big gap between the two halves of this story, but Smith really fouled this up. And apparently we're getting a 'new' villain out of all this. Yippee. 1 "Why did you go There?" out of 5.

Wolverine #38: Recently I was pretty excited about the upcoming Wolverine:Origins book, which will be written by Daniel Way. Unfortunately, Way is also writing this story arc, and he's not bolstering my confidence. Hopefully in that book he'll stay in the time period of the event he's writing about, and not flashback and forth between present and past.

As for this, well, Logan finds the place where the Adamantium was bonded to his skeleton the first time. Funny, I could have sworn he found that place back in the '90s, somewhere around issue #50 in his previous ongoing. I still have no idea what it was the Silver Samurai told him back in Part 1 of this story. Apparently Bucky was involved in Wolverine's life at some point.

My first reaction upon finishing this issue was "Is that it?" Then I flipped back through to see if I had somehow missed pages in there. I hadn't. Lame-ass. I'm telling you now, the story of Logan's past should be written by Paul Jenkins and certainly not Daniel Way. Man, I am such a whore for Paul Jenkins. Well, I guess Grant Morrison and Alan Moore can't have all the syncophantic fanboys. 2 out of 5.

Amazing Spider-Man #528: "The Other" is over! The tidal wave of suckiness is over! Hooray! Prepare for a new, potentially even larger wave of suckiness! Uh, hooray? And this new wave shall begin with a new costume? Boo! Ok, so he doesn't wear the new costume. . . this issue. I know Peter has had some questionable costumes, but man I just can't get over how dumb it looks with those spines sticking out the back. And red and yellow? Damn it Tony, not everyone likes the same colors you do! Yeesh. Or maybe "Guh" is more appropriate.

So, I was surprised Peter did not have a confrontation with the spider-mass thing we saw the last two parts of this story arc. I guess they're saving that to annoy the crap out of me some later day. He did however go to visit that odd little super-hero tailor guy that JMS introduced some time back (before his mind completely slipped the rails, and he decided Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn should procreate). Then he demonstrates his new powers and saves lives. Personally, I don't think "carrying a person by sticking them to your back" is really a new power. I seem to recall he's been using his back to stick to walls for years, so he could read newspapers.

Oh yeah, and Tony isn't sure Peter is really who he says he is. Now privately, Peter shares these doubts, but I don't think that excuses Tony from spying on Peter and MJ during private moments. I think Stark needs to drop A.A. and join Sexaholics Anonymous. Ok, be honest, you saw that joke coming three lines ahead of time, didn't you? Don't lie to me! Sorry, I have to go to my anger management class, I'll give Logan and Banner your regards. Oh, the score? Well, it's really only a 2, but I'm so happy "The Other" is over, I'll give a 3 "You've Nearly Killed Me Off Spider-Man Books" out of 5.

Sorry, this post was much funnier the first time. But Blogger ate that, so you got a pared-down version.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

What Is The Appeal?

I tell you, to this day I can't figure out why exactly I was excited by Joe Casey's Uncanny X-Men. I mean, I know why I had zero interest in Morrison's X-Men. It was a team with Emma Frost, Scott Summers, and Jean Grey, one of whom shouldn't be a hero, and the other two I'm sick to death of. But Casey's team, for some odd reason, worked.

Archangel: I've haven't really liked him since he went back to the birdy wings. I'm sorry, but those metal wings were frickin' awesome. And he was periodically psychotic, and throwing blades out of the wings, cool! Without them, I thought he'd be kind of lame. But he took over, became the leader. He was kind of bossy, but that was made sense, most of the other people on this team are stubborn, and not big on following commands, so you need someone to rein them in.

Iceman: He became the Guy Gardner of the team, the character I could hate without reservation (though I've never read anything with Gardner in it long enough to hate him). He was a smug, arrogant jerk, who gave the newbie on the team a bunch crap, and even talked crap towards his friends. Still, he was always there in a fight, even when Black Tom impales him with a tree branch (though that's from the Adequate Chuck Austen period, before he started to suck).

Wolverine: On certain occasions, I need a character that likes to maim other sentient beings. Plus, he likes to give whoever is running the team a lot of static. Down with authority! Kalinara's glaring at me right now, while holding a Cyclops poster.

Nightcrawler: I remember when Bendis started New Avengers, he said Spider-Man and Wolverine were one of the great unintentional comedy teams in comics. I wouldn't know, they haven't spent more than five pages together in the entire book so far! Besides, Nightcrawler and Wolverine form a great 'buddy cop' tandem. "Come on Logan, I'm tired of having to teleport you away from the cops for killing people whenever we go out drinking." Come on Elf, lighten up a little." Hmm, I don't think I've quite captured the essence. Whatever. Teleporting is cool. So is speaking German. Plus, he tries to be funny without being good at it. And while not a religious person myself, I always found Kurt's faith to be kind of an interesting facet, and while I didn't think he would really try to enter the clergy - he's too much of a swashbuckler to take a vow of celibacy, like Hal Jordan, except not eternally concussed - I thought it made things kind of interesting until Horrible Chuck Austen decided Kurt was being mentally manipulated the whole time. Cripes.

Chamber: I knew nothing about him. Still don't know much other than he's British, telepathic, ran with Generation X, and can fire energy blasts. I'll be straightforward: I HATE telepaths. For some reason, the whole idea of people being able to get in someone's head bothers me. Actually I know the reason, I wouldn't want people being able to get inside my mind, how rude. And I wouldn't believe them if they said they would never do that to me. But one whose ability is basically just developed to the point of communication, like Chamber's, plus he has a different cool power, plus he didn't want to join the team initially, and never seemed totally onboard with it, though that may be because he was gone so frequently.

Stacy X: Some people hate her. I'm not one of them. Before Austen turned her into Super-Slut, I thought she was progressing nicely, maybe making a few friends, or at least people who trusted her (Logan, Chamber, Nightcrawler). Then Horrible Chuck Austen. . . well, I've said it all before. People didn't like a character who's an 'escort'? Fine, it's called "character development". Watch the character "develop" over time into someone who maybe isn't quite as rude, but still independent, and has friends, and isn't hitting on every person in the Mansion (which was Austen's fault, God I HATE CHUCK AUSTEN!).

The thing I notice is the symmetry. You have two old-school X-Men (Archangel, Iceman), two 2nd-generationers (Wolverine, Nightcrawler), and two relative newbies (Chamber, Stacy).

I think what made the team work was a bunch of them didn't like each other. Drake hated Stacy. Stacy hated Drake. Archangel had never liked Logan. Logan has never gotten along with a person who called themselves his "leader". Chamber really wished he could still be with his pop star girlfriend. Kurt's supposed to be the leader, but he didn't really want the responsibility. If you throw in the Juggernaut or Northstar as the 7th member (all good teams just seem to have seven members, don't they?), that's a team full of abrasive personalities. But they come from enough walks of life, with enough different powers, that they could have been in any number of different stories.

Sadly, Casey didn't last. Nothing good ever does. But, we'll always have those ten issues or so.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Things I Think About #12

When did Terra come back? Or is it a different person? I remember she was in that "Titans of Tomorrow" story, but I just figured it was a different person. But then there she was again, in Infinite Crisis #4, right alongside Kalinara's favorite Sand, sticking it to Whiny-Brat Superboy, I mean Superboy-Prime. If it is the same Terra that teamed with Deathstroke, why bring her back? To me, she had one of those deaths that made sense.

It just occurred to me this morning, Tim Drake is now officially an orphan. His stepmother was in a mental health facility/clinic in Bludhaven. And we all just watched Bludhaven go *POOF*, in a cloud of green smoke (ew). So, she's dead. Man, they really are trying to turn Tim into Batman. Crap. Well, under no circumstances should Tim live with Bats, not unless Batman gets a massive personality adjustment. Back when he was escaping from giant typewriters, and making goofy comments, he was at least somewhat ok to be a parent-type. If that happened now? Well it would be a miracle if Dick Grayson didn't turn into the Punisher. Hey, I think I just figured out where Miller's going with his All-Star Batman and Robin. Which is fine. Anything that keeps him away from characters and books I care about is ok.

Besides, I don't think Selina would want Tim around the mansion much.

Major question for the day, connected to the Terra question: What character's death - that has been undone - do you feel shouldn't have been undone and why? In other words, why did the death 'work'? Can be a hero, villain, normal person. Could be a nice/heroic death, depressing, traitorous, whatever.

For me, Colossus. Now I like the big Russian. I mean, he's not one of my favorite characters, but I like him alright. But his death seemed appropriate. Here he was, with a chance to end the Legacy Virus forever. An opportunity to destroy the thing that had killed his little sister, the only family he had left I think, and had done the same to who knows how many others. And all he had to do was give his own life. He didn't have to fight, and at heart, I don't think of Colossus as a fighter. Sure, if punches need to be thrown, he'll do it, but he's a farmer and an artist. And this death just required him to inject the vaccine, and activate his power. That's it, and he ensures no one loses their little sister again. And I'll be honest: I think Peter had been on kind of a downward spiral since her death, maybe since before that, since he had to kill Proteus. Sure, he wasn't hanging with Magneto anymore, which he had done after her funeral, but you wonder if someone ever recovers from that entirely. When you've saved the world - several times - it can't be easy, accepting that you can't save people most important to you. So he might have been looking for a way to leave.

There was an issue of Wolverine, #176, where Logan was right on the border of life and death and he runs into a bunch of old enemies. Colossus shows up to give him a hand, and tells Logan to tell the others 'I'm with my little snowflake. I am happy.' It was a little sad, but I thought it made sense. Obviously, Joss Whedon disagreed.

Then again, Whedon never did know when to leave a character dead.

So, who is it for you?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Dynastic Centerpiece Revisted - The Other Side

After all, what's a hero without a villain? And Spider-Man has one of the best collections of enemies around (I'd say only the Flash and Batman can compare, especially when it comes to variety). I'm thinking this is a sort of what I'd like to see, and this wouldn't be all the enemies he'd be dealing with, just his most frequent combatants. Oh well, at least it's a distraction from the Broncos being destroyed.

Arch Enemy - Norman Osborn, aka Green Goblin. Blame the writers, who've decided Osborn is responsible for practically everything that's gone wrong in Peter's life since he put on the mask. Norman killed Gwen, his intensity drove his son, Harry, to drugs and later to trying to kill Peter as the new Green Goblin. He was behind the whole clone saga, and Aunt May's apparent death (twice!). Knows Peter better than any other villain, and because he dons the weird outfits as well, may understand Peter even better than Aunt May or Mary Jane. As such, has the ability to get under Peter's skin, emotionally wound him in ways that could drive Peter to the brink, and it's kind of fun watching Norman try. Plus with his resources, can strike at as Norman Osborn, leaving Peter without much recourse. In essence, osborn could be Arch-Enemy, Civilian Foe,and Untouchable Crime Lord, were the writers inclined to go that way. Plus, he's batshit crazy (whatever that means), so he could probably fit in the next category.

Lunatic - But it's not all about Norman Osborn, no matter how hard thw writers may try to convince us. So, Vermin. Crazy, lives in the sewers, can control rats, seems to be able to bring out fear and paranoia in others, oh yeah, he eats people! And somewhere inside is an innocent man who got mutated by Baron Zemo. Actually, Edward was back to normal for awhile, but that never lasts. Or, the Lizard, bonus points for Curt Connors being Peter's friend.

Heroworshipping Villain - Cardiac. Ok he straddles the line between hero and villain, but he has no problem with killing people he feels harm others for their own benefit. I can't remember too much backstory, but his brother was sick, and a company decided it wasn't yet cost-effective to provide the cure, so his brother died. So Elias focuses on things such as that.
And this is a guy willing to replace his heart with a beta-particle reactor, so that he channel energy through his staff, and you know, blast people. He kills, but like the Punisher can be fairly precise. It's the suits he takes out; security guards may get stunned, but they live. He admitted to looking up to Spider-Man, that Spidey was the example who convinced him to go this path.

Civilian Enemy - J. Jonah Jameson. He's not actually evil, just a man with questions, doubts, and fears about a man who swings on a web, fighting freaks with four metal tentacles. How unreasonable. Still, I actually thought about putting him in the next category as Spider-Man once joked Jonah's spent millions funding the creation of villains to destroy Spider-Man. Spencer Smythe's Spider-Slayers, the Scorpion, the Human Fly. Throw in that he's Peter's fairly stingy employer, and his ability to make Peter's entire life difficult increases. But he's most effective with his headlines, making people question Spidey's motives. And as JJJ once pointed out, it'd be a lot easier to trust Peter if he stopped hiding behind a mask. Of course it would open a whole host of new problems for the webslinger, but that's not Jameson's problem. .

Untouchable Crime Lord - See how Jameson would have fit? Peter can't just punch him out, although he does enjoy webbing Jonah's mouth shut. So the best option would obviously be Kingpin, and even though he started in Amazing Spider-Man, he's a Daredevil foe now, kind of like how Wendigo was in Incredible Hulk, but now he only seems to fight Wolverine. Anyway, I'm going to diverge and suggest two possibilities: Alistar Smythe and Arcade. Each one has vast technical know-how. This would give them an edge over standard gangs, enabling them to beat those guys, and then incorporate them. Smythe could try passing himself off as a scientist (which would be a switch from the standard crime lord, that is always a businessman). As for Arcade, well his family was loaded, so I'm sure there are some old connections from before Arcade killed his father that he could exploit to protect himself. Plus I always just though Arcade was kind of cool, and a guy that smart wouldn't have to keep luring people to his place. He could figure out how to send his traps out after the targets, while staying safely hidden away. I thought about Chameleon, but it's been done before, and I think his brain is pretty fried. I think the last time I saw him, he was professing love for Spidey. I mean love love. Whoa.

Magician - Mysterio, well he's an illusionist at least, as well as a damn poor dresser. At least he doesn't have a bare midriff. OK, moving on, well he's kind of nuts, and he's just something a little different, for when the writer wants to take a lot of drugs, and then write the issue. Call up the colorist: "More colors man! More vivid! Bring me Hostess Fruit Pies! I need to stop that alien! (if you remember the ads from comics in the 80s or earlier, you know what I mean)" Awesome. Down side, he might be dead. But wait! It was all an illusion! Hooray! Anyway, we need more villains in giant fishbowls. it's just so goofy, and yet Mysterio is so determined to be taken seriously, he could be quite dangerous.

Evil Opposite - Venom. sigh. Well, it was either him, the Spider-Doppelganger (stupid Infinity War), or Carnage (one go-round with him was enough), unless I shift Kaine back to being a villain instead of a Black Sheep. Hmm. Anyway, Venom would be used VERY sparingly. We're talking once every 50 issues, tops. We are not going back to the days when he showed up for 3 issues out of every 15 in Amazing Spider-Man. I think he could be somewhat like the Lizard in that Eddie Brock is going to try to go back to a normal life, but he can't get rid of the symbiote (obviously we're not doing the "Eddie dies of cancer and sells the symbiote" story Jenkins started and Millar finished). Sometimes he might help Peter, sometimes not. Most of the time I think he would falter, and Peter might have to help him back on the path. It'd be more talking, less punching, which is something Paul jenkins does pretty well.

Femme Fatale - This is hard. I'm kind of defining this as "villain the hero has trouble fighting, because he wants to get with her." So I guess, if I change Romantic Interest to Mary Jane, I could move Felicia Hardy back into a sort of grey area. There was one story with Typhoid Mary, nah, let's leave her to Daredevil. Other than that, the female Doc Ock? No. Shriek? Hell no! Titania? Uhh, a bit large. Silver Sable, as a less friendly mercenary? Maybe. Sable always used to take the contracts to support the economy of her home country. That's got to be expensive, so it would figure she couldn't always be choosy and might have to go after Spider-Man. Or maybe she's after Felicia, and Peter gets in the middle.

Mental Challenger - Doctor Octopus. Had to fit him in somewhere. Smart, has tentacles that are fast and strong, and can be upgraded. Seems to have a personality disorder, where sometimes he wants to make big money through theft or development of something destructive. Other times he just wants to kill lots of people. Still other times he just wants to kill Spidey. Maybe he should have a personality disorder, then each time Peter has to figure which side he's dealing with. Each one could approach fighting Spider-Man differently, if they even cared to. Plus, the dude tried to marry Aunt May, resulting in the hilarious moment of her trying to shoot her nephew, only she doesn'y know it because he's dressed in his spider-costume. Well, hilarious for the reader maybe. Kind of sad for Aunt May. Her romances never work out. I guess Jarvis will turn out to be a Skrull, or Lord of the Zombies or something.

Physical Challenger - Morlun. Damn, he was perfect the first time. It makes sense from a biological standpoint in that he's designed to hunt a specific kind of prey, and Spider-Man's it. He's strong, surprisingly fast, and can take everything Peter throws at him. However, I think he's best if used sparingly, like maybe Peter has to enlist the aid of other totems to truly finish him off (remember, I'm doing this as if it's well before 'The Other', so that isn't going to occur). So on a more regular basis, the Scorpion. Faster and stronger than Spider-Man, but much, much dumber, so clearly a physical challenge. The Lizard and the Rhino could probably land here too.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Things I Think About #11

Why is Watchmen regarded as such a great piece of work? I'm not criticizing it, as I've never read it, just curious.

Is Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers in continuity with the rest of DC, or is it like All-Star Superman, off in it's own little world?

What was the reason for leaving Earth-2 Lois and Superman, Superboy, and Alex Luthor alive in a pocket dimension? Was there some reason why they had to survive the Crisis outside of the universe?

That being said, I believe one of them is going to die in each of the remaining issues of Infinite Crisis. We lost Superboy in #4, I think Lois will die on the 2nd page of #5, because it turns out that getting back to Earth-2 doesn't help when you're like 900 years old. This leads to Old-Superman going after current Superman in a grief-stricken rage, before realizing he's been used by Luthor. He'll die in #6 against Alex, before Alex gets taken out in #7, by Donna Troy and Jade. Naturally they will perish in the process. The grief of losing two more girlfriends causes Kyle Rayner to lose it and don the mask to become Ion, the Avenging Green Lantern!

And why the hell would Peter Parker let Tony Stark design his new costume? Why not Reed Richards? Tony Stark builds armor for people who lack powers. Reed Richards builds uniforms for people with powers, so the uniforms work with the powers, such as being able to stretch, or resist high temperatures, etc.

Or Peter could just, you know, keep the same costume he has now.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Things I Think About #10

Beware, this is me getting my nit-picky fanboy on.

Harken back to the OMAC Project mini-series. I don't remember which issue it was, 4 or 5, but an OMAC is getting ready to kill Rocket Red #4. No worries, Maritan Manhunter on the job. Except, the OMAC knows about Martian vulnerabilities, so it ignites, J'onn gets burned, he can't stop the OMAC, no big deal.

Except. . .

In an arc in JLA, J'onn overcame his vulnerability to fire, with the help of a woman named Scorch, falling in love in the process. Unfortunately overcoming that lead to his reverting to an earlier form of Martian life, that almost ended the world, but that's not the point.

At then end, as J'onn is sitting next to Scorch's comatose form, he comments he isn't completely vulnerable to fire anymore, just fires of emotion. I assume that means a fire set out of hatred, or fires set out of love. I'd guess the fire starter leaves a sort of psychic imprint behind with the fire, and J'onn being a telepath, he picks up on it.

Anyway, my point is, there wouldn't be any sort of emotions behind a computerized defense system. It was just the OMAC initiating its programmed response. So it shouldn't have worked. J'onn should have kicked it's butt, end of story.

Ah well, the whole 'fires of emotion' thing was kind of ambiguous.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Randomness - Things I Think About #9

Infinite Crisis #4 left me with two major thoughts/questions.

Barry Allen said he would see Wally three times, when Wally needed him most. Did his appearance against Superboy count as the third time? Becuase I kind of figured Barry meant he would time travel and see Wally, which wasn't really what happened.

Second, I feel much better about the Ray's chances of surviving Infinite Crisis. Alexander Luthor seems at least interested in Power Girl, but he still put her in the machine. This, to me suggests that the machine doesn't kill the people being used to power it. Up till now I figured Ray was screwed under my "If I like them, they're doomed" theory.

Other stuff:

Thief: Deadly Shadows for the Xbox is a lot of fun. Basically, it's Splinter Cell in a medieval setting, which allows for magic and the undead. Plus religious factions you have to do things for, or they try to kill you on sight. Of course if you do enough, they'll have your back if you get attacked around them, which can be handy for escapes. I'm playing the game through a second time, and taking more time to explore, and so getting alot more loot. I'm hoping the upcoming level in the abandoned insane asylum/orphanage is still eerie the second time through. The lighting is great, listening to some of these people when they catch a glimpse of you can be amusing (I got a real laugh out of some drunk guard I spooked this evening. Then after he dropped his guard, I busted him over the head). Just a good time if you're a person into games built on being sneaky. Come on, indulge your inner Catwoman. Whip and leather not included.

Odd thoughts: I was looking up at the sky one night. I see stars. I know there are enough stars out there to cover the sky, but many are too dim or too far away for me to see them. So what I'm wondering is whether or not I'm actually seeing all those stars I see up there, or if my mind is filling in the blanks because it knows the stars are there, even if I can't see them. This feels significant to me somehow, like I'm on the verge of staring over the edge of the universe. Or not.

Sorry, I just didn't feel like talking much about comics today.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What I Bought 1/18/06

According to Eric, I may be the only person not happy with the direction Dan DiDio is taking DC. Fine. When DiDio stops screwing over the characters I care about, I'll start being happy with his direction. With that out of the way, on to reviews. Spolier warnings abound.

Batgirl #72 - Last month I said, I was probably grading this book lightly because it's drawing to a close. This month, I can't even grade this issue. I just don't know how to feel about this book. On some level I actually feel better about Cassandra's chances of suriving the cancellation, based on the fact she got stabbed in the chest this month, and not next month. Other than that, I don't know what to say, other than I didn't like De La Fuente's art. It was very hard to follow the actions and movements of the characters, and the movements I could follow looked pretty awkward. Incomplete.

Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #4 - See, every once in a while, "The Other" has an issue I like. This one has Peter being probed and tested by Stark, Hank Pym (booo!) and Reed Richards. Peter manages to escape, but only due to the intimidating glare of May Parker. Peter takes MJ out for a webswing, MJ shows Jameson what she thinks of him - hilarious - and Peter acts a little oddly. Oh yeah, and at the end, Peter shows an uncanny ability to recognize the type of spiders that have encased the top of Stark's building, before meeting a new being comprised of a bunch of spiders. Oh joy, he said flatly, and the issue was going so well. 3.5 out of 5.

Marvel Knights Spider-Man #22. First off, I didn't like Pat Lee's art. Second off, I have no idea what the hell is going on. All this 'What you are, I am not. What you are not, I am' stuff is just annoying as hell. I'm just tired of all this. I don't know where they're going with this. I don't like how all of the sudden Jarvis is acting unfriendly towards Peter, how the rest of the team, except Logan, seems to regard Spidey as part of the problem with this spider-thing. It really is amazing how this series can have the previous issues, that really seem to be true to the character, and then the follow up is crap. I mean, stingers, popping out of his wrists? If that's the case, can he still shoot webbing from his wrists? 'Cause it seems like the massive impaling thingamajiggers would tend to interfere with that. Thank goodness it's almost over. 2 out of 5.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Things I Think About #8

What is Speedy's blue arrow? You know the one I'm talking about. When she first joined the Titans, Cyborg gave her Arsenal's old quiver, which had a blue arrow that said "use in emergency only". Since then, pretty much every battle she's gotten ready to use it, then something stops her.

Fighting Dr. Light? Cyborg steps in.
Fighting Superboy? He's throws a wall at her.
Fighting Demons? A bunch of dead Titans show up.

Clearly we'll never see what it is. After "One Year Later" the Titans will just talk a lot about "that time Speedy saved the day with the blue arrow". That's probably because she's looking like she might be dead based on recent issues of Green Arrow (better her than Batgirl, Calvin said, like DC takes it as an either/or situation).

My intuition is it's a confetti arrow. You know, for weddings and birthdays and stuff. Fighting villains is no big deal for the Teen Titans, but confetti for someone's happy day? That's a serious business.

So what about you? What do you think it is?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Taking a Page From Marvel, I Will Now Steal a DC Blogs Idea!

First off, posting may become more erratic starting tomorrow. The semester is kicking off, and I'm not sure yet whether it'll affect my posting. Hopefully, I'll keep up a 1 post per day pace, at least.

Anyway, if you go to Absorbascon, and go to Scipio's earliest posts (March 27, 2004) he has some posts on what he calls Dynastic Centerpieces. He gives a few examples of DC rebuilding them (Green Lantern), and makes some of his own (Black Canary, Martian Manhunter). I figured I'd give it a try with at least some Marvel characters, starting with the one I know best, Spider-Man! Let's say this is the set up for Straczynski as he comes onto Amazing Spider-Man and Paul Jenkins is still writing Peter Parker Spider-Man. JMS can still go mystical, but this gives me plenty of time to prevent "The Other" and hopefully the organic web-shooters Peter got in "Disassembled". Mary Jane is not in town. She can be dead, divorced, whatever.

Dynastic Centerpiece - Spider-Man, aka Peter Parker, mild-mannered high school science teacher, plus occasional photo journalist work (maybe only during summers, or on weekends).

Junior Counterpart - Johnny Gallo, aka Ricochet. Was given the identity from some old-time hero named the Black Marvel. While I don't know where the costume came from, as Peter still has the one he used in the "Identity Crisis" storyline, the fact remains Johnny has one. He's a mutant possessing superhuman speed, agility and balance, as well as a sort of danger sense. All of which means that in a fight, he would be very similar to Spider-Man in fighting style, with lots of jumping around, hit and run style attacks, using his various throwing disks (his teammate the Hornet made some with boomerang capability, as well as some explosive ones. Hornet is dead, killed by Wolverine, but since Spidey appears to be buddies Stark, he can probably get him to make more. It's better than the new costume Tony made for Spidey. What an eyesore). Personality wise, Johnny is a lot like Peter, very jokey, and full of nervous energy. Peter would probably be good for calming him down.

Female Version - Anya Corazon, aka Arana. I'm not too knowledgable on her. Has some similar powers to Spidey, though she seems to also grow an armored carapace. Powers are mystical in nature. Works for some group called the Webcorps, which could have some relation to Ezekial and his company, or just be a similar group. Is in conflict with the Sisterhood of the Wasp, leading to speculation they are related to Shathra, the wasp creature that came after Peter with plans to use him as food for her babies. She seems to go a bit berserk at times, so she's probably too out of control to work with Peter frequently, not to mention her handlers might now encourage his presence. Still, given they both have problems with mystical things, a sometime partnership might be good. Plus she's a high school student, maybe at Peter's school? Too much coincidence?

Kid Sidekick - Mattie Franklin, aka Spider-Woman 3. Gained power by taking part in Norman Osborn's 'Gathering of the Five'. Has super-strength, agility, can fly. Can form weird psionic spider-legs. From what I've seen, not as violent as Arana, actually tried to take over for Spider-Man when Peter had given up the webs for awhile. Has worked with him successfully before.

Black Sheep - Kaine, aka the first Spider-Man clone. Stronger than Spidey, with an adhesive ability strong enough to scar people, as well as a spider-sense heightened to the level of giving him flashes of the future. He's also mildly psychotic, but if Spider-Girl is any indication, capable of being a good guy, albeit a bit of a violent one. Probably not someone Peter would work with often, but he'd at least be aware of him.

Civilian Companion - Randy Robertson. Son of Joe "Robbie" Robertson, he was Peter's rommate during the Howard Mackie written "Mary Jane is dead" time before Straczynski came onto Amazing. Provides a tie-in to Peter's work at the Bugle. If you want someone new, there was a teacher in Peter Parker Spider-Man that Peter talked in a couple of storylines.

Elder Statesman - Option 1: Madame Web, powerful psychic, rejuvenated to a younger age by Norman Osborn's 'Gathering of the Five'. Assisted and was assisted by Spider-Man in the past. Has been a mentor to Mattie Franklin. Option 2: Arthur Stacy, brother of George Stacy, uncle of Gwen Stacy, Peter's love prior to Mary Jane. Just like George Stacy was a good enough cop to figure out who was under the Spidey mask, Arthur was in SHIELD. I'm sure he has access to all sorts of intel on Webs. Would keep Spider-Man more grounded in the Peter side of things than Madame Web.

Animal Companion - This smelly cat. Peter found it right before JMS came on board, defended it from some men who were after it for unknown reasons, and the cat bonded with Peter, or at least decided to use Peter as protection (cats are evil like that). I'd have at least liked to have found out what the deal with it was. Oh, yeah it's smelly. Or we could go with Kevin, the piece of cheese Peter was keeping in his fridge, that apparently developed low-level sentience.

Authority Figure - At the Bugle, let's say Robbie Robertson, give Peter a more friendly boss than ol' JJ. Could function as the civilian who knows his identity, if we go with Madame Web instead of Arthur. Robbie's smart; with all the thousands of Spider-Man photos Peter's shot, plus the odd bruises, there is NO WAY Robbie hasn't put two and two together. At school, the principal, I can't remember if they were ever named. In his personal life, I suppose Aunt May, who should definitely still know Peter is Spider-Man. It's much better than her not knowing and hating Spidey (Bendis whiffed on that in Ultimate I feel)

Romantic Interest - Well, I guess it almost has to be Mary Jane. But if we've gone back to Peter being roomies with Randy, that would mean MJ isn't there, so let's bring in Felicia Hardy. She's still interested in Peter, I believe he still likes her, but is too faithful to MJ to consider anything. But if MJ is out of the way (which is what some people believe Quesada is pushing for from House of M and The Other), why not Ms. Hardy? She could watch his back out in the field.

Contextualizing City - Look, it's New York alright? I thought about moving him to Chicago, another city with enough skyscrapers for web-swinging, but I think it's probably too windy for effective web-slinging. Seattle is too rainy, Peter isn't an angry enough person for Philly (I base that strictly off their sports fans). He doesn't strike me as a SoCal kind of guy.

Anyway, what are your thoughts? Do you have people you think would fit better? If you have a good city for him, by all means. Scipio, if you read this, have I got the right idea here?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Team Role

This stems from a conversation Len and I have had the last couple of Fridays. Comics did a lot of things wrong in the '90s by most accounts. On the Marvel side, there were entirely too many books and crossovers with "X" or "Maximum" in the title. But one thing Len and I agreed was that Marvel did the right thing with their teams, mainly keep them separate entities. Think about it, for those who read them, what is the difference between Uncanny X-Men and X-Men right now? Multiple characters seem to appear in both books, and is there really anything different about what they're doing?

When X-Men originally started, it was set up as different from Uncanny. Look at the rosters:

Uncanny - Jean Grey, Storm, Colossus, Archangel, Iceman, Bishop
X-Men - Cyclops, Beast, Wolverine, Psylocke, Rouge, Gambit, Jubilee (sometimes)

Uncanny seemed to deal with more social and political aspects. There was more talking, more diplomacy, and then at the end of the story, a BIG explosion. By contrast, X-Men seemed to take the style of "Diplomacy? Screw that! We've got Wolverine and Jim Lee art! Let's have battles and curvy women!" Or as Len put, 'X-Men was lots of Sentinels getting destroyed constantly.'

You had X-Factor, the government team, going where the U.S. told them to, including to a Middle Eastern country to defend a regime the government apparently supported from the Hulk and the Pantheon. Granted that was in Incredible Hulk, but Peter David was writing both books, so it could have just as easily taken place in X-Factor.

Meanwhile, X-Force is the hardcore team that deals with Cable's crap. They find the Mutant Liberation Front, they stomp on it. If it's in Antarctica, fine, go there, shoot some people, blow stuff up. If it's in the Statue of Liberty, or Prague, fine there too. In fact, they would seem to be the kind of threat X-Factor would be called in on.

Then you've still got the Avengers (for your everyday Earth-threatening problems), and the Fantastic Four (I think Mark Waid had the best idea, that they're explorers, with the others coming along to help Reed. Plus fighting the Skrulls). Actually, I liked that each major team sort of had their own primary alien problem. Avengers had the Kree, FF had the Skrulls, and the X-Men have the Shi'ar. The New Warriors dealt with typically smaller stuff, closer to street level, while serving as a learning opportunity for what is supposed to be the next generation of heroes (I know, Teen Titans rip-off). I mean, the differences aren't huge, but they are there, so each team can sort of fill a niche.

Anyway, that still exists to some extent, though not so much with the X-books, though X-Factor may be an exception to that, but in theory New Avengers and Fantastic Four still play different roles within the Marvel U.

Anyway, this brings me to a question for my DC-oriented readers: How would you define the roles of the teams in DC right now? JLA (if they still existed. It's down to what Black Canary, Dawn, and Green Arrow)? JSA? Teen Titans? Outsiders? Where the Freedom Fighters turned into cannon fodder because their team showed no recognizable purpose? Am I missing teams? What do you think?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Things I Think About #7

Here's a hypothetical for you. Say Didio or Quesada comes up to you. They tell you either they're going to start a new team book, or change the lineup on an existing one. You get to choose the seven character roster, no limits, any hero, villain, alive or dead, although if they're dead, story arcs will have to be devoted to the resurrection. Whoever you pick, the writer and artist will depict them properly.

Here's the question: Would you take this as an opportunity to put seven of your favorite characters in the same book together, or would you include some you don't like as much, maybe even despise (Cyclops), because you feel they would best fill an important role on your team?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Whatever Happened to . . . Things I Think About #6

Ahh, the joys of chocolate chewy Chips Ahoy. As if they weren't delicious enough, they made the whole cookie chocolate.

Here's a question for you: What happened to thought balloons? Nowadays, the character's inner monologue goes on in the caption boxes in the corner. But that used to be reserved for the writer/narrator to say things like "and at the speed of thought, the Scarlet Speedster creates a giant tornado that . . ."

So does anyone know when thought balloons died out? Who's responsible? 'Cause if it's Grant Morrison, well then he and I are gonna have words. Something like:
Me: Hey Mr. Morrison.
God of All Comics: Who the hell are you?
Me: I saved you from those cows wrapped in barb wire, remember? I trapped them in a barn and burned it down.
God of All Comics: Security.

Actually I'd bet they were phased out because certain fanboys felt they were too childish, but my story is better.

One final question: When you narrate your life, do you see your thoughts in balloons or in caption boxes? Because mine are in boxes, which surprises me seeing as I grew up with thought balloons.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Destiny vs. Responsibility: Has JMS's Mysticism Destroyed Spider-Man?

I gotta confess, I kinda like it when my titles look like something you'd see on a dissertation, or at least a master's thesis. Anyway, this isn't about "The Other", so relax. If you remember, I did a post last month, right before Christmas, where I suggested Uncle Ben be reborn as a Green Lantern. At the time, I mentioned that train of thought came from a different inner monologue I was having, related to a discussion at Comics Should Be Good (kelvin probably remembers this), about whether Straczynski's recent stuff tainted his early Amazing Spider-Man. A fellow by the name of Matthew Craig had some opinions on that, which he shared, and I wasn't sure at the time whether I agreed. Here are the comments that stood out the most:

'It's (Spider-Man's story) about determining one's own identity in the face of the realization that the world is a cold and potentially dangerous place that might try to decide things for you. The World! Not a MYSTICAL SPIDER-GOD.'

Also:

'If it (Peter getting bitten and receiving the powers) was meant to be, how is it a story about a fairly ordinary guy like the rest of us. If Uncle Ben was meant to die and the ability to save him taken out of his hands by Destiny, how can it be Peter's responsibility?'

So, is Mr. Craig right? Has Straczynski taken control out of Peter's hands, and in the process destroyed part of the core character? I went to Amazing Spider-Man #507 for some help. In the issue, Peter meets a roughly eight-foot tall mass of brown spiders called the Gatekeeper. Peter gets bitten several times and falls into a sort of dream state where the Gatekeeper explains things to him, specifically why Peter? A few excerpts:

'There were so many other on that day, in that room, together, there - with the spider.' That's certainly true.

'Because you were a hunter without teeth. You were chosen for your rage.' Ok.

'Why you? Because of all those who were there that day, there was only one hunter.'

Ok, I can see how one could interpret this to mean that it was destined. But here's the phrase I'm seeing: "there was only one hunter." To me that suggests, that on that day, Peter was simply the only qualified candidate present. Maybe it was that spider's job to pick someone to be the 'totem' as Ezekial described it, but there was nothing that said it had to choose that very day. At least not until it got hit with the blast of radiation. At that point, the spider had no time left to search for the person who best exemplified what the spider-god was looking for, so it chose the best out of the limited field it had available. And on that day, in that place, the field of candidates was one: Peter Parker.

And what was the qualifier? That he had rage. Specifically, that all these years Peter has been picked on and bullied, beaten and humiliated, and he's just had to take it, because he's too weak or there were too many of them. He lacked the power to do anything about. Well, I'll be honest, that description could fit any number of other kids in high school, probably millions, worldwide. Hank McCoy, the Beast, was a smart guy. Before his mutation emerged, there's probably a real good chance he got picked on, being a nerd and all. So couldn't he have sufficed? Maybe, maybe not, but it raises - to me at least - the idea that Peter just drew a good (or bad) hand.

So does all this mean it wasn't destined to occur? No, for all we know, a Celestial altered events so that the spider got hit with radiation leaving Peter to get bitten. Different force behind it, same result. But there's no evidence of that. Another thing there isn't any evidence of is that Uncle Ben was destined to die, at that time, anyway. We've got no proof that a spider-god with only enough power to have one true totem (or is it two? Does Arana count?) has sufficient power to twist things so The Burglar would wind up at the Parkers', so that he could shoot Ben. If you start saying that was predestined, then where do you stop? Captain America was destined to be trapped in ice for how ever many years before the Avengers found him. Bruce Wayne's parents were destined to be shot. I suppose it all boils down to how much control you want to believe you (or your comic characters) have over your (their) life.

One other idea: Who says the Gatekeeper is telling the truth? I brought this up in the original discussion, that spiders in mythology are typically tricksters, and when Spidey teamed up with Loki to fight the chaos goddess, Morwen, she states that Peter, not Loki, is the person she wants to enlist, because Spidey 'has much of the trickster in him'. And she's right. Peter does fight evil a lot, but webbing Jameson's pants to his chair? Playing pranks on the Human Torch? Making fun of the Vulture being bald, or those ugly green and yellow outfits Doc Ock used to wear? None of that is what I'd call fighting evil.

The Gatekeeper said Peter was given the power because once he had it, he would never stop fighting to protect those weaker from harm. He would fight to protect them from the evil. I said it in the original discussion, and I say it now: How does a being of chaos benefit from someone fighting evil? Now kelvin pointed out that chaos is not inherently evil, and he's right (and I've played enough D&D to have remembered that), but it isn't inherently good either. So isn't it more likely that the Gatekeeper told Peter what he wanted to hear? To someone like Peter, "We gave you the power because we knew you'd protect the innocent and fight evil" sounds a lot better than "We gave you the power because you will bring more chaos into the world", which is what you figure a being of chaos would actually be striving for. At the time, though Peter didn't know it, Ezekial was planning to sacrifice Peter, in order to save his own hide. But which one better represents what the spider-god would want? Peter fights evil, but does a lot of things that wouldn't be defined as 'good', because he finds it funny. Plus having enemies who want to keep striking back, or keep trying for world domination, introduces different variables into the world at large. Ezekial uses the power with one goal in mind: furthering his own power. Around Peter he pays lip service to trying to start charities and help people, but he moves with a plan, a definite purpose, not chaotic at all. He's like Loki, who for all his talk about being the God of Mischief, is still only interested in one thing: furthering his own power. Sound familar? Loki might occasionally just try to make Thor's life hard, or even aid Thor at times, but in those cases Loki is still just looking out for #1. Like Morwen said, not a true trickster.

So what does all this mean? Probably not too much, in light of the destruction they're wreaking on Spider-Man right now. But I think that there isn't really enough evidence to support the claim that Straczynski destroyed the idea of guilt and responsibility in Spider-Man by venturing into a more mystical realm. Oddly enough, I think JMS had the best way of putting it, during the conclusion of Spidey's first fight with Morlun, where Peter is pummeling Morlun, while wondering where his powers come from: the spider or the radiation? Was it fate, or not? Peter's conclusion: It doesn't matter, he is who he is. He's going to use the powers the way he always has, regardless of their origin, or of the intentions of anyone who may have had a hand in his getting them. Too bad JMS couldn't just leave it at that.

Hopefully, that's coherent. Thanks to samruby.com for having a complete Spider-Man cover archive, so I'd have some art to break up the long and boring text.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

What I Bought 1/11/06, But First A Message From My Angry Self

Two books this week, not so good, plus highlander over at The Miserable Annals of the Earth has a post - titled "The Abyss Gazes Back" - that set me off a bit. It's not that I disagree with him that the Silver Age, as a whole, had better work than what he calls the Modern Age. I couldn't tell you, I haven't read enough Silver Age to make a fair judgement, plus what I have read is mostly characters, such as Superman, that I don't care for, so objectivity is not really possible. It's more the shots he takes at kalinara, as he apparently feels that if someone does a post about slash fanfic between sentient planets, then it's okay to paint them with a broad brush, describing her as having a taste for 'mindless carnage, and contemptible non-heroes'. I've read basically every post kalinara has made, I've seen little, if any, evidence of that. She's shown an interest in the strong familial bonds present between characters and their parents throughout DC, or in Robin's ability to adjust his personality to mesh with whoever he's around, be it Batman, Nightwing, the Titans, etc. Yes, she likes that Ron Marz often left Kyle Rayner tied up, or in a tattered costume. And yeah, she does posts (that I think are mostly humorous) about Ben Grimm and Sand hooking up. But mindless carnage? Not so much.

Mostly though, it's his comment that 'it's all very well to say with enormous if unconscious smugness, while still in one's teens or early 20s, sitting in one's happy comfortable little bed or dorm room safe within the sheltering wings of daddy's paycheck, with all the heroes one has treasured since childhood still being happily and cheerfully published pretty much exactly as they have always been, that "times and audiences change". And yes, I just removed that one paragraph, I know how much highlander loves that.

Still, he wants to talk about unconscious smugness? Well, that right there is conscious condescension. Really, all he's saying is "You'll understand when you're older." Boy, didn't we all love hearing that when we were kids? Well, you may have, as for me, not one of my favorite phrases.

The sad thing is, highlander is probably mostly right about the state of comics. Hell, I suppose as someone in their early twenties, though I live in a two person apartment where my half of the bills are covered by me getting an assistantship, I'm one of those fans who eats the crap the comics shovel. I even know I am. I'm reading "The Other". I know it's bad, but I keep reading, hoping they'll get back to the Spidey I liked, from either the late '80s (pre-Venom/Macfarlane), or the first few years of Stracynzski and Jenkins doing the writing, on Amazing and Peter Parker, respectively.

The problem is, that when you post your feelings/beliefs in the way he did, I'd say you risk alienating people who might agree with you, or be willing to listen, but are put off by the feeling that you're looking down your nose at them, which was my gut reaction.

But you want to know the really sad part? Kalinara laughed it off. Had no problem with it, but me, I'm going off the deep end. I guess I just don't like that he decries that comics are being written as if the readers are morons, but he then proceeds to write a post from which I infer he believes that Modern Age comic readers are morons for reading what's put out today. What can I say? I hate feeling talked down to. Anyway, on to the reviews of the crap that came out this week.

Ultimate X-Men #66 - Oh crap. Not the Phoenix saga. This is one of those things I've had enough of, right up there with "Hank Pym beat the Wasp". It's done to death people, go somewhere else. And the Shi'ar show up. And everybody is out on dates, and it looks like Jean is messing with people's minds. Great. I think I may need to drop this book until this story arc is over, but to be fair, I'll see what happens next month. 1 "oh boy here we go" out of 5.

Ghost Rider #5 - And this is what happens when you decompress. Now that we get to the fighting, everything is rushed. What was going on in that elevator with Ruth (don't say tentacle rape)? Why did she go back out and fight Hoss? Why not focus on her primary objective Kazaan, then trash Hoss after. And this Father Adam just managed to show up at the right time to take a shot at Ghost Rider? How? Oh well, at least Blaze is back on his bike. Still, remember how I said Ennis would have to completely screw this up for it not to take 2nd on my "Best Mini-series of 2005" list? Looks like Garth is going to test that. 3 out of 5.

Man, it's bad enough "The Other" is terrible. You'd think they could at least keep it on schedule. Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Creature #4 was supposed to come out this week, and of course, it didn't. Perfect.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Pointless Indulgence

Man, nothing like a season premiere of The Shield to get you in the mood to post.

First off, relating to my earlier post about Robin, I forgot to mention I do like that Willingham has tried to give Robin some enemies of his own. Sure Johnny Warlock, the Rising Sun Archer, and the Dark Rider won't be challenging Flash's Rouges anytime soon (not if they value their health anyway), but as Robin establishes his own identity, he needs a few villains of his own. That being said, the title is 'Pointless Indulgence', so these were just a couple of ideas I'd have like to have seen explored, had the characters involved not, you know, died.

1) Jack Drake does not die in Identity Crisis, and Tim is back being Robin. How do they interact? Does father try to limit Tim's crimefighting (no crimefighting on Sunday night, so he's rested for school?) Does Jack try to spend more time with Tim, either in an attempt to draw him away from Batman's siren song of vigilantism, or because he's figures Tim is on borrowed Tim, so better go to the ballgame with him while he can. What about Tim's stepmom, Dana? Tim clearly has no problem keeping her in the dark, but can Jack do that to the woman he goes to bed with every night, especially when he told her he was sure Tim was involved in something dangerous? If he thinks he is going to tell her, what does Tim (or Batman) do?

2) Stephanie Brown survives 'War Games'. When Batman fired her as Robin, he told her to drop the vigilante stuff entirely. She ignored him then, just like she did the Birds of Prey and her father, the Cluemaster. But in the event the gang war actually occurred, maybe she gets herself and her mother out of Gotham, and follows Tim to Bludhaven. Tim is going to know she's still being Spoiler. If she doesn't outright tell him so, then he'll notice some injury she'll got from being out there one night. Does he tell Batman? Does Batman try to get Tim to make her stop. . . again? If he does, would Tim go along with it, or ignore Batman and just try to work with Stephanie, improving her chances of survival? In fact, why couldn't Tim or Batgirl train Stephanie, assuming Cass would also move to Bludhaven? Tim could teach her (and Cassandra for that matter) some of the more detective-related aspects of the job, while Cassandra works on Steph's fighting technique (Tim could benefit from that teaching as well). I'm not saying Batgirl, Robin, and Spoiler would all being appearing in Robin and Batgirl each month, but training together or comparing information on something large every few months shouldn't be out of the question. This is the first time any of them have tried to handle an entire city without the Bat's guiding presence, so a little teamwork wouldn't be a bad idea.

Steph can also serve as a morale booster for Tim if he gets depressed, like she did when he was out of sorts because he believed he killed Johnny Warlock. With Spoiler, the problem has never been a lack of determination, rather it's been a lack of skill, or a matter of being overeager, too gung-ho to prove herself. With people who regard her as a friend, and not a pupil/novice, that wouldn't be as much of a problem, so she'd be less likely to repeat old mistakes of throwing herself into situations too quickly. And as the girlfriend, Stephanie would get Tim out there on dates, forcing him to get out in public and interact with people as Tim Drake, not just spend all his time as Robin, which I think is a vital part of the character as a whole.

Clearly, I think there's more ground to be covered if Steph were still alive than Jack, but really having either character (or at least giving Tim some new people to interact with) would probably have helped Willingham out, if he had thought along these lines. Oh well, it's all moot now, but I feel better for having put this out there.