Wednesday, May 31, 2006

You Say It's Your Birthday . . .

Why yes, yes I do say. I was going to do a post about how Dazzler keeps coming back to life in New Excalibur, but I don't have much in the way of theories, and I'd rather do a post that talks about Grimjack anyway. And I'm sure you'd rather read that too.

The story in question, which shares it's title with this post, was in Grimjack #24. This was a 2nd anniversary issue, but pretty light on actual story. It was mostly a reprint of the first Grimjack story (an awesome 2-part backup in Starslayer) and this little "Munden's Bar" story. I loved that Grimjack would frequently have 14 pages of John Gaunt killing people, then switch to an 8 page Munden's Bar story drawn by Fred Hembreck starring the cast of the Mary Tyler Moore Show. I'm not joking about that.

That's not the case here. Gaunt is alone in his bar, after closing time, having a drink. Alone. Except he's joined by the a large bird person named Krupp, who remarks that it's John's birthday. The Big Five-Oh. Gaunt talks about how years of fighting have caught up with him, how easy it is to hurt himself just by turning wrong as he gets out of bed. This would seem pretty standard except, Krupp's dead. Killed in Grimjack #1. He's a specter, even has the hole in his head from where Gaunt through the javelin through it. And throughout this little conversation, the bar fills with specters, as Krupp says 'Pretty soon, you'll be one of us.' Gaunt's response? 'Ha! I guess I will at that!' Then he (and all the ghosts) start laughing. Enter Spook.

Spook, as the name might suggest, is a ghost, and is stuck on that plane of existence with unfinished business. She was also the closest thing to a romantic interest Gaunt had at that point. Honestly, she was well-suited for that, as John's track record with the ladies is even worse than Kyle Rayner's. That is not a misprint, I said WORSE than Kyle Rayner's. I'll go over it in detail some day.

Anyway, Spook, is somewhat perturbed by John sitting here with all these ghosts. Of course, John isn't bothered, and introduces Spook to the cast, including his former buddy/informant Feetus, his brothers, and some other characters we've met previously. Spook tells him he's manifesting these spirits. John retorts that an old wizard mentor of his told him he didn't have the calm soul needed for that. Spook, who appears to be on the verge of being assaulted by the rowdy spirits, counters by saying he lacks the calm soul neccessary to control his power, but not to use it (this is an important factor in later stories). At which point John sees the ghost of Katar (more on him another time) menacing the bar's mascot, Bob, the gatorlizard.

That helps John get his shit together, and he banishes the spirits, leaving the bar a huge mess, which Gordon will naturally have to clean up. Grimjack gets escorted to his bed by Spook, so it wouldn't seem to be all bad, but Bob gets to come along too, so maybe no birthday gift for Mr. Gaunt.

The important lesson of the comic is this: spend your birthday in positive ways, rather than moping around by yourself, reflecting on your approaching death. That means no drinking alone in closed bars, or in the case of my birthday last year, no sitting in a McDonald's in Piedmont being depressed about spending your birthday sitting in a McDonald's in Piedmont. Which is why I spent a couple of hours today going through the archive of Dave's Long Box, because laughter is important, even if it's just because Kobra once kicked Batman's ass. Man, that's a sappy paragraph, innit?

So what's your favorite birthday themed issue of a comic?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Reflections #24 - X-Factor #7

Very simple post today. Siryn is right of course, to not be all that concerned with her father's "death". He's an X-Person; he'll be back. My question is: when and how will he be back?

Having heard that the Beyonder(?!) may be making a comeback sometime during Civil War (which makes me really start to think I was on to something here. The return of sentient universes? Hooboy.), my first thought was that he's going to reset everything to the way it was a few years prior, which eliminates X-Men: Deadly Genesis and and Banshee's death, along with a flock of other bad ideas. Of course that's wishful thinking.

So here's my prediction. X-Factor #25, Siryn has come to grips that her "da'" is really gone, the squad is in the middle of a battle with some squad of high-tech killers sent by Damian Tryp the Younger, who has gotten tired of X-Factor's meddling. During the battle Siryn really cuts loose, and her scream tears a hole in the fabris of reality and Banshee falls out. Surprise!

OK, so maybe it's a Sean Cassidy from an alternate universe, but it's close enough.

So let's hear your guesses.

Monday, May 29, 2006

I Like Toast

Especially when the butter melts into it, so it's crunchy and chewy at the same time. Freaking delicious.

In other news, DC may be able to count on taking more of my money this fall. For whatever reason, I am quite excited about the new Justice Society of America book that's going to be starting up. Granted, I don't understand why they needed to cancel the one they had, just to start another one, but whatever floats their boat, I suppose.

Sure, it's written by Geoff Johns, which means it's toast, but still, if the most recent Teen Titans is any indication, Johns is back to making toast I find palatable. Following that analogy, what was Infinite Crisis? Johns' attempt to make toast the center of an elaborate seven-course meal? Or an omelete with toast that went horribly wrong, because the eggs were spoiled or something? Was he trying to do something entirely different, like recreate that banquet scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? You know, with chilled monkey brains and live baby snakes, and. . . I need to go throw up now. Or do we give him a mulligan, since it was an Editorially Mandated Massive Event Mini-Series?

But I digress.

Based on what's known now, the team has Power Girl, Hourman, Damage, and a new Starman. Power Girl is always a plus, since I assume Johns is capable of writing her as the ass-kicker she is. It's nice to see they'll be doing something with Damage other than "Oh yeah, he survived that fight in Infinite Crisis #1. Nope, no idea where he is now." Now a new Starman? Is that because they don't want to mess with James Robinson's stuff, or something else? Does that mean Stargirl has to give him that staff thing she has (that was Starman's originally, right? Damn, I know so little of DC)? Ah well, I guess that will be answered in time. I'll just have to wait. Oh yeah, put Sand on the team. Do it Johns. Don't make me include this plea at the end of every post from now until you actually comply, because I'm just irritating enough to do it.

On the other side of the coin, I'm not real interested in Meltzer's JLA (sorry, Justice League of America *rolls eyes*). What's the over/under on the number of issues before an over-the-hill Mirror Master kills the girl who's supposed to tutor Tim Drake, because Detective Chimp's one-night stand in Tijuana wants revenge?

Can you tell I'm not a Meltzer fan?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Things I Think About #37

If I understand this correctly, Marvel and DC have to use characters every so often, or they lose the rights to them. This may even require giving them a book, even if it's just a one-shot (I'm less certain about this).

So my disquieting thought for the day is this: What if Annihilation is just some huge thing to keep Marvel from losing the rights to the majority of their space-themed characters?

I mean, when was the last time we'd seen Stellaris or Nebula before Annihilation:Ronan? Or the Nova Corps? Air-Walker? Super Skrull does get some use, so he and the Silver Surfer may not really fit. But I notice the Shi'ar have gotten some fairly recent use in X-titles, and they're the only one of the former Big 3 Space Empires (Shi'ar, Kree, Skrulls) that hasn't been involved in Annihilation thus far.

That being said, I still think the galactic scope of Annihilation can give it an epic feel, and it might be especially interesting if the Earth is never really involved, if for no other reason that it's a reminder that Earth is just one tiny world, and there's a whole big universe of stuff going on out there, no Earthling has any idea about.

Of course, Reed Richards does know about the Annihilation Wave, courtesy of Super-Skrull, so I suppose he could be trying to prepare, but I think between Civil War and Onslaught Reborn and so on, he'll be a little too busy to really put much time into it.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Reflections #23 - New Avengers #19

So Jake has advised those of us who buy New Avengers to either stop buying it or stop complaining about it, and he used a father-related story from his childhood as an analogy, so I certainly can't argue with that. In that vein, I nominante Jake to be the one who reads the Civil War tie-in issues of New Avengers for the rest of us. Drink the hemlock for the greater good, Jake!

I was going to suggest Randy, seeing as he said he might stick with the book until #25, but it doesn't seem right to do that to someone still recovering from an illness, you know?

I think Carla hit on the problem in the comments of the above post, when she said Bendis knows he can't write team books, and is trying to learn. And that's great, self-improvement is always a good idea. Except, the Avengers are supposed to be Marvel's big-gun team (I suppose you could argue Fantastic Four, but that seems to be more family, sort of Lost in Space, without the "lost" part), and thus need to be written well. If Bendis wants to work on writing teams, switch him to Marvel Team-Up, and give New Avengers to Kirkman. Or Joe Casey. Or Len. Sure he wants to write X-Men, but if he could fix New Avengers, then I'm sure he could write his own ticket.

It's kind of sad, because Bendis has had these flashes, where I feel like he "gets" it, but he can't do it consistently. The huge breakout at the Raft, putting 42 (sorry, 45) super-villains back in play, including Count Nefaria, a guy who can beat down Thor, back in play? Captain America realizing the importance of getting some heroes together to catch them? Periodic appearences by Warbird? And the Collective was finally a threat worthy of the Avengers, big-time menace.

The problem is that's stuff is widely separated by all the missteps. Wasting 10 issues to get three members of the team. Putting The Sentry on the team. The lack of actually catching the escaped super-villains. Too much espionage/spy stuff. I get that Bendis wants to make Jessica Drew this character you aren't sure you can trust, but if he's going to use HYDRA in the Avengers, it should be because they want to blow something up, or kill many, many people, ala the New Avengers story in Amazing Spider-Man last year. The Sentry is on the team. Warbird is not. SHIELD has gotten more face time than Cage has. Did I mention The Sentry is on the team?

Hmm, I haven't said much about the actual issue. Well, I think it falters because he fails to get many characters involved. Other than Iron Man and Not-Thor Guy, nobody does anything. I can't decide whether the thing with SHIELD is like that South Park episode where the town of Beaverton gets flooded, what with Commander Hill being more concerned with finding out what "House of M" is, rather than actually dealing with the threat that has been caused by it. Time for questions is later, time for stopping immensely powerful mutant is now. Maybe Bendis is just setting up for a big, exciting conclusion. I can almost see a way this ends that wipes out House of M, as they draw the energy from poor Michael, and it returns to the original mutants. Hooray, Stacy X gets her powers back! Chamber, too! Except SHIELD would probably try to block that, end up hoarding all that power for itself.

Wasn't there supposed to some former SHIELD agent that Captain America told Commander Hill to bring? Is she planning on showing up?

I have however figured out what's up with Commander Hill, why she's such a royal pain in the ass to everyone. Simply put, she's trying to out-Nick Fury, Nick Fury. She's trapped in his shadow, and the only way she can see to step out of it is to be a bigger ball-buster than he was. Except Nick seemed to know when that wasn't neccessary, and when he could ease off. You don't have to play it like that with Captain America because, if the situation is serious, then Cap will already be taking it seriously. Of course, she could be picking up on the fact that some of the capes (Cap included) are resentful of the fact she seemed to get this job by helping kick Fury to the curb, and so she meets their hostility with hostility.

Or maybe she's just combative for the plot's sake. Whichever really. One issue to go in "The Collective", come on Bendis, wow me.

Or don't, then I've got an extra three dollars to spend on Heroclix each month.

Friday, May 26, 2006

And I Tell You Now, We, WE!!, Have The Power To Stop Him

Chris' review helped me realize that we can defeat the Evil Major Event Civil War. How, you say?

My father grew up on a farm. Once, while on a walk, I asked him what happened if the cows or bulls got angry and attacked him (because he told me he once got kicked by a mule, so I figured he must have had other conflicts with the farmyard populace). He told me that in that scenario, the best thing to do - besides getting out of the way - was pick up a big stick, and hit the offending heifer right between the eyes. That would give them pause. But what does THAT have to do with this, you ask?

Well, Chris reviewed Iron Man #8. His review details that there is something going on with Mr. Stark. This gives me the feeling that it relates to Tony Stark's actions leading up to and in Civil War. But I was able to get that without buying the comic. Likewise, when I review next week's Amazing Spider-Man (look for the review next week!), I may be able to provide my readers with some insights as to how it ties-in with Civil War, again without them spending money on the title. Add in the person who reviews the She-Hulk tie-ins, or the Young Avengers/Runaways book, and people can get a good idea what's going on, without spending a lot of money. So how's that tie-in to my dad's livestock wisdom?

We, the comic bloggers are being imperiled by a large Event Comic, with something like 87-issues spread between over a dozen books. If we share information on the few books we read, it saves others from spending money, which hurts sales, and thus we are the big stick. So guess who gets to play the part of the bovine we're hitting between the eyes?

Sure the easier response would be to get out of the way (just back away from Civil War tie-ins until it's over), but it's much more fun to discuss figuratively hitting Quesada in the face with a big stick, right?

A few things, from Chris' review of Iron Man #8, and my reading it in the store today. If Stark is in fact going nuts, it makes much more sense for him to be on the same said as Hank Pym, Marvel poster boy for mental disorder. But why Reed Richards? Well, Dr. Niles Caulder of the Doom Patrol has the answer. See, reed has been stretching all parts of his body for years (keep your perverted jokes to yourself), and that includes his brain. So much like Elasti-Girl, all this stretching has affected Reed' ability to think straight. So when Tony got the Illuminati together to discuss working with the government, Reed was confused but figured the safest bet was to agree with his genius buddy and fellow "futurist" Tony Stark. If Sue had been there, she'd have set him straight, but oops, they thought it was a good idea to exclude their loved ones from the group.

You might say, but why has it taken Reed so long to show the effects of this Elastic Brain Syndrome*? It hasn't, it's just always manifested itself in the form of Reed neglecting Sue, or failing to permanently cure Ben Grimm (I know, Ben subconsciously doesn't want to be cured, just work with me, I'm doing this on the fly), or when he decides it's a good idea to tell Galactus he can try to come back and eat Earth, so as to get Galactus to defeat the Sphinx. Everyone just figured it was your typical Absent-Minded Professor stuff.

Other thoughts. I believe Stark is suffering from one of the following: One, his becoming Machine God, has enabled his armor to respond to subconscious desires, so it attaches itself in his sleep, and carries out his dream-desire to kill people. Having allowed this subconscious desire to be realized, it begins to flow into the conscious. Two, someone knows about his transformation, and is transmitting subliminal commands on the same frequency that lets Stark get e-mails directly in his head. Three, becoming Machine God is divorcing him from parts of his humanity, thus killing evil people is not a moral consideration, it merely seems logical. I figure two is most likely.

Also, I was very impressed with Spider-Man's attempt to save Captain America. Even if he don't look it, Spidey is stronger, tougher, and has less mass than Cap, so he can withstand more gravity. And throwing himself in the way to protect someone is such a Parker move, because he's got a death wish (Curse you, The Other!). I meant because he's a truly selfless hero who believes it's only right he give his life for Captain America.

That being said, he probably should have realized that Cap was still trapped under him, so it probably didn't matter much whether Cap died from Graviton crushing him into the ground, or from Graviton crushing Peter into the ground, but not before he pushed him through Captain America. Still, points for effort, right?

* Elastic Brain Syndrome is a registered trademark of Dr. Niles Caulder, but I'm here, and he's in Prague, so what's he gonna do if I don't have express written consent? That's right, nothing. Take that, you manipulative bastard!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Reflections #22 - Teen Titans #36

Caulder seriously bothers me. I think Robin may be on to something, except he didn't go far enough. He said Caulder is trying to make them all so worried about being accepted they'll jump through his hoops, do whatever he commands. I think Caulder is probably going even further, lying about their need to stay with him for treatment of their conditions, so he has a super-powered army to do whatever he wants.

Mento can't take off the helmet because Caulder says Elasti-Girl doesn't want to be with Steve Dayton. Maybe that's because the "good" Doctor is making her feel that way. He told her she needs to let him do her thinking, because her "elastic brain" can't think straight. And it seems to be working, given she acts extremely subservient during the scene in the operating room, like a little child. Color me skeptical of Caulder's science. Beast Boy's not going anywhere because he's got his adoptive parents (does he mean legally adopted?) there, who look like they need him to take care of them. Which gives Caulder a hook to keep him there. "Oh Garfield, it wouldn't be good for you to leave with the Teen Titans right now. Mento and Elasti-Girl are in very fragile states, and your disappearence might exacerbate the situation." I can really feel my dislike for this guy rising.

Bumblebee has to stay or else her heart will go into cardiac arrest from being so small. Say what? The Atom doesn't have hat problem, and he's gone a hell of a lot smaller than she is in his career. I feel bad for Mal, I mean Vox (Vox? Seriously, what the hell kind of codename is that?), what with being turned into Black Bolt and all. I wonder if he's even tried speaking, or if he just took the Doc's word for it. I'd bet on the latter. But why would replacing his heart and lungs make his voice destructive?

Ultimately, this reminds me how the more we've found out about Xavier over the years, the less benevolent he's seemed. He kept the X-Men in this special school, because they needed to learn how to control their powers or else they'd get themselves into trouble. But at least the original five had parental consent, and could go out on the town. Of course, they weren't as freakishly deformed as the Doom Patrol either. But Xavier never did help Logan discover the truth about his past (thanks Wanda), or help Rouge control her powers, despite his promises to do these things. Has Caulder always been this shady?

I guess the lesson is, to never trust a guy in a wheelchair, regardless of whether they've got hair or not. I was going to make a joke about keeping a staircase nearby, but that's inappropriate, so on to other matters.

Could Bumblebee change size before? I get that she's stuck at that size now, but could she shrink and grow before? Why would Kid Devil lie about being in contact with Blue Devil all the time? Given how hard up for Titans Robin seems to be, that doesn't seem like the criteria that would keep Eddie off the team. I do like that Robin is taking a stand for him, and saying he's staying with the Titans. It's not going to help Kid Devil to be cloistered off in some castle in Prague. Of course, maybe Robin figures he can't afford to lose anymore team members.

I was thinking back over #35, and I can't figure why Cyborg would tell Wonder Girl they were going to get the 'real Titans' back. Isn't Cyborg like the Martian Manhunter of the Teen Titans? That guy who is sort of considered to have always been there, even if it isn't true? In which case, wouldn't he have had like 700 different teammates by now? Didn't he tell Speedy when she joined the Titans, that there were Titans allover the world? So why would he say 'real Titans'? I suppose he could just be trying to adjust to being back, and wants to surround himself with the familiar.

I wonder what it means, that there was the two-panel shot of Wonder Girl and Ravager facing off, and they chose to show Ravager from the side with no eye. It means something, I suppose maybe that she's still hiding her fear of being kicked to the curb - and having to run from her father - from the rest of the team. Or maybe it represents her hiding the depth of concern for Kid Devil, who seems to be the only Titan that really accepts her.

I think Robin is still going to steal some of that cloning equipment for his own use, and I still think Ravager is going to be the one who notices, and has to decide what to do with the information.

Ok, I admit it, the new squad has grown on me. My one caveat would be this: I did this post where I said Dr. Light needed to revert to being a total loser, to help bring back a lighter feel to DC. Putting aside -SPOILER FOR 52! - that Black Adam ripped a guy in half in this week's 52 being a pretty clear indication things aren't going to be cheerier, Len! mentioned in the comments that heroes are defined by villains, and the Titans versus this new more dangerous Dr. Light should be an ongoing struggle, with no clear winner, like a lot of Magneto vs. X-Men battles. That's fine, except looking at this team, I can't see how they last five minutes against the Dr. Light we've seen over the last year. They are just sorely lacking in power, which I guess would be part of the fun, but it feels like it would be the Riddler Effect in reverse, to the heroes advantage instead of the villains. That small, probably irrelevant concern aside, I think Johns is doing better now that he's back on something that's smaller scale, as opposed to the monstrous scale of Infinite Crisis.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What I Bought 5/24/06

Something I learned from skimming 52 this week: Booster Gold is a Cubs fan. How do I know? He lists being a Cardinals fan as a reason to hate a villain, thus Booster must be a Cubs fan. This means he's overly enamored with sucking, losing, and general incompetence, which now that I think of it, explains his career pretty well. No, I won't retract that statement. He listed being a Cardinals fan as being a bad thing, he should die. OK, enough of that tripe, seven(!) books, with the typical spoiler warnings

Annihilation: Ronan #2 - Um, I'm not really following what's going on. There are too many characters running around, and it's only been tangentially connected to Annihilation thus far. But anyway, Ronan uses his considerable power to beat down Stellaris and Nebula. This quite impressed me given that Stellaris has gone toe-to-toe with Thor. On the positive, at least they remembered Stellaris is a woman; given the state of Marvel today I wouldn't have been surprised if someone forgot.

So Ronan finds out from his buddy Korath, what's up with all these crazy ladies. A Skrull fights with Devos, who I vaugely remember from some Fantastic Four comics around the time Sue went to the slut costume (what the hell were they thinking with that?). Some gold dude is manipulating people. I figured it was Adam Warlock, but it's not. I have no idea who he is. Oh, and the Annihilation Wave has finally made an appearence. I'm just not sure what this series is driving at, so I'm gonna have to give it a 2.5 out of 5.

Exiles #81 - So, Proteus arrives on Heroes Reborn Earth. Once again, he befriends the heroes of this planet, so as to use them against the Exiles. You know, given that he's in a body that apparently will never wear down, given that he can alter reality, it's seems like Kevin McTaggert is kind of a pansy, given he always tries to hide behind heroes.

Blink reassumes command of the team. Spider-Man 2099 (no relation to Hobgoblin of 2211) and Power Princess make a brief stop back at her home, while the rest of the squad pursues Proteus. Cue yet another fight between the Exiles and duped heroes, before Proteus takes advantage. Only it seems this time that Proteus' arrival has kicked off a chain reaction with some pair of Order and Chaos beings, and that means it's about to hit the fan. I'm glad this is going to wrap up next month. The barrage of Misunderstanding Battles are getting a little tiring. 3.2 out of 5.

Warbird #3 - That cover is pretty misleading, given the Brood never appear in the issue. Good thing to know for future reference: Cavorite crystals doesn't always explode with sufficient force to destroy a planet. Sometimes, they just explode enough to launch into space. Warbird tries slugging it out with Cru, but she's not equipped for space combat, and returning to Earth for some air, costs her some pain. But in true hero fashion, she sucks it up and tries harder. I got to say, energy absorption seems like a pretty handy power to have.

The battle concludes, and Carol survives. . . barely. And now it's time to appear on television while your arm in a sling! Next month could be horribly embarassing for her. 3.7 out of 5.

New Avengers #19 - Well, this cover is better than last month's, but damn, it's till not very good. I mean, Cage looks demonic. Today Spidey makes the mistake of mentioning "House of M" around SHIELD. Oops. Of course SHIELD decides this phrase is much more important than the incredibly powerful being Iron Man and, sigh, The Sentry are trying unssuccessfully to stop. At least Sentry didn't go crying back to his wife after he got smacked around last issue. Still, the battle rages, until finally SHIELD gets the bright idea to stop fighting "Michael", and just let him go where he wants. Because, sure, nothing could possibly go wrong with that idea! Clearly Bendis, just couldn't figure how else to advance the plot. To this I say, lame.

Ugh. Other than Iron Man and, sigh, The Snetry, no one did anything in this issue but talk. We can't get Captain America throwing his shield at the bad guy even once? 1.5 out of 5.

New Excalibur #7 - See this how battles in team books can be done and not suck. If neccessary, scatter the team allover, and have them dealing with different people in small groups. Then you can gradually have them join up for the big finale. Are you taking notes Bendis? You ought to be, this is how pretty much every battle has gone in this title thus far, and it's worked.

So Black Tom is back to being human courtesy of House of M. So where's the energy he's firing through that staff coming from? That was his mutant power, channeled through a walking stick! And Dazzler comes back to life. . . again. I can't figure how Sage did what she did, but I have concluded she and Pete Wisdom are definitely getting it on. There's more to his "You're worth more to me than my need to blow thing up" comment than merely her value to the team.

I'm not not sure I buy the end scene, with Juggernaut talking Black Tom into giving himself up. I suppose you could argue that having being changed back from being a hideous tree creature, Tom values this life to the point it's made him a coward. 3.9 out of 5.

Teen Titans #36 - At least Johns is trying to catch up, after having fallen behind during Infinite Crisis. I got to tell you, after rereading #35, this team is starting to grow on me. What's not growing on me is Niles Caulder. In the battle of "Character in a book I bought this week, I most want to see die", he's neck and neck with Commander Hill from New Avengers. What an ass. So full of himself with the "I'm older than you, I know better, so do what I say" crap.

This issue tells us why Beast Boy rejoined the Doom Patrol, how Caulder seems to keep his crew in line, what happened to Herald and Bumblebee, not that I knew there was anything wrong with Bumblebee. I assumed she could always change size. So while Caulder's attitude pisses off the Titans, they actually seem united for the first time - by their mutual dislike of Sir Caulder. Meanwhile, the Brotherhood has got their shit together. Although, judging by the last page, maybe not. They couldn't clone him any hair for the guy? 4.3 out of 5.

X-Factor #7 - Two running plots in this issue. One, Madrox meets with the head of Singularity. Two, Siryn finds out about her father's death in X-Men: Deadly Genesis. Madrox meeting with the people who seem to be his enemies for the series, goes about as well as you'd expect. They try to bribe him and the team off, Madrox declines, negotiations fall apart at that point. On the plus side, Madrox learns something new about the Elder Tryp. That's a sopposed to tryp the Younger, who beat up Siryn with a pipe.

Siryn meets the news of her father's death with about the correct amount of respect any death in the X-Family should be met with - none. She knows he'll be back, the X-Men always are. She's not wrong. I do wish Scott had told her the truth. Instead of the explanation he gave, he needed to say "He died because we needed to establish this kewl new character that's been retconned into the X-History as being X-Evil, so we X-Killed an X-Man nobody's X-Used since Casey's 'X-Corps' story in Uncanny." The team reacts with sadness, even Monet, though I guess that makes sense. Wasn't Banshee the headmaster of the school when she was in Generation X? Whatever, Cyclops' reaction to seeing Layla Miller was worth the money by itself. Probably scared Cyke, because what if she told them? 4.5 out of 5.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Things I Think About #37

I'm a little confused about something. When Kyle Rayner first became Ion, he was somehow drawing in the power Parallax left behind after reigniting the Sun, correct? So why didn't he fall under it's influence? I understand that in Rebirth, he knew Parallax was the force behind all this, and the fear that knowledge brought helped him resist (Go Kyle!). But he wouldn't have had any clue that that energy had come with a malevolent sentinence, so couldn't it have taken control? Or am I getting the Giant Yellow Space Locust of Fear mixed up with the power from the Central Battery? Or is it that Parallax was willing to leave it's power behind to continue to hitch a ride with Jordan's soul, as part of it's grand scheme to do. . . something. I've never been clear on what it planned to do after it got control of the Spectre, or Ganthet either. Revenge? Galactic Conquest?

In this same vein, I'm guessing that Kyle/Ion isn't as powerful now as he was then, right? Because he only got back the "Ion-power" he "gave" to Jade (that really is pretty lame that her power was just a gift from him). Most of that power went into recreating the Central Power Battery, right? So how much more powerful than a normal Green Lantern can he be? Jade seemed to be weaker than most GLs, so Kyle shouldn't be more than twice as powerful, right? Or is it an exponential increase, or related to the amount of will the wearer has?

Finally, does the fact that Jade "gave" the power back to Kyle, saying it was his, imply Kyle isn't actually using a Power Ring? It seems to be suggesting that Kyle has an internal power, more like Alan Scott, and that for him the ring was merely a tool to bring out and focus what he already possessed. That would mean Kyle had always possessed some sort of energy manipulation ability, he just didn't know it/couldn't use it. Giving him the last Power Ring might make a bit more sense under those circumstances.

Or maybe I'm just thinking too hard. Trying to make sense out of something that prominently involves Green Lantern:Rebirth and Rann-Thanagar War Special is probably just asking for a headache.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Things I Think About #36

So the Skrulls aren't presenting a united front. They're a bunch of rival warlords, all trying to get as much land and power as they can, with no intention of working together. Seems like this has been going on since the early '90s. Wasn't there a formation of rival factions sometime after the Kree/Skrull War? They had an Emperess, one who was giving them back their shape-shifting abilities (I think the Kree used some weapon that took that away from the Skrulls, leaving them trapped in whatever form they were in, including one Skrull masquerading as the Silver Surfer). Anyway, something happened to her, and the Skrulls have been squabbling amongst themselves ever since.

I kind of wonder if that's ever going to be resolved, or if Marvel will just leave them in a state of disarray. Hmm, maybe Emperor Super Skrull?

On another topic, I was thinking about spider-tracers. I always thought that was so cool, that Peter made this device attuned to his spider-sense so he could track people with it. But he never uses them anymore. He even said as much during Hudlin's run on Marvel Knights Spider-Man.

I suppose part of the problem is that he used his webshooters to launch them, and maybe that doesn't work as well with organic webs. Of course, that was something he'd figured out later, originally he just threw them (I'm not sure how accurate something like that would really be), so that shouldn't be a problem. Then I figured it out.

He tended to use his spider-tracers to follow villains. You know how it goes: Electro steals something, Spidey shows up, they fight, Electro endangers civilians, Spidey rescues them, but Electro escapes, civilians throw things at Spidey and call him a menace, Spidey misses class, etc. Fortunately, Spidey tossed a handy-dandy tracer on Sparky, so now he can find him later and stop him.

Unfortunately, Spidey's enemies no longer commit crimes. Everything they do is some grandiose revenge scheme against Spidey. He doesn't need to track them down because they always come to him. Something Marvel definitely needs to look into fixing. You know, as soon as they finish having Peter fight other heroes.

I noticed the August cover for Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man has Mysterio on the cover. I hope that it's Quentin Beck, and not that guy that bought the costume at the end of Spider-Man and the Black Cat. Man, that story needs to be wiped out of existence immediately.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

An Imparting of Wisdom

I have deduced the key to enjoying Big Comic Events, and I found it within Annihilation. The key is. . .

Don't care about any of the characters. Let me explain.

If you have characters that you feel strongly about one way or the other, than it affects your ability to enjoy the story, because you are either hopeful that Character A (see, Ray, The; Infinite Crisis) makes it through OK, or that Character B (see, Superman, all; Infinite Crisis) kicks the bucket. But, if you have no strong feelings towards the characters one way or the other, you can simply enjoy the story for what it is.

Here's an example. I'm enjoying Annihilation: Super-Skrull. I think Super-Skrull has this sort of Clint Eastwood-esque "I'm going to do it my way, and screw you if you don't like it" thing going on, and that's very cool to me. I want to see if he can stop the Harvester of Sorrows before it reaches the Skrull homeworld and kills his son, along with every other Skrull on the planet. But if the story is done well, then I won't be horribly disappointed if he fails. Say, the Harvester reaches the homeworld much more quickly than he thought because all the different warlords are too busy squabbling and trying to hoard as much for themselves as they can to build an effective defense. I would be alright with that as the conclusion to Super-Skrull, as it nicely sets things up for the actual Annihilation mini-series, as he now turns his goals towards revenge.

Could I say the same thing about Civil War, if Spider-Man has to scramble to get help before SHIELD takes Mary Jane and Aunt May away as collaborators, after Peter breaks ties with Stark, only Peter fails? Nope, I sure couldn't say I'd be OK with that. Because I like Spidey, I have a rooting interest to see him come through OK, the same way I have a rooting interest that Wolverine disembowel Hank Pym at some point (What? I'm sick of messed up Hank Pym stories, and Wolverine hasn't killed anybody relevant in a decade).

Now, I grant you those situations aren't equal. Aunt May and MJ are established characters; Super-Skrull's kid is a Character Motivation Tool, but I think the idea holds. It's the same with the others involved. I like Nova, but he's not going to crack my top twenty favorite Marvel characters, so I'm pretty much willing to go with what the story gives me, as long as it's good. If that means Nova dies fighting Annihilus because he tries to tap into all of the Nova Force (which he'd probably need), and it causes him to lose control/focus, so he gets taken down by a sneak attack (Thanos?), or it's too much power, and it just wipes him out, I could say sit there and say "Hey that was a pretty good issue". If he's triumphs and maybe recruits the former Heralds of Galactus to form a new sort of Intergalactic Police Force, that's also fine.

Granted, this idea may not be really practical given that everyone has different favorite characters, and so the issue where Vibe dies would be approached differently by me than by Scipio, but maybe it means you have to divorce yourself from any deeper childhood attachments (or adolescent, or whatever) to the character, and just go with the flow, so to speak.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Pull of Childhood

And so we who still read Marvel's comics of today bid a sad farewell from our ranks to the Fortress Keeper, and we hope that one day Marvel will put out new stories that he can enjoy like they once did. But this left me wondering, why don't I give up on Marvel?

I'm distinctly aware of the fact I'm not happy with a lot of what they've done lately. Just since the start of the year I've dropped Ultimate X-Men, Wolverine, Sensational Spdier-Man, and Wolverine:Origins after just 1 issue. New Avengers is on my chopping block. Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man isn't friendly, and I'm actually grateful to Civil War for the simple fact it made JMS stop writing magic-themed Spidey stories. And yet, it's never even crossed my mind that it might be time to stop giving Joey Q my money. Heck, I'm a lot closing to telling DC to take "long walk" and "short pier", add a dash of "man-eating sharks", and mix well. But I think it relates to timing (brief sports analogy, bear with me).

I have a tendency (maybe you do too) to remain faithful to things from my childhood. My football team of choice is the Arizona Cardinals. Been that way for twelve years. Since that time, I've followed numerous other teams, usually because of some player I liked. I was a Chiefs fan, then they let Rich Gannon go the Oakland, so I rooted for Oakland. I watched Buffalo because of Doug Flutie, then San Diego. I've followed Rickey Proehl from Chicago to St. Louis to Carolina. All those team alliegances were damaged by me knowing it's a business, and teams don't care about loyalty, and so why should I be loyal to a team, if they're just going to dump a player because he's too expensive? Better to simply follow the players I like and hope for their teams to do well. But through all that, I've stuck with Arizona, because when I started rooting for them, I didn't know this was how the NFL worked, and so even though I know it now, the intial anchor is still set firmly in a simpler past.

And that's the difference between Marvel and DC. Marvel's been a fixture for me since 1987. Even all the crap of the '90s (Clone Saga, 17 million giant X-Crossovers) didn't destroy my preference for Marvel over those "lame" heroes at DC, who'd I'd first seen in the early '90s from my dad's comics from the '60s (what? I didn't know Superman of 1963 was any different from Superman of 1993). Because when I think of Marvel, the memories that dominate are from the time before all that. I didn't start reading DC on a monthly basis until 2000. By that time I knew all about characters being killed to spike sales, selling the same comic five times, only with different covers, characters being changed on a whim to try and make them "trendier". So I look at DC with that more jaded eye, always, because that's the only DC I've ever bought. I'm aware that's it's equally true for Marvel, but I remember reading their comics when it wasn't, and so I hold tight to that.

Cripes, I'm now old enough to have nostalgia. Where's my Social Security check?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Things I Think About #35

This is just a few quicks thoughts in relation to yesterday's post. Concerning a) Cassandra's fluent speech, and b) just how crazy she sounds.

For a) I think that death and rebirth in the Lazarus Pit may have "fixed" something so to speak. When she was talking with Spoiler on the other side in issue #73 she didn't seem to be having any trouble with words. Any pauses could probably be attributed to grief, especially after she found out that Buldhaven went *POOF*. After she woke up, she still didn't seem to be struggling for words with Shiva. Granted she wasn't using any big words, but her main problem was being able to read and write. If the Lazarus Pit somehow fixed the problem she had, where the parts of her brain that would recognize and comprehend words, then it would just be a matter of building a vocabulary. Which she's had a year to do.

For b), well like I said she's testing Robin. To that end, she's pretending to be the sort of crazed villain they've fought so many times. I mean, Batman's enemies are pretty chatty, and more than a few of them love to rant and rave. So she's just behaving in a manner that could be easily recognizable to Tim as "evil".

Look, it's either this, or - as kalinara believes - it's her evil twin, or it's what I've seen others suggesting: that Beechen didn't bother to do any sort of research on the character, and that last one would make me and my panda friend very sad.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Reflections #21 - Robin #150

Fortress Keeper appears disappointed. Scipio is practically rubbing his hands with glee. Schadenfreude much, Scip? And kalinara is trying to get us all to calm down.

I don't think "calm down" is on my itinerary today, sorry. Nope, I feel like listening to loud, angry music why hitting a tree with PVC pipe until it shatters. OK, so I feel like that at some point most days, so fine, let's try to look for positive things.

What I HOPE Is Going On With Cassandra Cain:

She's testing Tim. She wants to see if his resolve is as strong as it was last year. When she and Tim first went to Bludhaven, they teamed up and went after the Penguin. After a narrow escape, they started arguing about what they should have done. Tim pointed out that even though they saw Oswald consorting with all kinds of criminals, and engaging in who knows what kinds of criminal activities, they had no legal recourse. No warrant, no evidence from the house with them. Cassandra didn't much care. They knew Cobblepot was guilty, and she felt they should have dealt with him themselves, probably with either a beating, or scaring him to the point where he fled the city. She didn't feel the law was necessary when you know someone broke the law. And it went on.

Concerning War Games Tim felt Batman should never have even thought of trying to take control of the gangs. Cassandra thought it was a good idea, and that once he realized what had happened, Batman should have gone ahead and asserted control, so he could use the gangs.

Tim felt that Batman's pursuit of justice was an ideal, something that could never be achieved, but needed to be strived for. Cass felt it was achievable.

I think Cassandra has gone the natural extension of her route. She has taken control of an organization that was used for evil (League of Assassins) and turned it into something that will deal out her brand of justice. After all, if you just kill the criminals, you don't have to worry about collecting evidence or getting warrants or any of that crap, do you? She's targeting people she knows are criminals. Lynx, was a former ganglord. If Cassandra did kill her sister, well, Sis was a killer-for-hire. As for Cain, well the dude's a master assassin, 'nuff said. The destruction of Bludhaven for no reason other than Deathstroke was pissed at Nightwing has convinced Cassandra that this is the way to achieve Batman's ideal of justice, make sure the criminals don't harm anyone again.

Now she wants to see if Robin has stayed true to his path. She's making him shoot Cain, in a situation eerily similar to the one that took place when they broke into the Penguin's place. Penguin made Robin shoot Batgirl to prove he actually beat her, and Tim did. Not a fatal shot, but he still did it. She wants to see what he'll do this time. Is he still convinced that you send criminals to jail no matter what and since Cain was already serving time, execution is wrong? Or has he faltered? I think if he stays strong, she'll let him go, but kill her dad herself. Probably have to knock Tim out for that part. If he falters? I don't know, she'll probably be disappointed in him.

The problem is, I don't know how all this fits in with my belief that the "Nyssa" who got blown up by the car bomb was actually Cassandra faking it to get Nyssa off people's radar screen.

Oh well, now we play the Waiting Game I guess. I hate the Waiting Game.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

What I Bought 5/17/06

Found out today I had forgotten to actually put Warbird on my pull list, thus I must wait a week or two. Bugger. So, just two books this week, neither of which made my day. Spiler warnings as usual.

Robin #150 - Hmm, the 150th issue, and they didn't do anything special for it. Figured that might count as a milestone, but no big deal. So we find Tim breaking into Blackgate Prison to free David Cain. Tim deftly moves through the security system, and manages to get out without difficulty. Hooray.

Tim and Cain reach the designated meeting place, whereupon Tim is ambushed by League of Assassin ninjas. Cain tells Robin to free him so he can help; Tim says no dice. Tim gets kicked in his injured shoulder (from #148), which causes him to spit blood. Yeah, I don't understand the circulatory system that allows that either.

So, we find out what Cassandra's been up to, or maybe what she's become and well. . . ugh. I'm not pleased, but I can't really work up any aggravation over it. Probably because I've been bracing myself for this kind of kick to the nuts for several months now. I mean, she's acting like a complete lunatic, raving and violent, and she wants Tim to work with her, and I don't know. I have theories, well a theory.

Oh, and they hinted at Tim Drake having a life. That's a good thing. Not enough of a good thing to overwhelm the dread I have now, so 2 out of 5.

Annihilation: Nova #2 - This is essentially Nova versus Fear. Mallet said that part of what he liked about the first issue was that Rider was in shock, and it made him act like a dick, and it made sense given the circumstances. So at this point, Nova seems to be past Shock/Grief, and into Shock/Fear - of himself. Which means he isn't all that useful to Drax or Cammi.

See, they need a ship to get off the planet, and Nova initially doesn't seem inclined to help them find one. The girl makes disturbing commentary on how his new costume shows off his butt. Drax teaches us that Earthlings have a distinctive smell. Nova argues with the Worldmind. Nova decides to help them find a ship, but he's still afraid to use his powers, which is bad when large insects are trying to eat you.

Cammi makes me seriously wonder why Drax hasn't killed her yet. Ship found, they prepare to escape, but Nova must use the Nova Force if they're to succeed. Does he? DOES HE?!

And in the Worldmind files at the end, it says that Drax and Moondragon are members of Titan, a moon of Jupiter. OK, here, Titan is a moon of Saturn, so is it different in the Marvel Universe or are the writers just dumbasses? Read a freaking astronomy book, geez it doesn't even have to be a hard one!

And Quasar shows up. Clap your hands. Weaker than last month, but not bad. 3.2 out of 5.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Things I Think About #34

I believe Bendis learned how to pace his comics by watching too much Dragonball Z. He just removed the screaming and extensive, unneccessary flashbacks, and replaced it with lots of talk about feelings. He took out a lot of the nearly planet-destroying explosions too.

Comics Should Be Good put up the DC solicitations for August. I'm pretty sure I saw Raven on the Teen Titans cover. This could be good or bad. Bad, if Johns does yet another story about Raven's father being Trigon and Brother Blood's connection to all that. Good, if he does almost anything else. Please let her have been spending the time off in school, or interacting with normal people at the Burger King, or something. Please, Johns.

I want to see more dragons in the superhero comics. I don't know why, I just do. I don't mean like Lockheed, Shadowcat's dragon. I mean, big huge, flying, fire-breathing, possibly very wise and ancient dragons. For some reason, it feels like something I could see the JSA running into, even moreso than the Shadowpact. Or maybe the Defenders, if they were still together. If nothing else, a huge flock (Swarm? Horde?) of dragons deciding they need to retake the planets from destructive humans would be a better way to clear out the low-level hero clutter than Superboy-Prime decapitating people.

For the record, I don't really want to see hordes of dragons blackening the sky as they attempt to lay waste to civilization and D-list heroes. But, I've recognized that ideas have to be put into terms that the people running the show can understand. Which means I have to demonstrate how my dream can be bastardized to provide cheap, gratuitous deaths.

And I've depressed myself again. Bugger.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Reflections #20 - Spider-Girl #99

I mostly enjoyed this issue. The fact that in true Parker tradition May is simultaneously having problems with friends, family, and webslinging. The fact that the Hobgoblin is kicking even more ass than I thought he would. That Peter is probably busy at the police lab trying to come up with something to destroy the symbiote, which raises a question: Phil Urich is Pete's coworker, and he knew that Normie had kept the symbiote. Did Pete chew him out like he did May? Phil's an adult, that's true, but he should have known better, right?

On a related note, I'm less convinced that Phil is going to bite the dust here in the last few issues. That's because I think his role of "Martyr" has been filled by Raptor. The Hobgoblin took out four of Spider-Girl's friends/associates, but Raptor is the only one we saw bleeding. Second, the eyes in her mask do a very good impression of lifeless doll's eyes, giving her that "dead" look.. Third, of all the heroes Hobgoblin tied to the fence, Raptor is the only one whose head is tilted at a really noticeable angle (one of the Ladyhawks' head is tilted, but considerably less that Raptor's), which makes her stand out, like that Beatles cover where Lennon is out of step with all the others. She's the only one we didn't see fighting (the Ladyhawks were only taking out some goons, but still did some fighting). Finally, she just got engaged to Normie, who's bonded to a symbiote that he swears he has under control, but gee, couldn't you just imagine that the symbiote has been biding it's time, waiting for an opportunity to assert control, and golly, I'd bet Normie won't be very much in control after finding his fiancee dead, now will he?

Sigh. Would this mean Brenda would need to be added to the Women in Refrigerators list? If Phil Urich died as well, would that remove her from it, demonstrating that two people had to die, and those two were simply the one's whose numbers came up? I don't know.

On still another note, I'm thinking the Black Tarantula is going to convince the Scriers to back off Spider-Girl, given his interest in her. I'm thinking by the time that order comes through, Hobby will be busy battling an insane Normie-Venom, with May trying to keep anyone from dying. Peter and Phil will show up, probably as Spider-Man and Green Goblin. Peter goes after Normie, Phil probably gets destroyed by Hobgoblin, May gets very angry at the death of her "Uncle Phil", and beats Hobgoblin into the ground, while Normie's lost to the symbiote forever, escaping into the night, blaming the whole thing on Spider-Girl, thus continuing the endless cycle of Osborn/Parker violence, not to mention Parker/Symbiote conflict.

Man, that's really depressing. Let's try again:

Brenda Drago is not dead. Normie-Venom keeps Hobgoblin busy while May frees her friends and gets them to safety. Phil Urich does show up, and is injured, but doesn't die. His presence divides the Hobgoblin's concentration enough for May and Normie to pound Hobgoblin into the ground, at which point a messenger from the Brotherhood of Scrier's arrives, informing them there won't be anymore trouble from said Brotherhood. Peter and Normie bury the hatchet at Brenda and Normie's wedding. May makes peace with Courtney, everybody's happy.

That's much better, don't ya think?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Reflections #19 - Super Skrull #2

'Child? I see no child. You forget Richards, that we are a race of shape-shifters. R'Kin's true age is unknown even to me.'

My biggest disappointment with issue #2 is that it really seems like they aren't going to have much mystery as to whether the "kid" really is a kid. After Super Skrull's comments in issue #1, I figured that might be a running subplot, clues scattered here and there. But looking at it another way, I suppose the statement by Super Skrull could be construed as part of his pragmatic nature.

Sure, R'Kin acts like a starstruck kid, but he is a shape-shifter, so who knows. The Skrulls are pretty renown for their espionage, so it's unwise to take anything at face value, and much wiser to take fewer chances. That kind of attitude seems to guide most of what he does. K'lrt is a loyal soldier of the Skrull Empire, but he's no blind-eyed kamikaze or sycophant. He wasn't going to stick around and keep fighting on Aks'Lo when the Harvester of Sorrows had arrived, and there were no other Skrulls to fight with. Better to take off and fight again. He did his best to respect the orders of the Baroness S'Bak, but eventually he realized that this petty warlord was more interested in maintaining a grip on what she'd grabbed for herself, then fighting for the greater good of the Empire. So he socked her one, tore through her troops, and went to do his own thing. Of course, she also insulted him, so he may just have been mad about that. Super Skrull isn't above getting some enjoyment out of inflicting pain.

Like he said to R'Kin, the fellow that gave him information could also have alerted the Annihilation Wave that Super Skrull was tearing through the Negative Zone, which makes life more difficult for our heroes, err, protagonist. Nor did he want to fight those prisoners, but if they were going to interfere with his interrogation, then he'd would pummel him, but only until they'd calmed down enough that he could make them an offer to fight with him. I also thought it was a nice touch that before that fight started he dropped a rock on Hawal's legs so he couldn't escape. Not life-threatening, but effectively preventing escape.

Know how I said that attitude determines most of his actions? Yeah, that seems to go out the window when he thinks of his kid. Charging right into a force field that destroys organic matter, relying strictly on confidence that his force field will protect him. That could be seen as awareness of his abilities, or letting your emotions get the best of you. Sure, it's mostly a derivative plot device (had we ever heard of Super Skrull having a son before this?), but it's giving the series a bit of a Die Hard feel for me. That's a good thing if you don't know.

Back to R'Kin, his fear and thoughts of escape seem like a good indicator that he is what he appears to be. I think if they had planned to keep it up in the air as to hsi identity, not giving him an internal monologue would have been best. The moment when he opened the door and shouted "Everybody freeze!" he looks kind of frightening, not like a scared child. If we aren't seeing what he's been thinking, it's raises some doubts. Just a thought.

One final thing. When the Super Skrull was beating on Hawal, he seemed to be knocking the viscous green fluid out of him. But when you see Hawal afterwards, he doesn't look any different. Sigh, couldn't they have at least shown him missing a mandible or something? Ah well, minor beef.

I'm wondering whether the Harvester will be destroyed within this mini-series, or the Annihilation series itself?

Saturday, May 13, 2006

As Marvel Goes Back To The Well

Firstly, I forgot to mention this yesterday, but I'd like to congratulate Civil War #1 on getting through its first issue with only one penciler and inker each. Bravo! Moving on.

It's posts like this that make me wish I had a scanner. I don't know why, I don't have either of the comics I'm talking about with me, but if I did, this would be much easier. Screw it, let's rock.

Civil War #1. The heroes are bickering, when Daredevil speaks up. Putting aside for a moment the fact that no one questions who he is, let's notice his demeanor (see how a scanner would help?). Leaned casually against the wall, speaking about the upcoming conflict with what seems like eagerness, and that freaking quarter. Moving it back and forth between the fingers on his right (left?) hand, that was what reminded me of something.

Namely this, Daredevil #284. DD is somewhat out of sorts in this issue, having recently escaped from Hell(?!) with the Inhumans. He ends up in a fight with some gangster wannabes, and starts having flashbacks. He decides the best way to escape the violence is to stop fighting. So of course the thugs pummel him. Except there's a guy across the street, couple of stories up, sitting on a flagpole, or window sill. Between each of the fingers on his right hand? Quarters. Which he throws, from across the street, hitting the gangsters in nerve clusters in their shoulders, which makes them panic and run.

Quarter-Dude then unmasks Daredevil and gets a good laugh at his being Matt Murdock.

The coin thing makes me think it's the same guy, but not owning any of the subsequent issues I had no idea who he was. We see his face at the end, and he looks kind of like Murdock, only bigger, but the reddish hair. Looking online, I found a site that listed the cast for the issue as containing Jack (amnesiac) Murdock, so my first thought was "But Matt's dad is dead!" Apparently what it meant was, DD made himself forget everything, including who he was, so he called himself Jack. As for the man with the coins? Bullseye, who then began wearing a Daredevil costume, while "Jack" Murdock became some bum.

Now Matt's in jail, and there's another Daredevil, who acts a bit odd. Even Millar isn't so terrible as to write Matt Murdock the way he wrote Daredevil in that issue, and I can't really see Iron Fist acting like that either {Edit: Guess I was wrong.}. Besides, it'd be just like Marvel to go back and reuse an old storyline. Would be cooler if it was I don't know, Bucky, or Marc Spector, just for the sheer "What the?" effect. Nobody would see that coming.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Things I Think About #33

So, it's a week after Infinite Crisis finished breaking the Internet in half, and Civil War began breaking the halves in half, and I just want to discuss something in Civil War #1.

There is no way that Spider-Man should be on Tony Stark's side as of Civil War #2.

Stark - for reasons only he may know - is on the side of registration and training for superheroes. Because I'm completely sure that a bunch of normal human scientists could have trained Speedball how to better use his kinetic field. Just like I'm sure that even though he remained conscious through Namorita slamming him into a bus, Nitro would never have had the chance to explode if Captain America had been there.

OK, enough sarcasm.

Stark wants registration. But Peter gave a perfectly logical reason why he shouldn't register, because he doesn't want to come home and find his "wife impaled on an octopus arm and the woman who was like a mother to him begging for her life."

And he's absolutely right. Think how much of a hassle it was for Peter when Norman Osborn was the only villain who knew who he was under the mask. Even with Norman frequently amnesiac, there was constant worry on Peter's part that Norman might regain those memories, and Peter would have to fight his best friend's father. Think what happened when Venom showed up. He knew who Peter was, and the first thing he did was go scare the beejeezus out of Mary Jane. Peter had to deal with the fact that Venom could attack at any moment (meaning, every fifteen issues or so), and other than Venom's word that "sweet, innocent May Parker" would not be harmed, Peter knew everyone around him was fair game. Throw the seemingly bipolar Puma into the mix (who fortunately forgot thanks to the Black Crow), and the freaking insane Harry Osborn (dead). Now add to that Doc Ock (forgot after resurrection) and at least one of Kraven's sons (dead, I think). And the Jackal (dead, I think). Spider-Man's enemies like to commit crimes, but he's standing in the way. To correct that problem, they would think nothing of killing his loved ones along with him.

"But Calvin," you say, "if he registered, then the government, or SHIELD, could provide security for his family." Yeah, because I'm sure MJ and Aunt May will enjoy being followed around by armed guards for the rest of their life. Besides, you honestly think some gun-toting soldiers would stop Doctor Octopus if he got it in his head to kill the Parker clan? This is the same SHIELD that couldn't stop that HYDRA/Hand/Wolverine group from running around killing D-list heroes and trying to capture other heroes (Daredevil, Elektra). Now that was one group, granted a large one, with vast resources. But they had a specific plan, and SHIELD was stretched too thin to combat it. What happens when 300 different villains all decide to start trying to get revenge on the heroes that thwarted them, and everyone is under attack? What's SHIELD going to do then, send the heroes without loved ones out to defend the ones that do?

Best thing Peter can do is minimize the number of people that know who he is. Which means that in issue #2 I expect to see him return the Iron Spidey outfit to Stark, and tell him he can't go along with this. He'd be nervous, and very polite and respectful, but he'd do it.

Actually, I don't expect to see that in #2 at all, because Marvel will drag that scene out until at least #5. So to rephrase: I believe that Peter would immediately return the costume to Stark, but that won't happen because Marvel likes to annoy me.

Come back tomorrow, when I tell you about how Civil War #1 helped me figure out who Daredevil is!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Representing Mom's Of The Costumed Sect Everywhere

What? Sorry, no mama-joke themed title. I'm just responding to Ragnell's call for mother-related posts.

Ragnell asked for good Moms in comics, and I think this lady does a pretty good job. It's Mary Jane Watson-Parker, mother of May and Ben Parker in Spider-Girl.

So what kind of a role does she play in May's life (her role in Ben's life is a little obvious, he's an infant, so periodic feeding, changing, etc.)? Well, she often seems to be the buffer between May and Peter. She's the one who reigns Pete in when he comes down too hard on May for an error in judgment, because MJ knows Peter's made some doozies of those himself over the years. She's the one who goes to May and gets her to understand that Peter is just being overprotective because, well, he's been on the front lines, doing what she is, and he lost a leg doing it, so he is understandably worried about his daughter's safety.

At the same time, she's not going to let May slide on things. In this week's issue, MJ didn't intervene when Peter pulled May aside to find out why she had told them that the Venom symbiote was destroyed when it wasn't. Mary Jane has history with Venom, that's the sort of thing the Parker family needed to know about, and May hid it. She's not going to get any defense from her mother this time, and this is another valuable role Mary Jane plays. She often sort of gently reminds May that she has responsibilities besides being Spider-Girl, that she has family who care about her, and she needs to think about them before she does things. May doesn't listen a lot of the time, or at least stop long enough for it to sink in, but that's part of being a teenager.

MJ isn't going to play hostage either. Normie Osborn tried that once, and Mrs. Watson-Parker socked him one, then cracked him over the head with a lamp before Spider-Girl even showed up. She's not going to play the weakling that needs to be looked after. She had a lot of Aunt May in her during her second pregnancy, in that she may not have been in the best of health, but she didn't need to be coddled or looked after by May or Peter. She was still able to go to work, and take care of things around the house that needed to be taken care of. She knows that her family has a lot of stress in their lives, so she tried to avoid adding more until she had to. I'm not sure that's wise when it comes to pregnancy, but I admire the spirit.

And I think she's helped May's public image. I really believe that part of the reason Mary Jane started the Spider Shoppe is because she wanted Spider-Girl to have more widespread acceptance. It makes her part of the culture, maybe makes people feel less fearful of her. And it seems to work. May has never had the problems with the public or the police that her father did. Heck even Jonah Jameson likes Spider-Girl, considering her to be much more respectful than that "other" wallcrawler. Granted, May isn't nearly as combative with JJJ as her dad was, but I really believe that her mother helped May seem less like some creepy costumed vigilante, and more like a friendly neighborhood life-saver.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

What I Bought 5/10/06

Light pull this week only two books. Ken did put 52 in my pull (I think he did that for everyone), but Len had correctly surmised that it isn't my liter of cola. I did glance through it, was glad to see the Ray, lukewarm to the rest. I also glanced through Civil War #1. More on my reactions to that tomorrow. On to books I actually exchanged the currency that only has worth because the public believes it does for. Spoiler warnings.

Annihilation: Super Skrull #2 - Hot damn! Calvin pleased! This issue is told from the perspective of R'Kin, the wide-eyed mechanic "child" that helped Super Skrull last issue. This means we see his wide-eyed hero worship lost the first time he sees what conflict can really be like. When it isn't so easy to justify the deaths of people as "Them or us" it becomes harder to think of it as adventure.

Anyway, SS is looking for information on the Harvester of Sorrows, and he's not concerned with whether he plays a little dirty to get that info. In fact, he enjoys playing dirty. Though the kid is horrified by the actions, I think it does a good job of showing the Super Skrull as a pragmatist. Having gained information on where to find the creator of the weapon, SS heads there and proceeds to open a can of whup ass on security. We also get to see Super Skrull uses his powers in a couple of nifty ways.

When it's all said and done, not only have they got a possible method of destroying the Harvester, they've got some new allies as well. One problem: this issue goes a long way towards answering whether the "child" is what he appears to be. I think he really is a kid, and that takes a little of the mystery out of it. Still, 4.95 out of 5.

Spider-Girl #98 - I have been waiting at least 15 issues for Peter Parker to find out that two of his least favorite life forms, Normie Osborn and the Venom symbiote are working together. Of course, it wasn't from May fessing up, but from Kristy nonchalantly mentioning that working for Normie is nice, but geez, that "Venom thingie" (exact quote) is creepy. Classic. So Peter grounds May, takes away the costume and the webshooters. Except she gave up the red costume, not the black-and-white. Clever girl.

In other news, May finally finds out that Courtney believes May is seeing Moose behind Courtney's back. Hmm, this sounds like a job for May Parker, also known as Courtney's Best Friend! Too bad she's got no time for it.

'Cause the original Hobgoblin is in town, and he's after May's friends. Now it seems kind of silly that the Scriers told him to do this, all because May defeated one of their guys. He shouldn't have been stalking her. But damn, did he ever justify my faith in his coolness. Tom DeFalco writes a !#$%in' awesome Hobgoblin! Next issue: Venom and Spider-Girl versus the Hobgoblin, and I'm betting Phil Urich and Peter will show up too! Beautiful. 5 out of 5.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Ah, well. . .

Crap. I was saving that as a post for some day when I was running low on ideas, but now Scipio's gone and put it out there. So exactly what plot threads would I like to see resolved?

Two leap to mind:

Perhaps shockingly, the first thread is courtesy of one Mr. Austen. Yes, you read that right, I want a follow up to a story from Chuck Austen. No, this isn't Un-CalvinPitt. Yes I'm feeling fine. When Austen left, he had School Nurse Annie realize that the X-Men life is entirely too dangerous for her son to be around, and she leaves. This of course left Havok to fall into Polaris' psychotic arms on the rebound, leading to more angst. Ugh. Anyway, as she and her son leave, the kid (who is a powerful telepath/telekinetic, what a surprise!) is talking to his "new friend" who Annie (and us) can't see. I don't have it in front of me, but as they story ends, the kid says something fairly ominous about her getting to meet his friends, or that they'd definitely see the X-Men again, and he gets a decidedly frightening look on his face. I've always wanted to know what was up with that. Since even a few years ago I didn't understand how switching a creative team worked, I naively believed it would be touched on in just a short amount of time. You'd think that fact that Austen made Gambit blind, and Claremont reversed that in about 3 seconds would have wised me up.

So I'm left wondering who the kid's friend was. Shadow King? Malice? The disembodied soul of Apocalypse? Say maybe that's how he came back, he took control of the kid's body! Keep in mind, I'm not asking for Austen to come back and answer this, I'd prefer someone good at making a surprise that makes sense. Or at least someone who isn't terrible. See, told you I wasn't Un-CalvinPitt.

Second thread:

Howard Mackie introduced a cat near the end of his time on Amazing Spider-Man. Peter found the cat (which smelled very bad) outside a night club, and some weird cyber-goons as well. Peter assumed they were after Spider-Man, but they really wanted the cat. The cat apparently recognized the value in having a super-powered protector, and followed Pete home.

What was up with the cat? We never found out. But between an seemingly intelligent cat, and the dog that Paul Jenkins was about to give Peter's neighbor across the alley, the comedy potential was there. The dog could have been a plant from the cyber-goons, designed to figure a way past Peter's defenses to get at Smelly Cat.

Unfortunately, JMS took over three issues later, and there was no resolution. Now I would be willing to give this assignment back to the original writer. I have at least that much trust in Mackie.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Reflections #18 - Teen Titans #35

For the record, I believe Tim is really trying to clone Conner, as opposed to trying to prevent anyone else from cloning/resurrecting him. Conner was Tim's best friend, and Tim has shown that Batman-esque ability to do something without considering how others might react. He took some of Conner's hair to run DNA tests on it, without letting Conner know. And given that he's living with Bruce (which doesn't bode well for his stepmom getting out of Bludhaven), it's likely he's got access to the money to get the resources he would need. And Batman has taught about covering his tracks, which Tim used to introduce "Uncle Eddie". Then when Batman figured that out, he taught Tim how to correct his mistakes, in essence showing him how to hide stuff from Batman.

Unfortunately, I think Fortress Keeper's on the mark and this will backfire on Tim.

So is the All-New Doom Patrol getting it's own book? Or are they limited to guest appearances in other titles? It just would seem kind of odd to go to the trouble of wiping Byrne's version out, just to let them sit in the background. Of course, people did seem to hate Byrne's Doom Patrol pretty strongly. . .

I still can't believe the Brotherhood's whole plan is to clone the Brain so (s)he(?) can get some hot gorilla action. There has to be more to it than that, right? They're just getting that out of the way, then they'll make an army of clone, somethings, to rule the world, right? And does this tie-in to whatever was going on in The Outsiders this week? And if so, isn't it a little soon after One Year Later to start doing crossovers between titles? Jeez, give the books a chance to hit their stride, would you DiDio? Of course, he may figure Outsiders needs all the help it can get.

I'll predict Tim will try to steal whatever it is the Brotherhood stole (Chemo remnant?), but get caught in the act, probably by Ravager. The question is whether she would call it to the attention of the rest of the team, or just try to blackmail Tim in exchange for her silence. I can't tell whether she's really interested in Tim, or he's just convenient. She does seem to really want to stay on the team, so in that scenario she might rat him out to show she's a good, concerned teammate. Just a thought.

I am sure that he's safer if Ravager finds out he's trying to clone Superboy, than if Wonder Girl finds out. Can't imagine she'd be pleased with that.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Sigh, I Hate To Do This. . .

Relax, it's not going to be another monolithic post like yesterday. I was looking back over this Deadpool story in Ultimate Spider-Man, reflecting on how I thought it was really good, horrible characterization of Ultimate Deadpool aside. Then, in the the most recent issue (#94), I see Rogue on the front lines as the good guys attack where Xavier's held at. She appears to be smashing the wall down, right alongside Colossus, to which I say, huh?

Ultimate Rogue doesn't have super-strength, so what's going on? Well, maybe she borrowed the power from Colossus. Except she would manifest it the same way, meaning she'd be metallic-looking, which she wasn't. OK, so she got it from the Reavers. Except their strength is a result of cybernetic implants/transplants, so I'm not sure she can steal that.

Then I thought of something. When Gambit died in the Ultimate X-Men Annual, and his powers (and personality) transferred to Rogue, she'd also absorbed power from the Juggernaut during that battle. So maybe, that got retained, along with Gambit's powers. There hasn't been any mention or sign of this in Ultimate X-Men thus far, but hey, it could happen! Cheers, I've solved the mystery!

Then I went back to issue #92, and I saw her flying next to Angel. She didn't have wings to suggest taking power from him, so now what?

I'm trying to figure out who this is on, Bagley or Bendis. I don't know if Bagley had to put Rogue in there or not: she never says anything, nor does anything or real consequence in the fight, so I doubt her presence was ordered by Brian Michael. Someone at least seems to understand she has Gambit's powers, her eyes are colored in with that black/magenta scheme they've had since the Annual. But shouldn't someone have mentioned to Bagley this Rogue can't fly or punch down walls?

I really hate to pin this on Bags, because I was loving the art in this arc, even more than normal. He got draw a lot of fight scenes, he did a decent job of showing the X-Men gradually getting battered, costumes torn up and being consistent with it. I though it was really a nice touch in #91, when Shadowcat phases Peter out of the rings that are crushing him, you see bruise marks on Peter's torso and arms, that actually persist for the remainder of time he's shirtless. That's nice to see; it seems like some artists can only draw a character one way, and can't change it to depict the results of a battle. They might draw some lines to represent them bleeding, but no evidence of bruising or other damage that would go along with that.

So you know what? Let's just blame this on Bendis. He should have made sure Mark Bagley knew the score on Ultimate Rogue. You all with me?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

It's There, If You Look Hard Enough

Hobgoblin of 2211, huh? Well, it's nice to see Peter David remembers a one-shot crossover between Spider-Man and Spider-Man of 2099. Of course, he wrote, so I guess that explains it. Still, I didn't come here today to complain about how horrible Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #8 was. No, see I have reason to believe that the events of that issue are symptomatic of something greater, something that's been building since before House of M, and was only exacerbated by that event. Let's look at some events of the last 18 months or so (not in chronological order, my memory's not that good):

Spider-Man meets an Uncle Ben from an alternate universe where Aunt May was the "parent" Peter lost, not Ben. Ben has arrived in this universe by means unknown, and indeed, he wasn't even aware of the trip until reaching his "home". But he didn't arrive alone. At the same time he meets Ben, Peter is attacked by a Hobgoblin from the future, though whether from the 616 universe or not, we don't know. . .

The Scarlet Witch brings Jack-of-Hearts back from the dead, to blow up Ant-Man, causes the Vision to give birth to Ultrons, the She-Hulk to go berserk, the Kree to pop up (well, maybe they took advantage of the situation she provided), and then remade history under her brother's desires. Then she remade it again, screwing around with the abilties of who knows how many people, possibly including. . .

Layla Miller, who I would absolutely swear has different powers now than she did during House of M. She's gone from a form of telepathy to some sort of reality-altering (between the precognitive sense, and whatever she did with that butterfly) ability, which is interesting because reality seems to be kind of fractured when you consider. . .

Nocturne, the child of an alternate universe's Nightcrawler and Scarlet Witch(?), and the Juggernaut reappear in the X-Mansion after last having been seen being sucked into the black hole (gateway?) in Zorn's head (the "real" Zorn, not Magneto pretending). They're brought back courtesy of dimension spanning media mogul, Mojo. The two have since joined New Excalibur where. . .

They've battled "evil" X-Men, who have, again, appeared with no explanation, and with uncertain goals. Dazzler has died, come back to life within the same night, and died again, again no explanation for her resurrection, but she has been known to do some dimension-hopping herself. They've fought a Black Tom that looks totally human, and is back to channeling his energy through his shillelagh. No big deal, except he hasn't looked like that since Cable shot him during their fight in the World Trade Center in X-Force #4, back in 1991. Since then he'd been moving towards a tree state, and looked a lot like an Ent the last time we saw him (when Juggernaut and Nocturne got sucked into the gateway). Again, no explanation as of yet for this unmetamorphosis. Plus, it's a book with Captain Britain, who's just one of several spread out across the Marvel Multiverse, and he's the brother of. . .

Psylocke, who mysteriously returned from death, without explanation. Since then, we've found out it was through the actions of her other brother, reality warping Jamie Braddock. He brought her back to life, but also supposedly made her immune to the effects of people with reality-warping/magical powers (though she wasn't immune to the Scarlet's Witch's hexes, go figure). Before he can explain why he did this, he's grabbed by some weird things that spirit him away. It's interesting that Jamie mentioned Proteus because. . .

Proteus has been hopping from one universe to the other, stealing bodies and causing havoc. The Exiles have been chasing him around, trying to stop him, and causing almost as much havoc, seeing as they keep taking people from universes that are supposed to stay, if they aren't getting those people outright killed. And pretty soon, the Exiles are going to land in Heroes Reborn Universe, which is pretty funny because. . .

Jeph Loeb is planning to do a big event (no I won't type the name of the other person involved!) concerning the return of this Universe, including Onslaught, who seemed to have the ability between his magnetic and psionic abilties to give the appearence of altering reality, or at least perception of reality. Given all the crap that went down when he showed up, this could be huge, and have potentially wide ramifications, which means we might see a certain bald fellow, named. . .

Uatu, the Watcher, who actually did show up - AGAIN, for reasons unknown - while Jamie Braddock was telling Betsy everything he could about what he did and why. That suggests something huge is in the air, and that's only amplified when you add in that. . .

He also showed up in Civil War #1. Could a bunch of heroes squabbling about whether to do what the goverment says really be important enough Uatu wants a front row seat? Or is he just trying to see what everyone is doing to prepare for something else that's on it's way? Is he seeing how these heroes bicker, whereas the Heroes Reborn may all work together?

Then add in these other elements from the last few years if you wish:

Emma Frost joins the X-Men, and only Shadowcat seems to be bothered by this. Keep in mind that when the Beyonder erased all evidence/knowledge of the New Mutants from existence, Shadowcat was the only one who remembered, due to some connection she had with Illyana (throw in token Claremont and closet lesbianism joke), who used portals to another realm to teleport.

It turns out that before Xavier recruited Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, etc., he tried to use McTaggert's students to rescue his from Krakoa. This has apparently been hidden from all the other X-Men, except Cyclops, who had forgotten until now. The survivor, Kid Vulcan, seems considerably more powerful than the last time anyone saw him.

Apocalypse is back from the dead. Sunfire, now Famine, is in his Age of Apocalypse outfit.

Colossus is not dead.

Peter Parker and Dr. Strange are thrown out of time, forcing Peter to relive his entire life from when the spider bit him, as well as witness his end. Dr. Strange actually has to relive his life, with things going much differently.

The Black Panther's origin is different that it was before. Ditto Tony Stark.

Bucky is not dead. Furthermore, Captain America now has memories of World War 2 that he apparently never had before.

Dr. Doom has somehow escaped from Hell, in the process ditching the mystical armor made of his dead love's skin.

A "D. Blake" (no word on his progress through med school) is on his way to the place Thor's hammer made planetfall.

She Hulk went on trial for trying to alter the timeline.

It seems Wanda's two "children" may have been "reborn" in two other children's bodies.

The Sentry seems to alter reality (at least as it relates to him) simply by thinking about it, including making the entire world forget about him.

Put all together, this gives the strong impression that the walls of the 616 reality have been seriously frayed by people doing mass alterations of this or that. And in the process, this has weakened the barriers that serve to keep the various universes of the multiverse separate. Thus you get all these weird duplicates, people reverting to earlier stages, origins changing, people who seem to be returning from the dead, may actually be getting replaced by versions from other realities, knowingly or not. In some cases, they're integrated seamlessly; in others, not so much. It sounds a bit like Post-Crisis DC, only it's being done mostly under the table.

Whew, that was a lot of stuff. Give me a minute. . . OK, I'm good to go.

I was talking about this with Len on Friday (not to this extent, a lot of stuff occured to me last night and even while typing this post), talking about how the pattern seems to be developing, and that you could see parts of it here and there in different comics. Len called it "good continuity", which probably explains why I'm so freaked out about this. But he's right because pieces are being placed; one in this comic here, another in that comic there. The more of them you read, the more you begin to see it. At the same time, it doesn't feel like the standard "Collect all 87 connected issues of this event!" cash grab, because none of the issues totally explain what's happening. They merely serve to strengthen the feeling that something is getting ready to happen.

Does that mean everything I mentioned is connected? Hell no, and there is probably plenty of other stuff that might fit in I have no idea about because I don't buy all Marvel comics. Is it really conceivable that ham-handed dumbass Joe Quesada could be setting the pieces in place for something like this, and the most we've heard about it is that, yes Chris Claremont will be taking Psylocke with him to Exiles, and yes, Loeb and that Other Guy will be doing Heroes Reborn? No gloating about how this will totally blow the "Dimwitted Competition" out of the water? That something like this could occur, when the majority of it isn't taking place in books written by Bendis or Millar?

Probably not. Lets face it, a lot of the stuff I listed up there is of questionable quality as stories, so it could just be an example of the artistic quagmire (I may not do introductory paragraphs, but let it never be said I can't turn a phrase!) Marvel has been in lately. Still, the mere thought that Marvel may actually have been quietly building this up, and not trumpeting it from the ramparts, or letting Wizard do a Twenty Questions style feature on what's going to happen, well, it's got me feeling pretty good actually.

Still doesn't change the fact that Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #8 sucked. Still, in the spirit of magnanomosity, I shall upgrade it from 0.9 out of 5, to an even 1.0!

. . .

Wait, back up. Doom made mystical armor, out of his dead lover's skin?! Seriously? Victor von Byrne, I know you have an incredible scientific mind, are a dab hand at magic, and a beloved ruler of a small Eastern European country. I know you stole the Beyonder's power, and to question you is to court Death. All the same, that is fucked up man. Do not make me send my mother to beat you down. She'll make what Bizarro did to Human Bomb look like pattycake.

. . .

Last thought. There is one thing that could ruin my good feelings about this, whatever it is. If the reveal turns out to be that the Sentry punched the walls of reality. Then all bets are off as to the body count that will ensue.