Saturday, July 30, 2011

Doom Patrol #4 (January, 2010)

The original Doom Patrol was believed dead, including the Chief. All that was his was assumed by his wife, Arani Desai, from "a marriage he'd dismissed but not divorced." As the temperature altering Celsius, she formed a New Doom Patrol in her own image. Joshua Clay was Tempest, who controlled the wind, but not his own emotional turmoil from a war his country never should have fought. Valentina Vostok was another willing participant as the Negative Woman. These were all people who had died, the doomed of the Doom Patrol.

Memory Download Complete...

The living Doom Patrol returned to Oolong Island. Rita Farr had a mad-on for the Chief, who had clearly known Steve Dayton was still using her body, and kept it a secret. She didn't find Caulder in his office, instead encountering Black Lantern Tempest, a hateful zombie reanimated and empowered with an energy ring by a force of cosmic evil. "Loved you in 'Biker Chicks From Hell.' Would an autograph be out of the question? I'm a big fan." Que punny wind assault.

Black Lantern Celsius found Niles in his private lab, and after suffering an artillary barrage from Caulder's tricked out wheelchair, offered him a frosty kiss. In Niles Caulder's heart beat only avarice, and after years of loveless marriage, Celsius would finally have it for her own.

Cliff Steele had his mind transferred to a new Robotman body by Larry Trainor, very much reminiscent of NoMan, but seemingly reliant on direct contact with sophisticated machinery. The remains of his previous body were dumped in a mass grave with other scrapped Robotmen. The pair were then attacked by Black Lantern Negative Woman. Larry said, "Always wondered what that felt like." The two negative forms clashed, while Robotman must have used electronic sensors to recognize his own empty-headed corpse as Black Lantern Cliff Steele set upon him.

Dr. Tyme met with Father Rocky Davis, a nervous wreck since the Doom Patrol moved to Oolong Island. He was deluded into believing himself to be their archfoe, so Rocky humored him by arranging to give the message that there were no hard feelings. Their conversation was interrupted by an island-wide warning klaxon. Black Lantern Tempest was suffocating Elasti-Girl and tossing her enlarged form through buildings. The Black Lantern Corpsemen hungered for human hearts, and Rita had the "Biggest. Heart. Ever."

"Dead Reckoning" was by Keith Giffen, Justiniano and Livesay. There were no similarities in style with regular artist Matthew Clark, but Justiniano brought an edginess that suited this incarnation of the team and the subject matter of the story.

Brave New World

Friday, July 29, 2011

OMAC #5 (May-June, 1975)

A brave Peace Agent uncovered video evidence of the Crime Cabal’s plans to offer old racket bosses the chance to transplant their brains into the bodies of helpless trafficked humans at substantial expense. So far, only dry runs had been done using fibroid dummies, but it was only a matter of time before the true atrocity would begin. OMAC would have to put a stop to that, with his target being regional manager Fancy Freddy Sparga. However, the Peace Agent had himself been detected and targeted, as a missile struck the building where OMAC was receiving his orientation.

Slightly dense, OMAC had to be asked to remove the debris that trapped the still intact Peace Agent. “Thanks… my chances of survival have greatly improved.” Aware that sarcasm was alive and well in the world to come, OMAC chastised, “Don’t gripe, friend.” After all, Brother Eye’s protection of OMAC from the rocket had extended to the agent. “We are linked as one, OMAC. I was created to react when danger threatens you. I threw a heavy element beam shield around you both when the missile struck…” Brother Eye also created fake bodies and “solarized” the room to provide OMAC +1 with a cover story. OMAC could continue his investigation unimpeded by the immediate threat of Sparga, supplied with the information that the “body-snatchers” held their victims at a location dubbed “the Terminal.”

OMAC visited a 3-D video arcade to bust the suspect Buck Blue, but his fellow gamers were all in on the racket, and tried to gang-up on “Brush-Head.” That worked about as well as one would expect, the last assailant turned into a human skeeball. “Bull’s-eye! You win a hernia! As for you, Buck, I’ll recite your constitutional rights on the way to our destination! We’re going to the scene of a crime!”

Buck mugged people, and OMAC wanted to see where they ended up. The combustion engine had been discarded following the energy crisis, so the pair made off in a two-seat “magnetic flyer with computer drive.” From a distance, GPA field agents followed in a larger carrier, wearing protective equipment and loaded with “all non-violent containment gear,” as they were “in the course of any action… never to harm a human being.” Their craft was “timed in step with OMAC’s movements. Success will depend on how well OMAC handles this.”

The sublimely obese Godmother maintained an expensive sun-palace where she was visited by Fancy Freddy Sparga, selling his wares. Buck Blue was horrified to learn his own girlfriend had been kidnapped to serve as a prospective host body for the Godmother’s brain. At first, Buck expressed his outrage to Sparga, but when offered a quarter cut of a two million dollar fee, his tone changed. Now it was OMAC’s turned to be outraged, as he tossed Buck around the room, chastising him about the rights he had gained as an informant that would be utterly denied his soon to be deceased girlfriend. “But… f-five hundred grand…! That’s money, man!! …Don’t lecture me! It’s a jungle out there! It’s everyone for himself!! Nobody’s gonna cry for Buck Blue!”

Blue knew where the Terminal was, and there was no way the Crime Cabal would allow him to live with that knowledge, so his safety was dependent on spilling to OMAC. Fancy Freddy tried to ice the kid right there and then, but he was gassed by a Peace Agent. “This gas is harmless, painless and odorless. It’s only a mild inconvenience. He’s asleep OMAC.” The troop following OMAC took the Godmother and Sparga into custody, while Buck and OMAC continued on…

“New Bodies For Old!!” was by Jack Kirby with D. Bruce Berry.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

1988 Justice League International Postcards: Captain Atom

Art by Kevin Maguire and Joe Rubinstein

When a 1968 experiment to create protection against a nuclear blast went awry, Captain Nathaniel Adam was catapulted nearly 20 years into the future, where he arrived as an energy being! Now, though secretly working for the government, he is known to the world as the super-hero Captain Atom!

I'm not sure if my first exposure to Captain Atom was my brother's brother's copy of Americomics Special or Crisis On Infinite Earths, but either way, there was something distinctly "off-brand" about him. Down to the very name, Captain Atom seemed funky and generic, while not really being memorable enough to be outright bad. Blue Beetle and the Question each had solid Steve Ditko designs that translated well into their 1980s revivals, but Atom had an ugly, busy costume that was also strangely quaint and retro. Thanks to early exposure to Pete Morisi's stuff, I could forgive Peter Cannon his bare legs and booties, but Captain Atom's randomly colored limbs and tunic were all over the place.

A vastly different and much improved Captain Atom came out of DC's new continuity, and we were reintroduced in the seventh issue of either Justice League International or Atom's solo series. Crossing Captain America and the A-Team with the Silver Surfer seemed pretty novel at the time, even if Cary Bates was something of a Johnny Come Lately on the jock of the western zeitgeist. Nathaniel Adam was a soldier in Vietnam accused of a murder he did not commit. In order to avoid prison and a lengthy separation from his young family, Adam submitted to becoming a guinea pig in a secret government experiment to test an alien metal. One explosion later, Nathaniel Adam quantum leapt twenty years in time, gaining incredible powers in the bargain. For the record, this actually predated the "Quantum Leap" TV show by years, and it was interesting to see the hero-out-of-time premise applied to someone for whom the chronal shift had meaning. Nathanial Adam lost his wife forever, and had a struggle getting back into the lives of his children (who were nearly the same age as himself) because of their having been raised by his nemesis, General Wade Eiling.

I picked up a batch of the solo series cheap at my first ever local comic shop in Texas before moving to Nevada. The plus side was that Vegas newsstands were a lot more welcoming to DC comics than Houston's, but the down side was that the lack of direct market access meant I stopped collecting Captain Atom with #12. I found that one on a spinner rack at a school fundraiser. Still, the character benefited by "staying golden" in my mind, leaving my acquaintance with the introduction of Major Force. As it turned out, Captain Atom never had much of a rogues gallery, with some serious losers upcoming. By the second year, the series lost its main draw in the spectacularly detailed art of Pat Broderick, and Cary Bates began transitioning out of comics not long after.

Art by George Pérez & Dick Giordano

I managed to keep up with Captain Atom somewhat through Justice League Europe and guest appearances, but he really faded off my radar without the solo series. I still thought he was cool, but messes like Armageddon 2001 and his being recast as a militaristic reactionary in the '90s really soured the brand. Need I mention Extreme Justice, or the chromium mullet? Unlike most characters, Captain Atom never really escaped the excesses of that era, and seems to bounce from heel turn (Monarch) to wimpy redemption (The Alien Agenda/Armageddon/etc.) without anything resembling a purpose beyond trying to please. stop. sucking.

I've continued to enjoy Captain Atom in the new millennium by ignoring modern comics as much as possible. Captain America is possibly my all time favorite super-hero, but I haven't read his book for more than one year's worth of consecutive issues since the first Waid/Garney run in the mid-90s. I have such a clear ideal conception of who "my" Captain America is that I choose not to bother with runs that stray too far from the essential core of the character. While I hold Captain Atom in considerably less esteem, and he's a far less rigidly defined character, my approach to being a fan of the character is much the same. Even though it was a bit simplistic, I appreciated the integrity and conviction of Captain Atom as a super-soldier who follows orders to the bitter end during his appearances on the Justice League Unlimited cartoon. It echos the politely nationalistic original interpretation of the character I've discovered through archival reprints of the 1950s & 60s stories.

From an artistic standpoint, I understand why creators ran as far away from Alan Moore's take on the Charlton heroes as they could manage. However, since Moore had only really updated and darkened the characters as they were conceived, this also meant distancing the heroes from what they were meant to be. Ditko & Gill's Captain Atom was a brilliant, mild mannered demigod of the nuke, where as much as I liked Bates & Broderick's work, their Atom was mostly a chrome Firestorm with more horse sense. It also doesn't help that at Charlton, Captain Atom was a Superman amongst "Action Heroes" more akin to Iron Fist and Daredevil. DC Comics historically abuses any character they purchase that was the juggernaut of another line, because any threat to the eminence of the Man of Steel must be castrated as publically (and somehow, as often) as possible. I call it getting Shazamed. Meanwhile, Captain Atom finds no respite even in old gang reunions, because he never fit in with the largely non-powered Dick Giordano edited Charlton characters. Maybe he needs to form a new clique with Son of Vulcan? Captain Atom has received another title of indefinite length as part of Septembers DC: The New 52, but the creators seem more fit for Johnny Mann than Allen Adam, and will probably try to tap the Dr. Manhattan vein with the precision and finesse of a turkey baster.

To my mind, Captain Atom as envisioned by his creators was a magnificent representation of the Mad Men era. Satellites and martinis and the apex of the American century. I wish he could have been kept in that period, since I think it would give him a killer hook, like it did the Martian Manhunter in the '90s. I really do think Captain Atom should be the confident conservative hero of the DC Universe. Pro-military, believes in a free market, perhaps somewhat moralistic, but without losing his pragmatism and compassion. Let him butt heads with guys like Superman without diminishing him through a shameful defeat. Like Lex Luthor, there could be less losses and more stalemates, substituting conniving with the recognition that these are two good men with conflicting ideologies. Such potential can be mined from Captain Atom, but not before he quits being a wimpier, dumber, U.S.-bound Silver Surfer with bad hair.

Friday, July 22, 2011

OMAC #4 (March-April, 1975)

OMAC needed to lift “70 tons of death-dealing steel,” a tall enough order to require the help of Brother Eye. The power was granted through a beam to OMAC’s belt, which conducted throughout his body. When Marshal Kafka released a bomb, OMAC flipped the mobile bunker on its back to provide himself cover from the blast. “No matter what happens, I’m taking you in!!! Do you hear that? You’ll pay for your crimes!” OMAC survived the detonation and an ensuing rockslide, but he had expended fantastic amounts of energy in the process. OMAC still managed to rip a hatch off the bunker and arrest Kafka.

Gone were the lawmen of old, replaced by the “quiet, faceless men known as Peace Agents,” to whom OMAC turned over Marshal Kirovan Kafka for the “Super-Court.” Held at a remote mountain headquarters at “the top of the world,” the Global Peace Agency yet feared Kafka’s biologically engineered avenger, which had already been loosed. A report came in from Peace Agent 5 that the purple, multi-limbed abomination was headed their way. OMAC outranked every agent present, so even though there was great fear that their most precious asset might be lost in battle, no one could order OMAC not to confront the avenger.

OMAC flew in a one-man jet toward the “Multi-Killer,” which he could not determine as being “Animal, mineral, or vegetable? It could be all three!!” Moving like a flying octopus, conventional rounds could not pierce its armored purple hide. The Multi-Killer emitted sonic waves that shook OMAC’s plane to pieces. “Brother Eye! My fate is in your hands!” The satellite had command of OMAC’s every atom, and made him light as a bird to survive the impact of his fall onto a snowy mountain. OMAC evaded shooting flames, but was nearly crushed by a dislodged mountain peak, but for Brother Eye enabling his astonishing leap to safety. A second bound put OMAC atop the avenger, where he deduced that it “eats matter and spits energy” and that “Its eyes are cyclotrons… reaching critical mass… This animal can fission like a hydrogen bomb!!” OMAC broke a horn off the creature, which through means that make not one lick of sense and without even an attempt at offering an explanation, the avenger streaked off to explode in space. Maybe it had something to do with air jets on the Court of Justice that allowed OMAC a soft landing? The best defense is a good table hockey board?

“The Busting of a Conqueror” was by Jack Kirby with D. Bruce Berry.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Grant Morrison Breaking The 4th Wall: Zatanna #4

After a month of basically wallowing in the backwash of the DCnU relaunch, lamenting the disappearance of some characters and the misguided reimaginations of others, I decided that I needed to rethink things. Why not celebrate those characters who made it into the DCnU?

The new title that has me the most interested is Justice League Dark, the mystic team which includes some of my favorite all time characters including John Constantine and Shade the Changing Man. Also included on that team is Zatanna, a character I have always liked and whose current title I collected and enjoyed. I thought I would celebrate Zatanna being in this new League and part of the DCnU.

But I thought I should look a little farther back than the current series, instead rereading and rediscovering the Seven Soldiers:Zatanna mini-series of 2005-2006. I mean, this book was written by Grant Morrison, one of my all time favorite comic writers. And art was by Ryan Sook, whose art is utterly amazing. It isn't a surprise that I loved this mini-series when it came out.

In it, a mentally exhausted Zatanna seems to have lost her powers and takes on an unlikely apprentice. There are the usual Sheeda-shenanigans of a Seven Soldiers book. But really, the thing that has always struck me about this book was the way Morrison simply shatters the 4th wall in the last issue, bringing the character into the real world, the real world into the book, and the characters into the physical nature of the book. And it is those jaw-dropping moment from Seven Soldiers:Zatanna #4 that I re-present for your amusement today.

After some adventures, Zatanna heads into Slaughter Swamp where she knows she will meet a great threat. There she battles Zor, a sort of evil version of her father Zatara. It is a hard fought battle through layers of reality.

Finally, Zatanna hears voices and reaches through the 'scaffolding' of reality to make contact.

Look at that hand, pressed against the page, asking us ... the reader ... for help.

In some ways it is similar to the 'I can see you' moment in Morrison's Animal Man #19 where Buddy sees us reading him.

But for me this was so much more of a personal breakdown of the 4th wall. Who didn't feel almost compelled to put their hand against Zatanna's here? Who actually put their hand there? I admit I did.

And I am sure that is what Morrison was going for. Some interaction between book and reader in an almost magical way. Mind-bending stuff.

And the following page continues this dizzy tour through sub-realities. Now we are looking at the same scene from Zatanna's perspective, facing a jumble of typewriter keys, floating letters, gears, and seven men who look suspiciously like Morrison himself.

Is Zatanna facing the fact that she is a character in a book?

And I love 'Morrison' talking about how Zatanna has broken through. She really is 'something else'.

Then one last splash page as Zatanna tumbles through the panel of Slaughter Swamp and into some sort of sub-basement of reality, within the machinery of the story.

And then some pure Morrison magic as Zatanna says 'eyes, tens of thousands of eyes, in different times and places converging on (her)'. Those are our eyes. My eyes on her then, re-reading the book. But my eyes also somewhere and somewhen else reading the book and looking at her the first time I read the book. And all the other readers at all the other times and other places looking on her ... a small focus in the universe for a select few. That brings the readers back into this story whenever and whereever they read this.

In the end she defeats Zor. But after this dizzying meta-textual, reality-bending trip I sort of didn't care.

I just wanted to include one more page from earlier in the book when Zor and Zatanna battle across the page, ripping panels, shattering panels, and hiding behind crumpled panels. Such a wonderful mystical interaction putting the characters literally in a magic book.

I freely admit that I like Morrison but I understand he is also an acquired taste. You either roll with his zaniness or feel crushed by it. I enjoyed most of the Seven Soldiers mini-series but I think this one is my favorite. Morrison really stretches the boundaries of a comic here.  Sook's work is just superior. He has Zatanna in a number of different costumes throughout the book, not just this fishnet leotard. If you can get the individual issues for cheap, I highly recommend it.

And if you do buy it, do you dare to touch your palm to Zatanna's and join in Morrison's mystic union?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Doom Patrol #3 (December, 2009)

Brandenburg, Germany was coated in the ashes of people burnt out by contact with the singularity. Robotman used his G.P.S. and wireless connection to determine the singularity was on its way to Cottbus, population over a hundred thousand, and just 125 km outside Berlin. While the Doom Patrol had been left alone, they couldn't risk Dusty's life with a chopper ride, so Elasti-Girl walked the team across der Deutschland.

On Oolong Island, the Chief called Steve Dayton in for an intense meeting. "Your marriage to Rita was, to put it mildly, a debacle. Adopting Gar Logan was the only positive to come out of the union, and a questionable positive at that... Rita needed a semblance of normalcy. A mind-reading husband and a shape-shifting son does not constitute normalcy... Lurking in her head liked a cerebral stalker, ready to satisfy any desire as soon as that desire was given thought." Niles Caulder knew Mento had continued to psychically stalk Elasti-Girl, and used that knowledge to his advantage.

Robotman couldn't help but notice a stranded motorist who was the least bit bothered by a giant woman "lopin' along." Sure enough, it was the singularity, wondering why humans needed so many different forms of an internal combustion engine. Cliff tased him, and the body turned to ash. Thanks to his addiction to video games, Larry was able to explain that the electrical charge "shorted" the victim's brain, disconnecting the singularity long enough for the body to fall apart. The singularity landed in a bunch of Cottbus citizens, but was particularly interested in a German man with a metagene.

The Chief ordered Mento to take off his ridiculous helmet, pointing out that it was so silly looking because people would naturally assume Dayton had to use it to employ his powers. It was in fact an affectation to mislead people into believing he wasn't able to psychically probe them at any time...

The singularity needed to be in close approximation to its victims, so Robotman hoped the Chief could call in a speedster like the Flash to zap the population of Cottbus before its experiment progressed further. "Can't have that." The citizens attacked the Doom Patrol, while the singularity used its acquired "Telekinetic projection via Kirlian aura" to tear Robotman limb from limb.

Things were getting out of control. If Dayton acted, Rita would know that he occasionally took advantage of her mind and body psychically, and if he didn't, she would die. Elasti-Girl grew rapidly, blood shooting from her nose as Mento acted through her against the singularity. Its drones destroyed following psychic detachment, only the metahuman male remained, saved-yet-checked by the Kirlian aura. The host was escorted back to Oolong Island, impressed by Caulder's strategy. Rita was bloodied, teary-eyed, and massively pissed.

"Earth Science" was by Keith Giffen, Matthew Clark and Livesay.

Brave New World

Friday, July 15, 2011

OMAC #3 (January-February, 1975)

In the world that’s coming, movies will be interactive experiences fed directly into the brain, as OMAC experienced while agents of the Global Peace Agency arranged for his credentials to stop "’flare-ups’" which endanger world peace. Once OMAC was done fighting a giant monster in the ‘70s version of the Matrix, he was awarded the rank of a “five star” general in a time that could not afford any army for him to lead but his left and right. “I’ve got an awesome responsibility… that’s for sure. Like the Peace Agents, my life must be one of dedication… They say I was once someone else… someone who was changed by electronic surgery… into a sort of… god of war!! Now… even the memories of that former life… are gone…”

In THE WORLD THAT’S COMING, even lost memories can be replaced by all the necessities of a new life… What began as “computer dating” will flower into complete “packaged living”! Computers will pick ideal families and backgrounds for those who lack the total human relationship… The Peace Agency will do this for OMAC…

True enough, a female Peace Agent (251, and they let her keep her long brown hair) presented OMAC with “test parents,” kindly elders Mr. and Mrs. Barker. The couple’s lives had been empty without a son, and compatibility had already been calculated, so OMAC gave them the chance they wanted so dearly. Peace Agent 251 found OMAC to be “a person of compassion and warmth,” but a massacre and other border skirmishes orchestrated by the central European dictator Marshal Kafka necessitated he take a break from domesticity. A “capsule plane” launched into orbit, allowed OMAC to make the trip (presumably from the U.S.) in just ten minutes. This very same technology, which opened any part of the world to immediate attack, is exactly the sort of complication OMAC was created to oversee.

Over troubled airspace smart bombs “guided by television” pursued the capsule plane, until OMAC detached his engines to detonate the missiles. This triggered a chute on the capsule, which was targeted by tank fire. OMAC ejected before the capsule was obliterated, and his seat doubled as a “hovering assault chair!!!” Through a mounted microphone, OMAC demanded, “For the sake of world peace, I order you to pull back your forces!” His pleas ignored, OMAC evaded weapons of many stripes to reach a line of tanks to treat them with a chemical nitrogen mixture that resulted in “a frozen wasteland.” Marshal Kafka then launched a fleet of single man Vertical Take-Off planes, which fell to pieces in midair thanks to a highly corrosive spray from OMAC’s chair. Sonic shock from the speed of OMAC’s chair sent mobile artillery falling into a crater. A barrage of barbed cannonballs finally smashed the assault chair, so OMAC continued on foot.

Before another shot could be fired, OMAC ripped apart the gun current like plywood. A “human wave attack” of soldiers followed, but was easily beaten back. OMAC commandeered an “armored golf-cart” and with hood-mounted guns blazing made his way to Kafka’s wheeled bunker. “Halt! In the name of the Global Peace Agency! …You’re a war criminal, Kafka! Surrender to me… and I’ll promise you a fair trial…” Nothing doing, as secret weapon hatches opened and OMAC would have to contend with one very heavily armored structure… next issue!

“A Hundred Thousand Foes!” was by Jack Kirby with D. Bruce Berry.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

More Bullet Points on DC Solicits for October

    Dark sub-line
  • Demon Knights #2: "Demon Etrigan and his unlikely lover, Madame Xanadu" is an image that makes me want to take a scouring pad to my brain. Wouldn't the fins tickle her thighs?
  • I still think I, Vampire looks and sounds pretty good. I'm not into the Twilight scene, but it seems to do a nice job tapping that audience without trampling on a hallowed property.
  • I don't really understand Resurrection Man. It looks like the series cancelled a decade ago by most of the same creative team. Einstein would have something to say about that.
  • Frankenstein, Swamp Thing, The Shade & Animal Man also look to be headed in the right direction. Aside from the dumb JLDark idea, it's like Vertigo with a better budget.
  • Edge group
  •  I was really considering Blackhawks, but the G.I. Joe Fractal Tech Gear armor has demolished any interest I had. Suddenly, Men of War looks kind of hot, though.
  • I want to be interested in O.M.A.C., but between the writer and the umpteenth dour twist on Kirby's positive globalist hero, I can't get there.
  • Voodoo looks great, but the claw hand and newish mileu push me away. Grifter sounds kinda cool, though. Stormwatch also works. Maybe old Wildstorm properties have the advantage of 90s-centricity.
  • On a three man Suicide Squad with two cult favorites and King Shark, we kind of know who is going to die. This is like that issue of Doom Force where the sacrificial lamb might as well have a caption arrow pointing out his fate.
  • There are just too many badasses like Deathstroke in the DCnU. I feel like I have to choose between Cinderella, Ratt, and L.A. Guns. It alters the criteria. In the land of the pointy and full-face masked, Mazing Man is king.
  • The Green Lantern Books: Steady on. The Big Guns
  • Jim Lee's cover to Justice League #2 is terrible, and the team seems like such a sausage factory. I see Superman fighting Green Lantern and Batman, which reminds me that I hate all three characters more often than not. I feel really good about blowing this off. JLI about as lame as the last time Jurgens wrote it.
  • Most of the rest of these titles seem woefully misguided. I still feel a bit of a pull toward Mr. Terrific, but Eric Wallace's recent efforts help fight that off. The Savage Hawkman looks especially terrible, and did anyone need a Blue Beetle reboot? Hawk and Dove has the second coming of friggin' Kestrel, and Teen Titans' new member Bugg is like Color Me Badd, it's so ggggod-awful.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Bat-Family's DCnÜ Halloween

The Batman Family of titles have released their advanced solicitations for October, and maybe I'm reading too much into things, but I'm seeing a strong indication that DC continuity has seen some pretty fundamentally changed. While I still see these revisions as a ticking time bomb waiting to blow up in the company's face, it's neat to watch Ultimate DC play out.

Check this copy for Nightwing #2: "When a mysterious assassin targets Dick Grayson, Nightwing must work fast to uncover the killer’s plot before he strikes again. But as Haley’s Circus continues to perform in Gotham City, Dick finds himself torn between two lives: His old one as a circus performer and his new one as a Super Hero. And they may be more connected than he ever realized!" Correct if I'm wrong, but my interpretation of this is that a) Dick Grayson was never Robin, b) an adult Dick Grayson just became Nightwing with minimal to no involvement from Batman & company, c) there were never any Teen Titans, at least not with Dick amongst them. Dick Grayson was the first kid sidekick, and as Robin was one of the most iconic and globally recognizable super-heroes of all time. Now, he's just Nightwing, stripped of everything, essentially a comic adaptation of the Chris O'Donnell character from the Joel Schumacher films. Oh yeah, that'll go over like gangbusters.

Batman #2
For reasons I cannot begin to fathom, noted blogger J. Caleb Mozzocco has been railing against Greg Capullo. Personally, I think Capullo has always deserved to be looked upon as an upper echelon comic artist for years, as he's one of the better storytellers and most distinctive stylists of the Image house graduates. I'm so terribly bored with the likes of Jim Lee, but Capullo on Batman is extremely inspired, and I expect some gorgeously outlandish redesigns (or perhaps some brand new villains) amongst the Dark Knight's rogues gallery. This is one of the few DCnÜ home runs.

Batwing #2
Winick is a deal breaker for me as writer on most books, but something else about this book throws me off. I think between the setting and this new villain Massacre, I get a strong Moon Knight vibe. I'm talking about the early Moench stuff, not the full-throttle whackadoo of today. Actually, I must admit that whatever resemblance Massacre has to Bushman is offset by his looking like every third relaunch villain we've seen. Everybody gets a Deathstroke of their own these days.

Detective Comics #2
Batman: The Dark Knight #2

Two artist driven books that look like complete ass. I could kind of deal with Tony Daniel handling Dick-as-Batman, because it was kind of a pairing of two young turks somewhat in over their heads and finding their way under the weight of a heavy legacy. With Bruce Wayne though, both Daniel and Finch are out of their depths. Plus, that steroidal Two-Face on Finch's cover? Two fistfulls of no.

Batman & Robin #2
Batwoman #2
Show of hands: Who think these books have been in the can for months? Nothing I've seen so far has changed my perception these folks have just been chugging along like the reboot never happened.

Batgirl #2
I don't see Oracle here. They keep telling us "Killing Joke" and Oracle happened. but exactly how much of it? Did the Joker's bullet veer a centimeter or so to one side, laying up Babs Gordon for a year of recovery spent cyber-crusading, followed by the return of Batgirl?

Red Hood & the Outlaws #2
Again, if there's no Dick Grayson Robin, then there's also no Jason Todd, not a Teen Titans. That means Roy probably never conceived Lian, and I guess just went from a heroin addict former Green Arrow sidekick to this gig. Does that mean Starfire learned the ways of human love from Jason, because I was only just starting to respect the character after thirty years of negative-skewing relative indifference?

Birds of Prey #2
I might be upset about this book if I thought it was actually going to happen. I mean, one look at the new Black Canary costume, and the entire fan community began mentally picture Brian Bolland drawing Dinah burning the thing. I think this title could actually spontaneously abort and end up in Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #3.

Catwoman #2
I could see buying this for the art, and DC gets a new trade out before the movie hits next year.

We'll have to truck off to Newsarama for a final, "exclusive" solicit:
Written by PAUL LEVITZ
On sale OCTOBER 5 • 1 of 6, 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Look out! By the end of this hot new miniseries, the Huntress will have the largest price on her head in DC Universe history.
What will the Huntress do that warrants such a death mark? And who puts it there? The jaw-dropping events will be revealed as the Huntress heads home to Italy and embarks on a mission that defines her life. Don’t miss out, because this story will tie in to upcoming events in BIRDS OF PREY!

I'm happy to see Helena is back and seemingly even further distanced from the Batman Family. This doesn't sound dissimilar from Ivory Madison's underrated Year One mini-series, so I'm curious where this will go. I'm also very pleased to see the booty shorts and navel-bearing go bye-bye. I always dug this costume, and it's nice to see it returned seemingly unchanged.

Personally, I hope Levitz keeps the mafia ties (seems likely,) but makes Helena a lawyer again. Wouldn't it be awesome if she defended the Gotham mobs as a source of stability amidst the crazies, or maybe as a means to her own ends at cross purposes with Batman's? I'd also really love a Bat-Family schism, with Nightwing, Huntress, and maybe Batwoman or Jason Todd on one side and Bruce, Damian, Babs on the other. It would play out the Earth-1/Earth-2 divide in a bold new context.

Since this has been announced as a mini-series, I expect I'll cross my fingers and trade wait.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Doom Patrol #2 (November, 2009)

Deborah "Dusty" Marlow reported to Veronica Cale, Wonder Woman foe and president of Oolong Island. Cale noted Niles Caulder's cavalier use of lethal force with his Doom Patrol, his tendency to antagonize fellow (mad) scientists "on all manner of technical minutiae," and the probable need to teach the lesson that the team operated under her grace.

Dr. Wade Ackerman had reached out to the Doom Patrol for help with his black hole singularity problem, "all'a six hours since the last debacle." Robotman wanted a break, but the Chief explained, "The Justice League still tends to confuse purpose with jingoism. The Justice Society, if the Gog incident is any indication, has come to define gullibility. Checkmate is slowly choking itself to death with self-imposed red tape..."

Vulcan Supercollider: Brandenburg, Germany. Dr. Ackerman was confronted by the sentient singularity, which had taken to appearing on the faces of the many human beings it possessed. Ackerman became one such victim, to quell the singularity's curiosity as to why a super-team had been involved in negotiations. "Hm... Doom. Noun. Inevitable destruction or ruin. Patrol. Noun. A unit sent out on a reconnaissance or combat mission. Oxymoron. Noun. A rhetorical figure in which contradictory terms are combined. Fascinating."

Father Rocky Davis inquired about Karen Beecher's marriage and adaptation to her condition. Karen explained that she and her ex-husband, Mal "Hornblower" Duncan, "made a good run of it. It just got to the point where the good times were being outweighed by the bad times. It happens." Roommate Rita Farr's atypical reaction to Nudge's death also came up.

The Doom Patrol tried to sneak up to the location of the Vulcan Supercollider, but they were immediately detected, and found "Fascinating." The singularity saw itself as an explorer and scientist, "slave to my curiosity." To that end, the singularity repeatedly attacked the team to observe their reactions, while dodging questions about its own nature and intentions. Ultimately, the singularity was constructing its own personal encyclopedia of existence, and it would only need to possess (and by extension burn out) a few million humans to get a good feel for Earth...

"Black Is (Theoretically) Black" was by Keith Giffen, Matthew Clark and Livesay. This issue wasn't as willfully obtuse or laden with infoblurbs as the last, but you can still see why Giffen has trouble connecting with mainstream audiences. This book reminds me especially of Justice League Europe with its emphasis on high stakes action undercut by sardonic comedy. Also like early JLE, Giffen has got to be laying the book out without credit. The body language, panel composition, and especially a host of characters with black blobs instead of facial features are all trademarks of his. Clark definitely adds pizzazz though, and I think he's going to make a name for himself now that he's left DC (who neglected to even mention his participation while launching this book.) I especially like his take on Elasti-Girl as the physical powerhouse of the team without looking like a steroid casualty. She's clearly feminine without having to run around in a mini-skirt, and looks ready for business in red leather. Larry and Cliff are comparatively interchangeable, from smart ass to crab ass.

Brave New World

Friday, July 8, 2011

OMAC #2 (November-December, 1974)

One-Man Army Corps…
Is a fighting force in The World That’s Coming! His decade is riddled with new and dangerous innovations…

It is the era of the SUPER-RICH! When money, like technology, reaches complex proportions, complex situations arise--- and this one could spell death---

Armed private military troops refused OMAC entry into a city that had been rented for the night by a high-roller. “I’m OMAC! No city is closed to me!!” Gruffly refused entry due to a lack of party invitation, OMAC began tearing through the soldiers, and when all opposition was smashed, he was surprised by a car horn. Two revelers dressed as a grim reaper and a dunce offered OMAC a ride to Mister Big’s party. “Why did the guards try to stop you? That costume’s a dandy!” OMAC was the strong silent type who didn’t respond to banter en route, but he did learn that the city’s population had agreed to vacate for the night to avoid paying taxes for a year. Of course, the partiers were really agents of Mr. Big, and tailed OMAC after dropping him off on a deserted street.

Professor Myron Forest worked a unit of NASA on his own atop a skyscraper in Electric City. with the help of advanced machines. OMAC learned that he had been guided to this lab by Brother Eye. “You were changed--- by remote-controlled hormone surgery--- from space!” The satellite had accomplished this “With almost instantaneous precision! Brother Eye is the most sophisticated machine ever devised--- Forget who you were. The world needs you as you are--- a force of peace!! …The nations dare not use large armies. Large armies lead to large wars-! That’s why you exist, OMAC. To contain conflict before it grows…” Brother Eye would supply all the power OMAC needed, as he needed it, to meet his goals.

Mr. Big’s men burst into the room with guns blazing, killing Prof. Forest. OMAC struck back, but the creeps’ costumes were wired with electrical current, which tazed OMAC until they could escape via hovering aircraft. OMAC accused Brother Eye of failing him, but the satellite had rerouted its power in an effort to keep Prof. Forest alive just long enough for OMAC to vow revenge. Brother Eye urged OMAC to go on the offensive, taking the battle to Mr. Big that very night. Recognizing Forest’s lab could not fall into evil hands, Brother Eye destroyed it from space as soon as OMAC reached a safe distance.

Major Domo ordered that the city be left as it was found by revelers once dawn arrived, and made sure to keep them back from Mr. Big. The party was merely a cover for the destruction of "Project OMAC," so Big was disgruntled when his agents had only managed to murder its architect. “OMAC must be dead by dawn-- or you two shall die in his place!!”

OMAC walked the streets of Electric City, hoping to stand out amidst the madness of the costume party rocking the metropolis. Assassins didn’t keep him waiting long, as OMAC evaded a spear gun before using one of its missiles to burst a hot air balloon carrying the killers. The first pair was joined by a second, the murderers of Prof. Forrest, who led an effective ambush. While OMAC was held down, a round was fired into his chest, seeming to kill him. OMAC’s body was brought back to be inspected by Mister Big’s personal physician and pronounced dead. Big couldn’t believe Project OMAC was finished, as he suspected that there was a mysterious second component.

Electric City’s mayor and two Global Peace Agency agents arrived to arrest Mr. Big, based on evidence gathered by that unknown factor. Big knew that none of the officers were armed, but before his men could kill them, their weapons were destroyed through the concealed actions of Brother Eye. These same machinations allowed Brother Eye to dissolve the bullet fired at OMAC with a laser beam and use “computed molecules” and remote control of OMAC’s life functions to fake his death. The revived OMAC thanked a faceless peace agent, whose identity must remain concealed to help patrol the world without any hint of nationalism. “It’s a rough job-- keeping the peace in a world stacked with atom bombs--“ OMAC was grateful for “the most fantastic helper man ever made” while Brother Eye’s beams remained at the ready whenever action was required.

“Rent A City!” was by Jack Kirby with Mike Royer. Keeping in line with its origins as a “future Captain America” project for Marvel, the parallel between meek Buddy Blank being the sole individual given the abilities of a one man army core before his scientist maker is assassinated and the first Steve Rogers adventure are pretty hard to miss.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The End Of An Era...

And just in time to get a snazzy new logo. The Outsiders are dead; long live the Outsiders.

PS: The idea of the Outsiders (or, more accurately, a subset thereof) being written by Grant Morrison in Batman, Inc. is actually less appealing to me than the characters simply going on the shelf for a while.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Doom Patrol #1 (October, 2009)

Deborah "Dusty" Marlow: Special Services Detachment for the Doom Patrol. She flew the helicopter to the tropical island of Buena Suerte, and kept an eye on it after landing. This involved tazing a bro from the island's disabled security detail.

Grunt: Four armed ape. Started acting up when the Patrol found the "maternity ward from hell." It's handler protested when Cliff failed to acknowledge it by name. Larry pointed out, "Grunt's not a name. It's an involuntary expulsion of air."

Dr. Amanda Becket: Very cute scientist rocking the glasses. Didn't care that Niles Caulder disapproved of her experiments. Stripped nude in front of the team while explaining the hypocrisy of a freakish Doom Patrol being sent to stop her from making monsters. Shed her skin to become an insectoid creature dubbed "Botfly." Not so cute anymore.

Mi-Sun Kwon: Capable of psychically manipulating a being as willful as Superman. Controlled the ape Grunt. First member to be attacked by the swarm of Parasite-derivative creatures incubated by Botfly. The rest of the team were assaulted in short order. Botfly saw this as an opportunity, since she had yet to "impregnate an enhanced host."

Larry Trainor: Former pilot, now disfigured and capable of projecting an energy wraith from his body for a limited period of time. Fell unconscious while the Negative Man wrecked Botfly's laboratory. Rita tossed Botfly herself like a rag doll. Trainor's body was carried to safety by Robotman as the team headed for their chopper.

Nudge: Reduced to equal parts fine red mist and vaguely identifiable meat product by a spray of heavy enemy gunfire from attacking helicopters. Grunt, untethered, was last seen carrying these remains off into the jungle. The rest of the team filed into Dusty's chopper, until Negative Man destroyed two of the aggressors.

Rita Farr: Used her size-altering powers as Elasti-Girl to grow large enough to swat the last chopper between her fists. Larry wondered aloud, "Um... remind me again, exactly why does she need us around?" The team returned to their base on Oolong Island.

Father Rocky Davis: Former member of the Challengers of the Unknown turned priest and typically unwanted councilor for the Doom Patrol. Asked how old Nudge was. She was declared legal and "old enough to know better" by Cliff, which Rocky found cold. Larry teased Rocky by confessing his lust for Dr. Becket, "Right up until she peeled her skin off. Standards, Father, you gotta have standards. I'm thinking skin is a big part of that.

Niles Caulder: "The Chief." Wheelchair-bound amoral leader of the team. Observed in Rita bouts of deep depression related to vanity and self-loathing, as well as a streak of maternalism. Felt Larry was useful as a thrill-seeker with no conception of his own mortality. Believed Cliff to be a posturing alpha male concealing his loss of self, melancholia, and emotional disassociation.

Cliff Steele: Human brain in routinely demolished robot bodies. Robotman was the least receptive to Rocky's help, explaining that he was in the Doom Patrol because "'Challengers of the Unknown' was already taken," and "Never hurts to set a goal." As for Nudge, "Dead as dog meat." The Patrol members were largely beyond concern for themselves or others, and Caulder wouldn't have it any other way.

Karen Beecher: The former Teen Titan "Bumblebee" was trapped at eight inches and living in a doll house in Rita's room. Was kind of put out about having to beat a large flying cockroach to death with her kitchen chair. Was surprised that Rita's primary emotional response to Nudge's death was jealousy.

Finally, the Vulcan Collider in Germany had accidentally opened up a singularity event: a stable black hole that didn't just destroy the Earth instantly for some reason. "It... it wants to negotiate terms."

"We Who Are About To Die..." was by Keith Giffen, Matthew Clark and Livesay. The characters were as overly acerbic and undifferentiated as one would expect from a Giffen script, but it was still multiple times better than anything Byrne did in the previous series. Clark's art was very appealing, but I'd be really surprised if Giffen didn't provide uncredited breakdowns.

Brave New World

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Ticking Timebomb

I'm really wondering how DCnÜ is going to pan out. I'm definitely in the camp that sees an inevitable sequel to the '70s DC Implosion, but that doesn't mean there aren't a lot more titles in September that I'd like to try as compared to August. DC's being very aggressive in marketing the event, and are offering widespread returnability and variant covers to entice retailers to order in bulk. However, a lot of those same retailers feel ambushed by the event, leaving them with months of "dead stock" leading up to the reboot, and a lot of customers griping about the event. I can't speak for the brick and mortar shops, since I rarely visit any these days. However, I'm looking at where things sit with my mail order supplier, and I see cause for alarm.

Looking at the solicits, my first assumption was that I would definitely order Justice League #1. It's the key book of the entire relaunch, and is being offered in both a $3.99 and $4.99 edition, the latter bundling access to a digital copy. I've steadfastly refused to pay $3.99 for a standard format comic, but because my supplier usually offers the cover featured titles from the Diamond Previews catalog at 75% off, my purchase was a given. Except, the book isn't being offered with anything but the standard discount. So it's now a given that I will not buy it.

When Batwoman #1 was first solicited, my supplier promoted to book at 75% off. I've heard great things about what's been done with the character, but I am not a Greg Rucka fan. Artist/co-plotter J.H. Williams has since taken over as the primary creative force, so I was interested in giving the title a try. However, DC canceled that solicitation, and are re-offering it on an extremely heavy month. Lost in the shuffle, the new solicitation is only getting a 50% break from my supplier, so I won't be trying it after all.

Since DCnÜ September was such a huge event, it seemed to me that the smart thing to do would be to offer scads of these books at 50% off, especially since DC will probably offer retailers some kind of incentive for supporting the line as a whole. That would insure that this would be a jumping-on point for people. Back in the '90s, I decided to buy every single #0 issue that came out of the Zero Hour event to sample DC's entire line. That's what it took to finally bring me on board with the Legion of Super-Heroes titles, and I continued a bunch of other series from that point, even completing a run of friggin' Xenobrood. Heck, I've even bought ever #0 issue DC has published since. With a 50% discount break, I would have really debated trying a ton of these new titles.

In fact, let me offer a list... Justice League, Justice League International, Wonder Woman, Captain Atom, The Fury of Firestorm, The Savage Hawkman, Mister Terrific, Superman, Batwing, Batgirl, Nightwing, Animal Man, I... Vampire, Voodoo, O.M.A.C., Blackhawks, and Static Shock would have all been candidates. However, not a single one of those books is being offered at greater than the standard discount. I'll shop around a little bit to see if someone will offer a break somewhere else, and I'd be interested in a package deal of all 52 titles in the half off range. I don't think I'll find such a score though, which means I will most likely pass on every single one of these titles until they land in trade or a discount bin.

My supplier is instead putting up a single DC book for 75% off, Action Comics #1, so I'll get that first issue. Aquaman #1 is the only other 50% off DCnÜ book, and I was planning on subscribing to it anyway, so I'll get a little bonus there. Finally, I'll be buying at least the first several issues of Stormwatch at my standard discount.

Thanks to my supplier taking the conservative road, I will probably only buy three DC comics in September. In August, I got both DC Retro comics of the Justice League & Wonder Woman, plus DC Comics Presents: The Metal Men & JLA Heaven's Ladder, for a total of eight comics at no less that $3.99 each. That's a loss of something like 75%+ of my business with DC between months, guestimated to prevent rooting around for a calender. I wonder if my situation is comparable to anyone else's? DC had better hope not...

Friday, July 1, 2011

OMAC #1 (September-October 1974)

One-Man Army Corps...

is the story of a young man in THE WORLD THAT'S COMING!! In that strange place, the common objects of today... may become the terrors that we never bargained for... like the one below!

No kidding! Terror is a Kirby woman with her head protruding from foam packing with her nude legs dangling on either side, as if she were giving birth to her own face! The pair of creepy, wiry hands severed at the wrists and laid near each cheek is nightmare fuel f'shur. This is Lila, a "Build-A-Friend" automatronic mate ready for assembly in a factory full of them. However, OMAC had arrived, ordering an evacuation before he destroys the lot. Some workers thought they could take him, but they thought wrong, and scurried like cockroaches from the scene. OMAC spoke with Lila for a moment from her shipping box. "Where does humanity stop and technology begin? We no longer know, Lila... I'm no longer who I was... and you, Lila... you... you and all these other... things... must be.... destroyed! Goodbye... Lila..." OMAC calmly started a "chain of blow-ups," then walked through the maelstrom untouched.

Flashback to a lab where once stood NASA. Professor Myron Forest had created a form of remote controlled computer hormone operation-- electronic surgery! Forest worked with the Global Peace Agency, whose agents used a cosmetic spray to conceal their features and wore matching uniforms, so that any expression of national identity was completely suppressed. Any little dispute could lead to nuclear eradication of all life on Earth, and the GPA were tasked with preventing such an eventuality. The GPA searched for the perfect candidate for Prof. Forest's process, and found it in Buddy Blank. Forest linked up with the satellite Brother Eye, sleeping for such a long time in a faithful orbit. The eye awoke, and prepared. "He and I shall become as brothers..."

At Pseudo-People, Inc., Buddy Blank was a skinny schlimazel jerked around by every creep in the office. His "Super-V" was completely unsympathetic about the harassment, laying the blame on Blank and his persecution complex. Blank was ordered to the Psychology Section to vent. One girl recommended the Crying Room, but Buddy tried the Destruct Room instead. Inside were people ripping and smashing and stabbing and burning. One guy recommended Buddy kick a pseudo-person down a rail, but Blank found them too lifelike to batter in good conscience.

Outside, Buddy ran into his friendly acquaintance Lila, who helped him feel better. Two technicians were watching from afar, as Lila's "friendship" was just a test run for their nefarious purposes. They eventually led Lila back to their lab, and though Buddy was written off as too timid to break the rules, he did indeed follow the trio. Blank was captured and held at gunpoint, then learned the Pseudo-People were being armed with explosives and used in assassinations. Buddy was horrified to learn Lila was one of them, and fought against her makers. Suddenly, an eye appeared on Buddy's chest, and energy emanating from it engulfed his body. The electronic surgery turned Blank into OMAC, whose body "rejected" bullets, and whose strength allowed him to break down steel doors. OMAC was nearly dropped into a fire vat, but his extraordinary agility would not allow it. OMAC fought his way through to destroy the factory, as recounted earlier. "OMAC LIVES... SO THAT MAN MAY LIVE..."

OMAC had accomplished his first mission, having been fed knowledge with his physical attributes. "Very good, OMAC. You've heard everything I've told you..."
"I've also used the powers you gave me when I needed them... Brother Eye..."
"I shall always help you. We are linked by the eye symbol on your chest... We are like brothers... I transmit beams... Some of them bring you my voice... others feed you instant information..."
"I start here... in Electric City... with Professor Myron Forest... then on to Mister Big!"

"Brother Eye and Buddy Blank" was by Jack Kirby with Mike Royer