Thursday, September 29, 2011

$30 Pull List for 9/28/2011

A week full of comics, but nothing really outstanding. A week when Teen Titans and Captain America disappoint is not a good week for comics.

GI Joe #5: A let down from previous issues, but really, the main GI Joe comic has been the weak link in the series since it started in Vol 1, not that the link is all that weak, just not as strong as Origins, Snake Eyes or Cobra. Baroness sets a trap for the Joes that backfires and results in her capture, leaving Krake thinking she is dead and has the upper hand. Now that the Joes have both Baroness and her doppelganger Chameleon, will they take the chance to put a mole in Cobra?

Snake Eyes #5: Also takes a quality dip as this one ties in with GI Joe main and Duke’s infection with an engineered super virus. A new player in the Cobra Civil War steps to the plate and is spreading chaos and destruction, but not targeting Joes directly. Still not bad, just not as good as issues 1-4.

Batman #1: Missed it last week, got it this week. Continuity Watch: It’s all in continuity baby, unless I tell you otherwise. Pretty good issue. Not the best Batman I’ve read, but it hits all the marks and really feels like the first episode of a new TV series. All the players get an intro, you get just enough characterization to establish their characters, and it leaves you halfway into the story and awaiting the next episode.

Spider Island: The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #2:Pick of the Week. Continues from last issue, Silver Sable has picked up Shang Chi and helps him track Bride of Nine Spiders to her lair, where we find that she is not fully in control of herself. A good comic in the tradition of Iron Fist/Immortal Weapons.

Avengers Academy #19: A Fear Itself Tie in. Concluding the Absorbing Man/Titania Fear Itself related plot, finally. The Cadets have their Mettle tested (literally and figuratively) and are forced to make the hard choices. In the end, one of them decided the best choice is to not be there. Once again, this comic is best when dealing with the drama and issues of being a hero as opposed to the actual heroics.

Chopping Block:
Secret Avengers #17: Let’s get this out of the way, this is the ugliest art work I have seen in a comic since the Peter David era of X-Factor (circa 1991). Not only is it bad, it’s inconsistently bad, as Kev Walker is not even able to stay bad for the same reasons from panel to panel. He also believes everyone is a child of Mick Jagger and Angelina Jolie who then got a collagen treatment. It’s even more remarkable because you have these wooden scowling giant lipped leatherfaces in the comic and then he pulls a single panel (last on page 6) that is sweet, emotional, perfectly shaded with the most expressive eyes I have seen in a comic, that is also totally out of character and out of place within the context of the scene. Valkyrie also found Michael Jackson’s stash of ‘80’s jackets and has taken to wearing them.
Story wise, this is the kind of high concept crazy Warren Ellis excels at, but this is definitely not his best work. It’s not even Black Summer level. This feels like a comic on the downward spiral and is running out of chances.

Justice League Black #1: For a comic that features some of my favorite characters involved in some of my preferred craziness, you think this would rate higher, but it's all intro and no plot. Sure, little June Moon has snapped, but there is no why and no one gets a chance to be explored. If you didn't already know who these characters were, this would do nothing for you. Even knowing who everyone is, this comic commits one of the few truly unforgivable sins in comicdom, it's boring.This gets another shot based solely on concept potential and Peter Milligan's past work. If you don't dig the concept or Hellblazer, just walk away from this, it isn't worth it.

Teen Titans #1: Red Robin is seeking to build a team of super teens before the mystery group NOWWHERE kidnaps them. There are already continuity issues, as DC has stated Cyborg is a founding Titan, but this appears to be the first group of Titans. It's not really bad, per se, it just isn't very good. Also, Red Robin can now fly and his wings/cape is bullet proof. He also seem estranged from Batman in this, but appears in the family scene of Batman #1, so that needs some clarification. It'll at least get the second issue.

Captain America and Bucky #622: This is rapidly approaching the dubious honor of being the first Ed Brubaker comic cut from the pull list. Much like JLB #1, it's boring, and this is despite there being a fight with a Nazi Ubermensch. I'm really not digging this and there is a very good possibility issue #623 doesn't make it home next month unless the week is light.

Total Cost: $32.38
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Friday, September 23, 2011

Addressing the sexual nature of Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws #1

So, every comic blog and its brother is up in arms about the sexual nature/activity/attitudes of Catwoman and Red Hood et al this week, except me it seems like.
I enjoyed both these comics, they were fun, exciting, and yes, sexy.

Both were rated T/T+ and neither one featured anything you aren’t currently seeing on network television or MTV (for those with short memories complaining about Starfire standing around in a bikini in provocative poses, please recall the soft core masturbation material that was MTV Spring Break from the early to mid 90’s for an example of how that and worse was marketed towards teenagers nearly 20 years ago).

First let’s just skim the Catwoman issue. I have Catwoman comics dating back to Her Sister’s Keeper. I enjoyed Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke’s work as well as Loeb’s. This might be a little more on the explicit side, but there is nothing that isn’t already set in precedent in Catwoman’s character. She exposed more skin in When in Rome, has almost always had the hots for Batman, and was never above using her sexuality and sex appeal to get her way. Notice, she went out of her way to not be disguised as a prostitute and only exposed herself to the Russian mob boss as a distraction, never letting him actually do anything. When she did make sexual contact with someone, it was with Batman, and then, they kept their costumes on, because to her, that is more exciting, more erotic than being naked. It’s the excitement and mystery of it that gets her, not the exposing of flesh. To her, that is something lesser people find erotic and it is a tool in her larceny toolbox.

So on to the Starfire issue:

Let me say first, I’m not that bothered by this partially because I have never emotionally invested in the character of Starfire, dating back to when I first read Teen Titans in the Judas Contract period.

But also because Starfire has always been an adolescent sex fantasy fulfillment fan service character. A superhot, sexually open and available alien from a planet of exhibitionists that has the hots for a teen sidekick that was used for the majority of his career as a reader POV character? Her primary reason for being is to appeal to 13 year old boys.

Yes, over the decades, her character has developed beyond that, but that part of her character has always remained present. Her costume has always been a scandalously cut swimsuit with a T-back or racer back rear (epically displayed during the sun salutation of Titans#16). The next issue, Titans 17, they go out of their way to point out that she doesn’t wear underwear (while sporting only a Batman logo T and strategically placed milk carton). The BBQ scene in issue 18, she is wearing less than my wife wears to bed. The end of issue 21 sees her in a submissive FDAU pose after being attacked by Phobia. So, in 4 issues out of 6, she serves a cheesecake purpose.

I choose those, because the trade for those issues happens to be close at hand when I write this, so I don’t have to go digging through my longboxes or bookshelves to find examples. There are plenty more across her entire career as a character.

If you want a point to be upset about with her, it shouldn’t be the displayed sexuality, it should be that these relationships mean nothing to her. A cornerstone of her character development has been her love of Dick Grayson, and his rejection of that love and its effect on her. That is tossed out the window and erased from her memory. It’s not that she has sex, acts overtly sexual, displays herself as sexually provocative that should be the issue, it should be that it is all meaningless.

But you can also see that as being in service to the plot they are building in Red Hood et al #1. The art and actions show that while her fling with Jason Todd is meaningless to her, and while he pretends to be nonchalant about it, it is not meaningless to Jason. He goes to his “friends” to help him with an issue from his past, and finds them in bed with each other. Instead of accepting it, and their help, he chooses to move on alone, putting himself at greater risk rather than facing the pain of a woman he has emotional attachment to sleeping with his best friend.

If you want a female character whose treatment you should be outraged with, it’s Power Girl. A female character, that while sexy, has treated her physique in a tongue and cheek manner. She was also on a power level equal to Superman, led the Justice Society, is an entrepreneur and philanthropist on par with Batman, and a scientific genius equal to Mr. Terrific (third smartest man in the DCU if you need to be reminded). Since the relaunch she has been downgraded to Mr. Terrific’s Booty Call.

Yet, I don’t see a lot of outrage about that reversal of a depiction.

Also, the lead in image? Titans issue #1. She spends 3 pages traipsing around a pool completely naked.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

$30 Pull List for 9/21/2011

A heavy week sees the pull list go a little over budget. An impressive feat, as DC is able to be the top pick for 4 weeks in a row, so the New 52 is at least delivering some consistent entertainment. Otherwise, DC gives us a taste of the not so nice, and Marvel gives me a double shot of X-Men. T-Bolts barely makes the cut in this weeks $30 Pull List.

Captain America #3: I may be downgrading my first Captain America title. Really, it may not be so much a problem with this comic, but that Brubaker set the bar so damn high from the Winter Soldier saga on that it was inevitable the quality slip, and these three issues seem to be it. Still good as a whole, decent art, good story, likable characters. But’s the third serving of meatloaf good. It’s still the same great dish, but it gets old after a bit.

Catwoman #1: Pick of the Week. Continuity Watch: Catwoman doesn’t know if Batman knows her real name and doesn’t know Batman’s. This destroys most of their previous relationship, ends the existence of her daughter Helena and throws Gotham City Sirens, her last series and a good portion of the past decades Batman stories out. It’s sexy, it’s fun, it’s exciting. Judd Winick can write the hell out of Catwoman. Really good issue that won’t take much to be kept on board the pull list.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #1:
Continuity Watch: Tamareans has poor memories and can’t tell humans apart. The earlier incarnations of the Teen Titans existed in some form, Starfire was a member of them, had a relationship with Nightwing/Robin, but doesn’t remember it. Starfire’s characterization is a little odd, but otherwise, this is a good issue. The art is chaotic at points to enhance the story, but never difficult to follow. Jason Todd and Roy Harper are being set up to be the new Booster/Beetle. Definitely gets a few more issues.

John Constantine Hellblazer #238: With the previous storyline wrapped up last issue, this begins the tale of John, Gemma, his coat, and the horrible things that follow all three. It’s standard Hellblazer here, which makes it pretty damn good. One of the things Hellblazer has going for it, and this may seem like a little thing, but it is important to me, is the paper. It used a nice, solid, gritty feeling paper which is comfortable under the fingers, as opposed to the magazine, glossy, slick paper most comics use. It makes you want to hold the comic longer, really study the pages, and it is better in a well lit room as you don’t get glare from the lights on the matte finish. Most Vertigo titles use this paper, and really, I wish all comics would as well.

X-Men Schism #4: Gives us a Days of Future Past homage on page 6 as Box, Nemesis, and Wolverine attempt end their sentinel problem. The conflict between Wolverine and Cyclops comes to blows at the worst moment as both sides are wrong and there doesn’t seem to be a right answer. A very strong issue.

Uncanny X-Men #543: The final Fear Itself tie in (thank Odin). The Colossus-naut hits Caine Marko hard enough to knock him back sixty miles only to find out why it was so hard for Juggernaut to not be destructive. His mind infection with Cyttorak ‘s power puts Peter Rasputin at odds with Kitty Pryde, but not because of the power, but the decision to take it and all the decisions that lead to that point. It also sets the stage for her choice in Schism.

Chopping Block:
Birds of Prey #1: Continuity Watch: The old Birds of Prey apparently never happened, Black Canary is a wanted criminal. This also solidifies that she and Green Arrow never married and she was never in the Justice League. It’s Meh. It gets Canary’s characterization pretty well, Starling shows no personality except to be a watered down Lady Blackhawk, and the only other character with significant face time is killed on the last page. It gets a second issue, but not much more unless it impresses me.

Thunderbolts #163.1: T-Bolts avoid death row, barely. They basically do it by not being the worst comic I got this week. That would be Birds of Prey.

Also, as an aside, I watched 9/11 live on television in a rehab clinic waiting room waiting to take my first daughter to an appointment with my pregnant wife by my side. I remember it vividly. It has sickened me to see all the business take advantage of it. It has sickened me to see the politicians take advantage of it. It sickens me to see the American people buying into all the crap both of those groups throw out for their own gain. It sickens me that we didn’t treat the first responders right, it sickens me that we haven’t rebuilt those towers, it sickens me that it took a decade to get the mastermind, it sickens me that our soldiers are still fighting and dying when this should have been handled quicker and better . And it fucking pisses me to be seeing products commemorating the tenth anniversary of the worst tragedy in America in my life so far. Even Marvel’s tribute reprints piss me off.

Fables #109: Fables continues to tread water, which is better than the downhill run it did during the Mr. Dark plotline. The wolves start trials to see who is the next North Wind until the 3 other cardinal winds show up. Ms. Duglas (Spratt) continues her side adventure and Rose Red returns to the farm with Mayor Cole, Beauty and Beast. Bufkin and crew continue their misadventures in revolution in the land of Oz. Nothing particularly noteworthy here.

Total Price: $32.38
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Sunday, September 18, 2011

$30 Pull List New 52 Supplemental

Picked up three issues of the new 52 that had sold out at Texas Comic Shop. How do they stack up? Let's turn to the big board to find out on this, the first $30 Pull List Supplemental.

Demon Knights #1:Pick of the uhhh... Supplemental. Continuity watch: Sir Yustin(a) from Morrison's Seven Soldier of Victory is the Shining Knight circa approx. 1300. This means she never entered Castle Revolving, which means Seven Soldiers has changed. Madam Xanadu and Jason Blood team with Vandal Savage, Lady Yustin(a), an Amazonion named Exoristos and Al Jabr, an Arabian techie that dresses like a background character from Assassin's Creed against Mordu and Morgaine Le Fey. Xanadu also happens to be double timing Blood with Etrigan. Nice little issue that reminds me of the best of the most recent Shadowpact volume.

Suicide Squad #1: Continuity Watch: the part of Amanda Waller is now played by the actress from the "With a New Girl Friend" Allstate commercial. It hits all the Suicide Squad beats with Savant washing out about halfway through. Harley's outfit, which has been described a Juggalo Stripper and Suicide Girl Harely looks better inside than it does on the cover. It ends on a cliffhanger, or a skydiver. It's pretty good.

Death Row:
Swamp Thing #1: Continuity Watch: Death of Superman happened, as did Brightest Day and Blackest Night by association. This is bad. Slow, plodding, no development. Poor characterization, no plot to speak of, and thoroughly uninteresting.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

$30 Pull List for 9/14/2011

DC’s advertising and sales gimmick is working. Texas Comic Shop had sold out of both Suicide Squad and Batwoman by the time I made it there, and I grabbed the last copy of Resurrection Man. Now, are they any good? That’s a question that can only be answered by the $30 Pull List (Why is there not a new Question series? Dc can answer that one).

Cobra #5: Issue 5 picks up where #4 left off. Blood is on the move, Blacklight is on the move, Tomax is on the move, the Joes are on the move. Chameleon is pulled out of her bath and Steeler continues to double deal. A lot happening on too few pages, it builds tension, but feels rushed instead of tight. I’m normally OK with the dark and semi-obscure art in the Cobra title, it fits the tone and helps the mood, but this time, it made everything to indistinct and did not help the story being told.

Deathstroke #1:Pick of the Week I know how Slade feels on page 7. I spent about 10 years as a pro wrestler, 3 as a ref. Had good matches, had bad matches, the odd train wreck horror show embarrassment, and maybe even a 5 star classic or two in there. Safe to say, been around the block once or twice. I’m not the biggest guy, but at 5’9 and 200, I’m pretty solid. One time, my buddy Biggie asked me to come look at and work with some new rookies he had. That’s Page 7. What the hell was with these kids. Not a single one was old enough to drink, I had thirty pounds on the biggest, and there was only one guy who had any talent in the group. "What the fuck are they doing?" was all I could think. “What the Hell is this?” indeed Mr. Slade, indeed. Reminiscing aside, this is good, really good. It’s better than Batgirl, which makes it the best of the New 52 so far. Higgins, Bennett, Thibert, Wright bring it on all fronts, the Bisley cover is dynamite. It genuinely makes me giddy for issue 2, and for a jaded comics fan who lived through 1993 and has been reading for almost 30 years, that says a lot about how good this issue was. If the next issue is ¾ as good, this becomes an Perma-Pull .

Resurrection Man #1: Opens with an interesting twist, closes in a way that feels like Hellblazer, and that’s a good thing. It sits on the high end of middle of the road, not really blazing any new ground, but doing what it does well.

Criminal: Last of the Innocent #4: Bringing home the story of ersatz Archie who is willing to go the extra step to ensure his life is perfect. A fine finish to a good series.

Criminal Macabre: No Peace for Dead Men #1: Standard Steve Niles goodness with a twist ending that sets up the next limited series. With the exception of 30 Days of Night, I have loved everything I've read by Steve Niles, and this does not break that streak.

Chopping Block:
New Avengers #16: There is a saying on, to paraphrase “Tropes are not bad,sometimes they are just used poorly”. Bendis is in that zone. Daredevil kicks more ass than all the other Avengers have been doing, Daredevil shoots a big ass gun, Daredevil saves a baby, everyone sits around and says how awesome and cool Daredevil is. The last two issues have read like Bendis is picking a new character to demonstrate the Worf Effect with each month. One more month, and I’m out.

GI Joe: A Real American Hero #170: The quality is rising from issue 168’s low point. Snake, Storm, and Billy get the low down on Middle Master’s offshoot schools, Destro and Baroness find out about Darklon’s survival, the annoying Firefly plot is wrapped up in a thankfully quick manner, and Lady Jaye, Flint, and Roadblock deploy for a covert op.

Total Price: $27.54

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

$30 Pull list for 9/7/2011

DC puts the new 52 on display. Thanks to the handy dandy Texas Comics frequent shopper card, I come in under budget and pick up a couple extras. Did miss Swamp Thing because Tom sold out by 1pm. Which I'm happy for, even though I missed an issue, anything that helps Tom stay open is good by me.

GI Joe: Cobra #4: Major Blood starts making his move, explains his motivations and lays out a compelling case for why he is the ideal candidate to be Cobra Commander, despite not believing he is a serious option. More spy games happen with the search for the mole inside the Joes. Cobra continues to be the most cerebral of the three IDW GI Joe titles.

Batgirl #1:Pick of the Week Continuity Watch: The Killing Joke is in continuity and happened 3 years ago in comic book time. Babs, freshly able to walk, is trying to slip into the old Batgirl tights and take to the streets, relearning her capabilities and discovering a new limitation. Gail Simone is rarely bad, and while this isn't top shelf, it's better than everything else this week.

Chopping Block:
Thunderbolts #163: The Second Sting T-Bolts play All This And World War 2 (if you get that, write and claim your Marvel Geek badge), winding up in 1944ish German as Namor and Cap A drop in to slug it out with some Nazis. Moonstone ramps up the Vamp/Psychological Warfare side of her that really makes the character fun, Satana is more interested in the next incarnation of Man-Thing than anything else as that storyline continues. It's actually better on reflection that it seemed while reading it.

Green Arrow #1:Damning with Faint Praise: It isn't as bad as the last Green Arrow run. Continuity Watch: Oliver Queen never lost Queen Industries, he also never got the sweet goatee. Continuity Question: His apparent age also indicates Conner and Mia aren't in continuity, but we could be surprised. Ollie busts some superpowered thrill seekers in France, Ollie misses a meeting. Does the set up, but nothing more. It gets a second issue, but I don't guarantee a third.

New Avengers Annual #1: Simon Williams's team of heroes takes it to the New Avengers to show them that they should disband and have made the world worse by existing. Simon's right, but his plan for getting them to stand down (aggravated assault and property destruction)is probably off the mark, considering no one is listening to him, I can understand his frustration, but I would have Wikileaked that crap until everyone was too embarrassed to keep the big A running. The real downside to this is the art, which is a case where less would have been more. I understand the attempt, trying to make the battle look as confusing and chaotic to the reader as it felt to the Avengers, but it is too much, too chaotic, too muddled, too difficult to follow.

Red Skull Incarnate #3: I like Greg Pak. Greg Pak got me to read Hulk and Hercules and care about the characters for the first time in, I don't know, since Secret Wars 1 maybe? But this dropped hard and fast. If the first issue had been this quality, I wouldn't have picked up #2. It is only here now because of Issue 1 and my hope that is finishes strong. Mediocre art with bad writing.

Death Row:
Justice League International #1: The first new DC title to get cut. Continuity Watch: The old JLI never happened, throw it all out, meaning the implications of those not happening really screw with other in continuity choices. This really tries to be a more light hearted and fun superhero comic, and fails horribly because it misses all the chemistry that made the old JLI fun. Not worth it, go read the trades.

Total Price: $20.72

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