Writers: Dan Jurgens & Tom King
Artist: Ethan VanSciver
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche, Ain’t It Cool News)
Thank you DC. I show my appreciation to creative teams constantly for melting the cockles of my heart, but I can’t think of any time I was truly moved by the simple inception of a series from a publisher. For the impatient the plot is thankfully simple, Superman of Earth prime is in the hands of Brainiac. Brainiac is an urban kleptomaniac. He’s also more addicted to puzzles than mental wards, and what a grand puzzle Superman’s infinite deaths and infinite triumphs across time and quantum strings would be to unlock for a creature always seeing the most logical patterns as its purpose.
Like the New Gods and Apokolips are constructs capable of navigating the cytoplasmic bleed between universes (see GODHEAD in GREEN LANTERN), Brainiac plays the same tricks, but ups the ante against their Godly travel beams and hover chairs to add time into his malicious of city abduction: “What’s the plan Brain?” “Not to just capture cities in a bottle, but to capture the zenith of all cities in all universes in…all…time…periods to examine what makes the idea of Superman so unyieldingly pervasive he is always spared the final fate before being born anew.
“Sounds Meta Optimous, didn’t you bitch slap ULTRA comics and every other issue of MULTIVERSITY for such 4th wall faux pas?’ Indeed, and CONVERGENCE made me realize that my disdain for the Morrison Meta versus Jurgens doesn’t stem from too far of an aesthetic distance, but frankly one that is too close. I love story. I know real life never seems to allow the story world in. From mermaids to UFOs, most of the mystical in this world stems from myopia and booze. The meta here is not breaking my 4th wall that I know can’t be, it’s breaking the 4th wall for my favorite characters. Which makes sense since SUPERMAN not Rob Patey can and has done everything. It’s a story about deconstruction, not a fucking pamphlet chiding me for seeing through the complete fucking deconstruction of heroics and then getting pissed at me for complaining the rebuild looks like the same shit from before. CONVERGENCE is apologizing in a sense for the New 52 forgetting to change for the sake of comics, instead of in fear response to Marvel studios.
MULTIVERSITY is ambitious, especially for one man. The scope of CONVERGENCE with 3D universe movement and 4D time travel would be career suicide for only writer. And I’m not talking the whole series; I mean Jurgens was wise to get King at his side for the extra pages sans any ads in just this issue.
So that’s it, in glorious and intimately character rich, but also epic in scope storytelling. A compendium in the back shows where Brainiac the mainframe has been telling his green screen dummy terminal clients of cunning to swipe cities from, but most of us have seen the checklists already to suss out the timeframes of occupying the new universe of Pax Brainiac.
Now let’s get meta ourselves for a second to see what could be next.It says the worlds are in a contest to see which survive, I buy it for the 3 as yet unannounced titles adding to the already announced Fanciful 49. I’ll take it, and honestly no longer complain about a chunk of the shelf being prostituted to new media and parent company interest. The fight is futile, and as much as I want a DC Universe brimming with a ton of Elseworlds, I will satisfy myself with restitution over a satisfying end to my comic youth. It’s infinitely healthier than petulantly pining because my desire can not bend the will of billion dollar companies. It’s in part also really really delusional.
Part of my peace is from seeing Jurgens, THE writer of my youth, a man who could so subtly weave together wisps of continuity from tale-to-tale to reward the OCD, but never deliver references so obtuse that new readers would get a real nosebleed from the metaphorical cross-sell. This unique talent of Dan’s has been wasted in the New 52 until now. You don’t give a man who used to Check Mate great stories on a three tier Star Trek chess board one flat fucking checkerboard from CVS. And if you do erroneously put Dan on just one book, you make sure it is an exploration of every quintessential moment in DC history like CONVERGENCE.
CONVERGENCE is also the first book in ages truly for comic fans with cosmic consequence. We need stories ripping apart and past the linear. Comic reader imagination is more acute than the average bear who only sees comic movies. This curse to bend the boundaries of danger, has put us to a point where the stories of city, state and even nation are simply too myopic in scope to really affect us. We have seen our own cities under fire at this point, which means comics, to meet their thrill schill of brand, frankly need to raze fucking everything from the God particle flashing until the final Kelvin of entropy hits zero across all stars.
Before I bid adieu, I must take a moment of art awe. Beauty bleeds off every page from the grandiose all knowing Brainiac mainframe belittling a much oddly older looking Superman Prime (how do I know earth designate for taunt Superman, high collar and doll part articulation points is how I know), to the moments of sincere reaching out Superman delivers to an ever changing by comic epoch Vril Dox. Another part of the Van Sciver allure for me is that I believe he’s the hardest working man drawing comics right now. Anyone who professes a desire to paint comic pictures for a living needs to hit a con and witness the exhaustive pace VS performs at to be granted A-list titles. It takes more than talent folks to turn a job into a career, dependability and desire can sometimes help balance a less deft hand’s chances. I have stood afar more than once over the years on show floors watching Ethan multitask like a 12 year old who lost their Adderall, graciously greet an fan who walks up to the table and never relent from producing new pages or commissions. I stand at a distance because I swear a lot and his kids are usually with him. I’m not a stalker, just a guy who marvels at that which he can’t do and will never ever taint kids if I can help it. The magic of youth, like the magic of comics seems to fade with each passing year as commercialization makes cynicism a core attribute.
I care about Jurgens (though he is ironically one of the last comic writers I have yet to personally kibitz with), I care about VS, I care about DC and I God dam right care about comics breaking the boundaries of convention as much as opening day blockbuster projections. CONVERGENCE is the first series in so long who also seems to give a shit about me. Thank you again Dan, truly.
Hey hey everyone. Not a lot of pre-amble required here. I went to New York Comic Con and jumped into the first slot I could get to speak to one of the most influential voices at DC and in comics; Scott Snyder.
Rob Patey (RP): How you doing man?
Scott Snyder (SS): Running on fumes. Do you need me to stand is this another video interview?
RP: No this is Ain’t It Cool, I’ll be recording on my palm pilot and taking a lithograph at the end. So you’ve written BATMAN, SUPERMAN UNCHAINED, AMERICAN VAMPIRE…I know I’m forgetting something what is it?
SS: THE WAKE…
RP: Right, underwater horror with Sean Murphy. And the recently announced BATMAN ETERNAL.
SS: That’s right.
RP: Excellent, so what’s happening in BATMAN ETERNAL?
SS: Well, it’s the first time we’ve tried a weekly series, which excites me. Writing-wise I’m really only involved in the first arc of it. In terms of terms of design and structure I wrote the bible with James Tynion who is just a mastermind of story. He writes TALON and RED HOOD and some other exciting stuff coming out this year. So we plotted out a giant story that would really transform Gotham and be a very very bombastic big sensational game changer of a narrative.
We then decided to invite a bunch of our favorite writers in to tell their arcs on any characters or elements of Gotham that they want as long as they pushed the main arc forward a little bit. So the big story is rolling with all of these small turns about your favorite villains, gang wars, GCPD. All of the things you can’t deeply explore in BATMAN because he has to be center stage all of the time.
RP: Awesome, I was just talking to James in artist alley and he’s really stoked to be doing this book. You guys have done a lot of books now together, how did you guys hook up?
SS: He was my student in a writing class seven years ago. I really loved his stuff and he was a huge comic fan. I then started teaching comics, so we stayed in touch and he sent me some of his scripts and I really needed help with the back-up stories in BATMAN. So I thought those would be good training wheels so he could get in the door. And now the grasshopper has become the master and the teacher. He’s a man I now admire as a colleague. It’s been inspirational to the teacher in me to watch him grow. The stuff he has coming out this year is really thrilling.
RP: You recently just farmed out a bunch of AMERICAN VAMPIRE stories in the midway anthology that came out. What’s happening for the future of AMERICAN VAMPIRE building off that book that took us into the 1960s.
SS: We’re coming back in March actually. I’m literally back from the AMERICAN VAMPIRE Bloody Mary Brunch. The next arc will be bringing back Pearl, Skinner, Felicia, the vassals, the Dracula character…everyone comes crashing together again in the first arc.
RP: So what year are we in?
SS: 1967, it’s going to be Easy Rider meets Straw Dogs, meets the Magnificent Seven. At least that’s how I think of it. It’s a mish mash of all my favorite 60s fun and violent films.
RP: So the series is going to keep advancing through time, no pauses for a prolonged period?
SS: We were just talking about this at the brunch; the series is going to come all the way up to the present. There is a gigantic cumulative finale that’s been in the outline since day one. We’ve always known where it’s going to end. The thing that’s been surprising to Rafael Albuquerque and our editors is that along the way we made up characters that we didn’t think would have their own stories, like Calvin or Felicia or Gus even. Bit now they’ve become so important they’ve earned their own arcs. We’ve known the main road from beginning to end, but we’ve also been able to take these side paths along the way that have been incredibly exciting.
So it’s going to be Cycle 2, number 1, really really big relaunch. When I gave up AMERICAN VAMPIRE because I had SUPERMAN and BATMAN, and Rafael had some stuff he wanted to do, I figured it’s not a big deal; we’ll just come back. Now, I’ve always struggled with anxiety and depression and giving up AMERICAN VAMPIRE was really psychologically difficult for me. I did not see that coming at all. It was very tough those first few months off. I thought at first it was because I didn’t have a creator owned, but I did have THE WAKE, which I love. I was still down…anxious. I finally realized I simply missed the characters and working with Rafael. I was frustrated. So I couldn’t be happier to coming back or more grateful to fans who have been very vocal to us personally, privately and publicly.
RP: I’m one of the public ones who yelled SNNNYYYYDDDEEER like Kirk when I heard about the hiatus.
SS: It really means a lot man. We cannot wait for you guys to see what’s next. From the bottom of my heart it’s the best time I’ve had on a book.
RP: This next question is from one of my four fans, how do you want your time to be remembered at DC 20 years from now?
SS: Oh my God, that’s a tough question. I have a golden rule in the class I teach, it was told to me by one of my first teachers, “You can only write the stories that you want to read more than any other when you leave this room.” It doesn’t’ have to be he smartest, best or funniest. It just has to be the one you want to have read because it means something to you personally. What I hope is that people look at the stories and see that’s the compass we’ve used on these books; from BATMAN to AMERICAN VAMPIRE to THE WAKE and SUPERMAN UNCHAINED. They might not be the best stories in t8eh world, but these are the ones that affect me personally as I’m writing them. I hope that shows.
RP: How hard was it taking on BATMAN in the context of the New 52, being one of the few titles that brought over baggage from before FLASHPOINT?
SS: Very hard and super intimidating. When I took the gig I thought I was going to be writing BATMAN seven hundred and eighty whatever and then they told me after I signed on it was going to be BATMAN 1. I had kind of half nervous break down about it. Super intimidating, especially to know you’re building the mythology from the ground up.
It basically came down to talking to the other Bat writers and deciding what thing we wanted to keep and what we wanted redone. Over time it became clear that the origin itself couldn’t be kept because of the changes in CATWOMAN, in BATGIRL and other books. BATGIRL is now Jim’s biological daughter so that changes things. James Jr. if he’s born 6 years ago, like in YEAR ONE, he a child. Well, he’s not – he’s a full grown adult.
RP: Who is also utterly insane.
SS: Right, the Falcone and Maroni families all have different histories as well so these pieces just don’t fit together anymore and DC was adamant that we need a new origin. It is baggage and there are a lot of things from continuity that are still there from KNIGHTFALL, NO MAN’S LAND, CATACLYSM, which I love, and I keep that in mind when I’m writing. We just really try never to address them and simply go forward with new stories. This is a Batman born in modern day and even though those stories are there this is our version and will proceed as they would be told in modern context.
RP: Where did you come up with the Court of Owls?
SS: I came up with it because I grew up in New york, on the Lower East Side. I always loved going out to the South Street Seaport, I live pretty close to it. I don’t know, I always loved the idea you can know the factual history of your city or neighborhood it self, but you never know the lives that were lived there. So it’s always fascinated me, this notion of Batman knowing the city better than everyone else. So you can know the geography, the present day sociology, but you can’t know the lives of generations over generations. So what of we built a mystery that exists inside those crevices, the secret layered history. The catacombs of Gotham almost. That would be something that we should Batman to his core, because he would realize he didn’t know the city as well as he thought. It’s a haunted and changing city, the past is fully unknowable, it’s the city looking at him and saying, “I’m a mystery and I always will be.” That was the impetus, then picking the right symbol. He owl idea spoke to me because of Owl Man and owls are predators Bats.
RP: Shifting gears, SUPERMAN UNCHAINED. What drew you to the character and the project?
SS: I’ve always been fascinated by the character. I love at the end of the day he’s just a guy trying to do the right thing. When I take on a new character I always like to go back to the origin material to see if there’s stuff that excites me and I can turn into something modern. Sometimes you don’t find anything, but with Superman I was looking at the old stories about him fighting during WWII, you know throwing Nazis out of subs and being in the crosshairs of some Japanese warplane. The violence of those issues surprised me as well, he’s willing to kill. So, I thought what if there was a Superman that arrived seventy-five years ago on the anniversary of when ACTION 1 was released and he was actually the Superman that existed back then, but acting in secret until now. It challenges all the things that the modern day Superman has become and represents. Wraith is the ghost in history; he’s part of the machine, this kind of secret organization that does what it wants militarily. Wraith is the hand that pushes things forward in a creepy way. He’s an invisible force in history that changes things.
So, I wanted Wraith and General Sam Lane to be able to say to Superman, “You like to think you’re above all of it, but this will end. As Clark, imagine going into the Planet 50 years from now, everyone will we dead. What’s he going to do? Start over? You’re still going to be young, so why are you doing this? As Superman you float above all of it, saving kittens and stuff, what’s going to happen when North Korea or someone does something cataclysmic and you don’t want a bomb to be dropped? You’re going to evacuate everyone and become an enemy of the state so both of these identities can’t last so you might as well come over and actually be the person you’re supposed to be a Superman of a country. Otherwise you be welcome in any country and they will try to kill you. So that’s the idea on how to create something new while bringing in all the old characters like Lois, Jimmy and Perry.
That’s it folks keep an eye out for Scott’s new releases and return to yore as we move into 2014.
MY DREAM STORY FOR BATMAN ETERNAL: I want to close out with the story I would most like to see in BATMAN ETERNAL and I want all of you to tell me yours. (No I didn’t bother Scott with this.
The Women of Batman. They all love him and they all need him in some way; Catwoman in an animalistic way, Vicki Vale career wise and in a hero worship sense. How do the other men or significant others in these women’s lives compare to the Bat and what does it do to those people who try to get close to the ladies while they hold a torch?
WEDNESDAY COMICS #1
Writers: Lots of Guys at DC
Publisher: DC Comics (Obviously)
Reviewer: Rob Patey ( aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
The View from 2012: Still hate this for every reason I mentioned in my review. Although, I’ll admit a reading of the trade might be more tolerable.
This was a lot like dry humping for three hours. Damn enjoyable in parts, mildly chafing in other parts and a climax that you know is just seconds away, but sadly never cums (bar-um-pum). Why? Because you have to wait until next week for 8 more panels, the next stream of consciousness, a new character to enter and have enough time to maybe introduce themselves. In an age of immediate gratification and an ever increasing fan-base of trade waiters salivating for full completed stories, this cartoon strip newspaper concept defies all logic. There’s some good stuff inside these pages, but this format is simply painful.
Also, not to be cheap or anything, but…$4.00 for 15 pages of stories on paper quality so poor that Ben Franklin could have used it to roll his joints seems like an egregious screwing of the fan-base. The last time I was taken advantage of like this, she/he at least bought me dinner first, was kind enough to give me a roofie and I never had to pull out my wallet once. The big houses have always justified price increases by delivering a more polished product; how they justify the spartan WEDNESDAY COMICS at $4.00 an unfolding simply boggles my mind.
Now perhaps there is a demographic out there that has a nostalgic fondness for receiving this rationed depression-era style of doling out a story. Well, demographic, this run-down is for you.
When you transform WEDNESDAY COMICS from its Comic Shop News layout (did your comic shop confuse the two? Mine did) to newspaper format you are greeted with an…ad. Granted it’s a really cool ad announcing the DVD release of “Robot Chicken”’s Episode II, but yeah, it’s still an ad. Keep unfolding and the first story presents it self:
BATMAN: Azzarello/Risso: “Every time I turn this on it’s like I’m signaling failure.” Wow, what a great line delivered by Jim Gordon about the Bat signal. Batman basically agrees and we find out a millionaire has been kidnapped. The millionaire will be killed at midnight and there are no ransom demands. Midnight strikes on the clock…end! Batman is obviously Bruce Wayne (he’s a douche) and by the bat graphic in the intro panel we can assume this vignette is a nod to the golden age. Risso’s art supports my theory, and quite well I might add.
KAMANDI: Gibbons/Sook: The last boy on earth laments being the last boy on earth as he paddles through a submerged New Your City. I’m not a huge fan of dialogue free, narrative heavy comics, but I won’t fault anyone for this approach. Unless Kamandi has a volleyball in front of him with a face painted on it, it would be rather silly for him to speak out loud. This piece ends with Kamandi meeting a mysterious stranger.
SUPERMAN: Arcudi/Bermejo: Superman is fighting an alien that ends up reaching out to him telepathically. Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Bermejo’s art, though, is spectacular – where have they been hiding this guy? He’s not The Gimp, let him out of the basement and put him on a real book please.
DEADMAN: Bullock/Heuck: Again, too much narrative. I now see a pattern forming and I’m reminded of why I’m not a big fan of the Silver Age, where narrative ruled over dialogue. Basically, you learn who Deadman is.
GREEN LANTERN: Busiek/Quinones: One of my two favorites in this comic newspaper. I was a huge fan of NEW FRONTIER and this takes the same tonality and approach. Busiek does what he does best, telling the story from the vantage point of the little people instead of the hero.
METAMORPHO: Gaiman/Allred: My second favorite; I simply love good old deprecation. This was like a trip back to X-STATIX and JUSTICE LEAGUE EUROPE all rolled into one. METAMORPHO pays homage to the Silver Age while unmercifully mocking it. Misogyny and sexism abound; this was like a modern day sensitive metrosexual visiting AMC’s MAD MEN.
TEEN TITANS: Berganza/Galloway: I hate the DC “kid book” style of art, so I went into this one with a bad taste on first glance. However, Berganza takes a page from Johns’ portrayal of Lex Luthor, which I found interesting. Are the bad guys really bad or just misunderstood?
STRANGE ADVENTURES: Pope: I love Paul Pope, but I’ve never been a big ADAM STRANGE fan. Basically Ranagar gets attacked by space pirates.
SUPERGIRL: Palmiotti/Conner: OK, so Supergirl is back to being a cute kid instead of a role model for camwhores. Cool. She chases Krypto and her cat.
METAL MEN: Didio/Lopez/Nowlan: If the Metal Men have the mentality of children why didn’t Rex Hunter shrink them in stature? Because right now they come across as mongoloid adults. Rex takes the metal gang to a bank to learn how the banks will collapse in the next few years. A heist occurs, yet Rex holds the metalloids at bay, except gold…naughty, naughty gold.
WONDER WOMAN: Caldwell: Look, kids, Wonder Woman is now a 14 year old Japanese girl that drops acid before bed. I don’t know what was going on in this thing. The panels bleed together more than a suicidal hemophiliac and Wonder Woman floats while talking to some birds. Pass…
SGT. ROCK and EASY CO.: Kubert/Kubert: Nazis beat the piss out of old Sarge.
FLASH & IRIS WEST: Kerschel/Fletcher: Probably the most complete story of the collection, Grodd has Barry Allen by the short hairs chasing the electrical current of a bomb. After chasing to the supposed destination, Allen learns that Grodd pulled a fast one and is going after his girl Iris. Iris’ story is more of her whining that Barry is never there for her and the bitch leaves a note to end their marriage. Ahh, only in the 60s was divorce so void of emotion.
THE DEMON & CATWOMAN: Simonson/Stelfreeze: OK, my whole Silver Age theme theory is blown out of the water when Selina Kyle is casing the Demon’s house and she mentions how she Googled him. Boy, will she be in for a surprise in three weeks when we get to part 1 of 12 of the actual robbery.
HAWKMAN: Baker: I loved the POV on this one letting the story be told by one of the eagles under Hawkman’s control as they go after an airliner that has been hijacked.
One of the reasons I read comics is for the consequences and how they transcend throughout the entire universe. While each story had some palpable danger, with so many Silver and Golden Age nods to coincide with the delivery format, nothing really seems to matter in WEDNESDAY COMICS.
I had some fun with several of the vignettes, and perhaps in a “$2.00 – 10 pages a week” format I would be more enticed to stay with the more enjoyable stories. But in this format, with the hefty price tag I’ll just keep buying my regular comics on Wednesday…not WEDNESDAY COMICS. You know what? Even the fucking name is confusing. I’m done…
The view from 2012: This wasn’t my review, but I am quoted as saying how little this event changed the DC Universe. Ohhh how wrong I was – this made continuity such a mess that New 52 was a necessity.
FINAL CRISIS #4 (of 7)
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: JG Jones, Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino
Published by: DC Comics
Reviewed by: BottleImp(with lotsa help from the rest of the @$$Holes)
“I have been reading all of the ancillary titles for FC and guess what? You don’t fucking need to. Just like we didn’t need to read 52 or COUNTDOWN or any of the muppet baby crises that we were told we had to read. Here’s FINAL CRISIS in a nutshell. The big three get sidelined. Darkseid first gets his ass kicked by Orion, becomes a nightclub owner and then broadcasts the anti-life equation. Libra was important, now I can’t find him or what he’s up to. Barry Allen returns to a world ruled by the broadcast anti-life equation. Yes, we waited this long for fucking algebra.” –Optimous Douche
“Yeah, FINAL CRISIS and DC in general is a mess. None of the titles reflect any of these big changes going on. Wonder Woman is a she-dog in FC, but fighting Beowulf in her own title. Barbara coming out to the Tattooed Man? Lower level crook or not, she would not just be out in the open like that. And what about Ollie introducing basically all of the Flash’s family to the same criminal? Because it worked so well in IDENTITY CRISIS when criminals knew about the family of heroes. On top of that, we’ve got too much unexplained shit going on. Morrison is flitting around from Turpin to Tattooed Man to Ollie to Mister Miracle. No real cohesion. No care that the reader may not know these people. And the rest of DC is just suffering for it. They are cowering in fear that because of the negative feedback they received when the New Gods dies three times last year, they are telling stories that don’t relate to this supposedly giant crisis. Why do we need a FINAL CRISIS tie in focusing on Geo Force or Black Lightning?” –Ambush Bug
“The irony for me is while you say why do we need a Geo Force/Black Lightening tie in, I actually found that aside more compelling than the main title, which I find sort of hard to get into. In fact I think most of the side light books are tons better than the main attraction.”-Jinxo
“It just looks like DC doesn’t have a plan here. And can’t have a plan, because Morrison doesn’t have a plan. He may have one, but he’s not telling anyone. That’s why none of the main titles are referencing FINAL CRISIS and that’s why the ties the other BATMAN books have with RIP don’t go past the extent of “I don’t want to talk about the Batman thing right now.” To DC, that’s a crossover mention that is worth putting a RIP banner across the cover. I call bullshit. DC needs to learn that you can’t make a stable table with one or two legs. When that one leg fails to support the rest, the table topples over. That’s what’s happening with DC.”-Bug
“Come up with something original. Calling Morrison’s book FINAL CRISIS is a laugh. What will be the “final” outcome of this? I can’t see it. There’s no way they are going to allow the entire DCU to be a dark cesspool. INFINITE CRISIS irrevocably changed things, this book will not. I’m not hating it, and I like to see the little guy shine, but you could have just as easily called the thing Darkseid’s Revenge or something….”-OD
The preceding quotes were taken from @$$Hole email exchanges. Are you reading this, DC editorial staff? Do you see the problems that keep cropping up in regards to this “major event” book? ‘Cause even though the plot itself isn’t bad—always interesting to see heroes up against seemingly insurmountable odds—this title isn’t living up to the hype surrounding it. Events in FC have no bearing on the vast majority of DC’s comic titles…why should the reader be concerned about a character–say, Superman–when it is made perfectly clear in the three Superman family titles that he’s doing just dandy off on his own little adventure?
It’s this lack of cohesion that really kills this miniseries. No matter what good things may come out of it (personally, I find Morrison’s explanation of Kirby’s mysterious “Anti-Life Equation” to be fairly interesting, and at least makes it clear why Darkseid’s spent so much time looking for the darn thing), FC is doomed by poor planning and false advertising. As Optimous Douche wrote, FC is not the be-all, end-all of the DC Universe. It’s not going to change anything. Just take it for what it is—an overblown miniseries that’s been stretched over far too much time and far too many ancillary titles, and a story that is nowhere near as compelling as Dan DiDio or Grant Morrison would like us to believe.
Also, Kalibak now looks like a grumpy version of Mr. Tawny, the Talking Tiger. What the fuck is that about?
GREEN LANTERN #34
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Bromance, man-love, unrequited hairy nipple passion; there have been a slew of terms conjured up over the past few years to help an overarching homophobic society develop a level of comfort for the affection between two men. In the opening pages of this latest foray into the genesis of Earth’s original GREEN LANTERN (no, I don’t consider Alan Scott a Green Lantern) writer extraordinaire Geoff Johns boils down the relationship between Hal Jordan and Sinestro into one simple term that we don’t hear too often anymore: respect.
The friendship once shared by these two has become the stuff of legend over the past forty some odd years. Through a multitude of intergalactic battles and epic douchebaggery on the part of the great magenta one, it’s easy for us all to forget (especially younger readers) that these two were once fighting for the same side. While both acting in the purest sense of their mandated mission by the galactic guardians, it was never the “what” that drove a wedge between them, but rather the “how”.
One of the over arching challenges of doing a prequel is the fact that everyone knows how the story is going to end. The trick is to make the journey enticing by providing unknown nuggets in an entertaining and enlightening fashion. Lucas missed the mark with the last three (or I should say first three) “Star Wars” movies, for example. Johns avoids these trappings by delicately unfolding the Blackest Night prophecy and gently interspersing the feelings of these two emerald juggernauts towards one another and the galactic guardians. This delicate blend of the old and the new satiates even those overflowing with knowledge about all things Emerald, while also providing a damn nice entrance for those that could not tell an Abin Sur from an @$$hole TalkBacker.
What set this issue apart from the rest of the story arc is that Johns is truly starting to embark into new territory despite the fact we’ve all been here before. There is only so much you can do with Hal Jordan’s early years, the man is who he is and the circumstances that made him so are not to be trifled with. His Dad can only die one way if he is going to traverse the rest of his heroic destiny. Johns did an admirable job updating these events with modern sensibilities and his own spot-on interpretation of characterization, but aside from a few nuggets about “the prophecy” (oh the delectable prophecy), much of the material was old hat.
This issue not only tugs at the heart strings, as we see a friendship and a romance (not with Sinestro) form that we know is ultimately doomed, but Johns in usual style delivers a blindsiding donkey punch of action to boot. You want inventive ring wielding? You got it, as Hal for the first time realizes the full potential of not only his ring, but also the man that wields it. Yes, Sinestro is still a condescending prick, but he’s a prick that hasn’t lost his…well, his humanity for lack of a better word. There is a genuine affection for Jordan as Sinesto views a piece of himself in the neophyte ring wielder. Also for the first time in his life Sinestro is plagued with doubt at his own abilities as he sees Jordan overcome that which no other Lantern has ever been able to surmount, the dread color yellow.
This is the first issue where the prophecy became secondary for me and I just wanted to see more of Hal and Sinestro. Ahh well, there will be an issue 35 in four short weeks, where I am most thankful that Guy Gardner is not in the picture yet, because if anyone would drop the term bromance it would be him.
X-O MANOWAR: BIRTH
Writers: Jim Shooter & Bob Layton
Artists: Barry Windsor-Smith, Joe Quesada
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
Most comic book aficionados will agree that the early 90s was a veritable shit storm of bad ideas. Countless polybags, card inserts, multiple covers, nonsensical crossovers and issues with sub par material virtually collapsed the entire industry.
Then there was Valiant.
While the major houses were focused on increasing sales volume and Image was launching the age of anatomical monstrosities, Jim Shooter and company were laying the foundation for one of the most complex, intricate and well crafted universes to ever grace the stands of local comic shops.
Valiant hooked me from the very beginning. Being a mild obsessive compulsive it wasn’t the individual resurrected Gold Key titles like X-O, HARBINGER, SOLAR, ETERNAL WARRIOR and ARCHER & ARMSTRONG that intrigued me. Don’t get me wrong: the dialogue was sharp and witty, and the rendered realism of the characters was a refreshing departure from “the beautiful people, the beautiful people” that were being sketched in other comic books, but it was the continuity.
This universe was tighter than a nun’s vagina, and for a universe that covered all of human history from the beginning of civilization to the far distant future, this cross pollination of content was no easy task.
The first six issues of X-O MANOWAR, which can be found in this beautifully reprinted hardcover (along with a few other goodies) are a perfect example of this meticulous attention to a detailed universe and “ahead of its time” storytelling.
X-O kicks off seamlessly from the pages of its sister title SOLAR. Aric the barbarian is a man unstuck in time, cryogenically frozen for 1600 years and resurrected in the early 1990s. He awakens aboard a ship of spider-alien invaders; with the help of a mysterious cell mate and a diversion by Solar, he finds a way to abscond with the spiders’ most advanced version of X-O Armor, the Manowar class. This “good skin”, as Aric calls it, his barbaric mind only able to relate a technologically advanced war suit with a bear pelt, allows him to escape from the invader’s ship and lands him on a planet Earth very different than the world he once remembered. This is the “what”, the “how” is a story unto itself.
I mentioned earlier, during my schoolgirl adoration of Valiant’s continuity, that the actual storytelling was a feat unto it self and truly ahead of its time. From characterization to the actual dialogue, the foundation laid down by the team at Valiant resonates even today; in fact, I often wonder if today’s superstars could be telling their stories in the fashion they are without these books paving the way.
It seems today that a piece can’t be socially relevant or accepted without the insertion of a token homosexual character. Well before “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” made fat mid-western hausfraus accept the gay culture, Valiant took the bold steps to make a gay character a pivotal focal point of the X-O story with Aric’s right hand man Ken. However, unlike Marvel with Northstar, Valiant didn’t turn this into a media event, nor did they feel the need to let Ken’s sexuality define the character. At his core this human turncoat in the spider-alien organization is an opportunist, only taking sides with Aric once he realizes that this barbarian is going to lay waste to the entire spider-alien organization. It’s easy for a writer to craft stereotypes, but instead of having Ken sachet across the panels humming show tunes, they made him into a real character complete with foibles and other personality traits apart from his sexuality. This was damn brave way back in 1992.
I will admit that Valiant’s art is not to the liking of everyone, especially to those that weaned themselves from their mother’s teat to the sour milk found in the breast of early 90s Image. I liken what Valiant brought to the table to the renderings of Frank and Quitely. Nothing was hyper-stylized, everything felt real. Valiant valiantly portrayed characters’ flaws and wasn’t afraid to show the weathering that Father Time inflicts on all of us.
In addition to chronicling issues 0-6 of the original X-O series, updating the colors and laying out the book on today’s high gloss paper as opposed to the toilet paper of yore, Layton completes this saga with a brand new prequel tale showcasing the rise of the Spider-aliens, leader, Lydia. This is a nice denouement, but it’s also a bit of tease.
I’m thrilled that Valiant is reissuing and enhancing all of their old titles in hardcover. I offer two suggestions, guys: go ahead and skip the deluxe edition of H.A.R.D.corps, but seriously consider a reprint of UNITY. I would also be ecstatic if you could once again resurrect these characters with new ground breaking stories.
In the tarnished crown of early 90s comics, Valiant was the jewel that sparkled with the beacon of promise that comics could still be great.
THE VIEW FROM 2012
I was an idiot, the characters weren’t the product of a rotten mind. The Marvel Universe spilled into our world and it was fucking amazing. Millar wins again!!!!
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Tommy Lee EdwardsPublisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche)
We live in a spoiler age. Internet leaks, bit torrents and well hell, Ain’t It Cool News, provide all the details of any story months before the actual material is released. I’m sure most of you reading this review already know how 1985 is going to end and the repercussions it will/won’t have on the Marvel universe. I feel sorry for you. The true thrill of 1985 is not having the faintest clue of what’s going to happen next, or quite frankly, what’s actually happening at the moment.
Set back in a simpler time when Republicans could out themselves in public and gays couldn’t, Millar’s latest “high concept” (I don’t know I heard the term once, I like it) immerses you in a state of non-reality, asking the reader to question whether they are trapped within a young man’s imagination or whether the greatest heroes and villains of the Marvel universe are converging on a small town in Nowhere America.
In addition to enjoying the book’s “mystery”, I’m also enamored with how easily I could relate to the main character. Toby, like most of Millar’s protagonists, comes from a broken home and is an only child. He spends all of his time reading comic books and looking for an escape from his mundane existence. Hell, not only could I relate to this story, if you got rid of the broken home and threw in a few DC titles to Toby’s pull list this could have been an episode of “Optimous Douche, This is Your Life.” Now, where Toby differs from the leads of WANTED and KICK-ASS is that he’s a believable kid. Not being thrust into an international assassin guild, or eating a retard sandwich, buying a wet suit, and fighting crime, Toby remains an average kid that is witnessing some extraordinary shit…perhaps.
The real question for readers at the end of issue two is whether the events Toby is witnessing are real or mere figments of an overactive imagination. Juggurnaut and Hulk Indian wrestle, Dr. Doom sets up camp in the middle of Nowhere America and now Elektro is on the scene. There would have to be some serious happenings for characters with this level of gravitas to converge in one place, but right now the encounters lack a compelling event to tie everything together. Instead, every battle is just a series of random comic panels brought to life. Whatever the ultimate answer is, I hope it’s not as simple as the Newhart dream sequence and Millar astounds us with a Hitchcock type twist that is neither simple nor easy.
In fact, Millar’s going to have to astound us with the overarching concept, because from a dialogue and art perspective this title teeters on just being average, hardly worth the extra dollar for admission. I was tepid towards Edwards’ imagery. It works on a representative level if we are in fact wandering through a teen’s imagination. While the various characters’ facial expressions are top notch, the dewy scenes seem to be lazy if the events are actually happening.
All in all, this series could achieve greatness if there are surprises around the corner.
THE VIEW FROM 2012
I was an idiot, the characters weren’t the product of a rotten mind. The Marvel Universe spilled into our world and it was fucking amazing. Millar wins again!!!!
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Valentine De Landro
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche Ain’t It Cool News)
Let me just start by saying that this is the best damn X-book on the shelves. I will gladly fight a hulking mass of Whedonite or a razor-backed Brubakerin to defend this title’s superiority over ASTONISHING or the regular X-titles. Always on time and never too mired in editorial mandates for crossovers and upsells, this second stringer in X-continuity has consistently delivered sharp writing, complex characters and a new take on the hackneyed old mutant team dynamic by never getting lost in convention.
Some will call this latest series to don the X-FACTOR title a detective book; others might say it’s a representation (and perhaps a reflection) of a society in decay; and finally aging fanboys see it as a chance to revisit characters they fell in love with sixteen years ago. It’s the rare title that can cater to so many audiences without pandering to any one demographic group.
For anyone that has shunned this book and can’t afford trades in this trying economy, this latest issue is the perfect time to jump aboard as the team from Mutant Town gets a fresh start by ripping off the crusted purple scabs of old wounds.
I was terrified when this book was launched. I saw positioning Jaime “Multiple Man” Madrox as the story’s central character equivalent to building a million dollar movie franchise on the waifish shoulders of Corey Feldman. This was a fair impression considering the last time David helmed X-FACTOR back in the early 90s Jamie Madrox and Guido “Strong Guy” Carosella served as The Two Coreys of the team, never taking anything seriously and serving merely to interject quips during dire circumstances. While I loved these characters as a kid, even way back then I could only handle them in small doses, anxiously waiting for the panels when Forge or their government handler Val Cooper would squash the “funny” and interject some drama, tension and rising action.
Then David surprised the hell out of me. This new version of X-FACTOR was a complete 180 degree turn from the book I remembered, because somewhere, somewhen, Jaime Madrox grew up. Gone was the man-child that would pound his armpit to create doppelgangers to help him bang chicks and perform mundane life activities like taint hygiene. No, this version of Jaime Madrox is a man in search of his soul, wrought with all of the introspective baggage of a college freshman who just took their first intro to psych class, and now creating copies of him self to learn about the intricacies of life in the shortest time possible through osmosis.
As I stated earlier, X-FACTOR at its core was established as a detective book. After the mystical genocide of M-Day, Madrox and some of our old favorites like Strong Guy, Syren, Monet St. Croix and Rhane Sinclaire, set up camp in the ghetto that was Mutant Town to help keep the peace and in the process play Blues Clues for violent acts against current and ex-muties. While the cases have been entertaining, it’s truly been the character dynamics that have driven this piece. The insertion of the mystical and all knowing Layla Miller has been one of the new character additions that I found grating at first, but she has truly grown into her own as the issues progressed. What lies in store for her future and her relationship to Jamie Madrox is just one of the reasons this book is a “first read” when I get home from my LCS.
Issue #32 serves as a complete decimation of the old and offers a nostalgic new springboard for the series going forward. After the destruction of Auschwitz, I mean Mutant Town, at the hands of Arcade, Val Cooper descends from the cockpit of her metal mutant protecting machines to offer X-Factor an ultimatum and a job. Just when I had thought that the merry mutants would bite at this new offer taking us back to the government controlled X-Factor of yore, Madrox springs a coup d’état leaving egg on the face of our government and in the process completely closes the first chapter of this team that is now on the run.
I should also mention that De Landro’s chalky pencils add an additional noir vibe to the book without ever being too realistic or too esoteric. This book is about living underground and De Landro perfectly accompanies that theme without making the book too damn dark too see, which sadly seems to be the norm these days. Note to artists everywhere: the use of shadow does not absolve you from providing detail in each scene.
I pity the fool that is handed X-FACTOR if or when Peter David steps down. These are his characters and this is his substratum within the grand scheme of X-books. If this book were to survive within the hands of another writer, they would need to bring to the table biting wit and complex character introspection all within the context of a meaty story. None of these are easy feats and thank god for the time being we have Peter David, who can accomplish all of this with seemingly little effort.
When Optimous Douche isn’t reading comics and misspelling the names of 80’s icons, he “transforms” into a corporate communications guru. Optimous is looking for artistry help, critical feedback and a little industry insight to get his original book AVERAGE JOE up, up and on the shelves. What if the entire world had super powers? Find out in the blog section of Optimous’ MySpace page to see some preview pages and leave comments.
GREEN LATERN NEW GUARDIANS 0
Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Aaron Kuder
Reviewer: Rob Patey (Optimous Douche- Ain’t It Cool News)
This series isn’t the best, but I laugh like the Joker getting his taint tickled when people say they don’t buy this book because, “They don’t know where it’s going.” Come a little closer, I’ll whisper it to you. KYLE RAYNOR IS GOING TO BE A GUARDIAN. DC was about as tricksy with their clue work as a stoned hobbit here.
Now, what this zero entry illuminates is that Kyle, just might be the only Guardian as he has a mano-a-womano with Hal Jordan gal pal, and Star Sapphire, Carol Ferris.
For the past year NEW GUARDIANS has brought together major players from the Skittles brigade of light to thwart an intergalactic ship that was the size of an entire universe. Death Star? Psshhhaww…this is the 21st century and comics should always do better than movies because they can. But what also was happening during this time is Kyle’s ring was picking up all the other rings’ powers through osmosis, making him a little bit blue, yellow, purple, orange, green, country and rock and roll.
The book has been slow till now, but I fault it’s pivotal place in the DC Universe versus placing any blame on Bedard. The slow burn story telling needed to happen because the other GREEN titles needed to set-up the fact the little blue bastards were losing their omnipotent shit. After all, you can’t have new Guardians until the old Guardians are successfully dethroned.
If my in-the-know speak confuses you, you know nothing about the GREEN LANTERN universe and as such should avoid this title. There’s nothing new to see here folks, if you weren’t inclined to follow the doings of GREEN LANTERN before, this book won’t change your mind.
Longtime fans however will learn scads of new information, like a certain faceless overlords of love teaming up with the little blue bastards to destroy anyone who wields a ring and lantern. Also, in a very sincere moment both Carol and Kyle learn of Hal and Sinestro’s recent decent into the black and the rise of new Lantern El Bastardo the evilest Mexican wrestler to ever be named a Lanter…I mean…SImon Baz…a muslim dude from Detroit.
Two points on Kuder’s art, it’s beautiful…except when Carol smiles. In those moments I felt less joy and more fear for my immortal soul being devoured. Seriously, I don’t know what it is, there were just a couple panels where I truly felt Carol was more maniacal than happy.
I think this 13th issue (sorry gotta call a horse a Sarah Jessica Parker here) didn’t do a lot to illuminate the past, but like GREEN LANTERN’S 13th foray in zero land, it put the book on a new and I think better direction for it’s second year.
Less team work – more Kyle please.
FRANKENSTEIN AGENT OF SHADE 0
Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Alberto Ponticelli
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka – Optimous Douche, Ain’t It Cool news)
FRANKENSTEIN and his parent organization SHADE have been two of my favorite entities in the New 52. For the past twelve issues Lemire and Ponticelli have crafted a book where the plots are forged in the fiery pits of Mount Weird, and placed characters in the epicenter with souls that are a million times more beautiful than their hellish visages. Most people think that Morrison’s SEVEN SOLDIERS Frank could never be emulated. To that I say poppycock, FRANKENSTEIN is just as imaginative and gut wrenching in-continuity.
Before we get into the prequel I know this book isn’t exactly setting sales records, so let me get you acclimated. This is especially important for those poor poor souls that never read SEVEN SOLDIERS. This isn’t the FRANKENSTEIN we all know from the thousand other sources we have loved or loathed over the years depending on your proclivity for horror. Personally, I hate horror movies, abhor them. So I was very leery to pick up FRANK even during SEVEN SOLDIERS, but I did; instead of being subjected to guttural utterances and aversions to fire though, I was treated to a purveyor of justice. FRANKENSTEIN in the DC universe is a creature born of death, but has the utmost respect for life and all of the things that encompass the experience – beauty, art and all intangibles of the human soul.
SHADE, the organization that employs FRANK, MRS. FRANK and a host of other weirdly HELLBOYish type characters is a character in and of itself. If you think STORMWATCH is the only invisible overlord in the DC universe think again. Father Time, the immortal body switcher that runs SHADE, had Ray Palmer shrink SHADE HQ down to a micron that contains a cosmos of weirdness as it travels the world watching the WATCHMEN and other nefarious deeds across all dimensions and time. Golem (not Gollum) like characters are the Oompa Loompas of SHADE, and that’s just one of the surprises that reveal each issue about this clandestine overseer.
OK, enough about what was. How does this 0 entry measure up? In short, perfect.
It’s a perfect jumping on point for new readers as we go directly back to the exact day of Frank’s creation.
Kindt serves as a perfect replacement for Lemire; keeping the humor, heart and horror that has made this such an amazing series to date.
Ponticelli continues the gritty goodness he’s delivered since issue 1. He also seems to revel in an extra level of glee this issue crafting Dr. Frankenstein’s lab complete with half dissected animal and human cadavers and a life engine that feeds on souls. I’ve heard people say his art is ugly. I say your face is ugly, yet the world still tolerates you. It’s called juxtaposition morons, look it up.
Pacing was spectacular, spending the right amount of time in the house of Frankenstein and then continuing the hunt of Father chasing son across time until Frank ultimately stumbles into his adoptive Father who is usually a Mother, Father Time.
Seriously, this is one of the true gems in the DC Universe. FRANKENSTEIN is wholly different from any other title, but packed with enough Easter Eggs and cleverly placed continuity drops to make it feel one with the complete DC tapestry. Please buy this book, the numbers indicate this book is headed for the dead zone and that would be an Optimous Shame. My only consolation is that if the book does get wheeled down to the morgue, at least Liefeld won’t be doing the pushing during its gasping last breaths.