28 January 2008

Adlan Benan Omar (1973 - 2008)

No, I haven't abandoned this blog. I've just been taking some unscheduled time off from posting due to some real life stuff happening which requires my immediate attention. Plus, just found out over the weekend that an old friend from way back lost his battle with cancer. He was my age (34) and now he's dead. Cancer's a bitch, let me tell you. So you'll understand if I'm not in a blog-posting mood this week.

I'll start again in February...which is this Friday, isn't it? Cool.

Thanks for your patience. All five of you.

Oh and to Adlan Benan Omar? If you're watching me from up there...Rest In Peace, man! We'll meet again soon (erm, not too soon I hope).

Adlan Benan Omar (1973 - 2008). Why do the good die young?

18 January 2008

Friday Night Fights: Knockout Round 3

(click to superduper size)

The classic Superduperman vs. Captain Marbles bout, by the Usual Gang of Idiots (The MAD Archives vol. 1)

But Bahlactus is nobody's idiot.

16 January 2008

Monkey Pokes Hulk, Hulk Smash!

Still no reviews today, sorry. It's not that I don't have trades to write about. Far from it. It's just that stuff happens at work and life in general that by the end of the day, I couldn't be bothered to stare at the computer (again) and write about a comic trade I just read. Reviews soon, I promise.

In the meantime, here's a page from Marvel Adventures Hulk #7 by Paul Benjamin and David Nakayama. I've mentioned before why I like the Marvel Adventures line and this issue doesn't disappoint. The MA comics are the only Marvel comics worth reading nowadays...oh, except for Immortal Iron Fist and Runaways and uhm...X-Men First Class.

The monkey! The monkey did it! Hurt the monkey!

15 January 2008

To The Guy Who Googled "Superheroine Catfights"...

In my final blog entry of last year's, I wrote about the search words people have used in Google which brought them to this blog. One of them was "Superheroine catfights". I've never done that before so the guy who typed those words? Pissed off, I'm sure. But not anymore. Here are a couple of pages from that cheesecake-heavy comic, Birds of Prey, featuring Black Canary fighting a nightie-clad bad-girl Cheshire. In a swimming pool. Pencilled by Ed "tits and ass are my specialty" Benes. Enjoy, kids.

Wanna see more? Go get the trade, Birds of Prey: Sensei and Student. Yes, I occasionally shill for DC. Why do you ask?

11 January 2008

Friday Night Fights: Knockout Round 2

Iron Man pisses off Ms. Marvel after he told her that any episode of MacGyver was more entertaining than an entire season of Grey's Anatomy

But no one is more interesting than Bahlactus

(panel from Ms. Marvel vol. 3: Operation Lightning Storm)

09 January 2008

Legion Of Super-Heroes: An Eye For An Eye

There are three criterions I use when deciding which comic trade I should pick up the next time I go comic book shopping. One, the creative team. A book that has a talent whose work I'm familiar with stands a good chance of getting picked up. Second, the character(s) featured in the book. There is a better chance of me picking up a Batman collection than say, a Ghost Rider, since I prefer the former over the latter. And third, I would pick up a book due to nothing more than plain old curiosity.

Legion of Super-Heroes: An Eye For An Eye is a book I bought based on curiosity and nothing else. I have never read a LOSH comic prior to this though I was not ignorant of the group. There are two reasons why I never bothered with them. Firstly, as their name suggests, they are legion. Way, way, waaay too many members, I thought. How can I keep up? Secondly, I found their superhero names ridiculous. Bouncing Boy? Matter-Eater Lad? Cosmic Boy? Dream Girl? Star Boy? I just could not take them seriously....says the person who grew up reading Spider-Man. Yes, I'm quite aware of my hypocrisy, thankyouverymuch (in my defence, he was called Spider-MAN and there was only one of him).

I decided to jump onto the LOSH bandwagon with this collection because this was what is known as the "version 3" Legion. It seemed like the good place to start since I was not really interested in the prior adventures of the LOSH when they had Superboy as a fellow member. Also, Paul Levitz was the writer and his run on the title is still regarded highly today.

An Eye For An Eye collects the first six issues of the "v3" Legion and it revolves around the plans of their evil counterpart, the Legion of Super-Villains, who want to, what else?, destroy them. This book doesn't disappoint in the action department. In the typical style of an early '80s comic book, everybody in this book prefers to war-war instead of jaw-jaw. The villains kidnap some of the Legionnaires, the remaining good guys fight the bad guys, the bad guys fight amongst themselves and even the heroes bicker with each other. That was something that I did not expect to see. It reminded me more of a Marvel team like the Avengers or the X-Men. If my memory is correct, members of superhero teams in the DC universe always get along with each other. So to see Brainiac arguing with his fellow team-members was, to me, quite a surprise (but after reading the Brave and the Bold: Lords of Luck collection, I have learnt that Brainiac is a bit of a superdick and I shouldn't really be surprised that he argues).

Anyway, Legion of Super-Heroes: An Eye For An Eye is just what it says it is: a book about a futuristic super team going toe to toe with a team of super villains in space. The title hints at losses suffered by both sides but since the Legion's history has been rebooted a couple of times in the last twenty years, the deaths (especially the hero's death) wasn't such a big deal to me. That's the problem with reboots and retcons in comics. After a while, you just don't care what shocking developments occured to shake up the status quo. They brought back Jason Todd, fer goodness' sakes! Peter made a deal with the devil and now he's not married anymore! But I digress.....

I found this "version 3" Legion interesting enough that I would pick up the as yet unsolicited second trade, if only to find out what happened to the five Legionnaires who were trapped in limbo on their way back home after defeating their enemies. Looks like my curiosity wins again.

A couple of things more...even though I thought the good guys had ridiculous names, they at least, well, looked heroic enough. The Legion of Super-Villains had a member called Hunter and he looked less than menacing to me:

Yyyeeeaahh...those tails? They make him so not scary.

And I found this in-joke mildly amusing but then again I'm not Christian. What do you think?

Super villains at the Last Supper? With Lightning Lord as the Christ figure? Did the Pope sent off a strongly worded letter to the DC offices?

Edited to add: Michael from The Legion Omnicom (check it out if you wanna know more about the Legionnaires, by the way) dropped me a line to explain that "v3" is not version 3 but rather volume 3. That is, this 1984 incarnation of the Legion of Super-Heroes is the third series to have the title of "Legion of Super-Heroes". Thanks, Michael! Consider my ignorance fought.

One Guy's Swipe Is Another Guy's Homage

Marvel's legal beagles forgot to renew the company's rights to Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet and now DC owns them both:

Yeah, I know it's Mongul and the Lantern rings but when I first saw that ad in the blogosphere I had to do a double take. I knew I've seen a similiar image before. Oh yeah:

(Thanks to J. Caleb Mozzocco for the Mongul pic)

08 January 2008

All-Star Superman vol. 1

This hardcover collection includes the first six issues of the Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (the alter-ego of Glasgow-based artist, Vincent Deighan) Superman series. Not bound to any continuity, Morrison has a free hand to tell any Superman stories that he wants and what he wants to tell are the Silver Age-type stuff. No angst and with just a dash of silliness (but the good kind of silly...like arm wrestling Atlas and Samson so they will leave Lois alone). It would be wrong to call All Star Superman campy. Rather, it is a Superman title where anything can happen, giving it a both modern and retro feeling to it.

For someone like me who is not a huge Superman fan, this book is wonderful because the absence of any continuity baggage means I can just enjoy the book without worrying what is what, though there is the prerequisite origin story on the very first page. Just one page, though.

Basically my love for All-Star Superman comes from the pretentious-free intelligence of the book. Frank Quitely's beautiful art may look plain to some but it is actually quite subtle. Sometimes you don’t even notice little things that Superman has done or fixed, because Superman’s that fast and that good. Luckily, we have a single panel that freezes it in time, and if we take the time to delve, Quitely rewards us. Jamie Grant's digital colouring should share credit as well. It is simply stunning. The book also treats its characters with respect and lets them talk like people, instead of walking exposition/plot devices. The Jimmy Olsen spotlight issue, for example, finally gave me a clear idea as to just why Superman would be best friends with a kid like Jimmy.

All Star Superman is a fun comic book about a powerful man who chooses to do good because he can and wants to. Now, who doesn't want to read that?

07 January 2008

The All New Atom vol. 2: Future/Past

A short review on the second trade collection of the The All New Atom written by Gail Simone. Collecting issues #7 till #11 of the Atom comic, the new Atom, Ryan Choi, finds himself solving the mystery of a time displaced man (well, half of him anyway) and in the latter half of the book, going back to Hong Kong to help out an ex-girlfriend who is being terrorised by the ghost of her dead husband....who just happened to be the bully who used to beat up our hero in high school. No, seriously.

The wit that I've come to expect from Ms. Simone's work is curiously missing here. The abusive ghost bully story seems to be phoned in as she goes through all the usual cliches: hard working Ryan forced to do the bully's homework in high school, Ryan falling head over heels over a beautiful girl, instead girl hooks up with bully, fast forward to the present and girl asks Ryan to come back to Hong Kong and help her with this little problem of hers. Nerd, bully, nerd loves girl, girl falls for the wrong guy, now girl turns to nerd for help. Yup, all the cliches are there. Even the denouement of the bully's death failed to make the story any less yawn inducing. In the end, Atom doesn't even get the girl though he may have acquired his very own recurring villain. But a jealous ghost? Not exactly in the same league as a Lex Luthor or a Joker but it's better than nothing, I guess. A three-part story that could have easily been a tight two-parter, the story is redeemed by Eddie Barrows' and Trevor Scott's nice artwork which suits the dark mood of the story.

The earlier story in this collection sees the Atom travelling to the future to find the missing half of a scientist who foolishly left it in a dystopian Ivy Town. Again with the cliches. Why is the future always fascistic and grim? In this future, however, rival cities (which looks like they belong to their respective hometown superheroes) are at war with each other. Megalopolis? Gargotham City? Elongated City? Please make it stop. Since this is a time travel story, there is the inevitable encounter with a guardian of time travel who takes his job very seriously but who doesn't explain himself until the crisis has been resolved. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Mike Norton does the pencil chores for this adventure.

All in all, I was a bit disappointed with Future/Past. I miss the fun stories Gail Simone wrote that were collected in the first trade even with the abrupt change of pencillers halfway through. The quotes from famous scientists and philosophers which appeared in the first volume that were insightful and hinted at a deeper meaning in the dialogue also appear again in the second volume. Unfortunately, this time they just seem tired and gimmicky. Ms. Simone seems bored with Ryan and doesn't seem to know what to do with him. That is sad because I see a lot of potential in this new Atom. As I write this, the heroes have discovered the original Atom, Ray Palmer, hiding somewhere in the multiverse in the Countdown mini series. Is DC bringing him back into active status? All New Atom isn't exactly setting the sales charts on fire. Will Ryan be forced to give way to Ray?

I'm willing to give All New Atom another look-see with the third trade but if that one fails to impress me, then I would not hesitate to drop this title like a hot potato.

(By the way, if you want to know more about the first volume of the All New Atom trade, My Life In Miniature, check out the review by Collected Editions)

06 January 2008

Out Of Context Sunday: Robot Hates Monkey Poo

Monkey poo means war!

(From Robot vs. Monkey by James Kochalka, 2000)

05 January 2008

Wendigo Don't Wanna Play....

There was a farmer had a dog
And Bingo was his name-o



And Bingo was his name-o!

Okay, one more time. This time with feeling.

There was a farmer had a dog
And Bingo was his name-o!



And Bingo was his name-o!


(From She-Hulk #16, collected in She-Hulk vol. 5: Planet Without A Hulk tpb by Dan Slott, Ty Templeton and Rick Burchett)

04 January 2008

Friday Night Fights: Knockout Round 1

What am I doing tonight? I'm going to watch Friday Night Fights: Knockout.

He may not know what MySpace is. He may not have surfed YouTube. But he punched Hitler in the jaw. That has got to mean something to you kids today, right? Right? Dude, He. Punched. Hitler.

(From Captain America #255 by Roger Stern and John Byrne, 1980)

The rest of the blog.

02 January 2008

The Brave and the Bold vol. 1: The Lords of Luck (DC, 2007)

I was so looking forward to getting this book in my hands and cracking it open that when I finally received it I went through the book like a hot knife through butter. It did not disappoint. A fun, fun book to read.

There. That's my review. The Brave and the Bold: The Lords of Luck by Mark Waid and George Perez is a very good read. Go buy yourself a copy.

What do you mean you want me to elaborate? Oh, all right.

"The Brave and the Bold" was a DC title that came out before my time and usually featured Batman and a superhero guest star teaming up to fight a common foe. In this latest incarnation, however, Mark Waid decided not to write one off stories but rather an interesting six issue tale involving murder, theft, gambling and a book that can foretell the future. It is also not an exclusively Batman book (though he is featured prominently. Hey, he's Batman). It also has Lobo trying to look up Supergirl's skirt. If that isn't enough to ring up the sales of this book, I don't know what will.

The book opens with both Green Lantern and Batman finding the same dead body in their respective workplaces at the same time. Hal stumbles upon the corpse in space just above Earth and Batman discovers it in the Batcave. The pointy eared one soon finds out that there are sixty two other identical corpses discovered all over the world and they were all found close to superhero hangouts: Atlantis, the Flash Museum, the Daily Planet. Conclusion: this self replicating guy was trying to reach as many heroes as possible and was murdered before he could fulfill his plan.

This murder mystery takes an interstellar turn when it is revealed that the dead body was an alien and his mission on Earth was actually to steal a book that chronicles the past, present and future, called The Book of Destiny. His murderers turned out to be a couple of alien gamblers from Ventura, a casino planet. So by the end of the first issue, the alien gamblers have a book that can tell the future and Batman and Green Lantern have to hunt them down before the aliens break the banks of every single casino in the universe.

Or will they? This isn't about trying to win at the blackjack table, is it?

While reading this collection, I was more interested in the interaction between the heroes (and one anti-hero) as they travel through space and time to retrieve The Book of Destiny than the actual chase for the book itself. The Batman-Green Lantern one-upmanship was amusing and Green Lantern's constant reminder to himself that Supergirl is jailbait is downright creepy (doesn't Jordan get enough booty as it is? What is he? DC's version of Captain Kirk?). It's also good to see Jaime Reyes a.k.a the new Blue Beetle hold his own with Batman against the Fatal Five, though I think the only reason Beetle is in this book is to generate some interest in his own excellent but flagging title. But that's one reason for commissioning these team-up books, right? A platform to showcase characters that aren't yet fan favourites but have the potential to be one.

And Batman versus the Legion of Superheroes? Best issue in the entire arc. He was transported forwards to the 31st century and meets up with the Legion and he still managed to run circles around them. And yes, that's versus as in "against". The Legion don't get to team up with Batman. They get their faces kicked in by him.

In the end though, with the help of The Challengers of the Unknown, alls well that ends well. If there is any complaint that I have while reading this book, it was with the Challengers of the Unknown. It was not their seemingly deus ex machina appearance towards the end of the adventure, for their identities were hinted at earlier in the story by Destiny himself. Rather, it was the manner they were brought in to help the heroes that made me go, "huh?" Here's the scene:- Batman uses the Rannian Zeta Beam to pull in the fearless quartet. Adam Strange is surprised that Batman can master the technology so quickly and admitted it took him years to figure it out himself. Batman's reply? "We don't have years."

So, uh...what? Batman is not only a great detective but a super genius who can understand and operate an alien technology within seconds? Mark Waid couldn't have Adam Strange operate the Zeta beam all by himself? That would be easier to accept. I know, I know. I'm arguing about a minor detail in a sci-fi comic book adventure and believe me when I say that I am not and I do not want to be that guy who takes umbrage on every perceived mistake in comic book minutiae. But still......"We don't have years."? Ugh.

That minor quibble aside, The Brave and the Bold: The Lords of Luck is a rollicking fun adventure featuring two of DC's favourite superheroes with some guest stars pitching in. I have never read the Supergirl series but I do know the hair-pulling and gnashing of teeth by the comics fandom in the internet on the way she was being written in her own book. But I don't see anything anything wrong with the way she is potrayed in this team-up book however. Heck, I even enjoyed her banter with Lobo and understand her wide-eyed admiration of Hal Jordan. I guess credit must be given to Mark Waid for being able to pull that off while the writers of her own series could not.

George Perez is, well, George Perez. He has not lost his touch. Correct me if I'm wrong but this series is his first pencil work in a comic book since the 1990s. I thought he had either retired or died and it was a feeling of serendipity when I heard his name was associated with a new DC project which turned out to be The Brave and the Bold.

I would say that this book is 'new reader' safe. You don't need to know a lot, or even any, of the characters' back story be it hero or villain in order to enjoy the book. In any case, there are annotations at the back pages written by Mark Waid where he gives some added information, mostly which issue of which comic the characters first appeared in. He also included a bit of trivia like the fact George Perez has no idea how blackjack is played. Seriously, George? Okay. I believe you.

Lords of Luck is a great fun adventure spanning time and space and though I feel the ending was a bit rushed, I highly recommend it.

01 January 2008

The Question: Zen and Violence vol. 1 (DC, 2007)

Released to coincide with the character's supporting role and death (oops, spoiler!) in the pages of DC's 52, The Question: Zen and Violence reprints the first six issues of The Question comic originally published in 1987. I never read the series when it first came out though I knew of the character. It's that mask. No eyeholes, no features, nothing. So simple yet so iconic. Now that's a vigilante's disguise. You want to go out at night and kick some bad guy's ass? You don't wear a domino mask exposing everything below your eyes. You wear a mask that covers everything. Scare the baddies and establish some coolness factor all at the same time.

The Question was actually a character created by Steve Ditko in the 1960s for Charlton Comics and when Charlton was bought by DC, all Charlton comic characters were incorporated into DC's own universe, the Question being one of them. In 1987, DC gave him his own series written by Dennis (Denny) O'Neil with Denys Cowan and Rick Magyar handling the art chores.

Unlike the rest of the costumed heroes, the Question doesn't go into battle with other costumed villains. His villains wear suits and ties and hold high office. The stories in The Question are akin to the Mike Grell era of Green Arrow where DC's modern day Robin Hood tangled with evil corporations and corrupt authorities. If you're looking for a good old fashioned superhero vs supervillain comic book, then Zen and Violence isn't for you. The story arc collected here focuses on the Question trying to save his beloved Hub City from the clutches of a drunken mayor who is being controlled by an insane and corrupt priest and there is also a family of hitmen who somehow get themselves involve in all this. The stories here are clearly more "down to earth" but are no less entertaining thanks to O'Neil's tight scripting and Cowan's almost noir-ish pencils.

The book opens with the Question suprising a bunch of hoodlums in their hideout. There is no origin story. O'Neil knew that the best way to hook readers to a relatively new character is to ignore exposition and dive straight into some action. And it worked, at least for me. I was intrigued enough to read all the way to the end even though I had no idea what was going on or who these people were (although I recognise Lady Shiva from reading the Birds of Prey trades). By the end of the first issue, though, the Question dies.

Grab your reader by the shoulders, don't let him go as he tries to familiarise himself with the people and the story and then when he's just about to root for the protagonist....you had the Question killed. Now how gutsy is that?

Of course he doesn't die. Almost but not quite and issue 2 is where Vic Sage's (Question's alter ego) prepares himself for the tough road ahead . It's his "Karate Kid" moment (the movie Karate Kid, not the superhero). His sensei is Richard Dragon, a wheelchair bound hermit, who teaches him some spiritual Zen stuff and also how to kick ass in a more effective way. Also, Batman makes a cameo to give Sage a literal wake up call and some sage (no pun intended) advice .

Overall, The Question: Zen and Violence is a very good book that should be in the collection of the discerning comic book fan. Unlike most of the comics in DC's stable, The Question delivered stories that had heart and made the reader think. Not to say that I don't enjoy the old school superhero hijinks but it is refreshing to read about a vigilante who doesn't have to figure out Riddler's puzzles or foil Luthor's latest nefarious plan to take over the world.

It is a pity that the Question comic only lasted about four years. Perhaps the lack of muscle bound toughs in gaudy costumes turned away most of the potential readers. Thanks to the rejuvenation of comic collecting especially in the form of collected editions, underrated series like The Question can now be enjoyed once again by those same readers who ignored it twenty years ago.