Saturday, June 30, 2007

My Hands-Down Favorite Moment in Sinestro Corps

As I'm sure you've heard or experienced firsthand already, there's quite a lot going in Sinestro Corps #1.

Quite a lot.

But I wanted to share with you my favorite moment. If you have your copy handy, please finger through to the section where Kyle, John, Guy, and Stewart are having lunch together at Cafe Oa. It's when Kyle is being vulnerable, sharing an intimate childhood memory with his friends about his recently deceased mother.

It's touching, with Kyle being so uncharacteristically serious and thoughtful and his friends quietly listening to him.

I just ... just can't help but imagine what's going through Hal Jordan's mind as Kyle tells him this story....

"GOD, my hands are beautiful!

Now these are what I could stare at for hours!
It's a pity no one can see my manicure through these gloves, though. Maybe I should switch to some fingerless ones? "

Friday, June 29, 2007

In Which I Speak the Name of Fear Itself

It is the name that fanboys dare not speak, and in a collective conspiracy of silence, we say it never. Perhaps it is for fear that to speak The Name is to invoke its evil, and that like the Devil or the Candyman, its mere mention would bring The Evil Itself upon us again.

We laugh blithely about the Joker, the Spectre, the Scarecrow, Neron, and Eclipso. We speak their names casually and constantly, as if these avatars of terror were old friends. For we do not fear their return. We welcome them with open arms, and, having learned of their advent, rush to share the good news with our friends.

But we do not speak the name of that which we truly fear. Which we meta-fear. The name of...

Aunt Harriet

Thanks to the new Batman Showcase edition, we get to remember that Bruce and Dick used to have an aunt living with them (does it really matter whose aunt she was?) who kept trying to uncover their secret identity.

I just love the panels above! I enjoy picturing Madge Blake toiling away in the hot sun, blacktopping an entire road by hand, by herself, in an afternoon.

"Goodness gracious! Blacktopping is such thirsty work! But I don't mind doing it, if it will help trap my beloved relatives in my web of manipulation and deceipt. Why, it's the least a citizen can do!"

I like to picture her eventually dying that way, laying some byzantine trap for her young charges, keeling over face-first from heat prostration into the still steaming pitch, which sears the flesh from her skull, and her attempts to scream as she loses consciousness are stifled by the black morass oozing down her throat. Then her corpse goes on to host some forgotten DC horror comic (Garden Shed of Mystery!), to be remembered only when aging hefty drag queens dress as her for Halloween ("What do you mean, who am I? I'm Harriet the Harridan, you nit! From Garden Shed of Mystery. Oh, for pete's sake... AUNT HARRIET!")

Or sometimes I just picture her snooping around until she tumbles down an open elevator shaft, clawing at the sides and the cable vainly, as her fingers are snapped and shredded, only to land with a wet thud on the roof of the Batcave service elevator, her broken bones piercing internal organs that will cause her to slowly hemorrhage to death over several excruciating hours of sharp pain, while a ridiculous flowered hat floats down to land squarely on her shocked face, so that her own death smells to her like VO5 and Dippity Doo. It's times like that I really wish I could draw.
Sometimes, I picture her succumbing to fates even more gruesome than those, like being slowly consumed by some hideous freak of nature...

So, if you're not afraid to speak The Name, how do you picture

Aunt Harriet


P.S. Oh, and in case you're wondering how Aunt Harriet began to suspect that Bruce and Dick were Batman and Robin...

she discovered the Batcave under Wayne Manor.

THEN she decided to prove they were Batman and Robin. Everything Morrison's ever done pales beside the craziness of that kind of Silver Age thinking.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • Watching the Sportsmaster spank the JSA.
  • Okay, if those are Yankees fans, that is definitely another universe.
  • Batman at the Korean War Memorial.
  • For you kids out there. Just so you know.
  • Traci Thirteen versus Eclipso and some of sweetest smack talk on record.
  • The splash panel of Lesbian Heaven. Who knew it had owls?
  • Jean Loring threatening to remove the hearts of innocent little babies. Probably with her teeth.
  • Gosh, Forerunner's hair grows fast!
  • Stygian Bees.
  • Even Billy has trouble remembering that Captain Marvel's name isn't "Shazam".
  • Wait; did Superman just Charge to hit her with a dumpster? That's 5 clicks plus 2 for the dumpster, and I think she may have taken knockback damage. I'm becoming increasingly convinced that they play Heroclix at DC HQ... a lot.
  • The Monster Within Blue Beetle.
  • The Reverse Flash versus the real Justice Leaguers, while the B Team stands around with their mouths open.
  • Miss Martian versus Supergirl.
  • Batman's Battle Laptop.
  • Jimmy Olsen: blurring the line between bravery and outrageous stupidity for 60 years!
  • The fact that everything I thought was going to happen at the end of Countdown happens by about, oh, halfway through Sinestro Corps. THEN it gets really serious.
  • I cannot wait until Jaime Reyes meets his new girlfriend's father.
  • Why Mrs. Rayner never got better.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The 31st Century still observes Haikuesday

Well, it's not exactly "flowing", but Brainy's never really been the artistic type...

"All I really care
about is that we got who
we wanted." The End.

Perhaps you have your haiku on this panel or the Lightning Saga or the like?

NEW Big Monkey Podcast Availlable!

Please listen to us discuss:

The Legion of Super Heroes!

Something called, I believe, "the X-Men"!

And the Glory That is Heroclix!

P.S. You really do NOT want to miss Devon as the Voice of Orion. Really.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Worst Comic Book Ever ...?

Usually, I try to focus on the positive here (I mean, as much as necessary snark allows). Nor do I usually rely heavily on the commentary of my fellow bloggers. But today I veer from that goal to examine a particular question:
Is it possible that JLA #10 is the worst superhero comic book ever?

Now, I realize that's not the claim that Greg Burgas is making. But one could make the case that it should be made.

First, let me clarify: by "worst", I do not mean on an absolute scale. Clearly, there are worse comics. I mean, after all, I own a complete run of the Detroit League. I've read Sword of Atlantis. I've read the Teen Titans Showcase Edition. Heck, I owned Dell's Super Heroes #1 (which really is the worst superhero comic book ever on an absolute scale); 40 years later, many of its readers still run shrieking from even a mention of the word "superhero", and some are still institutionalized and hoping that tonight is Pudding Night.

But we often temper our estimation of how "bad" something is by our expectations. You expect a cheap film made quickly with a hand-held camera and improvisational acting to be bad, which is why Blair Witch Project is "brilliant"; you expect a well-funded release from master of semiotic cinematography Peter Greenaway to be good, which is why The Pillow Book is nothing short of excruciating.

JLA #10 (and the "Lightning Saga" it culminates) comes with unavoidably high expectations. It's the JLA, for one thing. Plus, some new recruits the author has almost desperately been trying to sell us on as "JLA-level" and "part of the in-crowd". Add in the entire fricking JSA, a good chunk of the Legion of Super-Heroes, the (possible) return of the Wally West and Barry Allen, and tie it all up with a redux of the original "Revolving Door of Death" and its Ultimate Sacrifice. Oh, with special guest villains the Ultra-Humanite, Despero, and Per Degaton. And have it written by a best-selling author, one with deep love and knowledge of the characters involved, the same man who wrote the miniseries that sparked Infinite Crisis.

Really. If you're going to presume to do that, it had better be good. Perhaps even darned good. And, yet, as Greg Burgas correctly details ... it wasn't. Some have belittled his criticism of the issue, damning it as a reflection of his lack of familiarity with the beginning of the story and the characters in it, rather than any intrinsic deficiency in the storytelling.

I couldn't disagree with them more. Unlike Greg, I was familiar with every single reference, every single name, every single character backstory, not only from reading the beginning of the story, but from the reading the 50 years worth of comic book history it's based on. Yet I agree with his assessment wholeheartedly. As a commenter mentions, that background knowledge doesn't make the comic less confusing, just confusing for different reasons (such as internal contradictions, misplaced focus, mischaracterizations, defiance of continuity, etc.).

Confusing art. Did Zatanna magically elfinize Power
Girl's face, and did Wally spend his time off posing for Tom of Finland?

Confusing "dialog boxes". Not even I am gay enough to think that dialog boxes
should match someone's outfit [Blockade Boy: please weigh in on this].
Whose idea was this and do they still have a closet full of

Confusing dialog. I mean in the word b-- . I
guess we know what they're going-- . I mean, we don't really
care whether they fin--. Oh, apparently, Brad decided to use
again for the JLA and go it one better with ridiculous "stereophonic speech",
like Batman and Green Lantern use in this issue.

Confusing "moments". You "ducked"? Really, what the heck is that supposed to mean? Actually, I saw the lightning hit you, Karate Kid (through the force field, which you were supposed to have dropped). Is that just meaningful or just another one of those "cool moments" Brad seems to write everything around? I spent a year pondering what would assuredly be the ingenious, writer-ly ending of
only to be blindsided by an absurdist conclusion so crazy that Jean
Loring herself wouldn't have dared write it and so scientifically preposterous
(even by the internal standards of comic book science) that even Gardner Fox
would have laughed at it. There are no satisfactory conclusions in any of Meltzer's writing, just red herrings and "gotchas".

Confusing characterization. No, I'm not bothered by the fact that the Legion keeps from Superman -- oh, excuse me... "Clark" (you know, I've read just about every Legion story ever written and I can't remember any one of them ever calling him "Clark") -- their purpose in being there. I mean, I love the Legionnaires, but they're secrective, deceptive jerks, and always have been. Did you know they used to mindwipe Superboy everytime he went back to his time, without his permission? Yeah, well, he didn't know that either....

But why the JLA and JSA treat the LSH as a threat and why Superman doesn't
know that when they don't share information is because they are trying to
protect the future is utterly beyond my understanding of the characters.
Honestly, with all the first names, personal focus, heroes versus heroes rather
than villains, and Bendisian dialog, it's like I'm reading
"What If...
Marvel Owned the JLA, the JSA, and the LSH?"
It's pretty clear that what
you have here is a writer whose Child Within loves the DC characters, but whose Adolescent Within desperately needs to re-make them as hip, edgy, personalized Marvel characters. Comic book characters are like husbands; maybe you can improve the way they dress, but don't wed yourself to them if you're planning on changing them into a different person.

Confusing plot. Yeah, I think I'll leave this one to the Peanut Gallery.

Yet, there are some people who liked it. Well, historically speaking most JLA stories are, in fact, awful, no matter how fondly we remember them. If you're reading Countdown, I hope you are having as much fun as I am watching the Monitors try to lend dignity to the horrible old multiversal crossovers they are recalling; good luck with that when you're voicing over an image of Superman fighting Cary Bates. Oh, how I wish you we could retcon Superboy Prime into that battle, because the Rolling Head of Cary Bates would be my favorite comic book character of all time.

Anyway, you know what I think; what do you think?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Jean Loring Attacks!

Jean Loring & Co. (10 figures at 400 points)

ID Name Points
leF004 Feat Fortitude25
cdF003 Feat Ambush5
cdF006 Feat Running Start5
leB001Token Iris West-Allen
leB006Token Carol Ferris
icF004 Feat Sidekick (to Eclipso)
cd079Mary Marvel
cd064Dr. Light


Sword of Ray Palmer (12 figures at 399 points)

ID Name Points
o048The Atom
oF010 Feat Thwart15
oF003 Feat Dissent18
o046The All-New Atom
icF004 Feat Sidekick (to the Atom)
leF001 Feat Armor Piercing10
leF002 Feat Damage Shield10
gi004Rita Farr
cdF006 Feat Running Start5
cdF004 Feat The Society

Friday, June 22, 2007

Sword of the Atom: 4!!!!

Yeesh, I don't know about you, but after that chunk of synoptic exposition I need a drink. More happens in that box than in a year's subscription to Brian Michael Bendis's Secret War. Of course, in all fairness, that's only five issues.

Rimshot! I told you I'd be here all week, folks.

In issue 4 of Sword of the Atom, the Rebels attack the Teeny Tiny City and succeed only because the evil Skeeve Minister has already primed the palace guards for his own revolt. That's at least a refreshing change from the usual sword epic plot of Hearty Heroes Take the Palace by Killing People Three At A Time While Still Chatting With One Another. Meanwhile, King Moron the Apathetic has finally figured out that the Skeeve Minister is plotting to overthrow him and prepares to announce the treachery to the world.

So, naturally, the rebellion succeeds but the people reconcile with their misunderstood king, the plotter is imprisoned, and the Atom marries the king's daughter and sitteth at his right hand, yes?

No. Guess again.

The King, being an idiot, confronts the Skeeve Minister, who, naturally enough, just stabs the king in the back. Princess Metal-bra shows up just in time to watch Pops bleed to death. Ah, he had it coming; he never even bought her a chair to sit in, for pity's sake.

Dude; why do you let your daughter sit in the I'm The King's Slave-Whore spot? Ick-y.

Then while the Atom and his men are leaping around ridiculously on their saddled frogs, the Skeeve Minister decides to
This is pretty clever plotting, actually. It's already been established that the Wee Folk came to earth on a Teeny Tiny starship, who's power source hasn't been used in forever because they forgot the science behind it many many generations ago. And the power source? Wait for it...

The white dwarf star fragment that Ray was searching for when he fell out of his plane.

Now that, gang, is comic books. And it gets better. After eons of non-maintenance, the dang star drive has a busted framostat and leaks 'white dwarf star radiation' like a sieve. So the badly irradiated, addled, and probably dying Skeeve Minister staggers out into the city brandishing a Toxic Touch of Death (tm), like Prof. Radium. Or Plasmus. Or Clayface. Or Dr. Phosphorus. Or Mano. Or the Red Death. Or Mr. Bones. Or Syonide. Or Shego. Or... well, you get the idea.

"For stealing from Rita Farr's closet I condemn thee to death!"

This leads us to the best (non-Jean Loring) scene of the series, but before we get to it, we'll take a small detour to an earlier scene where the Rebels discover a traitor in their midst who's in cahoots with the Skeeve Minister. So they kindly offer him the Poison Arrow of Self-Hand-Impalement:

Do you think Green Arrow's got one of those, too?

Gee, I don't suppose they could have put that poison in a pill or something.

I'd say this scene scores about a two on the Rolling Head of Pantha Scale; maybe a three, since the arrow comes out the back of his hand and is a fatal wound.

So what happens to the Badly Irradiated Skeeve Minister with the Toxic Touch of Death is at least a three, maybe a four:

Do NOT borrow Roy Harper's Mr. Bubble without asking first.

This scene from 25 years ago is brought to you by the innocent comics of your youth, which, as you keep telling me, would never show graphic violence like the evil comics of today.

With the malfunctioning star drive threatening the city, it helps to have a world-expert in exotic physics on hand to run into the machine and say "This sucker's going to blow!"

Gil Kane! You naughty, naughty man!

But what happens when you put six-inch Ray Palmer with white dwarf star radiation? Six-foot Ray Palmer, of course. The Atom starts to grow back to his normal height, and since the Jungleputians are too stupid even to flee for their lives from the disintegrating star drive, 'giant' Ray begins to kick the city to pieces like an unwanted sand castle in order to drive them away a safe distance, then staggers off just before the big ka-blooey, and collapses by the Amazon river, conked out by the radiation exposure, only to be picked up by some passing boaters who take him to an urban hospital.

Yawn! Let's check in on the real action: Jean Loring.

"Who DARES disturb the Loring? I'll have their guts for garters!"

One of the things that makes Jean Loring's evil so impressive is that she does more of it without even getting out of bed than you or I do in a lifetime.

Jean Loring from Sword of the Atom 1:

Jean Loring from Sword of the Atom 2:

Jean Loring from Sword of the Atom 3:

Jean Loring in Sword of the Atom 4:

Naturally, Ray is impressed by Jean's tenacity.

And overjoyed to be reunited with his beloved wife and return to the comfort of her arms.

I mean, who wouldn't be?

And this, believe it or not, is the end of Sword of the Atom:

Look out, Ray! That purse might contain a miniaturized flamethrower!

So, do you think Jean ...
(a) actually packed that hat and those gloves for a trip to South America's most inaccessible tropicopolis (which = insane)

(b) decided, hey, as long as I'm in town, I think I'll go hat shopping instead of looking for my missing husband (which = evil)?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sword of the Atom: 3!!!

Meanwhile, back in the states...

As the dust settles on Ray's teeny tiny headstone, Jean Loring moves on with her life heartlessly with "characteristic efficiency".

See? I told you.

While selling all Ray's old clothes on E-Bay, Jean's been shacking up with Paul Her Law Partner (the guy Ray caught her sucking face with in Issue 1, you'll recall). But suddenly, Jean, being insane, realizes that Ray isn't dead. Why? Because it would be annoying and inconvenient...

Interesting that none of this occurred to her, say, before the funeral, when the entire Justice League might have tried to find him. Or locked her away in Arkham.

You see, it's not like Ray's in trouble. Or hurt. Or held prisoner or trapped in the jungle or being attacked by reptiles. It's because he's messing with her.

It's all about you, isn't it, Jean?

Why did this occur to her at this point? Is Paul, perhaps ... not measuring up?

"You are, if you know what's good for you, bucko. Because I, Jean Loring, demand to be pleasured again. Now. So take one of those 'little helper pills' I've learned you take..."

"By rifling through your overnight bag, of course.
Enough back talk; snap to it, mister, or I get out the flamethrower!"

Meanwhile, back in the jungle...

Oh, um, let's see. The Rebels prepare to attack the city. Not wanting to be a burden, Taren takes a face dive into a swarm of army ants.

Remember, kids: stupidity = nobility.

Naturally, Princess Metal-Bra throws herself at Ray before the ants have even finished picking Taren's bones clean. I tell you, the people in Sword of the Atom don't waste a lot of time mourning or healing.

Meanwhile, back in the states...

Okay, it's not really the states. Having hopped on a plane, Jean's harshing the mellow at a hotel bar in Manaus, Brazil, while nursing a stiff drink.

See? I told you.

So, naturally, a fox like Jean gets hit on by the local booze hound (you know, the one who's in every other episode of Bewitched)

Mr. Pig-With-A-Wooden-Leg gets both less (action) and more (terror) than he bargained for as he discovers (A) Jean is insane (B) she thinks her husband decided not to be dead simply to make her life miserable.

Even Death Itself backs off from Jean Loring. Do you blame it?

So Jean decides to find Ray,who could, in fact, be nestled somewhere in the molecules of the very bar she's sitting at.

Top Ten People You'd Rather Have Chasing You Than Jean Loring.
Mr. Zsazs

The Martian Manhunter



Big Barda

The Joker



The Spectre

The Black Racer

"Fortunately, I remembered to pack my flamethrower.
Just in case."

So, this guy who just called Jean Loring crazy ... to her face. Think Eclipso ever got around to paying him a visit?

"Uh ...d-de certo, Senhora. Now, p-please... not to reach for thee thrower of flame!"

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sword of the Atom: 2!!

The main problem with Sword of the Atom 2? Not enough Jean Loring.

As you'll remember, in yesterday's episode, we left the Atom (Ray Palmer) and his new friend, Taren the Rebel Leader, face to face with a vicious horde of killer mice. So this issue should start with them teaming up against impossible odds and taking out the ravenous rodents one by one.

Oh, no such luck, fans of mouse carnage! The skeevy prime minister (who's actually behind a plot to make the people hate the king so he can lead a revolution and become the new king) drops a gas bomb in the dungeon that knocks out the mice. It's a little known anthropological fact that civilizations that fight with swords often develop murinosomniferic chemical agents before, say, indoor plumbing.

What's with the Mickey mickey? The Skeeve Minister says he "saving the prisoners to become gladiators in the arena". Just when you're about to ding him for lack of originality, we cut to "weeks later" when Taren and Ray (who've been separated) are dumped into the arena together and discover that...

Taren's eyes have been put out!Sword of Alice Cooper!

Zing! And the crowd goes wild at "the King's cruelty", storming the arena and the Royal Box. Points to the Prime Skeevister for creative use of political torture. Princess Metal-bra wisely beats feet, helping Ray and Taren escape on stolen frogs to join up with the Diminutive Rebel Band. Turns out she always had the hots for Taren.

Naturally, now that Taren's a helpless gimp, she turns her attention to Ray, whenever they're out of Taren's sight. Unfortunately, that's all the time now. Rimshot! I'll be here all week, folks.

On the side, Ray starts the Path of Bonding routine with Taren's second in command, Voss. You know the drill, it's in every movie or book about warriors, gladiators, or high school cheerleaders. Resentful Tough Guy Suspects Newcomer, until the Confrontation Where Newcomer Kicks Tough Guy's Butt, which leads to Grudging But Growing Respect, followed by Watching Each Other's Backs In Battle, culminating in Steadfast Devotion of the Tough Guy to the Newcomer as Leader. Yawn.

Meanwhile, no sooner has Ray's teeny tiny coffin been buried and the relatives and mourners left the house, when Jean puts on her nightie, slips into bed, and CALLS HER SUCKY-FACED LAW PARTNER PAUL TO COME OVER.

I call thee strumpet, Goody Loring. I call thee harlot.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Sword of the Atom: 1!

Okay, Sword of the Atom starts as all good Atom stories should: with Jean Loring being evil.

The Case Against Jean Loring: Exhibit A

Jean is shocked when Ray discovers her sucking face with her law partner in the front seat of her car. She really shouldn't be; she was parked in the driveway outside their house.

Ray, suddenly realizes he's married to a lawyer. One who blames him for her own actions.

The Case Against Jean Loring: Exhibit B

Jean, equally naive, suddenly complains about her husband being a scientist and superhero, even though that's exactly what he was when she married him.

The Case Against Jean Loring: Exhibit C

Doesn't want to live in a comic book? Insane. Only possible diagnosis.

Oh, anyway, then Ray, to get some needed time away, charters a flight above the Amazon to search for a white dwarf star fragment, but then the pilots get worried that Ray has instead detected their secret cocaine fields, knock him out, steal his wedding ring, and push him out the plane, which then crashes due to Plot Necessity, but Ray shrinks, and lands safely in the jungle, where he's saved from a snake attack by a band of six inch extraterrestrial tribesmen whose culture devolved from an alien penal colony abandoned in the jungle eons ago, but the whole bands gets captured by the head of their tiny home city who's mad at them because they're rebels and consequently throws the rebel leader and Ray to the mice.

The Sword of the Absorbascon versus the Rats of Trade-writing

Take that, verminous modern writers of decompression!
Like the Atom, I stab at ye, who nibble away at stories with teeny tiny little bites!

Meanwhile, back in Ivytown, the authorities, having found in the plane wreckage a burned up body with Ray's wedding ring, contact Jean:

Jean Loring:
It's just her nineteenth nervous breakdown!
Good lord, that looks almost as painful as someone stepping on your brain with tiny little boots! It's as if a fully grown and armored Kryptonian ice cream sundae were emerging from her head.