Sunday, July 31, 2011

No West, Young Man!

As mentioned in my previous post, I'm celebrating the marriage of my wingman, CobraMisfit, by discussing here some marriage-related fixes that DC's Universal Reboot is effecting. Last time, I took on the one people are paying attention to: the retconning away of Superman's marriage to Lois Lane. Today, we look at a more surprising, but even more welcome, turn of events:

returning Barry Allen to bachelorhood.

I'm sure it's puzzled a lot of younger readers, many of whom know Barry Allen mostly as Wally West's uncle by marriage. For them, Barry's pretty much always been defined by his marriage to Iris. In writing about Barry in the post-Crisis era, nostalgic authors have worn rose-colored glasses made of pure retcon. Not only has Barry been portrayed as "a saint" but he and his wife have been portrayed as "soulmates".

Which is, of course, patently ridiculous.

Later in this issue, self-absorbed Iris causes a major highway pile-up, demeans Barry, dresses up as Batgirl, and gets murdered. They don't write 'em like that any more, folks.

As I've reminded modern readers again and again and again and again, Iris West was a mean, unpleasant person, who berated and belittled Barry Allen virtually every time she appeared.

If you saw this couple in a department store,
"what a delightful couple" would not be your first thought.

Barry, in turn, took secret glee in outwitting Iris by playing innocent. So deceptive was Barry that never told her he was the Flash, even when they got married-- she figured it out herself only because Barry talked about it in his sleep. Then she kept the fact that she'd discovered it secret. Because the foundation of a solid marriage is mutual deception and lack of respect, apparently.

Charming woman. This is same night she died. Pity!

Now, I don't mind retcons; without them, DC's upcoming Universal Reboot wouldn't be possible. But I like my retcons "pure". I'm okay with "Event X never happened"; in the long-term, continuity almost requires the ability to decide in certain circumstances that something specific in an older story be redacted. The example that always comes to my mind is the original reason why Harvey Dent couldn't receive plastic surgery right after his accident: the only surgeon capable of performing the necessary procedures was trapped behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied Europe. Changes in science and society often require 'tweaking' such aspects of older storylines.

In addition, there are times when, as the old Classical saying goes, "even Homer nods". Writers do err. When they get a name or someone's backstory wrong, a no-fuss retconning away of their error through consensus of reader and publisher does no harm and much good.

But it is not appropriate to "oops" away the entire history of a character's personality. Countries come and go, science is a moving target, and mores evolve. But Clark is always mild-mannered, Lois is a bit too adventurous for her own good, Alfred is faithful, and guns really aren't Batman's style. If characters are written too far distant from their defining characteristics, then you're actually using a different character entirely. Even Geoff Johns, who clearly likes Hal Jordan a lot, doesn't try to portray him as a rocket scientist. Sure, he may not show him whacking his head on every STOP sign he flies by, but it's still clear enough that Hal's not among the more intellectual leaders of the Justice League.

In the context of our current subject, my point becomes: Iris West was always a ball-busting shrew. In fact, she had virtually no other notes in her personality. Writing Iris West as some sort of wonderfully supportive working-wife exemplar is not a simple retcon, it's character assassination.

Oh, Barry. You're so vain, I bet you think this post is about you.

So, too, Barry Allen. What kids today probably don't know is that both Barry and Iris had other romantic connections crop up during their eons of dating and that less than a year after Iris died, Barry was major-league macking on his neighbor.

Apparently, Barry's new life-style involves removing
all furniture and breakables before having a date.
Not that I'm judging, mind you.

Well, either she walked out of a dream or a drag show.
Not that I'm judging, mind you.

Fiona and Barry. Now there is a perfect couple: he's fast, she's loose.
Is there anything LESS discreet than making out in a fricking hall of mirrors?
And, yeah, I am totally judging them.

That's a year of OUR time by the way. In comic book time that would probably be about, oh, a week, give or take an issue. Before you can say "Barry's yer uncle", this woman (Fiona Webb) was headed down the aisle for Barry as the next victim for the Reverse Flash (who never had an original idea is his life, by the way). It was for HER that Barry killed the Reverse Flash, not Iris.

Given all that, I'm pleasantly surprised that DC is ratcheting back to a point where Barry's still single and Iris is just an option. Frankly, I'm not interested in seeing another unrealistically idealized perfect power couple in Flash. Mercury knows, we suffered through decades of treacly pap about Linda "The Anchor" Park during the Wally West era.

However, I'd love to see a couple of decades of Barry "the Player" Allen versus Iris "Meanest Woman Alive" West. Now there's potential for some sparks! And for once their relationship -- the guy too fast to pin down and the woman who can cut him down to size -- would finally make some sort of sense.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Marriage: Lois & Clark

This week I'm a groomsman in the wedding of my wingman, CobraMisfit. Tuxedo fittings, rehearsal dinner with Seal Team Awesome (the groomsmen), and secret "don't-tell-the-groom" arrangements; the works. Heck, I may even have to practice the Electric Slide.

This has me in a matrimonial frame of mind and moves me to comment on the subject of marriage...

in the DCU.

Most people have been focused on the de-marriage-ification of Lois & Clark. My general impression is that no one is too broken up about it.

People were UPSET when Peter and MJ's marriage was retconned away. But that marriage had years of build up and actually changed the nature of the character's lives... a lot. Peter went from being a whiny nebbish with a puerile sense of humor to a whiny nebbish with a puerile sense of humor and a hot red-headed supermodel/actress wife.

Neither of those can be said of Lois & Clark's marriage. Now, the Lois and
Superman relationship was a long-running one. But Lois & Clark pretty much stopped relating to each other as potential romantic partners after the Golden Age ended. During the Silver and Bronze Ages, she was firmly fixated on Superman himself: deducing his secret identity, tricking him into marrying her, feeding photos of him to her ostrich. That sort of thing.

But Clark was a mere supporting character in the "Lois vs. Superman" battle. He was only relevant due to the occasional possibility that he might be Superman's secret identity.

This could have changed in the Happening 1970s, when Lois Lane kind of got fed up with mooning over Superman and decided to move on with her life. Copying Julie Jively's wardrobe'll do that to you. Certainly changed
MY life.

Anyway, that would have been the perfect time for Lois to abandon her sexist ways, and start dating Clark... precisely
because he wasn't a macho he-man.
What a marvelous feminist statement that would have been! I don't think that ever happened (I'm sure someone will correct me if it did), but even if it did, it didn't last long enough to get picked up on the social radar.

As every knows, when Lois & Clark wound up getting married in the Iron Age, it was a slapdash affair, rushed to synergize with the
Lois & Clark television show wedding.

It could have--should have-- been the triumphant culmination of a half-century long battle of the sexes, a love-conquers-all story of epic proportions.

In fact, it was horrible anti-climactic. I remember when someone first told me Lois and Clark were getting married. I said,
"Married?! I didn't even know they were DATING!"

And it was true. Despite having had over fifty years to prepare for it, the Lois and Clark marriage seemed nonsensical and baseless. We had almost no idea what Lois saw in Clark, what made her give up on Superman, how their dating relationship began, or how it blossomed into an engagement. Heck, it seemed for all the world like a shotgun wedding of the worst type: one where other media were holding the gun to the comic book's head.

Although tortuously unfolded, Lois & Clark's relationship on television was well developed and its culmination in a wedding seem natural. In contrast, Lois & Clark's relationship in the comics was not a
shown series of events, but a told one (and told sketchily and in retrospect, too). It was hard to believe that Lois & Clark actually belonged together (quite an accomplishment for comic book's most venerable couple), and when Clark failed to reveal to Lois the fact that he was an alien from another planet until after they were married... well, let's just say that seldom has Superman seemed like a bigger d***.

DC hasn't gotten a lot of traction out Lois & Clark being married. Neither one seems to have changed or grown because of it. Heck, their lives, other than their moving in together, don't seemed to have changed at all. In fact, the only interesting plotline I can remember where their being husband and wife really mattered was...
the arrival of Krypto. Lois's inability and unwillingness to handle living with a superdog was an amusing throwback to the old "imaginary stories" where she would struggle to deal with having semi-super offspring (those stories made you realize just how cool the Kents actually were, I might add).

So, what do we lose by losing the Lois/Clark marriage? Not a lot that I can see. In fact, we gain much, specifically
the humanization of Superman. Married Superman with a hot spunky wife? Just another example of Superman's super-ability to "have it all". Bachelor Superman with a Fortress of Solitude? That's a Superman who's humanized by the very fact that his superior, alien nature sets him apart from everyone else.

Next time: Barry Allen, single man. Oh, this'll be good...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Opinioning Your Solicits

DC's October solicits are out, and I'm moved to express my opinions on this brave new world that DC is offering us.

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
You’ll find out when Batman and Superman throw down. Batman will need all his intellect, cunning and physical prowess to take on The Man of Steel.

Frown. Really? They start off fighting? Is this Stan Lee Imagines the First Meeting of Batman and Superman....?

The United Nations’ new international team of heroes must learn to work together – and fast – if they’re going to discover the mystery behind the giant alien Signalmen who are appearing all over the globe. Can Booster Gold lead his team to victory, or will they fall?

I see the words "Booster Gold lead his team", and I approve.

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
An entire town...devoured! As Aquaman and Mera discover the grisly truth behind a town’s disappearance, the Trench infestation spreads inland! Plus: Another gruesome Trench power revealed – and it’s not for the squeamish!

I've always thought of Aquaman as more of an underwater Weird Western book, than a traditional superhero yarn, so this works for me. This seems to get Aquaman's function: he protects the land from the seas, and the seas from the land.

Hera, Queen of the Gods, does not take her vengeance lightly – and if Wonder Woman is so foolish as to stand in the way of her whim, then Wonder Woman is her enemy. But it’s Hera’s daughter Diana should truly fear – the goddess of discord is coming to Paradise Island, and murder always follows in her wake!

Comics have seldom given Hera more to do than sit beside Zeus and smile supportively, occasionally shrugging and saying, "Well, my husband's like that some times!" Happy that someone has cottoned to the fact that Hera was the Big Bad in many of the ancient heroic myths. Using poor old Hades and that dullard Ares as villains seems pretty silly to anyone who knows them from their appearances in classical literature. But Hera? Now THAT is a foe.

The Fastest Man Alive learns he can make his brain function even faster than before – but as much as it helps him, it also comes with a steep price. Plus: The mystery behind Barry Allen’s friend Manuel Lago deepens as Barry investigates his kidnapping at the hands of Mob Rule!

Finding unique and varied applications of Flash's "only one" power is a classic part of the character's rich history. I already like this twice as much as yet another "No Really The Rogues Are Serious" story.

Written by J.T. KRUL
Losing control of his powers, unable to stop the sensory overload in his mind, Captain Atom wants nothing more than to find a quiet place to regroup. But how can he shut out the signals floating in the air – especially when they’re crying out for help?

Sounds like Captain Atom's got a little old-style Airwave action going on here. Works for me much better than his traditional ill-defined energy blasts and occasional time-skipping.

Three innocent high school kids are caught in the crosshairs of an international special forces team with orders to murder them in cold blood...until two of those teenagers summon the terrifying, living nuclear monstrosity known as the Fury of Firestorm! Do not miss this disturbing look into the future of super powers in the DC Universe!

I like 'terrifying living nuclear monstrosity' much more than "presto-chango Carnivale dancer". First of all it makes sense of the title "Fury of Firestorm"; Firestorm never seemed very furious to me, just mostly stupid. Like Aquaman, Firestorm might benefit greatly from an approach that takes its clues from other genres (like horror) rather than just superheroics.

An electrifying new villain joins the DCU! Meet Brainstorm, the man determined to bring Los Angeles to its knees – beginning with billionaire Michael Holt. But even if he can break this new enemy’s hold on an unsuspecting city, how can Mister Terrific defeat a foe even smarter than himself? Luckily, the last time he faced a problem he couldn’t solve, he perfected infinite fractal mechanics!

A re-imagined Brainstorm? Perfect choice for Mister Terrific.

Written by J.T. KRUL
Super Hero executions will now be televised! After taking down members of a “celebrity” gang – privileged, decadent teens who buy their powers and stage fights with unsuspecting victims – Green Arrow finds himself in the crosshairs of the entire team! It’s Ollie Queen vs. a dozen thrill killers while the world watches – live!

I can't tell you how excited I was when the first words I saw under the title "Green Arrow" were "super hero executions will now be televised". Sadly, I think his won't be among them. But this sounds like they are taking a smart tack for GA; putting him in old-style 70ish Batman-situations (the kind you don't want to put Batman in nowadays). Besides, they got rid of that ridiculous beard, so I'm it.

Written by TONY S. DANIEL
When the alien creature known as Morphicius starts draining the life force from Carter Hall, a.k.a. Hawkman, he learns that there’s more to his new victim than meets the eye. The mysterious properties of the Nth Metal protect Hawkman – but in the process, they are also making Morphicius powerful! With innocent lives in the balance, can Hawkman turn the table on his enemy, or are Morphicius newfound powers too powerful to stop?

Well, this sounds remarkably Silver Age. Which actually works for Hawkman, I think.

Ever since he died and became Deadman, Boston Brand has served the deity known as Rama Kushna, inhabiting bodies to complete missions that she dictates. But for the first time, Deadman may have a clue how to gain some control over his “life.” But the cost may be the souls of the bodies he inhabits!

Good to see Deadman's classic schtick returned to him, but with a twist.

The adventures of Garbage Man and Tanga from WEIRD WORLDS continue – and now, these offbeat heroes are joined by the Robotman, who has a disturbing knack for self-destruction!

Yes, that qualifies as off-beat.

In his weakest moment, Superman is taken down – but by whom? And if the world wasn’t ready for a man with super powers, they’re utterly unprepared for the rage of a Superman cornered! The cornerstone character of the new DCU continues his debut adventure!

Believe it or not, I'm actually interested to see what Grant Morrison will do with Superman when he writes him forward, rather than with a retrospective eye toward Super-history. Sure, I may hate what Morrison winds up doing, but for now I'm still kind of looking forward to it... .

The all-new adventures of Superman continue! Everyone can see the new villain who’s attacking Superman – except The Man of Steel! How can he stop a threat that none of his super-senses can detect? Meanwhile, a Daily Planet reporter starts digging up some dirt on Superman, including a secret that could ruin him forever!

This sounds like some Bronze Age style fun for the Man of Steel. Although with George Perez writing it, it may just be that Superman's super-senses are blocked by extensive narration boxes and expansive word balloons.

Project N.O.W.H.E.R.E. has put a lot of effort into creating their Superboy, and they intend to make sure he performs to their standards. And what better opportunity for him to demonstrate his raw power than to throw him into an alien prison riot? Good luck, Superboy... you’re going to need it!

It's a traditional Superboy-from-a-test-tube story. But I'm heartened to see that it's not Project Cadmus (with no mention of Guardian, the Newsboy Legion, or DNAliens). Jack Kirby requiescat in pace.

Get ready for a super-smackdown as Supergirl fights her cousin, The Man of Steel! What could cause these two to come to blows? Can the teenage Supergirl hold her own against the adult Superman? Well, let’s just say she’s got a trick or two up those fancy new sleeves of hers...

Again with the hero-on-hero smackdowns? Who put Stan Lee on retainer? Still, better this than a Supergirl who can barely stand up to The Gang.


In this exciting new miniseries from novelist Gregg Hurwitz (You’re Next) and rising star artist Szymon Kudranksi (Spawn), the painful and dark past of one of Batman’s most devious foes is examined. How did young Oswald Cobblepot go from being the apple of his mother’s eye to the leader of underworld gangs and adversary of The Caped Crusader?

I'm much less interested in the Penguin having a proper origin story (the Golden Age one didn't need one), than I am in the commitment to portraying the Penguin as a actual foe, rather than just a supporting character. I approve.

Bruce Wayne is back in the cowl, hunting a new and deadly killer in Gotham City – a killer with a vendetta against Bruce Wayne! But who is this mysterious killer in an owl skull mask? And is he the key to unlocking one of Gotham’s oldest and most terrifying secrets? Be there for
their first brutal encounter!

Is this my long-hoped for confrontation between Batman and Owlman?
One can only hope. I would love to see Owlman make the stuck-up stuffy Batman go-go ga-ga dancing the Batusi.

Written by JUDD WINICK
He is called Massacre, and he brings death. What does the soldier in service of Batman Incorporated do when he’s met his match? When he’s been brought so low and been wounded so badly? What does he do when lost Super Heroes begin turning up as victims? Batwing fights back!

"Massacre"? Sigh. Maybe they should just hire Judd to write '90s retro comics and leave it at that. At least whatever damage he does will be to Batwing and not Batman proper (and by 'he' I mean Judd, not Massacre). P.S. What's with the capitalization of Super Hero lately? I feel like it's a Saturday morning in 1974.

Written by TONY S. DANIEL
Batman sets his sights on the Gotham Ripper, who in turn has his sights on Batman. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne explores a budding romance with television journalist Charlotte Rivers, who’s visiting Gotham City to cover the gruesome slayings – while also trying to uncover Bruce’s own mystery. But time is running out as both Commissioner Gordon and Batman work to uncover the true identity of this new serial killer.

Hm. Pardon me if the originality of a "Ripper" and a Report Girlfriend After the Hero's Secret Identity do not exactly wow me.

Something sinister surges through Arkham Asylum, and Batman finds himself bombarded by his greatest foes in this second sensational issue from superstar creator David Finch!
Bigger, meaner, and more powerful than ever before, the inmates of Arkham Asylum run rampant as the entire Bat Family struggles to keep the walls from falling down, unleashing Gotham City’s worst criminals on the unsuspecting population. And you won’t believe the jaw-dropping final page! Just keep repeating, “It’s only a comic book. It’s only a comic book...”

Hm. Pardon me if the originality of a "Arkham is Worse Than Ever with a Mass Breakout Imminent" story does not exactly wow me. Really, DC; have you considered just crowd-sourcing for story ideas? You'd get better ones (or at least more original ones).

Written by PETER J. TOMASI
Batman’s fears about Robin’s tendency to dish out more pain than necessary are growing! And who is the man named NoBody, visiting Gotham City to say hello to his old friend Bruce Wayne and find out where he went wrong in his battle against crime.

Ah, I hear I was hoping they'd take the chance to make Damien a decent human being, rather that a pompous midget-like murderer. Pity.

Written by GAIL SIMONE
The nightmare-inducing brute known as Mirror is destroying the lives of Gotham City citizens seemingly at random, and an explosive confrontation between Batgirl and Mirror leads Babs to question wearing the cape and cowl at all!

Babs "Batgirl" Gordon versus a monstrous villain with a puzzling M.O.? Sign me up.

Horror! A terrifying new villain stalks the innocent children of Gotham City! Intrigue! A threatening government agency is hot on Batwoman’s trail. Romance! Kate Kane’s new relationship is heating up! Can Batwoman stop the new evil rising from the damp back alleys of Gotham’s barrios? And overcome the many challenges she faces as both Batwoman and Kate Kane?

Horror, intrigue, and romance? Sounds like they've gotten a good balanced planned for Batwoman's book. I'm not horrified; I'm somewhat intrigued; we'll see whether I fall for this iteration of Batwoman.

Written by PAUL LEVITZ
Look out! By the end of this hot new miniseries, the Huntress will have the largest price on her head in DC Universe history. What will the Huntress do that warrants such a death mark? And who puts it there? The jaw-dropping events will be revealed as the Huntress heads home to Italy and embarks on a mission that defines her life.

Love Levitz. Don't love the Huntress/mafia angle. It does make her unique; I can't say it's not a good take on the character. Just not my speed.

When a mysterious assassin targets Dick Grayson, Nightwing must work fast to uncover the killer’s plot before he strikes again. But as Haley’s Circus continues to perform in Gotham City, Dick finds himself torn between two lives: His old one as a circus performer and his new one as a Super Hero. And they may be more connected than he ever realized!

Not big on the whole "previously unknown connection" between a hero's two identities. That the street Hush and Conduit were born on, you know. And again with the Super Hero (tm); there's something up there. Did Marvel lose their part of that trademark and no DC owns it proper or something...?

Red Hood is already globe-trotting in an effort to find the ancient assassins behind the slaughter of those who taught him some of his darkest skills... and if Roy and Kori are going to be of any help, well, they’ll just have to tag along – whether Jason wants them to or not!

I'll say this, DC; If you're going to have characters I don't really care about, I actually do appreciate it when you clump them all in the same book, rather than allowing them to mess up books I want to read. So, in that sense... thanks for this.

An explosion in a secure Gotham City airport terminal hurls Black Canary and Starling headlong into a nightmare involving stolen pharmaceuticals, terrorists for hire and killers in stealth suits who can appear – and disappear – at will. When Canary calls in backup, Starling’s not so sure a vengeful samurai who talks to her dead husband in a sword is the best choice.

I am oddly psyched about Black Canary having what seems to be sidekick and having no connection to Green Arrow. It's like DC actually intends for her to stand on her own like the Golden age character she is! And points for making fun of how ridiculous Katana is.

Written by JUDD WINICK
She’s a thief who lives to steal just for the thrill of breaking the law. He’s The Dark Knight, obsessively driven to battle evil with every ounce of his strength. They should keep each other at arm’s length, but...they just can’t seem to help themselves! Don’t miss this issue – things are gonna get messy!

I'm just happy Catwoman's ersatz heroic persona has been abandoned. And for Catwoman, Judd's kind of wise-assery writing might just be fine.

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Renegade Green Lantern Sinestro sets a course for Korugar with one purpose: To free his homeworld from the scourge of... The Sinestro Corps?!

Written by PETER J. TOMASI
Guy Gardner and John Stewart lead a squadron of Green Lanterns to fight a mysterious force that is marching across the space sectors and devouring not only their natural resources but their entire populations. Worst of all, those responsible have a vendetta against the Green Lantern Corps!

Written by TONY BEDARD
By their rings betrayed! Who – or what – has the might to tear power rings from each of the seven Lantern Corps, murdering their former bearers in the process? And why have the rings all chosen Kyle Rayner as their new master? As members of each Corps target Kyle for death, we learn more about the shocking fate of Ganthet!

On a war-torn world where invading forces fight insurgent forces, the innocent always suffer the most. When a child screams with red-hot rage at the madness around her, she is answered by her weapon of retribution: Atrocitus.

More Lantern stuff. I know Lantern fans are all agog over the Dramatic Change in the Status Quo. But Lanterns fans are continually agog over the latest Dramatic Change in the Status Quo. I'm not really among them.

James Robinson returns to the world of his acclaimed STARMAN series with a new 12-issue series starring the antihero known as The Shade! An attack at the Starman museum kicks off a globe-hopping, centuries spanning quest that will irrevocably change The Shade’s life, and ultimately shed light on his true origin! Artist extraordinaire Cully Hamner (RED) kicks off the series, and upcoming issues will feature art by such luminaries as Darwyn Cooke, Javier Pulido, Jill Thompson, Frazer Irving and Gene Ha!

While Robinson certainly made the Shade a rich and interesting character, it seems to have cost us a good villain in the process. I'd been hoping for a more villainous Shade this time a year; perhaps we'll get it, but with Robinson writing that seems unlikely. Much more intriguing is the existence of a Starman Museum. How exactly does that reconcile with DC's stated goal of re-establishing Superman as not just the greatest hero but the first one as well? We shall see.

Madame Xanadu continues guiding the world’s darkest heroes in their struggle against evil. But will John Constantine, Zatanna, Shade the Changing Man and the others be able to join forces in time to defeat the dangerous Enchantress before she destroys the world as we know it?

Thumbs up for a "Magical Justice League", though these particular characters do not interest me much. But I've always loved Enchantress as a dangerously unbalanced threat to mankind.

Alec Holland thought he knew the history of the Swamp Thing – but he was wrong. The creature’s roots run deeper than he knows, and the Parliament of Trees intends to make him understand the responsibility he wants so desperately to avoid! With this issue, the mythology of the Swamp Thing branches out in ways you never saw coming – don’t miss it!

Swamp Thing stories got a little, well, fetid for me when they started being about nothing but Swamp Thing himself. I hope this story is just a necessary touch point for new readers, rather than the on-going direction of the series.

Written by JEFF LEMIRE
Maxine’s new abilities continue to terrify Ellen and Buddy Baker, and things take a turn for the worse as Buddy begins a startling transformation of his own that will lead him on a journey into the heart of The Red. Meanwhile, The Hunters Three arrive on Earth and set their sights on the Baker family. The Hunt is on as DC’s most surprising new series continues to take ANIMAL MAN in shocking new directions.

Color shift my Swamp Thing comment from green to red and it covers this.

Written by JEFF LEMIRE
It’s all-out war as Frankenstein and his new field team, The Creature Commandos, uncover an age-old conspiracy at the heart of Bone Lake – one that will see them suit up as the world’s first “Necronauts,” traveling between worlds and through “dead space,” toward the mysterious Monster Planet. Meanwhile, the horrifying origins of the Commandos are revealed – and the S.O.M.B.I.E. makes its first appearance!

More DC genre mash-up: Weird War meets Mystery in Space. And what's with all the acronymic spy-agency stuff? I give 'em this; DC's not playing it safe.

Mitch Shelley’s past remains a mystery. So when he goes looking for answers, will he find them? Not likely, when he has to contend with the bounty hunter femme fatales known as The Body Doubles.

If I had made a list of all characters I might have imagined could possibly survive the Universal Reboot in order of decreasing likelihood, it would have included Vibe, the Penny Plunderer, Doiby Dickles, Celeste Rockfish, Actor John Ostrander, and Itty the Lasma far above the Body Doubles. The New DCU is nothing if not unpredictable.

True love becomes divine hatred between the Queen of Blood and Andrew, as her vampires begin their attacks across the country. Their past behind them, they find themselves ready to battle to the death... If those feelings really are all gone. Surrounded by swarms of bloodthirsty vamps, Andrew must confront his immortal beloved in a blood-soaked battle he can’t win.

Again, no fan of the current vampiremania, but I applaud DC for reminding us, "Yeah, we had vampires before you did."

The siege that will reverberate through history to the present-day DCU begins as the Demon Etrigan and his unlikely lover, Madame Xanadu, face the Horde! What five (mostly) noble souls would be crazy enough to join them? The cover gives but a hint, and the point could well be moot by the time this issue’s done. For the Horde is armed with the magic of Mordru – including some decidedly different dragons!

I myself don't like the Medieval sword/sorcery schtick, but I love that DC is diversifying its offering beyond the superheroic by using pre-existing characters.

The moon is alive! Following the events of SUPERMAN #1 where [TEXT REDACTED], the covert team of sci-fi Super Heroes known as Stormwatch must not only battle the Earth’s moon, but find a way to hide its monstrous metamorphosis from the rest of the Earth! How? Uh, they’re working on it. Meanwhile, the recruitment of Midnighter goes poorly, and we learn why the Martian Manhunter is a member of the team. Written by Paul Cornell (Doctor Who)!

Well, this sounds like wacky good fun, and I applaud the inclusion of Martian Manhunter is wackiness. Also, I suspect that "the recruitment of Midnighter goes poorly" is delicious understatement... .

Deathstroke’s tactical prowess is put to the test when the man who hired him attempts to renege on the contract. Pitted against a salvo of new assassins, including the vicious Road Rage, Slade must take his giant sword to the 405 freeway and proclaim himself the most vicious killer in the city of Angels!

If you can't say anything nice, they say... . So I'll just say that the one thing I've always loved about the Marvel Universe is that Deathstroke's not in it. Though I'd be much happier if he were.

The police are looking for him. Government operatives are hunting him down. And Cole Cash can hear the voices of an alien race in his head. Escaping New Orleans will require quick thinking and a violent streak straight out of Cole’s Special Operations background – and just like that, his life will be turned upside down, figuratively as well as literally.

Interesting choice of Wildstorm character to incorporate into the DCU. Smells like a new Kate Spencer Manhunter; a cult favorite with little larger impact.

Written by ADAM GLASS
80,000 ordinary people vs. the Squad! Well, they’re not really “people.” Not anymore. With an entire sports stadium on lockdown following the outbreak of an unknown virus, Deadshot, Harley Quinn and the rest of the Squad must sneak past a military perimeter and fight their way through the infected to retrieve... “it.” What is “it”...? Brace yourself for a stomach-churning reveal as the most brutal version of the Suicide Squad soldiers on! Plus: Bring a body bag – it’s the team’s first Squad fatality!

I'm no fan of the Suicide Squad, but that's a darned interesting set up!

Written by RON MARZ
Is she a hero? Is she a villain? Voodoo is on the run in the new DC Universe, trying to stay one step ahead of her pursuers, using all of her considerable skills to complete a mission that will put the entire Earth in danger. DC’s sexy, edgy new series goes into overdrive with one of the most unexpected opening scenes ever!

Having trouble being enthusiastic about this decade's Vixen.

O.M.A.C. #2
Brother Eye gives Kevin Kho the ground rules to their new “arrangement.” New players are introduced to the game as Sarge Steel and Checkmate begin their hunt for the One Machine Army Corp, but O.M.A.C.’s appearance may be short-lived when he faces the incredible threat of Rocker Bonn, the Amazing Man!

This ... will not go well.

In the split second after a heavy-weapons blast the air goes silent and still, just as it does in the ghostly realm of Circe. How will Rock and his team of men – battle-hardened, but still human – survive a villainess who can walk on the very wind?
Plus, Navy Seals Ice and Tracker go where no boots are on the ground, but when their mission is compromised, how will they tell friend from foe?

It's the return of Weird War! I love you DC, sign me up. Besides... a Navy Seals comic?! I love Navy Seals! Sign me up!

Written by MIKE COSTA
While the Blackhawks deal with a potential public exposure, Lady Blackhawk is keeping dangerous secrets of her own! And the first clues of a vast conspiracy throughout the DC Universe begin to take shape. The action ratchets up for DC’s newest team of high-tech military operatives.

Glad to see military/espionage comics getting a facelift, and using the Blackhawks to do so is smart; I'll be interested to see whether the team is still international. DC's smart not to put all its eggs in the superhero (oh, I'm sorry: "Super-Hero") basket, and I hope it works.

What happens when a psychologist and a sociopath have to work together to track down Gotham City’s first serial killer? They’ll soon find that crime in the big city runs deeper than its foundations, and it’s all mapped out in the mysterious Crime Bible – that is, if they don’t kill each other first.
Plus: No zombie is safe in the Wild West when Lazarus Lane summons the demon known as El Diablo!

First: Gray and Palmiotti can pretty much do no wrong. Second: this is Weird Western, folks, DC's insane chimera genre, that's the granddaddy of things like Cowboys versus Aliens. Eat it up!

A strange creature haunts the streets of Los Angeles... and because of this creature’s age, both Red Robin and N.O.W.H.E.R.E. are racing to find her – but neither side is prepared for the horror known as Bugg! Meanwhile, Superboy is on a collision course with the team, and Kid Flash plots his escape from N.O.W.H.E.R.E. with the most unexpected of allies!

"Bugg" = "uggh". I think there's been enough "horror" in Teen Titans, thank you very much. DC; you have a great model for the Teen Titans. It's called Teen Titans, and it's on TV; you should watch it some time.

Static finds himself the target of dark forces as Virule and the Slate Gang unleash their deadly trap! Will Static’s debut end before it has even started?

I loved Virule and the Slate Gang when they first came out, but their sophomore album was kind of a disappointment. Seriously, though, Static is a welcome additional to the DCU. He's got much less "baggage" than Black Lightning, so I'm trying to adapt to DC picking the electric boy over the electric man. You know who would be a perfect pal for Static? VIBE. Make it so, DC.

Written by TONY BEDARD
Jaime Reyes was trying to save his best friend when an alien weapon attached itself to his spine. Now, if he wants to live to see tomorrow, Jaime must defeat a team of Super-Villains who want the weapon for more nefarious purposes.

Hard to tell, since this is Yer Basic Story of Jaime. But I trust Tony Bedard. And now we're capitalizing Super-Villains, too, it seems.

Hawk and Dove continue their investigation of the enigmatic Alexander Quirk! Who is he? What does he want? A secret laboratory might hold the answers, but it might also spell the end for Hawk and Dove! To top things off, the monster watching our heroes from the shadows finally makes his move – and he’s got a terrifying new partner!

Enigmatic foes with secret labs? Stalker monster partners? Sounds fun. Certainly more fun than Hawk&Dove stories about, well... Hawk&Dove, which seem to be all their stories have been about for years now.

Written by PAUL LEVITZ
The architect of today’s Legion of Super-Heroes, Paul Levitz, delivers a science fiction odyssey on a scale you’ve never seen in a new, 6-issue miniseries!
The broad strokes of the Legion’s origin are well known, but you’ve never seen the secret machinations that went on behind the scenes! Why was the organization known as the United Planets formed? Who tried to kill R.J. Brande the first time? And what great power could leave entire planets desolate and lifeless? Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad may have founded the Legion, but the story starts here!

Clever, really. The LSH's origin has to be retold, of course.... but that's been done A LOT. Coming up with a 'secret origin' to what was always a slapdash happenstance is a good idea. As for "what great power could leave entire planets desolate and lifeless", I'm guessing it's something Paul Kupperberg wrote.

Written by PAUL LEVITZ
Taken hostage on a hostile world, the Espionage Squad is outmatched by a rebel leader that only one Legionnaire could possibly stand against – but Legion leader Mon-El may be outgunned as well! And just what does Brainiac 5 see in Glorith’s magic that could be a game changer for the Legion?

Heh, that drips off Levitz Legion goodness. Basically, if you don't like Levitz on the Legion, you don't like the Legion at all.

Trapped in time with two teammates already dead and unsure if they’re infected or can ever return home, the lost Legionnaires must confront the horrific reality about the pathogen released by the terrorist Alastor when they are forced to confront the very first Hypersapien!

Dead Legionnaires. Good to seem some traditions will continue!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Haikuesday with Actor John Ostrander

Now, I know I've been kind of harsh on poor Supergirl supporting character, actor-neighbor John Ostrander.

But that's mostly because every time he speaks it's so irksome that I feel like signing up for the Red Lanterns.

Yeah, I wish I could forget about you, too, Actor John Ostrander!

And he speaks SO DARNED MUCH.

Because he's an actor, you know.

He's a confluence of character cliches and verbal ticks that are all among the Sure Signs of Bad Comic Book Writing, including the Wacky Neighbor, the Comic Relief Victim, the Person Who Is His Profession, the Mouthpiece of False Street Talk, etc. The character Actor John Ostrander would be high on the list of anti-character witnesses in the
Trial of Paul Kupperberg for Crimes Against Prose and the Comic Book Reading Public. Although I'm sure Paul is a wonderful person. Who works for Archie, now, by the way. Not that there's anything wrong with being a minion of the red-headed devil who destroyed America's original patriotism-themed superhero, the Shield.

Anyway, fair play dictates that credit must be given where credit is due. Even when it's to an odious toad like actor-neighbor John Ostrander.

And you have to give credit to a supporting character who, even though his life is threatened, manages to use his fear-induced stutter as a means for sputtering out ...

a haiku.

A- act-u-al-ly,
I was hoping you'd forget.
N- no ... no such luck.

Didn't notice it the first time, did you?

What haiku can YOU compose to damn or praise John Ostrander or Paul Kupperburg?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Supergirl: the Gang Returns!

When last we left Supergirl she was fighting ...

And lest you forget who they are, the Absorbascon is proud to present:


You know, if this weren't really poorly drawn, really badly written, and eight times longer than necessary, this would be a great one-page origin.

Apparently, in Chicago you can get super-powers by just studying hard, lifting weights, and staring at yourself in a mirror. You know what else you can get by studying hard, lifting weights, and staring at yourself in a mirror? Straight As and election to student council, followed by a scholarship to a good school, getting you out of a life of poverty and violence. But that's not THE GANG's style, apparently. Why do things the easy way?

At this point, the Gang has already defeated Supergirl once, entirely by way of a Jedi mind trick from Ms Mesmer, and her Hypnotic Third-Nipple.

It's ... it's nip-notic!

She runs into them a second-time at (duh duh DAH!) her own apartment building, where they attack her actor-neighbor, John Ostander, who's just an actor, for cryin' out loud...

Just shut up, John Ostrander! I'm sure you're a lovely man in real life, but I want to club your Earth-1 version to death like a baby seal.

...and where they promptly kick her butt again.
This one I'm not even going to bother making a joke about.

Um .. yeah, Supergirl. You really do.

"I need this abuse--?"
Why has Supergirl started talking like her alter kocker landlady Mrs. Berkowitz? Has her history as a continuity pinball left her a super-Zelig, instantly blending into whatever new life-of-the-month the writers give her? Just how suggestible is she?

In fact, Supergirl is
very suggestible, since in mid-fight Ms Mesmer gives her another mind-whammy. Without, it seems, even talking to her or looking into her eyes or spinning her third nipple or anything else traditionally mesmerizing.

I didn't realize mesmerism was a ranged-combat action.

She convinces Supergirl to see her greatest fear, namely:

That she's Linda Danvers.

It's okay, Supergirl; being Linda Danvers is my greatest fear, too.

Naturally, Supergirl is emotionally crippled and runs away, terror-stricken. And who can blame her? If you discovered you were Linda Danvers you'd be emotionally crippled, too. Pretty much by definition.

I guess Supergirl falling for this magically perpetrated mesmerism makes sense, character-wise. After all, she spent most of the Silver Age hypnotized into debasement and penury by Superman's repeating the phrase:
"You're my secret weapon!"

  • "You must live in a broken-down rural orphanage because you're my secret weapon!"
  • "You must wear a ratty pigtailed poop-brown wig because you're my secret weapon!"
  • "You must not use your super-powers and obey me because you're my secret weapon!"

Lord only know what else Super-perv hypnotized her into!

Stolen, by the way, from this amusing Supergirl site.

Anyway, Supergirl is now crippled with the fear that anyone who sees her knows she's Linda Danvers, so she flies off to abduct her parents from a classy restaurant, because she certainly can't show up at a classy restaurant dressed as Linda Danvers. Shudder!

I don't know what the other Top Ten Things Supergirl Should Never Say are,
but high on the list is
"Sorry about the super-speed snatch."

The Danversezes convince Supergirl she's off her rocker (who would know better?).

"I couldn't make a mistake about my street clothes, could I....?"

Well, my answer would be "yes" judging from this picture of your street clothes:

*Linda Lee's outfit by L.Ingalls of Walnut Grove, Minnesota!

Meanwhile THE GANG drags Actor John Ostrander to their high-tech headquarters on the south side of Chicago.

Bet that 'straight As/student council/scholarship' plan is sounding better all the time, huh, Gang?

Actually, beneath this windowless hovel lurks their evil den of inadequacy.

Whoa. With furniture from the Central City "Horizon-Ass" collection. I bet on winter nights, they all curl up together in that seven-foot wide orange armchair, just like puppies. And is that a coffee table or a dissection slab?

My favorite is the potted plant on the coffee table of their basement lair. Priceless.

Next time:
John Ostrander's acting skills versus
the Brain's mastery of salon-quality hair-care products.

Monday, July 11, 2011

My Summer Vacation in Central City

I spent my summer vacation in Central City.

As longtime readers know, the ridiculous layout of Central City is one of our pet obsessions here at the Absorbascon.

Central City, fabled in song and story. The streets and plazas are absurdly broad and unoccupied, and always attended by a background of impossibly tall buildings that remain along the horizon, no matter where you are in the city.

In past posts, I have hypothesized several reasons for this, including the artist's possible unfamiliarity with the midwest (or perhaps with the east coast? or, just, you know, buildings?), the simple need for an appropriate venue for displaying the Flash's speed, or a sheer dimensional perversity intrinsic to Central City that affects anyone's attempts to draw it in our reality.

Little did I know the truth; it's because there is a real life Central City and it's almost exactly like this. And I just spent a week there.

Last week, I was away at the annual international barbershop chorus competition, doing, well... this with 100 of my closest friends:

You can't see me in this pic; but trust me, I look fabulous in Cobalt Blue.

I roomed, as usual, with my wingman, Cobra Misfit, pictured below...

It's surprisingly hard to catch a cab when you stand this way.

Now, we weren't expecting a lot from Kansas City. It's not exactly the first place that pops into your mind when you think "international chorus contest", or, for that matter, "international" anything. Misfit explained on his blog how our eyes were opened to the Glory of Kansas City much better than I ever could.

This is a giant wind turbine/sculpture that generates electricity in the middle of a random giant plaza. Why? Because it's Kansas City/Central City, that's why. Or it has something to do with the Weather Wizard. Or the Tornado Tyrant. Or the Top.

It has been said that Central City/Keystone in the post-Crisis era are, essentially, Kansas City Missouri and Kansas City Kansas. I never believed it. Now, having been to Kansas City MO, there is nothing I believe more firmly.

In Kansas City, if you want to catch a flick at your typical mall multiplex, you're out of luck. If, however, you're looking for the kind of theater that makes you want to shoot Martha Wayne for her pearls, Kansas City is the place for you.

It's the kind of city where a questionable looking manufactury in an inappropriately fabulous building (like say, the Hanna Rubber Company) is directly across from the Drum Room, home of weekly swing dances, on the same street where, for no apparent reason at all, the Solar System dwells, in miniature.

From now on, I will always think of Uranus as adjacent to the Kansas City Mexican Consulate.

For all it's bizarre fabulousness, Kansas City -- just like it's Earth-1 counterpart, Central City -- seems to be
utterly devoid of people. Really. Misfit, C.C. the Man of a Thousand Talents, me, and the Cobalt Blue Gang were there for a week, and yet...

The arrival of these three people doubled the population of Kansas City.

...other than wait-staff and the two half-hearted beggars who were obviously hired by the Chamber of Commerce just to give the city an urban feel, we saw no indigenous citizens. Zero. Move to Kansas City today; the real estate market's wide open.

In Kansas City...this is what a park bench looks like.

Being our version of Central City, Kansas City has a near infinite amount of real estate. Here for example is an unused building that would make a perfect evil lair for even the most discerning supervillain.

Oh, here's a little place that will freeze your soul. A convention center topped with four Gigantic Death Spires that surely shoot out rays of pure power, or control the weather, or radiate mind-control signals, or vibrate in such a way so as to keep the city out of sync with the rest of our world. In Kansas City, this is treated as perfectly normal.

Here I am wearing a child's-sized tee shirt (for political reasons) with C.C., the Man of a Thousand Talents, standing in an absurdly large and unoccupied plaza, beside a fountain that stretches to the horizon. Welcome to Central City. I half-expected Captain Cold to appear out of nowhere and freeze the fountain so that C.C. couldn't run through it at super-speed.

Gee, overly broad, flat streets and public spaces with a flat skyline of tall buildings along the horizon. Remind you of any place?

Ladies and gentlemen, Kansas City IS Central City. If you don't believe me, go there yourself and tell me what you think.

P.S. "Blue Valley", the town where Wally West grew up? It's a neighborhood in Kansas City.