Monthly Archives: January 2008

Weekly Comic Review for 1/30/08

Batman #673

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W: Grant Morrison

A: Tony Daniel

My love-hate relationship with Morrison’s Batman run continues.  Really Grant…don’t you know me well enough to know what I want?  What I need?  Why must you toy with me so?

I hope I’m not ruining things for anyone when I say that this issue is the preamble to the next (cue ominous drums and cool echo-y voice) “BIG STORY ARC IN BATMAN’S CAREER!!!!”  The aforementioned story arc being “R.I.P. Batman.”  Now, let’s all be honest here–we’re among friends, after all–we all know that Batman ain’t gonna die.  He’s not going to grow old.  He’s not going to retire.  All of the talk in the DC Universe about who will replace Bruce when he hangs up the cape is moot.  The character’s been around since 1939 and he’s aged, what, five years?  Unlike DC’s legacy heroes, Bruce will always be Batman–just like Clark will always be Superman and Diana will always be Wonder Woman.  Sure, they may be replaced from time to time for the purposes of a particular storyline (Bane breaking Bruce’s back comes to mind…or, y’know, “The Death of Superman”).  But, after all is said and done, Bruce Wayne isn’t going to die for real. 

That brings me to this week’s issue of Batmanwhich, I’m going to assume, is leading up to Bruce Wayne taking a breather for a while.  Why?  Well, the entire issue is written around ol’ Bats suffering a heart attack on the roof of the GCPD headquarters.  Don’t worry, kids, he pulls out of it with the able assistance of the “Third Batman”–who looks like a cross between an Elseworlds Batman and the arsonist rogue, Firefly (it’s the mask, trust me).  Anyways, I can’t fault Morrison for his overall vision for this run of Batman.  Things that he’s thrown at us in earlier issues are starting to pay off (I admit that I had written off the whole “Three Batmen” shit from his earlier issues).

Now for the bad news: what I can fault Morrison on is his rehashing of Batman’s past.  While Brucie’s teetering on the brink of life and death, he has a lovely little transcendental vacation, remembering how he tracked down and tormented his parents’ murderer, Joe Chill.  For several nights, a young Batman (commendably designed by Daniel to look like Batman did in 1939) sneaks into Chill’s office and plays boogeyman.  When Batman throws the gun Chill used to murder the Waynes at the criminal’s feet, Chill realizes who the Batman really is.  He also realizes that as the man who created the Batman, his name is pretty much Mud in Gotham’s underworld and uses the gun’s last bullet to kill himself.

Now, while I understand that not everyone is well-versed in Bat-lore to know that Joe Chill was the man who killed the Waynes (yes, it was in Batman Begins, but an entire generation of people grew up thinking that Jack Nicholson did it).  But, I say that it isn’t necessary to know that fact.  All you need to know is that Bruce Wayne saw his parents murdered when he was a wee lad.  I’d even be willing to chalk this up as a necessary evil spinning out of the reappearance of the Multiverse: solidifying a few facts about Batman’s history on New Earth that may have gotten a little muddled since the 1986 reboot.  But, I don’t think it needed to be an entire issue.  And, I certainly don’t think it needed to include a delusion-fueled appearance by Bat-Mite.  Yeah, you heard me.  Bat.  Mite.

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Captain America #34

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W: Ed Brubaker

A: Steve Epting

I know what you’re all saying: “Oh look, he’s jumping on the Captain America bandwagon.”  Well all I have to say to that is: “Fuck you…you have some nerve!”  But seriously, kids, I’ve never been a huge fan of Captain America.  Of course, I never hated him, either.  Like Superman or Iron Man, I like when Cap shows up in books with other heroes, I’ve just never been a fan of his solo series.  Part of that comes from the way he’s always been portrayed.  Most writers portray Captain America like he’s some lame, Ward Cleaver wanna-be.  Shit guys, he was a child of the Depression.  He fought in World War II.  He’s a hard-ass lifelong soldier.  Write him like one.  He should be the kind of guy who other hard-asses like Nick Fury and Wolverine respect.

That being said, several people (folks who know the kind of comics that I like…guys who convinced me to read Catwoman, Green Lantern, and New Frontier) have told me how much I would love Brubaker’s run on Captain America.  And, I’m sure I would have before now if not for two things: (1) Marvel’s heinous Civil War bull-crap, and (2) Steve Rogers got all killed and shit.  Now, the reason I decided to start reading this book with issue #34 is that it’s the premiere of the new Captain America and I figured it was as a good a jumping on point for me as any (I refused to be lured by Brubaker’s use of the Red Skull’s crazy, black leather and red corset-clad daughter, Syn…damn you, Bru, get out of my head!).

It’s a little funny to be writing about the man who replaces Cap right after I wrote about how no one will ever replace Bruce Wayne as Batman.  I’m sure that at some point Steve Rogers will be back (and, I’m sure that it won’t involve magic…sorry, Spidey), but for now Brubaker’s doing a pretty damned good job of showing the aftermath of the death of a guy who’s as loved in the Marvel Universe as Superman is in the DC Universe.  Just like the death of Big Blue, Cap’s assassination left a void that needed to be filled.  Credit goes to Brubaker for taking his time with this process.  As a sign of penance (or just a scumbag PR stunt) Tony Stark offered the mantle of Captain America to pretty much anyone he could think of.  But, it was Rogers’ final wishes that his former sidekick Bucky (brainwashed by the Soviets to be a crack assassin known as the Winter Soldier) should take up his trademark shield and continue the legacy of Captain America.

This issue sees Bucky suiting up as Captain America for the first time.  Although he uses Steve’s shield, he refuses to wear his old mentor’s costume.  He also forces Stark to give him complete autonomy from the U.S. Government and S.H.I.E.L.D. which allows him to operate freely when he’s sent to stop agents of A.I.M. from breaking into the gold depository on Wall Street (I guess the Red Skull really loved Die Hard with a Vengeance, since he’s using Jeremy Irons’ heist from that flick as part of his plot to destabilize the U.S. economy).

Overall, I’m pleased by what Brubaker’s doing and I’ll keep coming back every month.  It makes perfect sense that Bucky should replace Steve as Captain America.  Not only is he honoring the memory of his mentor, but he’s atoning for the crimes he committed as the Winter Soldier.  Bucky isn’t a super-soldier like Rogers was.  He wasn’t trained as a battlefield leader.  As the Winter Soldier, Bucky was trained to be a sniper and assassin.  His tactics as the new Cap will reflect this training.  He’s packing heat and relying on his single bionic arm to help him wield his trademark shield.  Bucky knows that he’s not replacing Steve–that he can’t replace Steve–but he’s honoring his friend’s dying wishes. 

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Countdown to Final Crisis 13

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W: Paul Dini & Tony Bedard

A: Tom Derenick & Wayne Faucher

After reading the last few issues of Countdown, all I want to know is this: what the hell did Earth-51 do to piss off Paul Dini?  The supposed paradise of the Multiverse has been beaten like a red-headed stepchild for the last few weeks, and things don’t get any better this week.

Superboy(man)-Prime comes to bring the pain to Monarch for destroying what Solomon told him was his “perfect Earth.”  During the tussle, Monarch berates the whiny Kryptonian as only a super-villain can.  Of course, Monarch probably wasn’t expecting Superboy(man)-Prime from ripping open his containment armor and letting out all that precious, precious deadly quantum energy.  The wave of quantum energy sweeps across the universe, destroying Earth-51 (much to the horror of Monitor-51).  But, don’t worry, the final page shows Monitor-51 discover a single sapling growing out of the ashes of his once-perfect Earth.

Before the quantum shit hit the fan, Darkseid appears in the Nexus and offers Solomon a place at his side.  Showing more of his crackerjack decision-making skills, Solomon agrees to follow Darkseid to Apokolips in a move that will hereby be known as Solomon’s Mistake #73.  Back on Earth-51, the Challengers receive a summons to Apokolips in the form of some kooky fiery handwriting.  Sadly, before they can heed this summons, Batman-51 gets his cranium punched like an over-ripe melon by Ultraman.  But, in what might be the most cathartic moment in recent comic book history, Jason Todd–still Red Robin–smashes a Joker’s skull in with a big fucking rock.

With a dozen issues left, it looks like everyone’s going to start congregating around the Source Wall which, as we know, separates all of the dimensions of the new Multiverse.  It’s also where the spirits of deceased New Gods go…well, until they started going into Jimmy Olsen.  Is the Source Wall in danger?  Superboy(man)-Prime tinkered with the Wall a while back and wiped out Earth-15.  Again I voice concerns that DC is going to eradicate the Multiverse before fully exploring all of its storytelling possibilities.

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Daredevil #104

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W: Ed Brubaker

A: Michael Lark

Another one of the few mainstream Marvel books that I can stomach and, surprise surprise, it’s also written by Brubaker.

Hell’s Kitchen is still ground zero in the war between Mister Fear and the Hood for control of the Kingpin’s criminal empire.  In the midst of this gang war, Fear also continues his psychological torment of Matt Murdock.  Although Daredevil may be the most single-minded hero in the Marvel canon–he doesn’t just defend New York City…he defends one freakin’ neighborhood of New York City–but, he’s also probably the easiest to manipulate, as Mister Fear has most recently illustrated.

Concerned over the mental instability of his wife, Matt goes completely bat-shit on pretty much every thug and crook he comes across.  I’m a little disappointed that the acetylene torch Murdock busted out in the last issue wasn’t actually used to torture Ox.  I know, I know…it wouldn’t have been very heroic, but it would have been balls-out awesome.  Instead, Horn-head does some funky nerve-pinch kung-fu on Ox, knocking out his eyesight, then pokes and pummels Ox’s nerve clusters until the big oaf feels like he’s being burned by the torch Murdock left running in the background.

When he returns home, Murdock finds the German nurse sent to tend to Milla dead (I guess I was wrong…this broad wasn’t evil).  Matt also smells something familiar…something from the past…something that leads him to Lily Lucca, she of the mind-whammy super pheromones.  These pheromones usually make people remember their fondest memories (in Matt’s case, he remembers Karen Page), however whenever Lily is around Milla, Mrs. Murdock goes off the deep-end.  Is this a normal reaction to Lily’s pheromones, or is it a combination of these pheromones and something Mister Fear cooked up?

Although I have faith that Brubaker won’t let us down, I do hope this storyline comes to a solid conclusion soon, mainly because I really don’t give two shits about the Hood and his underworld pissing contest with Mister Fear.  Fear is cool, no doubt…and what better villain to face “The Man Without Fear”…but this Hood joker looks like he’s late for a RPG convention.

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Green Lantern #27

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W: Geoff Johns

A: Mike McKone

Green Lantern keeps getting better.  In the aftermath of the Sinestro War, the Green Lantern Corps. is in disarray.  Sure, the Guardians have granted their officers the use of lethal force against members of the Sinestro Corps., but to what end?  That’s the question that Johns addresses in this issue.

This month’s Green Lantern begins with Hal and John being summoned to track down a Sinestro ring that’s come to Earth looking for a bearer.  Being an object fueled by fear, the ring understandably seeks out Jonathan Crane, a.k.a. The Scarecrow.  Our boys learn that the ring’s original owner, Amon Sur, has died and that one of their own, Laira, is responsible for his death.  Laira is brought back to Oa to face judgement for her actions against Sur.  Was it justice or murder?  Who decides?  The Guardians authorized the use of lethal force against Sinestros, but did Amon Sur pose an actual threat?

To answer these lofty questions, the Guardians create the Alpha Lanterns, a special squad who will act as an Internal Affairs Division and investigate the actions of other Lanterns.  Senior members of the Corps. are chosen based upon their “ability to enforce justice.”  Once chosen, the Alpha Lanterns no longer require food or sleep, they are bonded with their Power Batteries, and gain a second power ring.  Furthermore, the Alphas are surgically altered, becoming half-Lantern and half-Manhunter.  And, to aid them in their duties, Alpha Lanterns have the ability to drain the energy from other power rings–this makes sense, if you think about it: if you’re investigating a Lantern’s actions, you wouldn’t want them to have a fully-charged ring.

Green Lantern is slowly becoming the best book published by DC.  It’s achieved a grand scope that the older JLA series had at its height.  It’s part police procedural, part sci-fi epic.  Just when you think it’s gotten as good as it can get (the introduction of the Sinestro Corps.), it ups the ante (the Alpha Lanterns and the revelation that there are other Corps. out there).  With the groundwork that Johns is laying down, this could easily become an idiot-proof book–which is good, because I doubt Geoff will write it forever.

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Ultimate Spider-Man #118

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W: Brian Michael Bendis

A: Stuart Immomen

Brian Bendis offers up another character piece in his ever-increasing run on Ultimate Spider-Man.  I’m the first to call Bendis out when he’s off his mark.  But, I’m also the first one to give him credit when it’s due.  And, with Ultimate Spider-Man, it’s almost always due.  Bendis’s love of dialogue fits perfectly with the uber-chatty Spider-Man.

Peter’s still in a funk over Harry’s death.  Of course, nearly everyone else is in a funk, too.  M.J.’s toiling at a crappy part-time job in the mall’s food-court.  Kong’s desperate to make sure he doesn’t end up in the friend-zone with Kitty (and, honestly, can we blame him?).  Kitty’s dealing with being a mutant outcast in a human school.  And, poor Liz thinks she has a brain tumor.  Can things get any worse? 

Sure they can.  Johnny Storm–after suffering through a pretty bad date with a super-model–shows up to hang out with his old buddy, Peter Parker.  Peter starts freaking out.  He’s worried that someone will make the connection between Johnny Storm and Spider-Man, essentially revealing his secret identity.  Things get even more complicated when Bobby “Iceman” Drake shows up hoping to reconcile with Kitty.

Rather than having some lame-ass super-villain show up, Bendis decides to let the whole thing devolve into a good-natured John Hughes movie.  After spending a day at the beach–where Johnny and Bobby openly discuss Nick Fury’s eye-patch, much to Peter’s chagrin–the crazy kids gather around a bonfire.  While M.J. and Peter share a kiss, Liz suffers a sudden headache and subsequently bursts into flames.  Here endeth the issue.

This next arc of Ultimate Spider-Man is playing off of the old Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends cartoon, which explains why Iceman’s there.  In the original cartoon, the other “Amazing Friend” was Firestar, a.k.a. Angelica Jones.  Firestar was a mutant who could generate and manipulate microwaves.  Liz Allan’s transformation into Ultimate Firestar actually seems to parallel the origin of Frankie Raye in the mainstream Marvel Universe. 

I’ll take a moment here to talk about Immomen’s art.  Normally I like what Immomen does in Ultimate Spider-Man, it’s very similar to Bagley’s art.  However, this time around it looked rushed to me.  The lines aren’t nearly as clean as they usually are, giving this issue a sketchier look than normal.

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Ultimate X-Men #90

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W: Robert Kirkman

A: Salvadore Larocca

Kirkman’s run on Ultimate X-Men–or, what I like to call “WHOOO….THE NINTIES EFFING RULE!!!!!  WHOOOOO!”–continues.  Kirkman’s devotion to what, in my humble opinion, is the worst era in X-Men history is inexplicable.  I do think he’s trying his best to simplify things (although there’s a limit to how simple you can make time-travel stories): for example, having Cable be a future version of Logan makes a tad bit more sense than that whole son of Scott Summers and Jean Grey’s clone, Madelyne Pryor, raised in the future bullshit.  But, just a tad.

Mutant-killing maniac Sinister is back.  He’s escaped from the morgue and is continuing his mission to kill ten mutants, thus bringing forth his master, Apocalypse.  To accomplish this mission, Sinister goes to the Morlock tunnels and starts poppin’ caps in some mutant asses.  Bishop and his team arrive, but Bishop prevents them from stopping Sinister.  Bishop was sent back to make sure that Sinister succeeded, which would make it easier to stop Apocalypse.  Like I said, it’s only a tad less complicated.  All you really need to know is that after all is said and done, Sinister succeeds and transforms into Apocalypse.

Yes, Kirkman understands the characters in this book.  I might not agree with the direction he’s taking them in, but I certainly have to give him credit for doing a fairly good job at getting into their heads.  Larocca, on the other hand…  Well, I’ll just say that I have not been thrilled with his work on this book.  His panels feel static to me.  I don’t get a sense of movement when I read Ultimate X-Men, which has a serious effect on the action scenes, especially when they involve hyper-agile characters like Nightcrawler or Beast.

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Quote of the Week:

“Can anyone hear me or am I having an internal monologue?”–Peter Parker, Ultimate Spider-Man #118.

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Four on the Floor #2: Gals Who Kick Serious Ass

The Situation: I’ve always preferred tomboys to the more fluffy and frilly “girly” girls.  An extension of this proclivity is that I tend to gravitate towards movies and TV shows that feature gals who kick some serious ass.  I’ve assembled a list of four ladies who’ve been kicking a good deal of ass lately (which means I’ve intentionally ignored the four names that normally show up on lists like this: Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hamilton, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Lucy Lawless).

The Criteria: There is a difference between the Ass-Kicker and the Femme Fatale.  Yes, they are both strong and independent women.  Yes, they’ll do whatever it takes to get what they want.  However, unlike the Femme Fatale, the Female Ass-Kicker does not want you dead.  In fact, she’ll usually be the one risking her own butt to save yours.

1. Summer Glau

Don’t let her size fool you, this Tiny Texan Terror can kick some serious ass.  Whether she’s playing the “morbid and creepifying” telepath River Tam in Firefly and Serenity, or the benign killing machine from the future in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, this former dancer can take down guys three times her size.

2. Milla Jovovich

Let’s be honest, there’s something fitting about a former Ukrainian model kicking ass (hell, it’s downright Bondian).  Jovovich has made a career of fighting aliens (The Fifth Element), zombies (The Resident Evil series), and the English (The Messenger), and doing it well.

3. Katee Sackhoff

As Kara “Starbuck” Thrace on the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, Sackhoff out drinks, out flies, out fights, and out swears every guy around her.  Even if you’re not a fan of sci-fi, you have to give this tough-as-nails dame credit.

4. Keira Knightley

You might think she’s too frail.  You might find her prominent jawline off-putting.  But, when she’s packing heat in Domino, covered in blue paint in King Arthur, or masquerading as a swashbuckler in the Pirates of the Caribbean flicks, Knightley kicks her fair share of ass.  Of course, I am a sucker for a sword-wielding gal in a corset.

Weekly Comic Review for 1/23/08

Astonishing X-Men #24

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W: Joss Whedon

A: John Cassady

This is the penultimate issue of Whedon and Cassaday’s run–the conclusion is going to be published in Giant-sized Astonishing X-Men #1.  Overall, most people seem to think that Astonishing X-Men has been the best X-book in a long while.  Yes, there have been a few speed bumps along the way (the “Danger” arc stands out as a less than stellar handful of issues), but as I’ve said before, even bad Whedon is better than most people’s best efforts.  That being said, Whedon’s characterizations of characters like Cyclops and Wolverine is spot on.  Hell, he’s done something that I thought was impossible–making Scott Summers interesting.  In addition to Whedon’s writing, Cassaday’s designs for these characters is phenomenal, he even makes me forget how much I hate Beast’s new cat-man look.

The X-Men (along with a platoon of S.W.O.R.D. agents and Danger) are still on The Breakworld, where a prophecy has proclaimed that Colossus will destroy the planet.  We learned in the last issue that the entire planet is powered by a reactor that only someone with invulnerable metal skin can enter and, conceivably, destroy.  The source of this prophecy has been in doubt since the get-go, although most of our Merry Mutants are convinced it’s a sham and that there’s a traitor in their midst.  Beast is sure the backstabber-to-be is S.W.O.R.D.’s Agent Brand (although she later takes a shot meant for Dr. McCoy), and Emma’s made a deal with Danger, promising to give the sentient robo-bint Charles Xavier in return for her (its?) assistance.  The treachery gets cranked up a notch when it’s revealed that Aghanne (a Breakworlder who was seemingly allied with the X-Men) is, at least partially, responsible for everything that’s been going on.

The X-Men are holed-up in Kruun’s impregnable fortress–which, Wolverine points out, they “pregged” fairly easily–and are faced with a battle on two fronts.  While on group stays behind to convince Kruun to abandon his plan to launch a missile at Earth, another group (comprised of Hank and Kitty) will attempt to destroy the aforementioned missile.  With the clock running out, Kitty phases into the missile and finds an interior devoid of the usual guts and gadgets one would find in a missile.  It’s at that very moment that Beast realizes that this isn’t a missile.  It’s a big-ass hollow-point bullet, which fires with Kitty trapped inside.

Now, there’s been a bit of speculation among fans that Joss is gearing up to kill Kitty.  It is a possibility.  First of all, he has a history of killing beloved characters.  And, secondly, Whedon has repeated stated that “happy characters are boring characters”, and with Colossus resurrected and reunited with his “Katya,” Ms. Pryde could certainly be considered happy (maybe he’s going to kill Colossus, you say?  Well, since Peter’s slated to appear in the new Defenders book, that’s unlikely).  The only argument that I can come up with against Kitty’s death (other than the fact that it would make me terribly, terribly sad) is that Whedon–despite the almost child-like joy he gets in torturing and killing his characters–doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who would kill a character he doesn’t out-right own and leave the mess for someone else to clean up.  That’s just my two cents…only time will tell.

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Countdown to Final Crisis 14

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W: Paul Dini & Tony Bedard

A: Pete Woods, Tom Derenick & Wayne Faucher

So, the complete and total annihilation of Earth-51 continues.  The Monitors continue to be too disorganized to mount a sufficient counter-offense against Monarch and his forces.  Meanwhile, in the Nexus, Solomon shows the cranky, hormonally-charged Superboy(man)-Prime that Monarch’s forces are destroying the entire Multiverse, including the “perfect Earth” that Prime’s been searching for.  By the end of the issue, Prime decides to go and have a few words with Monarch.

Now, while there are a few bits and pieces of fun things going on–Monitor-51 going all John Rambo at the sight of his perfect Earth being razed, or Donna Troy defeating Belthera and gaining control of her giant-bug legions, which she promptly leads into battle against Monarch’s forces–the best parts of this issue of Countdown to Final Crisis focus on Jason Todd and Batman-51. 

Jason and Bats-51 have been chilling in Batman’s gun-filled “Bat-Bunker” since Bruce saved Jason’s bacon a few issues back.  Once Jason explained that he was from another Earth and was really Jason Todd (or, at least a Jason Todd), Batman-51 loosened up a bit.  He explained how the death of “his” Jason led him down a path of violence and destruction, how that single event led the Bruce Wayne of this Earth to single-handedly wipe out all of the villains on his world.  At first, Bats thinks Jason is insane for wanting to run off and fight over-whelming odds, but he eventually relents.  He even gives Jason a new costume, the Red Robin costume that he had made for his Jason before the kid died.  Together, Batman-51 and Red Robin open a giant-sized can of whoop-ass on the bastards attacking Earth-51.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Jason considers staying on Earth-51 when this is all over.  This is just the kind of Earth Jason would thrive on.  This Earth’s Batman is as vengeful and bloodthirsty as Jason is, what with the gun-wielding and knife-fighting.

This series, as a whole, is hit-or-miss.  Sure, it has a few good moments and, occasionally, an entire issue kicks a moderate amount of ass.  But, the problem with Countdown is the very nature of the title.  It’s counting down.  To what?  A final crisis?  What the shit is that?  Part of the reason 52 did so well was that you never had the slightest idea what the big mystery was, so you couldn’t help but say “Holy shit” when the Multiverse returned.  With Countdown, the cat was let out of the bag almost immediately, and DC’s put itself in an awkward position trying to live up to all of the hype. 

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Gotham Underground #4

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W: Frank Tieri

A: J. Calafiore

The battle for the control of Gotham’s criminal empire goes on.  In the opening pages, we finally meet Johnny “Stitches” Denetto, the man who ran Tobias Whale out of Metropolis.  Denetto, as his new nickname implies, had his face slashed to pieces and then stitched back to somewhat resemble a human face.  The trauma did not sit well with Denetto, who now feels compelled to slice the hell out of anyone he thinks is pretty, as seen with his brutal slashing of a call-girl in this issue.  Denetto has also teamed up with Bruno Mannheim, head of The Religion of Crime.

Elsewhere in Gotham, Scarecrow double-crosses Scarface’s gang and leads them into an alley where Whale’s goons blow them away.  After the massacre, Whale double-crosses Scarecrow and hangs him from a lamppost, scarecrow-style, as a message to all of the other masks in Gotham City.  With most of the Big Bads in the DCU hauled off to “Salvation Run” and both Whale and Mannheim making a play for Gotham, it’s no surprise that Penguin has hired a bunch of Rogue understudies–seriously, a bunch of schlubs dressed like The Flash’s Rogues Gallery–to watch his ass.  The irony is that the dude in the Heatwave 2.0 costume is Dick Grayson, who’s being watched by some dude in a black costume with a red V on the helmet.  Am I supposed to know who this is?

Meanwhile, Bruce–still disguised as Matches Malone–is still locked up in Blackgate.  After his run-in with Zsasz, Bruce placed himself in a “trance-like state” so he would be taken to the prison infirmary and have access to a locked door that he’s sure holds the key to watch the Suicide Squad’s doing in Gotham.  After the guards bust into the infirmary to handle the riot that’s rocking the prison, Bruce manages to get into the locked room and discovers a seriously fucked-up Great White Shark strapped to a gurney.  Why is he there?  Was he deemed “not dangerous” by the Suicide Squad and stashed there to cover-up what they’re doing?  Or is he there for a completely different reason?  Could it have something to do with Tobias Whale?  Whale…Shark…it could fit.

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Ultimate Fantastic Four #50

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W: Mike Carey

A: Tyler Kirkham

That sound you heard around 7:30 PM on January 23rd, 2008 was my exasperated sigh as I made my way through the newest issue of Ultimate Fantastic Four.  I was extremely happy with Carey’s last arc.  It had everything I want in a Fantastic Four story: action, adventure, humor, crazy-ass science, and monkeys.  Unfortunately, this issue negates all of that, as Ultimate FF backslides into another ridiculous cosmic escapade involving Thanos, the Cosmic Cube, those god-awful “soldiers of Seed 19 from Halcyon” (seriously, what the fuck?), and more poorly written alien dialogue than you could shake a partial arboreal limb at.  Guys, seriously, you can’t force dialogue to sound “alien”–okay, sometimes you can, but not everyone is capable of doing it (I know I’ve mentioned the plague of genre fiction known as “Tolkienitis”).

Now, the last thing I want to do is sit here and bash another person’s work into an oozing pile of jelly.  Carey did right by me with his last arc of this book (not to mention his arc with El Diablo), and I wanted to see more of the same.  I understand that certain parts of the Fantastic Four mythos demand to be dealt with in the Ultimate Universe–like Galactus, like Namor, like Thanos–and I’m okay with that.  I just wish that Ultimate Fantastic Four could be more like the goofy fun of the original ’60s and ’70s comic.

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Ultimates 3 #2

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W: Jeph Loeb

A: Joe Madureira

I know a lot of people who really don’t like what Loeb and Madureira are doing with Ultimates.  Now, I’ve gone on record saying that this is not the best book on the market.  Ultimates 3 is to the first two volumes of Ultimates as the Justice League relaunch is to the JLA.  However, I’m sticking around to watch the impending train-wreck.  Good thing this volume is only five issues long.

Like with the first issue, the art is nigh inscrutable.  It’s so muddy, murky, and washed-out that I have no idea what the hell is going on most of the time.  On top of that, most of the character designs look like they came out of someone’s portfolio from the 1990s. 

As for Loeb’s story……  Well, unfortunately, I’m less than jazzed.  Apparently, something “big” is happening.  This “big” thing involves Venom and the Brotherhood (yeah, I’m confused, too), as well as Black Panther and (it would seem) the Tony Stark sex tape.  With both Venom and the Brotherhood involved it should come as no surprise that both Spider-Man and Wolverine make appearances in this issue.  Gee…Spider-Man and Wolverine, huh?  Hanging out with Captain America and Iron Man, ya say?  When do we get to see Luke Cage? 

Anyways…Magneto–with Blob, Sabretooth, Mystique, Madrox, and Lorelei in tow–shows up at Stark’s mansion to claim the body of his daughter, who was felled by an assassin’s bullet at the end of the last issue.  Yeahbuwha??  Why is Mystique there?  Isn’t she supposed to be locked up in Magneto’s place?  I will admit that Loeb gets a few points for letting the newly-insane Hawkeye take out his frustration by executing Madrox after Madrox after Madrox.  Loeb also gets points for having Cap lecture Sabretooth (who really doesn’t look like Ultimate Sabretooth anymore) on his manners during a brawl.  Unfortunately, these high points are few and far between.

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Quote of the Week:

“Standing around talking feels a lot like standing around talking.  When does Pete get to throw me at something?”–Wolverine in Astonishing X-Men #24.

Four on the Floor #1: Guys to get your back in a bar fight

The Situation: You find yourself in a seedy dive bar on the side of some deserted country road. You’re just there to have a few drinks, maybe forget the gal that done you wrong, but the last thing you want is a fight. Of course, that doesn’t stop some booze-fueled biker and his gang of man-apes from starting some shit. Fortunately, you’ve got friends, too. What four actors would you choose to have your back in a bar fight? Any four. Doesn’t matter. Plus, through the miracle of modern science, these lads show up in their prime (which means if you pick Harrison Ford, you get Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark Ford, not Firewall Ford).

The Criteria: Some people might want some of them fancy kung-fu guys to have their back in a bar fight. Not me. Personally, I’d rather have a few no-nonsense, bare-knuckled brawlers backing me up:

1. John Wayne
For an entire generation, The Duke was the epitome of swaggering, brawny American manliness. If you want a fight over quickly, and with a minimum of banter, go with The Duke.

2. Lee Marvin
The laconic Marvin makes Wayne look downright chatty. This Hollywood tough guy fought in World War II for God’s sake!

3. Charles Bronson
Born into a family of coal-miners, Bronson later made a career playing vigilantes, hitmen, and gunfighters. Definitely the kind of guy you’d want on your side.

4. Viggo Mortensen
A bit of a dark horse, I’ll admit…but, given his roles in A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, I think Viggo’s a pretty good choice. Plus, if anyone asks who he is, I can always say “He is Viggo!”

R.I.P. Heath Ledger

I’m sure everyone has heard by now, but I feel like I should still post something on a site that’s supposed to discuss all things pop culture.

At 3:30 PM this afternoon, Heath Ledger was found dead in an apartment in the Soho area of Manhattan.  The details (as they are currently known) can be found in The NY Times, as well as pretty much everywhere else on the internet.  Mr. Ledger is probably best known for his role in the Oscar Award-winning film, Brokeback Mountain, as well as his role as The Joker in the soon to be released sequel to Batman Begins.  I first became aware of him as Mel Gibson’s son in The Patriot and as the bad-boy with the heart of gold in 10 Things I Hate About You

As sad as this news is, my initial reaction is probably a great deal sadder.  Before I was able to find more details from reliable news sources, I thought it was all some macabre marketing ploy to promote The Dark Knight.  How fucked up is that?  Not that I could think it (I’ll admit that I have a dark sense of humor), but that it wasn’t really out of the realm of possibility that some twisted marketing weasel could dream something like that up.

Is this is a huge tragedy?  No.  Hurricane Katrina was a huge tragedy.  But, it is a human tragedy.  Because, if you forget all about the fame and the celebrity, Mr. Ledger was someone’s son.  He was someone’s brother.  He was someone’s father.  And, once all of the paparazzi and media vultures have picked the bones of this story clean, it’s his family and loved ones who will have to find a way to shoulder the burden of loss.

Save The 4400

If you’re like me, you were bummed when you heard that the USA Network wasn’t renewing The 4400.  Fans of Jericho were able to convince CBS to bring that show back from the dead, so everyone who thinks The 4400 is one of the best sci-fi shows on TV should go and sign this online petition.  If nothing else, USA should give the producers a shot to fully wrap every thing up.

Angel and the Dragon

If you’ve been reading Angel: After the Fall (and, quite frankly, why wouldn’t you be?), then you know that the dragon from the series finale has popped up in the book, essentially serving as Angel’s fire-breathing, reptilian steed–how’s that for shock-and-awe, kids? 

Now, the dragon’s name has yet to be revealed to the readers–although Angel did whisper it to Connor, and based on Connor’s reaction, it might be a tad ridiculous.  I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve come up with a few possibilities:

1. Dragon.  Yes, it’s obviously.  But, think about it, Angel’s got the kind of one-track mind that would come up with something that’s quick, to the point, and a tad obvious.

2. Bruce.  As in Bruce Lee.  As in Enter the Dragon.  I wouldn’t put it past Whedon to go ridiculously left of center.

3. George.  St. George, the patron saint of Great Britain, is famous for slaying a dragon.  Angel’s been around for a while and knows enough about history to think this might be a good idea.

4. Puff.  This is my personal favorite and it would fall in line with Angel’s occasional child-like naivete (oh please, let this be the dragon’s name!).

Anyone else have any ideas?