Sunday, December 30, 2012

Climbing To New Lows: 2012's Worst In Comics

It's the end of the year again, that time when everyone's making their "Best/Worst Of" lists. Actually, 2012, in the aggregate, was a very good year for comics, despite some of the atrocities that I will detail below. My pull list got turned on its ass, with me dropping a lot of DC titles in favor of a few new Marvel books and a boatload of new titles from independent publishers, especially Image.

In fact, there were so many great new titles this year that I'm having great difficulty narrowing down which ones to spotlight in my "Best Of" post. So instead, I'm going to do my "Worst Of" post first.

So here are the things that really rubbed me the wrong way in 2012:

Avengers Arena - "Hey, let's take some of those Avengers Academy kids along with some other Marvel teen heroes and stick them in a Hunger Games ripoff  to make Arcade look more dark and badass."

Aquaman 7 - "Hey, it's DC's first Iranian superheroine. Let's kill her off in her very first appearance in an extended snuff scene to make Black Manta look more dark and badass." Sensing a pattern here?

Batman: Earth One - Geoff Johns and Gary Frank introduced us to the world of Earth-One. A world where Gotham City's Dark Knight..... really sucks at his job. On top of that, we have a cowardly Jim Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth gunning down and killing the Penguin in cold blood. And this GN is actually the better of the two Earth One GN's released this past year. It's also the least of the atrocities that Johns and Frank collectively heaped upon us in 2012, which brings me to....

The Captain Marvel Shazam Major Dickweed Backup In Justice League - Marvel won and asserted their rights over the Captain Marvel name and, judging by the quality of the marvelous new Kelly Sue DeConnick series with Carol Danvers, the better company won. DC, on the other hand, was forced to change the name of the Big Red Cheese to Shazam. Unfortunately, they didn't limit themselves to that change alone. Formerly innocent Billy Batson is now a cynical, unlikable little prick who calls the Old Wizard a pedophile in their first meeting. Formerly-scrawny Dr. Sivana is now a roided-up lookalike of Lex Luthor, except for the new magic lightning tattoo that now graces his eye. And as far as the new Captain Marvel Shazam, well, judging by his appearances so far, I'm guessing the Greco-Roman deities empowering him break down as follows:

          Solomon  - God Of Dickishness
          Hercules  - God Of Needless Vandalism
          Achilles    - God Of Bling
          Zeus        - God Of Crazy-Ass Glowy Cable-Eyes
          Atlas        - God Of Leaving Crooks For Dead
          Mercury  - God Of Hitting People Up For Cash

Otto Binder and C.C. Beck are doing triple axles in their graves right now.

Suck It, Stephanie Brown Fans! - I don't know why Dan DiDio hates Stephanie Brown so much, but he is definitely thorough about it.

Sword Of Sorcery Starring Amethyst 0 - Because someone At DC apparently thought Amelia Cole wasn't attempted-gang-rapey enough.

I Don't Think "Phantom Stranger" Means What Dan DiDio Thinks It Means - The DiDio/Johns/Lee "braintrust" apparently decided that the best way to reintroduce DC's premier mystery man into the New 52 was to reveal his origin right out of the starting gate. So much for the "Stranger" part of his name. Not that they did the "Phantom" part justice, either. He gets tied to a specific religion (he's revealed to be Judas Iscariot) and has missions and someone to answer to, as opposed to the apparently more free-wheeling Pre-Flushpoint version. In other words, sucking out all the fun and mystery.

Big Two Event Fatigue! - Marvel had their big 12-issue AvX event, which answered the question "What if the Phoenix Saga were much more dragged out and pointless and made nearly all the heroes look like total assholes?" My general rule with event crossovers is to pick up only the parts in comics that were already on my pull list anyway, but AvX nearly dragged down Wolverine And The X-Men with it. Reading the "Divided We Fall" Ultimate Marvel event crossover in Miles Morales's book reminded me once again that the only Ultimate hero I really give a crap about is Miles. But Marvel was the picture of restraint compared to DC, who has been milking events so much that the udders are on the verge of falling off. I've dropped the Green Lantern books completely. Then there's "Rotworld", which is threatening to rot my interest in Animal Man and Swamp Thing, despite the talents of Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder. And speaking of Mr. Snyder, I actually have to agree with Rob Liefeld: Does every decent idea Snyder comes up with for his Batman comic have to be stretched out through all 27 Bat-books (excepting Batwoman)? Right now, "Death Of The Family" is feeling as padded as one of the Joker's Arkham cells.

My general rule with crossover events is to pick up only the parts in comics that were already on my pull list anyway. DC and Marvel puts them out so that you'll be sucked into buying comics that you weren't already purchasing. But it's having the opposite effect on me: I nearly dropped Wolverine & The X-Men because of the pervasiveness of AvX within it, and I have dropped Ultimate Spidey, at least untiil "Divided" is over.

Maybe things will improve in 2013. Oh, wait. Trinity War. (Groan!)

Before Watchmen - No, I'm not putting this on the list for the quality of any of the individual comic mini's under this heading. Nor am I directing ire at any of the talented creators involved. It's the pettiness, shadiness, and, quite frankly, the sheer failure of imagination on DC management's part for the concept behind this comics line that puts it here. Honestly, DC, you marshal the combined talents of Darwyn Cooke, Amanda Conner, Len Wein, Brian Azzarello, J.G. Jones, Jae LeeEduardo Risso, Lee Bermejo, John Higgins, Adam & Joe Kubert, Adam Hughes, and even Steve Rude together, and all you can think of for them to do is an extended flip of the bird to Alan Moore?

Superman: Earth One - No, there really WAS a Superman comic this year where the Man Of Steel created an armed  insurrection and left an abusive pimp to freeze to death in the Arctic (and because it was written by J. Michael Straczynski, he who last had Superman tell a 10-year-old to deliver a message to dangerous drug dealers in "Grounded", of course we don't actually see the final ramifications of Supes' actions, thus sparing JMS from having to actually think them through). That really happened. And so did the spectacle of Pa Kent attempting to explain the "Super Birds-And-Bees" to a teenage Clark by alluding to Larry Niven's "Man Of Steel, Woman Of Kleenex". That was real, too. Oh, and the sex subplot doesn't involve Lois, who's essentially Clark's stalker in this story, but Clark's new nymphomaniac girlfriend Lisa LaSalle, who moonlights as a hooker. (Hey, kids, COMICS!) It depresses the hell out of me to think that so many young readers' first exposure to Superman will be this rotten turd of a story instead of something worthier like, say, the vastly superior Birthright.

DC Takes Notes From "The Tony Harris School Of Self-Promotion"- Believe it or not, this ad graced the back cover of virtually every October 2012 DC Comic:

Yeah, God forbid a geek girl, fake or otherwise, would actually pay to buy your comic or anything. Jeez, it's not like their money's fake!

Sternum Spikes! -

Yes, that really was Wonder Girl's new costume in Teen Titans#12.

But the worst thing in comics this year was.....

(Wait for it....)

***DC Comics Announces The "Fuck You, Lois Lane And Her Fans" 2012 World Tour!!!***

Brace yourselves. This is gonna be a long one.

I've posted my feelings about DC's newfangled Superman/Wonder Woman Nu52 romance in the past, as well as the breakup of the Super-Marriage in the reboot. However, unlike other bloggers, I haven't said much about DC's complete marginalization of Lois Lane in recent months. That's because I've been saving it for now. And trust me, I've got a LOT to say about it.

To put it bluntly: Lois Lane, reporter par excellence, premier Superman love interest, and inspiration to legions of women (as well as more than a few men), is having all her major character arcs hijacked and handed off to other characters, particularly Clark Kent and Wonder Woman.

Let's start with the dreaded eugenics-inspired Clark/Diana romance. Whole pieces of the Clark/Lois mythos are being retraced, Greg Land style, onto DC's vaunted new "Power Couple".

Case in point:

Superman: For Tomorrow by Jim Lee

Justice League#12 - Also by Jim Lee


From Superman#704

Once again, Justice League#12

The Greg Land-ing of Lois mythos onto Diana isn't limited to the art side of things. Witness this scene Geoff Johns wrote for Clark and Diana in Justice League#15:

Recognize it? If you've seen the Johns-penned "Booster" episode of "Smallville", you probably do: It's the same Clark/Lois glasses scene lifted clean.

It doesn't say much for the strength of your editorially-mandated romance that you have to steal bits from an earlier, better romance, does it?

DC's blog hasn't helped matters. Observe this "DC Comics Super Power Couples" list they compiled this past August.

Uh, DC? Isn't there a certain couple missing on there?

Yes, you may respond, this list only reflects the post-Flushpoint (Nu52) DCU, right? But if so, how does that explain the presence of Scott and Barda, neither of whom have been reintroduced in the Nu52? Or Arrow and Canary, who, if memory serves, haven't even met in it yet? Or Hawkman and Hawkgirl/woman, the latter of whom only made her first appearance, altimeter boobs and all, after this countdown came out, and whose interest in Carter at this point is anything but romantic?

See the problem?

Let me add a little chronology here: Justice League #12 came out on Wednesday, August 29 of this year. This countdown was posted on Friday, August 31.

So let's take a closer look at Couple Numero Uno:

How could they not be Number One? Gosh, I don't know, DC. Could it be because at the time your list was published, they'd only had their first kiss TWO FUCKING DAYS BEFORE???

This pairing is so forced, you can see screwdriver marks all over it.

As for Lois' romantic arc, she goes from having a mature relationship with a loving Super-Husband....

Action Comics#904 being the object of affection for a Super-Creeper platonic "friend" with no respect for her privacy....

...who, by the way, also slut-shames her.

Yes, that IS Clark Kent using the term "Booty Call", and not you having a psychotic break.

Ooh, what an improvement!

Ah, but what about Lois' other major character arc, that of a crusading reporter extraordinaire of unshakable journalistic integrity?

"Lois Lane is the most amazing woman I have ever met." he thought before slut-shaming her 4 pages later.

Hope you liked that massive one-page Claremontian infodump highlighting Lois' reporting awesomeness. Because that's the most we're actually seeing of it in the New 52. She's not even a reporter anymore in Superman, having been promoted to executive producer once the reboot began. Which means the moments we've seen her on the streets have been few and far between.

Remember current Super-scribe Scott Lobdell giving us Clark's big "Jerry Maguire" moment with Morgan Edge from Superman#13?

Question: What's wrong with the scene below?

I mean, besides series artist Kenneth Rocafort's positively bizarre storytelling choices, like punctuating Clark's big walkout with a panel you'd need to be Hank Pym to read?

Answer: This should have been Lois' big scene.

It was Lois who had been butting heads with Edge on matters of news vs. entertainment and getting the story first vs. getting the story right. It was Lois who had been protesting about journalistic integrity to him, not Clark. And it was Lois who strenuously objected when Edge prematurely outed an innocent man named Spence Becker as being the secret identity of Superman on national television despite evidence so flimsy that Lois herself had previously rejected the story. This was a conflict that had been building since the first issue, and had continued by three different writers.

Don't believe me? Here, read this panel from Superman#10, by previous writer Dan Jurgens.

Having Lois telling Edge off and walking out would have been a logical crescendo to this long-building conflict. As a bonus, there could have been the dramatic tension of whether or not Clark would join Lois. ("I quit! You with me, Smallville?" Bum Bum BUMMMM!)

Having Clark do it? Made the move look like it came out of fucking nowhere. Because it did.

Now look at the role Lois is playing in Lobdell's story, both before Clark quits....

...and after.

She's telling him to beg? He's giving her lectures about journalistic integrity? Can you see how messed up this is? In the DCU, Lois Lane is supposed to be to journalistic integrity what Dick Grayson is to acrobatics.

Need I even mention how DC's reviving Young Romance in a one-shot this Valentine's Day just to promote Supes/WW, or the DC blog post highlighting all of the Nu52's female stars and supporting characters....EXCEPT Lois?

It's like the DC powers-that-be would like to give Lois the same treatment they've given Steph Brown, Cass Cain, Wally West, Donna Troy, or Connor Hawke. Except that she's too iconic to completely flush away, so they're just marginalizing her and cannibalizing her arcs for other characters.

The only books in the DCU giving Lois her due right now are the two non-continuity ones: Superman Family Adventures and especially Bryan Q. Miller's wonderful Smallville: Season 11.

Look, we Lois fans aren't stupid. We know they're not co-stars. We know whose name is in the title of the flagship book and whose isn't. We know he's the powerful superhero and she's the non-powered human, Earth-centric reporter. Just by nature of the scope Superman's adventures, there are going to be story arcs on different planets, or in different dimensions and time periods, where Lois will rarely be seen. The "Superman And The Legion Of Super-Heroes" arc in Action a few years ago is an example. We know the deal. But when Clark is back in Metropolis, Lois needs to be a key participant in his life. The very fact that she's this imperfect, grounded human being who can captivate and even inspire this near-deity of a man is the beauty of their love story.

I'm not sure what the cause is for DC's recent animosity toward Lois Lane. Is it a thinly-veiled attempt to spite the Siegel estate, particularly surviving heir Laura Siegel? (Lois was actually patterned after her mother and Jerry's wife Joanna.) Is it because she's a feminist icon and they find that threatening? Is it a general aversion to civilian supporting characters? Is it because DC brass feel she represents all that was (in their eyes) boring and stale about the old Superman? Or is it a combination of all of the above and more? I don't know. and frankly, I don't care.

All I do know is that this is a character that's been around exactly as long as Superman has. For a good 74 years, she's been a fascinating character has served as an inspiration and role model to young girls and aspiring career women everywhere.

She deserves more respect than she's getting in the Nu52 Superman books.

(Special thanks to Certain Shades Of Limelight, Jaded Skeptic, Teamclarklois, Snell, and MGMT for scans and/or inspiration.)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday Night Fights: Double M - Round 12: In Mega-City One, The Machine Rages Against YOU!

Our final round entry for Friday Night Fights: Double M comes from 1995's 2000AD Sci-Fi Special , featuring Judge Dredd's foe Mean Machine Angel in a tale by Gordon Rennie and Robert McCallum called "Psycho Analysis".

Psy-nopsis: Mean Machine is  meeting with a psychotherapist.

This can only end badly.

Uh, Doc? You might want to rethink that.....

 Uh-oh, that's Dial Setting #3, the "Vicious" setting!

Uh, Doc....?

Oh, never mind, Doc. You're screwed.

Wow, that really IS vicious!

Tonight's fight music comes from Lemmy (no, not Amelia Cole's 8-foot golem sidekick) and his band, Motorhead.

For more machine-made mayhem, click here. And don't forget to vote!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday Night Fights: Double M - Round 11: Ho, Ho, The Mistletoe!

Welcome to a special Christmas edition of Friday Night Fights: Double M! Tonight's holiday hullabaloo comes to us from 1958's Archie's Christmas Stocking#5.

Synopsis: Archie and Moose witness Reggie kissing Veronica in broad daylight. When Moose is confused at why Archie is strangely calm about this, Archie explains that Veronica is under a Mistletoe and (just roll with this) any girl standing under the Mistletoe is open to be kissed by any guy and not even she or her boyfriend can object.

(I DID mention that this story takes place in 1958, right?)

Worse, Archie explains this to Moose using the WORST PHRASING IMAGINABLE.


Uhhhh.....let's just move on, shall we?

So Archie and Reggie have a little fun with Moose by explaining that if he objects, Santa Claus will leave him nothing but coal for Christmas.  

Of course, Reggie, being Reggie, has to naturally take things one step further.

But because Reggie reminds him of the Mistletoe tradition, Moose lets it slide.

However, Reggie, despite warnings from Archie, just can't resist pushing the envelope again....

....and again......

.....and AGAIN!

Unfortunately for Mr. Mantle, though, Jughead, still bitter over the theft of his parsley, decides to set Moose straight.

Jeez, a little bloodthirsty there, aren't you, Jugs? Remind me to never steal that guy's garnishes.

So Moose doesn't want to fight. What can he do?

Answer: This....

Apparently, the only thing Jughead loves more than hamburgers is schadenfreude.

Now it's time to enjoy some festive fight music from Burl Ives.

For more seasonal scuffles, click here. And don't forget to vote!