Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bentley 23 Obviously Reads Brian Snell's Blog

 Previously, the Wingless Wizard had created an army of clones to use as living weapons. Reed Richards took in the last surviving Wizard clone, Bentley 23, as a member of his team of kid geniuses, the Future Foundation.

In last week's FF#22, the Wizard has been defeated....again. Bentley agrees to visit him in his cell. He comes bearing a gift.

"personal identifier"? Kind of a thoughtful gift from Bentley's class. Unfortunately, the Wizard takes it the wrong way.

Wow! Fulfilling a destiny of following in the illustrious footsteps of the Wingless Wizard? What other sane response can Bentley give to that but...

Obviously, Bentley has been reading Snell's Frightful Four posts.

Jonathan Hickman and Andre Araojo settle the question of "nature vs. nurture" in FF#22.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Night Fights: The Brawl In Montreal - Prize Fight: Double Trouble!

Welcome to our Friday Night Fights Prizefight Edition: The Brawl In Montreal! The rules for this round are simple: 1.) The fight must be at least 3 panels, and 2.) The fighters exchange equal blows until the final KO

Tonight's prizefight entry is a Starlinian smackdown from one of my favorite comics of my youth, Marvel Two-In-One Annual#2, written and illustrated by Jim Starlin and inked by Joe Rubinstein. This is the comic that made me fall in love with Jim Starlin stories. Unfortunately, later comics like Death Of The New Gods would eventually make me fall out of love with them.

Synopsis: Thanos has fallen in love with the personification of Death.

No, NOT the Neil Gaiman version. (Although that would have made Thanos' obsession more understandable.)

Anyway, the bad news is that the mad Titan has chosen to profess his love by....extinguishing the sun. (You couldn't settle for dinner and flowers, Big T?) Needless to say, the Avengers show up to stop him from implementing his grand romantic gesture Which leads to Thanos facing off against Thor and the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing.

DOUBLE trouble!

Maybe Thanos should have stuck with skywriting.

And speaking of "double trouble" and Thanos getting caught in a two-fisted crossfire, here's tonight's fight music!

For more cosmic C-blocking, click here. And don't forget to vote!

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Good Is Oft Interred With Their Bones

Over the last few days, I wrote posts condemning two of last Wednesday's DC Comics "0 Issues". Both of these comics received much negative feedback on the comics blogosphere as well. And honestly, who can blame the bloggers? One issue was an a comic allegedly intended for young girls but which featured an attempted gang rape, while the other featured Billy Batson calling the Old Wizard a pedophile, gratuitously valdalizing people's property, and hitting up a woman he just saved from a robbery for cash.

However, while these two comics deserve the derision they're getting, DC also put out other 0 issues last Wednesday that were actually, well, very good, perhaps the best 0 issues we've seen so far. The shame is that, as with many things in life, the focus was all on the negatives of the two comics mentioned above, resulting in the good aspects being overshadowed and ignored.

In the interest of fairness, I'm going to focus on these 0 issues, because they deserve spotlighting:

Batwoman#0 - This was a beautiful issue, and not just because of the J.H. Williams art. It's framed as a recorded message from Kate to her estranged (due to the ramifications of the "Elegy" storyline) father, and it was the best-written non-Rucka Batwoman story I've read so far.

Catwoman#0 - This comic is what should have been released as Catwoman#1 at the same time last year, instead of the douchey fanboy wank material we actually did receive in that comic. New writer Ann Nocenti builds up an intriguing mystery surrounding Selena's past here, and Adrianna Melo deserves credit for avoiding the "boob socks" look that other cat-artists (Balent, Gulacy) have embraced in the past.

Nightwing#0 - This is actually one of the Nu52's most well-thought-out origin revisions. Considering how ill-planned the rest of the Nu52 has been, that mat seem like faint praise, but I'm being sincere; writer Kyle Higgins seems to have put a lot of time and care here. He gives us a more proactive, and a more perceptive, early Dick Grayson than we've seen in the past. And Higgins addresses the "child endangerment" issue inherent in Batman taking on kid sidekicks in the best way I've ever seen. Here, by establishing that Dick was already obsessively pursuing Boss Zucco on his own before Batman got involved, Higgins makes the case that Bats was protecting Dick by providing him proper training and supervision. That's actually...brilliant.

Wonder Woman#0 - Cliff Chiang gave this issue's art a nice Silver Age feel that meshed perfectly with Brian Azzarello's story. This had the sword-n-sorcery and young adult fantasy appeal that the Amethyst comic tried to have. And anyone ELSE prefer the (Chiang-designed?) outfit Young Diana was sporting to any of Jim Lee's Wonder Woman costumes?

On second thought, why limit the praise to just DC titles? Here were some gems from the other companies:

Avengers Academy#37 (Marvel) - A beautiful wrap-up to the long-running Alchemist storyline. Too bad this is the second-last issue. In the less than two years I've been buying this comic, writer Christos Gage has really gotten me to care for these characters. The fact that Marvel will treating many of them as cannon fodder in an ill-conceived "Hunger Games" knockoff is just...sad.

Daredevil#18 (Marvel) - Wow. Mark Waid can really write a gaslighting. If it is a gaslighting, that is. As for the art, Paolo Rivera was one tough act to follow (See this issue's cover as proof), but current artist Chris Samnee really makes the book his own with this issue.

Spider-Men#5 (Marvel) - You know, I bag on Brian Michael Bendis a lot for his Avengers work, but here in this finale of the first meeting of the two Spider-Men, Bendis does everything right, down to the teaser he provides on the final page. And Sara Pichelli's art was gorgeous, especially her handling of Miles Morales' fluid movements and his glimpse of the 616 Universe. This left the audience wanting more.

It Girl & The Atomics#'s 1 and 2 (Image) - Technically, neither of these actually came out last Wednesday. That was only when I purchased them. But they were such fun I couldn't leave them off here. Any Ryan Choi Atom fans wondering whatever happened to Mike Norton? He's here, and channeling Mike Allred in fine form. Just buy this series. Trust me.

Womanthology: Space#1 (IDW) - This anthology series features sci-fi stories from top female comic creators. This was very entertaining and off-beat. Kudos to Ming Doyle for her great reverse-gender take on the "Slave Leia" trope. But the best part?


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Justice League#0 In Sixty Seconds

(Billy Batson and Old Wizard in abandoned subway tunnel)

WIZARD: "I asked for a hero and you brought me THIS TWERP??? Bang-up job there. Seeking Spell! Guess you'll have to do, kid."

BILLY: "Listen, Chester...."*

WIZARD: "Chester? Who the hell is Chester?"

BILLY: "... That stuff might work like candy on six-year-olds, but you come any closer and I'll knock out the rest of your teeth."*

[*Editor's Note: These are actual lines of dialogue from this comic.]

WIZARD: "Yeah, yeah, kid, you're streetwise. We get it. Now shut up and let me scan your thoughts to see if you're worthy."

(Scans Billy)

WIZARD: "Meh. Guess you're not a TOTAL dick. Here, have some Greco-Roman god-infused superpowers. And a roided-up adult body. And a ridiculously over-blingy Jim Lee costume."

(Billy turns into Captain Marvel)


(Oh, sorry, Billy turns into Shazam)

CAPTAIN MARVEL SHAZAM: "Awesome! Let's break something!"

(Smashes throne of the guy who just gave him superpowers)

WIZARD: "Dude! What the HELL????"

THE PLUTONIAN: "Hey! Those are MY facial expressions!"

(Cut to Shazam and a strangely blond Freddy Freeman on the street)

FREDDY: "Don't hurt me!"

SHAZAM: "Dude, it's me! Don't you recognize my sheer dickishness?"

FREDDY: "Billy, it IS you! Wait, dude, what's with that lightning in your eyes?"

SHAZAM: "Hold that thought. Gotta break something again!"

(Smashes Not Lucius Malfoy's SUV)

MUGGER (TO WOMAN): "Give me your money!"

SHAZAM: "Oh, no, you don't!"

(Punches normal human Mugger straight through a car and into a wall)

WOMAN: "You saved me!"

SHAZAM: "Can I get 20 bucks?"

FREDDY: "Uh, shouldn't we get that mugger guy to a hospital?"

SHAZAM: "Nah, screw him. I just got 20 bucks!"

FREDDY: "We're gonna be so rich!"

(Leaves Mugger for dead)

ME (checking mythology books): "Uh... which one of those six gods is the God Of Hitting People Up For Cash again?"


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Nothing Says "Escapist Fantasy For Girls" Like.... attempted gang-rape scene.

In Sword Of Sorcery#0 featuring Amethyst, no less. A comic supposedly aimed at an all-ages female audience.

No, really! I'm not making this up!

Things began innocently enough. There was the introduction to lead Amy Winston. Then there was Amy's new high school. Then there were the other students, including the mousy Beryl.

Then there was the ever-present football player rapist. (Apologies to Butthole Surfers.)

It's a common trope in fiction: Popular jock asks out unpopular nerd girl for no apparent reason. And asks her to meet him in a secluded spot. As Jerry Seinfeld would say "This can only end badly." It's a ruse. There are two directions this can go, one of which is that the secluded spot is not-so-secluded, and the jock humiliates her in front of a whole group of people by, say, pouring a bucket of cow's blood on her, Carrie-style.

That's one direction. Unfortunately, writer Christy Marx chose the other.

You can guess where this is going. You've probably seen where this went. I'm not going to show you.

In fairness, they don't get to actually carry it out. Amy, using her Buffy-like fight training, prevents the rape.

Let me point out that Amy is on the scene in the first place because she strongly suspected that this exact same scenario would go down. And yet she didn't think to actually tell Beryl her suspicions in advance. Which makes Amy a strong contender for this year's "Gee, Thanks For The Heads-Up, Jackass!" Award.

In any event, Amy rescues Beryl and then, frankly, I'd already stopped giving a crap after that point. The art was pretty, I guess. But that scene just took me completely out of the story.

It wasn't the sword and sorcery or young adult fantasy motifs that turned me off, nor was it that a young adult female was the lead character. I've been enjoying books with all those elements combined, notably Amelia Cole And The Unknown World and Kevin Church's comic Wander, both from Monkeybrain Comics. Neither of which have any rape references.

So why did Marx and DC include one here? Was it lazy shorthand to establish Amy as a strong female character? Was it a maladroit attempt to make the comic more "edgy"?

Or was it an ill-advised homage to the original mini?

In fairness, I have to admit that I've only read 2 original Amethyst appearances. One was the Crisis On Infinite Earths appearance, and the other was an 8-page insert in a Legion Of Super-Heroes comic which featured a giant-sized Duplicate Boy beating the living shit out of Colossal Boy at a ski lodge. So I was genuinely surprised to find out from Tangognat that that the original Amethyst mini also had a rape attempt in the first issue. So maybe Marx was referencing that.

But there are two problems there.

First, the original attempted rape scene was something creators Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn admit was a very big mistake. Mishkin specifically says that if they had to do it over again, they would exclude that scene. So why repeat the mistake in the rebooted version? You didn't see Kelly Sue DeConnick open her first Carol Danvers Captain Marvel arc by revisiting the fucking Marcus storyline, did you?

Second, and more importantly, that original scene was in a comic from 1983. And while an attempted rape scene in a superhero comic may have been novel back then, it's been done AD NAUSEUM in the 29 years that have followed. Especially in the last decade.

It's like the fallback to include rape and sexual assault in a modern story or backstory involving a female character. The rape or sexual assault attempt is used as shorthand to establish the female character's "tough-girl" bona fides. I can think of several times this has been used in DC's New 52 comics, notably Voodoo#1 and the infamous Mera-centric issue of Aquaman.

Rape and attempted rape are also overused as a motivator in female characters' origins. I was reminded of this again when I picked up Hawkeye#2 and saw it featured Kate Bishop. Kate, a former member of the Young Avengers, was an ordinary rich girl who was motivated to train herself in combat and weaponry by....yup, you guessed it....her past rape. Even worse, the "rape-as-motivator" trope has even been applied to older female characters who already had really strong motivations to begin with. Like Black Cat. Apparently her existing motivation of "My dad was a legendary cat burglar and I loved him and wanted to be like him" wasn't enough for Kevin Smith, so he added 100% more rape to her backstory. (Hawkeye and Defenders writer Matt Fraction, to his credit, has skipped over these past rapes when writing both Cat and Kate.)

The overreliance on rapes, rape attempts, and rape threats is the lazy creators' (and editors' and publishers') attempt to scream "Look at us! We're doing mature subject matter! That means WE'RE mature!". But all it does is make them look like arrested adolescent jackasses.

Especially when they show such little restraint that they do it in comics that are supposed to be targeted towards women and girls. Many of whom live in fear of rape or sexual assault in real life. Some of whom have already been raped or sexually assaulted in real life. Now imagine their disgusted reaction when they buy Sword Of Sorcery#0, hoping for some escapist fantasy but finding a trigger instead.

The worst part is that I'm not particularly confident that the Big 2, particularly DC, will change their ways on this. Why not? Well, let me put it this way: If it feels like I've made this rant before, it's because I have. YEARS AGO. And it feels like it's only gotten worse.

And now that means there's yet another comic that I should have been able to recommend to women and girls that, frankly, I just can'tAll I can say is "Skip this and read Amelia Cole instead". And that's just sad.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Nothing Says "Well-Planned Reboot" Like...

Have you seen this latest story from the Nu52?

Long story short: Scott Lobdell claimed at this summer's San Diego Comic Con that Nu52 Tim Drake had never been Robin and that he had gone straight to being Red Robin. The problem? Two of the New 52 first issues, Batman#1 and Teen Titans#1, the latter comic being one that Lobdell wrote, completely contradicted him.

DC's best move from here would have been to simply regroup and have Lobdell admit he made a mistake, that Tim actually had been Robin. Unfortunately, they chose to go in a....different direction.

Here's a page from the original Teen Titans #1 from last year.

Now look at the same panel in the new Teen Titans trade.

See the difference?

But wait! There's more!

See that reference to this incarnation not being the first Teen Titans team ever?

Well, Abra-Kadabra, Ala-Kazaam, Bibbety-Bobbety-Boo,,,,


So apparently DC's now treating its trade editions the way die-hard Sarah Palin enthusiasts treated Paul Revere's Wikipedia page.

Yes, DC, this positively SCREAMS "well-planned reboot".

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Night Fights: Hands Of Stone - Round 12: Cosmic Love!

Well, last week's Amnesiac Time-Travelling Batman entry won Round 11 of Friday Night Fights: Hands Of Stone, so for our final Round 12, I'm following my own tradition and posting another Legion Of Super-Heroes fight. This time the focus is on one of the Legion's most famous couples.

Tonight's magnetic melee comes from Superboy#212 by Jim Shooter and Mike Grell. Synopsis: Cosmic Boy and Night Girl have a falling out over her obsession with catching a pointy-eared, bug-eyed crimelord named "Crafty" Colson (no relation to Phil Coulson). While looking for her to apologize, Cos gets jumped by Colson and his gang. When Night Girl sees Cos in danger, she rushes to his aid but is overcome by the gang due to her weakness to bright light.

Normally, Cosmic Boy is one of the Legion's calmer members. But when his girlfriend is about to be killed by Colson's goon Hunk, well....

.....LOOK OUT!

Let that be a lesson to all you 30th Century thugs: Keep your hands off Cosmic Boy's girl!

Tonight's fight music is this Cosmic Love song by Florence And The Machine.

For more 30th Century throwdowns, click here. And don't forget to vote!

Friday, September 07, 2012

The Rape Flowchart: Because Sometimes Visual Aids Are Necessary

Reading this article made my blood boil.

Yet another rape or sexual assault case where the perpetrator gets off scot-free because someone with the power to stand up for the victim chose to blame her instead. The latest of too damn many.

I can't believe we still have to actually have this conversation in two-thousand-fucking-twelve. But here we are. Again.

Too many people subscribe to this harmful victim-blaming philosophy. And yes, I mean "people".  It may be tempting to fall back on the old "men bad/women good" bludgeon, but it doesn't apply here. Too many people of both genders believe this fallacy.

The damage this "blame the victim" mentality does is incalculable. It prevents rapes from being prosecuted and rape arrests from being made. It makes women reluctant to report because of the very real fear that they might not be believed. It makes women fear for their safety, thereby inhibiting them from fully enjoying their lives and even advancing their careers in every way they have a right to. It fosters unfair prejudice against men, where the assumption is that every man is just a short-skirt-viewing away from becoming a rapist. And worst of all, it allows rapists and sexual predators to strike again and again with impunity.

The blame is 100% on the rapist or sexual abuser. Period. It's frustrating because this is such a simple concept, yet too many people just don't get it.

So I figure maybe a visual aid might help. Something like a flowchart.

This is a little something I whipped up on the spot. (Forgive those awful-lookiing arrows.) You can print out and give to other people if you like. Give it to your parents, or your daughter or son, or your friends, especially if they are in law enforcement or the court system.

This is a simple MS Paint design, so you can save it to your drive and retool it as you like. The small letter fonts are simple Arial Size 8, while the larger ones are Arial Black with sizes ranging from 10 to 14. Maybe you want to change "rape" to "sexual assault" or "sexual harrassment". Or change "rapist" to "sexual predator" or "sexual harrasser". Or even change "woman" to "person" (men can get sexually assaulted, too). Be my guest. In any of these cases, the message is the same.

The key is sending the message.

Friday Night Fights: Hands Of Stone - Round 11: Even Better Than "Astronauts Vs. Cavemen"!

We've all heard the classic debate: Who would win, astronauts or cavemen?

Well, for tonight's round of Friday Night Fights: Hands Of Stone, I give you the answer to an even more intriguing conundrum. You like "Astronauts Vs. Cavemen"? How about...



Tonight's prehistoric pugilism comes to us from Batman: The Return Of Bruce Wayne#1, written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Chris Sprouse and Karl Story. After Darkseid zaps Batman back in time in Final Crisis, Bruce Wayne finds himself back in prehistoric times, where he gets on the wrong side of Vandal Savage. After a member of a local tribe helps Bruce escape Savage's death trap, Savage seeks his revenge on Bruce.

Let's see how that works out for him, shall we?

The winner? Batman. (Of course!)

Tonight's fight music comes to us from former Chicago band Titanic Love Affair.

For more "Savage" smackdowns, click here. And don't forget to vote!