Sunday, June 22, 2008

DCU: State of the Nation

Well, the bloom is off the rose, and the backlash is in full swing.

Like the rumors about Joe Quesada’s probable axing following Civil War and One More Day, the recent rumblings about Didio’s post-Countdown firing are no doubt so much hot air.

Still, there are plenty of reasons to hate on DC these days. Countdown was, without a doubt, the most self-destructive example of corporate greed and editorial incompetence that comicbookland has seen in quite some time. It tore down—week-by-week, with striking symmetry and efficiency—all the good will and fuzzy feelings that 52 had built up. So, post-Countdown, DC was in effect starting from scratch—at least as far as its weekly series was concerned.

The good news is that Trinity rocks. Hard. It’s exactly what I want from a weekly series. Busiek is on his game: the plot is intriguing and clearly going somewhere. The characterization and dialogue are tops. And Mark Bagley’s art is fantastic. I think that this might actually the be the best work I’ve ever seen him do—so energized and polished. The “back-up” stories (though this is the wrong word for what these stories actually are) are effectively interwoven with the main story and yet still feel like a bonus—what a great way of sharing the creative burden of the weekly book without making the art in the main story seem like a jigsaw puzzle for readers. I really like this. Simply put: Trinity is great comics.

Final Crisis. Well, huh. Looks like Morrison’s series got royally screwed over by DC editorial. Is anyone steering this ship? I say we follow Morrison’s advice and just treat Final Crisis as an extension of Seven Soldiers and 52 and forget that Countdown and Death of the New Gods ever happened. What a pathetic spectacle; if this were the real world and not the comics industry, someone would actually be fired for this mess.

Something else I’d like to forget ever happened is the utterly incompetent relaunch of the Wolfman-Perez Titans by Winick, Churchill, and Benitez. I won’t beat this dead, rancid, decomposing horse’s carcass any more than I already have except to say that DC should cancel this shit RIGHT NOW and give all of us 35-year-old fanboys a chance to get the awful stink out of our noses before trying, once again, to rekindle the old magic at some far off point in the future—hopefully with a creative team that has some idea what they’re doing. Dropped.

The other notable ongoing screw-up at DC is the handling of its flagship superhero team. Justice League of America is a truly awful comic from start to finish. Just everything about it is wrong—starting with the fact that nothing happens (where are the adventures?) and what little does happen always feels underdeveloped or stupid or is just plain confusing. I’ve tried to give this book the benefit of the doubt and have stuck with it for twenty-two issues—much longer than it deserves. As I’ve mentioned before, Dwayne McDuffie (who is good on other things) is at his worst here—though certainly DC’s use of this series to pimp its various other projects has not made McDuffie’ job easy. Thankfully, I don’t need to review the current issue to back up my case because Comic Book Resources’ Timothy Callaghan has already provided the definitive diagnosis of this terminally bad series. Dropped.

On a smaller scale, but equally aggravating is the fact that awesome former-Batman and the Outsiders scribe Chuck Dixon “is no longer employed by DC in any capacity.” I don’t know anything about Dixon as a personality, so who’s to know quite how to take his (totally delicious) innuendo-laden internet posts about “Jim Shooter.” Talk about a sour-candy treat for fans who are already disgruntled by TPTB at DC. Whether or not Dan Didio is an editorial ogre, it’s the readers who really lost out on this one. Dixon’s departure from BATO has me in the dumps, because, as you know, I was loving his take on the relaunch. Drat. I’ll stick with the series for now and hope for the best.

Of course, all is not terrible. DC continues to publish some fantastic books, though god help them if Geoff Johns decides to jump ship. Action Comics, Green Lantern, Booster Gold, and Justice Society of America are some of my favorite DC books at the moment—all penned or supervised by the boy wonder. Wonder Woman is also excellent again, finally. All-Star Superman is in a class by itself. The much-missed Manhunter is back. And Nightwing is still being given a satisfying star treatment by Tomasi, Rags, and Kramer. I’m enjoying Shooter’s Legion of Superheroes too.

Morrison’s Batman still has me a bit puzzled, but I’m enjoying it more now that R.I.P. has finally begun. Green Lantern Corps is pretty good as a military adventure book. Tony Bedard’s Birds of Prey is also okay, but that title is still having trouble soaring beyond the heights it achieved under Simone’s tenure. Speaking of thankless jobs, Bruce Jones’s Checkmate is…nothing at all like Rucka’s. It’s passably entertaining so far, I guess, but I certainly wouldn’t be buying it if I wasn’t still being carried forward by the momentum of Rucka’s superb run. Jones had better dazzle soon, or this series is toast. People seem to be accepting Mike Norton’s replacement of Cliff Chiang on Green Arrow/Black Canary, but for me, the change in artists just highlights how little-invested I am in Ollie and Dinah’s quest to find Connor. I’m think I’m done with this one. I’m also done with the awful Rann-Thanagar Holy War. Just, ugh.

Fortunately, there are at least a few things on the horizon to look forward to. I’m psyched about Simone’s new Secret Six series, obviously. Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds looks amazing. I’m optimistic about Reign in Hell, primarily because of the creative team, not the concept, which doesn’t do much for me. Perhaps, most importantly, there’s Ambush Bug. After the last year, this series will no doubt be profoundly cathartic.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I (Heart) Hergé

Sorry to have disappeared there for a time, dear readers. I'm totally immersed in "real life" these days--work, family, you know the drill. I have, however, recently written a little piece about Tintin for Blog@Newsarama's summer feature, "I (Heart) Comics!" The essay, which begins to describe my infatuation with Tintin, is called I (Heart) Hergé.

More new content soon.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Torture Continues (with tiny, dim flashes of respite)

Hello, gang. It's time once again for my monthy hissy fit.

Well, it was better than the first issue, for whatever that's worth. We get the reintroduction of a weakened Trigon, a bit of warmed over team banter, more of the awful awful new version of Raven (Geoff Johns's worst idea ever), and a reveal about (spoilers) Trigon's other child.

The best parts of the issue (if you could somehow mentally block out Raven's painful dialogue and costume) were the scenes revealing Trigon as a sort of Ozymandias figure, languishing in a desert realm where he is recovering from wounds inflicted by "a thousand armies." This may have something to do with the forthcoming Reign in Hell event, or it may not. Either way, it looked nice, thanks to guest artist Joe Benitez.

If only he drew the Titans themselves as well as he drew Trigon. Visually, what we have in this issue is a strange mash-up of almost Vertigoesque fanatsy art in the Trigon sequences and the kind of Image comics-inspired take on superhero firgures that leaves me cold. It's really beyond me why TPTB insist on pitching what is essentially a nostalgia book for 35-year-old fans to a much younger demographic by assigning flashy artists that kids today seem, for some reason, to dig. Bah!

(That creak you just heard? My rocking chair. Or was it my artificial hip? Oop! Mind the oxygen tank, young whippersnappers!)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

On Reading Out of Time

So, I was sitting in Tim Horton's this morning reading a paperback copy of Mordecai Richler's Cocksure.

It was a new Tim Horton's for me, in a different part of the city, because I had taken the kid for a long walk to let his mother sleep. I like Tim Horton's, whatever one might say about the coffee. And--if you're a self-involved, slightly full-of-himself new dad on the a.m. stroller circuit who expects the entire world to fall on its knees to pay homage to the kid as you pass because, obviously, it's never seen a grown man with a baby before--Tim Horton's is a fun place to go. The counter staff always seem genuinely interested in checking the kid for cuteness, unlike Starbucks, where 90% of the employees look grim, or too cool for this shiz, and won't even smile at you, much less at your carriage.

So, yes, I'm sitting in Tim Horton's, reading Cocksure, enjoying hot black coffee in a paper cup, with the kid (my kid!) beside me, aware that I will probably only make it through about two of Richler's very short chapters before his nibs tires of the beautiful expensive baby toy that was a gift from his grandparents and needs me to furnish him a rice cookie or a bottle or a funny face, any of which--all of which--I would and do, willingly, immediately, gratefully. And that's how many chapters I get though, too. Exactly two--the first two--on this beautiful perfect sundazzled morning.

And, while I'm putting my book away, in the diaper bag, and pulling out a package of Baby Mum-Mums that I opened yesterday, in a different coffee shop, somewhere else in the city, because it still has half a cookie in it, and handing it to this little boy who is sitting in the stroller beside me, his arms taut and quivering with excitement about the rice cookie that I'm placing in his hands, I think: this is the most fun I've had reading a book in quite a long while.

It isn't that Cocksure is such a great novel. It's entertaining. It does the Richler thing, but with a little extra weirdness, which I appreciate. The reason I enjoyed those two chapters so thoroughly had more to do with the snug fit between that particular book and the little fatherly reverie I had going in Tim Horton's there. It mattered, it occurred to me, that I was reading an old paperback copy of the novel. This one:

The third printing of the Bantam Edition (1969, twice; 1976) of a novel originally published in 1968. Just look at that cover. And those puffs! This isn't a book, it's a time machine. I loved it before I even cracked the spine. The page edges are yellow of course. You know how they smell. And the size. It's literally a "pocket" book--which is the size that all fiction should be. Little wonder that, reading a book published shortly before I was born, in an edition published shortly after I was born, in a coffee shop with an attitude that feels like 1972, sitting now with my son, soaking it all in, I would find so much pleasure in the old, dirty pocketbook. This is what it feels like to dwell, for a little while, out of time.

And on my way home, after the kid had been fed, and cuddled, and cooed over (this last, by the ladies behind the counter), I got to thinking. When, exactly, did the old pocketbook die?

Whoever masterminded the publishing industry's shift from pocketbooks to trade paperbacks has a lot to answer for. Why on earth would I want to read an ugly oversized copy of a novel and pay twice the price for my trouble? McClelland & Stewart's New Canadian Library--which for years has been one of the holdouts, publishing attractive, cheap, pocketbook-sized editions of classic Canadian works--has just this year begun to shift into publishing trade-sized books and charging double what they used to.

Yes, yes, I know why it happened--or some version of the story, anyway. No one was buying books, the internets attacked, or videogames did, or tv, or something, and how could the industry save itself except by charging us double and turning every paperback on the shelves into a dreary-looking Oprah's Book Club clone with a photo cover of daisies, or food, or a soft focus picture of a human figure running through a field?

Sometimes, when I'm desperate, or forget how it is, I walk into Coles and just stare at the wall of fiction, searching vainly for something that I won't feel embarassed to pick up, something that doesn't look like it's been processed by Martha Stewart's marketing hacks. And, yes, I realize that there is a terribly gendered dichotomy emerging in my little rant, here, which makes it doubly atrocious that Cocksure is my example of the lost greatness of the pocket paperback.

But it's too late to go back and start over now. Sometimes, the chips just have to fall where they fall, and if that means running a "shocking, disgusting, scatological, dirty, clever, near-pornographic, funny, embarrassing, nauseating, bewildering, cynical, uninhibited, unruly, unabashed, and very interesting" bit of macho late-sixties provocation up the flagpole to flip the bird to the crummy state of today's precious trade-dress for popular fiction, well, sometimes that's just what it means, true believers.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Alpha Flight: The Movie

Here I was, all ready to get some real work done, and then, who comes along, but that insidious tempter and ne'er-do-well plok!

Never one to back down from a challenge, I've assembled the players (all have signed on for three films, 'natch). Yes, there was some arm-twisting involved, but Canucks Fillion and Polley were gung-ho and gave a hard-sell to some of the holdouts (you can guess who they were). The first film would obviously be some radically abbreviated version of Byrne's first twelve or fifteen issues, culminating in Mac's death and hinting at Heather's assumption of his role as team leader. Because there are so many characters to introduce and assemble, and so much conflict internal to the team already, the villainy in the first film would have to be minimal, and probably linked in some way to nefarious doings at Department H. (Tundra: the government's secret plan to transform the fabled Canadian wilderness into a megaweapon to protect Canadian interests in the north?) The second and third films... Well, there's a lot to play with in this toybox, isn't there?

Guardian (James Hudson) - Nathan Fillion

Who else? Already a Captain, my Captain. And dig the red scarf!

Heather McNeil
- Sarah Polley

The most difficult role to cast, since she must be both sexy and nerdy, a background player and also a lead. Yoiks! Polley could do it, though.

Sasquatch (Walter Langkowski) - Russell Crowe

Crowe has already played the brainy/hunky scientist role with aplomb. Bonus: no special effects needed for the Sasquatch "transformation." His romance with Liv Tyler's Aurora would rival the Jackman/Janssen chemistry in the X-Men films.

Snowbird (Narya/Anne McKenzie) - Tilda Swinton

To my mind, the only other actor in the running is Uma Thurman, but I like Swinton's unearthly beauty better for Inuit demi-goddess, Snowbird.

Puck (Eugene Judd) - Peter Dinklage

Dinklage broke out in The Station Agent; as Puck, he'd become a household name. And an action figure.

Shaman (Michael Twoyoungmen) - Michael Spears

This Dances With Wolves actor certainly has the look of a First Nations superhero. A bit young to be Talisman's father, but's the movies.

Talisman (Elizabeth Twoyoungmen) - Q'Orianka Kilcher

The New World star Kilcher (she played Pocahontas opposite Colin Farrell) would make a great Talisman, I think. Only a minor role in this film, but would become a bigger player in future installments of the series.

Northstar (Jean-Paul Beaubier) - Gaspard Ulliel

My criteria were: French pretty-boy who looks like an elf. Success, no?

Aurora (Jeanne-Marie Beaubier) - Liv Tyler

Okay, so she's not French, but she's gorgeous enough to fake it. Picture her as the stern Jeanne-Marie, hair up in a bun, librarian glasses. Then... Um, moving on.

Marrina (Marrina Smallwood) - Christina Ricci

I was really stumped by Marrina until I found this picture of Ricci. The round face and big eyes have it, I think. A little yellow-tinting and CGI'd gills, and there you have it.


Duh. And how could I forget? Special appearance by...

Wolverine - Hugh Jackman

Friday, May 02, 2008

Carey's X-Men, Claremont's Legacy

Is it wrong to be enjoying X:Men: Legacy so much? Mike Carey is doing a great job of capturing the classic (good) Claremont feel of the X-Men, minus the mannered dialogue. Scot Eaton is a good regular penciler for the series. And if you squint, you can imagine what those supplementary pages by Gred Land would look like if they had been drawn by, say, John Romita Jr. Two outta three ain't bad, folks!

Sure, X-Men: Legacy #3 was a bit thin on story from one perspective, but Xavier's defeat (or escape from) Exodus's psychic guilt-trip hit all the right buttons--especially on that last page where Xavier walks away from Eric and Karima (and us) speaking with melancholy optimism about failure and second chances--a moral which felt like it had been beamed directly out of Claremont's brain sometime in the mid-eighties.

And then, for a treat, Carey gives us two epilogues--an ominous one featuring the Hellfire Club and another featuring Rogue, riding into the Australian desert. Why is it that the X-Men always head for the desert? And why does it feel so good when they do? Something about frontiers and outlaws, I suppose. The wonderful thing about the X-Men, when it's good, is how generically malleable it is. It plays as a Western--it really does. And as science fiction. And as Regency Gothic, etc. I'm dying to see where this book goes and hoping, fervently, that it sticks with its premise of examining the interconnections of X-past and X-present for a long time to come.

Now, can we please just dispense with Greg Land and his writhing, airbrushed ladies?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Teaser Wall Showdown


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Massachusetts Academy: The X-Men/American Idol Mash-Up Continues

God help me, there’s more.

In honor of what may just be the most hilarious fuck up in reality TV history this past Tuesday, I humbly present the retrograde FOX TV series that picks up where American Idol's Young X-Men film leaves off and stars the bottom six of the singing competition's top twelve.

Delirious over the hit film, but starved for a concept, FOX executives scoured the network’s vaults for failed projects and half-remembered pilots that could be dusted off and polished up anew. And then they found this.

Almost overnight, Massachusetts Academy: The Series was rushed into production, helmed by 90210 wizard Darren Star and a mass of jelly in a mineral bath rumored to be the cloned brain of Joss Whedon, grown by FOX’s ultrasecret Superscience Division from DNA left behind after the Firefly debacle.

This is what we know: Following the near-victory of Apocalypse and his four horsemen over the neophyte Young X-Men in the Fox-Marvel film, a mysterious rival group of young mutants gathers at the elite Massachusetts Academy, now run by the last living representative of a previous generation of X-Men: the X-Man known as...

Amanda Overmyer – Rogue

Escaping from Skrull captivity in the early days of the Secret Invasion, Rogue tracked down and killed her Skrull impersonator. Then, fed up with the angst and turmoil of life with the X-Men, she revved up her Harley and made for the open road. In the wake of the recent Apocalypse fiasco, which was badly bungled by the Young X-Men, she reappeared as Headmistress of the Massachusetts Academy, hoping to train a new, more disciplined generation of mutant superheroes. How? By putting her New Hellions through mutant boot-camp from hell... You think you know pain, Shu-gah? Honey-chile, you ain't seen nuthin' yet!

Chikezie – Cloak

Son of the original Cloak and Dagger and field leader of the New Hellions, Cloak’s mutant connection to the Darkforce Dimension is both a blessing and a curse. A brooding presence, Cloak is haunted by the tragic ending of his parents’ partnership and obsessed with finding his own Dagger. Despite a flirtation with team member Jubilee, Cloak also nurses a secret crush on the Young X-Man Dazzler, whose light-based powers exert a similar attraction.

Kristy Lee Cook – Husk

Tough, serious, and smart, Paige Guthrie II is the youngest of the Guthries’ seventeen children. She is named after her older sister—a former X-Man and member of Generation X who perished giving birth to Young X-Man, Angel. (Although they are nearly the same age, Angel is Husk’s nephew.) Like her older sister, country girl Husk is able to shed her skin at will, revealing a second skin, composed of entirely new material underneath: iron, flint, steel, adamantium, you name it. Recently plagued by excruciating headaches and visions of riding a winged horse in the realm of Norse gods, Husk begins to fear that she has been marked, like former New Mutant Danielle Moonstar, to become an Asgardian Valkyrie.

Ramiele Malubay – Jubilee

Unrelated to the original Jubilee, this mischievous firecracker and karaoke machine hog is a time-lost X-Man from another reality who spent most of her adolescence shopping and dimension-hopping with the New Exiles until Sabretooth “accidentally” left her behind in this reality—literally dropping her on Rogue’s doorstep. Flirts with all the boys, and humors Cloak, but has a major crush on Young X-Man, Wolverine. Like, OMG...!!! MAJOR!!!

David Hernandez – Rictor

The party animal of the group, Rictor is the genetic son of gay parents: the original Rictor and his partner Shatterstar, a neat trick made possible thanks to the genetic manipulations of Mojo's minion Spiral and her Body Shoppe. Unbeknownst to him, Spiral is planning a coup and plans to use young Rictor to achieve her victory over the villainous alien television executive Mojo by activating cybernetic controls that she implanted in Rictor’s body when he was just an infant.

Michael Johns – Chamber

A being of pure psionic energy who cannot age because he is no longer really mortal, Chamber was a member of the original Generation X and remains as embittered as ever about the mutant power that destroyed his face from within. At present he is attempting to make contact with Mojo to strike a devil's bargain. In exchange for betraying the New Hellions and selling them into slavery for the Mojoverse’s televised gladiatorial contests, he hopes to receive a rebuilt version of his original body designed by Mojo's minion and genetic artist Spiral. Little does he realize just how large the stakes of his betrayal will become when Civil War errupts in the Mojoverse...and within the halls of the Massechusetts Academy...

Morrison's Unconscious Manifests, Storms Runway

I sure hope Gareth Pugh is picked up as a costumer designer for Batman III; I'm going to have nightmares tonight. Morrison's Batman meets Morrison's Doom Patrol? [The Independent]

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Snowbird in the House

The "God Squad," from The Incredible Hercules #117

She's back! Forgive me for having a pseudo-patriotic moment here, but Alpha Flight is one of my favorite John Byrne creations, and Snowbird is such a visually stunning character she was always one of my faves. In Snowbird, Byrne deftly synthesized the cultural myths of "the Great White North" with Inuit oral tales that were already once-removed in early Canadian comic book heroine Nelvana of the Northern Lights. Plus: she looks really cool.

It wouldn't be difficult to critique the cultural politics of the Snowbird character, or of Alpha Flight more generally. But I don't have the heart for it today. I thought of Snowbird as the Canadian version of my favorite New Teen Titan, Raven. Still kinda do, I guess. I hope this means more Alpha Flight Classic trades.

Monday, April 28, 2008

I Would Like To Know... [UPDATED!]

The Mighty Avengers #12
Did Alex Maleev use a celebrity photo reference for his awesome rendition of Nick Fury in last week's Mighty Avengers? His Fury reminds me of someone, but damned if I can put my finger on who.


Colin Farrell is good guess, and, sure, I can see some Rollins in there, too, and definitely the CSI guy (George Eads)--he'd crossed my mind, too. (My original, and very lame guess, was Nick Lachey.) But I think Sean Kleefled nailed it: Dominic Purcell from Prison Break. The likeness is even clearer in the pictures of bald Nick earlier in the same issue.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Final Crisis Titans Teaser Image Leaked

[Final Crisis Teasers at Newsarama]

Wake Me When Final Crisis Starts

Justice League of America #20

I get that the Final Crisis tie-ins don’t begin until next month, but I am so tired of this book. First Brad Meltzer strings us along with an interminable story that I could barely follow and whose main attraction was the promise of more Geo-Force (who was thankfully traded to Chuck Dixon’s Batman and the Outsiders). Then McDuffie takes over with all kinds of fanfare and expectations attached, and what do we get? A ho-hum crossover with a much better book (Ostrander's sorely missed--and now missing again--Suicide Squad).

And this.

Let's review.

Wally West is a busy guy. He's worn out from cooking breakfast, so to keep himself alert while saving some cats, he monologues about thrilling matters like how forest fires start (droughts! lightening strikes! careless smokers!) and explains something about rotating updrafts and fuel ignition temperatures... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... Sorry, I nodded off there for a minute.

Then, Wonder Woman shows up to save Wally’s bacon after he fucks up the cat-rescue. In the process, she gets him all hot and bothered, in a gross Oedipal sort of way, and Wally explains how he really wants Diana to “respect” him after they hook up—which, hey, I guess, who doesn’t? But please, dude, keep it to yourself.

Anyway, it turns out that Wonder Woman wasn’t just passing through, but popped by to tell Wally to stop spending so much time with his goddamn family, which of course gets him all excited and hopeful…until he realizes that she really just wants him to spend more time alone in the clubhouse pulling “monitor duty,” if you know what I mean. Totally bummed out, and sensing the oncoming guilt-trip, Wally whines about how hard done by he is, having “just come back from the future” and finding himself with “a lot of stuff to deal with,” “just needs time to catch up,” etc, etc. Diana’s not having any of that shit, and proceeds to unleash the mother of all guilt-trips on this douchbag, explaining, in detail, the various ways in which he sucks.

“Wallace, Superman was very disappointed that you didn’t answer that distress call last week (too busy loafing off!), but don’t worry, he forgives you. Oh, and Batman? He thinks you’re a write-off and wants to replace you with Jay Garrick (burn!), but he wanted me to come check things out with you, just to make sure.”

Thoroughly dissed by the whole damn Oedipal trinity and now a nervous wreck, Wally falls tearfully to Diana’s feet, renounces his wife and children, and begs her for some test—anything—that would allow him to regain her approval and the confidence of his two passive-aggressive daddies. Luckily, at this very moment, Wally’s much cooler older brother Black Lightening calls with a hot tip about Queen Zazzala and a bunch of lab techs who’ve been turned into extraterrestrial bees. Something about a diabolical plan to steal earth’s honey supply.

The honey is saved—by Wonder Woman, primarily; meanwhile, Wally runs around for pages and pages providing exposition. Diana feels sorry for him, and, in the end, lets him collar Zazzala, because that's just the way she rolls. Wally isn’t fooled, though. He knows he’s a total fuck up. Miserable at having pissed Wonder Woman off yet again, he grits his teeth for the inevitable lecture. Diana is more efficient than that, though, and lets him off with a parting knee to the groin, which she delicately calls “an entreaty.” Humbled by these attentions, Wally hobbles home to tell his family to fuck off, and then heads off to the Hall of Justice to watch TV.

Beautifully illustrated by Ethan Van Sciver.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Young X-Men, Starring the Top Six of American Idol (Season 7)

In the near future, in the wake of a Skrull attack that devastates the Marvel Universe and leaves the X-Men shattered (again), six mutant heroes rise to pick up the pieces, forming a new team of Young X-Men. Just as things begin to look up, however, the menace of a new Apocalypse darkens the horizon…

David Cook – Wolverine / Phoenix

The secret love-child of Jean Grey and the original Wolverine. Turns out that Jean wasn’t just recuperating in that pod beneath the waters of Jamaica Bay—she was gestating. Before the pod’s discovery by the Avengers, it has already been tampered with by the Phoenix Force, which snatched the baby from Jean’s sleeping body, spiriting young David away to a nursery in a convent in Montana. A lonely orphan, David felt an uncanny (indeed, dimly telepathic) attraction to the deeds of the fabled X-Men, idolizing Wolverine most of all, without ever realizing that the mutant berserker was his real father. As a teen, he was driven by a powerful obsession that he could not fully comprehend, volunteering for the mysterious Weapon X program, which gave him claws and reinforced his skeleton with unbreakable adamantium. Now, still ignorant of his parentage, he leads the Young X-Men, unconsciously carrying on the legacy of his father…and his mother?

Brooke White [a.k.a. Alison Blaire] – Dazzler

Everything that’s happened to Dazzler since her series was cancelled in 1985 is a lie! In Secret Invasion, it was revealed that the Dazzler who joined the X-Men (and later, New Excalibur) was a Skrull imposter. The real Dazz has been on ice in a Skrull mothership for decades. Recently thawed out and preternaturally youthful, our girl is still the bright-eyed songbird who refused to have her spirit crushed by the music industry, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. Changing her name to Brooke White and turning “Here Comes the Sun” into an unlikely comeback hit, Dazzler’s music career soldiers on, while, between gigs, she rolls (literally) with the Young X-Men. Whenever her spirits sag under the pressure of all these responsibilities, she just reminds herself: you can do this, Miss Alison Blaire. All you have to do is pop on those magnetic roller skates…and GO FOR IT!

David Archuleta – Angel / Archangel

One of playboy (and original Angel) Warren Worthington’s many innocent bastards. As a teenager, David was shocked and confused to discover wing-stumps sprouting from his shoulder blades, but a school guidance counselor helped him put two and two together. Selflessly, young David soon took to the skies to seek out the Young X-Men, anxious to inspire others while doing his part in the war against evil mutants. Unbeknownst to him, however, Destiny’s diaries predict dark times ahead. What ominous fate awaits him at the hands of the new Apocalypse? [Hint]

Carly Smithson – Siryn

An Irish mutant with a deadly sonic scream, Siryn is one of the Young X-Men’s most experienced and most powerful players. She was believed to have been killed in battled during the Skrull attack, but in fact, she was rescued by one of the children of Caliban, who nursed her back to health in the underground caverns of the Morlocks beneath New York. Recently married, the pair have devoted most of their energy to deciphering the mysterious script that has appeared all over Caliban’s body. With the help of the Young X-Men, they have cracked the code: the markings are actually ancient prophecies portending the coming of a new Age of Apocalypse.

Jason Castro – Nightcrawler

Using an image-inducer to appear human, Jason is the son of Thunderbird and Nocturne (the daughter of the original Nightcrawler from an alternate reality). Like his grandfather, he can disappear and reappear in another place—it’s all a state of mind, dude. As the threat of Apocalypse grows, he turns anxiously towards his faith and various nerve-calming herbs, fearful that his father’s ties to Apocalypse will come back to haunt him.

Syesha Mercado – Mystique

Syesha originally believed herself to be the non-superpowered daughter of mutant weather goddess Ororo Munroe (the original Storm) and Wakandan King T’Challa (Black Panther). Following the revelation during the Secret Invasion that her mother was actually a Skrull impersonating former X-Men leader Storm, Syesha was plunged into an identity crisis—a crisis exacerbated by the awakening of her own Skrull-given shape-shifting abilities. She could literally be anyone…so, who was she? After a period of turmoil, during which she morphed aimlessly from one impersonation to another, Syesha has recently embraced her Skrull heritage and adopted Mystique as her nom de guerre, a nod to the shape-shifting mutant who once bedeviled, and later joined, the X-Men.

These are our heroes, True Believer! In preparation for the coming siege, they study their adversaries carefully:

Simon Cowell – Apocalypse

The Horsemen of Apocalypse: Pestilence, War, and Famine

Ryan Seacrest, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul

But wait…where is the fourth horseman? Where is Death? [Hint]

So our saga begins...

[Thanks to for the inspiration and images]

Don't Leave Us, Greg!

Greg Rucka, you old softie. Checkmate #25 provides a pulse-pounding conclusion to "Castling" and a fitting end to Rucka's brilliant run (with Eric Trautmann). Is Joe Bennett staying on as series artist after Bruce Jones takes over? I hope so.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Let Us Never Speak of This Again

Switcheroo: Hulk in Space

“What creators who are usually associated with a certain company (or, indeed, medium) would you like to see writing someone else’s title?”

So, after I butchered the creative team switcheroo meme instigated by plok and Madeley, turning it into yet another pathetic jeremiad against Judd Winick and Ian Churchill’s Titans series, plok suggested that more title-specific versions of these shenanigans might be fun. So, here goes…The Hulk!

The first Hulk stories I read were probably the ones collected in Marvel Treasury #20, the most memorable of which was not the Doctor Doom story featured on the cover, but a Hulk-in-space two-parter by Roy Thomas, Herb Trimpe, and Sal Buscema called “Klaatu! The Behemoth From Beyond Space!” and “The Stars Mine Enemy!” (originally presented in The Incredible Hulk, vol. 2 #136-7). The tale, which riffs heavily on Moby Dick, involves the Hulk getting caught up in Captain Cybor and Xeron the Star Slayer’s hunt for the powerful and enigmatic Klaatu aboard the Starship Andromeda. The Abomination shows up. The crew are all monsters. Lots of smashing ensues. It’s truly a glorious ride.

Of course, no Hulk story would be complete without a sharp tug at the heartstrings, and this one certainly delivers. The final page still gets me right here. First, we see the Hulk and the Abomination falling back to earth after a throw down in space; then the perspective changes to that of a little girl on earth who is watching the night sky with her father. Two “shooting stars” appear, but the girl sees better than her father that the cosmic bodies are not stars but men: “Two men who fell off a star… and fell so far… they can’t ever get back again…!”

sniff! Oh…excuse me. Anyway, this, to me, is what the Hulk is all about. When it comes right down to it, I’m more interested in the Hulk as a feeling monster than I am in the Jekyll and Hyde conceit that often drives the Banner/Hulk saga. A science fiction setting only adds to the sense of cosmic alienation that great Hulk stories do so well, and the science fiction conceits here all sail straight out of 1940s an 50s SF, one of those amazing Ace Doubles by Jack Vance, say—only with more monsters and mutants.

Who would I like to see writing and drawing my science fiction Hulk adventures? This is harder than it might seem…so many great creators have already worked on the Hulk. I think these are all relatively non-Hulky picks, though I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong.

1. plok has already suggested Alan Moore and Steve Bissette, and who wouldn't want to see that? We might as well as Rick Veitch to the list, too. His work on the Swamp Thing-in-space stories is particularly haunting.

2. Keith Giffen and Scott Kolins. Two key creative forces behind the (first) immensely satisfying Annihilation series would do a great cosmic Hulk, steeped in nods to Marvel space sagas of the past--and no skimping on the Kirby dots.

3. Steve Niles and Bill Sienkiewicz. I mean, just picture it. Brrrr….! Outer space has never been this cold and terrifying, has it?

4. Samuel R. Delany and Paul Pelletier. What would Delany do as a comic book writer? I’d love to find out! Some subversive crazy-ass shit, I’m guessing. Pelletier, who I’m convinced is the love child of John Byrne and Jack Kirby, would be more than up to the job of bringing Delany’s worlds to life. (Paul Pelletier is permanently on the list of artists that I'd like to see draw anything.)

5. And just because it's good, I'm also going to steal plok's suggestion of Grant Morrison and Jae Lee. So there!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Fan Films, Fetishism, and Fate

I’m always a little nonplussed after watching a fan film: it’s as if I’ve just rifled through someone’s underwear drawer and discovered some awful secret thing that screams, “too much information!”* Not that I should be surprised. All self-styled fans are, in one way or another, fetishists, even if we don’t always quite fit the description of—in Warren Ellis’s memorable phrase—“underwear perverts.” And what are fan films but superhero fetishism writ large? They involve fetishes that are not simply taken down from the shelf and contemplated every now and then, but are literally embodied, enacted, and in a meaningful sense, lived. In the end, the film itself becomes the new fetish, perhaps—the culmination of the whole process that integrates the fantasist and his (or her) objects through performance and representation.

Or, maybe it’s just a good way to learn the craft while pissing around with your buddies in film school. Who’s to say?

At any rate, the genre intrigues me, and I admire this Dr. Fate fan film (Part 1 of a serial) that I bumped into on youtube this evening. The acting is sometimes a bit stiff (particularly the scene in the middle between Dr. Fate and the sister) or veers into self-parody (the closing moments, I think, were meant to be dramatic), but the actor who plays the wayward student of chaos magic is solid and the overall production and effects are really cool. The direction is even, dare I say, a little bit David Lynchy in parts. Good fun; Gary Lobstein has a nice little film here.

And here's Part 2, with The Question thrown in for good measure:

*Why I’m rifling through anyone else’s underwear drawer in the first place is an interesting story, but not one I’m going to get into here.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The New New New Titans

That rascal plok tagged me with this nifty meme:

"What creators who are usually associated with a certain company (or, indeed, medium) would you like to see writing some else's title?"

Plok's suggestions are, as you would expect, big and of the "it's so obvious, why has no one thought of that?" variety. The world would be a better place if you ran Marvel and DC, sir!

My own thoughts on the matter of talent-swapping address a smaller issue: how to fix the goddamn Titans series that DC has just launched--and doomed--under the stewardship of Judd Winick and Ian Churchill. Not exactly the creative team of my fanboyish dreams, as I've already mentioned about several million times. Who is?

1. Marv Wolfman and George Perez. Well, obviously. I mean, there's no point in pussy-footing around it: Titans is a nostalgia book to its core. Might as well go all the way. Hell, set the damn book in 1984 and slap an Elseworlds label on the cover for all I care! And while you're at it guys, could you just finish Games already? Sheesh. (I realize that this one may violate the spirit of the meme, but...)

2. Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Paul Pelletier. These guys are going to tear up the forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy series they're doing for Marvel, but they would be perfect for a Titans book with a classic feel. I'd love to read a DnA Titans space epic, given the duo's flare for superheroic science fiction. Plus, this piece of promo art by Pelletier for Guardians reminds me of a similar two-page spread from the original New Teen Titans series when the team breaks into one of Brother Blood's compounds:

Nice, huh?

3. Gail Simone and Dale Eaglesham. They're both great on team books, and, like Grummett (the best Titans artist post-Perez--if only he would come back), Eaglesham is a details guy, which is something that this book sorely needs. Gail's Titans would be awesome, obviously. Plus, she's perhaps the only person currently writing comics who could fix Donna Troy. (Damn you, Countdown!)

4. Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting. Wait, wait...really! Remember "Runaways"? Remember NTT Annual 2? Under Bru, the book would focus on Nightwing, there'd be plenty of gritty urban crime stories with flashes of superheroics; lots of moody settings; bucketloads of drama, anguish, and soapy goodness; oh yeah!! It would be so great!!! Imagine Brubaker and Epting's Church of Blood! Or their H.I.V.E.!!! Or, for that matter their Trigon!!! Okay, okay, I'm sold...THIS is the creative team I want on Titans. Sorry Marv and George; sorry DnA, Paul, Gail, Dale! Ed? Steve? Are you done noodling around with Captain America yet?