Entries Tagged 'Comics' ↓

What’s a Good Comic for Beginners?

Interesting social media / Twitterverse domino-falling from yesterday’s post on Locke & Key. There are big brags to be had so might as well get those out of the way first…

What’s that, MichaelJ? Casual retweets from the best artist in comics?

Why yes it is, MichaelJ 🙂 How nice of you to notice!

/ big brags

Anywho, Diego Natalino asks what might be a good comic for beginners?

Here are some random guidelines I thought up in response:

  1. It is my general belief that comics are at their best when doing superheroes. Superheroes are kind of ridiculous (check more-or-less any movie prior to Batman Begins)… But comics can make you take them seriously! There has to be something special there (plus most every comic is a superhero comic, so…)
  2. That said, I don’t think anyone is default-wired to like superheroes. I think most comics fans are somehow conditioned to like them through I-don’t-know-how. I am not sure I would put a superhero book in front of a new reader, necessarily (especially a girl) (BTW half the population is girls).
  3. Comics have some of the best writing on the planet, but writing without pictures is just prose. Comics at their best have not just some of the most beautiful pictures on the planet… They have pictures that are lined up in a special way to tell a story; but pretty pictures without the accompanying guidance of the story is just a portfolio. I would want any recommendation to have both a great story and great art.
  4. Comics have a tendency to feed into a particular audience. The active comics-reading audience for the most part has been reading comics for 20 or even 30 years at this point. Many of the best stories are written for people who have decades of comics-reading under their belts. My friend Chris Pikula in particular was insistent on recommending Watchmen (BTW I consider Watchmen not only the best ever comic book but a pinnacle of fiction in any genre)… I am resistant to recommending Watchmen as a first comic because in order to “get” even 25% of its storytelling innovation and richness, you would have to be steeped in many volumes worth of DC superhero lore. “Anyone” can “like” Watchmen but — maybe it’s just me as a territorial comics fan — I don’t think you can fully appreciate it as a neophyte. Corollary: I would want to recommend something anyone can pick up and like and read without a huge amount of background.

Here are some of my recommendations:

For someone who likes Harry Potter: Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things.
You can actually read Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things #1 for free on Comixology (so you might as well do that). Courtney Crumrin is basically Harry Potter, if Harry were a girl, and a bit of a jerk. Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things #1 is probably my all-time favorite first issue of a series. It has literally no continuity requirements; is written and drawn by former Magic: The Gathering artist Ted Naifeh. Just a note of forewarning… Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things #1 is my all-time favorite #1, but it is more for the story than the art, and as this comic was fairly early in Naifeh’s comics illustration career… Let’s just say he has progressed since.

For someone who likes Dexter: Stray Bullets
Great suggestion from Big Jon Rudd on Twitter! BDM used to work at one of New York City’s big comic shops; next time you see him, ask the Pro Tour Historian the story about Stray Bullets #1 coming in… The book was really something special, and surprising; different and new. David Lapham self-published Stray Bullets after his departure from Valiant comics; he was eventually rewarded with an Eisner for his work on this series. The only problem?

You might have a tough time getting a copy 🙁

Stray Bullets looks fairly out of print, back issues and trades look pricey on Amazon, and I didn’t see digital offerings.

For someone who likes Star Wars or Lord of the Rings: Saga
Saga is the new smash-hit comic from my old high school buddy Brian K. Vaughan. It is freaking awesome, absolutely gorgeous, and actually the book that got me into reading digital comics in the first place. I paid $3.99 for my debut copy, but Brian is literally giving away the first issue on Comixology (so go read that).

For someone who likes The Walking Dead: The Walking Dead
Yes, before it was the inheritor to Mad Men and Breaking Bad on AMC, The Walking Dead was a hell of a comic book. It remains one of my favorite books after all these issues. Not for the weak of heart.

There are all kinds of superhero books that you can knock yourself over with, but I wouldn’t necessarily block those off as gateways to comics-adoration. If you want to know some of my favorite ongoing titles, I’d say American Vampire, Chew, and of course Locke & Key (which according to Matt Sperling, was quite the serviceable first foray into comics).

Very curious about any comics readers’ thoughts on this. If you have a particular thing you like (Vampires, fairy tales, torn blouses, pirates, etc.) I would be happy to try to field some further recommendations in the comments below.


Locke & Key is BY FAR the BEST Comic Book Currently Published


the awesome end of recommendations :: my all-time favorite post :: the bestest comic
the bestest artist in comics :: the bestest issue of the bestest comic, drawn the bestest

Yesterday I mentioned a model of review — specifically comics review — that I learned from former Psycomic Editor-in-Chief (and all-around oft-quoted reviewer of yesteryear) Randy Lander. Randy taught a younger me that harsh / negative reviews didn’t really do much for our community or the industry, and that the best thing we could do with our online influence was to spread the love. Again, Five With Flores is supposed to be where you learn to love what YT loves.

I get a lot of pats on the head and thank-yous about recommending Young Justice; but most everybody who follows my podcast has basic cable and Cartoon Network, and given the feedback I got from this all-time favorite blog post there are more than a few Five With Flores readers that fondly remember the super heroic animation of our collective youths. So trying out a cartoon isn’t much of a stretch.

This is more special to me:

Grand Prix Champion Matt Sperling — not a comics reader at all coming in — went out and tried Locke & Key (which as you can read from the post title is the best comic book currently published) on my Twitter recommendation, and liked it. Yay!

Now I’m recommending it to you.

Lockey & Key isn’t your typical four-color superhero comic. It is quite simply a work of fictional genius; supernatural horror that almost could not be told in any other genre. It is a kind of haunted house story with a unique angle on superpowers and magic; I don’t want to give too much away in case you like the sample and go back and read it from the beginning (pretty sure more than a few of you will). Every issue of Locke & Key has been written and drawn by the same two collaborators — Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez — and perhaps the greatest thing about this journey has been watching how they two have progressed and grown.

I was really impressed by Joe Hill and when I got finished reading the first several Locke & Key adventures I went and looked him up. It turns out his dad is Stephen King (yes that Stephen King). Hill was born Joseph Hillstrom King, but operates as “Joe Hill” so as to succeed as a writer on his own efforts rather than courting comparison (or unfair advantage) due to his famous papa. All the more admiration, am I right? Hill just won the 2011 Eisner award for Best Writer (the Eisners being “the Oscars” of comics).

Rodriguez is a different story. Locke & Key is a relatively small story published by IDW, which I assume most of you have never heard of as it isn’t either Marvel or DC (i.e. Disney or WB); Rodriguez was a relative unknown when he sat down to draw the first volume. To be honest I didn’t particularly like his art at the onset… I am just not into that cartoon-y style, even well done, and especially on a deadly serious supernatural horror adventure like Locke & Key.

But the real triumph of this book is that over the first four volumes, Rodriguez makes some kind of light speed leap, and transforms himself from a guy lucky enough to be on the “best story in comics” ride to simply the best visual storyteller in comics. By Volume IV he more than equals Hill’s contribution, which is stunning considering how good Hill is.




There are a lot of good artists out there, but by Volume IV, #1, Gabriel Rodriguez is a lone comic book conductor atop a lofty mountain juggling half a dozen different, disparate, tools… and kicking ass with every one.

Seeing as I actually paid for it, I was kind of stunned that YOU CAN READ VOLUME IV / #1 FOR FREE on Comixology (Comixology is the official site for digital publication used by pretty much everyone; I have switched from trade paperbacks to buying like 80% of my comics on the iPad at this point).

So you can see for yourself.

Here are two preview pages, 1 and 2 actually:

See how on one page Rodriguez apes a near-perfect Calvin & Hobbes Bill Watterson, then shifts to a kind of more precise Arthur Adams? He uses the two aesthetics to signal two different POVs throughout the issue (which itself is a heartbreaker) to give an already-effective script the push, not from “good” to “great” but from “great” to “best”. Back when I reviewed-reviewed comics ten years ago, I once gave Carlos Pacheco an “issue of the year” nod for Fantastic Four for half the storytelling chops; this is just typical Locke & Key at Gabriel’s current level.

Go read Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom Vol. 4 #1 for free; then do me a solid and tell me how much you liked it, like Matt did 🙂

There is literally nothing I would rather read in any medium right now. Hope you like anywhere near as much as I do. As this ish is free, I figure thousands of you will at least try!

Or, if you want to go the old school route (like Matt did):


My Top 10 Favorite Batman Stories (part 2)

For the previous stories (stories 10, 9, 8, 7, and 6), check out My Top 10 Favorite Batman Stories (part 1).

Oh, before we get to my favorite Batman [comic book] stories, here is a new DC Nation video I just saw this morning. It is pretty awesome.

The Bat Man of Shanghai

5. Batman & Robin: Blackest Knight

I thoroughly enjoyed Grant Morrison’s Batman & Robin from top to bottom. The conceit of the title was that instead of Batman being this brooding and tortured genius, held aloft emotionally by a carefree and colorful Robin… Former Robin Dick Grayson (now the Batman of Gotham City) is the pretty nice guy, and Damien Wayne (the natural child of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul) is a bit of an asshole; in an early adventure, Damien — trained from birth by Ra’s al Ghul’s League of Assassins — decided that now that his father had a “real” son, the other Robins were unnecessary… He tried to murder Tim Drake.

Batman & Robin is a story about Dick trying to hold Gotham together in Bruce’s absence, and a story about Damien rejecting his al Ghul ancestry to become a worthy Robin.

Characteristically for Morrison, he got to work with awesome artists like Frank Quitely, Cameron Stewart, and Chris Burnham on Batman & Robin. Blackest Knight is a crossover with Batwoman that I mentioned in the previous part of the review (Morrison — like YT — adored Greg Rucka and JH William III’s Batwoman)… Illustrated by Cameron Stewart. Here are the opening three or so pages:

… If you said “WHAT THE!?!” you and I agree. The opening salvo of Blackest Knight is the comic book equivalent of the White House scene in X2. Yes, yes, yes — Cameron Stewart is very good.

4. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Any of the next three stories… Most longtime Batman fans can probably pick them.

The Dark Knight Returns is the seminal “adult” Batman story. Bruce comes out of retirement to bring back the Bat. Issue after issue he accelerates the stakes of the game, as Batman strives to right Gotham City even as old age creeps up on him. The climax is a battle between Batman and Superman that has ultimately set the tone for every fan’s perception of what might happen if the two clashed.

Miller’s masterpiece, The Dark Knight Returns reinvented the campy four-color cartoon hero into essentially the world’s most revered — and feared — iconic character.

Five Stars obviously.

Love The Dark Knight Rises? You can thank The Dark Knight Returns.

3. Batman: The Killing Joke

Almost universally lauded at the greatest Joker story of all time — and the unofficial “origin story” of the Joker — Alan Moore’s masterpiece is everything that you could possibly want in a Batman story, or any comic book really.

Beautifully illustrated by Brian Bolland, The Killing Joke features many of the same razor sharp storytelling techniques Moore used in Watchmen; personally I prefer Bolland’s illustrations to those of Dave Gibbons (though Watchmen is obviously the pinnacle of the comics medium).

For those of you who don’t know, The Killing Joke was a prestige one-shot. Usually these kinds of comics have minimal impact outside of the story itself… But in this case Moore had the Joker shoot Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) through the spine and then do all kinds of terrible naked stuff to both her and her father, Commissioner Gordon. Joker’s goal is to prove that one bad day can ruin the best of men (here Gordon); in defiance, the noble Gordon demands Batman take down the Joker without compromise.

The story itself is one of the most devastating in the history of mainstream comics. A cherished heroine is brutalized. Moore brings the Joker’s evil — so often over-the-top — low enough that you can touch it, feel Barbara’s sticky blood on your own fingers, or wince at a naked Jim Gordon caged and paraded around like a circus animal.

Moore also challenges us as he challenges the Batman. It is a hard story to read; and to be honest, I have never been 100% comfortable with how Batman dealt with the situation.

But as I said, it is gorgeous throughout.

Love Tim Burton? You can thank Batman: The Killing Joke.

2. Batman: Year One

You know how The Dark Knight Returns is basically the greatest Batman story of all time?

Well… not only is it not better than The Killing Joke, it isn’t even the best Batman story written by Frank Miller!

Batman: Year One, written by Frank Miller and gorgeously illustrated by David Mazzucchelli tells the story of Bruce Wayne’s first year as Batman. He is raw and untested, makes mistakes he never would later. Batman: Year One re-imagines the origin of Catwoman, and casts a young Jim Gordon as a heroic maverick redeeming a corrupt police department from within… and with his fists.

Love Batman Begins and The Dark Knight? You can thank Batman: Year One

1. Catwoman: Relentless

Most of you have heard of the middle-three favorite Batman stories. Some of you might be surprised that I didn’t pick Son of the Demon or Death in the Family (honestly, the closest almost-rans were Batgirl Adventures #1 and Mad Love).

Catwoman: Relentles? What the!?!

This is more-or-less the most heart wrenching comic book I have ever read. Know Ed Brubaker from Captain America or Daredevil? Bru’s Catwoman runs circles around his Marvel work (and that is no knock on his Marvel work… just that Catwoman is so good).

The first part involves Brubaker building up Catwoman’s life… and then crushing her life like a bug under some skinny supermodel’s high heel. The first half of Relentless is gorgeously illustrated by Cameron Stewart; and ends on a kiss. Brubaker and Stewart go absolutely Alan Moore, drawing on the fundamental storytelling limitations of the comics medium… and then again turn the story on its head.

The second half, also perfectly illustrated — but wildly different from Stewart’s — comes via Javier Pulido. It is a tale of desperation and misery, self-destructive co-dependence, and wildly imbalanced emotional attachments: the cautionary tale of a “The End” tag applied too soon.

Catwoman: Relentless isn’t just my favorite tale from Gotham City, but one of my Top 10 favorite comic books, ever.


My Top 10 Favorite Batman Stories (part 1)

Teddy Card Game (Ted Knutson) asked me to write about my Top 10 favorite Batman stories. I finally got around to it.

#10 Batwoman: Elegy *

Fifteen years or so ago I was good friends with this short-haired redheaded girl in the Navy. I spent several balmy evenings with her drinking vodka out of plastic bottles (or whatever). Really we had this very long-standing and meaningful friendship, which, apparently, is why I can’t remember her name.

I basically make up nicknames for everyone I hang out with (GreedyM, Teddy Card Game, KFlo) so I used to just call her “Midships” (she held the rank of Midshipman in the Navy). Midships got boned (and not by a man).

During officers’ training, Midships was taught all different qualities of being a good leader (you know, to be a good officer). One of those qualities was to stand up for what you believe in, and tell the truth. Full of inspiration as an up-and-coming Naval officer, Midships went to her commanding officer and declared that she was a lesbian. She had been consistently ribbed in training for her short hair, but it turned out that yeah, she was gay.

Midships was proud of herself for about the next fifteen seconds, at which point her life fell apart.

She got busted out of the Navy and all of a sudden found herself saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt. Right before coming out, Uncle Sam was paying for her Ivy League education; and afterwards… Not so much.

I couldn’t help but think of Midships for the first time in over a decade reading Greg Rucka and JH Williams III’s Batwoman. Kate Kane is also a short-haired redhead who is busted out of the US military on account of being gay.Still driven by a desire to do justice and contribute, she eventually transforms herself into the titular superhero. Unlike my old friend Midships, Kane is Bruce Wayne-rich and has massive resources to equip herself as a high-tech hero.

Batwoman has much of the “real-life” military / espionage feel of Rucka’s awesome Queen & Country, plus out-of-this-world visuals from JH Williams III… Just one of the most beautifully illustrated comic books in history. Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but Grant Morrison loved their work so much he “had” to set up a team-up between Detective Comics fill-in Kate Kane and substitute Batman Dick Grayson in the pages of Batman and Robin (more on that later).

This book is deeply concerned with the conflicts of social justice. Rucka lays family obligation on like smears of butter on too-done toast; it is thick, and greasy, burnt-crunchy, and rich all at once. You probably won’t see very much you recognize in the romantic struggles Kate has with her various partners; but Rucka and Williams III will make you feel. Along with the typical tropes of secret identity-missed-date-hijinks Kate has to deal with overlaid social acceptance in sexual orientation, high society balls, and class. She is Wayne-rich, remember. Her love life was an animal I wasn’t used to wrestling with.

This book would probably be higher up in this list but there isn’t actually much Batman in it. I read it in trade paperback, but my assumption from its timing was that Kate Kane was keeping the seat warm in Detective Comics while Bruce Wayne was off being dead or lost in time or whatever after tussling with Darkseid in Final Crisis.

#9 Superman / Batman: Public Enemies

This story was from the inaugural arc of the comic book Superman / Batman, with the ever-popular Jeph Loeb writing and Ed McGuinness of art chores. The notion of Superman / Batman is kind of goofy — especially if you factor McGuinness’s iconically cartoon-y art into your seriousness assessment — but it ended up having lasting impact on the DC Universe, at least at the time. Public Enemies ousted Lex Luthor from the presidency, set up Talia al Ghul, personally, as a financial powerhouse, and transitioned into the reintroduction of Supergirl to the DCU.

Spoilers! (for a story many many years old at this point)

Public Enemies starts with President Lex Luthor sending the troops (and “the troops” being supervillains and coerced superheroes) after the titular icons; by the last part of the arc he is off the rails, dons his bad guy Iron Man armor from Apokalips and manages to lose the presidency and his fortune.

Superman / Batman: Public Enemies is almost unbelievably over-the-top with super-injections and large scale participation from the extended Super- and Bat-families. It also includes one of my all-time favorite fight scenes in comics… Which is why it is one of my favorite funnybooks (not just Batman funnybooks).

The bigwigs at DC agreed and turned it into one of their direct-to-DVD movie releases.

In the midst of Luthor’s hunt for Bruce and Clark, the pernicious prez sends the usually-heroic duo of Captain Marvel and Hawkman after two of DC’s Big Three. Captain Marvel is basically the “magic” Superman (similar power set but powered by magic instead of being from Krypton)… and Superman is vulnerable to magic. So Batman calls a “castle” so they switch dance partners (as Batman has himself at a disadvantage against Hawkman due to Hawkman’s power of flight).

So they switch???

Batman sends Captain Marvel into the side of the mountain despite the fact that the entire superhero community has cowered in fear of him in other arcs (e.g. Kingdom Come). He’s basically the more powerful version of Superman, essentially combining the power of six different mythical gods and heroes of legend! But we are so used to seeing Batman beat Superman with cleverness and kryptonite rings that it seems perfectly natural that Batman best a stand-in Superman… Yet a minute ago Bruce was having problems with basically Indiana Jones wearing a jetpack and swinging an iron sheleighleigh.

This fight exemplifies the sheer ludicrous-ness of Superman / Batman: Public Enemies. It’s exactly the feel that Loeb and McGuinness (in contrast to a story like Hush) are going for in this one.

Here’s a clip of the fight from the video version:

#8 Batgirl: Year One

I love Love LOVE Marcos Martin!

Pretty cool “rookie learning the ropes” story by Chuck Dixon (who was considered the best action writer in comics at this point) and the then-relatively unknown (and still criminally not-famous) Marcos Martin.

Some comics you love for being unbelievably put together and executed (Watchmen), others for a peerless evel of innovation (Supreme), and still others for the absolute perfection of their writing (tons, let’s be honest). Batgirl: Year One makes this list because of Martin.

At this point I buy basically everything Marcos Martin touches. He’s done work on The Runaways and Doctor Strange with my old high school buddy Brian Vaughan, and most recently has been kicking butt on one of the best books bar-none, Mark Waid’s reboot of Daredevil.

I would recommend you do the same and buy everything he draws on account of it is all so purdy. His Batgirl: Year One looks effortless on the page.

Amazon prices are all a kick to the unmentionables (I guess this is out of print). With an iPad you can get single [digital] issues on ComiXology for $1.99 apiece, though.

#7 Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes!

I suspect Grant Morrison did all kinds of jumping through hoops for several years running — inventing Damien Wayne as the natural child of Bruce + Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter, “killing” Bruce in an epic showdown with Darkseid (who else can match Apokalips’s God of Evil? Superman?), setting up Dick Grayson as the new Batman (but with a slightly different costume), elevating the Club of Heroes (goofy Batman wannabes from earlier decades of four-color pulp) — just so he could make Batman Incorporated.

Batman Incorporated is the idea that Bruce Wayne comes back from the dead and comes out of the closet as Batman’s backer. Not as Batman per se, but as the guy who supplies his Batmobiles and Batarangs and so on. How could Batman only be one dude, right?

In Batman Incorporated, Bruce sets up Batmen all over the place. Damien was working well with Dick in Batman and Robin anyway, so he lets Dick stay the Batman of Gotham City. Bruce sets up Bat-wing, Rightrunner, Black Bat (formerly Batgirl), and actual other dudes also named “Batman” as his operatives around the globe.

Amazing high concept and great fun.

Over the course of Batman and Robin and Batman Incorporated, Morrison hooks [back] up with some of the best artists in the business (most notably Cameron Stewart IMO) and elevates Chris Burnham to one of the best in the business. Burnham’s Batman Incorporated has the energy and layout of a Cameron Stewart… but with the finish of a Frank Quitely. I mean this in all the best ways.

But to get onto this Top 10 list that includes some of my favorite comics of all time?

It was this one panel in The Leviathan Strikes!:

OMG Holy Fan-boy Bat-dream (Batman)!

Bruce and all his adopted and flesh-and-blood sons; two Batmans, two Robins, all fighting back-to-back???

I know it is just one panel but I think one of the things that makes a fan like me love comics so much is the opportunity to see the heroes really strut their stuff and cut loose, look really cool while serving mad justice: To give us a reason to cheer.

Boy, does this comic do that.

#6 Birds of Prey: Of Like Minds

I consider all of Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey as one long run; Of Like Minds is just the first trade she wrote of a run that is comparable in both length and proficiency to Gaiman on Sandman, Ennis on Preacher, or Robinson on Starman. I don’t state that lightly. Gail Simone on Birds of Prey — especially in the early trades and at her best — is the equal to any of those iconic writers on one of their signature books.

As a high concept, the crippled Barbara Gordon, once Batgirl but now the hacker-hero Oracle, employs with Black Canary and Huntress as her strike team. Who are Black Canary and Huntess? Who gives a hang?

These are two heroines who you might have literally zero investment in right now, but whom Simone will make some of your all-time favorites.

Birds of Prey is one of the all-time best action / martial arts comics. Under the skilled pencil of Ed Benes, it comes to life beautifully. Via Simone’s typewriter, Birds is consistently both heartwarming and hilarious. Butt-kicking, butt-kissing, exposed abs (with good reason), unbridled violence, and even more laughter.

Up next…


That would be telling!


* I completely forgot I previously reviewed this comic book previously; for a more immediate review (i.e. right after I read it the first time), check it here.

Drafto with Bella

At age seven, my daughter Bella (“future girl Iron-Man”) is already a strategic genius. I know most parents generally overrate their children, but I came to this conclusion today after being lectured as to why she whooped me in chess (as a seven-year-old she pronounced her opening “The Italy-an Game” and criticized my early game bishop v. pawn sequencing. I was the president of my high school chess club.

As you can see she already has a fair bluff, and if she ever decides to play competitive Magic, would be the kind of awful person who always chooses Affinity / CawBlade / Delver / etc. You know the type.

Following is a transcript of one-and-a-half superhero drafts I did with her recently.

“Legend” sections borrow liberally from each characters’ Wikipedia entries, with some obvious cropping and commentary by YT.

Daddy: Okay let’s draft great fighters. Do you want to go first or second?

Bella: You can go first.

Daddy: You sure?

Bella: Sure.

Daddy: I take Bruce Wayne.

Bella: Lady Shiva and Captain America.

Daddy: Wow, great picks! I guess I’ll take Iron Fist and… Karate Kid.

Bella: Okay. Super Boy Prime and Anti-Monitor!

Daddy: We’re done.

Bella: What do you mean?

Daddy: I mean we’re done. There is no indication either or those characters is even good at fighting!

Bella: You don’t really have to be that good at “fighting” if you can burn a planet down just by looking at it.


Superboy-Prime has all the basic abilities of a Kryptonian except at a much higher level, exposed to yellow sunlight: superhuman strength, speed, senses, agility, healing, endurance, superbreath, flight, x-ray vision, heat vision, and invulnerability. His power is close to that of the Silver Age “Earth-One” Superman’s, which makes him one of the most powerful characters in the universe. Superboy-Prime’s future self has complete control over time itself.

At the end of Infinite Crisis, it took the Supermans of two universes flying Superboy-Prime through a red sun to stop him. This defeat cost the life of the elder Superman as well as 32 Green Lanterns, where one copy of the Green Lantern ring is “the most powerful weapon in the universe”.

Anti-Monitor was one of the most formidable foes ever faced by the heroes of the DC Universe (or “Multiverse”, as it was then and now). He is directly responsible for more deaths than any other known DC supervillain, having destroyed nearly all of an infinite number of universes.

… May not be as tough as Superboy-Prime.

(different draft)

Daddy: Okay we’re going to draft super scientists (which is something I think you will be more respectful of).

Bella: Okay.

Daddy: Ground rules — and even if someone can say grow or stretch (no hints here) no giants. No celestial beings.

Bella: So they at least started off at regular size?

Daddy: Sure. Okay do you want first pick or second pick?

Bella: Not sure.

Daddy: You’re trying to game me. I know you want Azmuth first but last time you took first pick Azmuth I took Valeria.

Bella: I want Valeria.

Daddy: I am not taking Valeria first pick.

Bella: I’ll take first pick.

Daddy: Do you want Valeria?

Bella: Yes.

Daddy: Okay, you can have Valeria. Go ahead.

Bella: Promise?

Daddy: I said so, didn’t I?

Bella: Okay… Azmuth.

Daddy: What!?! Well played.

Bella: For a seven-year-old. I assume because I am seven and you don’t want to set me up for a lifetime of not trusting men, you won’t go back on your word and take Valeria just because I tricked you and took Azmuth anyway *.

Daddy: Well, Valeria is only three, so you’re not that smart. I guess I’ll take Reed Richards and Brainiac Five.

Bella: Valeria Richards — or should I say VALERIA VON DOOM — and Victor Von Doom.

Daddy: I will wheel Lex Luthor and the SCIENTIST SUPREME Hank Pym.

Bella: Five man teams?

Daddy: Yeah. This is your last pick.

Bella: Iron Man and Nathaniel Richards.

Daddy: Remember the time you had all the Richards?

Bella: Make your last pick.

Daddy: I take Amadeus Cho.

Who do you think won the draft of the super scientists? Answer in the comments below!

Team MichaelJ:

  • Reed Richards
  • Brainiac Five
  • Lex Luthor
  • Henry Pym
  • Amadeus Cho

Team Bella:

  • Azmuth of Galvan
  • Valeria Richards
  • Victor Von Doom
  • Anthony Stark
  • Nathaniel Richards


(Ben 10 Universe) Creator of the three greatest scientific achievements of the Ben 10 universe, including both the greatest weapon and the greatest instrument of peace. Called the smartest being in [his] universe, Azmuth disagrees, saying he is merely the smartest being in three, arguably five, galaxies.

Reed Richards
(Marvel Universe) Generally depicted as the most intelligent being in the Marvel universe.

Brainiac 5
(DC Universe, 31st Century) Brainiac 5 possesses a Twelfth Level Intellect, which grants him superhuman calculation skills, amazing memory and exceptional technical knowledge. By comparison, 20th century Earth as a whole constitutes a Sixth Level Intellect, and most of his fellow Coluans have an Eighth Level Intellect. 31st century Earth as a whole is a Ninth Level Intellect. His incredible memory allows him to retain knowledge of events that all other characters forget[.]

Valeria Richards
(Marvel Universe) Daughter to Reed and Sue Richards. At age three, Valeria claims to be her father’s intellectual superior. [whether or not this is true you can probably see why a seven-year-old girl would want to draft her high]

Victor Von Doom
(Marvel Universe) Doctor Doom is a polymath scientific genius. Throughout most of his publication history, he has been depicted as one of the most intelligent humans in the Marvel Universe — comparable to arch rival Reed Richards.

Lex Luthor
(DC Universe) The most intelligent human in the DC Universe, and as one of the most intelligent beings of any planet or species. He has mastered seemingly every known form of science, and considers Brainiac his only intellectual rival.

Henry Pym
(Marvel Universe) Scientist Supreme of the Marvel Universe (basically the opposite number to deus ex machina Dr. Strange).

Anthony Stark
(Marvel Universe) Inventive genius whose expertise in the fields of mathematics, physics, chemistry, and computer science almost rivals that of Reed Richards, Hank Pym, and Bruce Banner, and his expertise in electrical engineering and mechanical engineering surpasses even theirs. He is regarded as one of the most intelligent characters in the Marvel Universe. Also Bella’s hero and the reason she (too) wants to attend MIT.

Nathaniel Richards
(Marvel Universe) Time traveler, scientific genius; father to Reed Richards and grandfather to Valeria Richards (also in this list).

Amadeus Cho
(Marvel Universe) Rated 7th smartest person in the world by Reed Richards, eighth by Hank Pym, and 10th by Bruce Banner. Likely smarter than Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom. Regardless, a brilliant teenager.


Who won?


* Okay, the (emphasized) second part of that only took place in my head. But you can see where either of us was going on this 🙂

Justice League: Cry for Justice


In the introduction to Justice League: Cry for Justice, writer James Robinson claims that it is maybe the darkest Justice League story ever.

Can’t disagree.

I actually bought and read this comic after buying Robinson’s first regular old Justice League story (which read like a mish-mash of semi-related stories with an inconsistent lineup of superheroes, but referencing Cry for Justice somewhat)… and the two could not be more different (despite featuring some of the same characters).

This story is a combo of a “gathering of eagles”-type that brings together some seldom-seen heroes (the 1970s blue Starman, Congorilla) and an overall tone of “man, bad spit be happenin'”.

And boy, is it bad.

Grant Morrison JLA villain Prometheus gathers any number of villains to do some science-disaster stuff, and it is really bad. I don’t really want to say specifically what, as the unfolding of the threat and how heroes in geographically different areas uncover the elements to its mystery is the essential process and experience of Cry for Justice, but it is quite bad. 

The cast of characters includes big names like Green Lantern; “super pinups” like Starfire, Zatanna, and primarily Supergirl; and oddball heroes you have never heard of that James Robinson has a soft spot for, like a gigantic talking golden monkey. Per usual, he does a good job putting a story together. 

From the other side, the Big Bad is the aforementioned Prometheus, and a cast of villains (many of whom I had never heard of before) used as chess pieces to get the good guys, often with no regard for their own safety. It is cool seeing super-torture from the side of ultimately lilly white souls, and bad guys misleading heroes mid-combat only to ultimately throw their own lives away in explosion after fiery holocaust (I told you it was the darkest Justice League story ever, already).

What’s Great About Justice League: Cry for Justice:

IMO, Three [big] Things:

  1. Its Gorgeous.
  2. The Story
  3. The Significance

It’s gorgeous.

I don’t know what the exact process is, but Mauro Cascioli’s art comes across like fully-rendered oil paintings. For the most part, only Alex Ross does that kind of stuff well, and the also-rans come off looking stiff or traced (or both), or badly sacrifice rendering and storytelling for the perceived painterliness of an end result. None of that here; Cascioli’s art has the fluidity and grace of storytelling indicative of a well-rendered conventional comics page, but just happens to be finished by a richer and more varied box of colored pencils, china markers, and oils (or maybe just really, really exacting Photoshop… who knows?).

I know I just got done publishing a comics review where I said the book [Batwoman: Elegy] didn’t look like anything else on the stands, and I certainly don’t want to make visual uniqueness unintentionally trite, but this book doesn’t look like anything else on the stands, either. Cascioli doesn’t have the variety of different finishes that JH Williams III does in Batwoman, but the cross-section of “good art” and “looks like a painting” is just a few microns sub-Ross (I mean that in the best possible way).

The story:

As for the story, I don’t buy many books on the strength of the artist, and I wouldn’t have known that Justice League: Cry for Justice was beautiful anyway, because I had never previously heard of Mauro Cascioli. However James Robinson is one of my all-time favorite comics writers (mostly on the basis of his [primarily] 1990s run on Starman). Robinson has some Starman favorites like the Shade and the blue Starman Mikaal Tomas (characters he didn’t create but most people either have never heard of or don’t care much about but he made layered and absolutely great in his own stories) feature prominently in the story; you can really see his love for comics and old / forgotten / still cool or rich characters unfold on the page.

The significance:

I had heard about some of the crappy stuff that happened in this story from reading upcoming comics listings on various websites, and again, from the first Robinson Justice League trade (with Mark Bagley, that comes after Justice League: Cry for Justice), but rest assured, the bad things that happen are the kind that have a lasting effect on a character, like a bullet to the spine or a brutal beating at the hands of the Joker.

You would literally have to re-boot an entire universe to… 

Oh wait… Never mind.

What Gave Me Pause About Justice League: Cry for Justice

While the core cast of characters — Green Lantern and Green Arrow primarily, along with Starman and Congorilla separately — is pretty constant, there often seemed to be minor stuff going on that was disconnected to what was actually going on. Like why bother putting Mon-El into one panel in the whole book? Let’s just randomly put Starfire in a bikini scene and joke about her being naked poolside sometimes! I mean sure, that is good for a LOL, but I get the feeling there were tie-ins with other titles or something that I wasn’t 100% apprised of as a trade paperback reader. I don’t know if the story would have suffered much with no Mon-El, no Starfire, whatever. As long as we follow around GL, GA, Supergirl, Starman, and the big golden monkey (and I guess the Jay Garrick Flash and his onetime archenemy Shade), we get more-or-less everything we need to out of the main story.

I didn’t / don’t hate-hate the side stuff like that, but it is semi-annoying.

Also, Scott Clark takes over the illustration chores for an issue or so. His pictures are reasonably pretty, but not as pretty — and certainly not as unique — as Cascioli’s in the majority of the rest of the book; that makes for a semi-jarring twenty-odd pages, especially given the expectation set up for the preceding 100 or so.

None of this really bothered me that much; quality book overall.

Why would someone buy Justice League: Cry for Justice?

I think the majority of buyers are either JLA zombies or like James Robinson. He is certainly not guilty of plastering an excess of commercially overblown characters all over every page, though he does an artful job of casting the absent Batman’s long shadow across the story entire; Prometheus has a very distinct agenda: He sees how Batman, “just a guy,” can terrify into submission not just cowardly criminals but also his crimefighting teammates. Prometheus wants to be — bereft of any Kryptonian DNA, magic words, or power rings — the villainous equivalent of Batman, the master strategist who bosses other villains about.

To that end Prometheus can convincingly hold his own against the entire cadre of assembled heroes. In a scene borrowing from Deathstroke the Terminator against the whole JLA in Identity Crisis (how great was it when Deathstroke swung his sword at Green Arrow, with GA ducking and Deathstroke “missing”… only to reveal the ends of all of GA’s arrows had been de-feathered by the “missed” sword-stroke?), Prometheus has a silver bullet for every good guy, moves around, dodges expertly, predicts who is going to attack from what angle, and manages to tear off heroic arms, burn off faces, break legs, split bodies in half, and generally kick buttocks aplenty.

You also get a chance to see the good guy equivalent of water boarding (along with the requisite objections from the team’s resident bleeding heart). Still, something some readers will cheer for.

Buy / Don’t Buy:
This is a strong superhero story. It touches on a sort of Authority-esque notion of proactive super heroics (the opposite of the traditional X-Men stance of waiting around for someone to attack them), but beyond a couple of questions of superhero morality (do superheroes kill? under what circumstances? should superheroes use torture to extract information? even from known killers? does giving someone a sinus headache count as torture?), it is “just” a darker look at a superhero team book.

If you love superheroes, again, this is a strong superhero story.

The art is very beautiful (for the most part). 

The story is very engaging.

I personally adore James Robinson’s work.


(but not like “highest possible recommendation” buy, or anything)

Pennies, etc:


Batwoman: Elegy

I probably would have read Batwoman: Elegy anyway, as I am a gigantic fan of Greg Rucka comics from his Oni Comics Queen and Country [think girl James Bond, but like with real-life spy stuff / issues instead of teleporter wristwatches and Astin Martin black hole projectors] series, and of course wonderful runs on both Gotham Central [Bruce Wayne’s gritty war on crime, but from the other side of the Bat-Signal] and Checkmate [international espionage meets flowing capes and power rings]… But this comic came especially highly recommended.

In the foreword to one of his glorious Batman & Robin hardcovers, Grant Morrison said that he was going crazy over Rucka’s work with Batwoman… and… well, good enough for me.

Batwoman: Elegy has two big things going for it.

1. It is absolutely gorgeous. I mean beyond anything JH Williams III has done in the past. JH Williams III has worked on some pretty fantastic comic books in the past but he uses every part of the buffalo on this one. It is pretty clear, panel to panel and page to page that the same hand laid out the illustrations, but Williams communicates in half a dozen different visual languages with his finishes… Matte finish, richly layered colors, big bold flats, gray tones. It is like several different specialists all running different riffs on a single master’s core idea… Except that he is the engineer of all of it (JH Williams III is running the post-New 52 Batwoman comic as well… But I only read trades).

2. Rucka does what Rucka does well. He takes real-life military issues and blends them into a four-color superhero world, and makes them work well together. Kate Kane (the “modern” take on the Batwoman) is a capable military operative from a family of superb soldiers… Who happens to be a lesbian. She isn’t a lesbian in the ooh, ah, hetero-porn sense, but a very three-dimensional woman facing a very human problem at the crossroads of career choice and sexual orientation. She deals with it in what she thinks is the most honorable way… and through a series of struggles, ends her military career, and ends up a kind of super-soldier superhero.

Now a comic book that is grounded in real-world military concerns isn’t the kind of comic book where the protagonist is struggling against alien invasions or 1,000,000 malicious former corpses, all armed with otherworldly power rings. Kate Kane’s struggles are about social status, somewhat relatable stresses, romantic relationships, family problems none of us would wish on our worst enemies, and the rising influence of the so-called Religion of Crime in Gotham City. She works with a much more realistic palette of crimefighting tech than Batman and his Science Fiction Closet, and if she takes a knife to the chest, her recuperation has to be dealt with in a very different way than the default superhero three-world Ultra Combo Finish of “I got better.”

This is a book of emotional highs and lows, tragedy, perversion, betrayal, and personal loss; yet also of punching a room full of criminals into red-gloved KOs; of crashing through skylights in a flutter of wing-reminiscent crimson bat-cape. It is gritty and visceral as it is gorgeously rendered. Unlike even some pretty well realized telekinetic possessions and galaxy wide gamma irradiated rampages, Batwoman: Elegy makes you feel something (made me feel something anyway).

Pretty obvious that: I loved it and.

What is Great About Batwoman: Elegy?
The writing. Also the art. One thing that I really liked about this book, especially as I don’t read monthly floppy comic books, is that even though Batwoman’s adventures take place in the greater DC superhero universe, you don’t really have to know that much about whatever the hell else is going on to appreciate and enjoy this story. I was vaguely aware of the Religion of Crime, and I remembered even some of the more obscure Batman-borrowed villains from my days working on the Vs. System card game; but whatever. You don’t really need to know anything about superhero comics to drop your jaw at JH Williams III’s illustrations or wipe away a tear summoned up by Rucka’s prose.

What Gave Me Pause About Batwoman: Elegy?
I had a theology class back around 1993 where the instructor’s main criticism of comics — the medium that I was then growing to really love — and loved to relate to many different philosophical discussions and situations — was that they were taking themselves too seriously. I do think there is something to be said for “comics allow us to tell stories about superheroes without making superheroes look silly” (which is the point of differentiation that a fairly famous reviewer who used to work for me said was the main thing that made comics special… though this was years before amazing works like Batman Begins, X2, or Iron Man); if you are in that camp, and you mostly want to see Superman punch a planet so hard it shatters into 1,000,000 irradiated pieces, then weld together a bent-backed concrete bridge using his laser vision lickety-quick (forget about the underlying structural damage that crashing through it at the speed of sound might deal in the first place)… then this comic might not be for you. If your criteria for female-fronted superhero comics comes out of the 1990s bikini-blur of bad girls and butt shots (the last comics review I did on this blog spent several paragraphs talking about the specific rendering of Emma Frost and contrasting January Jones in X-Men: First Class relative to Andrews illustrations)… This might not be the comic for you. Kate Kane is “hot” (would be considered “hot” by a fair number of people), but despite the flowing red tresses of a Batwoman, her civilian persona has stereotypically clipped short hair. She is covered by tattoos and looks like she would be able to beat you up, even when there is no Bat-Shield emblazoned across her bust.

To me, that treatment of female Bat-hair is kind of a hat-tip to the original Batgirl from the campy Adam West Batman television show, even though Barbara Gordon is a completely different character. I liked it regardless.

Sometimes you can have a great, or well-written, technologically useful, or otherwise +EV piece of writing, art, artistry, craft, self-expression or article that has some element that some people just “can’t get over.” In Magic articles some guys don’t like name drops or humor, or are incredibly myopic. They will fixate on something (whether or not that is the central thrust of a piece) and judge it on some detail without being able to appreciate it for its whole (I am sure you know what I am talking about). Ultimately, I know that my vast blog readership crosses many backgrounds and demographics and maybe you just don’t want your comics to be progressively preachy. Batwoman: Elegy isn’t MOSTLY progressively preachy but an inability to empathize with how a talented lesbian might be dealt with by the US military might translate into an inability to appreciate Batwoman: Elegy despite how gripping and well-illustrated it might be. Me? None of these things bothers me (in some cases quite the opposite); but they gave me pause insofar that they might have given some of you pause.

Why Would Someone Want to Buy Batwoman: Elegy?
It is already great in every way that I care about. My ability to appreciate comics translates across fairy tales (Stardust and Fables) to Superman deconstruction (Miracleman and Supreme) to trippy Brazilian author autobiography (Daytripper) to regular old four-color superhero adventures (Invincible). I love any kind of comics that are well-written (Sandman) or well-rendered (WildCATs); sometimes we get both (She-Hulk… or Batwoman).

Buy / Don’t Buy:
I can’t give this book a “highest possible recommendation” without a perception of watering down future highest possible recommendations, but it is pretty great (if you are into liking things that are pretty great).

Make me a millionaire (a couple of pennies at a time, it turns out):


Comics, Messing Around on my iPad, etc.

I don’t remember how I got on this train but I was reminiscing about what was supposed to be my smashing career in comics and / or movies. Most of you probably aren’t longtime-enough readers to know that I was a high finisher in a comics competition a few years ago called Comic Book Idol (I finished third)… Second-place finisher was Jonathan Hickman, who is now a superstar at Marvel Comics, killed the Human Torch, etc.

Anyway, believe it or not I made it into Variety (premier showbiz mag) at the tender age of 27.

Click the above for the story starring YT!

I got plucked out of Comic Book Idol and was immediately signed onto a movie / comics adaptation for a book called Seen. Long story short, I was distracted with other projects (i.e. my Magic writing career was just taking off, and I played in the Magic Invitational), and Seen never got done [by me, anyway]. Earlier this year the same studio / comics company that hired me put out a little film called Cowboys and Aliens.

Anyway, partly inspired by something Justin Treadway linked to on Twitter I decided to download some drawing software for my iPad.

I haven’t drawn — seriously or otherwise — in literally 5-6 years, but I think I am going to screw around and put up sketches and stuff.

So… These aren’t up to pro quality or anything, but maybe we’ll get to an interesting place again. It’s like Nikolai Dante says about fightin’ … The only way to get good at anything is to do a lot of it.

First swipe…

Sketch 2


That’s it!


Flores (last) Friday – Cartoon Network

Last Friday (9/16/2011) was what I consider the first big television night of the fall season.

No, it wasn’t my girl Zooey Deschanel on her new Fox sitcom, or the long-awaited return of an old favorite… But an action-packed evening on Cartoon Network!


I have been on mono-cartoons on Friday nights for at least the bulk of 2011. I have no clue what is on any regular teevee network on Fridays (though I do DVR Smackdown in preparations for some future rasslin’ site I have been spitballing with some other community members). Anyway, following are my reactions to this week’s first “the biggest night of action”…

While I generally like my “four perspectives” paradigm for reviewing stuff, since there is basically no buy-component to watching a single episode of basic cable cartoons, I will vary a bit for the purposes of this review (hope you don’t mind).

Batman: The Brave and the Bold
“Scorn of the Star Sapphire”

Batman and Green Lantern team up to face Star Sapphire.

What was great about “Scorn of the Star Sapphire”?

Batman: The Brave and the Bold is just so deliciously over-the-top. Every situation on the show is basically the furthest extreme of what you might see in a comic book in terms of scale. At the same time, the universe of Batman: The Brave and the Bold seems to draw on everything anyone who likes comics or comics-related media has ever liked. Case in point, the opening James Bond-esque vignette at the beginning of “Scorn of the Star Sapphire” was a Wonder Woman team-up that included — I spit you not — the Lynda Carter version of Wonder Woman from the old live-action television show, complete with the old theme trumpeting as the background music during the rescue / beatdown segment. I pretty much adored that.

Plus, there is Batman’s scathing crime fighting quip, “If it weren’t for your tattoos, Tattooed Man, you could be working in that bank instead of robbing it!”

What gave me pause about “Scorn of the Star Sapphire”?

The introductory scene with Caron Ferris and Hal Jordan (testing a prototype Batmobile) is extremely reminiscent of the scene in the summer’s Green Lantern movie (I disliked the scene, and didn’t particularly like the movie) [Hal crashes stuff for seemingly no reason].

I thought Loren Lester as Hal Jordan sounded like kind of a wimp. Hal Jordan is supposed to be a fighter pilot / beat cop (as Green Lantern… his “beat” being all of the Sector). Lester made me feel like I could put down a Green Lantern with “one punch” … Not convincing in my opinion.

The overall conflict — and conflict resolution — seemed pretty goofball. I guess you can count on this show for goofball stories, but nevertheless I thought this one was a mite eyebrow-raising.

Why would someone want to watch Batman: The Brave and the Bold?

Batman: The Brave and the Bold is maybe the funnest cartoon incarnation of Batman, ever. It doesn’t have the depth and complexity of the 1990s Bruce Timm / Paul Dini animated series / Gotham Knights incarnations, but like I said before… If there is something about DC comics or related media (up to and including the Adam West-type stuff) you love, it is in there. Batman: The Brave and the Bold is kind of like the Joyce’s Ulysses of Friday night comic book cartoons 🙂

Watch / Don’t Watch?


Generator Rex
(no clue; I don’t watch Generator Rex)

Young Justice

Red Arrow is pitted against dangerous assassins.

What was great about “Targets”?

Red Arrow is probably my second-favorite character in the current incarnation of Young Justice, and he takes center stage. I love his attitude, I love how he fights, and I even really like his voice actor.

“Targets” really dangles a lot of interesting future possibilities in front of us, including Ra’s al Ghul as one of the principal antagonists, and — by the end of the ep — quite a bit of fill-in on the overall Young Justice backstory.

“Targets” does a superb job with its villains, and it is fun for longtime comics fans to see the interplay between Red Arrow and Cheshire (in the comics, Cheshire is the mother of Red Arrow’s child). Even Sportsmaster (an old time villain based on sporting goods… seeing how a wooden baseball bat can get through Alan Scott’s particular brand of Green Lantern) seems pretty cool / formidable.

What gave me pause about “Targets”?

I am used to Clancy Brown — the em effin’ Kurgan from Highlander — as my Lex Luthor. Mark Rolston, by comparison, seems downright effeminate. I like nine things about Young Justice for every quibble like this, but to me, Lex didn’t have the appropriate follow through.

Why would someone want to watch Young Justice?


Watch / Don’t Watch?


Ben 10: Ultimate Alien
“The Purge”

Old George reignites a war against all aliens on Earth.

What was great about “The Purge”?

Nothing really great. Fair amount of enriching world-building… I can see something coming on the horizon… but not “great”-great if you grok.

What gave me pause about “The Purge”?

Logistics, mostly. I mean why do the bad guys even give the aliens they catch a choice? Why not just off them if they have no fear of the Plumbers? Early in the ep it looked like they were taking on Plumbers head-on, even.

When Ben beats the bad guy end boss, why does he power down back into sixteen-year-old human mode so that he can pontificate? Why is it not “honorable” to use his Way Big alien mode to win the fight, but it is okay to use Ultimate Spider Monkey (the sentiment behind this sentence made as much sense to me as it makes to you, and I watched the show)? Does Ben really need to soapbox in that spot?

The Ben 10 universe has some of the highest highs (when it is “on”), but the average ep at this stage is pretty hit or miss, and this one was medium at best.

Why would someone want to watch Ben 10: Ultimate Alien?

I actually adore the Ben 10 cosmology… the different incarnations of the most powerful weapon in the universe… the fact that it / they is / are in the hands of a ten-year-old (now sixteen-year-old) adolescent who isn’t actually the nicest kid in the world. There is a deep idea of redemption, and sometimes good guys get hurt or even killed. Heck, good guys kill (and on occassion, needlessly). The combination of interesting universe-building and an actually surprising level of emotional engagement (for a half-hour cartoon) make it worth tuning in every week. Considering the fact that Ben 10 was at one point one of the most desirable licenses in the US means that I am no the only one.

Watch / Don’t Watch?

I’d say watch, but mostly because if Old George is going to be a central character to this season, if you don’t watch, I fear you will have no idea what is going on.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars
“Water War; Gungan Attack”

Inhabitants of Mon Calamari are on the brink of civil war; the Jedi realize they need help from a powerful and amphibious ally to drive out Separatist invaders.

What was great about “Water War” and “Gungan Attack”?

This was a full hour season premiere, with the first half being “Water World” and the second half being “Gungan Attack” … The best thing about these eps (in particular the first one) was the underwater fighting! We have seen swordfights, space dogfights, but never before a large scale underwater fight like this one.

We have a shirtless Kit Fisto, Ahsoka Tano fighting with two lightsabers, and some kind of shark bad guy who apparently doesn’t need weapons. Lots of battle, lots of fun.

What gave me pause about “Water War” and “Gungan Attack”?

You can probably tell from the DVR summary (and the name of the second episode) what the proposed resolution is… and the cavalry that comes a-comin’ is a planet full of Jar Jar Binks. I’d almost not be rescued at all.

Why would someone want to watch Star Wars: The Clone Wars?

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is absolutely gorgeous. This one was a sight to behold, actually… So different, so inventive. There is nothing else on television like it. Also lightsaber fights.

Watch / Don’t Watch?


Watch / Watch / more-or-less Watch / Watch – That was pretty easy 🙂


Four Perspectives Review: Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis

“Back of the book” summary:

A small African town has been hit with a series of bizarre occurrences, as children are born possessing strange and powerful abilities. With the mutant race dwindling, the X-Men are the first on the scene to investigate the phenomenon. When they arrive, their hopes are raised by what looks to be a concentration of mutant births. But soon they find themselves confronted by the country’s ruthless leader, who has his own ideas of what the children truly are and how to deal with them. Have the X-Men stumbled across a series of new mutant births, or are they dealing with something far more dangerous?

I have not been super into X-Men comics in some years, and I haven’t been a regular consumer of any kind of X-Men comics since Joss Whedon’s launch of the Astonishing X-Men title (illustrated in its entirely by the great John Cassaday) as kind of a follow-up to Grant Morrison’s New X-Men. Warren Ellis — the man responsible for many of the late 1990s and early 2000s greatest superhero comics, as well as comics-to-film adaptations like Red
— carried on the Astonishing X-Men after Joss launched Kitty Pryde into a super spacefaring bullet, with a succession of strong artists, arc-by-arc, most recently Kaare Andrews in this volume.

I was in particular excited to pick up this book because Andrews was such a celebrated cover artist on Incredible Hulk a few years back. You may know him from some of those iconic covers…

(my favorite was this Rockwell-inspired one, but there were lots of goodies)

Andrews has used a lot of different styles — painterly, cartoonish, exaggerated — but his ability, workmanship, and distinctiveness are pretty undeniable.

Ellis is a writer who has produced some of the greatest comics any of us will ever read — The Authority as a concept, a great deal of Planetary — but the joke is that this writer, who is one of the best at innovative superhero stories, doesn’t particularly like writing superheroes.

… So of course he finds himself piloting a quintessential “superhero” concept team in the X-Men. And not just any X-Men here… He has some of the most popular members in the history of the franchise in Storm, Cyclops, and of course Wolverine on the lineup.

Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis is, I think, a rare opportunity for a writer to really bend a popular franchise to a truly terrible context… No, not a faraway space station or the undersea kingdom of Atlantis (those are actually pedestrian for a squad like the X-Men). Instead, Ellis uses the opportunity to put them into an actual awful place, a small village in Africa.

He uses the opportunity to highlight some real-world problems to an American audience… Stuff I wouldn’t have thought about independently, and because Ellis is so good, he can interweave the socially uncomfortable bits in with dialogue and situational conflicts we might actually want to read. Case in point:

Cyclops (to Storm [who is a Black woman, currently a Wakandan Head of State, and was worshipped as a goddess in the Serengeti in younger years]:

“… I’m walking two White Americans, a White Canadian, a Japanese girl and a White woman of indeterminate ancestry who speaks with a fake English accent into an African country. So if you don’t mind a little more consultation than usual…”

So even if there is a political agenda driving the setting of the book, Ellis’s skill level mitigates how much it might detract from the usual, you know, ultra-violent superhero romp.

Anyway, onto the review…

What was great about Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis?

Honestly, I loved Loved LOVED the thing about Emma Frost’s alleged fake English accent. I just got done watching X-Men: First Class for the third time, so my working image of Emma Frost is the “sullen and bosomy” portrayal by January Jones, which I didn’t hate, but was admittedly not great. Emma is written so over-the-top by some writers (Grant Morrison in particular)… I could just see the Madonna-esque fake English accent fitting for a woman who jokes about her plastic surgery, or getting herself appraised while in diamond form. Such a real-feeling nugget characterization, situated in potentially a throwaway piece of dialogue.

Additionally, the bad guys / reveal to this one harkens back to some Alan Moore / Alan Davis comics from twenty years ago, and longtime comics fans like YT get a kick out of that stuff.

From my perspective, this wasn’t really a “great” graphic novel, though I certainly appreciated quite a bit of it, and would consider it well above average in general.

That said, maybe it wasn’t meant to be great … The “ruthless leader” of the African country sums up the scope of what is going on in Xenogenesis via a thought-provoking bit of monologue over the story’s the final two panels:

“And no one will care. It’s not Chernobyl. It’s not an oil spill, or a hurricane.

“It’s just a village in Africa. Everyone wants to save the world, you see.

“But nobody really cares about M’Bangwi. No one but me.”

What about Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis gave me pause?

The African thing didn’t really bother me at all. I know some readers, once they realized what was going on, would cry emotional manipulation and close themselves off to what was good about the book. “I want the X-Men to be fighting aliens, not for the safety of one African village!” Well, they actually end up fighting some aliens so that isn’t even a problem.

The biggest thing that bothered me is actually some of Kaare Andrews’s rendering. Here is a highlight of the cover:

I mean WTF is up with Emma Frost’s butt?

Like I said before, Andrews has any number of styles available to him. And in this case he chose “gelatinously drooping”.

Emma invented the concept of using your superhot superhero body / underwear-looking costume as a weapon as the White Queen of the Hellfire Club. Flaunting cosmetic surgery is one of many batarangs in her utility belt. There was even a backup story in Classic X-Men when she explained her “uniform” to a lib-minded young waitress [things from when you are 13 that you don’t easily forget]! I mean… that is the cover!

We are way more used to seeing Emma look like, well this:

Emma Frost by Adam Hughes

Or the aforementioned:

January Jones as Emma Frost in X-Men: First Class

Anyway — that’s what gave me pause. And now that I’ve pointed it out, I bet you feel the same damn way.

Why would someone want to buy Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis?

Like I said earlier in the review, I don’t follow the X-Men slavishly. I bought this one because of the strength of its creative team… So if you were to do the same, I would guess it would be for similar reasons. Or, if you just buy every kind of X-Men everything, you don’t really need any kind of purchasing criteria other than the giant “X” in the corner (so mise).

Buy / Don’t Buy?

Buy, but a fairly soft buy. Your life won’t change if you miss this one, except maybe around a monologue on Nelson Mandela by Wolverine (but I don’t know that I would take my history lesson queues from a superhero comic book).

Teeny tiny ads: You know, so I can be F-U rich enough to join the Hellfire Club