Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Birds of Prey #13

Katana isn't going to get much work done holding her sword like that.

Last issue, Katana had chopped off Poison Ivy's saddle bag vines. Everybody freaked out, assuming that Katana had just killed Ivy. But I know how comic books work! I'm super smart about them! I know that was just a cliffhanger to set up some drama and get the fans excited about the next issue so they can see how Poison Ivy survives. The only problem is that the Zero Issue came out last month and everyone has forgotten how last issue ended. I had forgotten until I reread my commentary on Issue #12! See? That's why I'm doing these commentaries! They aren't for people to read. They're just for me to remember what the fuck was going on in the previous month's comic. Remembering shit is hard.

I wish I was better at explaining why I hate some Narration Boxing and why I don't mind others. It really comes down to the level of the writing and the skill of the writer. But that explanation really just leaves me open to attacks of Fanboyism since bad writers generally write poorly and good writers usually write well. So if Lobdell or DeFalco or Krul or Nocenti begin their comic book with a bunch of Narration by the main character, it's usually annoying and inane. But if Snyder or Morrison or Milligan or Lemire do it, it usually fits within the story. But now my cards are on the table and people will just assume I come to a book already biased one way or the other when it comes to the writers I just mentioned.

And, well, I probably am! One year on and I expect bad writing from the writers that have made me wade through shit month after month. I think each of them will have to write a really exceptional story before I stop nitpicking the fuck out of their work. What I'm trying to say is, I don't like the way Duane Swierczynski writes.

Normally I would just say, "Fuck me!" after reading this but I guess I should put my feelings through their paces to help explain my dislike for certain writing methods in this New 52.

First let's examine the situation. The Birds of Prey are holed up somewhere taking it easy and recovering from the poison that Ivy injected into them. I'm assuming Batman provided them with a cure since that was the plan and there's really no reason to spend any panels on the Birds dealing with that. So they're recuperating and decide they want some food. Katana volunteers so she does what any normal person would do. Dress up in a garish costume and run across the rooftops to get to the take-out place.

Because I'm reading a writer that I'm negatively biased towards, I assume this is just bad writing. Perhaps I should give him the benefit of the doubt and realize that perhaps Katana had some business to attend to that she didn't want the others to know about. So she volunteered to do something for them so that they wouldn't ask questions when she leaves. But Duane needs to prove that he's capable of this kind of forethought before I jump to a positive conclusion. Instead, I roll my eyes and say, "Fuck me! Put on a hoodie and call a fucking cab, Katana! Or just order delivery."

The second thing that bugs me is the attitude expressed in the Narration Boxing. Oh, ha ha! Isn't it funny that Starling is a big drunk? It is funny to me because it explains why she can't hit anything she tries to shoot. So Black Canary drops a little joke that I didn't find amusing. I can't really hold that against the writer and the comic. I write shit that isn't funny all the time. But that last box (and the follow-up which I didn't scan) bugs me the most. "Katana left hours ago. And I was starting to fear the worst." Hours ago for a food run and you're just now getting paranoid? Black Canary is a way bigger micro-manager than this. She would have known where Katana was going to get food and known exactly how long it would take to get there and back, plus or minus some time to deal with the actual purchasing and waiting for the food. Just casually losing track of time and Katana? Not Dinah's style.

The last thing that irritates me is the usual thing about the Narration Boxes. Who the fuck is Dinah telling this too? Is she on the phone with her mom? Maybe Dinah has a diary just like Batgirl! How come I only suggest the female heroes have diaries? Damn, I'm a sexist jerk.

Back to the comic, Katana has been attacked by a gang of ninjas with red crosses (or daggers! Remember the cover?!) on their foreheads. They obviously don't want her picking up her Little Caeser's Pizza! Pizza! and free Crazy Bread. Katana leaves a trail of dead ninjas behind her until she's cut up a bit and falls off of a roof. She has the wind knocked out of her and loses consciousness. While she's out, the Ninjas steal Black Razor (her sword! That's not the real name! But it's how I'll refer to it until the end of time!) but allow her to live so that she'll suffer. At least they have that much right! You can't suffer if you don't exist. When she wakes up, she drags her ass back to her friends, pizzaless.

Oh Starling! You nutty bitch with your bon mots and projectile vomiting!

Apparently recuperating is best done in their super duds. I was picturing them in sweat pants and t-shirts sitting around watching romantic action comedies. Black Canary explains through her narration that Batman did give them the antidote. Hopefully it didn't involve him peeing in the faces of crying children. They're also concerned about Katana's missing blade. And nobody has mentioned Poison Ivy yet.

Notice also that no mention has been made about Katana fully-costumed, across-the-roofs food run. She had not other agenda or mission. It was just dumb. See? Previous evidence has shown that Duane Swierczynski doesn't give a fuck if his stories make any sense. Until he does give a fuck, I will continue to assume his writing is shit.

Katana would like the Birds of Prey to help her retrieve her Katana.

Another cycle? So their menses helps clear the poison?

If they won't help her, Katana will go on her own. But she may already have help in Japan! A man named Condor (too bad he's a man or he could join the Birds!) is busy ambushing the Dagger Clan as they arrive with Black Razor. As he retrieves the sword, he spouts off, sounding as dumb as Starling usually sounds.

This is not good dialogue! Protagonist makes an assumption that the antagonist wants to die for some reason. Then the protagonist kills the antagonist. Then the protagonist acts as if the assumption he made earlier really was a desire of the antagonist. This is not writing. This is just bullshitting words to fill space during the action scene.

Later, Katana arrives in Yokohama alone to retrieve her sword. The last scene ended with her pushing Starling away so that the reader would think the Birds would abandon her on her mission simply because they weren't quite up to strength. So the scene in Japan begins with Tatsu on her own meeting representatives of the Dagger Clan and proclaiming that she's no longer with her new clan (the Birds!). The Dagger Clan guys throw a bag over her head and sedate and shock her.

Obviously her friends wouldn't have abandoned her. Duane at least knows that much about the characters he's writing. So they were probably on a roof somewhere watching the exchange, knowing that Tatsu would be kidnapped. They've probably followed everyone back to some warehouse or temple and are now waiting for the right moment to rescue Tatsu and kick some ninja ass. That's just the way comic books work!

Why do comic book writers employ this fucking cliche so often? "Oh look! The team members are fighting! And now one member went off on their own and got caught! What's going to happen next?!" Super villains are even dumber since they always seem to think the heroes have really broken up.

Oh look! The warehouse I mentioned! And guess what happens next?

Surprise! Wait. Why is Starling standing in a hole? That's the kind of shit I used to draw in elementary school when I fucked up perspective and positioning.

Batgirl looks like she crashed through a skylight since that's her modus operandi. Black Canary screamed her way through the wall. That's her typical entrance. So I guess Starling is trying to establish her method of surprise entry: rocket launcher up through the floor!

The Birds rescue Katana but have to retreat since there are 100 times as many Ninjas as their are Birds. During the fight, Black Canary feels a "buzzing in her blood," "something that should be impossible to feel." Is Kurt here? Is Kurt the Condor? Is that what she's feeling? Some kind of connection?

After kidnapping the Dagger Ninja, Starling sets to work torturing him to find out where the blade is. Forget the language difference, Starling seems to know enough bad Japanese to learn whatever she needs to learn, otherwise the comic couldn't continue. Or Katana could just have been in the room during the torture? Katana tells the Birds that the Dagger Clan do not tell secrets. They would rather die than speak.

So when this member of the Clan (possibly the leader?) speaks, nobody thinks twice. They just assume that Starling is that good at what she does. But the tortured guy sits there grinning because he's just sent one enemy to recover the sword from another enemy. And while they all fight over Black Razor, a poison bomb is set to go off under Yokohama in a matter of hours.

Birds of Prey #13 Rating: No change. This is a mediocre story poorly told. If it were the same story but written well, I'd probably really enjoy it. But I just can't immerse myself in a comic book when the fucking protagonist narrates the thing like a DVD Commentary and Starling (and Condor!) go around speaking just for the sake of having a speech bubble in her mouth. Maybe Starling and Roy Harper should get their own comic book. It would have the dumbest dialogue of any comic book ever (including all those weird fifties stories where the Narrator would say, "Lois Lane drove off a cliff!" while the art showed Lois Lane driving off of a cliff and Lois was thinking to herself, "I'm driving off of a cliff!").

And I guess Poison Ivy really is dead* since she wasn't mentioned at all! Ha ha!

*Of course I don't believe this. Sheesh.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Dark Knight #13

Someone tell the cover artist Batman should be shirtless here! Oh wait. The cover artist is Finch, the interior artist. I guess he's too busy thinking up new outfits for the Justice League of America crew to remember what the fuck was going on in this comic book.

With Batman shirtless and tied up in the basement, Jonathan Crane continues working on his fear experiments. He pees on the children he has locked up. And then he collects the mixture of tears and piss that drip off of their faces. Then he sings a little ditty as he enters his findings into the computer. One of his captives draws him a picture and slides it under the door.

This kid is no use to Scarecrow anymore. The pee needs to mix with tears and this kid enjoys it.

See? Crane is disappointed that this kid is no longer useful.

After this good-for-nothing child sends Jonathan Crane into a depressing flashback of one of the times he was trapped in his father’s weird basement (I know I hate on David Finch’s style a lot but the two page spread of the Crane basement is really good looking. Maybe he’s at his best when he’s drawing skeletons? And fifteen year old girls, of course), Batman escapes. Or does he? He’s shirtless and chained on the slab and he uses his wrist laser (part of his armor) to cut through the chains and free himself. He then immediately has his costume on as he sneaks off. And then The Scarecrow attacks him!

Here comes the pissy tears!

Batman is either hallucinating while still locked up downstairs or he’s hallucinating wearing his armor because Crane’s sickle would not eviscerate Batman so easily. Also, Batman probably would not get eviscerated so soon into the Reboot. It’s possible Crane let him go downstairs to observe him and see what he does as he wanders around the basement. The basement is obviously a dungeon since it has a torture chamber and a mine cart track system.

Turns out Batman still is locked up. So the cover makes absolute sense because Batman’s escape is simply a hallucination. But this is Batman whacked out on Crane’s normal fear toxin. Crane now wants to try out his Way More Pee and Tears mix on Batman which even The Scarecrow isn’t resistant to.

I think he needs a new name if he’s going to commit crime in this outfit. Sgt. Dickhead?

After Batman is sprayed with the super formula of fear, the story threatens to lose me. It’s as if The Scarecrow knows all about Bruce Wayne and is trying to show Bruce what his life could have been by showing him the life of somebody similar who chose to follow the light instead of entering the darkness. The Scarecrow cannot be reacting with Batman in this way because he doesn’t know anything about Bruce Wayne. So this whole thing is a hallucination and The Scarecrow must be just standing there watching. I like what’s being said here and I’ll get into that in a paragraph or two, but the way in which the concept is being introduced is clumsy, leaving room for the whole thing to only be a hallucination which The Scarecrow will learn nothing from. I guess he’ll at least learn that his Piss and Tear Formula is a real pants wrecker.

So this is how Batman’s hallucination begins. Notice The Scarecrow speaking with Batman before it beings? Even that Scarecrow (notice he’s not wearing the gas mask?) must be part of the fantasy since how would he know what Batman is about to experience? And what is his shadow supposed to represent here?

This Bruceaxton Wayneinthrop took on the mantle of Swanman!

Batman’s fear hallucination is simply being processed as if The Scarecrow were speaking with him. The real Scarecrow is probably observing but I’m sure he’s not getting much more than Batman weeping and wailing and rending his cowl.

In his hallucination, Batman gets to see this man Braxton that went through everything he did. His parents were killed in a small plane crash which he survived. He inherited a billion dollar business which he sold. Instead of becoming dark and lonely, he became a charitable family man. He sold the business and used the money in a number of philanthropic ways.

Okay, The Scarecrow does have his mask. Perhaps even The Scarecrow using the new formula on Batman was part of the fear hallucination?

Here the story explicitly shows The Scarecrow speaking with Batman as if he knew all about him, so this is all obviously a false reality. But it’s showing one of Batman’s fears that has yet to really be spoken of in this comic: his fear of regret. Could he have made more lives better choosing a different path? I’m pretty sure this is something Batman thinks about all the time. Every decision he makes he agonizes over whether or not it was the right one for his Gotham. So Crane isn’t really showing him something new. This whole scene is basically Nikos Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ. What did Batman give up to take the path he’s chosen? Will he get lost in the fantasy, believing it’s a better way than the one he chose?

What I’m really hoping for is that Batman will come to with The Scarecrow pissing in his face.

Did Bruce Wayne not officially adopt Grayson, Todd, or Drake?

Batman begins breaking through the illusion as the hallucination begins to leave the Winthrop fantasy behind and begins getting more and more personal. Turns out that it’s fear of regret that’s driving Batman crazy right now; it’s fear of human contact. Now that’s a fear I can get behind!

Batman mumbles out, “…the hell happened…to make you like this?” And Crane remembers being locked in that basement when his dad died of a heart attack. A week later, the police showed up to investigate Crane’s father’s disappearance. They found the boy traumatized, locked in the dark. Batman chose the dark; the dark was forced onto Crane. I figured the two characters would parallel each other and was dreading the way it would come across, but this works nicely. The darkness broke Crane and turned him insane. Now he tries to force the fear, dark and pain on other people. Batman was afraid of the darkness when he fell into the cave as a young boy. But he faced the darkness to overcome his fear. He overcame his fear and turned it around so that it could be used to bring light to others who are scared and in pain.

Once Crane sees how well his new toxin worked, he heads off to get his scythe and put Batman out of his misery. But by the time he gets back, Batman has finally broken free from the chains and suited back up. Time for the big fight next issue.

Batman: The Dark Knight #13 Rating: +2 Ranking. This story has had a lot of hurdles to get over and it’s really working out nicely. It’s basically retelling the first story in his same title but doing a much better job. It’s concentrating on The Scarecrow and his past which I think is a great way for this title to go, concentrating on the antagonists. And it brought the parallel of these two together in a surprising and well-told manner. Things are really looking up for this bottom of the barrel Batman book!

The Savage Hawkman #13

Even though Liefeld is gone, the plot of this book continues to be "somebody attacks Hawkman."

Here at the end of October 2012, I have The Savage Hawkman listed as the worst comic book in The New 52. Liefeld didn't kill it but he helped keep it horrible. It was never very good when Tony Daniel was writing it and then Liefeld took it in a whole new direction that made it even less interesting. I'm not surprised it made the Fourth Wave cut because DC is probably hesitant to cancel any of their comics headed by their biggest names. They don't mind jettisoning the Wildstorm stuff though. Grifter didn't make the cut and I have that ranked at #51! So that was a well-deserved shitcanning.
Frankenstein at #14 and Blue Beetle at #32 were also cancelled. I think Frank is probably rated a bit too high and Blue Beetle a bit too low on my rankings (which you can see if you visit my actual tumblr page) but I'm pretty sure they were cancelled simply due to low popularity of their characters. Blue Beetle was a pleasantly well-written surprise.

Legion Lost at #46 was also cancelled! That's too bad! I was so very interested to find out how they were going to spend their time while stuck in the past. I was hoping the drama would eventually die down and they'd end up just sitting around playing video games and ordering take-out.

Last of them all, G.I. Combat at #42 finally ran out of war stories. This one was only ranked as high as it was because when I began reading it, I just stuck it in one of the free slots in the rankings left by one of the previously cancelled titles. If DC throws in yet another War Book with the Fourth Wave, I'm officially done reading The New 52. I'll just move on to my other writing projects I've been ignoring. I'm serious, DC. The readers have spoken twice now. Stop giving us fucking crap war stories!

The opening page makes me suspect The Savage Hawkman isn't going to be getting any better.

I could be wrong because I don't have an encyclopaedic knowledge of all of the comic books I've read so far, but I'm pretty sure Carter Hall only realized he's an alien that escaped to Earth at the end of Issue #12. He's been attacked by people wanting the Nth armor since around issue #8. I have a feeling even the new writer, Mark Poulton, didn't really read the series. He just sort of scanned it and is now trying to make sense of it himself. Basically, The Savage Hawkman is about to take a new direction based on the Zero Issue and forget all of the old, boring archaeology bullshit that was boring and bullshit.

Let me take that bit back where I said Mark Poulton is writing this thing. His name is on the cover under Rob Liefeld (yes, his influence is still all over this turd) but not in the credits. The credits still say "Plot - Rob Liefeld, Dialogue - Frank Tieri." Maybe it's better that nobody knows who is responsible for this comic book. I have a feeling nobody is ever going to feel proud about having worked on it.

In the first three pages, Emma (Carter's love interest that instantly went from awkward flirtation to full-fledged girlfriend in the space of one change of writers) calls the Thanagarians "Tweety" and "Pigeons." She's become a crack shot with a laser and she doesn't have an ounce of fear. Hopefully Emma wasn't anyone's favorite character because it's apparent her characterization doesn't fucking matter. As long as Hawkman has a woman in his life, it doesn't matter that her personality is unstable. I don't mean she's like Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon. I mean she doesn't have a distinct personality! It changes depending on what the scene needs from the love interest!

Hawkman and Emma try to make their escape but as Shayera (Hawkgirl!) points out, the Thanagarians are "wonderful warriors" with wonderful weapons. She manages to pin him to a wall by his wings. She mentions she'll have no problem crucifying him if he doesn't come along. And even though she's had no problem with any other English words so far, including crucify, she apparently doesn't know everything.

If you suspect the reader to suspend her disbelief enough not wonder why an alien race is managing a conversation in English, don't break him out of it by having the alien suddenly not understand a word or two.

Carter Hall and Emma are captured and taken aboard Shayera's ship. Except they don't even make it up the ramp when everything suddenly explodes!

I guess this is why this issue is called "The Enemy of my Enemy."

I guess Xerxes is making good his threat! Here's the last time he was seen in the comic book back in Issue #10.

Internet Research: The Chinvat Bridge is the link between the land of the living and the land of the dead in Zoroastrianism.

The dialogue in this comic book is truly painful. Every comment from every character comes from a position of power. They're all speaking as if they're the baddest ass on the playing field and they all make, as Shayera explicitly states, "cute little comments." Even Emma didn't feel threatened even though she's suddenly been confronted by strange life from another world with advanced technology like nothing she's ever imagined. She just pulls out a laser and calls them pigeons because what use is their in trying to come up with a way to escape and survive? Might as well piss them all off by shooting one of them in the face while the others kill you.

Perhaps I should make a rule in the new year that at the end of each month, I'll drop whichever comic book I've decided is the worst in The New 52? I just can't imagine reading much more of The Savage Hawkman. I don't have anything new to say about it. The dialogue is inane and trite. The action is constant but not in a way that drives the plot forward. The action is the plot. Hawkman can't even begin a plot because the next person wanting the Nth metal comes along and beats him up. And now Xerxes is back to do it again. I might as well just fucking reread Issue #10.

I'm glad I don't own a gun because the barrel of it would be in my mouth right now. Shayera tells Xerxes she doesn't know who he is and she doesn't care. So later, Xerxes says, "As for who I am? All you need to know is blah blah blah." Dude. She said she didn't care! And now you're acting as if you're keeping information from her and using it in a ridiculous taunt.

During the ridiculous conversation (oh, and the fight, I guess), Emma escapes into one of the ships (I can't tell if she's stowing away in Pike's ship or the Thanagarian ship). The only reason I suspect it could be Pike's ship because immediately after Emma escapes, Pike takes off too.

Who the hell is Pike and why does he have such advanced technology? He sounds human with that "E.T." comment.

After Hawkman beats up Xerxes again, my question is answered as Pike turns his ship's guns on Hawkman.

Great plan! Or she just got lucky?

Now that Hawkman has subdued the three antagonists, Emma asks him, "What do we do with these guys now?" Hawkman says, "I have an idea. Though I sincerely doubt any of them will like it." But that idea is never expressed adequately in the art. What I believe he did was destroy the Thanagarian ship, loaded them on Pike's ship, and shot them into space on a preprogrammed route. But that's just speculation! Especially since I don't think Pike's ship is capable of long range space flight!

The Savage Hawkman #13 Rating: I almost gave it a negative one Rank! I forgot it's sitting at the bottom already! Hopefully this fucking comic will take a new route sometime soon. Get a real writer on this book and put a fucking story in it.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Superman #13

And so it begins! The first of many other Kryptonians to survive the planet's destruction arrive on Earth!

I'd rather not remind everyone about the horrible events of the Zero Issue, so I'm going to dive right into this one with my fingers crossed that this will be Bizarro and that Bizarro will not have the personality of an entitled teenager that just doesn't give a fuck about anything. Who am I kidding? Lobdell is writing this.

Issue Thirteen begins with the scene that was included at the end of every issue of last week's releases. I think the scene was supposed to excite people about Superman so they'll begin buying it. But it almost had the opposite effect on me. I was tempted to throw this issue back in the face of my local comic shop owner and scream, "How dare you sell this brain-damaging, toxic bullshit in your store!" But he'd probably point out that I asked him to put in my pull box and that was an implicit contract between us that I'd pay for it. But I can share the pain with people not willing to pay for this tripe!

Just add this moment to Scott Lobdell's Flaccid Science Fiction portfolio.

Superman has been working out for five days straight. That's the most believable part of this dialogue. How, while on Earth, do you devise a contraption that allows somebody to lift the weight of the Earth? You know how Lobdell side-steps the answer with his brand of sci-fi logic? He places the device near the center of the Earth. Sort of. No, seriously. That's what he says! "The Block. An advanced research facility located not far from the center of the Earth. Sort of." Then to help explain what might be going on here without really explaining it (it's comic books anyway. Why don't I let it go?!), Rocafort draws a gigantic space with multiple versions of the woman training Superman seen around the space. So perhaps the inter-dimensionality of the space explains it! Although I like the "sort of" as explanation.

But putting all of that aside (even though it's so stupid it sticks to the brain like artery clogging cholesterol), what I find most disturbing is that Superman is much stronger than this. And he goes around punching normal human villains all the time. Is this why Superman's fights last so much longer than they normally should? Because he pulls his punches so that he's hitting at a strength that wouldn't harm a normal human? And then he ramps it up a bit each time so he's careful not to kill his opponent? I know the answer to that is no because when he first meets Green Lantern in Justice League, he wallops the fuck out of that guy without considering for a second what kind of defenses Green Lantern might possibly have to survive a punch from a guy that can lift a planet.

I'm sure Superman has accidentally killed a bunch of people. He probably has a vault in The Fortress of Solitude filled with corpses. But he's able to forgive himself because he knows deep down that what he's doing is right and that he's protecting the world. And he's so self-righteous, he's probably compartmentalized that side of him that knows he's killed and buries it deep inside his alien brain. So even if someone were to read his mind, they won't discover he's a crazy ass killer. I bet he even has to kill people that witness when he kills! Maybe he feeds them all to Krypto.

The woman who invented this implausible machine is Dr. Veritas, the Omniologist. Let me give you a moment to let that bullshit sink in.

So her name is Doctor Truth and she studies the science of everything!

Dr. Veritas spends all of her time sort of near the center of the Earth inventing things that may or may not work because they're based in utter bullshit. No, that's true! She even calls her inventions "crap." This planet lifting bench press was designed to get Superman to actually strain and now the Doctor knows it works! Superman says he's exhausted and you know what happens when you become exhausted? One bead of sweat drips off of your spit curl.

I'm tempted to dig through all of my New 52 issues just to find an image of Superman sweating.

Superman later begins thinking scientifically about the results of his tests and comes up with this whopper of a conclusion:

Oh you beautiful arrogant bastard. "What are you saying?! I'm not a...a...GOD?!"

Superman takes his leave and flies up to stare at the sun for a bit and recharge. This whole time, he's thinking in thought bubbles instead of Narration Boxes. Turns out I don't like Scott Lobdell's characterization and writing any better when he does it via thought bubbles! He just sounds stupid and narcissistic. "The whole world has only two theories of me and they're completely opposite! And I can't change their minds no matter what I do! Although if I change their minds, I guess I'd just be changing them to the polar viewpoint since I just pointed out how half the world thinks one thing and half the world thinks one other thing." He then decides to go to work because "someone has to pay the rent." No, nobody actually has to pay the rent, Supes. You don't have to eat or shit or breathe, it seems. So just go live in your Fortress of Solitude. And if you really feel you need money, dig up some goddamn gold or diamonds or something. Go mine an asteroid for precious metals. Start your own precious metal company. But I guess the lure of writing compels even Superman. Or maybe it's just Lois's tight ass.

Clark heads into the Daily Planet where J. Jonah Jameson Perry White and Lois Lane yell at him for not turning in any stories about Superman over the last week. They don't seem to care that he wasn't even around the offices. Or that they weren't able to reach him via cell phone since there is no service when you're sort of near the center of the Earth. Clark snoops through Lois's body with his X-ray vision to see her text that she's moving in with her boyfriend. This causes him to pout and walk away.

I like how Perry acts like they weren't just ganging up on him. If Scott Lobdell were paying attention to his own fucking story, Perry might say something like, "Were we too hard on him?" But instead, Lobdell wants to hammer in the point that Clark is heartbroken about Lois having a serious boyfriend. So Perry notices how sad and forlorn Clark suddenly has become.

Next on Clark's list is to blow up his fucking job. Morgan Edge stops by roll a little more shit downhill on Clark. But now Clark's had enough. He stands up and gives a passionate speech about the horrible state of the press. Basically it's just a really eloquent way of saying, "I quit!" Morgan Edge sends him packing for having the nuts to want to report on real news instead of feel good bullshit and stories meant to scare and horrify their readers.

I'm sure Lois will stick up for him later so he gets his job back. But at least during lunch, Clark finds a job for Superman.

Well now Superman has seen some really fucking stupid bullshit here on Earth as well!

Superman gets his ass handed to him by the Dragon Monster as it knocks him all the way to Ireland. But it follows after him and Superman uses his Super Vision to look at its DNA. He notices the DNA is decaying which probably means it's a clone from N.O.W.H.E.R.E. He's able to defeat it by blasting some oil beneath the surface of the Earth, causing it to blast out in a huge explosion and destroying the creature. But not him! It may have been stronger than Superman but it apparently wasn't more invulnerable! And then Supergirl arrives. She doesn't immediately punch him in the face but you can tell she wants to!

Why is Supergirl constantly looking for a fight? Chill the fuck out, woman!

Supergirl makes the most illogical assumptions! The Kryptonian Bullshit Dragon can't be there unless Krypton is still *ahem* "alive"? Maybe its parents put it in a rocket before the planet blew up so its life could be saved as well. I think the Latin Kryptonian name of the bullshit dragon is "Triple Footed Bodyguard Dragon." Anyway, if it was a prehistoric creature, how would that prove Krypton was still extant? Supergirl isn't just full of anger! She's also full of dumb.

Superman #13 Rating: -1 Ranking. I have to give it a negative rating because it was too stupid to believe. Also, the cover asked a question that the comic book didn't answer. The picture on the cover also didn't have anything to do with the story inside. The most believable part of this story was Jimmy Olsen fucking his girl in Clark Kent's shower. And we all know how improbable that is! Maybe I'll like the next issue better!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Flash #13

Wasn't the Gorilla Warfare title already used? Like a million times? Can we please lay this pun to rest?

The Flash had just been defeated by his Rogue's Gallery when an army of monkeys in pods dropped out of the sky to take over Central City. It was at that moment that the Rogue's Gallery began questioning the wisdom of their actions. Because when your city is suddenly invaded by hundreds of six hundred pound gorillas (unless they're heavier!), you really want the guy that can defeat them all in the time it takes to tell one monkey joke conscious.

But the big monkey fight can wait since this issue begins with a flashback scene from ten years ago.

The slow down and take your time line was so good, it had to be used two issues in a row.

And that was all that needed to be said about the past. It seems like a pretty weak moment. Maybe it was done to get Barry's mother's slow down advice into the normal run since that advice was given to him in the Zero Issue. Also Darryl's role as Barry's father figure was highlighted in the Zero Issue as well. So maybe this moment was mainly to get some of the main Zero Issue points across to the not very loyal Flash readers that skipped the Zero Issue.

And then two minutes from ten years later, Patty breaks into Darryl's office to declare that Barry is alive! Her new buddy Turbine told her all about it. Turbine also seems to know a secret about Captain Darryl! But then their two minutes are up and it's exactly ten years after the initial scene and the monkeys come crashing down into Central City.

How is Weather Wizard going to wake him up? Blast him with lightning?

Oh, turns out he just douses him with water. I've always figured the best way to bring someone back to consciousness after a concussion was with water. Or maybe a slap to the face. It probably works because The Flash's speedy system has already healed himself and then the water brings him around. It's all very comic book scientific. But enough with the unbelievable bullshit the writers are trying to pass off on the readers. Let's get to the talking monkeys!

The Rogues don't seem to be too keen on talking monkeys, so they try to retreat while The Flash deals with them. But seeing as how an army of monkeys landed all around them, they're forced to take part in the monkey business.

Where are all the good monkey puns? I at least expect a no more monkeying around comment at some point.

The Flash has trouble beating up the gorillas because these are the special kind of gorillas that were born out of the Speed Force. So they are quicker and able to react to The Flash no matter how fast he goes. Plus there are a lot of them. And they smell bad. Luckily he's got the Rogues to help him out for awhile. But just for awhile! As soon as the tide turns and The Flash has the upper hand against the apes, I'm sure they'll switch sides again. And for some of them, it doesn't even take that long. The Trickster has decided to strike up a deal with Grodd. But the partnership doesn't go anywhere past the handshake.

Hopefully that was just a trick arm.

Grodd is up to something. He sneaks off to look for something powerful he feels within the city while his ape army distract The Flash.

Which they don't do for long.

But apparently they do it for long enough because when The Flash finally rushes off to find Grodd, he discovers Grodd looking a lot like Mr. Hyde from Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

I have no idea what happened here. But it looks like he got a little bit of speed force in him.

The Flash #13 Rating: No change. Manapul's art seemed a bit rushed and sketchy throughout the issue. The issue itself was mostly just a big battle against talking monkeys. And while the Trickster getting his arm torn off was a nice surprise, the fact that this was another fucking comic book called "Gorilla Warfare" erodes any good feelings I had toward the issue. I wish I could remember which other comic in The New 52 was called Gorilla Warfare so I could link to it and my feeble research on that pun being used throughout comic book history. Oh well!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

All Star Western #13

I don't like the art on the cover although Jonah looks more hideous here than he usually does. Which is a good thing.

A new drug has come to the shores of America! It's Dr. Jekyll's Calming and Restorative Tonic! Guaranteed to make clowns less depressing and circus jugglers less annoying! Hate walking to work amidst streets full of shit? Take a liberal sip of Dr. Jekyll's Calming and Restorative Tonic! It'll soothe your mood and make you forget you're living in the 1800s! Warning: May cause severe disfigurement and homicidal outbursts.

Not recommended for use during church services.

I think the next standard line is, "The Lord can't protect you now!" Or something.

Why even bother saying, "Protect me, Lord." If the Lord works in mysterious ways, what is pleading with him going to do? If everything has a reason, then who are you to ask for something possibly not destined to happen? If God has the ability to change the outcome of things that are already going to happen, does he know he's going to change the outcome? Does he see you getting murdered in church but when he hears the plea, "Protect me, Lord," he suddenly decides to intervene and change what he was going to allow to happen?

What I'm trying to say is this: isn't praying arrogance?

God: "Ah! Time to watch my creations even though I already know what they're going to do and how I'm going to react to what I see."
Scared Priest: "Huff! Huff!"
Murderer: "Ha ha ha! I'm going to kill you! Ha ha ha!"
God: "Oh! Here is where that Gotham Priest gets killed just like I planned because his murder will get the ball rolling an a cure for cancer 250 years into the future. This should be interesting."
Scared Priest: "Protect me, Lord."
God: "Oh fuck. Well, he did ask. And he does believe in Me. I guess I'll save him! Too bad though! My mysterious ways will have to wait and I guess that'll change the timetable on a cancer cure to...let's see...650,000 years. But he's praying and he's faithful! What can I do? You may live, Priest!"

Of course I don't think this priest is going to live at all! But how dare he ask for some kind of special compensation. His prayer really should just be, "Do Thy will, Lord, for Ye work in mysterious ways that no man shall ever know but I am sure they are for the greater good of Your supreme creation! Amen!"

Turns out the priest being chased inside his church is even funnier than I first suspected!

Is this a Death of the Family tie-in?

Gotham doesn't need to fear though! Even though a psychotic clown is terrorizing the city one hundred years earlier than expected, the police have their brightest minds on the case!

I think the sheriff's dying wish was to allow Arkham and Hex free in/out privileges to every murder scene in Gotham.

Isn't there always a circus in town? A very particular circus? Yeah, Haly's is in town yet again. And it looks like Hex, Arkham, and Black are not the only ones looking for answers there.

It's the Barbary Ghost!

Aha! Yanmei Tsen's back-up story ended with her and her grandfather finding out that her mother was still alive but had been sold to a circus as a prostitute. Circuses back then were amazing! I guess while mom took the kids to get popcorn and see the animals, dad went around back and spent a full week's pay. I did watch Carnivale, so I shouldn't be so surprised. Perhaps I just thought that particular circus had prostitutes. I wonder if every event back then where a man would take his entire family had prostitutes to keep the man from getting too bored having to spend time with his rotten kids.

Anyway, I wonder if The Barbary Ghost's mother has become the Court of Owls' Talon? I have to say I'm pretty impressed the way that back-up story is coming together with the main story. All Star Western has better world building than all of the other New 52 comics put together!

Asking questions about her mother quickly gets Yanmei in trouble with The Golden Dragons. I suppose they constantly hide in the rigging of the Big Top waiting to start a fight with anybody asking the wrong kind of questions.

What happens next has become a staple of this comic book: the beautiful woman in gorgeous boots and sexy clothes flipping and high-kicking the shit out of a bunch of men without shirts. It's really become one of my favorite parts of the book, especially because I've become a super fan of Moritat's art. I think Moritat's art is extremely creative and, yes, cute. It hits that sweet spot in me between realism and comic book art. He knows the craft of drawing bodies. Describe a scene and he'll draw it as you describe it instead of reinterpreting it to make it easier to draw. And the smaller he does his stuff, the cuter I find it!

Two more pages like this follow. All worth it.

How can I analyze what I love about All Star Western's fight scenes versus so many other comic book's fight scenes? One thing I know I like: no fucking Narration Boxes. Why do so many comic book writers feel the need to have their manipulation of words appear on every page. It makes little sense to have the kinds of complex thoughts going through a person's head when they're executing their martial craft and fighting to stay alive. But I also like that Moritat and the creative team use panels. Eighteen panels in the three pages where Yanmei is fighting alone. The average before I gave up counting panels per page a long time ago was right around four. And action scenes are often worse because the creative team often feels a splash page needs to be thrown in for emphasis. And I mentioned his poses earlier. He doesn't just stick with a few standard fight stances. He never poses anybody with their chests sticking out and chin up ready to fight. Everything is natural and fluid. I just love this shit.

That may be as close as I come to a fanboy rant. But I figure since I'm a literature guy, I tend to focus on the words. When I find art that truly makes me happy to look at, I should be saying a lot more about it in these commentaries. But I figure since I scan so much of the book as I read, people can see the art for themselves and make a decision too.

At the end of this fight, the Golden Dragons finally get the drop on Yanmei. But Hex and Black arrive just in time to even the odds and defeat the Golden Dragons. But Yanmei slips out before they can speak with her.

Since The Jonah Hex Gang weren't there to speak with this mysterious woman, they simply let it slip their minds as they go to speak with Mister Haly. Haly gives them a list of other missing Circus Folk and, of course, it's a list of perfect Gotham villain types! Besides the clown, there is a knife thrower, an animal trainer, and a sideshow performer who's tattooed and pierced all over. It's a list of crazies that would make Batman jizz in his pants.

Outside, the formula (I'm assuming!) is being distributed in classic barker style.

"It's a panacea for everything!" -- Local Portland Newscaster

But then all hell breaks loose as Jingles the Clown and the Animal Trainer return! Clowns and tigers begin attacking the crowd although Hex blows the clowns brains out almost immediately. The animal trainer is immediately eaten by one of the tigers he frees. I think this is commentary about wild animals always being wild animals or something! Tallulah kills one tiger and Jonah kills the other. Except I guess there were three, so one runs free while Haly worries about his Circus's reputation. I don't think he needs to worry! He'll always have funding as long as he continuously produces Talons.

While everyone cleans up and Arkham, Haly, and the police go to speak with the Snake Oil Guy, Reginald (the guy who hired Hex's crew to stop the spread of the formula) has gone to the train station to pick up an old friend.

So Dr. Jekyll wants to become an Eclipso'd Mr. Hyde? Maybe he can find a Blue Beetle to fuse to his spine as well? And maybe chug some Gingold while he's at it!

The back-up story is about Manifest Destiny and how the great warrior Tomahawk foolishly tried to stop it! Haven't you heard, Tomahawk? The white man has declared that the white God has declared that this land belongs to the white man. So put down your weapons and get to stepping! Sheesh. It's not like the white man wants to kick you off the land. But God! God said it belongs to him! You want the white man to deny God?!

Lots of Native Americans are killed, including Tomahawk's family, and now Tomahawk is going to war. And it's a good thing since the white man has been going to war all over you for a long fucking time now. Oh! I just thought up a knock knock joke!

Knock Knock!
Who's There?
The White Man!
The White Man who?
Get out of my fucking house!

All Star Western #13 Rating: +1 Ranking. Really? I'm going to drive this comic further up the charts? Yeah, I guess I am. It's fun and looks terrific. Highly recommended.

Teen Titans #13

Why is Tim Drake consoling Superboy?

Last normal issue, Wonder Girl had lost her wonder. Some guy whose name I can't remember who also had armor like Cassie's took her armor. She was left a beaten mess with Red Robin and Superboy while the bad guy ran off to destroy the world. The other members of the Teen Titans were holed up in a motel off the New Jersey turnpike for some reason. And because that's the way Scott Lobdell ended the last issue, he begins this issue telling a completely different story. But at least he's kept his standard first page splash with Narration Boxes.

The only major difference is that this one doesn't begin with "My name is Cassie Sandsmark."

I'm just guessing that this is Cassie. I suppose this is her story about how she met that mean jerk that just stole her armor although Tim Drake probably already knows the whole thing, being such an amazing detective.

The story begins making sure that any rational reader can't stand Cassie by the end of the first three pages. She's a spoiled brat following her mother around the world as her mother makes archaeological discoveries, unearthing cultural treasures for all the world to share in museums and exhibits. And Cassie goes around stealing the same shit because she "likes it." And when she's almost caught by a security guard just doing his job, Diesel (that's his stupid fucking name!) cracks the guy over the head, knocking him out and possibly giving him severe brain trauma. Cassie describes this as things "working themselves out." Sure, she's saying that to basically hide the truth of the situation from Tim and Conner because she realizes this story makes her look like a douchebag.

Now I'm not saying I can't get behind a character that robs and flaunts the laws. Fuck the man! Fuck the laws! And I love Catwoman. But this portrayal of Cassie is just vomit inducing. At least she's smart enough to know that this story where she meets Diesel portrays her in a horrible manner, so she tells the story in vague, innocuous terms. So maybe I should like Cassie. Perhaps she's changed if she's ashamed enough about her past self that she can't tell the story explicitly to her new friends.

So, yeah, anyway, the little shitbird meets Diesel.

Actually, it's "Fifty Shades of Grey." Fuck me, why do is that knowledge taking up space in my brain?

Another reason to dislike Cassie: she thinks a too-tight shirt and khaki pants is an "interesting look." Cassie and Diesel end up having a passionate love affair that crosses international borders and stretches the limits of my interest imagination! This story is being told in the back of a Fed-ex plane since they needed to hitch a ride to wherever they are going.

Tim Drake gets the story back on track and away from all the illicit meetings and fanciful sex positions (not to mention the just under the surface of Cassie's story robberies she and Diesel were committing). He wants to know about her armor, so she tells that story. Sounds like Diesel was getting bored of Cassie always off helping her mother on the digs. So Cassie did some digging of her own to hurry things along. Or something. I'm not exactly clear on why Cassie going off to dig on her own away from Diesel was supposed to help her see more of Diesel. Even if Cassie did find something extraordinary while digging where her mom didn't want to dig yet, she wasn't going to stop her mom from completing all the other goals on the dig. Why the fuck am I even trying to make sense of these kinds of minutia? It's not important and I really don't care! Cassie went off digging on her own! End of story!

I mean, not literally the end of the story. Just the end of me being a nitpicky asshole.

Oh! Well, it turns out she wasn't digging alone and I was speculating on nonsense that would be answered later. As usual! Turns out Diesel had infiltrated the dig because he didn't want to wait for Cassie's mother's methodical work to find the really cool ancient treasures of Angkor Wat! So he was already in the hole when Cassie followed that night. And eventually found him.

"OMG! He put on some armor that's attacking him! Let me put on some armor nearby to help pull it off!"

So yeah. That's what Cassie does. She puts on some gauntlets and they fill her up and take her over. She then manages to take Diesel's armor inside herself as well. But she struggles to maintain control. It's as if she's being possessed. She said the armor wasn't alive earlier but her struggle with it and taunting it out of Diesel and into her seems to show differently. After she manages to subdue the will of the armor, the tunnel collapses. Diesel is buried and she climbs out on her own. And that, she thought, was the end of Diesel. But I guess he retained some of the armor's power since he survived and he returned to steal Cassie's while wearing his own.

The Titans eventually arrive at the site and Red Robin discovers something disturbing about the language used at the site.

Yay! Raven will be on the team soon!

Meanwhile in New Jersey, Bunker, Solstice, and Kid Flash never make an appearance in the comic book. But Amanda Waller and Kurt Lance do!

What the fuck?! So Amanda Waller is going to have time to run every fucking team in the New 52? Did DC do some kind of reader survey and determine that what The New 52 needs is more Amanda Waller? She's beginning to appear in more books than Batman!

So Kurt Lance now has super powers? And he's kept in a super secret sub-level in Belle Reve? And Amanda has a crush on him? And what kind of stupid question is that, Kurt? Why would Amanda train them to be a new Team 7? Obviously they'd be Team 8! Stupid!

Teen Titans #13 Rating: No change. This issue of Teen Titans was one of the better issues in the entire series. But I just got bored with it halfway through. Cassie's origin is fairly standard. It felt like it simply needed to be told so that the Teen Titans can move past her weird armor hurting her bullshit. But there was no spark to the story! No intrigue or surprise. Just Cassie finding the armor at an archaeological dig while embellishing the story with a lot of language that maybe she thought made it sound more mysterious and intriguing except it simply came off as flowery bullshit. "Silent armor ... because without any warning, it just eats away at your sould, like it was at Diesel's...bite by bite--" And "I felt [the silent armor] calling to me--" to which Superboy responds that it's not so silent. Cassie continues, "No, that's the thing, I realized how easy it would be to use it--abuse it--keeping power like that in need the inner strength to control it, to keep it silent inside of you." Blah.

Oh! But I should mention this as well! When she put on the gauntlets, she was fine. She looked like Wonder Girl. It's just the armor she stole from Diesel that really fucked her up. So once they destroy Diesel's armor and return her normal shit, everything should be good. Then she can return to this:

and stop cutting herself and crying on the bathroom floor.