Sunday, December 17, 2017

Eee! Tess Ate Chai Tea Newsletter

This is interesting in some historical Eee! Tess Ate Chai Tea ways. I'll discuss them in my first No More Than Once A Week And Possibly Less Often Email Newsletter at Sign up so I can talk frankly about a lot of things smart people should be able to discuss without some idiot purposefully misunderstanding intelligent thoughts so they can seem better than everybody else in their righteous indignation and interrupting like the moronic asshole they truly are.

Eee! Tess Ate Chai Tea by email!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Doomsday's Cock #1

Why is Rorschach on the cover of Doomsday's Cock #1?

I've been waiting for this comic book for months and I just realized that I've been misreading the title. So this isn't going to be twelve issues of a massive, veiny, throbbing alien penis? Instead it's going to be twelve issues of a thing I don't want to be reminded of seeing as how our president is an idiotic, narcissistic, easily offended toddler with access to our nuclear arsenal? I'd much rather see Doomsday's penis dribbling pre-cum as he delivers sexual excitement from beating the shit out of any DC hero he can get his fists on. I'd rather see great ribbons of Doomsday's love goo arc across the bloodied face of Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman! No, wait. Not Wonder Woman. That gets into a weird territory that might be construed as some kind of rape fantasy. But I think it's okay if it's male on male action. Nobody needs to correct me on that if they think I'm wrong though because I'm sure there are plenty of people who are right now nodding their heads in agreement and taking down their pants. You don't want to erase those perverts, do you? So uncool.

So now that I'm not going to get a story about Doomsday's cock, I guess I'm getting a story about how the Watchmen are to blame for The New 52. It's a clever way for DC to wash their hands of the murder of all of DC's past history while also making it into a big money grab for fans who can't get enough milk from continuity's engorged teat. Although if we had a brave little dog right now, it would probably be pulling back a curtain with Doomsday Clock stitched across it to reveal a naked Crisis on Infinite Earths jerking itself off as it blows Zero Hour who's currently being fucked in the ass by Infinite Crisis and The New 52 licks up everybody's bodily fluids spilling onto the floor while Rebirth sucks its own dick while watching from a stool in the corner and Convergence lies ignored in the corner fumbling with its underwear.

I just realized I fucked up my anticipation for this series because there's no way it's going to be as good as what I just described.

I haven't opened the cover of this comic book yet because I want to talk about the cover and also I want to first say, "I bet the first page panel layout is that Brady Bunch shit that was a staple of the way the original Watchmen communicated in subtle and intricate ways!" So first, the cover. Ignoring that Rorschach is on the cover, the entire design is meant to invoke the original Watchmen series. At first glance, the image isn't anything like Watchmen #1 except maybe for the way the red mist behind Rorschach is somewhat reminiscent of the pooling blood. But ignoring the image as a coherent image, it still manages to recall the original cover. The slant of Rorschach's scarf feels like the same slant of the spatter of blood on the smiley face button. Even the negative spaces in Rorschach's trench coat seem to fill in the spaces of the button's eyes and smile. His collar forms a circle that could easily be the outline of the button. If I were to say this cover looked like the original cover, people would scoff. But is it reminiscent of it? Is it meant to subtly invoke the same patterns as the original to enhance a sense of déjà vu? Perhaps. I would admit that that's complete speculation. But one thing is an absolute fact: Rorschach's ink blot face's negative space is definitely a cock and balls.

Flipping open to the first page, I see the familiar Watchmen panel layout, nine squares with occasional large panels subsuming a few squares but still maintaining the general layout. When Watchmen changed the layout, there was always a reason for it, whether you consciously understood it at the time. I'm going to assume that Geoff Johns isn't as good at story telling as Alan Moore without any real evidence for it aside from my own bias and say that Geoff Johns' main reason to change the layout will probably be to allude to Watchmen's style but to not be a slave to it. The majority of the story will be told in the Brady Bunch opening credits style but with quite a bit of leeway and variation. That's because this story is about the DC Universe and how the Watchmen (or just Dr. Manhattan, I suppose) are trying to mold it into their reality. The panels breaking out of the nine panel layout simply show the DC Universe's resistance to that manipulation. Once again, speculation. But it's smarter speculation than anything you'll see on Weird Science's stupid anti-Tom King blog! What do they have against great writing?!

The story begins some time after Ozymandias's artistic alien crashed into the streets of New York. It was meant to unite the world, bringing nations together in the face of a threat toward the entire planet. Instead it just made people feel terrified. They lashed out and began to blame those who thought differently than themselves. The initial commentary seems to be from Rorschach's journal but it can't be because he was atomized. I mean, unless he wasn't? Maybe he was just teleported to some unknown location? I've stopped reading at the end of the panels with the commentary so I don't quite know if the media reported on Rorschach's journal and Ozymandias's alien invasion was exposed as fake news (one sign in the crowd seems to show Veidt's face with a null symbol over it). I wanted to think about Rorschach's words (if they are, indeed, Rorschach's).

The narrative commentary on what's happening in America forms a Bothsidesism point of view. It's the rational bastion of the cowardly who want to be seen as more intellectually open-minded than the next person. It's the voice of the professional Devil's Advocate who believes that nobody but they have spent any time considering their own beliefs and points of view. They're constantly testing everybody else in a patronizing belief that nobody has a mind of their own, that nobody spends any time plumbing their own depths, that nobody reflects on the self. They're boring bastards with no moral or ethical backbone. Their only belief is that they shall have no belief other than condemning everybody else's beliefs. I'm not sure how well this jives with Rorschach's views in Watchmen since it's been quite a few years since I've reread it. He was always a bit fascist, so his condemnation of the liberal side of the argument seems apt. But he also takes a moment to point out the flaws of the other side. I suppose a modern day Rorschach would work quite well as a Both Sideser rather than a complete fascist, so I suspect I don't mind?

Uh oh. Trump fans are going to be upset about this comic book. Of course, they'll pretend they're upset about comics making any kind of political commentary. But they're really just upset that the story portrays a world falling apart because the president is an obvious Trumpian disaster.

News reports indicate that Veidt's plan was exposed as The Great Lie. He's now considered a terrorist being hunted by everybody. It was Rorschach's journal that exposed the truth, a journal which disappeared not long after. I guess Rorschach did survive somehow and decided to get back to journaling.

And then there he is. Rorschach has survived, reappearing to comment on how the world has gone to shit so that comic book Fanboys everywhere can fuck themselves silly.

Oh wait. Scratch that. They're more likely to rage about pandering until their heads explode.

Rorscach recruits the Marionette for some secret mission he's on. I don't remember The Marionette but I'm sure it was some villain that Rorschach nearly killed. They have three hours to find Doctor Manhattan since America has launched their nuclear missiles. The world is about to end which probably means The New 52 is about to begin. For some reason. It'll all be explained in time! Probably. I mean, it'll probably be the way Doctor Manhattan saves the world. Or something.

Before leaving prison, The Marionette and Rorschach pick up The Marionette's husband, the Mime. They're the perfect team to catch Doctor Manhattan! She'll pull Jon's strings and he'll trap him in an invisible box. Even a fucking omnipotent blue naked guy can't defend against that.

It turns out Rorscach is working with Ozymandias to find Doctor Manhattan to save their world. But when Ozymandias last saw Doctor Manhattan, he was leaving the Watchmen Universe to find one less complicated to live in. Or to find one that was fairly complicated and fuck it all up so that it didn't seem, at first glance, complicated at all. But like every continuity reboot, it was actually way more complicated than if things had been left alone.

The issue ends with Clark having a nightmare about his prom night. I'm not sure if the scariest part of the dream was when his parents were killed in the traffic accident or when he saw Pete dancing. Lois wakes up and he tells her, "I don't think I've ever had one." Oh, um, the one refers to a nightmare. I didn't want to change the quote and I didn't want to add more dialogue. Instead I decided to write all of this extraneous and awkward crap.

The night Superman has the nightmare is probably the night Doctor Manhattan arrived and changed the past because he didn't want to have to learn seventy years of DC history to understand the world he was now living in. The issue ends with a few lines from the poem, "Ozymandias," because why not? That's a pretty easy quote pull! Especially because it mentioned aliens and appeared after the Superman scene!

Doomsday's Cock #1 Rating: It was huge.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Michael Cray #2

You can tell the twenty tens are better than the nineties because Wildstorm chose not to call this book Deathblow.

This book has sat on my stack for longer than it should have because I've been separating my weekly comics into two piles: one for reading and one for commenting on. If not for this comic book having the greatest plot of any comic book I've ever read (the assassination of Green Arrow), it would probably have been read weeks ago without any discussion. Most comic books are read and forgotten in five to fifteen minutes so I want to savor every word leading up to Green Arrow's death by commenting on it as I read it. I mean, after the whole lead up and this being a different Universe than the DC Universe, it has to end in Green Arrow's death, right? Maybe I should email Bryan Hill and ask if I'm wasting my time and money on this Green Arrow Snuff Comic?

This issue begins with some Michael Cray Steampunk Fiction. That seems odd because I thought he was hunting down a John Donne spouting, sister abusing, farcical facial hair wearing, homeless veteran hunting nutjob? When did he slip into an alternate version of the past composed of 40% Victorian and/or Edwardian costumes, 30% steam powered inventions, 15% goggles, 10% steepling hands over tea and evil machinations, and 5% blimps?

Those are the kinds of useless questions I ask during my commentaries. They're useless because the comic book usually answers the question in subsequent pages. Although they're not useless if you consider all art worthy of contemplation. Don't you fucking smirk at me calling my blog art, you piece of shit!

See? It has all the Steampunk components in probably the right percentages!

It turns out Michael Cray and his new Death Squad are just doing some virtual reality training. I guess since they're going up against Green Arrow, they're training with obsolete weapons against old fashioned foes. I hope Michael Cray has warned them about the boxing glove arrow. That's probably the main thing they should be concerned about. Also the arrow that turns into a net which nobody can ever get out of. I've never been caught in a net but I'm fairly certain I could extricate myself fairly quickly. I know I can get out from under a blanket in like ten seconds and what is a net except one of my blankets with less moth-eaten holes in it?

Cray ditches his Death Squad because, like Deathstork, he prefers to work alone. Also like Deathstork, he has "death" in his super-person name. It's these kinds of observations that led professors in college to respond to my papers with praise like "Gee. You really read the shit out of this book, didn't you?" and "With every paper you turn in, my consternation toward the levels of your academic enthusiasm grows ever greater."

Before Cray kills Green Arrow (look, this is only issue #2 of a twelve issue series. It's possible Green Arrow's murder is just the first story in a longer arc about Deathblow's new Wildstorm origin but I'm not getting my hopes up that I'll see Green Arrow's death any sooner than maybe Issue #11), he visits his doctor to find out if the thing in his brain is still killing him.

This is just the kind of existential and philosophical banter patients crave from their doctors when worried about their health.

After finding out he isn't in any danger from a brain tumor, Michael Cray rushes out to get kidnapped by Green Arrow to be hunted as the ultimate prey. I guess it's important to know you're healthy when going to your death.

Ha ha! Just kidding! Michael Cray isn't going to die! His name is on the cover and the cover shows the story will go for twelve issues. It's more likely — and I don't mean to go on and on about how big my boner is for this event — Green Arrow will die!

Cray wakes up in Green Arrow's hunting dome where Green Arrow has been watching him lie there unconscious. Green Arrow makes sure Cray knows that he's discovered that Cray is an assassin. He gives him a gun because some hunters like to hunt animals that can fight back, like other hunters and...well, that's the only example I could come up with. I mean, sure, sometimes hunters are killed by wild boar or some large predator they should never have been hunting in the first place, but that's not usually because the animal knew it was participating in a fight for survival. It's usually because the hunter fucked up in some arrogant way and the animal was all, "You kidding me? I'll fuck you up, you defenseless pink piece of shit!" And then right before the hunter is killed, he thinks, "I deserved to die like this!"

Was that giving the hunter too much credit? Maybe the hunter's actual last thought was, "Oh no! Whoever finds my body will realize I shit myself!" Or maybe, "This isn't fair!" Or perhaps, "I regret not having beaten my loved ones more!"

Michael Cray and Oliver Queen battle for a few pages until I finally get my wish. First, Cray disintegrates Green Arrow's right arm with his deathblow power. Then one of Michael Cray's coworkers (who isn't supposed to be coworking this event) shoots Oliver Queen through the head. And just like that, Green Arrow is dead. It's not as satisfying as I was hoping it would be. That's probably a good lesson for me to learn through literature. Now I know that I probably would be left unsatisfied and possibly live to regret killing the vet who euthanized my cat. Sure, sure. She had my blessing because he was in pain and just getting worse. But she still murdered him! I should probably let her out of the Death Dome now that I've learned my lesson.

Now that Michael Cray has killed Green Arrow in just Issue #2, I guess I don't need to write a commentary on the next issue.

Oh fuck it. I guess I'll keep it up. I'm going to pretend that this is The Flash as written by Joshua Williamson! Just like I was pretending that the Green Arrow killed was the one written by J.T. Krul and Ann Nocenti and also the one from the television show!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Batman Annual #2

DC should have put the actual title, "Some of These Days," on the cover instead of the goofy little rhyme.

I'm not a proponent of annuals. I especially do not love them if they're part of a current story arc because then when you store your comics, you have to stick the annual right in among the regular titles to keep the continuity of the story intact. I super especially am not any kind of fond of them when they're part of a big blockbuster summer event, like Bloodlines or The Darkness Within. But occasionally, an annual is not just done right but done spectacularly. This is one of those annuals. It's touching and beautiful, a story that makes me a little less ashamed to be a comic book fan (don't misunderstand that statement and think I'm saying comic book fans should be ashamed of reading comic books because of the format. They should be ashamed because so many comic book writers are terrible at their jobs and the only reason people read their stupid fucking stories is because the fan is following the character and have no ability to tell when that character is being written horribly).

I'm not going to discuss this story. But I'd like to discuss a couple of things about this comic anyway.

First, there's a double page spread in this comic book that is the exact opposite of one of David Finch or Tony S. Daniel's double page spreads. The characters are small, nearly consumed by the darkness and negative space. There is no action aside from falling rain. Also unlike Tony and David's spreads, this one communicates a number of things through its use, and is beautiful in its subtlety.

Second, I've noticed some people don't like Tom King on Batman. This would boggle my mind but then I remember I'm reading a comic book. A writer can write enchanting dialogue and tell a competent and well-paced story and readers will still hate the writer if they don't write the characters in a way that they think the characters should be written. Comic book readers can forgive anything at all when it comes to plot and terrible writing but if they don't agree with a particular characterization of their favorite character, they'll turn a blind eye to the great writing to lambaste you for the comic book fangender's ultimate sin: messing with their headcanon. It's a shame but what the fuck are you going to do about it? And that's about all the time I want to spend discussing those people.

If you hated this annual, don't @ me. I don't need to know how many people out there have objectively wrong opinions!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Suicide Squad #30

Why does Katana have two katanas and why is she holding them that way? Is she making katana antlers?

I think I've purchased every incarnation of the Suicide Squad comic book since John Ostrander's run post-Crisis. None of them were particularly good but Ostrander's run had been so entertaining and smart that I continued to purchase them in the hopes that, one day, the series would be as good as it was during that run. Today, the well of my hope for a decent Suicide Squad finally ran dry. Rob Williams has killed the franchise for me. I think if I read one more Suicide Squad comic, it'll tip the balance from my being a fan to me hating it passionately. It's like that day in September of 1989 when I nearly declared Guns N Roses the worst band in history because the radio had played Paradise City one time too many. Goodbye, Suicide Squad! Maybe I can refill the well a bit by rereading Ostrander's run. Or maybe that will kill it completely because I'll realize Ostrander's run wasn't the spectacular series I remember it to be! Oh shit. Now I don't know what I should do! It's as if somebody pressed a button that exploded my brain bomb but it only exploded at 90% and it still exists and it's actually some kind of electrical contraption and not a bomb at all but everybody still calls it a brain bomb because I hate this fucking comic book so much.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1

I'm genuinely surprised DC didn't fuck up the title and call it "Black Lightening."

Oh boy! A modern Black Lightning book by the creator of Black Lightning who is 65 years old!

That was just a statement of fact with no inherent judgments except for those that you, the reader, brought to it. The Oh boy could have been sarcastic or genuine. It's hard to tell right now because America is terrible and I don't have any emotions left. So the "Oh boy!" was a really just an "Oh boy." I can't actually feel anything anymore.

But if I had to guess how a 65 year old guy will handle writing a black superhero in 2017, I'd like to think I'd temper my cynicism by remembering that I'm a 46 year old male who's hardly racist at all. I'm mostly racist in the way the media has made me paranoid about just how racist I am. Like, I have a Black Lightning t-shirt because he (and the other members of Batman and the Outsiders) was one of my first favorite superheroes as a young person. But sometimes I'll put on the shirt in the morning and I'll think, "Is a white guy wearing this shirt racist or, as a member of the comic book community, is it okay for me to embrace a character I've loved for so long since comic book fans are way more ready to embrace diversity?" Then I think, "But are they? Isn't a large portion of the comic book fan community just white guys who believe the introduction of any female character or character of color is just pandering to a non-existent fan base?" Then I think, "Does context even matter? Aren't I just a white guy wearing a shirt adorned by a black guy's face? That's, at the very least, somewhat uncomfortable, right?" Then I think, "Why do I make so much eye contact with black people when I avoid eye contact with everybody else on a constant basis? Do I really need them to think I'm not being racist by changing my behavior around them which totally indicates I'm racist?" Then I think, "I live in Portland! How many black people am I going to run into anyway?!" Then I think, "I'll probably write about this later and it will sound terrible and make me look like a total racist with all the partitioned thoughts of black people as some kind of Other that I'm somehow dismissing by thinking my choice of t-shirt will somehow affect anybody else in any serious way." Then I think, "Maybe people will see it as supportive of our fellow citizens oppressed by the system? Or maybe it'll just reaffirm that oppression through my appropriation of a pop culture symbol that wasn't really meant for me? Although it was written by a white guy and, looking back with a modern sensibility, was in many ways problematic? Or maybe everybody will just be boggled by the image like that one petitioner who, in trying to get my attention, was all, 'Samurai Jack!'" Then I think, "I guess I'm just not leaving the house at all again. Maybe next week."

The issue begins with Black Lightning arriving on the scene of a casino robbery amid my dwindling hopes of a well-written book.

Is Black Lightning insulting news weathermen?

I'm not entirely sure what calling yourselves The Weathermen has to do with your mental development being stalled at obvious (and whether or not that actually means anything). Is it because Black Lightning thinks weathermen just stick their hand out of the window and report on what they felt as if nobody else in the local area can do that? So when they say, "It's raining," Black Lightning goes, "Duh! Why did I need you to tell me that!" But they also forecast the weather and that's not obvious to the general layperson, Mr. Lightning! I mean, sure, they're not always right. But when they say storms are expected in three days when it's completely sunny, I wouldn't characterize that as obvious!

Maybe I'm just rushing to judgment based on one bad one-liner from Black Lightning. I mean, it's entirely possible that I just don't get the reference. Was there a young adult book recently called The Weathermen about a group of people who were super obvious? Oh! That gives me an idea how this moment could have been improved. The gang could have called themselves The Young Adult Novels because then the mental development being stalled at obvious crack would have made sense! What Young Adult novel in the last ten years hasn't been about a young person who sees through the lie of society and winds up being super special and unique?

During the battle, the police watch the criminals blast a hunk of the casino's side off the building so that it will plummet to the ground, endangering everybody standing around filming the incident with their phones. Black Lightning diverts the sign using an "electromagnetic thing" so that the sign falls on a SWAT van instead of on people. The police react appropriately for a comic book (and maybe real life too?):

I didn't know politely and reasonably explaining reality to an enraged police officer with his gun in your face allows you to simply walk away safely. Has anybody actually tried this?!¹

The man behind the Weathermen is Tobias Whale. Not the weird Tobias Whale from DC Universe Presents Black Lightning and Blue Devil. That was his nephew and he's dead now. This is the real Tobias Whale who is really into the whale theme. He has a picture of whales on his office wall, he kills his sister with a model whaling ship, and he has assistants named Queequeg and Pequod. I bet I know what he calls his penis.

Apparently there's a race war happening in the DC Universe.²

Black Lightning's first appearance in town in years is heroic. He helps stop some criminals from hurting people. But as soon as he arrives, the bad guys change their tactics from robbing places to getting back at the superhero. So once again, lazy writing proves that the city would be better off without Black Lightning having come back. Because at least if Black Lightning didn't show, the danger would be over until the next robbery. Now the criminals have come right back out to challenge him or they're going to hurt innocent civilians. I'm beginning to think superheroes should all be more like The Punisher. If you're known for murdering the fuck out of a criminal, the criminals are going to be less likely to call you out. Although being comic books, even that line of reasoning can be flushed down the toilet. I'm sure there are plenty of Punisher stories where the criminal syndicates are all, "Big money for the person who bags The Punisher!" Then war erupts all over New York and thousands of people die but The Punisher isn't one of them. In the end, he kills all of the bad guys who were out to kill him and the reader is supposed to enjoy that ending while ignoring how many innocent people died during a conflict that wouldn't have happened if The Punisher didn't exist.

And there it is! Instead of being an inspiration to the people of the city, the hero is written as a pariah and a harbinger of doom.³

Black Lightning arrives on the scene to help out the cops and to come out of the closet.

I mark the boundary of my loss of innocence as the day I suddenly couldn't stop giggling at the phrase "back door."

Black Lightning takes down the criminals easily but then Tobias Whale's assistant, Miss Pequod, zaps them to death so it looks like he electrocuted them. Everybody believes it immediately and now Black Lightning is on the run. I hope next issue introduces a cigar chomping news editor who wants Black Lightning taken down while also demanding photographs of him in action for the paper.

Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1 Rating: As for the quality of the writing on a technical level, it wasn't bad. But as a comic book that decided it didn't mind using all of the dumb comic book tropes where the good guy winds up being wanted by the non-powered good guys, it also wasn't bad. I mean that if I had to rate it on using those tropes, I'd have to say, "9 out of 10 Stars! It used all the terrible tropes!" But I don't actually mean it that way, do I? I was beginning to have a little hope for this series until that moment when Black Lightning was framed. Why the fuck do comic book creators think the best way to tell a superhero story is to have all the regular good people against the super powered good person? So dumb.

¹Do not actually try this! Unless you're a white male. And then you don't even have to be polite or reasonable!
²Unless it's a war between good looking people and dumpy, average people.
³I think I have Crisis on Infinite Earths on my brain.