Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What Would Sheldon Think

Thursday night on CBS is the fifth season premiere of The Big Bang Theory.  Last season, as you may know, ended with Raj and Penny getting drunk and sleeping together.  This will, it most likely goes without saying, result in comical complications and hilarity, as is its wont in such circumstances, will undoubtably ensue.  Of course, if not handled right, fans may one day look back at this as the moment that BBT "jumped the shark."
All that aside, however, what I'm really curious about is this:  What does Sheldon think about DC's "New 52"?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Calling B***S*** on DC

A few weeks ago, in a Comics Shop News cover story on DC's New 52 that pretty much just regurgitated the company's press releases, I ran across this little gem of particularly egregious self-serving corporate double speak attempting to rationalize the decision to restart their two longest running titles with new first issues: "Counting issue numbers is focusing on the past, not the future."  Now, it struck me that if the editorial poobahs at DC really believed the swill that their public relations hacks apparently expect the average drooling fanboy to swallow whole without questions, then why are they even bothering to number the new series?  If issue numbers really are as irrelevant as they say, then why not, instead of  52 new #1s, simply put out 52 new "November 2011" issues?   If they really want to shake things up and usher in a new age of  comics, then why not just eliminate issue numbers altogether?  This would drastically alter not only the new comics market, but the secondary collectors and back issue scene as well.  Just as DC's previous launches and relaunches of its super-hero books have ushered in the the beginnings and/or endings of the various historical ages of comics; with Action Comics #1 and the debut of Superman ushering in the Golden Age, the second Flash's first appearance in Showcase #4 heralding the arrival of the Silver Age, and the conclusion of Crisis On Infinite Earths sounding the death knell of the Bronze Age; so is there potential, most likely doomed, sadly, to remain unrealized, for the latest relaunch to truly change the landscape of American comics. 
Of course, it doesn't seem as if DC is really all that interested in changing things quite that much.  In fact, the whole relaunch, rather than being the harbinger of a bold new era in the industry, seems pretty much like business as usual.  I read an article somewhere on-line, and I wish I could remember where so that I could link to it, that referred to the 90s and the first decade of the new millennium as the "Age of Reiteration," marked by the two major publishers endlessly revising, revamping, rebooting, reconfiguring, relaunching, and rejiggering their tried and true, shop worn old wares.  The DC relaunch just might, therefore, in spite of itself usher in a new era by virtue of being the logical and inevitable end result of that process, thus forcing the publishers to find new methods to temporarily increase interest in the same old super-hero tripe.  
I doubt it, however.   The comics industry is in a rut.  "Business as usual" has kept the comics industry's head just barely above water for the past quarter century. The so-called "Modern Age" of comics has lingered like a bad odor since the mid-80's, longer than any of the previous ages, and the publishers seem to lack the vision to come up with a truly viable alternative to the old ways.   This probably isn't the last renumbering we'll see.  Despite all of DC's vociferous protestations that they in no way ever intend to revert to the old numbering, I can't imagine that in about eight years they'll be able to resist hyping the 1000th issue of Action Comics.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Random Thoughts on the DC Relaunch at the Halfway Point

DC is only half way through the rollout of their New 52, but I think that as far as I'm concerned, it's over.  The only titles that I was really interested in checking out, because of the involvement of Grant Morrison and Keith Giffen, two of my favorite creators, came out the first week. 
I'll admit to being a little curious about Blackhawks.  I've always liked the Blackhawk concept, and I'm kind of wondering how DC has brought it back into the modern DC Universe and what the connection, if any, is between this new series and the classic World War II team.  Still, I think I'm going to wait until the reviews are in before I decide whether or not to pick up an issue. 
Maybe if I've got three bucks burning a whole in my pocket in a couple of weeks, I'll spend it on Superman #1 to check out the present day new incarnation of the Man of Steel and how it compares to the version in Action Comics. 
I'd actually considered buying Green Arrow #1, even though, being written by J.T. Krul, I knew that it was going to suck, simply because I have every other Green Arrow #1 that DC has published over the past thirty years.  Fortunately, however, I came to my senses in time.
I flipped through Hawk & Dove #1, and promptly put it back on the shelf.  There may be a decent story somewhere under Rob Liefeld's art, but I have no desire to find out.  Liefeld's drawings are....well, they're Liefeld's drawings.  If you like his work--and the fact that he continues to get work attests that he must still have some fans out there somewhere--then you'll like it in Hawk & Dove.  If you have taste, then you won't.  
I'd already decided, because of Krul writing it, that I was going to pass on Captain Atom, and this preview of the first issue confirms for me that I've made the right choice.  Apparently, Krul has never actually read a Captain Atom comic before.  He has, however, seemingly read quite a bit of Firestorm, as that is who he seems to think he's writing.  Not only is Captain Atom drawn with Firestorm-like flames popping out of the top of his head, but on the second page of the preview, in the course of battling an erupting volcano, Krul has Cap transmute the lava into snow.  Since when can Captain Atom transmute matter?  Since NEVER, that's since when, because he isn't friggin' Firestorm.  The new DCU already has a Firestorm comic, and it doesn't really need another, especially not one written by J.T. Krul. 
I did decide to check out the new Batgirl, based on Gail Simone's writing it, but by the time I went back to the Laughing Ogre to pick up a copy, they were sold out of it and several other New 52 books.  I suppose this bodes well for the success of the relaunch.  I wonder, though, who's buying these books.  Is it the new and/or lapsed readers that DC hopes to attract or is it just the same folks who come to the Ogre week in and week out?  More importantly, how many of the people who snapped up those first issues are going to buy subsequent releases? 
If DC is really hoping to attract new readers to comics, then I think that redesigning Superman's costume might have been a bad idea.   Not only is the new look kind of hideous, but won't people who know Superman only from his appearances in other media be expecting him to look like the guy they've seen on TV?  It also occurs to me that this theoretical new reader might be slightly confused by the presence on the stands of both a Batgirl and a Batwoman comic.
There's one thing I'm wondering about future developments in OMAC that I didn't mention in my post on the first issue.  I'm curious to see if the presence of Mokkari deep in the bowels of Cadmus means that OMAC is going to come into conflict with Darkseid.  Now I don't think Mokkari had any connection with Apokolips in his previous incarnation, when Jerry Ordway brought him into The Adventures of Superman in the 90's, but the character was introduced in Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen by Jack Kirby in the early 70's as a servant of Darkseid.  I also hope his partner Simyan shows up sometime as well.
Anyway, to wrap up this rambling and disjointed post, I'll be sticking with Action Comics and OMAC for a while, so for me the relaunch was pretty much a wash.  I was buying two DC books before the change, and I'll still be buying two DC books, just different ones.  It's basically a case of the more things change, the more they stay the same. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

OMAC #1 Reviewed

Prior to OMAC #1, the only other comic written by Dan DiDio that I'd read was the Metal Men feature in Wednesday Comics a couple of years ago.  It was alright.  The sequence of events made sense and the characters acted in character.  That may seem like damning with faint praise, but that minimal standard appears to be setting the bar too high for some writers. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Brad Meltzer and J.T. Krul.)  Of course, given the rather ambiguous, Lee/Kirby-esque credit of "Story and Art by" DiDio and Keith Giffen, I'm inclined to believe that the lion's share of the credit for OMAC being as good as it is lies with Giffen.  
Giffen's involvement in the project is what led me to pick up this issue.  I've always been a fan of his work, and I really like his current art style.  Here he manages to evoke OMAC's creator Jack Kirby while remaining unmistakably and uniquely Giffen. 
The story, "Office Management Amidst Chaos," begins with the headquarters of genetic research firm Cadmus coming under attack by a super powered intruder who identifies himself as OMAC.  As he fights his way past Cadmus security down to the top secret lower levels and his real goal, the Cadmus Mainframe computer, we get a high speed tour of the world of this new series, introducing us to the characters, concepts, settings and a few mysteries that will, we assume, be fleshed out in future issues. 
The main mysteries revolve around the orbiting satellite calling itself Brother Eye.  Who or what is he and what's his beef with Cadmus?  And why has he chosen Cadmus employee Kevin Kho to be his champion in the guise of OMAC?
As of now, I plan to be around for awhile to see  these mysteries played out.  This was a good, old fashioned solid super hero action tale with great art that left me wanting more and looking forward to next issue.
One other thing I'm wondering is if Giffen and DiDio are going to keep up the conceit of having the first letters of words in the individual issue's story title spell out OMAC.  I hope they do.  It would be one more thing to make this series stand out from the rest of the so-called New 52. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Action Comics #1 Reviewed

A couple of weeks ago, on the blog Has Boobs, Reads Comics, Jill Pantozzi posted a fan produced "commercial" for the DC Comics relaunch that featured a distressed fanboy ranting about the upcoming changes to DC history, continuity and characters.  It ended with this assurance, "It's going to be okay, Guys.  And remember, no matter what else happens...Grant Morrison will be writing Action Comics and that's going to kick ass."
Action Comics #1 is very good, though I don't know if I'd go so far as to say that it kicks ass.  Not yet anyway, though the potential for future ass kickage is definitely there.  Grant is rearing back his leg and winding up to kick some ass you could say, if you really felt like stretching that metaphor to the breaking point. 
Taking place as it does in the early days of Superman's heroic career, "Superman Vs. The City of Tomorrow"lacks the epic scope and mythic grandeur of  Morrison's earlier work on All-Star Superman.  Instead we get a more down to earth, and, dare I say it, "realistic" take on super heroics, at least in as much as those terms can be said to apply to a man who can catch bullets in his hand. 
Back in '86, on the occasion of the last major reboot of the Man of Steel, John Byrne made a lot of noise about his version of Superman being, as he wrote in his introduction to The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told, "...closer to the Superman of Siegal and Shuster than he had been for decades," but he never quite delivered on that boast, at least to the degree that Morrison does.   True to his word, Morrison presents the reader with a character who is more similar than not to the one who debuted in the first Action #1 over 70 years ago.  Coming on the scene as a champion of the innocent, the oppressed and the common man, he is less super-hero than super powered vigilante.  Though he's not quite as super powerful as he will someday become, and is still getting around by taking giant leaps rather than actually flying.  As Clark Kent, meanwhile, he works, as he did back in the 1938 original, for editor George Taylor at the Metropolis Daily Star, a rival of the Daily Planet, where Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen work.
While Superman has for many decades been portrayed as the "establishment" super-hero, here he finds himself in conflict with the police, while the military, represented here by General Sam Lane, father of Lois, fear him enough to hire Lex Luthor to deliver the strange being to them. 
The conception of Luthor as corrupt business mogul, rather than the bent on world domination run of the mill mad scientist that he debuted as back in the forties, is the one major change made by Byrne and company back in the 80's that seems to have resonated enough with fans and creators to have stuck around in this latest update of the legend.  He certainly makes a fitting opponent for Morrison's vision of Superman as man of the people.
By the way, although I haven't mentioned them, there are pictures in this book.  They're by Rags Morales and they're quite good. 
With the new Action #1, the revised saga of the Man of Tomorrow is off to a great start, with the promise of even better to come and I  plan to stick around for awhile. I hope that Morrison's exploration of Superman's early years isn't going to be confined to just this initial storyline, but that he takes the time to show us Kal-El developing into the legendary, nearly god like figure portrayed in All-Star Superman.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

'Tec Support: Detective Comics #1

Detective Comics #1 is, if not the worst Batman comic ever, at the very least the worst that I have ever had the deep misfortune to have read.  From the laughably bad narrative captions on the first page to the repulsive image on the final page, the combination of idiotic plot, bad writing and poor art make reading this book a painful experience.
Writer/artist Tony Daniel's misguided attempt at writing a tough guy internal monologue for Batman goes awry almost immediately, lapsing into unintentional self-parody with this groaner, "His modus operandi changes with the wind....
"...and it's been windy in Gotham City."
Later, Batman delivers this gem, "I've always been in Gotham.  I AM Gotham."  That's actually presented as dialogue, yet Commissioner Gordon, to whom he is speaking, surprisingly neither bursts out laughing nor backs away slowly from the sort of madman who would say something insane like that.
Daniel even dishes up tired cliches such as "I own the night," and even has Batman actually think at one point, "I'm Batman."  Thanks for telling us, Tony, as if by that point in the story we hadn't already figured it out for ourselves.
Why not "I'm the Goddamned Batman?"  After all, it seems as if Daniel is trying to imitate Frank Miller, but the only Miller Batman comics he's actually read are All-Star Batman and Robin or maybe Spawn/Batman.  At least All-Star can be read as Miller parodying the very type of Batman story he himself inspired with  The Dark Knight Returns, which actually makes it somewhat less unbearably awful, but there is no hint of irony whatsoever in Daniel's deep purple prose.
Truthfully, the art isn't completely awful.  The biggest flaw is that familiar characters are rendered virtually unrecognizable.  Commissioner Gordon looks like he's wearing a bad wig and fake moustache, while Harvey Bullock doesn't even look human.
The issue ends with the introduction of a mysterious new villain called the Dollmaker, but, as you've probably guessed, I shall not be coming back for future issues to discover what his invariably lame criminal scheme might be.