Friday, June 17, 2011

Breakdown


I am taking a couple days off in order to celebrate that whole silly birthday thing with some friends and go home to see family, etc etc blah blah blah. If something pressing or super interesting comes up that I feel the need to comment on, I shall, but in lieu of any exciting news or reviews, here's what I'll be thinking about:


-When the sequel to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin will show up at my library already. Finished the novel last evening, and it got even better by the end. Jemisin is clearly massively intelligent, combining some pretty large conceptual material with an escalating tension and gripping plot. Her style, despite the dense layers and subtexts, is still exceedingly natural and easy to read. I recommend it, and am looking forward to the next one.


-Why comic book publishers and writers dislike having their superheroes married. I just don't get it. First they end Peter Parker and Mary Jane's lovely marriage, garnering a vicious backlash and much ridicule, and now it's been (all-but?) confirmed that when the DC Relaunch takes effect, Clark Kent and Lois Lane will no longer be betrothed. I mean come on, these are the best relationships in comics history. Is this Jane Austin? Can they honestly not find any dramatic or exciting stories that involve marriage? It seems the problem lies not in familiar character relationships, but short sighted creators.


-Why in God's name Stephen Moffat will not be making a full Doctor Who series in 2012. First he tortures us with this absurd 4 month hiatus in the middle of a two-parter, as well as throwing in some frankly crappy filler episodes, but now he sits on one of the most lucrative, and expanding products that his nation has? Even if they decide to do a few specials it won't remedy this. It just smacks of the end of Russell T. Davies' tenure, and those specials were legitimately abysmal. If they can't nail a fifty-minute show consistently (as proven by Curse of the Black Spot and the Rebel Flesh episodes) then their chances of making an excellent hour-and-a-half-long mini movie are shaky at best. You have great actors, at least some great writers (you, Stephen, and Gaiman now) and some great ideas; do us all a favor and focus on your chosen craft, and give us what you know we want. I mean honestly. Cor' blimey.


-What this whole X-Men: Regenesis thing will look like. Marvel announced post-Schism plans, surprising everyone by confirming that the X-Men will indeed then be all schism-ed. Also that whole "ending the Uncanny title" drama? Psych! It's just starting over at #1. And chances are good that next year, after the huge, gamechanging X-event of 2012, that this year's huge, gamechanging X-event will set up, Uncanny will return to its original numbering. Much as I love the X-Men, and big crossover events, this is frankly getting exhausting. Anyway, it's been confirmed that the split in the team will lead to two books; Uncanny and, a title stolen from a lame animated TV show, Wolverine and the XMen. My question is this: is the teaser below how the cast is going to shake out? Would they tell us something like that already? And if so, and I can believe them splitting up Cyke and Emma at this point, at least temporarily, I'm fairly interested to read how they go about tearing that relationship asunder. (For a nice little spoof, check out today's page at the always funny Gutters.)


-Is Bucky really dead? Also is Red Hulk really dead? Oh, wait, no, I'm not actually not going to spend a lot of time thinking about this. A) because I don't really care about these characters, who were both only recently introduced to me and 2) because no, they're almost definitely not.


-Should I watch Falling Skies on Sunday? Noah Wyle doesn't exactly activate my bile duct, but Moon Bloodgood? I've never been able to get over that name.



All right folks--feel free to answer my seemingly rhetorical questions or leave comments. Hope you all have a super fantastic wonderful lovely weekend!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Captain Elias' Birthday Gift Wish List

I have a lot of friends. I mean, seriously, a LOT. Hordes and hordes of them, really. Manhattan can barely contain the raw amounts of people who love me, and thus Brooklyn was formed to house the excess.

My upcoming birthday is practically a national holiday. My fans are legion as well, and naturally they wish to make an offering to the Captain Elias altar on such an auspicious day commemorating my first breath. So I thought I'd give them all a little help on what to buy me.


1. Superhero Flash Drives

  
On sale here. Batman's pretty cool, but clearly Robin is the best. It's obviously Tim Drake, so what more could a diehard Tim fan want?


2. An Alteration to the DC Relaunch

It stands to reason that one of my uncountable number of followers has a role of sufficient authority at DC to grant this request. It's not a large wish--one must allow one's underlings to guide themselves from time to time--but in my opinion a necessary one.

Add a Red Robin #1 to the list of new titles. Get Chris Yost back to write it (no offense to the able veteran Mr. Nicieza, who will have plenty on his plate) and have Francis Manapul draw it. Oh hell, screw that. Get John Cassaday to draw it. While we're at it, screw Yost, I want Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning on it. I don't care how you get them to do it, considering how many Marvel titles I want them to stay on, but figure it out.

Additionally, loyal subjects can flood DC offices with vehement letters demanding the same thing.


3. Superhero Ties

A pattern emerges.

I have one awesome Superman tie that I save for special occasions, and an unfortunately cheesy Batman one that doesn't see the light of day. I WANT MORE. Find them here.


And if you want my particular gratitude, find a superhero bow tie. I love bow ties. Bow ties are cool. I have several, though I could use some more colorful ones. But despite vigorous googling, I can't find any superhero ones. Batman, Robin, X-Men, whichever. Find me one.

By the way, animated cartoon versions are unacceptable. As are film representations. Comic Book models only.


4. iPhone

'Cause why the hell not. I keep getting lost in NYC (how am I supposed to know East from West when I get out of the subway?) so I'd like that app that tells you where you are/where to turn/how many paces to walk before reaching your destination.

Include a superhero skin. Duh. There are dozens of acceptable Batman ones, particularly ones with Robin, and even a Nightwing-on-a-motorcycle one. To make the decision easier on you, get them all. I'll just have to accept the sacrifice of alternating my sweetass cases.


5. A Gaming System on which to play X-Men Destiny, and other Superhero Games such as Batman: Arkham Asylum, etc.

I haven't played video games since those days back in middle school, and I mostly watched my brother play even then. But now I want to enjoy what seem to be dynamite graphics and stories written by some of my favorite comic writers.

XBox, Playstation, whatever. Games should be included.

I'm always on the lookout for new ways to entirely waste my time.


6. Lovely Marvel Hardcovers

Recent releases include Avengers West Coast Family Ties and X-Men Alpha Flight. Others are acceptable as well, as long as they are characters I like (you should know my favorites by now) and are relatively new (or else I probably own them.)

Go ahead and give me some commission by clicking on Amazon links at the bottom of several blog posts.


7. Barnes & Noble Gift Certificate

$500 should cover it. That'll last me at least two store visits. And if they have a Superhero design giftcard option, you better pick it.


8. -World Peace-  A Brownstone

Which would bring me a personal, inner peace, which is much more tangible. Not that I dislike my cozy one bedroom (or rather, mid-sized studio with a half-wall down the middle) but I could use an extra room for all the comic boxes. They just keep piling up.

Might as well make it a house while you're at it. A large one. Waterfront property preferred. But I'll settle for something on the park. Basically, you should get Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly's old Prospect Park mansion. God knows why they moved to a loft in Manhattan. But I hear they have a private dock. I'd like one of those too.


Finally, make sure to buy all next door properties. I'll either give them to my friends, or leave them empty. I don't like neighbors. And don't tell me "You probably shouldn't live in New York City, then, Captain Elias." Thought's already crossed my mind.


That's it for now. Refresh this page every 23 1/2 minutes, because I'll surely think of more things for you to spend your hard earned money on and give to me. Why exactly are you still reading this? Go shop.


Have a Happy Birthday for me! And don't let stupid Father's Day steal my glory.

Recommended Reading


Yes, I read something besides comic books, please stifle your gasps of astonishment. In fact, I read rather voraciously--what with subway trips, cigarette breaks, post-work couch sitting, and pre-heavy-eyelid bedtime, I can on average get through a book a week or more. Naturally my speed depends on the quality and ease of the book, with something like Ender's Game lasting a day or two, and a rereading of the Iliad taking up to a week and a half.

So I thought today I would subtly compliment myself (done,) brag about my intimidating intelligence (done,) make implications about how special I am as a lover of books (done,) and be charitable by sharing some of my discoveries that similar sensibilities may enjoy (coming up next.)


Arthur Rex

The last book I completed was Arthur Rex by Thomas Berger. It is an oftentimes irreverent and hilarious retelling of the classic King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.


Now, I'm a huge King Arthur fan. I've read Malory, which is for all intents and purposes treated as the original, or at least the first written version (I recall that Malory wrote it in jail at the end of his life.) I've read Steinbeck's translations, which are completely beautiful. And I've read T.H. White's wonderful classic, The Once and Future King, at least twice. (I even tried White's follow-up, The Book of Merlin, but it is dense and full of philosophy. And considering I knew he was sitting in an isolated Irish house, avoiding World War II and objecting to the fighting while he wrote it, I had trouble stomaching Merlin and Arthur's conversation about war.)

Berger borrows from all of these, and probably many more. A bona fide scholar as well as an Arthur fan, his retelling is full of familiar details and characters and events. However, he frequently adds his own twist to things, usually with humor. For instance, when Arthur and Merlin row out into the lake to obtain Excalibur from the Lady of the aforementioned Lake, reaching out to grasp it unbalances the boat, and they have to circle and try again. Another original addition is having Morgan Le Fey and Mordred develop a super villain team-up, plotting Arthur's downfall while constantly attempting to be more evil and conniving than each other.

Another specific narrative point is Berger's recounting of battles. Regularly, when the Knights meet in battle with an army, a single knight will take down two thousand enemies in the space of a sentence. This mimics Malory, as well as Homer really, who only elaborated on battles by explaining the results of one-on-one combat, and never giving the reader a sense of the kind of warfare actually exercised by the two armies. In doing so Berger makes light of the ridiculous, mythical nature of these stories, and at the same time manages to offset the chivalry, nobility and courage of the Knights in a way that is even more poignant.

It is a very funny, and surprisingly emotional read. Often you forget it is a modern re-interpretation, and you find yourself devouring the authentic dialect, and caring more about the proud, manic Guinevere than ever before, or reading Mordred with more interest in his unique, clever character than with disgust in his existence.

In the end this is written by a man who loves the stories of King Arthur and Camelot, who respects and honors them, and who values the unfortunately outdated morals that Arthur and his Knights held sacred above all else while showing the inevitable conflict of governing by such principles and living with basic human nature.



The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

This sci-fi novel by N.K. Jemisin is what I am currently reading. I believe I too found it as a recommendation from someone online, but I can't recall where exactly. As much as I love reading science fiction and/or fantasy, I am often wary of starting a new one, after multiple disappointments over the years. Often the specific fandom embraces a story or series and assures you of its worth, and then the quality of writing fails to live up to the hype.


I was given further reservations when I read the summary, and realized the main conflicts seemed to be political in nature. I realize that power struggles, and the different commentary on philosophy and humanity that they allow, can be exciting and rich in a novel, however it's not usually what I long for in my sci/fi books. Still, it had a heroine, so I thought I'd give it a chance.

After a few pages, I knew I would finish it. The writing is surprisingly swift. Jemisin has a very clear voice, and it flows through your mind a bit like water, until you start to feel as if you are anticipating the next line. The main character of Yeine is clear cut and interesting; brave, focused, far too human, and with a dangerous temper, she is an ideal narrator who introduces this new world to us brilliantly, as she is a newcomer as well. Occasionally, or actually at least once a chapter, Jemisin has a brief abrupt interlude, still from Yeine's perspective but ostensibly a future version of her, that comes off in a kind of Toni Morrison-Beloved-stream-of-consciousness-experimental-prose-chapter kind of way, which can be slightly tiresome and break your stride, but are fortunately short and sweet and doubtless have a payoff.

The political side is fortunately not as dense as I feared. Instead Yeine's struggle becomes almost reminiscent of a detective novel. In this world there were Three Gods. A god of night (or darkness and change and chaos,) a god of day (or light and order and rules) and a goddess of dawn and twilight (or birth and death and creation and transition.) At some point there was a War, and Itempas, the god of the day, won. The goddess died, and Nahadoth (the night one) and all his children (also gods) were forced into slavery. Now they live, as they have for centuries, in the capitol city of Sky, and are bound to follow orders by the ruling noble class who worship Itempas, the Arameri, biding their time until escape and freedom once again become possible.

Yeine, a child of an Arameri scandal, is brought to Sky to vie with two distant and cruel cousins for the position of heir to the Arameri throne. Instead she spends her time trying to unravel mysteries; the suspicious nature of her mother's death, the untold truths of the gods' origins and their war, and why she has become integral to their plans for freedom.

If at times bogged down by a heavy mythos that seems to keep adding layers and layers, that is often so symbolic or conceptual as to become inscrutable, the completely human thought process of Yeine always brings you back into the story. The descriptions are vivid and simple, the plot developments orderly and interesting, and the pace is fluid and self-sustaining. I'm not done yet, but I already placed a hold for the sequel at the library.


My What-to-Read-Next Pile:

-Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (The recently mentioned sequel.)

-Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (I never heard of it until Christopher Gorham/Augie mentioned it on Covert Affairs, but apparently it was quite the cult hit in the 90s.)

-Enchantment by Orson Scott Card (Been a few months since I read anything by him, and this one gets praised often.)


Any recommendations of your own to share? Let me know...always on the lookout for a good read.


    

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Today's New Comics

Picking up this list is one of my favorite parts of the week, and the most dangerous part for my checking account. Financially, I am dreading the DC Relaunch. Even if I get very picky about which new titles to buy, which I intend to, it still seriously increases my weekly DC pull. Clever bastards.


DC
Batgirl #22:  I assume there are only three issues of this remaining. The announcement of Barbara Gordon's return to the role of Batgirl, and the world of the ambulatory, makes this fantastic title all the more bittersweet. I don't particularly care for the current villains, but it also isn't important. The joy of this book is being in Stephanie's head these days. Bryan Q. Miller has done wonderful things, and it's a damn shame he wasn't even given one of the 52 new titles. Here's a question: will Proxy/Wendy step into Oracle's shoes/tires? Or fade away into obscurity and disuse come Relaunch time?


Batman #711: I might resist this one. I am not a Tony Daniel fan. I'm not even terribly crazy about his art. However, it's tough for me to not pick up a shiny new Batman comic. Very tough.

Cinderella: Fables are Forever #5 of 6:  One of the best Fables characters, Cinderella is the most dangerous spy in the entire world, after honing her craft for centuries. Following her in a solo adventure is just as much fun as it sounds.

Power Girl #25:  Poor PG didn't get a new #1 in the Relaunch either, and the propriety police in the editors' office will doubtless give her a new uniform and a breast reduction. The few issues I've purchased of this have been enjoyable, some of Winnick's funniest work. Plus, Batman's in it.


Teen Titans #96:  JT Krul's blundering evil-Indian-god arc continues, and hopefully concludes. Krul makes the unfortunate decision of putting the most boring members - Beast Boy and this new beatnik, ethnic, bright-light-love-peace chick Solstice - front and center. You'd think having Tim back on the team would make this comic succeed, as I was hoping. But once again, an attempt at reviving the Teen Titans is failing. No one's managed it since Geoff Johns did it several years back, and I am not at all convinced by Scott Lobdell's Relaunch plans.

In fact, with each passing week, and each tidbit of news released, I'm more anxious and pessimistic about the Relaunch and less excited than ever.  I don't know if I can get over personality and backstory changes for people like Tim and Stephanie. They're the main reason I'm still buying DC anyway.


MARVEL

Alpha Flight #1: Not sure if I'm going to buy this. Usually just like the team when they cross over with the X-Men. But if I do, it will mainly be for Northstar and Aurora, and because I hear great things about Pak and Van Lente (though I've never read their Herc of Amadeus Cho.)

Avengers #14: Another Fear Itself tie-in that will mostly be confessional dialogue from members of the team. And I'm actually OK with that--I rather enjoy Bendis when he just fully commits to the Oral History thing. Plus I imagine there will be some more frames devoted to the burgeoning romance between Hawkeye and Spider Woman (and I need some more story to convince me that's interesting.)

Avengers Academy #15: Fear Itself comes to the Academy, and one of the Worthy throws down with Hank Pym. I'm guessing it's the Absorbing Man. We know from solicits that things get pretty bad for the kids--war and all--so this should be good.

Generation Hope #8: Teon is in custody for...well, a custody trial, I believe. Gillen's focused, original corner of the X-universe continues to grow, and knowing the upheaval in store for Hope's team in Schism, I expect these last few issues will be devoted to really solidifying the group dynamic and making us fully care about the Lights (cause I'm not actually all the way there yet.)

Ruse #4: The final Issue! Simon Archer dead?? Emma Bishop fighting for her life...again?! Archer's arch-enemy steps out of the shadows?! Dear God, someone make this an ongoing series.


Uncanny X-Men #538: Gillen's Breakworld-related arc has been, well, a bit boring. His Gen Hope is much more tightly plotted and purposeful. Granted, I love that he's using Kitty a lot, and it could be Terry Dodson's art that slows things down for me. I would like a new Uncanny artist, but I guess we're stuck with him for a few more months, until the title ends (temporarily, I believe) and Schism "changes everything ever forever."


X-Factor #221: The saga of Rahne's pregnancy and impending birth continue, with Rahne and Shatterstar side-by-side. An unusual pairing in a wonderful cast, but it's working. Last we saw, Feral appeared in Church, seemingly back from the dead. I remember her relations with Shattbuns fondly when they were on X-Force together, as well as her and Rahne's bloody, brutal fight during the X-cutioner's Saga. This is easily one of the best hero books out there. Buy it.


X-Men #13: This Evolutionaries and buried X-Men memories story is not really hitting my sweet spot, but it's fairly pretty and I want to see Storm get pissed and take them all on herself. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Storm is not used nearly enough these days. Hopefully post-Schism she'll have her own team, or school, or strikeforce, or government sanctioned job, I don't know. Just bring her back to her former glory and responsibility, and maybe give her a new costume.

X-Men Prelude to Schism #3: Yeah, yeah I'm a complete sucker. Preludes, prologues, epilogues, addendums, if it's X-related, I'll probably buy it. This month gets inside both Cyclops and Wolvie's head, which leads one to wonder who (or what) the next and last one will focus on. Jenkins has underwhelmed so far, so let's hope he picks it up, and turns this miniseries into something that was actually worth writing instead of merely a marketing ploy for easy marks like me.


Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Look Back at TV: Harper's Island

Perhaps due to the lack of new Masterpiece Classic on TV, I decided to rewatch episodes of Harper's Island and then elaborate on the experience it provided.


In 2009, CBS tried something different. They ordered and aired a 13-episode horror serial show. Harper's Island was a classic example of genre--it was part horror, part thriller, part mystery.

The set-up was timeless, if not terribly original. A wedding is set to take place on an isolated island with a dark past. A Final Girl comes home to confront bad memories after several years. A perversely ingenious serial killer is picking off the guests one by one. The cast is young and pretty, the setting is gorgeous but secluded enough to be unsettling, and the twists and murders are consistent yet surprising, twisted yet believable. So why didn't it work?

CBS took a gamble, and tried something new--not exactly what the network is known for. They got some big names involved, like Jeffrey Bell and John Turtletaub. The found quality actors, like the expressive and endearing Irish actress Elaine Cassidy, and the handsome, nuanced Christopher Gorham (now on Covert Affairs.) They created a story both simple and complex, with many overlapping mysteries, red herrings, and straight up action/horror scenes. They played with tropes from the various genres they were living in, and not just the Final Girl mythos.


Many of the killings had a morality to them, such as the inevitable demise of the greedy, lying fat guy, or the uninhibited adulterers. In the end, two killers were revealed, one of several echoes of the modern classic Scream (Abbie and her life at the center of mystery, a considerably amount of humor particularly in the first 7 episodes, strange phone calls with a static-y Ave Maria, haunted past returning, etc.) A hermit in the woods, a noble but doomed Sheriff, the tensions of class envy forgotten in the face of gruesome homicide, the list goes on. Hell, they even have a creepy little girl who says ominous things and has a surprising amount of information.


The problem is, all these references and inclusions to well known horror elements were just that; references. Little was done with any of these things that was surprising or original, let alone subversive. Granted it was only occasionally boring and rarely tedious, but it was only an homage. That can be lovely, and I like a good solid reminder of what came before, and what worked in the past. And clearly CBS wanted to create a concentrated story that had consisted of everything that had ever worked before in the genre. They did in fact take a risk making the series, but they played it safe when it came to the content.

These days the successful horror flicks, aside from torture porn which hopefully won't be making it to TV anytime soon, are the ones with some originality. A familiar premise that has been tweaked, an infusion of humor, an attempt at something new. Harper's Island was a celebration of all things in the past. True, it was not billed or marketed as anything else, and there was no reason to believe that a classic one-by-one deserted island mystery wouldn't work, until the ratings came out. The ratings dropped considerably with each episode, until the show was moved to Saturdays and barely broke the 2 million viewer mark (perhaps that would have made it a hit on a cable channel.)


In my opinion, it was a good show. Elaine Cassidy and Christopher Gorham are pitch perfect. Several other characters were well-developed, and their personal stories' climax was often surprisingly affecting and emotional (particularly Cal and Chloe, who had the best relationship and the most original, poignant deaths.) The tension is well-maintained, especially in the latter episodes, in part because Callum Keith Rennie of Battlestar Galactica fame does a great creepy killer, and the reveal of the second killer was done with a maximum amount of shock and distress.


Which is not to say it was flawless. I think the main reason for Harper's Islands failure (if we define 'failure' as plummeting ratings and no second season/installment/project commissioned...as I imagine most people would) it is the length. 13 episodes was far too long to string us along and expect all the viewers to stick around. Horror movies have trouble maintaining tension and interest in 90minute films, so imagine how exponentially difficult it is to draw out a serial killer's rampage for 13 hours, or even the last 6 hours when all characters are finally conscious of the danger they're in.

With that many installments to get through before the big reveal and final showdown, the amount of red herrings becomes almost insulting. A minimum of one death an episode is not enough to maintain momentum, considering the first few are entirely uninteresting characters and at one point even an accidental death with no bearing on the plot. Once things heat up, and the danger is entirely revealed, it moves at a better clip. But still, it continues to be dragged down by subplots or extraneous characters. And while almost all of these are well-written, well-acted and well-filmed, the horror genre invariably benefits concise developments, numerous surprises, and a fast pace.


For all its weaknesses, and creative timidity (or perhaps I should say 'creative traditionalism') Harper's Island was a well made and entertaining show. Its very existence was novel. My main regret about the entire project is that it did so badly in the ratings, because it all but guarantees that no major network will attempt another foray into strict horror, which I believe to be an untapped genre in the medium of television. Just look at what kind of audience The Walking Dead can bring in.

So I appeal to the executives in charge of these things: Try it again. Maintain the level of writing and acting, put some money in it, and keep it short and sweet. (Also, keep hiring Cassidy and Gorham.) Give us the parts of the genre that we love, but try a little boldness. There's a goldmine here.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

X-Men Schism Preview


News has been slowly trickling out regarding the upcoming "gamechanging" X-Men event, Schism, now billed as the X-Men's version of Civil War.

In it we shall see a massive philosophical divide among the mutants, with Wolverine on one side, and Cyclops on the other. Just what their ideological differences are has not been revealed, but we have been told it is simpler than Wolverine being a killer and Scott not crossing that particular line. In addition we now know one of the catalysts of the split is the return of Quentin Quire, a very powerful telepath, fond of anarchy and rebellion, created back in Grant Morrison's ever popular New X-Men run. Plus a new breed of Sentinel seemingly attacking the whole world.

It was also announced this week that the immensely long-running Uncanny X-Men title will be coming to an end, for the purposes of serving the Schism story and its aftermath. One can assume that new X-titles will begin with a #1 and follow the newly divided X-teams on their now separate paths (hopefully one will be based in New York.) Here are a few preview pages that have been posted online:





I'm not exactly sure why Logan's muttonchops look so much weirder than usual there, but they do. Apparently Idie of the Five Lights, as well as Hope, will play a big role in the event, and I'm glad to see Storm is there because despite all this talk of Wolverine being a natural leader, the writers seem to have forgotten that Storm was in fact a better leader than even Scott. Ororo doesn't get nearly enough page time these days.

But of all the images that Marvel has put out there as teasers, this is the one that has me the most interested:


Father vs. Daughter! Unresolved family issues! War of the Magnetic Powers! So intense her pupils have disappeared! Polaris is definitely coming back to Earth after Mike Carey finally deals with Havok's team in upcoming Legacy issues!

I fully expect a brother vs. brother Havok/Cyclops image to be released soon as well. Alex has been in the stars for years now (at least publishing wise) and he became leader of the Starjammers, intent on killing Vulcan and generally hardcore in a rogue, rebel, fighter, hunter kind of way. Maybe the different suns he's come across in his travels has supercharged his solar powers. In the same vein I would love to see a corporeal Rachel Grey have to take on Emma Frost and her cuckoos, and at least some hint about the Phoenix Force mystery when Rachel meets Hope.

The potential of inner conflict among the X-Men has always been ripe, and with that last teaser I'm definitely getting excited. Even when X-events are badly done or overhyped, or even boring, they always manage to be fun, which is more than I can say for the current mainline Marvel events.

The Complete DC Relaunch 52-Title List


So bit by bit, DC has revealed every single new title that will be relaunched at the end of the year starting with a #1 issue. I've kept an open mind, in general, about this Rebootlaunch thing, but I have a couple problems with the final list.

Justice League
Wonder Woman
Aquaman
The Flash
The Fury of Firestorm
The Savage Hawkman
Green Arrow
Justice League International
Mister Terrific
Captain Atom
DC Universe Presents
Green Lantern
Green Lantern Corps
Green Lantern: The New Guardians
Red Lanterns
Batman
Detective Comics
Batman & Robin
Batman: The Dark Knight
Birds of Prey
Catwoman
Batgirl
Batwoman
Nightwing
Red Hood and the Outlaws
Batwing
Swamp Thing
Animal Man
Justice League Dark
Demon Knights
Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE
Resurrection Man
I, Vampire
Voodoo
Legion Lost
Legion of Superheroes
Teen Titans
Static Shock
Hawk & Dove
Stormwatch
Blackhawks
Sgt. Rock and the Men of War
All-Star Western
Deathstroke
Grifter
OMAC
Suicide Squad
Blue Beetle
Action Comics
Superman: The Man of Tomorrow
Supergirl
Superboy


So not only is Stephanie Brown nowhere to be seen, but the only thing Tim Drake is in is Titans? That's DC throwing away their two best books. And describing Wonder Girl as a "mysterious and belligerent powerhouse thief" does not lead one to believe this is a minor retweaking of character origins. I also thought there would be a Superman/Batman team up comic, as well as Dan Didio's favorite pet team The Outsiders.

Now that we know the titles, which is nice I suppose (but seriously--Hawk & Dove? Voodoo? Frikkin' Frankenstein? And no Red Robin?!) how about we get to hear the scope of the character changes actually being made.

DC's last-but-not-least news dealt with the Superman family, the main item being that Grant Morrison will writing an all-new Action Comics. I'm pretty sure many people predicted this, and it was announced that Batman, Inc. will return next year, presumably still with Grant at the helm. However the released cover, featuring Superman in some patchwork hipster jeans doesn't inspire the greatest confidence:


Mostly I'm just glad he won't be writing the main Bat-titles anymore. And if anyone has got some Stephanie Brown rumors, please share.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Covert Affairs Review



I'm just gonna come right out and say it. I have a thing for Piper Perabo. Being a gay man, we'll call said "thing" platonic, but to be perfectly honest, I feel a bit confused. I mean, take Coyote Ugly. The hilarity of her keyboard pounding on a rooftop in NYC is not lost on me...and yet every time I find it playing on TV I decide to stop channel surfing in order to 'reinvestigate its lameness.' In truth I actually like it, God forgive me.

Imagine Me & You, the lovely, gentle, sweet lesbian romance movie she did with Lena Headey (and Matthew Goode, thank you very much) is fantastic and never got the attention it deserved. I even watched The Cave, which she was in again with Lena (they are now best friends, and doubtless will invite me to hang out one day) and even enjoyed her plucky, fearless (until monsters showed up), cave climbing character. She had a brief, though important and well-played, role in The Prestige that was hard to watch, and a pretty unoriginal turn in the plague/apocalypse horror movie Carriers, alongside Chris Pine and a group of fairly distinguished young actors (it should be noted that SHE was the only one on the poster.)

In addition there have been several films with solid casts that just failed to make an impression on anyone. Therefore it seems that Piper is a competent, endearing actress with that unfortunate luck of reading a screenplay that seems solid, but fails in execution (Sarah Michelle Gellar anyone?) I like me an underdog, and I find her super charming, so lo and behold you have a recipe for fandom.


Consider my excitement last year when it was announced she would be the lead of a new USA hour-long action drama show, playing a rookie CIA agent in Covert Affairs. Perabo even got nominated for a Best Actress in Television Golden Globe last year! Often billed as being from the producers of the Bourne movies (which I can only recognize when the action scenes get so choppy and camera-shaky that I'm not sure what's going on) Covert Affairs turned out to be a steady, entertaining, well-made show right from the pilot. It is full of consistent, successful, easy humor, especially between Perabo and the beautiful Christopher Gorham, who have the best chemistry among a stellar cast and doubtless have been flooded with pleas for a romantic storyline.


Kari Matchett gives us an interesting portrait of a powerful woman while still being legitimately intimidating as department boss Joan Campbell, and the by-now-fairly-legendary Peter Gallagher plays her husband, a marriage fraught with as many secrets and communications issues as the CIA itself. Sendhil Ramamurthy (Heroes' Mohinder Suresh) is the only character who feels slightly unnecessary--I don't see him as a legitimate love interest for Annie, or a foil for Ben Mercer, but I expect his role will improve as his father continues to secretly connive against Arthur. The lovely Anne Dudek, who has proved her acting chops in several different productions (The Book Club, House, Mad Men, and many others) plays the stressed-young-mother, oblivious yet upbeat sister of Annie Walker. A lot like much of the dramatic tension in Alias, I eagerly await the day when Dudek discovers her sister's double-life.


Eion Bailey plays Ben Mercer, the center of the main sub-plot to the show. Years (months?) prior to the pilot, when we meet Annie, she had met Ben on vacation in Sri Lanka. They fell in love, had a whirlwind romance, and then he disappeared with only a note. Eager to bury her feelings and close herself off from that kind of pain again (though she's still remarkably optimistic and smiley) she trains to be a CIA agent. Joan Campbell, head of the Department of Defense (a fictional department I'm sure), pulls her in off the 'farm' when her training is not yet complete, seemingly for the sake of her massive language skills (Perabo is great at doing accents, like her British one in Imagine Me & You.) In truth, she is brought in as bait, in effect, to draw out Ben Mercer, who was a CIA agent that went rogue soon after he met (& apparently abandoned) Annie. The mystery of his true purpose and loyalty is the driving background plot of the show, and Annie's emotional meat.


There are refreshingly realistic fight scenes; Perabo's Annie Walker never Buffys out and defeats a 6ft2 Russian assassin effortlessly, much as I would like it, instead grappling uncomfortably until she figures out some resourceful way to knock him out or buying time until her partners can save her. Occasionally flashback scenes that intend to show the weight of Annie & Ben's love come off clunky and overacted, but one can forgive and forget that easily, considering the fast pace of the show.

The second season premiered this week, still with some of USA's best ratings, but down slightly from last year's premiere. It seems the writers and producers have decided to stick with what worked last year, and avoid any drastic changes. Despite the climactic ending of last season, by the end of the premiere they have basically restored the status quo with Mercer AWOL, Annie rather heartbroken but resilient, and Augie as her best bud and flying buttress of support.

Which is not to say the lack of risk-taking makes it dull. It is still a very enjoyable show, one that gives us the steadiness of a procedural (establish the problem, send Annie into it, physical conflict, and resolution) while attempting to tackle the morally grey areas of espionage without ever losing the perspective that true evil exists in this world, and it is a noble life to seek it out and fight it, no matter the personal sacrifices necessary.


Covert Affairs airs on Tuesdays at 10pm (Eastern) on USA Network. I recommend it. Support Piper Perabo!

Happy Friday.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Marvel Cosmic Comic News

This just happened:


(...in Annihilators #4 of 4)
 In case you don't know, the past few years of Marvel Cosmic history have been tumultuous and fantastic. Classic solo hero Star-Lord (Peter Quill) teamed up with the newly-mature Nova and sundry other cosmic characters to fight the Annihilation war (Annihilus' attempt at universal domination, that nearly worked) followed closely by the crisis of Annihilation: Conquest, in which the Phalanx took over the Kree under the bidding of their newest leader, Ultron.

Now both Star-Lord and Nova were instrumental in stopping these major threats and saving billions of lives. Star-Lord, however, felt the need to be more proactive in the protecting of the cosmos. And so he assembled the Guardians of the Galaxy (team name decided upon after Ass-Kickers of the Fantastic was shot down) consisting of a motley crew of powerful outsiders with rich histories. This was one of the best Marvel series I've ever read, written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. It was steeped in classic and modern continuity, was original and emotional, had the best stories and characters, and seemed limitless in its scope and amount of stories it could successfully tell.

Unfortunately, there was a limit after all. It was called The Thanos Imperative, and in the end Star-Lord and Nova sacrificed themselves to keep the resurrected Thanos in the about-to-die Cancerverse. Their deaths effectively ended the Guardians (though I'm not sure why, and have no idea where the majority of the members have gone) until Cosmo, the Russian cosmonaut telepathic talking dog (seriously)who acts as tech support and is in charge of their headquarter's (literally, HQ is a Celestial's severed head) security assembles a new iteration of the Guardians with Quasar (another classic character given new life by DnA.)

They call themselves the Annihilators (after a similar naming argument) and they intend to succeed where the Guardians failed; namely by being way more crazy powerful. The lineup? The Silver Surfer. Beta Ray Bill (he's got Thor's power.) Ronan the Accuser. Quasar. Freaking Gladiator. I mean, seriously, as if anyone could really stand up to those dudes. It was an ambitious idea, grand, and pretty damn awesome in the execution, even if it felt slightly rushed. After all, it was just a 4issue miniseries and it was doubtful we would get more. But it looks like we will after all!


It seems that the galaxy's newest guardians, the Big Guns, the Annihilators, assembled in pursuit of Star-Lord's dream of galactic catastrophe prevention, are getting terrestrial come September. Not only that, they are coming into contact with the Avengers!

Let the speculation begin. Will any of the past Guardians be present? Some of them must have returned to Earth--such as Jack Flag. Several of them have close ties to the Avengers, such as Moondragon and Mantis, who were both former members, or Vance who is the future version of Avengers Academy's Justice. (If Phyla-Vell were alive she could meet her half-brother Teddy of the Young Avengers--which incidentally I wrote some private fanfic about.)

The Annihilators have connections to the Avengers as well. Beta Ray Bill and Thor, obviously. Quasar used to be a valued member, and pretty close to Steve Rogers. The Surfer is more of a Fantastic Four guy, and the Gladiator connects more often with the X-Men, which leads me to believe, perhaps, that 'Earth's mightiest heroes' does not solely include the Avengers? If the events of Schism have taken place by then, perhaps some splinter form of the X-Men will be included? Such as the recently cosmic Starjammers team (Havok, Polaris and Rachel Grey)? And the FF have a bone to pick with Annihilus, who remains a cosmic threat.

All of these connections and potential stories made me think about that Rip Hunter---er, I mean, future Iron Man/Kang-esque timeline that appeared in Avengers #5 by Brian Michael Bendis. I haven't looked at in awhile, so let's see if it holds any answers/hints for us now:


A few things make more sense than it was first seen (Three, Iron Lad, Schism, Five Lights) and a few are seemingly unrelated to this topic, though still very interesting (Academy Traitor, Galactus Seed, Steve's Vision, Yesterday's X-Men.) But here's the pertinent one: "Nova Antiquus."

Now 'Antiquus' obviously means 'ancient', and it's masculine so we can assume it doesn't refer to the rebirth of Ko-Rel or something. It also means 'time-honored' and more literally 'aged'. So if Richard Rider returns as Nova, there's no real guarantee he'll be as we last saw him. Did he grow old in the pocket universe they inhabited? Where have he and Star-Lord physically been? What has happened to the rest of the Nova Corps when he 'died' bearing a large part of the Nova Force? Where's his brother, and Namorita, and the rest of the exciting new Corps he was building?

Honestly, I could go on for hours. The beauty of the Marvel cosmic line is that its potential is limitless, and yet it relates in some very direct, accessible ways to the heroes of Earth. I am insanely excited for Earthfall to get here, and I eagerly anticipate some more information released from Marvel soon. Hopefully DnA will still be the scribes on duty, despite their many current titles, and hopefully some old favorites will return to the pages.



     

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The DC Rebootlaunch: What It Means For The Bat-Family


First of all, I need to finally distinguish between Reboot and Relaunch. Apparently we're supposed to go with the latter, the former being too extreme. From what I can tell, 'Reboot' comes entirely from technology--something crashes, and you restart it. Whether DC has crashed is arguable, but I doubt they would admit to it, thus we move on to 'Relaunch.' This is much more in line with marketing, in the sense that a rebranding occurs involving changes and improvements.

Still, it requires more factual information on what DC is doing to make the final distinction. Every day new press releases come out telling us about certain titles and their creative teams and summaries. By all accounts, Relaunch is most appropriate, with characters returning to old identities and teaming up in new incarnations. So far it doesn't seem as if anyone has been completely, unalterably retconned. So is it just collective imagination that inferred Superman and other JLA-ers have been de-aged from Jim Lee's first piece of art?
Does Barbara Gordon wake up one morning with the use of her legs, or will there be an actual story to explain it? (I'm hoping, and expecting, a story, but Flashpoint could be the miraculous, magical catalyst for all these sweeping changes.)

As far as the Batman line goes, things are changing in a big way, while at the same time returning to a more familiar line-up. Bruce Wayne will be the only man wearing the Bat-costume now, and he will do so in at least four books: Batman, Detective Comics, Batman: The Dark Knight, and Batman and Robin, all starting over at #1. Grant Morrison's Batman, Inc. will end before the September premiere of all these titles, but then will begin again in 2012. Usually when Morrison makes a big change to the Batman mythos (like 'killing' Bruce Wayne) DC lets it stand for at least a year before returning it to something resembling the status quo. Now it seems that Bruce Wayne's revelation to the public that he is the funding behind Batman, and setting up a massive corporation to install a Batman in many major cities of the world, might be reversed more quickly. More likely it won't be, however, since other characters will be wearing his emblem if not sharing his name (see Batwing).


The main Bruce-centric title that interest me, and provides a big piece of Relaunch information, is Batman and Robin. In this Bruce will be partnered with his son Damian, who for awhile now has formed a strong bond with Dick Grayson's Batman. The father/son duo, I believe, will be the most interesting thing to read, and Bruce's rapport with Damian will no doubt be entertaining. The biggest thing it tells me though is that Damian will maintain his role as Robin, and thus Tim Drake will not be returning to his old costume.

So will Tim still be Red Robin? According to this morning's news: YES. We have not heard anything about a Red Robin solo book (though I expect and hope one will be forthcoming) but we have our first solicit for Teen Titans #1:


Tim Drake is forced to step out from behind his keyboard when an international organization seeks to capture or kill super-powered teenagers. As Red Robin, he must team up with the mysterious and belligerent powerhouse thief known as Wonder Girl and a hyperactive speedster calling himself Kid Flash in TEEN TITANS #1, by Scott Lobdell and artists Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund.

Tim's costume looks rather awesome. But apparently Wonder Girl and Kid Flash are NOT Cassie Sandsmark and Bart Allen, or at least not exactly. So where are they? And who are these newbies? And is that Connor Kent? And who are the other two weird looking chicks? From the art this looks like an intense, almost-90s feeling hardcore Teens Titan book. But truly all the matters it that Tim Drake is still Red Robin :-) And he's got freaking wings. Awesome.

Dan Didio claims that this will be Tim Drake's "main showcase" book, which is disheartening, but I will hold on hope for a Red Robin #1 (with 52 slots, they're bound to give him one.)

As for the rest of the Bat-family, there are several new titles. The first and foremost among them is Dick Grayson's return to his previous self-made identity in Nightwing #1. The Black and Red resemble both the Batman Beyond character and Robin's (Tim Drake's) post-Infinity Crisis outfit. The first arc seems to be about a return to his circus roots, which can always be fun (expect a Deadman cameo.) The fact that Dick is no longer Batman seems a bit like a demotion. Further, it somehow lessens his time as Batman, hearkening back to the days of Prodigal when he stepped into fill Bruce's shoes after crazy-Azrael-Batman was taken down. He spent so much time adjusting to this new role, and making it his own, and by all accounts he was massively successful. Still, it will be nice to see him in a more comfortable role, and I imagine he'll enjoy the Gotham wind whistling through his hair again as he leaps off skyscrapers.


The other huge news is that Batgirl #1 will star Barbara Gordon, no longer paralyzed and back in the role suit that made her famous. Barbara Gordon fighting, jumping, swinging, and doing all the active things she has heartily missed for over a decade. This is a mixed bag, as Oracle was an ingenious, well-crafted character who became a fixture in the DC Universe, all politically correct diversity BS aside. Many fans are no doubt heartbroken and worried, but this is comics after all, where people come back from the dead on a regular basis. The healing of Barbara now seems as if it were inevitable, and the glee with which she'll approach the job already feels infectious. The writer will be Gail Simone, a fan favorite and lover of Batgirl, but unfortunately not one of my favorite writers. I would have liked to see Chuck Dixon on this one.


My biggest problem is this: Where. Is. Stephanie. Brown?? The current Batgirl by Bryan Q. Miller is far and away DC's best comic. Stephanie has become quite the hero, even working in Batman, Inc. with Bruce's full approval and funding. Hopefully new will come soon about a new identity, still bat-related, for her to take up. And if she returns to being the Spoiler, I'm going to be very disappointed--unless Miller is still writing her, and they redesign that costume (in particular the full face ski-mask.)

Next we have Jason Todd in his own comic: Red Hood and the Outlaws. The former Robin and current sociopath, criminal-murderer leads his own team consisting of Arsenal and Starfire. Arsenal I get, who's become hardcore and is a bit harsher than most young heroes. (Hopefully the relaunch means his daughter's not dead anymore, which was one of the worst plot developments ever.) Starfire, however, although she is an emotional, passionate, fierce warrior, is not a killer. So it will be exciting to found out how this team comes together. And just as a side note, let's turn Jason's hair black again instead of red.

Other than that there will be a new Birds of Prey, the linup of which is unclear to me. It seems Black Canary is involved, and Poison Ivy, and maybe the powerhouse Grace Choi? Looks a bit strange.


Finally there's the new Batwing (African Batman), the Batwoman #1 that was supposed to come out earlier this year but has been added to the Relaunch lineup, and a Catwoman solo series.

There are brilliant marketing moves happening, some more exciting than others, but all hold great interest. My wallet lives in fear of September, and yet I eagerly await every piece of news DC sees fit to release (coughStephanieBrowncough.)

This Week's Comics

It appears to be a light week in terms of new comics I plan on picking up. However, one never knows the impulse decisions one will make in a comic store, surrounded by heroes and collections and even action figures (though I don't succumb to the temptations of the latter often at all.) In fact, there are a couple Marvel hardcovers coming out that I would like, but of course money is an issue. (I need to buy some short-sleeve button down business shirts for this current, punishing, mini-heat wave.)


DC

Batman and Robin #24:  Knowing Dick's future, I expect I'll still with this title just to enjoy his already nostalgic run as Batman. Plus, Jason Todd action can be fun, especially somewhat knowing HIS future as well.

Birds of Prey #13:  Yet another casualty of the relaunch. It hasn't actually been very good since Simone restarted it, but it IS rather fun, and I guess it would be referred to as the 'classic' Birds lineup, which I shall miss. Besides, Renee Montoya/The Question is in it.


Red Robin #24:  No word on Tim Drake's future, as of yet. Perhaps the daily DC news release today will tell us? Regardless, look for a post here later that speculates on just that subject. Meanwhile I fully intend to follow Nicieza right up to the end of Red Robin's (first?) title.



MARVEL

Annihilators #4:  I'm curious to see the sales on this, because I suspect Marvel used it as a litmus test of fan interest, so as to decide whether or not to commission any more cosmic titles from DnA. I don't think this is nearly as good as Guardians of the Galaxy, or any of DnA's recent events. It could be that they're stretched too thin with their other titles, but since they're professionals I doubt it. More likely the comic is oppressed by the caliber of characters on the team. It's just too much. Quasar is our POV, but how can you do a limited series that fairly distributes action and dialogue to all of these heavyweights? Beta Ray Bill might as well not be on the team for all his 'screen time.' Still, I love them all, and I love DnA. I hope this isn't the last of their cosmic stuff.




Journey into Mystery #624: Young seemingly-goodhearted Loki appeals to me much more than classic God of Mischief who learns from his mistakes, or female Loki who stands in weird boob-displaying poses while being downright evil. Gillen is a good writer, and this title feels classic--the kind of balance between old school myth, and modern storyline that I wish Fear Itself struck.

New Avengers #13: Perhaps we will finally see how Mockingbird recovers from her gutshot wound that occurred about SIX MONTHS ago. But mostly we'll probably just have a lot of Bendis dialogue. At least I think the bad Avengers-history flashbacks are over.

X-Men Legacy #250:  Rogue's new X-team are hunting down errant Legion personalities who have somehow manifested and gone AWOL. Carey's great, this new premise is fun, and Frenzy trying to be an X-Man? I'm definitely into it.


Hardcover Temptations:

     -Avengers West Coast Family Ties: While I haven't read many West Coast comics, I have a few trade paperbacks, and they are very fun. I like most stories that involve the Scarlet Witch, and she was front and center on this team. Naturally I'm very tempted--Avengers has a rich history, and I love reading stories that are brand new to me. Should wait till it's paperback though.

     -X-Men Alpha Flight: I like Alpha Flight less than Avengers, but they're always at their most entertaining when they crossover with the X-Men. This whole black-glossy-hardcover series of Marvel imprints is right up my alley, and it's hard to resist. Nay, but I must!

Wish me luck.

 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

BREAKING: The Super Mega MARVEL Reboot

Brace yourselves. Several highly-placed, confidential informants in the Marvel offices have contacted me, Captain Elias, regarding the massive, heretofore unknown story that Superpowers That Be is happy to break.

In response to the huge excitement and attention generated by DC's recently announced Universe-wide Relaunch, Marvel executives locked themselves away all weekend and sketched out a similar, yet even more extreme, plan to combat DC's ballsy move. They will be printing 53 brand new #1 comic book titles, with both beloved heroes, classic villains, and those other B-list ones no one really cares for. But we just might now! It seems Axel Alonso, still working closely with Joe Quesada, is threatening creators and editors with major layoffs if they don't have this newly ordered work completed and ready to release by August. All decisions are not yet final, but here's what we know:

-Steve Rogers is Captain America again, except now he fights for his country by protesting in costume for Climate Change reform, and at the end of the day he goes gay club-hopping with his best friend Stefon. The twist? It will be written by David E. Kelley.


-Matt Murdock is no longer blind! But he fakes it to win cases. Instead he is a handsome, cocky, unstoppable defense attorney who gets the criminals out of doing time. As a result, all criminals love him, including Kingpin (who is now anorexic, his feeble frame barely able to support his giant head) and Murdock gets big cutbacks. They call him The Man Without Fear, because he walks around City Hall all day without a care in the world, despite being the most heinous criminal of all. His girlfriend has retired from porn, but only publicly. The first story arc will be called 'No Consequences!'

-The X-Men are back in Westchester, and Xavier is back running his school. Only this time, he can't seem to find any decently trained, enthusiastic teachers. His only applicants are rather stupid, mean, and spend their time demanding higher salaries and fewer work hours. While trying to get his dear, unaccompanied, scantily clad children the best education possible, he comes across the dreaded TEACHER'S UNION. Not even his formidable telepathic powers can convince this stubborn, hive-mind beast to back down.


-Phoenix Farm #1 brings us a happily married, domesticated Wolverine and Jean Grey, who enjoy yard work, primal sex, cooking ethnic food, and occasional bouts of semi-evil violence perpetrated on their suburban neighbors. When schizophrenic fashion disaster Rachel Grey shows up, spouting alternate reality family connection nonsense, they lock her in the basement, and head to Canada to see some old friends.


-The Avengers are back and better than ever! The new team consists of Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Spider Woman and Ms. Marvel! The new man-with-the-plan is Brian Michael Bendis! Are you ready for this all-new, all-different, all-dialogue whirlwind of adventure as the greatest heroes in the Marvel Universe come together?? Probably.



So far, that is what we have confirmed. Different rumors are flying about various heroes--such as Spider-Man's origin involving a different radioactive insect, Emma Frost stripped of her x-gene and forced into the DC public school system, and the consequences for the Fantastic Four when Johnny Storm gets mad and farts at the worst possible time. Superpowers that Be will keep you, dear readers, updated as soon as we get ironclad confirmation of these stories. The last thing we want to do is spread misinformation.

So for now, this is Captain Elias, signing off. And remember, Make Mine Marvel.




Monday, June 6, 2011

The Relaunch: A Look Back at DC's Biggest Moves


After last week's Internet wildfire news about DC's impending relaunch (if you've been either living under a rock or don't care about the world of comics, then just know that DC will release 52 titles starting at #1, with origins being redone, heroes being made younger, creative teams changed around, and who knows what else) I thought it would make sense to look back at some of DC's past bold moves.

One of the main points about the relaunch is the fact that all these new #1 issues will begin the new trend of DC comics being released at the same time in print and in the digital medium. This is easily overlooked by a fanboy such as myself who cares mainly about the characters I love, does not own an iPad nor can see any possible near-future where the necessary iPad purchasing funds would become available, and is a traditional, old fashioned, 50yo in the body of a twenty-something who believes books should be smelly and tangible (shout-out to Giles) and comics should overflow from boxes and slowly take over my apartment.

However those who know more about this sort of thing--distribution, sales, Diamond, comic retail business, etc.--say it is an inspired idea, one that has the potential to help DC reach their goal. The goal being, of course, to beat Marvel in the top spot of comic sales for the first time in many years. Apparently the double-purpose of attracting new readers through the accessibility of digital printing and the non-threatening interest of character re-starts, as well as not completely alienating the stalwart fan who buys off the rack every Wednesday, has an actual chance of working, and could very well be the shot in the arm the industry needs. Granted, it could fail miserably after a few months, but the security of comics is that even reboots can be rebooted, and after all fortune favors the brave.


Reading so much coverage about DC's big brass testes made me think, and re-read, about their recent bold moves. From 2006 to 2007 they put out a weekly comic with a hugely ambitious cast and numerous plot-lines called 52 (if you see a pattern, that's because it's the number of universes in the DC multiverse.) Not only was the idea of putting a new issue of a single title on the stands every single week frankly unheard of and revolutionary, but this title would be expected to sell without any major characters. No Batman, no Superman, no Wonder Woman, (they were each taking a year off post-Infinite Crisis) not even any of the A-list Justice Leaguers. Instead the title revolved around people like Booster Gold, Steel, the Marvel family, Metal Men, Renee Montoya--a collection of B or even C-list heroes and sidekicks whose popularity, if they ever had any, was decades ago.

And yet by all accounts it was a success. I don't think it beat Marvel's sales, but people bought it, critics loved it, and the press wrote about it. DC got their best writers to collaborate on it (Johns, Morrison, Waid, Rucka, Giffen--I'd love to know how those duties broke down,) they had good, consistent art, they made the story tie to in to major DC events from the past and more heavily to upcoming plots, and they included a backup 2-page origin story on various relevant DC heroes. It was so successful that multiple spin-offs were born, and another yearly comic, Countdown, quickly filled the void of 52 ending.

Business-wise, it was brilliant. It had all the qualities of a great publishing plan; novelty, simplicity, accessibility and excitement. Storywise, I personally didn't care for it. Unfortunately story is paramount for me. A weekly year-long comic is a fairly substantial commitment, one that requires a satisfying pay-off. Unfortunately by the end it felt as if I had spent money on a series of year-long Prologues. There might as well have been a banner "The Road to..." World War III and Final Crisis. It started well, and I love getting to see Renee Montoya post-GCPD and how she becomes the Question and the first pages of Batwoman, and the Lex Luthor/Infinity Inc. storyline was great if not completely original, but as time went on it got tired. And then things just got increasingly grim.

After all the effort spent on humanizing Black Adam and getting the readers to empathize with the Black Marvel family, the climax of their story was like a gut-punch. Or worse, below the belt. And not in a good, Joss Whedon emotional rollercoaster way, just in a nauseating I-can't-believe-they-did-that, what-was-the-&^$#!ing-point way. The eventual brutal ending for that family was upsetting, Booster Gold as a hero never interested me, and I can't even recall what happened to Starfire. In the end it felt like a gimmick just to lead up to the next DC event, which again might not sit well with me in terms or story, but as a marketing ploy it was certainly effective.


DC knows that people like me, their fanbase, won't go away. What they need is new readers. Their characters are icons. People who have never read or bought a single comic know intimate details about Batman and Superman. In order to get these people to join the fold, something different has to be done. When it comes to trying new things, DC is much braver than Marvel. In recent years they've tried many unorthodox tactics. They made weekly comics with 52 and Countdown, and it was successful and got media attention, but not enough. They made Wednesday Comics, old timey classic serial stories of various heroes all printed beautifully on newspaper, and it did well and got press, but not enough. They hired best-selling authors to helm some of their biggest titles (Brad Meltzer on Identity Crisis and JLA, Jodi Picoult on Wonder Woman) which weren't critical successes although they got decent sales and stirred up interest, but still not enough.

So now they're starting over. Instead of just writing simpler stories, and I can't tell you how often I've read comic-writer interviews where they extol how "new-reader friendly" an upcoming issue is, they're actual redoing characters. With such a strong public knowledge of these heroes to act as a foundation, they are entirely rebranding their well-known properties. With small issue numbers, new origins, even redone but recognizable costumes, they are for once making these characters completely accessible. And by taking advantage of new technology to release the issues as digital comics instantly, they exponentially expand their reach. Suddenly new customer bases are appearing, and the results could be huge.


Not only could they increase their own sales numbers, but they are potentially revitalizing the floundering comic book business. Where Marvel does a reboot by renumbering Avengers #14 to Avengers #1, while maintaining both the team line-up and the writer, DC is truly refreshing their product. Marvel may still be getting bigger numbers, but in a new digital age where superheroes are everywhere and blockbuster films breed new fans, who is to say what the comic industry will look like next year? Adapt or die.

As a fanboy, I have several major anxieties about what will happen to the characters I love. As a cold, calculating, business-savy (Yes, I'm a businessman. I have pens) adult, I am slightly in awe of DC's courage, and I can't wait to see what happens. Regardless, both versions will be in my comic story every Wednesday, reading and buying. It's an exciting time to be a fan.