Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Name:
Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!

4.11.04

Comics for 3 November 2004

Big week this week. When will the spending stop? (That's what my wife probably thinks.)

Catwoman: When in Rome #2 by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
$3.50, DC

I usually don't read mini-series individually when they come out, preferring instead to read the first issue, decide if I like it, then wait until all the issues are out and read 'em at once. I am a man with a Very Little Brain, and I can't keep track of what's happening in my favorite comics month to month, so this makes sense. However, I have a duty to you, the reader, to keep you informed about every issue, so that is what I will endeavor to do.

I have liked the Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale combination for most of their collaborations. The Superman one was kind of eh, and their first story, about the Challengers of the Unknown, was obviously the work of some very young and raw talent. The Batman stuff is amazing, and therefore I have high hopes for this spin-off.

Issue number 2 brings more Italian intrigue for everyone's favorite soft-core porn dominatrix queen (don't tell me that's not what Catwoman is, especially as she's drawn these days). Catwoman runs from the estate of Don Verinni, who was killed in a way to suggest the Joker did it (the big grin thing). She returns to her bedroom to find Edward Nigma doing ... well, it would spoil the surprise, but it's kind of weird and a bit kinky. She dreams about the big bad Batman and wakes up to find the blonde hitman from issue 1 in her room. Nigma bursts in to tell them the hotel's on fire, and they all jump out of the window into the pool. Selina's naked for all this, of course. Blondie (his name's Christopher Castillo, but Selina calls him Blondie, so I will) says Don Verinni's son wants her dead, because he thinks she killed his father. So they head to Anzio to hide out, but it's a really bad hiding place, because they're getting shot at after a week. Selina goes all Catwoman on them, and some strange-looking albino shoots her with Mr. Freeze's ice gun. What a cliffhanger! Who is the albino? Will Selina freeze to death?

That's the plot. There are some nice parts, like the Riddler, who comes off as pathetic and weird and just a little perverted. It's not a Riddler I particularly care for, but it would be an interesting character if Loeb hadn't made sure it was the Riddler. Selina strikes me as overly modest -- she's really worried about people seeing her naked. Isn't she still a reformed prostitute, or has that origin also been scrapped? I don't know anymore. That's what bugs me most about this kind of story. It's supposed to take place early in Batman's career. Okay. Maybe that's why Nigma's kind of pathetic. And this is when Selina supposed to be dating Bruce Wayne (or at least interested in him) but she doesn't know he's Batman. All this retconning makes my head hurt. She knew who he was in the classic Alan Davis issues of Detective Comics, but somehow that got swept away. In the present day, she knows who he is, but not in this mini-series. And people apparently don't know that she's Catwoman, even though Catwoman conveniently shows up right after the bullets start flying at the end of the book. Ye gods.

It's still a decent murder mystery, although weighed down by the idea of fitting these characters into a "early Batman but not too early" time frame. The art is what will draw a lot of people, and it's typical Tim Sale -- very pretty. It's strange, though -- sometimes it looks painted, and other times it looks pencilled and inked. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it, either -- when Selina's at the estate and when she dreams of Batman, some of it looks painted -- but not all of it. I'm not sure what's going on, but it's a bit disconcerting.

This is not a Loeb/Sale masterpiece like their Batman work. It's better than there Marvel work, which was lackluster. It's better than Superman: For All Seasons. There you have it. Precise commentary!

Fallen Angel #17 by Peter David, David Lopez, and Fernando Blanco
$2.95, DC

Man, that's a cool cover. Mike Kaluta, who does not get enough work. Maybe he doesn't need it. Maybe he does other stuff. Whatever. The man does beautiful covers.

Interesting issue, with a brutal shocker at the end. I still don't know if this title is going to last, but it would be nice if it did. I also still can't figure out why DC didn't make this a Vertigo title. It might not help it, but it doesn't seem to be set in the regular DC Universe, so I can't see why not. I suppose I could go to Peter David's blog and ask him. I guess I have an assignment!

Sorry -- I got off track. Interesting issue, with a brutal shocker at the end. Things continue to progress, as we get a little more of Shadow Boxer's back story -- his dad thinks he's the Devil, you know, the usual stuff, and then we get some panels of Boxer sitting in the dark, doing nothing. Where is he? Well, that would spoil the surprise, now wouldn't it?

Dolf and Juris have a conversation, and Dolf learns about Juris and Lee's relationship, and their impending child. They speak mysteriously about their own relationship (this being a Peter David book, much is mysterious), and then they see that Lee is wreaking some havoc in the hopes that the Hierarchy will come out of hiding and confront her. She gets her wish when Mr. Kind (what a great name!) shows up. Mr. Kind pulls out a lightsaber (sorry, but that's what it looks like) and they fight. It's actually pretty cool, as Lopez shows only a double-paged spread of the very beginning of the fight and David describes it in kind of apocalyptic terms. He also pulls a nice twist when, for a brief instant, you think Mr. Kind has triumphed, but then we realize he's the one who has lost. It gets all very Macbeth-ish (at least three references to the play) and then comes the shocking ending, where we learn where Shadow Boxer has been. All very cool.

Like I said before, I wish more people read this. It's a DC title, so it can't afford to continue to lag in sales terms like some titles from the smaller companies, and David, I don't think, has enough pull around comics circles to force DC to continue publishing it even if it doesn't have the greatest sales. It's a shame. David is one of the most versatile and interesting writers in comics, and although not everything he does works, it's nice to see someone willing to go out and take chances. Fallen Angel rewards patient and careful readers, something all too lacking in comic book fandom today. Pick this title up. You won't be disappointed.

Hawaiian Dick: The Last Resort #2 by B. Clay Moore and Nick Derington
$2.95, Image

The first Hawaiian Dick mini-series made minor ripples in the industry, mostly positive ones. I picked it up because it looked different, and it was different. The second mini, after many months of waiting, is more of the same, which is not a bad thing. There's mystery, intrigue, a bit of the supernatural, all in an exotic and tropical setting. Neat stuff. It's not your normal superhero comic, which is a good thing, and it's not your normal detective story, which is also a good thing. Hawaiian Dick is just another one of those titles that Image puts out these days that seem to make Image the best publisher out there. How the hell did that happen?

More goings-on this issue, as Mitch Byrd gets deeper and deeper into his involvement with two separate gangs. Moore has a nice sense of Hawaiian history and culture of the 1950s (at least it seems like he does; I haven't asked anyone who lived in Hawaii in the 1950s about this book), which is what makes this book unique. Hawaii's a weird place anyway, since it's not really American, even now. So the mystery draws you in, and the details about the culture clash keep you coming back.

The only complaint I have with this issue is the art. Derington is okay, I guess, but nothing great. Considering I don't like Steven Griffin, the original artist, all that much, this might be a weird complaint. Griffin, however, brought a unity to the art, and his rough pencils actually made the book more exotic and strange. Derington's art is just there. And it's been many months since the original mini-series, and Griffin couldn't finish the art on this one? He did the first issue. What's going on? I hate mini-series with guest artists. It's a freakin' mini-series!

Anyway, Hawaiian Dick is a cool book. The trade paperback of the first series is out there, so get it and check it out.

The Intimates #1 (or Issue de Premiere, if you read the front) by Joe Casey, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Jim Lee, and Sandra Hope
$2.95, Wildstorm

The Intimates has been getting a small amount of press because of Jim Lee's involvement, which is minimal. Why it should be getting press is because it's a very fun read. It's somewhat lacking in plot, but Casey throws such much else into the mix that you just want to keep reading to find out where he's going with it.

The central idea, of a superhero training school, is a good one, although I wish the first issue was more of how the teenagers got there rather than starting off in class. But that's okay. Casey uses this idea to satirize both teen soap operas like The O.C. and superhero comics in general. He does it well, too. We get typical teenagers who are snotty, stuck up, clique-ish, and occasionally unpleasant. I read one reviewer who was less than thrilled with the book because there were no likeable characters. But they're teenagers. Anyone who finds these characters unlikeable probably shouldn't be a high school teacher. For me, the characters rang true. I'm sure they'll become more likeable as the book progresses.

As I said, there's not much of a plot. We're introduced to the main characters, including an invisible one called Empty Vee (say it out loud -- get it?). They're in class, they wander the halls, the chat on the Internet, they talk to guidance counselors, and they get in and try to stay out of trouble. A character is introduced at the end of the book who, I assume, is supposed to be sort of menacing, but I don't know why. I guess we'll learn more next issue.

The look of this book is what makes it so neat. The art is very nice, reminiscent of Casey's last major collaborator, Dustin Nguyen (of the late, lamented Wildcats 3.0). Camuncoli packs a lot of visual information in here, with the only complaint I have is in his depiction of Destra, who is apparently wearing some sheer, diaphanous shirt, but whose breasts magically stay where they are. It's not that I'm terribly prurient, but it's kind of weird -- I wish there was something holding both halves of her shirt together, because if she were actually wearing that shirt, she'd be flashing people left and right. It's a minor complaint. The art pops off the page, which each character sharply drawn and vibrantly colored. There's also a ton of information on each page, thanks to a cable-television-news-like crawl along the bottom of each page, which includes information about the characters, some plugs for other Wildstorm books, and some mildly subversive instructions for teens. There's also origin sequences dropped in between the main story, and even a few pages of a spy comic that Punchy reads (for which Lee does the art).

This is a fun book, and unfortunately, likely to go the way of the last two Wildstorm books Casey wrote, Wildcats 3.0 and Automatic Kafka, both of which, like The Intimates, offer a skewed look at the superhero universe and mindset and deserved a longer life span. This book deserves an audience, as well.

JLA Classified #1 by Grant Morrison, Ed McGuinness, and Dexter Vines
$2.95, DC

If you're frustrated by the meager plot in The Intimates, you can always pick up JLA Classified, which is packed with nothing but plot. It's a wild ride through the always-fertile imagination of Grant Morrison, and if you like his work, you'll probably like this, and if you don't like Morrison, you may like this.

I like Morrison, and was a big fan of his run on JLA, so I enjoyed this. It's not on par with We3, which is unbelievably excellent, but it's still a great time. It really doesn't have much to do with the JLA, as it stars the Ultramarines, whom Morrison created while he wrote JLA and having been doing much recently. I have no problem with that -- I like the idea of superheroes out there who don't have their own book but can be used by writers in certain situations. The Ultramarines are kind of a non-American version of the JLA -- they replaced the Global Guardians, if that helps at all. In this issue, they're confronted with a maniacal Gorilla Grodd, who has destroyed Kinshasa. Fun stuff.

It's generally a big fight scene, with enough mad ideas thrown in to make your head spin. It doesn't matter if you don't "get" Morrison (I sure don't all the time -- see my Very Little Brain comment), because he flings stuff at you so fast that even if one of his thoughts is too wacky, you can just move on and read about the next one. Here we have a giant Japanese superhero who speaks not only in haiku but also mathematical and chemical equations, Gorilla Grodd eating hostages (not on-panel; it's a Code book, after all), all sorts of wacky weapons like a microwave gun and a quantum keyboard, a guy called Neh-buh-loh (is he a Morrison creation? Grodd seems to know who he is) who comes from the region of the Vampire Sun, and of course, Batman.

I don't know if Morrison has ever expressed an interest in writing a Batman title, but I have a feeling the DC editors wouldn't dare let him write Batman on a monthly basis. He obviously loves the character -- he was always the best JLAer in Morrison's original run. I don't have a problem with Batman being the ridiculous genius that Morrison portrays him as, nor do I care that he has a "sci-fi" closet that the G.C.P.D. doesn't know about. Okay, it's kind of strange, but I doubt if he would use a boom-tube generator to fight Gotham street crime. He also tells a joke, which some reviewers have objected to as being out of character. Well, he does tell jokes occasionally, you know. In Formerly Known as the Justice League, he told a bunch of jokes, and they were hysterical. Mike Barr gave him one of the funniest lines in comic book history (I'm totally not joking!) in his magnificent run on Detective Comics with Alan Davis (that's the second time I've referenced those books -- hmmmm). So he can be funny. He's the only member of the JLA to show up, and it sets the stage nicely for the remaining two issues.

JLA Classified is a load of fun. I haven't mentioned the art, but McGuinness does a nice job keeping up with Morrison's ideas. Alfred looks a little too much like a robot (Jeeves from the way old Captain Britain series springs to mind), but other than that, it's okay. A fun read all around for this inaugural issue.

The Question #1 by Rick Veitch and Tommy Lee Edwards
$2.95, DC

I have never read any incarnation of Vic Sage's alter ego. My only real association with him is in the Huntress: Cry for Blood mini-series, where he mentored Helena and got some action on the side. Now he's in a mini-series, and I wasn't going to pick in up, because I've never been the biggest fan of Veitch, but I took a look at this book and was sold on the art. It's gorgeous.

Edwards has been a decent artist, but what he does he is remarkable. He's painted some of it, and he uses sidebars with silhouettes that really pop off the page. It's very neat to look at, and it makes you slow down and appreciate each panel.

The story is fine. As I said, Ditko's Question means nothing to me, so I don't care if Veitch has messed with the original character. Maybe he has, but this Vic Sage is a good character in his own right. The story is split into two parts -- in the present, Sage is traveling to Metropolis on a train, and he is dealing with the fact that he's a celebrity and everyone recognizes him. Look out -- it's irony! He can simply put on his other "face" and become the Question! Wow! In the other story, it's the previous evening, and he's tracking a mysterious villain, who dies (maybe) but not before pointing him toward Metropolis. The only problem I have is the conversation the Question has with this guy, because it's like they're sitting in a cozy room sipping brandy instead of fighting in a slaughterhouse. It's weird, but I suppose it gets across the point that the Question is unflappable.

I'm interested enough in this to see where it's going. Lois Lane shows up, so I'm sure an appearance from the Big Blue Boy Scout can't be far behind, but that's not enough to deter me (I'm not the biggest Superman fan). If the story continues to intrigue and the art continues to astound, this should be a good read.

Rising Stars #22 by J. Michael Straczynski and Brent Anderson
$2.99, Image (or Top Cow, but really Image)

Holy crap, it's an issue of Rising Stars. It's been, what? two years? Wow. It's nice to see Straczynski finally getting a chance to finish this, but I'm afraid the epic's momentum has died in the hiatus. I can't wait for the final two issues so I can sit down and read the whole thing as it's meant to be read, but I have a feeling JMS just wants to finish this and get it over with. That would be a shame, since it really has been quite the ride. I'm kind of sick of the superheroes taking over the world to save it motif, but JMS has always done it well in this title, and since we knew from the beginning it wouldn't end well, it's been more interesting seeing how the characters react to their powers. In this issue, Ravenshadow becomes president, and naturally, the big bad military doesn't like it. Standard stuff for this kind of story, really. I'm a big old liberal, but wouldn't it be nice if the left wing was offended by superheroes taking over the world? It would be an interesting change. Anyway, I'm much more interested in what Poet shows Chandra. That's the mystery in this issue, and the more fascinating one at that.

Anderson's art is fine. It's not as expansive as it is on Astro City, but that's because JMS doesn't give him much to cut loose on. This is a build-up issue, and it's actually not a bad place to start if you haven't read Rising Stars before. Perhaps it will pique your interest in the series as a whole. The only complaint I have, as I said, is the hiatus. This could have been, and was for a while, an epic and important series. I hope it will be considered in a better light when it's completed.