Friday, July 30, 2010

X-men Supreme Issue 16: Pryde and Prejudice is LIVE!

I know plenty of you are still clamoring for comic reviews. Rest assured, I'll get to them. But first and foremost, I must tend to X-men Supreme. I had to work extra hard to get this update out on time. If I really was working for Marvel they would have been breathing down my neck for the the past two weeks, telling me that delays were not acceptable. I agree. I have no excuses. The X-men Supreme fanfiction series must continue and after some hiccups along the way, the new issue "Pryde and Prejudice" is ready.

X-men Supreme Issue 16: Pryde and Prejudice

This issue is just a one-shot, but it's a hell of a one-shot because it introduces a fan-favorite X-men character. I won't say who it is because the title alone should give it away. This issue also marks the beginning of the end for the first volume of X-men Supreme. So far a lot has happened and it is all for a purpose. The volume has been building towards a big event that will bring together the events of the entire series thus far in a big way. You'll see! Thanks again to all those who have been supporting this blog and this series. None of this would be possible without you. Until next time, take care and don't forget to review the new issue!


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

X-Factor Forever #5 - A Celestial Monument to Awesome

Today is a sad and euphoric day for X-fans like myself. For the past few months we have been graced by return of one of X-men's most celebrated scribes, Louise Simonson. For a mere five issues, Mrs. Simonson has demonstrated once again that she knows how to handle the Original Five in a way that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (may he rest in peace) can be proud of. She did it in the late 80s during he memorable X-Factor run that helped forge the path for X-men for decades to come. She did it once again with her modern incarnation, X-Factor Forever.

Now as I've said before, I approached these Forever series with a healthy bit of skepticism because Chris Claremont's take on his Forever series was so fucked up you could pass it around like a joint and end up hung over as if you chugged a gallon of two parts tequila and one part battery acid. But Simonson took that concept and did something amazing with it. She didn't just show it could work. She showed it could be awesome. X-Factor Forever has only been five issues long, but she's made each issue count so that they can do in five issues what Chris Claremont couldn't do in 24 (26 if you count the Giant Size and Annual). With the final issue coming out today, X-Factor Forever #5, Louise Simonson makes her case and the prosecution rests. I won't be coy this time. This comic fucking rocks! It is the best mini to come along in decades and it almost makes me wish this book came in pill form so I could save money on my Prozac perscription.

The final issue does not waste an ounce of ink. The very first pages jump right into the action that began at the end of the previous issue. X-Factor was on a mission to attack Sinister, who had unleashed an army of clones bent on either killing everything in their path or making everybody that saw them barf through their nose. Add to that he can command them and you don't just have an uphill battle. You have the fucking Great Wall of China if the wall were made out of adamantium.

Aside from being creepy as fuck about it, his leads his clone army in an all out assault against X-Factor. He's not subtle about it. He's not nice about it. It's hard to tell if he's just fucking with them to prove that he can. A dog licks his own ball for the same reason. X-Factor are forced to take on their own clones as well as clones of their friends and loved ones, some of which actually look pretty awesome so you feel somewhat bad when Cyclops blows them to hell. But sympathy aside, the battle is still working against them and they need a miracle. But since lady luck is riding the red tide at the moment, they get Apocalypse instead. Yeah, Lady Luck is that much a bitch in this issue.

Now not only does Apocalypse show up, he has Nathan. Cyclops and Jean are understandably pissed. They instinctively go after him because heavens knows Nathan doesn't need to grow up with nightmares of Poccy's ugly mug. If this were any other comic, you would think X-Factor is fucked. But if you've been following this book, you know that this isn't your daddy's batshit crazy if not somewhat bland super-villain. He's a bit more complex for once and he has an agenda of his own. Only this time, that agenda requires him to actually save X-Factor and oppose Sinister. Seriously, where else besides X-Factor Forever would you get something like that?

So Apocalypse for once decides not to be a douche-bag and tips the balance in X-Factor's favor. He's even nice enough to give Cyclops his son back. I know using nice and Apocalypse in the same sentence is tantamount to a Jewish Nazi, but Simonson makes it work. Now that X-Factor has Nathan in hand, Apocalypse instructs them to give Nathan to the Celestials that have decended on New York. Somehow that's supposed to make this shit all better. X-Factor is understandably skeptical, but Apocalypse continues his non-douche-bag run by teleporting X-Factor out of Sinister's lab and then blowing it to kingdom come.

At this point some fans may be rubbing their eyes and checking their blood pressure. Did Apocalypse just do something noble? Did he just play hero for once? It may seem that way, but come on! The comic isn't even half over yet. If you're making those kinds of assumptions now then you're just being a dipshit. Luckily, the scene is awesome enough for anyone to enjoy no matter how many flawed brain cells they may have. For a guy like me, that's like Christmas at the Playboy Mansion.

So X-Factor is free and now they can turn their attention to the Celestials, who in issue two descended onto New York with the intent on judging the world in their own special way and by judging I mean flat out destroying. Since these are fucking space gods they're dealing with, X-Factor knows they can't fight them. All they have to go on is what Apocalypse told them. He said that if they gave them baby Nathan, then this shit would somehow all work out. That may be like getting sobriety advice from Amy Whinehouse, but they give it a try. Needless to say, it doesn't seem to pan out.

Now this could have been a grossly macabre moment. A space god takes a baby and crushes it in his palm? Seriously, unless you're pro-infanticide then it should make you cringe on some levels. But before the comics code authority completely loses their shit, the Celestials reveal that all is well. They give Cyclops and X-Factor a cosmic thumbs up. Whatever judging they did, Nathan passed the test and they returned him to the team without a scratch on him. But judging by the look on his face he's going to need a fresh diaper.

So is that it? Is that the end? Well remember how this little advice came from Apocalypse? Thing is, he left out one minor detail that reminds the reader that he's still a devious douche-bag. Once Nathan is judged and deemed fit, the two judges teleport to Genosha and start attacking. And when the Celestials attack, it's not just one-sided. It's like the Harlem Globe Trotters vs. the Washington Generals. It's a slaughter.They judged Genosha and Genosha has to go. That's where X-Factor has to come in once again and save the day.

It looks like all the mutants on Genosha are fucked. But once again, Apocalypse shows that he can still do good by being the cunning son-of-a-bitch he is at heart. As has been revealed through the Apocalypse journal's at the end of each issue, he's been messing with the Celestials for ages. He knows he's on their shit list and he knows that intervening with mutant evolution will earn their wrath. Since he doesn't want all his hard work to go up in cosmic dust, he does the next best thing. He tricks them. See? Still a douche-bag. While there's no way to save the island, he did drop a brief hint to the mutants so they would know enough to get the fuck out of the way when the Celestials showed up.

A quick round of teleportation and X-Factor does the rest. Genosha is in ruin, but the mutants are saved. Ship becomes a much more awesome version of Noah's Ark and once the island is gone, the Celestials finally leave. They've done enough judging it seems and they don't need to become giant space dicks looking to fuck any planet they come across. So Apocalypse came through in his own unique way and X-Factor came through. It's a perfect heroic triumph with a few interesting twists with an A-list bad guy. For a five issue mini, you can't ask for much more other than having it tattooed on the breasts of Pamela Anderson.

So the day is saved. X-Factor has once again triumphed in a big way. Simonson could have ended it right here and I still would have had every reason to give the book a perfect score. But she swings for the stratosphere with this one and throws in one last nice shot of our heroes. She's even nice enough to have a little family moment with Scott, Jean, and Nathan. If you're an Original Five fan or a Cyclops/Jean Grey fan, this ending will bring tears to your eyes that you probably haven't shed since Bill Clinton was president. That alone should make this issue worth it's weight in gold-encrusted diamonds woven into the thong of Carmen Electra. Considering how 616 insists on fucking up these classic characters by doing little things like killing Jean Grey and also considering how offshoots like Ultimate and Forever can't resist fucking up their characterization beyond all recognition, this is more than refreshing. It's like a hit from the bong of the gods.

Yet Simonson still isn't done. She goes onto add one more entry to the Apocalypse journals that have been bonus stories for each issue. This one isn't so much a bonus as it is an epilogue. It essentially retells what happened with the X-men to this point in the continuity and clears up why Apocalypse did what he did. It's heroic in some ways and a bit of dick move in others. He wasn't being all that altruistic. He was basically trying to save his own skin and all his hard work. It didn't bother him that his buffoonery was earning the wrath of the space gods and that everybody on the planet could pay the price. But at least he managed to put that cunning to good use and weasel his way out of ultimate judgment.

He's not going to get a monument to commemorate his sacrifice, but he at least deserves some street cred. This little extra helps make him a far more complex and interesting character than he is in any other incarnation. From here on out, it's probably going to be a lot harder to read Apocalypse and other books and not reflect on how much more awesome Simonson's version is and how awesome he could have been had she been allowed to stay on.

So now it's over. X-Factor Forever has come to an end and oh what an ending it is. There's no downer here. There's no sudden urge to self-mutilate or go on stronger meds. It's a nice, clean, complete ending in an era where every fucking book has to have some dark ominous sub-plot meant to draw the reader in for future issues. It's like finding a unicorn that shits chocolate. It's too awesome for words.

Now does that mean this series and this issue are without flaws? Even I'm not that generous. There are some shortcomings. This issue was a little melodramatic at times with Cyclops having the same crazy "NOOOOO!" reaction on more than one occasion. There also weren't as many memorable lines as there were in previous issues. But what it lacked in dialogue it more than made up for with story. There are far greater flaws with other comics of this nature and they don't come close to bringing down the overall awesome. Plus, Simonson is nice enough to once again include a letters page. You can't get much nicer than that.

For the final issue of X-Factor Forever, I give it a perfect 5 out of 5. It simply has too many awesome elements to give it anything less. While I loved this issue and this series to death, I'm also somewhat saddened because once again I'm left without an outlet series of X-men I can indulge in when I'm disappointed by the others. Now only 616, Ultimate, and Forever are left. 616 will always be the main universe, but Ultimate and Forever have sucked horribly and are almost beyond saving. So without X-Factor Forever, what more is there? I suppose that makes it all the more precious. Hopefully one day Simonson will be given another shot at the X-men and she'll further prove her legacy to the X-men saga. Until that day comes, X-Factor Forever will continue to shine with a special kind of awesome. Excelsior!

Marvel Adventures Spider-Man - Awesome, Fun, and with Extra Berserker Rage

One of the knocks comics routinely gets these days is that they're for kids. It's like somehow if you reach an age where you're old enough to drive and convince the guy at the liquor store you're 21, some magic gland in your brain activates and that makes you completely disinterested in comics. I think medical science has long since disproved this bullshit theory and Marvel has routinely proved with it's Marvel Adventure series that even a comic directed towards kids can still be pretty awesome.

Until they fix that seizure inducing art on Ultimate Spider-Man, Marvel Adventures will be my soul source for Spider-Man awesome for the foreseeable future. I know the landmark One Moment In Time came out this past week, but I couldn't make it through that book without wanting to shit bowling balls through my mouth (spoilers: it sucks rhino jizz). But Marvel Adventures has no such taint. Paul Tobin has kept Spider-Man in his element and it's made for some wonderful stories with some intriguing twists. Those stories continue here in Spider-Man #3 while throwing in a few guest stars to share in the awesome of this series.

It starts out with Spider-Man and his girlfriend, Chat, paying a visit to the Blond Phantom Detective Agency that's run by Chat's gal pal, Emma Frost. Apparently, she's been hired by some fancy cosmetics company wants to make a gel inspired by Wolverine's badass persona and they're paying the agency big bucks to spy on him and make sure that using his likeness won't turn into another Tiger Woods style debacle. Granted, this sounds like a major WTF moment where I would make a drug reference to the writer, but in the context of this series it actually works pretty damn well and you don't need some extra potent weed to wrap your head around it. Far as I'm concerned, it's a success!

So Spider-Man and Chat have their jobs, but before they can begin they have to make it through that other great obstacle in Peter Parker's life...High School. Here another plot that began a few issues ago is brewing. Carter Tornio, who has ties to the Tornio crime family, is looking to start a Spider-Man appreciation society. This certainly puts Peter in an awkward position because he's been looking to bring down this kid's family. Yet for some reason, Carter has this 'hero worship' thing going on as he describes it. Either he's got some serious parenting issues or he's scheming on behalf of his old man. That's not clear, but what is clear is that Peter is about as comfortable as a horse in a glue factory. Not only is this kid sending him mixed messages about his intentions, he's also showing a lot of interest in Gwen Stacy. That adds to what is already a growing level of tension that captures the classic high school drama that readers know, love, and still have nightmares about.

But enough of the high school shit. The bulk of this comic is spent with Spidy seeking out Wolverine and that's where the true awesome resides. He gets some added help from Chat and her army of willing animals as he scours the city after school, looking for Wolverine and making sure that it's okay for some soulless cosmetics company to make billions off using his name. It may very well be the least heroic act anyone has ever done in the history of a comic book.

From here, the action is purely observational. He finds Wolverine casually walking the streets of New York in his leather jacket and overall badass persona. As Peter starts watching him, he sees a few guest stars pop into the picture. Wolverine meets up with Storm and Shadowcat briefly and apparently in this universe he's not too familiar with the X-men because he has to pick his jaw up off the ground when he sees them use their powers. It seems a bit unnecessary for a guy that can stick to walls, but Tobin makes it work.

But Wolvie isn't just out to mingle with friends. It doesn't take long for him to flash his badassery. When he parks his motorcycle right in front of this very nice car that happens to be owned by a very mean-looking thug, fists start flying. It's not much of a fight for Wolverine because he ends it quickly by just shedding his claws and shredding the douche-bag's precious car. For anyone who has ever had to park around some super expensive car that's taking up more than one space, this should bring a smile to your face.

That fight ends quickly and Wolverine goes back to mingling with his X-buddies. Peter and Chat continue to follow him and wouldn't you know it, Jean Grey makes an appearance. Considering her status in the comics is always in question and any medium she does appear in tends to fuck her up beyond recognition (looking at you Forever and post-Ultimatum Ultimate) this is a refreshing sight. The presence of Jean in the Marvel Adventures universe is a welcome addition and it showcases the friendship between Logan and Jean that has so often been overshadowed by a certain fiery parrot. Hopefully, this isn't the last time she shows up in the Marvel Adventures universe.

While the presence of other X-characters is nice, this less-than-destructive plot can't go on forever. Somebody has to screw up and a fight has to break out. That happens pretty quickly because Spider-Man soon finds out that while Wolverine is pretty friendly with the X-ladies, he doesn't take kindly to being followed around by a kid in a suit. In his typical Wolverine brand of overreacting, he confronted Spider-Man in a way only he can. And by confront I mean with claws and several levels of pissed off.

So Spidy has some 'splaining to do. He manages to say just enough to spare him a healthy dose of Wolvie berserker rage. But before all is said and done, another string of guest stars enter. This time, it isn't the X-men. It's actually the same douche-bag thugs that Wolverine screwed over last time. Apparently, they were late for their latte and still steaming about their car being shredded. So when they see Spidy and Wolverine, they're understandably stoked as douche-bags so often are about getting a little payback.

What follows next is a classic Spider-Man/Wolverine team up. Just the mere mention of those words should stimulate the enlarged awesomeness gland hard wired into every fanboy's brain. Take a wise-cracking high school kid and team him up with a razor clawed badass and you've got a perfect mixture of awesome. This time the thugs don't just go away either. They came prepared to fight with chains, brass knuckles, and what not. Anyone without powers would have soiled their underwear from such a sight, but Spidy and Wolverine make it awesome and fun. In many ways it's a perfect statement of why the Marvel Adventure universe is so great and certain elements of the 616 continuity suck harder than Paris Hilton at an NBA all-star game.

The fight is nicely played out over the next few pages. While Wolverine holds his own, Spider-Man ends up getting a little overwhelmed. Some Spidy fans may cry foul when seeing their favorite web-head get beat down by a bunch of powerless thugs, but it's important to remember that in Marvel Adventures Spidy is still just a teenager. He's still refining his superhero act. That means along the way he's going to have some growing pains and sometimes those pains come in the form of being overwhelmed, knocked to the ground, and stomped on by a bunch of self-indulgent thugs. In this case that's not an exaggeration. That's what actually happened.

Now you would expect at one point that Logan comes over and helps the kid out. But since he's too busy enjoying the beatdown, another familiar Marvel face comes in and helps Spider-Man out. Again, it's not an X-man. It's actually not even a hero this time. It's a guy who's been popping up in the last few issues of this series. He wasn't in costume before. Now he is. That's right, it's Bullseye and just when it looks like Spidy is going to require a trip to the emergency room, Bullseye shows off his skills by hitting each thug with a perfect suprisingly non-lethal strike (it's a kids comic, did you really expect there to be blood?).

Spider-Man is understandably confused, but he can't be too upset since Bullseye spared him from a world of pain. He doesn't get much a chance to thank him either. Bullseye doesn't stick around. He picks up and leaves the scene, but not before he makes the standard bad guy ominous threat that he'll be back and next time he won't be so kid friendly. It helps set the stage for the next story and sets up Bullseye to be Spidy's next foe. If this doesn't hook you on this series, then you need to more crack in your diet.

So the fight is won and the bad guys are gone. Spider-Man is still woozy, but manages to catch up with Chat and Wolverine. The Blond Phantom is even nice enough to join as well. Everything seems to have worked out. Wolverine finds out about this whole hair gel plot and offers to go along with it, but not without taking advantage of it as he's so prone to do. He manages to talk Emma into buying him dinner, which by default asks her out on a date. She accepts and Peter along with the rest of every man in comic fandom is left fuming with envy. How a guy like Wolverine gets all the hot poon in Marvel is beyond unfair, but it's perfectly in line with who he is and you can't ask for much more than that when it comes to ending this comic.

I know I already said it earlier, but it's worth saying again. Marvel Adventures is an awesome series and Paul Tobin does a bang-up job writing these stories. This comic brought together all the elements of what makes this series great. Not only did it tell a novel and compelling story, moved the overall plot with Peter and his life as Spider-Man along within the context of this unique continuity. It gives readers plenty of incentive to pick up the next issue and appeals to those classic Marvel lovers who cherish every Spider-Man/Wolverine team up. It's certainly an improvement over the last issue and offers a complete package demonstrating just how great this series can be.

Even though this is marketed as a kids comic, it has all the elements that make other comics like Blackest Night and X-Force so awesome. Because of this I cannot give it anything less than a perfect 5 out of 5. I truly couldn't find many flaws in it. Everything is put together perfectly. It actually makes the reader wish Tobin would add in more books to the Marvel Adventures series. If this is the only series where we can have no One More Day style retcons, a live Jean Grey, and a world that isn't utterly destroyed for shock value (glares at Ultimatum) then there's no reason not to pick it up and celebrate it! Marvel Adventures Spider-Man is awesome and deserves all the respect the mature comics garner. Fuck One More Day. Fuck One Moment in Time. Fuck Ultimatum. Nuff said.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Batman/Superman #74 - Barely Awesome and Excessively Anti-Climactic

For the past few months, it seems like I've been giving DC a free pass. While I'm quick to point out the mistakes Marvel makes in their books, whenever I review a DC comic I sound like a cheerleader on a perfect balance of crystal meth and ecstasy. Between Brightest Day, Blackest Night, Superman, and Batman Beyond I've sung all sorts of praises. They've been pretty extreme depending on how much tequila is in my system at the time. But just because DC is clawing it's way back into my heart, that doesn't mean they're incapable of throwing a few shit bombs my way.

A month ago I reviewed the previous issue aptly titled of all things, Batman/Superman #73, and I really enjoyed it. There was plenty of awesome to celebrate between the action, the drama, and the blasphemous undertones of religious cults. In the middle of it all there was still Lex Luthor being his usual egotistical self. His plot to become a real god in the eyes of an alien race just has so much room for awesome. It's hard to imagine a bigger dick-measuring douche-bag in the annuls of comics, but that's why we love Lex. Between him and the way Batman and Superman take him on, it had everything a fan could want in a comic. Now enter Batman/Superman #74. Does it follow up? Well I would say that's a tricky question, but after reading the comic it's about as complicated as a Michael Bay film minus hot women, giant robots, and explosions.

It starts off with plenty of promise. It picks right up with Lex, who has been shuttling technology and civilization to an alien planet he intents to call Lexor (yet another giant stroking of his ego), is looking over his latest launch. The project for him is almost over. He's almost ready to take his rightful place on the planet as their god. There he won't have to play second largest dick to anyone. Nobody will question him or his ego. He'll get all the adoration he wants. It's essentially what every politician/tyrant has wet dreams about.

Of course, there is a potential hiccup in this otherwise flawless plan of his. Luthor's ego may be perfectly excessive, but his shit still stinks like everybody else's and that means he's prone to leave loose ends. In the previous issue he had been secretly running a cult of demented Superman worshipers. Like all cults it had some serious fucked up elements like this little tidbit about human sacrifice and getting messages from this pretty orange globe. It makes about as much sense as any cult, but the fact that Luthor was behind it sets it apart from any would be Scientology knock-off. As such, Superman took down the cult and that glowing ball called Visionary and now he's onto him. Knowing his giant ego isn't as strong as a tiny rock of kryptonite, Lex knows he's treading shit in his ship of monomaniacal madness.

His solution is to keep Batman and Superman busy until he finishes his plan. It's not a terribly elaborate plan worthy of his genius, but it's perfectly reasonable. If they're too busy they can't stop him. And he's smart enough to know that the best way in his mind to stop Batman is to piss in his own pool in Gotham, setting up a few miniature crime waves in the areas that most concern him. Granted this is like pointing at the devil's dick and laughing, but Lex doesn't care. He has the stones to risk something like this and in hindsight it does sound pretty stupid.

Batman does not take the crime wave lying down. While Lex is masterbating his ego, he's taking down the thugs that have suddenly swarmed over the infamous Crime Alley in Gotham. Yeah, it's the same Crime Alley where Bruce's parents were killed. If you thought Lex's scrotum couldn't swell any further, prepare to stand corrected. It may be a dick move, but on the surface it still works.

But this is fucking Batman we're talking about. He's the world's greatest freakin' detective. Even a half-brained retard could figure out something is seriously wrong for all this random crime to pop up out of nowhere. For a guy who routinely exposes the madness of the Joker and Ras Al-Goul, it's the equivalent to seeing a giant purple elephant walk in front of him and take a gigantic shit. It doesn't take long before Batman starts interrogating these punks and anyone who knows anything about Batman's interrogation tactics understands that if the Dark Knight has you by the balls, you're fucking talking. There's no way around it.

While Batman is doing the detective work, Superman is doing the heavy traveling. After his encounter with the Visionary in the last issue, he learns about the planet from which this fucked up cult is coming from and investigates. To his surprise he isn't greeted with the usual praise and flashing boobs that he's used to. The second he sets foot on this planet, they fucking hate him as if he's Scott Norwood walking through the city of Buffalo. They don't just throw shit at him. They throw fucking kryptonite at him. As strong as Superman is, he gets the message. These people hate his guts and like all religious wackos, there's no reasoning with them.

While Superman is getting taken down a peg by an insane cult, Batman is working his way up the food chain as he looks for answers. He soon finds his way to a stereotypical thug in a suit because if there's one ultimate truth in this world, it's that the masterminds behind the crime always dress nicely. They essentially look the same as the executives for BP. It's not very elaborate or very exciting. It becomes painfully predictable in the sense you know this guy is going to tell Batman what he knows and when he does he'll be able to connect the dots to Lex. In that sense it's not much of a mystery. A grade level word search is more complicated than this shit.

Batman isn't the only one getting answers either. Remember that space probe Lex launched on the very first page? Well it made it to the planet, but waiting for it was Superman. He was off the planet just investigating it from afar with his super vision, picking up on all the blatant clues that someone like Lex was behind this. Then out of the infinite extent of the cosmos that probe just happens to pass right by him and with the same effort he would give to opening a sardine can, he pries open the probe. And wouldn't you know it? There's a big old Lexcorp logo on it. So Lex is genius enough to put together this Andromeda project and advance a civilization centuries in such a brief period of time, but he's not smart enough to take his fucking name off the equipment? If your bullshit sense doesn't go into overdrive and you need to dunk your head in hot water to calm it down, then get an MRI because your bullshit sense must have a malignant tumor to miss the problems with that.

So Batman now knows the truth and so does Superman. Lex's piss poor plan to keep them occupied fell apart like a house made out of peanut butter. And this guy's supposed to be a genius? Right, and I invented spray cheese in a can. The first thing that happens is Batman breaks into his office and tells him to lay off Gotham. He doesn't interrogate him or fuck him up as he would any other criminal. He just tells him to stay out of Gotham. I don't get it either. Maybe he's afraid that giant ego of Luthor's will crush him, but he flat out leaves before probing any deeper. Since when does Batman only go halfway? Has he suddenly become the Bush Administration? It's fucked up in a way that shouldn't be fucked up.

Then it's Superman's turn. He shows up outside the window that Batman just broke and reveals to Lex that he knows what he's been up to. He even shows him the Lexcorp chip that he found. It's the kind of evidence that may finally dent that massive ego of his. But Lex always has a failsafe it seems. He pushes a little button on his coat and boom, the chip explodes. The evidence is gone and Superman is back at square one. This should set the stage for a much bigger confrontation, right? You know, the kind of Superman/Lex battle that has made these comics awesome for nearly a century?

Actually, that doesn't happen. In fact, it isn't even set up to happen. As soon as the chip explodes, Superman just tells Lex he set up a camera to watch over the world he's trying to corrupt and if he sends any more rockets to it he'll just direct them right back towards his ass. That's it. That's all he does to end this conflict. He just threatens Lex, tells him his plan is over, and that's it. If the words "What the fuck?" didn't cross your mind, get yourself another MRI. This is supposed to be a Batman/Superman comic! It became successful with shit like that! And now it's ending with Lex pitching a hissy fit and Superman just brushing it off? Compared to how good the last issue was, it's like having a one-night-stand with the hottest chick on the planet and waking up to find that she stole all your shit and lit your house on fire. It's a piss poor way to end a story and it ruins what could have been a great battle.

To say this issue disappointed me would be an understatement. I was so intrigued by the story about a madman trying to make himself a god in the eyes of an ignorant alien world and a cult that worshiped Superman. Now the story ends and it's like getting explosive diarrhea after eating what you thought was a great meal. The lack of an epic struggle and practically no action when all the ingredients were in place just completely kill the story. I understand that not every issue can have a Doomsday style battle. Some issues actually work better without it, but given how this one was set up it has no excuses. It didn't just trip over itself, it threw itself off a cliff and landed head first on a slab of granite.

Besides Luthor's usual ego trip, there isn't much redeeming value for this book. It's a disappointing turn in an otherwise promising story. Batman/Superman has often been a hit-or-miss comic since Jeph Loeb left the title and it's safe to say that this issue was a total miss. That's why I give it a 1.5 out of 5. It really did fall short of damn near every expectation and failed to follow through on all the great ideas that were set up. It's a tragedy worthy of Shakespeare. A great idea is killed by a single issue. Excuse me while I go wipe he tears from my eyes and renew my Prozac prescription.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Brightest Day #6 - Multiple Angles of Awesome

If I haven't made it clear that I love Brightest Day by now, then my only remaining resource is to tattoo my entire body, forcibly take over the emergency broadcast system, fake an abduction of Lady Gaga, and use the opportunity to say plainly and simply that this series is awesome. I hope not to resort to such extreme measures because this book has continued to show the kind of quality that can only come from the mind of Geoff Johns and it's held strong through each successive book so far. With Brightest Day #6, the bar keeps getting set pretty high and Johns keeps making valiant efforts to match that bar. He hasn't overextended himself yet, but he keeps flirting with the possibility more than Larry King after a divorce. He is human so he can falter. But does he do it with this issue or does he still stack up?

Before that question can be answered, let's take a look at what Brightest Day has been up to. It's been one of those DC books that ties together multiple plots with multiple characters. This is the comic equivalent of doing calculus homework while trying to understand the first two seasons of Lost. Very few minds could manage this without going into convulsions. The plots aren't your typical heroic beat-em-ups either. They involve a murder mystery with J'onn J'ozz, a secret revelation from Mera and Aquaman, a journey to a strange new world with Hawkman and Hawkgirl, some college drama that would make John Belushi proud with Firestorm, and Boston Brand trying to get used to the whole being alive thing again. They make for some compelling stories and they can be difficult to follow at times. Geoff Johns has been masterful at balancing them out properly. However, with the last few issues he's been more focused on particular plots. This issue continues that trend, but not in the way you might expect.

The very first few pages start with J'onn J'ozz and his investigation. Now this is one of the plots that wasn't even mentioned on the last issue. It seemed to take a backseat to the unfolding action with Aquaman and the Hawks. Here our favorite Martian gets some action of his own and by action I mean some grizzly murders that would give Jeffrey Dahlmer a six foot erection.

The big reveal is that a martian is at work here. This revelation wasn't exactly the most surprising. It's one of the few that make sense of the murder that took place a few issues ago with the family who was in the middle of a Guitar Hero tournament (a new level of cruelty if ever there was one). J'onn still hasn't followed the clues to this conclusion. It still seems pretty obvious to the reader so it should seem obvious to J'onn. However, it's not quite clear what his reasoning is. He's no Batman when it comes to detective skills. But he's no Inspector Gadget either. He is competent and he does seem to be on the right track. Usually when you find a trail of death, it does lead you to someone who has too much free time on their hands and poor impulse control.

J'onn follows the trail of clues while another plot that was touched on in the previous issue picks up. Boston Brand, who has been struggling mightily to make friends with Hawk and Dove, has been trying to figure out just what the hell this White Lantern ring actually does. It certainly doesn't function like the Green Lantern's ring or the Red Lanterns or the Yellow Lanterns or any lanterns. When he came to Hawk and Dove for help, what did they do to help? They took him to a graveyard to see if this white lantern power could bring back some of their dead loved ones. It's not so much helping the guy as it is a slight flirtation with necrophilia. They try to get Dove's sister back to the world of the living. The result is less than preferable. She kinda turns into an enraged zombie and by kinda I mean kinda pissed off.

More necrophilia hints are dropped as this zombified version of Dove's sister tries to tear Boston apart and not in a sexy sort of way. But the White Ring shows that it does have some firepower and it does take her out, returning her to the hungry worms where she belongs. This is good for Boston, but do Hawk and Dove show any sympathy? Hell no! They get pissed off and start yelling at the ring as if it's a dog that just took a shit on a Persian rug. The ring reacts with some bizarre messages. It keeps saying to "Eat a cheeseburger." As if this ancient power somehow understands that the power of the MacDonalds is too strong even for the lantern corps. It's kind of anti-climactic as to how Boston reacts, but then again the guy hasn't eaten since he came back to life. It's an odd twist, yet somewhat appropriate. It feels like a lousy way to cut a zombie fight short.

So the Brand plot ended with a bit of a whimper. A bizarre whimper, but a whimper none-the-less. It seems like a good time to get to something a bit more down to Earth (relatively speaking of course since this is the DC Universe). We revisit the Firestorm plot with Jason and Ronald, where Ronald was last seen passed out and hung over at a frat party. Can't get much more down to Earth than that! Even if it does bring back some unpleasant college memories for some. Jason has been somewhat of a douche-bag to Ronald for a while and for good reason. The guy lost his girlfriend during Blackest Night and he blames Ronald. Yet the problem is he's the other part of the Firestorm matrix. It's kind of hard to give him the silent treatment.

He's so bitter that Jason turns down an offer to 'study' with an attractive girl from the 'chemistry club.' It reeks of code for 'let's fool around in ways that would get us banned from every Catholic school in the country.' But Jason turns her down. That's right, a college guy is turning down a potential to get laid. What is the world coming to?! The sad thing is that's not the strangest thing that happens with this scene. That would go to the unexpected sight of a crane turning into bubble gum. No, I'm not high this time. That's really what happened. Sensing something done gone horribly wrong, Jason wakes up a hung over Ronald so they can play hero with Firestar. This is the kind of thing where a silent treatment really needs to take a back seat.

It should be a pretty standard rescue for someone as powerful as Firestar. There's just one problem. Ronald is hung over. That adds a whole new challenge to the hero business. Show me a hero that can save the world while hung over and I'll show you a villain who is too incompetent to wipe his own ass. Since it's bubble gum cranes it seems easy enough. They save the guy whose falling from it, impress some ladies, and head back to the dorm for some justice style poon. But instead, Ronald's hangover is so bad he actually ends up puking on the guy they rescued. Even though he's alive, it's a lot harder to be grateful when a hero spews black chunks all over you. That's a new kind of low even if it is hilarious on some levels.

As if Jason didn't have enough reasons to be pissed at Ronald, he puts in some overtime to bust Ronnie's balls. Anybody who has talked to someone with a hangover before know that's like pouring sulfuric acid onto an infected wound on their scrotum. Ronald responds as most drunks would, being too damn woozy to even stay upright. But it's not all a mere lesson in college binge drinking for the kids. Ronald reveals that there appear to be other forces at work. He doesn't offer specifics and there's no ominous clues in the art. He just says someone else is present. That could make for an awesome twist, but the damn scene ended right there! That's right. After a comedy of errors, the story of Firestorm just gets pushed back to another issue. It's a disappointing way to end what was just becoming an exciting scene. Geoff Johns should know better than that.

Despite the disappointment, the story goes from one revelation to furthering another that emerged in the previous book. It seems strange that the final pages of Brightest Day #5 are being picked up near the end of this book, but at least it's being addressed. Mera revealed to Aquaman on the final page of that issue that she was sent to kill him. Clearly, she's got some 'splaining to do and no amount of make-up sex is going to make Arthur forget.

Mera goes onto talk about where she came from. Apparently, she's not exactly a proud bloodline. She comes from an underwater penal colony called Xebel and even though that sounds like a bad porno, it's a rough place to grow up. Hell, it's in the Bermuda freakin' Triangle. Mera's father, who happened to be king of this empire of deviants, trained her to be his ultimate weapon. That way when they did find a way out she could hunt down Arthur and taste the sweet nectar of revenge.

Unfortunately, the mission turned into a Disney movie. She fell in love with the guy. It may sound cheesy, but it's still kind of sweet. If anybody has even the slightest heart and isn't a total douche-bag, they'll see some merit to that twist. Comics aren't too cool for love stories. Except this love story almost soured when Black Matna killed her and Arthur's son. That act wasn't so much fodder for couple's therapy. It was an act of revenge from Mera's people. Not surprisingly, the one who attacked the oil rig in the last issue, Siren, turned out to be Mera's little sister. It seems like grounds for more revelations, but like the Firestorm plot it gets cut off. We don't see any hint of where that leads. It's like having a beginning and a middle, but when the end comes along the writer goes 'psyche!' It doesn't just end this scene on a downer, it makes this whole moment with Mera and Arthur a protracted conversation and there's only so much awesome that can be taken from that. It's not nearly up to the standards Geoff Johns has set for Brightest Day.

So that's 0 for 3 in terms of plot resolution. Is it possible that this issue of Brightest Day could falter in a way none has thus far? Well there is one more plot left to uncover and it's actually the same plot the book started with. J'onn J'ozz is still following the clues to the murders and he enlists the help of Oracle, Barbara Gordon, to investigate the murders. He has her hack through some networks as she's so good at doing to get some pictures and official documentation on the murders. They're pretty graphic, even for someone who used to be Batgirl. It's just the clue that J'onn needs because he finally is able to make a connection and it's about freakin' time.

There's no cut-off here. J'onn quickly flies full speed to some remote structure the Tanami Desert in Australia, which is probably the closest place on Earth that resembles the Martian surface. There, J'onn makes a shocking discovery that throws a serious curveball to his investigation. While trying to enlist the help of Miss Martian, he makes a terrifying discovery. Apparently, the killer got to her too and it looks about as pretty as a flaming stream of piss hitting a pile of shit. If you're going to end a comic in an awesome way, this is definitely the way to do so.

The plot with J'onn was a great way to tie the book together. It kept Brightest Day #6 from slipping into mediocrity, an unthinkable status for any Geoff John comic. It doesn't make the whole book perfect like the last few issues have been. Each plot in this book could have had some much more powerful revelations that left a bigger impact. But that didn't happen. Instead, there were just these hints about what the revelations were. It's like teasing with teasing, annoying as hell and insulting to a readers tastes. It still moved the plot forward, but didn't do so with the same impact as the previous issues.

There is still plenty of awesome here to make the next issue worth picking up. Brightest Day is still one of the best titles DC has been churning out since the end of Blackest Night. Any DC fan would be wise to pick this up. But factoring in the ridged standards Geoff Johns has set, I can only give this book a 3.5 out of 5. On it's own it could have a higher score, but in the context of the previous books it's necessary to bring it down a little. There is still plenty of potential for this book to pick up and continue the tradition of awesome that has so defined Brightest Day. This book slows down the train of awesome, but it doesn't stop it. That can only be a good for the awesomeness of the DC Universe.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Batman Beyond #2 - Unfolding Awesome

The return to awesome continues with Batman Beyond #2. In my last review of the first issue, much of the enjoyment from the issue came simply from the fact that this is Batman freakin' Beyond! A comic a line we never thought we would hear from until someone slipped ruffies to Dan Dido and Bruce Timm and got them to sign off on it! Well now that the excitement from the first issue has worn off, the onus now falls in the book itself to carry it's own weight. It's been common among minis like this for writers to get lazy, thinking that just the title alone is enough to move the book. That's like thinking your dick is big just because your name is Dicksmash McIroncock. The label does not affect reality so there needs to be a little something called substance to back it up. Does Batman Beyond #2 have it? Well here's the scoop.

In the previous issue the new Batman, Terry McGinnis was investigating a string of murders that lead him to one of Batman's classic villains, Hush. Not surprisingly, Hush is supposed to be dead. Nobody gave Terry the memo though that death in comics is like the ethics committee in Congress. It's there, but nobody takes it seriously. At the end of the last issue, Hush got away. It's kind of lame they didn't show a bigger fight, but you get the sense they're saving that. No need to open the floodgates of awesome just yet. So Terry returns to the Batcave for another lecture by geezer version of Bruce Wayne.

Since Bruce hasn't gone senile quite yet, he gives Terry a brief history about Batman and Hush. Anybody who didn't read the Jeph Loeb story back in the day won't be at a disadvantage. Bruce is pretty darn extensive in the story about Hush.

In it's most condensed version Hush is/was Tommy Elliot, a childhood friend of Bruce who hated him with an insane passion because of the relationship he had with his parents. And by insane he doesn't mean filling his backpack with frogs as a prank. By insane he means he plotted to murder his own parents, take their inheritance, and exact his revenge. Bruce's father stopped that plan and Tommy's father survived. He went onto become a famous surgeon, hence the bandages he would later bear (apparently doing surgery when you're insane doesn't lead to the best results no matter what Nip Tuck says). Then he started hunting Bruce and that's how he became the crazed Batman villain that so many know and despise. What makes this description more awesome is that there's a lot of flashbacks to tie the past in with this present/future and that really fills in the extra details for the story. Considering the idea that lesser writers would probably not bother with those details, that puts this comic in a certain class already.

So Terry knows what he's up against. Bruce assumed that Hush was dead and that's like taking Larry Craig on his word on the cause of homosexuality. Terry may be young, but even he knows that Hush's death was probably a farce. Bruce still wants to do his detective work, but Terry's more of a 'hands-on' kind of guy so he goes right back to work. A killer is on the loose and the only detective tools he needs are his fists and a high powered suit. Factor in the suit and that doesn't make him seem nearly as tough though, but he still has other ways of proving it.

At this point the comic has too much talking and not enough blood so in the very next scene, there's finally some action in the here and now/future (yeah, I know that's confusing but cut me some slack. It's Batman Beyond). Another murder goes down. This time it's someone that fans of the show should recognize. In one episode there was a weapons maker known as The Armory. He wasn't the most memorable villain, but he had some big ass guns so that has to account for something right? Well apparently he was lame enough to kill with an umbrella. No, that's not a joke. He really was killed with an umbrella Penguin style.

So here's a new wrinkle to the murder mystery. The killer is now adopting old tactics of Batman's greatest hits. Terry isn't equipped to solve this so old man Wayne keeps working at it. Terry's job is to find the killer before he kills again. But before he can get back to finding clues, he comes across a new obstacle and it's one that may or may not have any bearing on this story: Catwoman. But not just any Catwoman. We're talking Catwoman Beyond here! Unfortunately, her future version seems to have developed an aversion to showing off cleavage so that costs her heavily even if she does have an awesome fucking suit.

Now normally Terry isn't too thrilled to be fighting a new villain, but seeing as how this is Catwoman he's not all that disappointed. If anything, he's stoked. Most of the assholes he fights are but ugly guys. Unless you're a blind Elton John clone, you're not going to see much appeal. But since Catwoman is a bad guy with an awesome rack, it takes some of the frustration away. While it's unlikely this woman isn't Selena Kyle (who at this point has boobs that sag to her knees), this Catwoman shows that she's every bit as skilled as her predecessor. She also looks pretty hot while doing it even though she shows no skin whatsoever (blasphemy in every Catwoman story).

This battle quickly becomes the biggest fight of the book. And why shouldn't it? Who would you rather see Terry fight? A crazed old man with bandages on his face or a hot ass chick in a skin tight body suit? If you chose the first option then you probably have some fetishes I don't even want to know about so I'll get my awesome from the Catwoman fight. This fight gets drawn out through the skies of Gotham and goes back and forth for a while. But as usual, Catwoman does not go quietly. Terry clearly has to learn that when fighting Catwoman, expect to have your balls busted to a certain degree.

So the hot chick gets away and Terry has to go back searching for clues. Yeah, it's a drag, but finding a killer is kind of important. He ends up investigating another old Batman foe, Julian Day, aka Calendar. In the annuls of Batman this guy is a C-lister on his good days and a D-lister on every other day. He looks like shit and he's got kind of a lame calling card, using days of the calendar to commit crimes. It's a pretty lousy tactic if you're trying not to get caught, but luckily he doesn't take up too much of the spotlight. As soon as Terry begins to question him, Hush enters the scene and another awesome fight unfolds.

It's not quite as awesome as the Batman/Catwoman fight (very few are), but it definitely holds it's own. It's a little less drawn out than the previous fight and doesn't end with any big revelations or clues. It just has Hush showing that the man can still hold his own and take on Batman, even in another era. He's pretty badass even if he still looks like a lamer version of Two-Face. The fight would have been even better if there were some more ominous hints dropped. But that doesn't happen. Hush just stands over Batman and says he's going to kill him. Yeah, that's about as shocking as Lindey Lohan's police record.

So I restate the question I posed earlier. Does this comic hold it's own now that it can't rely on the novelty factor that the first issue had? The answer is yes...for the most part. Now where does that 'for the most part' come in? Well even though this issue moves the story forward and has some pretty awesome scenes with Hush and Catwoman, there isn't a lot of flow to it. The fights and the scenes are kind of choppy. As great as the Catwoman fight was, what does it have to do with the murders? It may be the case she's involved somehow, but there weren't any clues to indicate as such. It comes off as something that was copied and pasted into the book because the editors thought "Wait a minute...let's have Batman fight a hot chick for once! That will sell more books!" This lack of connection does hurt the book, but doesn't kill it in the slightest. It just doesn't keep the flow of awesome coming.

However, the awesome is still great enough to make this book worth picking up. Anybody who likes old school Batman comics or is a fan of Batman Beyond that has been in withdrawal for the past five years would have to have extensive brain damage to avoid picking up this comic. It's creating an intriguing story and now that it has Catwoman in it, fans have no excuse. So Batman Beyond #2 gets a final score of 4.5 out of 5 and a solid thumbs up. In terms of Batman minis, and there have been many over the years, this one is worth it's weight in kryptonite. Nuff said!