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Friday, July 20, 2007


After the sturm undt drang of the past two days I awoke from a full night of very deep slumber to find that it's a beautiful morning, the strains of the Rascals' oldie with those lyrics playing in my head.

I pulled back the covers and felt the mingling sensations of the air conditioning's cooling magic and the sunlight through my curtains playing across my unclad form, and decided what better way to start such a lovely day than with a much-needed wank? Trust me on this one, kiddies, if you have the time to take matters into hand before beginning the daily grind, do so. It mellows you out, clears the mind of cobwebs, feels good, and best of all, it's free.

After my act of self-pollution I turned on the TV news — NY1, of course — and was happy to hear that the explosion zone was mostly up and running. Then I hit the shower, packed my over-the-shoulder messenger's bag with fun stuff to read, and made for the R train.

Within the confines of the Vault, I have a huge and ever-grown stack of stuff to read that includes the latest comics, recent book releases, items to review for Publisher's Weekly, assorted old novels found on eBay, and the week's edition of the Village Voice (gotta love that Dan Savage!), so it's always a battle to decide what to take on the subway. Today I opted for the latest comics, and once on the train I got down to reading. First up was GREEN ARROW #75, and it looks like it's the final issue of the Arrow's solo book, thanks to the events in the issue and a blurb at the end that reads "THE END. FOR NOW."


This issue concludes many plot threads that have been running through the series for the past year, but it's all little more than a dynamically-drawn, rote superhero punch-up punctuated by the Green Arrow finally getting off his self-righteous, womanizing ass and finally asking his one true love, Dinah Lance — aka the Black canary — to marry him after nearly forty years of passionate (though admittedly on again-off again, largely due to the Arrow's roving eye and cock) romance. Like I said, the story is nothing special, and the main event of the proposal, which happens on the last page, is depicted on the cover, and since Dinah does not give an answer at the end (to be continued in the first issue of the just-out BLACK CANARY mini-series) there's no need for anyone interested in this particular suoerheroic soap opera to actually read the full issue. Unless you want to check and make sure it's not one of those "imaginary" stories that ran rampant at DC in the 1960's.

What rather annoys me about the whole supposedly suspenseful cliffhanger of ending it with no answer from Dinah is DC having the nerve to make readers suffer through a few month's worth of a mini-series — in which we will no doubt be subjected to lots of soul-searching and womanly angst in the midst of ass-whuppin', but there's aboslutely zero surprise as to Dinah's answer thanks to DC featuring the GREEN ARROW/BLACK CANARY WEDDING SPECIAL on the cover of last week's issue of PREVIEWS, not to mention the fact that it's been in discussion on the internet for a while.

The cover to the WEDDING SPECIAL.

(By the way, I've been in the know on this thing for months due to my old pal Amanda Conner drawing the damned thing, but I was sworn to secrecy so no advanced word was given. Now it's out, so I'll be interviewing AC about all this mishegoss once she's out from under her colossal workload and returns from the bedlam that is the big San Diego convention at month's end. And can the gal draw, or what?)

The next book I pulled out of the messenger's bag was THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #5, and that was a marked improvement over the GREEN ARROW's by-the-numbers "thrills."


In this issue the Batman finds himself time-displaced to the 31st century, fused and later unfused with the Fatal Five's cyborg Tharok, and then on the run from the Legion of Super-Heroes. I'm sure you know what Batman's deal is, but in case you don't know who and what the the Legion is, they're an Earth-based amalgam of super-powered teenagers from a variety of races and species who kick ass all over the universe in the name of right, having been inspired by records of the heroes from our time. Once Batman gets loose in their far-flung future world, the Legion informs him that he'll cause of chronal rifts if he stays in one place for too long, and despite the availability of all manner of miraculous tech, they don't have time travel so they can't send him to his proper time. (Don't ask me what happened to the Time Bubbles that used to be so commonplace in the Legion stories of yore...) When the Dark Knight decides to deal with his predicament himself, he's patronized and underestimated by many of the Legion as an obtuse primitive, most irritatingly by Brainiac 5, whose current version is a total asshole. The Legion soon learns a very hard lesson when Batman basically says, "Fuck this noise" and escapes into the city, utterly undaunted by unfamiliar surroundings and handing out ass-kickings like Halloween candy; there's a great bit where he's confronted by Karate Kid — the master of every martial art known to man and alien, who's human but incredibly badassed — and the two have a zero-G set-to in mid-air that impresses even KK, who describes Batman's skills as "magnificent" and admits that he could learn much from the Caped Crusader. Plus, you just have to love it when Batman finally has enough of Brainiac 5's bullshit, tells him as much to his face, and then bashes him in said face with a hard elbow, knocking his Coluan ass out cold, just before doing the same to Lightning Lad with a big black boot right in the mouth.

Lesson to the heroes of the future: Do not EVER fuck with the Batman. Period.

Meanwhile, following up the other interconnected plot that's run for this series' first five issues, Supergirl finally arrives at the planet Rann after enduring a cross-galaxy lift on Lobo's space-bike and locates the teleported Green Lantern Hal Jordan, who has been hanging around with fellow expatriate Earthman Adam Strange. There's a whole bunch of shit going down on Rann between the natives and the dispossessed Thanagarians — Hawkman's people — that's too involved to go into here, and the trio of heroes finally locate the missing Book of Destiny, a tome that has every event that has ever or will ever happen recorded in its pages, making it a very dangerous item if in the wrong hands, especially if those hands hold the keys to a time machine. Everything comes to a head and will most likely be concluded in the next issue, and I can't wait to see how it turns out. Writer Mark Waid and artist George Perez (with inks by the venerable Bob Wiacek) have crafted a truly entertaining team-up book that's loads of fun for both the seasoned DC fan and the newcomer alike, so I urge you to pick this stuff up when it's inevitably collected. At the rate that DC's cranking out the collected editions these days, that should be within the next three months or so. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

After that I began to peruse the hefty GOLDEN AGE DOCTOR FATE ARCHIVES-VOL. 1, a solid $75 hardcover that collects the entirety of the title character's 1940's appearances, so I'm a bit at a loss to explain why they bothered numbering it when calling it THE COMPLETE GOLDEN AGE DOCTOR FATE ARCHIVES would have done the job and made more sense.

While there had been magician heroes predating Doctor Fate in the comics, most notably Lee Falk's Mandrake the Magician and his clone (read "ripoff") Zatara, those guys were disticntly human in aspect and behavior while Doctor Fate was obviously influenced by the writings of pulp horror icon H.P. Lovecraft. Fate's head was totally obscured by a golden helmet, its lack of any features lending him an unsettling, unknown aspect; where his predecessors had been tux-and-tails-clad stage prestidigitators with great skill in hypnosis, Doctor Fate was a full-blown wielder of mystical and cosmic energies who early on claimed, "I am not human... I never was a child... I had no youth — the elder gods created me just as I am now, and placed me here on Earth to fight evil sorcery!" a statement that placed him well within the realm of Lovecraft's other-dimensional wigglies, octopus-heads, and unnameable horrors that drove men to madness at the mere thought of them. In many ways the prototype for the even more "out there" Doctor Strange, Doctor Fate's adventures were about the weirdest shit to grace the Golden Age (that's the late 1930's through roughly 1954, kids!) next to the exploits of DC's other magical big gun, the Spectre, a sadistic, near-omnipotent ghost in a green speedo with matching cape and gloves, and a pair of cute little booties.

Charmingly stilted in both art and storytelling, the first seventeen tales are a bizarre pastiche of the costumed mystery man and pulp horror genres, swarming with evil sorcerers, ape-like monsters, "Malayan poison bats" (don't ask), arcane artifacts, diabolical cults, space aliens, subterranean giants, armies of soldier robots, malevolent Mayan gods, angry ghosts, mad scientists, bank-robbing shadows, and, in a blatant swipe from Lovecraft, fish-men and abstract beings that aren't illustrated because the sight of them would make you go crazy insane! And that's just the first 134 pages, leaving two-hundred and fifty-three more pages to go. However, where the stories continue after that, the creators trimmed back Fate's helmet to reveal the lower portion of his face, and in no time his adventures became on par with the exploits of the garden variety superhero, even eschewing spells in favor of popping bad guys in the fucking head. Adding insult to injury, the creators humanized fate by making him more "normal" in his manner, even getting rid of his cape, a very bad decision because he was now virtually indistinguishable from one of the blandest heroes ever to grace the four-color page, the Guardian.

The Guardian as drawn by Steve "NEXUS" Rude, which is far more than this boring character deserves, despite being co-created by the legendary Jack Kirby.

So if you do pick up GOLDEN AGE DOCTOR FATE ARCHIVES-VOL. 1, buy it for less through and skip everything from the moment you can see any part of Fate's face while he's got the helmet on.



Anonymous said...

speaking of comics...check out

Bunche (pop culture ronin) said...

To the previous responder-

if you read this blog regularly you know I'm into oddball music, so it should come as no surprise to learn that I proudly own Bill Cosby's HOORAY FOR THE SALVATION ARMY BAND. You have to hear the title track, which is (more or less) a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze," only with different lyrics in which Cos talks about drinking and chasing women, only to have both pursuits fucked up by the Salvation Army's unappreciated attempts at saving his soul.

Also of note is his variant on "Funky Broadway," which gets lysergically mutated into "Funky West Philedelphia," and features Bill describing his old neighborhood and dubbing every single thing in it as "funky," such as, "the name of the street... is funky, funky street," and my personal favorite, "the name of the chair... is funky, funky CHAIR!!!" And you know he meant that shit!

Scott Koblish said...

Cool reviews Bunche!
The Brave and the Bold issue was indeed, really great, George is just the best storyteller and both he and Waid are at the top of their game - wait till you see issue 6! I was lucky enough to ink that issue and let me tell you -it's absolutely awe inspiring, I think there must be around 60 characters running loose in absolute DC Mayhem! Reserve that copy now-