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Thursday, April 30, 2009


Werewolf...or Chuck Norris? YOU decide!!!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


An assortment of FIST OF THE NORTH STAR swag, all for under twenty bucks!

It's Wednesday, that magical day of the week when the new comic books come out, so during lunch I headed over to Jim Hanley's Universe on 33rd Street to slake my geekish thirst, and while making my way over there I passed a Japanese book store notorious for its inexpensive prices on import items. Just for the hell of it I went in and asked the helpful saleslady if the hardcover editions of the untranslated and still in B&W HOKUTO NO KEN — aka FIST OF THE NORTH STAR — were still in print, and she whisked me upstairs to the place's copious manga section. Current volumes of the classic post-apocalyptic martial arts/superhero epic were located in no time, in four editions to choose from, but alas no hardbound copies. But the nice thing about what did happen to be available was that some of the recent versions were in a somewhat larger format than I'd ever seen (I picked up my full set back in the 1980's and those volumes were the standard digest-sized tankōbon format), thick as phonebooks and dirt cheap at five bucks a pop for over four-hundred pages of material. Although I already had the complete series, I couldn't resist picking up a few volumes so I could have the art at a bigger, more enjoyable size, and among the ones available were the ones containing some of my favorite sequences from the strip's five-year run. When I hit England in a few days, I plan on giving one of those favorite sequences to Chris (THE TWELVE) Weston so I can see what he makes of artist Tetsuo Hara's Neal Adams-influenced work. Should prove interesting...

When I hit the checkout counter I was served by a very cute and sunny salesgirl whose name tag identified her as Tomoe (pronounced "Toe-Mo-Eh"), and when she saw what my books were she laughed and said (in a thick accent), "You like-a Kenshiro? He look-a so coo-rayzee when he-a scuh-reem-uh!" I couldn't help but return her laughter and agree, and as I whipped out my cash I decided to add one more item to my purchases, namely this utterly horrible but so-awful-it's-great key fob of ultra-violent badass Kenshiro rendered as a nauseatingly-cute Cupie Doll:

The latest in my ever-growing collection of FIST OF THE NORTH STAR crap, but easily the most bizarre!


As I start writing this it is 2:36 AM and I'm enjoying an ice-cold Sanpellegrino Limonata "sparkling lemon drink" (translation: "lemon sodie pop") while suffering from one of my periodic bouts of insomnia, but at least this time I know why sleep will not come.

This Friday evening I leave for my first vacation of a decent length in almost exactly four years and my anticipation of getting the fuck out of my job, Brooklyn and the States in general is keeping me awake. I'll be visiting one of my favorite people on the globe, running around in one of my favorite countries, and just plain flat-out making an all-too-brief escape from my daily routine. No subways. No loud and uncouth shithead neighbors. No worrying about the well-being and employment of friends and family. This will be some well-deserved me time, and I welcome it like I would welcome a new and kind lover.

While across the Pond, I intend to divorce myself from my day-to-day New York programming and allow the many charms of the UK to work their ancient magic upon me as I breathe air rich with the flavor of ancient myth and legend and stuff my face with some of the best comfort food the planet has to offer. The mere thought of the assorted items that comprise the British breakfast set me to smiling from ear to ear, and the promise of authentic Yorkshire Pudding and real fish and chips ignites olfactory memories that kicks my salivary glands into overdrive. In fact, if I have my way, the first thing I'll do once off the plane with luggage retrieved is snag a couple of sausage rolls, perhaps the most perfect treat in the annals of culinary wizardry.

I'm also looking forward to seeing what effect the coming of Spring has on the amount of clothing worn by Britain's females. There's a lot to be said for the daughters of England, in terms of both visual allure and personality, so while I'm not embarking on "the pull," as they say, when I get there, my eyes will be open and appreciative. Don't get me wrong; I'd love to go on the pull, but at my age I doubt I'll realistically be able to get anywhere with that quest in the limited amount of time I have at my disposal, plus I wouldn't care to impose my on-vacay sexual escapades with assorted "birds" upon my dear friend who is kind enough to put me up for free. (Mind you, I don't think she'd really care, but I'd like to be considerate.)

Anyway, It's now just past 3AM and I'm beginning to experience one of those over-tired headaches that signal the need to turn off the lights and TV, close my eyes and simply rest my mind, the possibility of sleep being a bonus rather than a guarantee. Only two days until Blighty... Only two...more...days...


Raging alcoholism was the only way little Becky could cope after enduring Mike Myers in THE CAT IN THE HAT.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Yesterday's lower Manhattan photo-op low altitude flyby of one of the planes used as Air Force 1 was ill-conceived enough, but to have it tailed by a couple of fighter jets? I cannot believe that no one involved stopped to consider how the public might react to such an unexpected sight, especially considering where it took place and just how fresh the memories of the 9/11 tragedy is in people's minds even almost eight years later. And, if the news reports are true, the officials who authorized the flyby actually alerted various NYC offices but advised them against informing anyone about it. Clearly not a single brain cell was engaged during all of this and I'm simply appalled.

I was not at the World Trade Center when the planes hit, but I was in an elevated train going over the Manhattan Bridge late that afternoon and saw and smelled the Hell-on-earth inferno, an experience permanently and very much unwillingly burned into my memory and I'm offended by the idiocy of the flyby. That said, I only witnessed a small bit of the incendiary fall of the towers from the safety of a train; I can't begin to imagine what those who were at Ground Zero must have experienced, but the sheer terror must have been something virtually impossible to put into words. A good friend of mine was there and as a direct result of the system-shocking fear or being caught in the toxic cloud of debris or both, that friend's hair actually turned white some days following 9/11 and as a result that friend dyes their hair, and I'm willing to bet that friend is far from alone. So how did those who were there for that atrocity take yesterday's events? I can't answer that question and I'm not about to, but I know that if it were me who saw that shit yesterday I damned near may have had a heart attack. And in this age of imaging miracles being achieved through Photoshop on a minute-by-minute basis, I question the need for a live flyby in the first place. With something with wholly created or retouched via digital means, the public would have been none the wiser.

Completely fucking stupid to the Nth degree, all involved with this fiasco should be fired immediately for towering insensitivity.


THE BOYS #26-29

The latest story arc, "We Gotta Go Now," went on a bit too long for my liking, hence me allowing a few month's worth of issues to build up in hope of reaching the ending, which we finally got with issue #29. As Simon Pegg lookalike Wee Hughie's undercover work within G-Wiz (the newest recruits to the G-Men, the series' ultra-assholish X-Men analog) continues, he gets to know his teammates and genuinely like the ANIMAL HOUSE-esque young supers, eventually hoping to extricate them from a life among the team of government-funded super-assholes. It all builds to a climax I must admit I didn't expect (it made me laugh my ass off), but I'm glad it's done with so we can back on track with the rest of the ongoing narrative. I really want more of the romance between Hughie and Annie (aka Starlight of The Seven; if you don't already know, there's way too much backstory to go into in a capsule review) and I want to see more of the Female and the Frenchman, so c'mon, Garth! Gimme some! But with that said, I'd say the issue that gets special points from me is #27, in which Garth ruminates on the nature of St. Patrick's Day celebrations and the annoyance thereof in the U.S.A., and I found myself in total agreement with each point he made (we had a discussion of my own irritation with St. Paddy's over some pints just before the day hit here in NY recently, and Garth told me to wait until I read #27). And Darick Robertson scores again with the splash page to that issue, a tableau that captures Manhattan on St. Patrick's Day in all of its tawdry, hand up the skirt, shamrock t-shirted, vomit-glazed anti-glory as legions of green-bedecked shitheads wander about like zombies and shout about how great it is to be Irish, seconds before they shit their pants and fall over in an alcohol-poisoned heap. (One of these days I'll have to post about exactly what it was like around Marvel Comics on the day after St. Pat's when they were located on Park Avenue South. It was a wonderland of emerald-tinted puke.)


Well, I liked the cover... This twenty-five cent relaunch of Buck Rogers appears to be an excerpt from a longer first issue, and judging from what's between the covers of this preview this reboot does nothing for the character other than restoring his old school jodphurs. It reads like a generic post-STAR WARS space adventure story and displays little by way of characterization, but that may be due to this just being a taste of the overall piece. I'd like to check out the full first issue when it comes out because I've been a fan of the old school Buck Rogers comics since I was seven, and now I'm fascinated to see how the character and his 25th Century playing field are re-imagined/re-invented for the contemporary audience. I just hope it amounts to something better than the Seventies interpretation with Gil Gerard, in which Buck was re-invented as a disco-era douche with an annoying R2-D2 knockoff "cute" robot whose head looked like a cock.


After reading issues 11 and 12 of this series and being intrigued about how Pepper Potts acquired her suit of Armor and exactly what the hell was up with Norman Osborn's current status in the Marvel Universe, I backtracked and picked up this issue that goes a good way toward providing those answers. On the strength of what I've read here I've decided to pick up the collected edition of the first six issues of this stuff, THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN: THE FIVE NIGHTMARES, as my plane reading for my impending trip to the UK. If anyone out there has read that material, please write in with an assessment.


Along with BATMAN: BATTLE FOR THE COWL, it's good to see that DC can still put out good Batman stories when swill like R.I.P. BATMAN and FINAL CRISIS stink up the place. This three-issue tale surprised me by being the first comics appearance of 1960's Batman TV series villain King Tut (memorably played by Victor Buono), and he's re-invented here as another in the long line of dangerous gimmick-themed loonies to infest Gotham City. Tut shows up spouting riddles as he commits assorted acts of robbery, mutilation and murder, a blatant theft of M.O. that does not go down well with the Riddler, who assists Batman in tracking down the mad pharaoh. That's all I'm gonna say other than to point out the excellent use of the Riddler and the marvellous act of making King Tut not only work in the 2000's, but actually making him work as a viable, crazy and genuinely scary bad guy at all. I look forward to seeing more of him, and I hope he continues to be drawn by the masterful Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez as he was here, with gaw-juss inks by the incomparable Kevin Nowlan. This comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and I hope it comes out in a collected edition for posterity's sake.


The wonderful days before the current economic crisis.

Monday, April 27, 2009


After watching yesterday's DEADLIEST WARRIOR rerun on the otherwise worthless Spike network, I could not get Japanese weaponry out of my head. Y'see, the episode in question sought to answer through science the age old question of who would win in a fight, a Viking or a samurai, and the information imparted had me hanging off my seat. I won't tell you how it turned out because you should see it in all its visceral awesomeness for yourself, but I will say that the show made me remember a warrior-fantasy vision with a katana, namely Lucy Lawless as Xena, moments before her final — and I do mean final — battle:

Happy Monday! (And no, I have not forgotten to continue work on THE XENA PROJECT, but that will takwe up a lot of time that I won't have for about the next month. Just so ya know.)

Sunday, April 26, 2009


I laughed out loud at the title YOUR MOM TOSSED MY SALAD, but what really makes it is the tag line: "When you kiss your mother, you're kissing my asshole!" Ah, the arts...

Saturday, April 25, 2009


The cheesy '70's glory of Wonder Woman's invisible plane, 1940's era version.

Vault reader Terence Ward writes in with the following question:

I've been out of the comic addiction for probably twenty years, although I try to keep aware of big developments. Just started watching the Justice League cartoon, and I was surprised to see Wonder Woman flying around, pretty as you please. What surprised me even more, though, was that my friends said to me, "Oh yeah, she could always fly!"

Now as a boy I watched Lynda Carter strut her stuff at my father's knee every week. I don't know if Dad enjoyed the adventures as much as I did, but he talked a lot about her "brass brassiere," whatever that was. Princess Diana performed feats of strength, ran in high heels, forced the truth out of evildoers, telepathically communicated with animals in a pinch, changed costumes when she needed to accessorize for scuba expeditions (which Dad really seemed to enjoy), and flew around in an invisible jet.

I remember the jet from the Super Friends too. Granted, it was the most dangerous vehicle ever conceived for obvious reasons, and probably should have been scrapped quicker, but it existed because Wonder Woman couldn't fly. I didn't follow DC comics as closely as a kid, but I know that if I was challenged to a game of "flight or no flight" I would have listed WW as a non-flier. Who gave her flight and when? Does she fly in comics now, or just cartoons? When was her first flying appearance? Do all Amazons fly? Did they explain her flight of fancy, or just act like she could do it all along?

And did they give up on that really sweet scuba outfit?

You're right, Terence, Wonder Woman could not fly for over four decades of her fictional existence, but there were some tweaks that kind of bent that rule along the way.

When she first showed up, Wonder Woman did indeed get around in an invisible plane and that vehicle has remained one of her trademarks, showing up most recently in the excellent Wonder Woman animated movie that was made for DVD.

The invisible plane in action, c. 1942.

As Wonder Woman moved into the 1950's, her plane took on a more sleek design, reflecting the jet technology of the period, and so it remained in the comics until the 1980's. But during that era the Amazing Amazon was also depicted as being able to "glide on air currents" without her plane, and I dunno what you think, but that sounds like flying to my way of thinking! I guess they wrote it as "gliding" to make it sound more delicate and feminine, or some such bullshit, but that comes as no surprise since that was also around the time when efforts were being made to make Diana more in line with a 1950's American sensibility about a woman's "place" in society. During those dire times, Diana became more willowy and downright "girly" than her athletically-built WWII incarnation, probably because her pro-matriarchy creator, William Moulton Marston, had died in 1947 and his take on the character pretty much gave up the ghost along with him. Thus came an Amazon Princess whose adventures had less to do with the awesomeness of "woman power" than treacly tales of her mooning over that stiff Steve Trevor or, in the Wonder Girl stories of her youth on Paradise island, falling in love with young, mythologically-tinged swains, such as the thankfully-forgotten Ronno the Mer-Boy.

A teenage Princess Diana rescues the hapless Ronno the Mer-Boy, an acceptable boyfriend for the young Wonder Woman since he didn't have a wang.

This new Wonder Woman was boringly docile when compared to her wartime template, and even her sisters back on the island were more like a bunch of fashion models on vacation rather than a society of smart and capable warriors who could fuck you up six ways to Sunday while still earnestly preaching a philosophy of love and compassion.

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman: an indelible '70's icon and perhaps what comes to mind for most people when they think of the character.

Ignoring Denny O'Neil's de-powered, Emma Peel-esque take on the character in the late-1960's/early-1970's (not out of any dislike for it, but due to it not being relevant to this discussion), we move on to the Seventies and perhaps Wonder Woman's biggest cultural splash to date. When Lynda Carter took on the role of the Amazon princess for three years on television, it was as though everything that made the character great had walked, living and breathing, straight off the comics pages and into our living rooms. Of Irish-American, Mexican and Spanish ancestry, Carter was a stop-you-in-your-tracks stunning and statuesque beauty of universally-agreed-upon goddesslike thermonuclear magnitude who effortlessly got across the sweet kindness the character displayed up to that time, and she made an indelible mark on the kids of my generation. (In my opinion, the only women who were as letter perfect as Lynda carter in bringing comics characters to life were Julie Newmar as Catwoman and Irish McCalla as Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.)

Lynda Carter in regular gear. Sweet jumpin' Jesus in a basket of chicken...

I'd be lying my beige ass off if I said I never had "impure" thoughts about Carter's Wonder Woman, but the truth is that I and the majority of her fans really liked how nice she made the character's personality; Wonder Woman was a sweetheart, and even when she was handing out family-friendly ass-kickings she was always polite and the very definition of a "lady," which is no easy feat to pull off when you're a total bombshell in what amounts to an eagle-emblazoned bustiere, star-spangled hot pants, and fetish boots.

During Carter's three years as Wonder Woman the invisible plane was frequently seen (?), first in the endearingly cheesy WWII-ear version that looked suspiciously like a toy (shown at the top of this post), and later in a more up-to-date jet fighter model (see below), but no gliding on air currents or otherwise unassisted soaring through the skies.

If the U.S. had a squadron of these, we could have confused the shit out of the enemy and won the Viet Nam conflict in a week.

But who gave a shit about her not being able to fly when Wonder Woman was ready for just about anything with a transformation-triggering twirl of her luscious body? In addition to her standard red, white and blue togs, we got:

Biker Wonder Woman!

Skate-boardin' Wonder Woman! (Seriously, fuck Tony Hawk!)

Westsuit Wonder Woman!

And, as is quite evident from the above photos, the Westsuit and Biker looks were differentiated only by a motorcycle helmet, and my guess is that these goofy getups were designed to generate a Barbie-like wardrobe for the Wonder Woman doll line put out by Mego at the time.

Then came the 1980's and DC's continuity-wide enema, CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, a massive "event" book that sought to untangle, eliminate, and/or consolidate the eleventy-jillion versions of characters that had been populating the company's equally numerous alternate worlds (Earth-2, et cetera). As that cosmic bit of housecleaning unfolded, the versions of Wonder Woman that had come before were essentially flushed out of existence (read "continuity"), leaving room for illustrator George Perez to, rather appropriately, rebuild the character from whole clay (for those who don't know, Wonder Woman was sculpted from clay and brought to life by six members of the Greek pantheon since there was little likelihood of her coming into the world in the usual way due to Themiscyra's complete and utter lack of males). With the DC Universe now consolidated and pretty much rebooting from day one, it was time to re-introduce the Amazon princess and Perez's take on her was by far the most mythologically well-researched ever, and he retained Dina's inability to fly and her need for the invisible plane, but during the course of her Perez-guided years, she received a pair of winged sandals from the Greek god Hermes that allowed her to take to the air sans inviso-jet. At first used solely to allow her easy back and forth access between the mortal plane and the realm of myth, Diana was soon sporting the winged sandals whenever she needed to fly at all, and it was somewhere around that time when she began taking flight without her enchanted footwear. To be completely honest, I'm at a loss as to exactly when this occurred, but it's now an accepted fact as one of the character's abilities and I have no idea if flight was a late-addition gift from the Olympians. (Wikipedia says she was gifted with flight by Hermes and that may be the case, but I don't remember reading that; she was flightless — when not rocking the sandals — for at least the first twenty-some-odd issues of the rebooted series. But then again, Wikipedia is not known for ironclad accuracy.)

George Perez's Wonder Woman flies the friendly skies.

I'd say Diana's been regularly depicted as straight-up flying since at least the early-1990's, and while it looks cool, especially when animated, I think it kind of robs her of a bit of her warrior coolness. Sure, Diana was gifted by the gods with beauty, wisdom, strength and some cool accessories, but her skills as a hero were hard-earned modern applications of her culture's ancient fighting arts and strategies, while the gift of flight makes her too much like Superman in my book. Diana is an Amazon first and a superhero second; other than her great strength and superhuman physical resilience, she would be able to fit in as just one among the Themiscyran populace, albeit with a trained prodigy's above-the-norm excellence (think of Bruce Lee in comparison to most other martial artists). And to get back to directly answering Terence's questions, no, the rest of the Amazons cannot fly; barring their immortality, all of the Amazons have the same physical abilities as any normal woman, only with the benefit of about two thousand years or so of intense physical and mental training that does render them a nation of super-women (though not as super as their princess, not by a long shot).

And I'm not one-hundred percent certain, but I think the wetsuit has turned up once or twice in the comics, during Phil Jimenez's run if I'm not mistaken. Jiminez is not only hugely and obviously influenced by Perez's work, he's also an admitted freak for the Lynda carter version, so the harking back to her '70's wardrobe would be no surprise.

This replica of Wonder Woman's invisible plane can be yours...for a mere $249.95. No, seriously!!!

The Wonder Westsuit, this time with cameltoe!

And one last note regarding Lynda Carter's indispensable presence during the Seventies: I already dug La Linda as Wonder Woman, but I think what really pushed me over the edge into full-blown puberty was the image of her emerging sopping wet from that swimming pool during the 1976 BATTLE OF THE NETWORK STARS. Her lovely, smiling face and those incredible curves in that blue one-piece swimsuit, accented by a cute little white cap, were incredible enough, but when she came out of the water her swimsuit clung to her like a second skin and I'll be damned if you couldn't see an impressive display of good ol' '70's bush, somewhat compressed by the confines of the suit into something resembling the most alluring bit of steel wool I've ever seen. The fact that she wasn't actually nude was utterly beside the point because we all knew the FCC would never have allowed that — vile puppets of the Phallocracy!!! — but this was certainly the next best thing and I swear I felt like I had just witnessed Aphrodite rising newly-born from the ocean foam in that gigantic clam shell. I remember it like it was yesterday and it's a memory I will cherish until the day I die, and I thank VH1 and those horrendous I LOVE THE (FILL IN 20th CENTURY DECADE HERE) shows for resurrecting that particular piece of footage. Man, am I glad I had the presence of mind to tape that episode!

Friday, April 24, 2009


Wonder Woman meets Wolfman Jack in what appears to be a disco! How did the world not implode? The only way this could have been any more "Seventies" is if it included the Bee Gees and Donny and Marie skiing down a mountain of cocaine in hot pursuit of Bigfoot and the Six-Million Dollar Man.



A direct sequel to the events in HULK: RAGING THUNDER, this one opens with Lyra crash-landing from the future smack dab onto Park Avenue and immediately getting into a violent confrontation with the forces of A.R.M.O.R., a S.H.I.E.L.D.-like agency that monitors incursions from alternate realities (your tax dollars at work!). But, wait a minute... Who the hell is this "Lyra" anyway? She's the "all-new Savage She-Hulk," hailing from the same alternate future that gave the Marvel Universe Thundra, a "femizon" warrior woman thought up by a a creative team — Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway — that didn't quite get what Women's Liberation was about (it was 1972, after all).

Thundra the Femizon (art by Frank Cho)
Kinda/sorta Marvel's answer to Wonder Woman, Thundra came back in time from her warlike, female-dominated future to defeat the mightiest of present-day Earth's male heroes, thus theoretically sending a message to the males of her time, and the guy she chose as her whipping boy was none other than eternal underdog Ben Grimm, aka the Thing out of the Fantastic Four (you know him; he's the rocky orange guy in the diaper). While anyone with half a brain could tell you Thundra could have easily found much tougher opponents against whom to make her point — the Hulk and Thor would have been first on my list of candidates — the truth of the matter was that she found Ben attractive and wanted to sex him up. After whipping the living monkey-snot out of him on several occasions, Thundra and Ben settled into a friendly relationship and the Femizon went on to pop up in occasional guest-shots, most recently and notably in HULK: RAGING THUNDER, where she once more came back in time and harvested some DNA from the Hulk (not in a way that would have been fun, mind you).

Anyway, that's your necessary background info, and Lyra is the genetically-engineered offspring of the Incredible Hulk and Thundra.

So now Lyra's running around wreaking havoc in modern day New York City, on a quest to find the greatest male hero of the age for reasons as yet unspecified. All we know is that in her future world, there's some kind of problem with "the Cradle," the lab system that allows the Femizons to breed test tube daughters, causing it to generate embryos with hideous deformities, so it looks like Lyra's quest is to in some way gather more super-DNA to ensure the future of her people. But standing in her way is former-Green Goblin and still full-time asshole Norman Osborn, who's apparently now the Marvel Universe's answer to Lex Luthor as well as being the leader of the Dark Avengers (a bunch of assorted superhuman mental-defectives and psychos), and a "specialist" called in by the head of A.R.M.O.R.: Jennifer Walters, better known as the present-day She-Hulk. The first issue ends with the arrival of Jennifer Walters, and I was sufficiently entertained enough to want to read further. This ain't deep stuff, but it's old school marvel fun all the way, and considering much of what that company's foisted upon an innocent general public for the past several years, I'm happy with anything decent I can have from them.


Once the imprint-wide "Secret Invasion" storyline got underway I pretty much stopped reading the majority of Marvel books — with the notable exception of THE INCREDIBLE HERCULES, but more on that soon enough — and as a result I missed a Skrull-planted virus causing all Stark technology around the globe to fail (including Tony Stark's personal Extremis armor), the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. (and Stark's ousting as its director), and the now Lex Luthor-like Norman Osborn starting up his own alleged peace-keeping force (H.A.M.M.E.R.) and blaming Stark for the Skrull invasion, a state of affairs that renders Stark and former S.H.I.E.L.D. deputy director Maria Hill fugitives. Stark then sets out to destroy all of his worldwide armories before the tech can fall into the wrong hands and gives the reins of Stark Industries to his good right arm, Pepper Potts, a character whose much-needed movie-related boost looks like it has carried over to the comics. As Pepper steps up, she finds that Tony has left her a special gift: her very own suit of Stark armor. When I saw the cover featuring what's clearly a female variant on the Iron Man armored template I was intrigued, so I checked out "Previously..." section to get brought up to speed and was prompted to buy this and the next issue based on the shot of Pepper discovering her made-just-for-her suit of armor:

Needless to say, Pepper suits up and embarks on her training, aided by in-suit sentient computer Jarvis, something I would have loved to witness but, in typical Marvel fashion, the most interesting plot thread is interrupted by returning to the Stark-on-the-run story. Going around the world to render his armors useless before they fall into the wrong hands… Um, wasn’t that more or less the plot of “Armor Wars (1987-1988)?” Whatever; I’ve seen it before and I’m not terribly interested in it, and as if that isn’t bad enough they also throw in the Controller, a villain I’ve been profoundly bored by since I first read about him in a Jim Starlin issue of CAPTAIN MARVEL thirty-some-odd years ago. The sole item of interest here other than Pepper armoring up is Osborn asking the Sub-Mariner to kindly do him the favor of killing Tony Stark, to which Namor answers, “Gladly,” thus guaranteeing me reading the next chapter.


Pepper continues breaking in her Mark 1616 armor — which features a 96,000-song playlist! — with impressive results (she’s a natural), discovering in the process that her gear is designed solely for “heavy rescue and recovery” — meaning it’s purely defensive/protective and features absolutely no weapons — but her efforts draw the attention of Norman Osborn, who has her unceremoniously arrested after she single-handedly saves an airliner from crashing (after it was ordered shot down by Osborn in order to test her suit’s capabilities). After that Pepper’s out of this issue and the rest of its content revolves around a gratuitous and not very interesting Stark/Namor battle that amounts to nothing, more boredom as the Controller subjugates Agent Hill with one of his back-of-the-neck disc thingies, and Norman Osborn offering a billion Euros in gold to the first super-powered mercenary to place the severed head of Tony Stark on his desk. I like that last bit of setup and love the Pepper Potts arc, so I’ll be back next month. And if Pepper is to be christened with a superhero name I’d say “Iron Maiden” was a given, but is that still under copyright to the folks who currently hold the rights to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents? If so, I hope they and Marvel can work something out.


Is this Marvel's best ongoing book? I can't answer that since I don't read many Marvel books these days (with good reason), but I'd vote it the most entertaining. Consistently good on all fronts, it's a welcome throwback to the days when Marvel books contained equal parts characterization, action and humor, and I eagerly await each new issue. This chapter gives us more Olympian family dysfunction as Hera somehow manages to be even more of bitch than ever, the origin of Athena is recounted, and our hapless trio of Hercules, Athena and Amadeus Cho are caught between the out-for-blood factions of Hera (who's backed-up with an assortment of Greek mythological badasses) and Norman Osborn's mentally-unstable Dark Avengers.


The battle that was about to kick off at the end of the previous chapter ignites in earnest, and the rest of the issue is nothing but a fun and out-of-control melee that includes my choice for winner of "Comic Book Dialogue of the Year." Can't wait for the next issue!


I first read the proposal for this series some seven years ago during my time in Vertigo editorial and even then I could tell it was a dog. How's this for a concept intended for publication from what's supposed to be the most "cutting edge" imprint in American comics: What if the Beatles were superheroes?


No, seriously. That's about how much thought went into this turd and the results serve to point out just conceptually bankrupt it is. I thought it sucked back in 2002 and I stand firm in that opinion, but feeling sorrow at the considerable talents of Glenn (SLAINE) Fabry being wasted on six issues of such mindless, boring dreck whose script literally fizzles out before the reader's eyes. Though not the most pointless and worthless project ever shat out by Vertigo, GREATEST HITS is a near-total waste of time, money and trees that I urge you to avoid when its inevitable trade paperback collection comes out (probably within a month). They print shit like this when they could put out a collected edition of the excellent and woefully neglected FINALS... I just don't understand the thought process.


One of the headlining strips in the UK's ultra-tasteless and delightfully offensive VIZ humor magazine, THE FAT SLAGS chronicles the drunken adventures of two corpulent , chip-scarfing nymphomaniacs, Sandra Burke and Tracey Tunstall — better known as San and Tray — and this collection gives readers a good look at the series' general grotty tropes. Quite accurately described on the cover as "An All-New Orgy of Sex, Chips & Swearing," it's nothing but the girls engaging in sleazy adventures for page-upon-page, and much of it is quite funny if you enjoy unrelentingly-vulgar humor (which I certainly do). Vile, sophomoric and at times downright stupid, the girls' adventures remind me of a less-sophisticated version of the kind of thing Shary (TROTS & BONNIE) Flenniken used to do for NATIONAL LAMPOON back in the days, especially a story entitled "The Pudding Club," in which San discovers she's pregnant by one of her innumerable pickups and carries the baby to term. While holding her newborn daughter in her arms, San vows to be a good mother and give her little one everything she never had when she was growing up, but that fleeting moment of maternal concern flies out the window when Tray reminds her pal that she can't go hanging out in pubs anymore now that she's got a kid. Realizing she'll have to stay at home and actually look after her daughter for the next eighteen years, San exclaims, "Eh?...Stay in...? Fuck that!" and immediately demands the nurse to take the kid away and put it up for adoption. Ah, nothing like a comic that celebrates traditional British family values...


I reviewed the first issue of KICK-ASS when it came out and absolutely hated it with a loathing usually reserved for child-molesters or Nazi war criminals, vowing never to spend cash on another issue. Since I wrote those words I've found gratis copies of each subsequent issue of KICK-ASS in the stacks of comics I receive from various industry sources — IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER! No, I'm not selling the non-keepers on eBay; I give them away to the guys who run the Hispanic meat market around the corner from my apartment building (Chato's a huge fan of 100 BULLETS) — and have read each one, still finding no fault with John Romita Jr.'s art (although Hit-Girl's head is lollipop-on-a-stick disproportionate to her body) and still thinking Mark Millar is doing nothing worthy of the acclaim the book continues to garner (to say nothing of the book already landing a movie deal based on the strength of said kudos). The one thing I like in the entire narrative is the lethal team of Hit-Girl and Big Daddy, a pair that brings to mind what would have happened if the Punisher had adopted Dick Grayson, and this issue provides readers with their backstory. It's nothing we haven't seen before — elements of Hit-Girl's formative years read a lot like what Garth Ennis came up with for Tulip O'Hare in PREACHER, a story still quite fresh in the memory since it came out only a decade ago — but this issue gets my vote as the most genuinely entertaining thus far, and the cliff-hanger does have me curious to see how the characters get out of the situation they're stuck in.


This first volume of the Punisher collecting the stuff that came after Garth Ennis' excellent four-year run was something of a disappointment for me following the character-rich work Garth turned in issue-after-issue, returning Frank Castle to an implacable juggernaut of destruction who merely wanders from one violent encounter to another. Admittedly, crime novelist Greg Hurwitz has a very tough act to follow and I've definitely read worse, but the Punisher didn't emotionally register with me here, leaving Laurence Campbell's capable art to hold my attention. I'll give THE PUNISHER one more story arc to convince me to stay or drop it, but if it continues with this volumes tone I think I'm gonna bail.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Delphyne the Gorgon: badass, queen of the Amazons, and winner of the Vault's award for Comic Book Dialogue of the Year.

Like many of you who take a bus or train to work, I do most of my comics reading during my daily commute and every now and then I read a bit of dialogue that makes me laugh my ass off. This morning's example comes from the latest issue of Marvel's THE INCREDIBLE HERCULES (#128 to be precise), in which teenage (relatively speaking; she's apparently immortal) and cute mythological Gorgon chick Delphyne declares to Hawkeye (actually Bullseye desecrating the memory of Hawkeye as one of Norman Osborn's Dark Avengers):

"I am not Greek. I am Amazon. And I was whetting my sword with mercenary scum like you since before my first period."

Now that's a badassed line. Too bad there's no way DC would have ever let Gail Simone write Wonder Woman saying something like that...

THE INCREDIBLE HERCULES #128 (written by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente)



Since discovering them at an admittedly too-young-to-be-reading-such-stuff age, I have adored underground comics, a genre and term rendered more or less superfluous since the indie comics boom of the 1980's and the wider acceptance of what kind of material creators can openly get away with nowadays. Those generally-better-drawn descendants of the Tijuana Bibles were filled with graphic depictions of sex, violence and the doing of illicit drugs, to say nothing of political statements such as anti-war sentiments and the first real unfettered expression to be had by female cartoonists, and from their pages sprang such now-legendary artists as Trina Robbins, Frank Stack (aka "Foolbert Sturgeon"), S. Clay Wilson, Shary Flenniken, Richard Corben (my vote for one of the five greatest American cartoonists of all time), Gilbert Shelton, Spain Rodriguez, the late Dori Seda, and of course Robert Crumb, just to name a very few. The works found in those heady pages crisscrossed every imaginable genre and allowed the creators' (and the readers') imaginations to run rampant, displaying a freedom unseen in comics up to their inception. This hardcover book features an introduction by Jay Lynch and four essays on the genre and its turbulent history by James Danky and Denis Kitchen, Patrick Rosenkranz, the aforementioned Trina Robbins, and Paul Buhrle, but the bulk of the edition is taken up by a fantastic gallery of plates shot from original underground comics art pages, with no retouching to hide any imperfections such as the paper yellowing with age, registration marks, Wite-Out and bits of tape. The unvarnished blemishes on display are wholly appropriate to the once-scurrilous works on exhibit, and seeing the pages as they really look drives home the fact that the reader is beholding genuine artifacts from a storied time that grows ever more distant with each passing year. RECOMMENDED.


Part 1 of "Deathtrap" follows the prelude found in TEEN TITANS ANNUAL #1 and immediately reveals the "big bad" to be none other than Jericho, the son of Deathstroke, a character I couldn't stand even during the halcyon days of Wolfman and Perez. Gifted with the ability to possess and control the bodies of others, Jericho is now apparently insane and quite neurotic over been deemed a pussy and a failure by his father, so now he seeks to kill anyone who was ever a Titan, Teen or otherwise, and in this chapter he murders an unidentified redhead whom I think is Lilith, a Seventies-era Titan with precognitive and other mental abilities. Meanwhile, the Titans, realizing Cyborg had been possessed by Jericho and forced to try to kill the Teen Titans, set out to capture Jericho and get him some deeply-needed psychological help, and for some reason they figure they need the help of Vigilante, who is also on Jericho's trail. But first they must lure Vigilante, a known killer, into showing himself, so they use Cyborg as bait (as far as Vigilante knows, Cyborg is still possessed by Jericho). The issue ends with Vigilante blowing Cyborg's brains out at point blank range, but no drama is generated since we've seen Vic seemingly get killed before, only to be repaired and upgraded within an issue or two, so who cares?


I have no idea who felt there needed to be a Solomon Grundy mini-series, but here it is and as near as I can tell thus far, it's meant to be a "monster of the month" slugfest. Undead DCU Hulk analog Solomon Grundy is once more reborn and this time he changes back and forth from a human form, just like the Hulk. The mostly-uninvolving first issue features guest appearances of the Phantom Stranger and Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern, but neither of them do anything of much interest. The real action here is a too-brief battle with the demon Etrigan that serves a a direct segue into the next issue's fight with Bizarro. As all of this goes on, there's a flashback thread illustrating the origins of Grundy, but those details kind of derail the rest of the proceedings, leaving what remains as a mediocre mess.


A slight improvement over the previous chapter, this one continues the Etrigan fight only to have it interrupted by Alan Scott, causing Etrigan to leave with a promise to have his revenge on the codger Green Lantern for ruining his fun; let's face it, I don't care how fucking bad Grundy may be, he's no match for one of Hell's toughest and meanest combatants. Plus, Etrigan can breathe fire, ferfucksake! Anyway, Bizarro shows up — impressively drawn by Scott Kolins, whose work on THE FLASH I never liked — and the expected fight ensues, only with an unexpected and kinda fun denouement... Looks like Poison Ivy's in the next issue, so we'll see where this goes.


I hate, hate, HATE multi-part crossover stories that force me to read comics I have intentionally not been reading, and now FABLES launches "The Great FABLES Crossover" with this first of nine (!!!) parts spread over three series. I would be unwilling to bother with this if it weren't being written by Bill Willingham, but even with that in mind I still object to being roped into reading JACK OF FABLES for any reason, the monthly FABLES spinoff that started out okay but swiftly proved to be an annoying one-trick pony. But anyway, this first chapter starts off well with a bloody battle between Bigby Wolf and the Beast (as in "Beauty and the...") that appears to have been provoked by the influence of the evil Mister Dark, whose baleful emanations reach from the ruins of Fabletown all the way to the upstate location of the Farm. Dark's presence also has a direct and deadly effect on the populace of New York City, causing the city to quite literally "turn bad," meaning murders, assaults and instances of people disappearing have gone through the roof. Realizing his primal and supernaturally-animalistic nature could loom totally out of control, King Cole dispatches Bigby and Snow White on a mission to discover if the threat of the Literals — beings who can apparently rewrite the existence of the Fables — is indeed real and not just a scam concocted by the frequently untrustworthy Jack, he of the spinoff book. The last time Jack warned his people of a threat, specifically the invasion of Gepetto's wooden soldiers, the Fables didn't believe him and consequently paid a terrible price, so we'll have to see where this goes when it continues in JACK OF FABLES # 33. Jesus H. Christ, I can't believe that book has lasted so long!


When Barry Allen was supposedly killed waaaaaay back in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS (back in 1986 or thereabouts), I was one of the very few hardcore comics fans who was actually glad to see the Silver Age Flash go. Many of the revamped DC heroes who were resurrected during the 1950's and early Sixties were a bland and interchangeable group of whitebread defenders of the status quo, distinguishable only by their costumes and super-powers, so I had little fondness for any of them and genuinely felt their time was pretty much over by the mid-Eighties. Marvel's neurotic breed of heroes pretty much rendered DC's staid stable a bunch of crew-cut dinosaurs, and when DC's universe of multiple Earths was deemed too unwieldy and in desperate need of paring down, CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS was brought into being. That series cut a huge swath through just shy of fifty years of continuity, killing off characters by the score, most notably taking Supergirl and the Flash. I won't go into all the changes and redefinings the events of that series wrought, but it supposedly killed of Barry Allen and I, like every comics fan worth their salt, naturally assumed he'd be back within six months since death in the comics is notoriously impermanent. Well, to the surprise of everyone, Barry Allen stayed dead as Wally West, his former protegee — and hero in his own right as Kid Flash — assumed the mantle of the Flash and held onto it for the next twenty-three years. Now, in the wake of the events of the alleged FINAL CRISIS, Barry is back and in the hands of the creative team that made the relaunch of GREEN LANTERN so much fun and a damned good read on a monthly basis. As previously stated, I never cared for Barry Allen (my Flash of choice was Jay Garrick, with Wally West coming in a close second), but with Geoff Johns writing and Ethan Van Sciver doing the scribblin', I'm all over this like ugly on Gorilla Grodd! When Barry Allen returns from his years-long marathon within the Speed Force (if you don't know about the Flash and other speedsters, just bear with me on this), he finds himself a man in a world much faster than the one he left behind, and his clear-cut sense of black & white right and wrong with no shades of gray makes him something of a living anachronism. To say more would spoil the fun, but I will say I was quite pleased with the initial chapter and can't wait to see where this goes and what it will mean for both Barry and Wally. My only complaint is that if ever there was a first issue that needed to be 48-pages long, this is it. RECOMMENDED.


The prelude to the "Blackest Night" arc continues with part three of "Emerald Eclipse," and as interim chapters go it's pretty good. Mongul's takeover of the planet Daxam continues, aided by members of the Sinestro Corps working as his enforcers, and Green Lanterns Arisia and Sodam Yat face the daunting task of figuring out just how they can save the planet (good luck with that one!). Meanwhile, Soranik Natu and Iolande attempt to institute a "new dawn" on Natu's home planet, Korugar, following the defeat of Sinestro, but that plan hits a major snag when the supposedly incarcerated former "greatest of the Green Lanterns" arrives for a heart-to-heart with his daughter (meaning Natu). Unlike a lot of comics out there, things happen in GREEN LANTERN CORPS that serve to keep the multi-character stories moving at a brisk and entertaining pace, so when you give me a fun soap opera involving extraterrestrial heroes and their personal and professional trials and tribulations, you can count on me being around for the duration. And one thing I've meant to mention for some time: since this book got off the ground I've become a staunch supporter of artist Patrick Gleasons' work, enjoying it very much thanks to his characters all having very individual looks and a certain fleshy weight that makes them seem more alive than many of their four-color contemporaries. I particularly like his handling of Kilowog, Sodam Yat and Soranik Natu, and I hope his tenure on this book is a long and successful one. Patrick, I think you rock, and I am one hard-to-please motherfucker. Marvel could have used you on a reboot of one of their "cosmic" books, like WARLOCK or CAPTAIN MARVEL.

My girl Soranik Natu: surgeon, newbie Green Lantern, daughter of Sinestro, terrific character. (Art by Patrick Gleason, from GREEN LANTER: RECHARGE #5)


The cheaply-produced phone book-sized B&W reprint volumes keep on coming, and this one is a real treat for those who've never been exposed to the Silver Age run of the Doom Patrol. By far the weirdest heroes in the mainstream DCU, the Doom Patrol were a quartet of misfits with great abilities, but each was hampered by some form of physical infirmity or perceived "horribleness" of self that prevented them from fitting in and being accepted by the world at large. Led by a genius named Niles Caulder, aka the wheelchair-confined "Chief," the Doom Patrol consisted of Robotman (formerly race car driver Cliff Steele, whose body was destroyed in a terrible racetrack accident, only to have his brain transplanted into a super-strong robotic body), Negative Man (pilot Larry Trainor, who met with a bizarre radioactive phenomenon and gained the ability to project a super-powered radioactive shadow-self from his body for limited amounts of time, but must stay forever swathed in special bandages to prevent his radioactivity from contaminating everything around him), and Elasti-Girl (actress Rita Farr, who could shrink or grow at will), a group who saved the world over and over again, all while neurotically considering themselves pitiful "freaks." Their adventures and opponents were every bit as bizarre as the Doom Patrol themselves, and these old school stories possess a quaint sense of charm and fun that's quite in fictious, plus how can you not love one of the greatest and most underrated villainous duos of all time, namely the Brain (literally a megalomaniacal brain in a container) and the machine gun-wielding, French-accented gorilla, Monsieur Mallah? If you've experienced Grant Morrison's legendary Vertigo take on the Doom Patrol, you owe it to yourself to check out the building blocks from which that lysergic tapestry grew. RECOMMENDED.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


As I continue catching up on my regular comics reading following finishing THE COMPLETE TERRY AND THE PIRATES, here are some more reviews:


So it's Marvel's seventieth anniversary and they quite appropriately decided to put out the first good Sub-Mariner comic since SUB-MARINER: REVOLUTION (the less said about that piece of shit SUB-MARINER: THE DEPTHS, the better). Harking back to Prince Namor's early days, namely the time just before America entered WWII, this special gives us three fun tales from the Avenging Son's youth, two of which are new and detail the moments when Namor focused his blanket hatred of humanity to a tight focus on the Axis powers. The first story is written by professional Golden Age booster Roy Thomas and details a disastrous Nazi attempt at recruiting Namor into the service of Der Vaterland; arrogant bigot though he may be, Namor takes considerable offense at the Nazi theory that they are superior to "lower" groups like blacks and Jews and are therefore justified in whatever heinous behavior they choose to commit, and sinks a U-boat full of the Sieg-Heiling vermin, including a beautiful Hitler-dispatched agent whose unterhosen drenches at the thought of taking a ride on the prince's torpedo. The second story, "Vergeltungswaffe!," is written by Mark (XENOZOIC TALES) Schultz and drawn by living legend Al Williamson and relates another tale of Namor's early strikes against the Third Reich, this time rescuing an American aviatrix while taking out a missile testing facility on a remote island. The last story is another reprinting of the 1939 version of the Sub-Mariner's origin as concocted by his creator, the late Bill Everett, and it's a great bit of fun that establishes the character as an anti-hero from the get-go. This special is a solid bit of fun, and if you ask me that's what comics are all about.


Gratuitous (though well-drawn!) cleavage cover notwithstanding, the adventures of the post-BIRDS OF PREY Barbara Gordon continue as her search for Cheese Fiend's murderer brings her to a cadre of top-flight computer hackers in Hong Kong. Good stuff, but I suggest waiting for the inevitable collected edition; this kind of thing simply reads better in the long form.


The world's bleakest comic magazine brings yet more gore, violence and zombie misery. This time the ragtag band of survivors must flee what would have been a perfect haven in which to settle down, thanks to the all-too-close threat of a two-thousand strong herd of flesh-eating undead, a retreat that doesn't go down too well and sows further resentment against former-cop Rick... It's good stuff, but I'm starting to lean toward waiting for this to come out in collections instead of buying it month to month. THE WALKING DEAD in individual chapters is a criminally-fast read and it's over before you know it, so a solid book's-worth is probably the way to go.


I swear to Zoad, if I have to read the cover blurb "Meet the New Teen Titans" one more goddamned time... Frankly, I've found much of what's gone on with the Teen Titans since the Wolfman/Perez days to be unworthy of much attention, but since the two latest issues were in my stack I figured, "Why the hell not?" Picking up right where the TERROR TITANS mini-series left off (apparently another entry into the "superheroes press-ganged into unwilling gladiatorial combat" genre, which I did not read), we once again get a shaking-up of the team's lineup and since I find few of the post-original Teen Titans interesting in the least, I really didn't care who stayed or left. I despise the new Blue Beetle (I wasn't much of a fan of his previous versions either, if truth be told), can't stand the so-called Wonder Girl (her mere existence in the same world as Donna Troy offends me), and find the new Aquagirl and dykey hardcase Bombshell to be a couple of non-entities, but I do like Miss Martian (filling the teams "sunny innocent" role vacated by Starfire) and am kind of intrigued to see what will be done with Static and the Vertigo-ized version of Kid Eternity, so this issue's as good a place as any to jump on and see if anything of interest happens. It's well-written enough and the art's quite nice, so that helps considerably. And don't think I forgot to mention the now-powerless Kid Demon; he sucks, but let's see how he gets along with nothing but his pitiful original costume and an energy-spewing trident.


This is what, the eleventy-seventh first Teen Titans annual? Whatever the case, this picks up right after TEEN TITANS #69 and is the prelude to "Deathtrap," a five-part crossover that I may or not bother with since I'm indifferent to the Titans and loathe crossover stories. All you need to know about this issue is that Titans Towers goes lethal Danger Room on its inhabitants and all hell breaks loose, To Be Continued in TITANS #12 (the book featuring the former-Teen Titans whom I cared about during the Wolfman/Perez days). The art's nice, but the narrative kickoff has me only slightly interested in what happens next.


Considering the totally contradictory fates of the caped Crusader found in the Grant Morrison-penned "R.I.P. Batman" and FINAL CRISIS story arcs, I'm amazed at how entertaining I found this followup. With the Batman presumed dead (yeah, right!), Gotham City pretty much becomes a demilitarized zone as criminals of all stripes come out of the woodwork and go totally fucking apeshit. The entirety of the Batman Family, led by Nightwing, do their best to keep things in check, but as shit begins to get too thick it becomes apparent that somebody has to assume the mantle of the Batman so the Gotham underworld will once more have something tangible to fear. But who's gonna step up? What does the Black Mask have planned when he demolishes Arkham Asylum after turning loose its notoriously-dangerous inmates? And who is the guns-a-blazin' homicidal maniac who claims to be the new Batman?


The identity of the homicidal "Batman" is revealed (anyone who's read Batman comics since 1985 will have figured that one out), the Black Mask ups the ante, a war is orchestrated between the Penguin and Two-Face (my money's on Cobblepot). and Tim Drake dons the old school Batman costume, only to meet with a very nasty turn of events. If this is how good the Batman books can be without their starring character, I think it says a lot about the current state of the Dark Knight's comics and I say leave his ass allegedly blown up or stuck in Anthro's prehistoric world or whatever for the foreseeable future. At fist I thought a Bruce Wayne-less Gotham would be even less worth reading than it had been for years, but I'm very glad to be proven wrong.