Sunday, November 30, 2008

Looking Forward to Wednesday (12-3-2008)

Actually due to the Thanksgiving holiday, new releases will be out on Thursday 12-4 and I won’t be able to get my books until Friday, so reviews will not be up until Friday night or Saturday. Click below for the books I'll be picking up.

Marvel Comics :

Secret Invasion #8 : This event has been pretty blah for me but I’ll stick it out to the end (which is now here). Not as smart, in my opinion, as Final Crisis but definitely more action packed.

X-Men Noir #1 : I really don’t know anything about this book but it’s a slow week for my regular titles and this sounds pretty cool so I’ll grab a copy.

DC Comics :

Batman #682 : I guess I wasn’t paying attention because I wasn’t expecting another issue of Batman so quickly. But, after last week’s puzzling “conclusion” to R.I.P., I’m hoping that this issue, also by Morrsion, will at least bring a little more closure to the story.

Justice Society of America #21 : The penultimate chapter of the Gog story. Look, I love pretty much everything Geoff Johns has done, but can we just get this over with already? I feel like Black Adam is hopping up and down in Johns’ brain yelling “Is it my turn yet??”

Other Publishers :

Nothing, although I may pick up Invincible Vol. 5.

Retro Review #4 - Identity Crisis

Story by Brad Meltzer
Art by Rags Morales
Covers by Michael Turner & Peter Steigerwald

Whenever I see this book on my trade shelf, Godfather Part 3 comes to mind. No not the whole disappointing film, mind you, but one scene in particular. Michael Corleone, having worked all of his life to legitimize his family business, speaks the following line : “Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.” This is the story that pulled me back in.

I was not following comic books for a long time. Yes, I would pick up a random trade paperback here and there to kill some time, but it never amounted to anything more. So I decided to renew my interest in the art form and my friend Shawn drew up a quick syllabus for “Catching Up With DC Comics 101”. First lesson : Brad Meltzer’s Identity Crisis.

One of my first thoughts after reading through a bit of this book was that comics had changed…a lot. Apparently, I thought, comics are attracting big name novel talent to write these stories and it definitely shows in the quality of this story. Identity Crisis at its core is a classic “whodunit” murder mystery. But this particular story is populated not by your standard jealous lover and shady police detectives, but by some of my favorite characters from the DC Universe.

Without giving too much away, the plot focuses not only on the heroes but their loved ones and the danger they live in just by being associated with them. The story begins with the brutal murder of one of these loved ones and the heroes have to balance personal loyalty and their heroic standards with revenge.

There is a ton of emotion flowing through this book. The funeral scene in the beginning is absolutely heart-wrenching, and the twists and turns will have you right alongside the harsh emotions that the main characters experience. Rags Morales has also drawn one of the best fight scenes, in my opinion, in modern comics. As a group of heroes arrive to confront one of the suspects in the murder, they discover that said suspect has hired a personal bodyguard : Deathstroke the Terminator. What follows is a 13 page fight sequence where Deathstroke single-handedly takes down 7 of the more experienced DC heroes, all without breaking a sweat.

The book’s end is a great surprise and, in my opinion, well worth the time. I have re-read this book I don’t know how many times in the past couple of years and I find new things almost every time. If you are just getting started in the DCU, this book is a fantastic jumping on point because it’s not rooted too deeply in continuity, and when they do reference older info they do a great job of explaining it. On the art side of things, Rags Morales does a phenomenal job of conveying emotion and the dark mood of the characters involved. This story is the beginning of a much darker time in the DCU and has repercussions still to this day.

One more point worth mentioning is the cover work by the late Michael Turner. I know that not everyone is a fan of his work, but you have to admit that the covers for the single issues are moving. My favorite being the cover to the final issue, where the hero’s costumes are hanging empty as if they’ve actually had enough and given up, with Green Lantern’s power ring lying on the ground. I was re-reading this book last August, a week or so before Turner’s passing, and the cover to #1 always stands out to me. We see a casket in the center, surrounded by mourning DC heroes, a tear running down Superman’s cheek. Michael Turner’s signature appears eerily close to the casket in a sort of unfortunate foreshadowing.

Recently my wife expressed interest in reading some DC Comics (years of subtle brainwashing at work) and this is definitely where I will start her journey. The tone of the book, for me, the dark and brooding acceptance of making tough choices for little reward and to serve the greater good can be summed up by a quote from Batman in the book : “ I chose this life. I know what I’m doing. And on any given day, I could stop doing it. Today, however isn’t that day and tomorrow won’t be either.”

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Short Attention Span Reviews 11-26-2008

This week we have quick reviews of JSA Kingdom Come Special : The Kingdom #1, Transformers : All Hail Megatron #5, and Superman #682

JSA Kingdom Come Special : The Kingdom #1 :

Finally! This story is picking up and getting interesting. Gog continues traveling across Africa towards Kahndaq (which will probably not go well), and continues to imbue his gifts on those that believe in him. The JSA gets split by belief and Atom Smasher is a badass. In the end, the other shoe drops and those that believe in Gog look at him just a little differently.

Transformers : All Hail Megatron #5

Another fabulous issue of this mini-series. The Decepticons continue their dominance and the Autobots begin to show just how bad their situation is. The humans attempt to step up their campaign as well with disastrous results. I love this book, and there’s even an appearance by the Matrix of Leadership. What’s that I hear? You’ve got the touch…….You’ve got the powerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!

Superman #682 (New Krypton Part 6)

I still don’t like Robinson’s dialog, it’s way too broken up and stammering for the most part. It’s almost like it dumbs everyone down. The art is very well done though and I do like where this plot is going. The Kryptonians begin to “clean up” Earth and of course some things don’t go as planned. A surprise appearance at the end keeps it interesting and I look forward to the next installment.

Comic Reviews - Batman #681

Batman #681 (R.I.P. Conclusion )

I’ve now read this comic 3 times since picking it up. I’ve checked out Timothy Callahan’s excellent annotations on the book to hopefully gain more understanding….and I’m still confused. I’m not confused in a bad way, but more in the way that I know that some things have been wrapped up, but am I still missing something?

This issue reads like the last 15 minutes of a big budget action film, there is tons of action and guest appearances and revelations. We do get closure on some of the plot threads…sort of and at the end we get a fairly blunt answer as to who will probably take over as Batman.

Click below to continue :

One big plus to this issue is the way the Joker comes out of the whole situation. The way he is written is just brilliant, and redeems himself from a few issues back where Dr. Hurt was referring to him as a servant. I hope they keep this incarnation of the Joker around for a while because I really like him. Although the way he gets taken out of the issue is very funny, and probably one of the only redeeming moments for BatBrat Damien.

Another shining moment is when Talia steps up to basically say, “No-one messes with my baby-daddy”, and unleashes her ninja man-bats on one of the Black Glove members.

Morrison does a great job of telling us what we all knew. Batman is ready for ANYTHING. He is prepared to an insane level. Where someone like Superman doesn’t need preparation because of his abilities, Batman appears to be super-human due to his levels of prep work. He created a backup personality like I create a backup CD for my computer in case it crashes!!!!! Come on, who thinks of that?

A few quick questions I’m left with after this issue :

1. Just who the hell is Dr. Hurt???? I’ll keep re-reading this but I’m confused.
2. Does everyone now know that Bruce is (was) Batman? It seems for a while he was running around in his costume without the cowl.
3. Is it just me or does Zur En Arrh sound a lot like Zorro in Arkham? When Bruce’s father says this at the end it seems to tie in all too well.

(UPDATE) : OK, after thinking about it and sleeping on it, I’m going back to my theory that Bruce is the leader of the Black Glove and all of these personalities, Sur en Arrh Batman, the Black Glove, and even regular Batman are defense mechanismas so he can deal with extraordinary situations. I’m now wondering if Alfred will actually discover that Bruce is the Black Glove as he’s reminiscing in the upcoming issues.

All in all, I liked this issue and I enjoyed the R.I.P. story as a whole. Will I need to re-read Morrison’s entire run to understand this more? Probably. Do I think that Morrison left a lot of questions unanswered? Absolutely, but you can’t answer every question and tie everything up neatly. We’ll see what happens in the next month or two and then apparently Final Crisis #6 will give us the final answer as to Batman’s fate, because I’m VERY confused about the timeline now.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Retro Review #3 - JLA : Earth 2

JLA : Earth 2 (2000)

Story by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quitely

To attempt to nip any confusion in the bud, this is not a story about DC's current continuity Earth-2 where Power Girl and Kal-L were from during Infinite Crisis. The Earth 2 mentioned here is our regular pre-Infinite Crisis DC Earth, named Earth 2 from the perspective of the Crime Syndicate (which now inhabit Earth-3 post-Infinite Crisis) but is also referred to here as the Anti-Matter Universe but not where Qward is if you're familiar with Sinestro's home base and birthplace of the Anti-Monitor. Confused ?? Welcome to the wonderful world of Grant Morrison.

If you have the ability to read certain stories as out-of-continuity tales that don't have to tie in to everything else, then you will lessen your confusion with this book and heighten your enjoyment. If you think too much about it here, your brain will begin to throb.

We begin the book looking at a dark and evil version of the JLA's Watchtower moonbase (I miss the moonbase). There are some familiar sillhouettes standing around talking about how "he" escaped. The "he" they speak of is none other than Alexander Luthor, not the Alex Luthor from Earth-3 (and not my future son Alexander Luthor Manger), but a hero version of Luthor. This Lex is apparently the lone hero in a world where evil rules and good struggles daily. But, good or evil, Lex is still Lex with one of my favorite lines. As he crashes to Earth in his ship, very Superman-esque, he is discovered by some nice farmers. When one of them asks if he's human as he removes his helmet, he replies "My dear country cousin, you are human...I am Luthor."

Luthor has come to our Earth in an attempt to recruit a group of our heroes, consisting of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Kyle Rayner (I still can't call him Green Lantern...I'm sorry I can't) to fight the villains that run his world. The Crime Syndicate of Amerika, obviously evil due to their lack of spell-check, consisting of Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Johnny Quick, and Power Ring rule over the populace with an iron fist. This is graphically demonstrated as Ultraman is on the deck of his giant floating fortress looking down at the peons when one of them decides to speak out against him. A quick shot of heat vision quells the one-man uprising with lethal efficiency.

I have always liked the Crime Syndicate characters as long as they're not overused or written as camp, and I think Morrison writes them well in this book. The main point of the story, to me, is to get our heroes to realize that they can't win all of the battles, and they have to say at one point "What have we done?" in order to realize that in some situations, interfering with the staus quo with good intentions doesn't always end well.

There are plenty of great scenes where our hero's opposites prove just how opposite they really are. Some of my personal favorites include Superwoman (Lois Lane) changing into her costume in a closet in full view of a cowering Jimmy Olsen in a definite dominatrix role compared to Superman's buddy role with Olsen, Johnny Quick's dependence on a speed-enhancing drug, and Power Ring's utter loathing of his ring which he views as a curse. Luthor steps up as well. As he enters his office on our Earth (after abducting our Luthor) he proceeds to divert weapons research funding to Greenpeace, give the Lexcorp employees a 300% raise, and sends his secretary on an $80,000 vacation.

The book is a quick read and there are some decent twists near the end that keep it interesting. The writing by Morrison keeps things moving at a good pace and the art by Quitely is up to par for the most part. My biggest issue with Quitely is that everyone in this book looks stumpy and overly bulky. Not quite Ed McGuiness proportions, but it's like watching something made for standard TVs on a widescreen TV...everything's just a little off. In one panel, Kyle Rayner appears to be about 8 feet tall when compared to some regular guys standing around. I am also not a big fan of his Wonder Woman, she looks waaaay too butch.

Lastly, I am mildly upset that there was no Anti-Universe Aquaman. I would have enjoyed seeing an Aquaman who hates sea creatures and helps whaling vessels by lifting the whales onto their decks so they don't scratch their harpoons, he would also lure dolphins into fishing nets just for laughs. Just a thought :-) This book is great for a quick read and as I said before, please don't get wrapped up too much in continuity on this one.

- Jason (Anti-Aquaman can also punch holes in oil tankers to pollute the ocean...OK I'll drop it)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Looking Forward to Wednesday (11/26/08)

Comics I'll be picking up this Wednesday November 26, 2008

Marvel Comics :


DC Comics :

Batman #681 : This is it, supposedly the end of R.I.P. This issue is a critical point for me. So far just about every Morrison story that I’ve read that has lost momentum or confused the hell out of me has redeemed itself in the very end, so we’ll see how this goes. There is an awful lot to wrap up in one issue though.

JSA Kingdom Come Special : The Kingdom #1 – Two for two so far with these specials. Hopefully it can keep this momentum going. Written by Geoff Johns so that’s already a plus. Can this man do any wrong? J

Superman #682 : New Krypton continues, this story has been good so far. Not great, but we’ll see what happens.

Wonder Woman #26 : The last arc wasn’t all that much to write home about but I do enjoy Gail Simone’s writing and Aaron Lopresti’s art. They will be introducing the character of Genocide (supposedly Wonder Woman’s Doomsday) soon which I am interested to see.

Other Publishers :

Transformers : All Hail Megatron #5 : This book has been the most enjoyable comic I’ve read in a while. Every issue is just packed full of Decepticon Generation 1 goodness, and now the Autobots are beginning to show up.

Transhuman #4 : The end of last issue kind of threw me off a bit. The first two issues and most of the third were fantastic. Let’s see where they take this and then I’ll see where I stand. Lots of dark humor in this book which is right up my alley.

Also, if memory serves me correctly, the Previews catalog comes out this week so I'll be posting some quick thoughts on what you can find inside the Ultimate Comic Geek Catalog.

Comics and Kids

Following on one of my big points in my last article, here is a story that my wife told me regarding comic books and kids. She is a pre-school teacher and since many of her kids have all sorts of Batman & Spiderman toys and backpacks and clothes, she asked if there were any good kid's comics that she could put in her class to get the kids more interested in reading.

When she was hanging with me at my LCS we grabbed a few issues of DC's SuperFriends and Tiny Titans for the kids to check out. The kids LOVE these books and were very excited to have them in their classroom.

The other day two future comic geeks were arguing over who could read an issue of Tiny Titans and one came up with a King Solomon-esque solution that would satisfy them both. He ripped out a bunch of the pages from the book, handed them to the other and said "Here, you can have this part." Liz (my wife) laughed and cringed, having witnessed me carefully bag and board all of my comics before they go into storage.

My point, yet again, is : These are comic books everyone. Cheap entertainment for all ages :-)

- Jason (honestly if I was there I would have cringed)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fanboy Rage

I was posting a comment under one of my reviews at today and I started a whole tangent of thought that I decided to capture here.

Lately there has been massive amounts of fanboy rage directed at the comics industry, with DC Comics taking the brunt of this animosity. Some of the key points being attacked are : Dan DiDio and his alleged inability to run DC Comics to fanboy standards, artist and writer changes on key stories, comics pricing, and shipping schedules (i.e. comics arriving later than their proposed shipping dates).

Throughout this article I’ll be playing Devil’s Advocate. I’m not saying that these things don’t upset me, but a recurring theme throughout my thoughts is : “Come on people, these are comic books”.

We’ll start our discussion with the perceived “destroyer” of DC Comics right now, Senior VP & Executive Editor Dan DiDio. I do not envy this man’s job at all. But, the key word in that statement is “job”. There are tons of video and text interviews with Mr. DiDio on the net, I recommend going out to find some of them and check them out. In fact, he has a new bi-weekly feature on Newsarama where he answers fan questions in what I feel is an honest fashion. He has to wrangle together artists, writers, production, editorial and all of the other departments to produce comics that are enjoyable and on time AND answer to a huge corporation that backs DC (Warner Brothers). Being an artist and writer, I’m not an easy person to “wrangle”, just ask my wife.

The problem with his job is that when one of these many parts slows down or fails, the blame falls completely on him. I’m not saying that he is completely free of blame, but let’s give the guy a chance here. I know at my job, if one of my people screws up guess who gets yelled at (I’ll give you a big hint : ME). I respect DiDio’s attempts at changing the status quo and shaking things up with the big name characters, it’s what keeps comic books interesting.

As expected, the on-time thing doesn’t always work out because, and this might surprise some people, comics take TIME to produce, it’s an art form. The day that we start being more concerned with putting out bland stories and art according to a corporate schedule rather than putting out fantastic stories and art that will be remembered and re-read for a long time is when I get out of comic books altogether.

Time to bring this in for a landing from atop my high horse. I wasn’t reading comic books when the now perceived epitome of event books, Crisis on Infinite Earths, came out but was there the same amount of fan backlash back then? I know the internet and anonymous board postings add fuel to the fire now, but I bet the same criticism of these “status quo” changing stories were around then and now look at how COIE is viewed in the DC canon.

In the end, it’s comic books people, you know that people can be re-born or resurrected, you can have another big event to re-change the status quo yet again, these things happen. And as far as stories, let the storytellers finish their story before ripping them apart. You don't like where Grant Morrison is taking Batman in R.I.P. ? Show your opinion by not buying it. The medium, as a whole, cannot move forward without people attempting new things and unfortunately sometimes failing or not pleasing everyone.

- Jason

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Comic Book Reviews (Updated) - 11/19/2008

I haven't come up with a clever name yet for the Reviews articles but I will be posting some Short Attention Span reviews tomorrow. And without further Apu (I've been zinged!)....

Supergirl #35 (New Krypton Part 5)

OK, it’s official, I have now enjoyed two issues of Supergirl in a row. I have approached this title as one might approach a cute dog that has bitten you before. Much apprehension and some hope that it will just sit there and let you pet it.

Part 5 of New Krypton gives us some insight (and retconning, albeit well done retconning) of Supergirl’s past. We also get and explanation of how she ended up on Earth in the Superman / Batman books encased in a Kryptonite meteor.

The art and writing are much better than this book has seen in a long time and it continues the momentum of New Krypton while introducing some new characters (like the mysterious new Superwoman). Kara’s parents act like normal parents of a teenage girl, trying to run her life but then helping her with a problem even though she is resistant. As we figured, much of this book will be Supergirl’s conflict between her heritage and her adopted home now that the Kryptonians are here on Earth.

-Jason (Super-parents just don’t understand…)

JSA Kingdom Come Special : Magog #1

Following on the heels of the previous JSA Special regarding Superman, we follow the story of Magog. Let’s go back a little bit. I always liked the character of Magog in Kingdom Come. I agree with the way they wrote him as a Superman who does what needs to be done.

In comes Geoff Johns who, back in JSA #??, gives us the birth of Magog in a way that totally took me by surprise. In JSA Kingdom Come Special : Magog, we witness the evolution (albeit a very quick evolution) of the newborn super-being into that character that we saw in Kingdom Come. This is a basic and classic story : well-meaning individual takes things a bit too far and is looked at as a villain in many people’s eyes. And in this story, Magog runs into some people that have hurt and killed members of his special ops team and he shows little to no mercy. This showcases his brand of quick, brutal and no-holds barred vengeance against those who have done wrong, just like he did with the Joker in Kingdom Come.

The writing by Peter Tomasi is keeping up with my high expectations of Tomast’s work lately and the art by Fernando Pasarin is well done.

There is also a backup story in this book which I was not expecting. The Secret Origin of Starman by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins. I don’t know too much about Starman except what they have covered in JSA, but I like the character. He’s a little dull since Gog cured his schizophrenia because I always enjoyed his random utterances and nonsensical conversations. Many things are covered in this including the origin of his suit that was hinted at in a previous issue. We still don’t know what his mission is in our time but I’m very interested to find out.

I have to admit that I was skeptical about these Kingdom Come Specials because the story in JSA was becoming a bit drawn out, but so far we are 2 for 2 with well done issues. Next time : The Kingdom

- Jason (Magog should be head of Project Bad-Ass & Starman should be crazy again)

Ambush Bug : Year None #4

So many people ripped on this book when it came out but I have found it amusing, but this last issue was downright laugh-out-loud hilarious. Allow me to walk you through the hilarity (Spoilers Ahead):

The first page makes fun at a mistake that was made in the second issue. An entire page was printed without speech bubbles or sound effects. Here, they provide a cut and paste page to add in the missing pieces, inviting you to be the DC Comics production department.

Then we get 3 pages of ripping on Dan DiDio (he had to have approved this so we see he has a sense of humor) ending with his death. I'm sure this delighted many, as he is far from the most popular DC employee at the moment. Further along in the book we see many references (all exaggerated and clearly poking fun at rampant fanboy rumor mills) as to how he died.

After that, there is Batman's Secret Space Prison for Embarassments From His Past which is ruled over by the 60s era campy TV show version of Dick Grayson as Robin, many, many funny refernces to the 52 storyline (Rip Hunter's chalkboard : instead of Time Is Broken, The Shipping Schedule is Broken), the villain dressing up as a girl to try and pick up a drunk Renee Montoya and last but not least the funniest parody of fanboy trivia knowledge that I have seen in a while

I understand that this book is not to everyone's liking. Giffen clearly enjoys poking fun at the culture of comic book geeks so you need to have a good sense of humor about this because, yeah, he's laughing at you.

- Jason (Teleporters are a bitch to track)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Movie Review : Quantum of Solace

We received some free passes to catch a sneak preview of Bolt tonight at 7:00. For some reason these free passes I come across are usually on Thursday evenings and I tend to work late on Thursdays. We get to the theater around 6:00 and check out the line for the screening and (as I should have expected) 80% of the line was under the age of 8. My wife, being a preschool teacher had a look of horror on her face and I believe the comment went something like "I just came from this and don't want to spend an evening out in a theater full of fidgety children." OK, new plan :-)

So we buy tickets for Quantum of Solace at 6:20 :-)

First I'll start the review as I'll start all of my reviews : Which trailers did you get? Star Trek, Day the Earth Stood Still, Yes Man, and a new Will Smith movie that I think was called Seven Pounds. I already discussed the Star Trek trailer here, Day the Earth Stood still looks pretty cool, Yes Man actually seems like it will be funny if they didn't just show all of the funny clips in the trailer and the Will Smith movie I was rather indifferent towards.

On with the actual movie. I love James Bond movies. My dad got me into them because he watched them and I have enjoyed them since I was a kid. Daniel Craig is incredible as James Bond and I really appreciate the way they are handling this reboot.

Much more action packed than Casino Royale we get a boat chase, a car chase, a plane chase and a couple of foot chases (nothing like the Parkour-heavy chase in Casino Royale though). The stunning Aston Martin DBS makes another appearance as do, strangely, many Eco-Friendly Fords. I notice these things because I'm a car guy and given the villain in the film, actually, the Eco-Friendly stuf works.

The introduction of the shady organization Quantum will hopefully be seeding many more appearances similar to the old SPECTRE in classic Bond films. The film was fast-paced and had it's usual share of Bond dry humor along with quite a few references to Casino Royale. I would recommend if it's been a while since viewing CR, give it a quick run through before going to see this movie because this one seems to begin about an hour or so after the last one ended.

Now, the disappointments (oh, come on you know there had to be some). Actually only three minor disappointments.

First, there is still no Q. I miss the scenes where Bond visits the Q Branch and gets his gadgets while unlucky Q Branch peons test out ridiculous and dangerous items in the background. Desmond Llewelyn, the original Q, was perfect in this role. The minute Bond walks in, he changes from hardcore superspy to kid in a toy store. Q's role is to guide 007 through the gadgets like a teacher guides a child with ADD. John Cleese did a very good job in the last two movies after the passing of Mr. Llewelyn and would be a good candidate for the new reboot. My friend Shawn and I were discussing this as well and we came up with two more potentials : Simon Pegg or Ricky Gervais. Each would bring their own flair to the role and would pull it off nicely.

Second, the title sequence. Bond title sequences are an art form all their own. Casino Royale's was brilliant. The song by Chris Cornell is powerful (I listen to it in my car) and the graphics were interesting and relevant to the movie. This one, not so much. The vocals are by Alicia Keyes, definitely not on my list of favorites and the song is fairly weak. The graphics have little to do with the film and are actaully kind of dull and blurry.

Third, the villain's plot. I won't give it away here but the villain's grand scheme could have been fleshed out a bit more or explained better so as to have a more impending sense of danger. It kind of gets blown over but I think this movie is more about revenge for Bond and the insertion of Quantum into the series.

Otherwise, great movie. Not the best Bond movie I've ever seen but it's definitely not the worst.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Retro Review #2 - Superman : Red Son

As I was rifling through some comic boxes for reading material until Wednesday rolls around, I came across one of my all time favorite Superman stories : Superman Red Son.

I can't remember if this classifies as an Elseworlds book because I don't think they were still using that label when it was released. For those that are not familiar, Elseworlds books were a great story idea for the most part. You take a character, remove them from their normal context or origin, and re-write it in a completely new way.

The basic premise is as follows : Baby Kal-El, instead of landing in a Kansas cornfield, lands on a communal farm in Russia. He grows up under Stalin's watchful eye to become not the symbol of Truth, Justice and the American Way but of Soviet and communist supremacy.

Mark Millar does a fantastic job of taking this story to the obvious, and not so obvious places to flesh out this concept. Superman does not hate America or capitalism. He's still Superman and loves to help people but he's been brought up in a different atmosphere and has a much different father figure in Stalin.

After Stalin's death, he is groomed to be the savior of the communist party and takes over as President Superman, ruling with a well meaning iron fist and fighting Lex Luthor along the way, who is a brilliant scientist working for the US Government.

Along with the main character of Soviet Superman, we get many cameo appearances by familiar DC characters, albeit in unfamiliar roles. Notable cameos include Bizarro (as a US Superman clone), FBI Agent James Olsen, Lois Luthor, Batman as a freedom fighter and members of the Green Lantern Marine Corps (tags on their uniform read Jordan, Rayner, Gardner, Stewart and Scott). We also get an explanation of the Roswell UFO crash which turns out to be the arrival of Abin Sur.

The character designs are fantastic and the art is very impressive. The re-designed costumes for Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman are excellent. Superman's especially gets better and better as he ages and it changes slightly. My wife has the Red Son Wonder Woman figure and I'm looking to pick up the President Superman figure sometime soon.

I would highly recommend this book even if you don't have a background in reading Superman. The conflict in the book is very real and the paths that Millar takes are not always expected. As an added surprise, the ending really makes you think...

- Jason (Stalin is creepy when he hits on Hippolyta)

Action Comics with No Superman?? has an interesting and possibly disappointing article about DC removing Superman from the Action Comics title in the near future :

I'm not sure how I feel about this personally. I'm all for changing things up to keep it interesting but there are two questions that I need answered before I decide to retain Action Comics on my pull list.

1. Is Geoff Johns still writing this? If so, my interest will stay for a bit. If not, we'll see what happens.

2. Who will be the new character focus? I wonder if this will focus on the Flamebird and Nightwing characters coming out of the New Krypton storyline. This I might be able to handle if Johns writes it. If it ends up another changing roster book like Brave and the Bold, I probably won't hang with it.

More and more changes from DC. I'm definitely of the mind that change is good...but c'mon people.

- Jason (...but I like Superman in Action Comics)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Retro Review #1 - Batman / Grendel

A few weeks back I was strolling through Barnes and Noble, as I do sometimes when bored, and I noticed this trade on the shelf. Batman / Grendel...I thought : Batman is good and Grendel is good so this must be great. You know what? I was totally right.

This trade paperback (cover price $19.95) collects two seperate storylines, one featuring the original Grendel Hunter Rose and one featuring the futuristic cyborg Grendel Prime. Both stories are entertaining but I have a nostalgic bias towards the original Grendel.

You can clearly see the evolution of creator Matt Wagner's artistic ability between the two stories. The first meeting between Hunter Rose and Bruce Wayne is perfect and their meetings and battles as Batman and Grendel are excellent. For those that don't know, these are very similar characters. Grendel is basically Batman if he had little to no moral code and decided to run the mafia as a masked killer. The attitudes of the two characters could not be more different though. Batman sees his patrols and crimefighting as vengeance for his parents, whereas Grendel sees what he does as a game or an interesting pasttime.

The second story is also good and shows what the legacy of Grendel spawns in the future. Like I said, the art is much improved in the second half but I still prefer the story in the first half.

An interesting and enjoyable read and worth picking up if you like either of these characters. My only little complaint is that the "handwritten" Hunter Rose text is a bit hard to read but you get used to it.

- Jason (all best-selling novelists are secretly brutal killers)

Trailer Fanatic - Star Trek (2009)

Those that know me well know that I am a huge fan of movie trailers. Not sure why, but I just love the art of trailers and the need to make someone interested in a film without giving away too much all in a minute or two.

I did not get to go see Quantum of Solace like I wanted to on Sunday thanks to a headache and general slothfulness after a party night. But, my friend Shawn did let me know about the new Star Trek trailer that popped up before the movie. Here is a link to check it out online :

Go ahead...I'll wait.

Awesome wasn't it??? I've definitely always leaned more to the Wars side of the Star genre rather than Trek but this looks surprisingly action packed and interesting. The casting is dead-on. Zachary Quinto looks like a young Leonard Nimoy, Simon Pegg as Scotty...perfect, and Karl Urban as Bones seems to work as well. I'm not too familiar with the actor playing Kirk but it looks like good casting.

I'm happy that they're beginning things on Earth because I've always been curious as to what Earth is like in the Star Trek timeline. Now that the effects and budget exist, we can finally see it. Anyway, this looks great and I will definitely add it to my list of movies to see for 2009 along with Watchmen.

- Jason (James Tiberius Kirk!)

Best of Milwaukee 2008

Shepherd Express released their annual Best of Milwaukee issue this week and some of my favorite places made the list again. I wanted to congratulate the following for making the cut :

Best Comic Book Store : Collector's Edge (4th Year in a row) - I've been going to Collector's Edge (North location 78th & Burleigh) since I was pulled back into comics. The staff is always extraordinarily helpful, unlike another popular Milwaukee comic shop who I tried twice before giving up on, and there is always a great gathering of comic enthusiasts hanging around every Wednesday. If you live in the area check out their site for the four locations :

Best Cocktail Lounge / Romantic Bar : At Random - Mostly responsible for my splitting headache yesterday, At Random is a 50s style neighborhood lounge that serves strong concoctions of liquor, fruit and ice cream. There is no beer, no wine, and it's cash only at this Sinatra-esque speakeasy. Dimly lit and tightly packed it's a bar for those, like myself, that don't like bars per se. Try the Blue Devil, I did the other night and loved it but paid for it in the morning :-)

Microbrewery : Lakefront - One of my favorite brews since moving to Milwaukee, Lakefront (oddly enough not on the lake but on the river) has great beers tied to local Milwaukee neighborhoods. My neighborhood's beer and my current favorite, Riverwest Stein, is also joined by Fuel Cafe (brewed with coffee beans) and of course the phenomenal seasonal Pumpkin Beer. If you get the opportunity to visit the brewery, take the tour and you will not be disappointed. The entire tour is taken with a pint glass in hand and sampling and beer toasts all along the way :-)

A few other quick congrats to places that I frequent :

Best Milwaukee Landmark - Milwaukee Art Museum
Best Bakery - Peter Sciortino's
Best Burger - Kopp's
Best Cheap Eats / Late Night Takeout - Pizza Shuttle
Best Irish Pub - County Clare
Best Auto Repair - Riverwest Automotive
Best Wine Selection at a Bar - Pizza Man

My only big problem with the list is that Red Lobster was voted best seafood restaurant. Red Lobster?!?!?! Come on people, there has got to be better seafood out there. My vote went to The Anchorage at the Milwaukee River Hilton. Red Lobster, jeez.

- Jason (Red Lobster? Really?)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Looking Forward to Wednesday (11/19/08)

Welcome to my first regular article : Looking Forward to Wednesday. Every week, no matter how stressed or sick or tired, I can know that Wednesday is coming (or Thursday when Diamond jacks everything up) and I can go to my Local Comic Shop and pick up $20-$30 dollars worth of beautiful art and fantastic stories.

This article will list the books that I am interested in picking up. Now, these may vary greatly from the books that you are looking forward to, and I admit to being severely biased towards the DC Comics side of the rack. Now, on to the first week :

Marvel Comics :


DC Comics :

Ambush Bug Year None #4 : Many people were hating this book but I have enjoyed it. I'll admit that many of the references go straight over my head but the ones that do hit are damned funny.

JSA Kingdom Come Special : Magog #1 : The Superman special last week kicked these off to a good start. I was getting a bit tired of the Thy Kingdom Come run but these are getting me back into the story again.

Robin #180 : Robin has been a great companion piece to R.I.P. and since it obviously takes place after those events it raises alot of questions as to the fate of Batman.

Supergirl #35 : The new creative team has impressed me with their first outing last issue, let's see if they can keep me interested in this title.

Tiny Titans #10 : This is a guilty pleasure of mine and always makes me laugh out loud. If you haven't ever read this, please pick it up, you will not regret it.

Other Publishers :

Atomic Robo : Dogs of War #4 : Every issue of Atomic Robo has been on par. This is a must-buy every month and the wit and humor make these issues great.

All in all it's going to be a fairly light week. I may pick up a trade to top off my stack. I recently started catching up on Ex Machina or I've been dying to read Grant Morrison's Animal Man.

- Jason (Tiny Titans....go check it out)

Welcome one and all

In an effort to communicate and digitally connect with my fellow pop culture fanatic bretheren I thought I'd see if we can get this going. I'm hoping to promote some great debate, discussion and just good old-fashioned geek pride through articles, reviews and random posts.

I'm hoping to bring some guest posters along in the form of friends and colleagues to help with the entertainment. Some proposed articles include reviews of comics and movies, TV shows, along with some regular articles I'm working on right now like recaps of what's being talked about at my Local Comic Shop (for those that don't have the pleasure of an LCS).

There will also be updates regarding original projects by myself and some friends.

So, please feel free to comment, criticize, debate or whatever. Geeks unite, stand up and be proud :-)

- Jason (Let's begin...)