Saturday, August 25, 2007

Ultimate Marvel Handbook Guest Appearance!

While Tyler has been filling in for me on the review front, I've been filling in for our Nexus E-i-C, Daron, editing Jim Trabold's Ultimate Marvel Handbook.

Jim is an amazing source of Marvel knowledge; every week he is answering fan's letters with Marvel questions, discussing news and giving plot updates on all Marvel titles.

I'm not particularly good in any of these sectors, but I like to goof around and destroy the column's good image with my rants and my photoshop-fu!
Read more!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Guest Review: Astonishing X-Men #22

My good friend Tyler from US TV is filling in for reviews today.

As the biggest Whedon fan I know, he's far better qualified to talk about Whedon's latest X-Men issue:

Writer: Joss Whedon
Artist: John Cassaday

Colorist: Laura Martin

Marvel Comics

Up till now I've had my reservations regarding this final act of Joss Whedon's run on the title, but this issue finally picks up the glacial pace and delivers an emotional punch unlike any so far in the series. (And yes, that includes the moment Kitty laid eyes on the very much alive Colossus.) These babies definitely take their time, but with pay-offs like this one, really... who cares? Let's take things one step at a time.

Last issue saw Scott seemingly blown to death by Danger and, in an amazing cliffhanger twist, Emma asking it to take her life, too. This is quickly resolved here, but not in a manner that feels as though we, as readers, were cheated. The explanation for last issue's finale is nothing short of revelatory, and it leads to another fascinating question whose answer could even lend itself to a last minute twist in the upcoming (so to speak) series finale. At the same time, Emma's dialogue in both this and last issue's scenes with Scott feels unbearably true and brings in mind the cynical nature of Buffy and Spike's relationship in that show's final years; two souls who found in each other what they were looking for at this moment in time, and one of them wanting more but knowing they'll never get it. (Hence, Spike's terrific line "No, you don't, but thanks for saying that" to Buffy's faintly uttered "I love you" in the finale, and almost all of Emma's lines here.)

In contrast, Kitty and Peter manage to steal away a few moments of true bliss in the midst of all this mess; usually in Whedon's work this is a sign of death and destruction to come, but in the context of this Emma/Scott-centered second year it could merely exist only to underline the difference between the main two couples of the series. Therefore, it comes as both exhilarating and painful at the same time: Kitty and Peter have been through hell and to see them finally live the dream is a gift from heaven, even with doom looming in the corner. As Kitty points out in one especially poignant sequence, "You keep waiting for the dust to settle and then you realize this is it; the dust is your life going on." And she has.

There are several more notable moments before the conclusion has been reached: Beast is reliving the tragedy of Genosha, explaining away his now infamous joke as a defense mechanism; Agent Brand reveals more layers of bitchiness, destroying a perfectly sweet reunion between Kitty and Lockheed (she will make a great Dirk Anger stand-in for Warren Ellis to play with); Emma delivering this issue's funniest line, in response to Brand's spiteful previous moment ("Do you visit orphanages to explain there's no Santa?"); Kitty quietly fading out in the background and into Peter's arms, in this exact sequence. And of course there's the ever present view that no culture can ever be as one-dimensional as we foolishly expect it to be. This is evident in both the opening pages, where Kruun lays down his morality for us readers, and especially in the particularly Why Had I Never Thought Of That? revelation from Brand that Lockheed isn't the sweet little puppy (or, erm, kitty) we've always considered him to be.

Minor spoilers/hints: All this leads to a mesmerizing final sequence, perhaps the best yet in Whedon's run; believe me when I say that it justifies what has come before in this arc, and even the previous one.(Not that the excellent "Torn" needs any kind of justification. I'm merely pointing out the fact that together they seem more like a 12-part story rather than two 6-ers.) In Astonishing X-Men #14, Whedon explored what makes Cyclops tick and how can such a man be unable of tapping onto his full potential. He finally managed to turn Scott into a full-blown leader only by taking away what theoretically made him special. This isn't terribly original on its own, but the execution of this idea is what elevates the piece; space's stunningly poetic and deadly silent nothingness (as portrayed by the ridiculous perfection that is John Cassaday's pencils and Laura Martin's colors) provides Whedon with the means to look into Scott's psyche in a way no writer has ever done before. The final two pages of this issue are pure perfection, in their own gut-wrenching way.

I have no idea where (or when!) this will take us, but it's moments like this that make me simply not care and just enjoy the moment. After all, as Kitty would have said, in reading X-Men comics (as in life) you have to accept the fact that "you can't wait for the dust to settle, ever. If happy comes along, you grab it while you can." And only then, may I add, you worry about stuff like continuity.

Grade: 9/10
Read more!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

King Leonidas on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

(Courtesy of my friend Alexis)
Read more!

Woah Woah, What's new Kitty-cat?

Now, was that so hard?

Ultimate Kitty Pryde debuted her new sexy costume last week in Ultimate Spider-man #112, courtesy of new regular artist Stuart Immonen (the genius behind NEXTWAVE, Superman Secret Identity, Shockrockets and more)

Now, Kitty has been around for... how long? 25 years give or take.

And how many good costumes has she worn? And I mean something that is not derivative of the X-Men school uniform. has a nice rundown of her most significant costumes for a taste.

This on the other hand, this shows promise.

Let's do a list (we love lists!)

sexy, with the exposed shoulders and the choker,
feminine, with the sash,
low-key, with a distinctive color scheme (it's not the school colours for one, and not plain bland blue-black, but still indicative of shadows),
'feline' because of the mask design, suggesting 'Kitty' or Shadowcat
classy, what with the high gloves and all, which also bear a nice little touch with the zig-zag the pattern at their end

In the end though, the sheer coolness boils down to one thing: the mask. It's hard to come up with an original mask or headdress design these days. Think about Storm, Scarlet Witch, Mockingbird (one of the greatest designs, actually), or looking at the men: Wolverine, Cyclops, Ant-Man. ..

These are some of the most distinctive and recognizable designs in comics. They set the hero apart from the crowd and become a vital characteristic of them, much like hair or eye color. Let's face it, as many costumes as Storm and Scarlet Witch are likely to change through the years, the artists always eventually return to the classic head-dress design, since the character feels incomplete without them.

With Kitty, I could comfortably see this as her new trademark look. A superhero look, mature/grown-up yet still playful and fun.

Ironically, I would have preferred this costume on the '616' Kitty instead, who is an actual adult superhero at this point, than the teenager school-girl Ultimate Kitty, but I'm not one to gripe (sic). Adult Kitty also has the extra connection to the costume with her dancer-history, as the costume strongly reminds of the sort of dancer costumes made famous in Fame in the 80s ;)

Read more!

Interview of the year! Booster Gold breaks his silence (sic)

Over at Newsarama, Vaneta Rogers interviews BOOSTER GOLD and his flying saucer sidekick SKEETS about his new monthly series from DC!

Yes, that's right, she interviews the character (with a little help from Geoff Johns as the end credits reveal)

It's not a wholly original idea, but Booster Gold is surely the most appropriate character for this sort of thing, especially taking into consideration the no-publicity edict inside the story of his new series. Booster cracks jokes, reminisces for lost friends, tries out some funnies and gets busted by his boss.

Reading is believing.
A small excerpt:

Newsarama: Booster, it’s been a long time since you had your own series. Why do you think now's the time for people to notice you again?

BOOSTER: Why should people notice me? I died and came back! That’s how everyone gets a jump on things today, right? Superman. Hal Jordan. Oliver Queen. And if you think Steve Rogers isn’t waiting it out in some ice cube somewhere with a smile on his face, thinking about his big “comeback,” I’ve got a Time Sphere to sell you.

SKEETS: Sir, technically you never died.

BOOSTER: Well, yeah, technically. It was part of the plan when I helped Rip save the 52 --

SKEETS: Sir. Rip Hunter is going to read this.

BOOSTER: Oh, right. Terrific. Great. “Hi, Rip! How’s that rash?” Oh, did I ask that out loud? Sorry, Rip.

NRAMA: You’ve always claimed to be a heroic yet unrecognized figure. If you’re truly that heroic, what’s keeping you from being one of the greatest members of the Justice League?

BOOSTER: Hey, hey, hey, Vaneta! Let’s get this cleared up right now. They did ask me to join them. I said, “NO.” (laughs) You should’ve seen Batman’s face. And Superman. They couldn’t believe it, but I’ve got things to do, girls to woo, money to make.

SKEETS: Actually, Superman appeared relieved. As did Red Arrow. And Black Lightning. And Flash and Black Canary.

BOOSTER: They didn’t all –

SKEETS: Geo-Force did appear upset. I think he was looking forward to having someone less liked on the team than him.

BOOSTER: Once again, thank you, Skeets.

SKEETS: Here to help, sir.

NRAMA: Wait, you turned down membership in the Justice League? You’re not claiming now that you’re better than Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, are you?

BOOSTER: Better? No. No way. Unless not wearing underwear on the outside of my pants makes me better.

SKEETS: According to my historical records, in the year 2923 a finalized list of the top heroes of history is made. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman top that list.

NRAMA: Where does Booster Gold fall?

SKEETS: Just below Geo-Force.

BOOSTER: Next quest –

SKEETS: Oh! And I appear to be ranked 14th. How delightful.

Read more!

Wedding Bells for Skott Kurtz...

...'s characters Jade and Brent Sienna!

The past few weeks of daily PvP strips have been building up to this moment in today's strip, as Brent finally proposes to Jade, wrapping up a plot set during the recent San Diego Comics Convention.

Brent had decided to propose to his long-time sweetheart Jade, but of course wanted to make a stupidly-big deal out of the proposal. So he has her abducted by StormTroopers, dressed in a Princess Leia get-up (not the slave girl one, no), while he plans to burst in the scene as Han Solo (well, as Luke at first, but that game got called off on account of incest), save the day and ask her to be his wife.

Of course everything back-fired, leading to a month-long epic. To folow the whole story start here and read towards the big Question in today's strip.

Read more!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Gaytime Soap Opera!

So apparently, nearing the end of 2007, after so much progress has been made in the 'gay issues', there still hadn't been an on-screen gay kiss during a day-time soap opera!

Well not until today over at 'As The World Turns'!

I found out the news clip today, but I had to double-check on google to make sure that they didn't have the year wrong. 2007. Really now, guys. Glad you caught up with the rest of the world, ms Soap.

I have no idea what this soap is about, who the characters are, what's their history and why they're kissing, , but I'm still content they are. You go boys! If you're curious, go read the details from someone who does know.

At least that's over and done with, history has been written, daytime tv has been thoroughly conquered and queerified, we can move on to bigger, flashier and more ambitious goals. Can you say 'Pink House'?
Read more!

VIDEO: Cap to Luke Cage: 'Take over Power Man, I'll be back'

The Marvel Heroes Macy's Parade float from 1998

the real inspiration for post-Civil War NEW AVENGERS?

Got to say, that's a sweet looking Hulk, but could they have botched Dr Doom worse? He's wearing woolen-cotton armour!

Emma Frost and the Enchantress are the token bad *itches.

Dr Strange looks gayer than ever.

Well done!!
Read more!

Orange Wednesdays: Carrie Fisher

If you're lucky enough not to live in the UK, you have been deprived of one of the greatest movie theatre inventions since buttered pop corn:


These are sponsored by the Orange mobile company and feature a different actor every few months trying to pitch their movie idea to the committee, only to have them -- well, you just watch.

The tag line is 'don't let a mobile phone ruin your movie. switch off.'

First up, Carrie Fisher from Star Wars:

p.s. Orange Wednesdays is a term coined by the company for their promotion offering two movie tickets for the price of one to their subscribers, on Wednesdays. It's actually picked up quite well, making Wednesday one of the most popular cinema days.

Read more!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Advance Review: X-Men #202

X-MEN #202

Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Humberto Ramos

Marvel Comics

Something evil is brewing here. Disparate strands are coming together, in the third part of the Marauders storyline, with the X-Men truly bruised and beaten.

'Or are they?'

But let's backtrack. It's not really the Marauders is it? Marketing has been very fishy into diverting attention from what is really happening right now in the x-titles. It's not -just- the Marauders. It's Mr Sinister and the Marauders, along with Exodus and the Acolytes, along with Mystique and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. It's all three major X-baddies working together 'Secret society' like. On the opposite front, Mike Carey is rolling in all the mutants available in his repertoire, fighting back with Whedon's lost-in-continuity crew, the New X-Men students and whatever remains of his own team after half of them turned coat and the rest just croaked.

Along the way Carey is bringing together elements from every past x-writer's tenure and tying together dangling threads left and right. From Vargas and the Books of Destiny from the ill-conceived (and executed) X-Treme X-Men, Dark Mother from Weinberg's short Cable run, to Ravita Kao from Astonishing, the Dark Beast and the Genoshan labs from Claremont's Excalibur relaunch, the concentration camps from Tieri's Weapon-X, the Black Womb experiments from Nicieza's pocket x-universe, the Mutant designer drugs from Casey's run and so on.
Somehow Carey makes everything fit neatly together and get acknowledged, creating a grand x-tapestry the likes of which we haven't seen since the mid-90s with Scott Lobdell heading the franchise -- during the X-Cutioner's Song, the Phalanx Covenant, the Age of Apocalypse and beyond. (I wonder if we'll also see X-Force/X-Statix somehow fitting into this puzzle)

Plot spoilers/teasers: Cannonball and Iceman are the last surviving members of Carey's team and they're going all macho-hero-guy on the turncoat Sunfire, with Iceman actually being cool instead of play-acting. These two characters work great together as the eternal team-rookies who stick together, picking up their friendship where Lobdell left off 10 years ago. The Big Three baddies reveal their plan and the connection between the recent attacks, at the same time as the remaining X-Men realize the truth. The New X-Men kids with Kitty and Colossus (a nice nod to the Age of Apocalypse's Generation-Next title) fend off an attack on the institute and defend the Books of Destiny, while Emma reveals an ace up her sleeve. Rogue is still comatose, Cable is still dead, and the whole cast is still looking bizarrely angular and attractive thanks to the impossible anatomies that only Humberto Ramos can pull through.

In the back-up feature, the two Beasts compare notes, 'our' Beast gets his hands dirty and some intriguing discoveries concerning the M-Day situation see the light. Endangered Species has been non-stop fun, and the best model for how weekly comics should be. Each installment is sufficiently self-contained, each 8-pager following the central character into a different corner of the X-verse, yet still carrying forward the overall plot. There's more stuff advancing the plot in a single weekly 8-page installment of this, than a whole month's worth of Countdown comics.

Maybe we can look forward to an actual weekly X-verse title in the future, in the same vein?

Grade: 7.5/10

Read more!

Advance Review: Thunderbolts #116

Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Mike Deodato Jr
Marvel Comics

Warren Ellis has recovered the Midas touch.

Anything he touches these days, turns to gold. Thunderbolts being the prime example of a continuity-boggled, why-is-it-still-here titl, where Ellis came in, stripped it away to the bare bones and built around it a hard-edged psychological thriller about a team of killers on a leash, locked away in a dank prison headquarters and sent out by a certified loon to kill and maim for an adoring public. Publicity spins, neuroses and psychoses, and of course cannibalism. LOVE!

Deodato is at last in his element, on a book where he can shine and stretch his talent above and beyond the sterile cramped style he first became famous for.

Interesting note, how current continuity is suddenly creeping in the book with this issue. First the Order makes the Breaking News during the news feed opening scene/recap, and then the dangling Captain Marvel thread from Civil War is quietly put to rest. Now this could have easily been the editor telling Ellis to put in a small mention that Captain Marvel is no longer the warden of the Negative Zone. Ellis of course picks up that bit of info and instead of info-dumping it in a random caption, he weaves it into the conversation between Norman and Moonstone, and even manages to utilize it to squeeze in a sick joke and further shade Osborn's demented persona.

Plot spoilers/teasers: This issue starts the new 'Caged Angels' storyline dealing with the reaction of the criminal community to the Thunderbolts new cushy position. Why should only this handful of murderous savages benefit from Stark's new project? Why can't all the other killers get arrested and get set up with nice digs, a license to kill and their personal multiple-articulation action figure? Norman and Moonstone make plans, Leonard Sampson lurks behind the scenes, poor Penance gets emo-er by the panel, Songbird finally takes charge showing actual promise as a leader, while Venom has... a character moment?

Grade: 7.5/10

Read more!

Advance Review: Wolverine #56

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Howard Chaykin
Marvel Comics

An honest-to-Gawd good Wolvie story? No, excuse me, a GREAT Wolvie story! One that doesn't involve an umpteenth battle with his stereotypical nemesis, doesn't rewrite his origin, doesn't involve hidden or resurfaced memories! A story that's self-contained, new-reader friendly and doesn't tie in to the X-titles but features Wolvie as a character on his own strength?

Please, pinch me!

Jason Aaron (a new Vertigo voice: SCALPED, THE OTHER SIDE) is doing a short stint, paired with Howard CHAYKIN! Hmm, keep pinching, this is too good to be true.

Logan wakes up in the bottom of a dark pit, without knowing how he got there, while a man with a massively huge chaingun keeps shooting at him every five minutes to keep him trapped. The story follows the life of the man with the gun, the poor slob named Wendell, his every day life from the time he wakes, to when he goes into work, greets the sexy secretary he can't have, takes over machine-gun duty, chats with the monster-in-the-pit, punches out and heads home again.

Aaron weaves a fascinating character in the hired goon, with his utter misery of an existence and instant familiarization magnet for the reader. Logan takes a back seat in the story, staying in the shadows and acting as the catalyst for the goon to address his life and his choices. Logan is smart and cunning, vicious and ruthless. Totally dreamy and a major hard-ass, finally! Good to know the castration didn't hold.

Of course, Aaron isn't here for more than a few issues. Time to wake up.

Grade: 8.5/10

Read more!

Advance Review: Amazing Spider-Man #543

Writer: J. M. Straczynski
Artist: Ron Garney
Inker: Bill Reinhold
Marvel Comics

Yes, the scene on the cover DOES take place inside this comic. And without wanting to give away too much, I wouldn't rush to my store on Wednesday to make sure I got the collector's issue of Aunt May's second death to put on ebay. Most. Misleading. Cover. Since-that-Uncanny-X-Men -one-by-Joe-Casey-where- Logan-was-kissing-Jean-Grey- and-grabbing-her-booty

Aunt May is still hospitalized, Peter is still emo about it, and the police finally wise up and pay Dear Sick May a visit. JMS pushes Peter to his limits here, driving him over the edge by having him confront the real consequences and significance of his outlaw status. Ron Garney finally eases in the artistic seat of the title (too little too late?), establishing mood and emotions with the simplest details.

It would have been sob-worthy and a tissue-thon, if not for the jarring annoying geek voice in my head SCREAMING that Mary Jane was already a famous super-model and a Hollywood actress before her husband became the most famous face on television with his unmasking. Yet she parades around pretending to be Jane Average 'Mary Riley' without anyone making the connection, and Peter himself goes 'undercover' as a nurse leaving his face uncovered, again without anyone noticing. Peter David wisely gave him an image inducer to project his Ben Reilly persona for school, why not use it here?

PAD again did a better job dealing with both the repercussions of Peter's unmasking (actually acknowledging and using his extended supporting cast), and with his anger state. The Black Costume of course still feels exactly like it is: a cheap marketing ploy/tie-in to the movie.

Grade: 5/10

Read more!

Advance Review: The Order #2


Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Barry Kitson

Marvel Comics

The Order is California's home-grown government-sponsored, media-friendly superhero team, based on the Greek Pantheon. Tony Stark is Zeus, high commander high on government dough; Pepper Potts is Hera, team leader from a safe distance with a next generation iPhone; Henry Hellrung is Apollo, field leader, recovering alcoholic and washed-up actor with his tongue firmly planted between his Iron-highnesses rivets. The rest? Well, we're slowly finding out.

Fraction seems ready to teach Advance Team-book Plotting and Character Introductions 401. Many new team books today fall into common traps and lose their readership's interest by the middle of the opening arc. They either force a massive info-dump on the reader in the first issue, throwing all their cards on the table but failing to catch the reader's interest with any one character (SHADOWPACT being a more recent example), or they push plot decompression to the limits by taking one issue to introduce each member of the team, with the team not appearing together until the 6th issue of the story, by which point the readers are so bored the series is canceled (don't believe me? Look for back issues of THE CREW or the Tsunami NEW MUTANTS relaunch). Fraction knows the golden cut here; The team is already in place from the first issue, with each issue featuring a done-in-one adventure that furthers the overall plot, interjected by the audition interviews of one member each issue; keep the reader interested with action, qualify the 'team' title, while you slowly introduce the cast one by one forging a connection between each of them and the reader. Think of the idea behind MIGHTY AVENGERS but executed properly.

The first issue was dedicated to Henry Hellrung or Anthem, while #2 spotlights Becky Ryan, the team's Venus or as the story title dubs her: Teenager of the Year.

Becky is the Marvel Universe's answer to pre-drugs Britney Spears. a child celebrity, winning pageants, selling platinum albums, etc, with a sunny disposition and a repressed personality after growing up with an adult constantly dictating how she should act and look, what she could eat and how she should think, if that.

In the interest of poetic justice, Fraction grants this girl the power to 'be whatever [she] wants to be'. The next scene cuts to Becky ecstatic at the prospect of super-punching a coimmunist bear in the face. She is a superhero actually having fun. And that communicates well from her to the viewer/reader.

I think it's at this point I thought to myself 'This is so good. I'm so happy I could punch a bear too'. Once in a while, a book comes along which pushes certain buttons and becomes an instant favorite, like love at first read.

PREACHER, X-FORCE/X-STATIX, NEXTWAVE, FABLES, RUNAWAYS, YOUNG AVENGERS; When the ORDER was first announced I had a good gut feeling, and the first issue touched on a lot of favorite soft spots, but it wasn't until this second character introduction that I realized this is the book that's going to get me running every month to the comics store to read .

What else goes on in the issue? A Who's Who of Russian criminals attacks, from trolls to Bears and metal-plated commie chicks. Someone dies (but that was obvious since last issue). The team's Hestia/P.R. shows up and she demands to be cherished. Nixon Bobblehead helps reach an important decision. A former Order member copes with life without fame. The bluetooth sword speaks. Much kicking, punching and running on water. Euthanasia. Nuclear bombs. Giant seafood. Becky rules. (but we already covered that)

This is the gold 'cool' standard superhero comics should aspire to.

(Did i already mention I'm in love with this book?)

Grade: 9/10

Read more!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Review: The Order #1


Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Barry Kitson
Inker: Mark Morales
Colorist: Dean White
Letterers: Art Monkeys Studios
Assistant Editor: Alejandro Arbona
Editor: Warren Simons

Marvel Comics

One more week, one more Initiative tie-in, one more extension to the crossover-that-wouldn't-die, one more super-team, one more #1, one more occasion for tony Stark to guest-star in a Marvel book.

(O.T., but when did Iron-Man out-whore Wolverine? If someone had told me a year ago, that in 2007 we would be seeing Tony Stark in more than 8 titles every month... No matter how thin they spread him, he'll never turn into Batman)

One more Avengers title, but how! With Barry Kitson (LEGION OF SUPERHEROES, EMPIRE) on art duties. With fast-rising Matt Fraction (CASANOVA, LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS, IMMORTAL IRON-FIST). With new characters, with fresh ideas, with attitude.

They could have called them the West Coast Avengers, if the name didn't hold negative connotations with fans. They almost called them the Champions but they weren't counting in the rightful owners of the trademark. The result: the Previews solicitations get a last minute do-over to 'Unnamed Super-hero title', the C crests on the uniform get doodled into Os, and the book is renamed THE ORDER. No, I can't understand the thought process behind this specific choice, while the name Pantheon would have made more sense given the way the team is structured. Regardless, if they had gone with 'Unnamed SuperHero Title' or 'Formerly Advertised as the Champions', they would have caused a biggest stir and attracted more publicity, truth be said.

Following the ending of CIVIL WAR (thank god) Tony Stark is the ultimate fascist, all super-heroes are forced to work for him and SHIELD, and a super-hero team is formed in each American State. Each team reflects the distinct identity of its State, making this specific California-based super-team more akin to a Hollywood production or a soap. Recovering alcoholic super-heroes, handicapped, punks, party animals or high-strung snobs, for fame, for money, for power, for psych therapy. Made in Hollywood of course!

The twist? Noone is safe/irreplaceable. The team is made up of heroes representing the Ancient Greek Pantheon (refer to my earlier comments above) in regards to powers and hierarchy. The heroes are human volunteers (famous or not) who have been in training for months to receive super-powers through a Stark-patented procedure (definitely something mucky at play here) with a Best Before date a year ahead.And if you one of them screws up? He gets fired, loses his powers, sells the rights to his autobiography and is replaced by the next volunteer on the waiting list.

The last fact proves extremely useful in dealing with the necessary tie-in to CIVIL WAR where the team had debuted with a full cast over an opening 3-page salvo. Fraction builds his super-team with the characters that the nice Mr Millar ceded over from his series. Of course by the middle of the issue, Fraction has already disemboweled or fired half of them to replace them with his own creations. Hail!

Who are these heroes? Eh, you can't expect me to remember every one of them. Don't worry though, not even the team's leader remembers them. 'Henry Hellrung can’t even remember our names. What is he gonna do, fire us in the morning?’. Henry Hellrung is the team's Apollo, the big field-leader, a washed-out actor (made famous for portraying tony Stark on the screen) and also Tony's sponsor in the AA. Yeah, it's always who you know that's important to get ahead in the public sector. Henry himself reacts surprised to the offer of leadership: : ‘So here I am. A one-time actor, according to Wikipedia, a full-time drunk as a matter of public record, and the guy that made AA cool in West Hollywood on Friday nights about a hundred years ago. Are you sure you want me to lead your little superhero team?’. He has emotional baggage and we love it, but i be darned if he's not offed within the year.

Acting as the Zeus of the team is Tony Stark himself, while Pepper Potts (Tony's once-upon secretary and former lover) makes for a surprise addition to the roster as the team's Hera, the manager/communications expert. Again, you can't get ahead in the business if you don't put out to the boss. The rest of the cast doesn't get the space to develop here, as the entire issue is devoted to Hellrung (though we figured that out from the credits page, as the story is titled '1.Henry'). Personally, i'm looking forward to discovering more about the team's freak Mulholland Black and the uber-bitch Magdalena/Veda. Still sad to see the chick with the Bluetooth sword (with applications to assist the user during battle both with strategic tips and emotional support) get the boot. Future tech gone bad!

The Order definitely makes an impressive debut, offering a fresh look at super-heroes, especially Marvel ones. Or does it?

Do all this remind us of something?

The title and concept clicked with me from the first instant, and it took me a few more reads to realize the reason. This title stands as a super-smart amalgam of my two all-time favorite superhero team books: X-FORCE/X-STATIX and STRIKEFORCE: MORITURI.

Both comics examined superheroes through the lens of fame; they changed team rosters every few issues, and they both incidentally had an actor who specialized in super-hero characters become a superhero himself (El Guapo and Backhand respectively). From the X-Statix we keep the focus on the showbiz element, the booze and drugs abuse, the press conferences, the marketing terminology, trademarkability as moving force, the surprise full roster change in the debut issue, and ironically even the title change due to copyright reasons (rumored in this case). From Strikeforce Morituri let's stand on the empowering procedure, the use of everyday volunteers and famous people, the one-year limit forced because of the strain of the process on the human body, the training regime, the flying ability for all members and the replacements queue.

The similarities don't mean that Fraction and Kitson have aped the previous titles though, they've used common elements to create a whole new monster, using a distinct storytelling style and pacing that sets them apart. Fraction, perhaps realizing the common elements especially with X-Statix, differentiates the two teams by commenting through one of his characters: ‘the era of glamorous decadence and unchecked indulgence in our superheroes is finished’. My heroes won't be popping pills and get stoned and drunk. Tbh, even if he had kept those elements and had called it O-Force (inside joke alert), I would still be queuing for it.

Unfortunately, contrary to Milligan/Allred's X-Force - which came out in a period when Marvel was focusing on putting out a small number of titles, The Order doesn't benefit from a similar extensive wave of advertising and promotion. Most fans might pass it by as another spin-off title from last summer's blockbuster event, and Comics Journal and Wizard haven't bothered profiling the team's roster and its surprise changes.

Barry Kitson is a perfect fit for the title, similar to the choice of Mike Allred for X-Force. Not for the pop sensitivities in this case, but for the classic colorful spandex approach to character/costume design and the old school influence in the line style. The ultimates-inspired McNiven designs for the opening salvo team look out-of-place next to the next character designs; Kitson himself obviously had a 'tough time' supporting them on the page, slipping into some inferior quality work in the last panels where they turn up.

Matt Fraction hasn't managed to disappoint so far. He won't fall for Marvel's event bullying and achieves to put out a story that is far superior to the title that inspired and launched it. His writing is fueled and colored by self-'certified cool' tag-lines and quotable catchphrases (I couldn't restrain myself and have filled the review with several). Graduate from the Millar and Morisson school in this regard, but more down-to-earth and approachable writing, and amusing. He's writing super-hero comics, not out of a childhood hard-on to work on spider-man, but because they inspire him to make a statement through them and attempt to force the genre transcend itself into something fresh and original.

Grade: 7.5/10

Read more!

Vote for Panel of the Week 19.08.07

Each week I'll be posting the 3-4 most memorable panels from the week and putting them up for a public week-long vote. The winning panels gets posted on the sidebar and earns boasting privileges over lesser panels...

This week: No funnies, but lots of dramatic splash pages!

Vote for your favourite:


Panel B: Just begging to be re-captioned! (COUNTDOWN #37)

Panel C: The Blue Beetles Reunion Tour (BOOSTER GOLD #1)
Read more!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hey Kids: The Joker!

New photos have leaked from the production of the new Batman movie

(source: Kung Fu Rodeo)

I must say, I'm loving this approach to ol' Pale-face. Sufficiently removed from the original Tim Burton movie, and continuing Batman Begin's realistic/gritty treatment of the Bat-verse

That said, I would by no means take a 10-year old to see this movie for fear of mentally scarring them for life and cause them Brokeback Joker nightmares. The franchise is definitely veering away from 'let's sell action figures to the kids' and into PG-15 classic horror territory.

I guess with Batman, you can't win them all. If you try to make a kid-friendly movie, you're going to lose the young adult and adult dollar. Look how well Batman Forever and Batman & Robin fared. Batman just isn't a kid-oriented hero in his essence, he's born in psychological horror and thrives in it, both for the title character and his entire cast (all his villains belong in a psychiatric institution -- and going by the most popular interpretation of the character in DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and THE KILLING JOKE and ARKHAM ASYLUM, well, so does he). If you stay true to the character's essence and the spirit of Gotham City you end up with what Tim Burton started and now Christopher Nolan continues. Of course Tim Burton went with 'gothic fairytale', while Nolan has shot off to full-fledged urban horror. Brakes, Chris, brakes.

Read more!