Saturday, February 16, 2008

Black Panther #34

This a courtesy public reassurance message

The above haircut does not actually appear inside the issue.
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Friday, February 15, 2008

School of Rock

Baby we was making straight A's,
But we were stuck in a dumb daze.
Don’t take much to memorize your lies.
I feel like I've been hypnotisized.
And then that magic man; he come to town.
Whoo wee!
He done spun my head around.
He said, "Recess is in session.
Two and two make five."
And now baby, oh, I’m alive.
Oh yeah!
I’m alive

And if you want to be the teacher's pet,
Well baby you just better forget it.
Rock got no reason. Rock got no rhyme.
You better get me to school on time.

Oh you know I was on an honor roll.
Got good grades and got no soul.
Raised my hand before I could speak my mind.
I been biting my tongue too many times.
And then that magic man said to obey…..uh-huh
"Do what magic man do, not what magic man say."
Now can I please have the attention of the class.
Today's assignment... a hem... kick some ass!

This is my final exam.
Now you all know who I am .
I might not be that perfect son.
But ya'll be rockin' when I'm done.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Love, X-Statix: A Social Message

Let's close this special day feature with parting words from Myles:

Because the comments section doesn't allow picture posting, here is the photo I mention below:

Peter was our guest for the Comicdom Comics Con 2006 in Athens, so I got to play tour guide for a week :) . He's an amazing person to hang out with, very witty and friendly.

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Love, X-Statix: Myles and Billy Bob

The bookworm with a savage subconscious Myles Alfred and the rich boy pretending to be trailer trash Billy Bob or Phat. Two immiscible characters who slowly moved closer in the pages of the original X-Force run from Milligan and Allred.

Originally seen as pure hints, Phat's awkward response to Bloke, the original openly gay member of the team, a stray look here and there, some suspicious references, readers welcomed the big 'outing' scene in the final X-Force storyline with little surprise.Milligan quickly turned the the tables on that by revealing the boys' 'sinister plot', a smokescreen to protect their manlihood from the gnawing thoughts inside:

Billy Bob's secret thoughts when he's (temporarily) fatally wounded mirror the reader's questions, and hit reply with lots of nerve

Only after Edie's passing does the built-up sexual tension and confusion escalate (probably mixed with the fear of mortality) and the two boys reveal their true feelings. This page from Duncan Fegredo (X-Force #129) features the first homosexual relation (or at least post-coitus) in a Marvel comic. I've of course bought the original art and it adorns my wall.

Myles and Billy Bob's relationship didn't go any further, as they realised they were both gay, but not in love with each other. Their relationship was merely their way of helpnig each other come to terms with their true sexuality.

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Love, X-Statix: Strange Dead Little Girl

Stephen Strange and Dead Girl. X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl #5
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Love, X-Statix: Tike Alicar + Dead Girl

The sardonic Dead Girl who couldn't know her true nature, and the black boy raised white who couldn't come to terms with his. Originally drawn together by their fear of being alone, magnified by the apparent pairing up of everyone else on the team (Edie with Guy and at that point Myles with Phat), and nudged along by their thirst to outshine the prime couple of the book.

Ironically, this couple always stayed in the background and broke through only via little throw-away comments and small scenes. Tike used Dead Girl for sex and self-projection, something Dead girl knew and understood, while she saw deeper into his self-destructive nature and stayed with him to give a purpose to her life by protecting him from himself and use him in return to quell her fear of loneliness.

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Love, X-Statix: Venus

Venus De Milo. Two panels from the masterful Mike Allred

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Love, X-Statix: Death and Beyond

Edie and Guy's story ended abruptly when Edie died in issue 128, at her personal prime. Edie's death shook the team apart into a new direction and name, while her presence was felt throughout the 2 year run of the re-launched title X-Statix.

In the tragic aftermath of her death, Guy begins his descent into paranoia, as he imagines talking to Edie through her action figure. Cameron Stewart captured the moment in a powerful pinup he did for Mike Allred

Fate would have it so their story didn't end at death. Years after the ending of the following series, Milligan and Allred would return to their characters for the Dead Girl mini-series. Therein, Guy (himself dead now) travels to an afterlife dimension where he is reunited with Edie. Mike Allred's cover for issue 4 once more captured Guy's enduring love for his lost love

when Guy and Edie meet up in the offices of death, Milligan stays true to his characters and denies them their fairytale Happily Ever HereAfter. All is as it should be. Here is the final sequence of events from the issue

The suicidal dreamer who has clustered his heart away from the cruel world falls in love with the sarcastic super-diva who laughs at the face of death masking her insecurities over what she is becoming. He loves her like tomorrow making her his anchor to sanity. She tried for both their sake to keep them grounded, in a losing battle against her feelnigs for the strange man who sees through her facade to the flawed person within and loves her secret shame.

I'll stop before I get too mushy, as words can't do justice to what Milligan and Allred gave us in this series, an uncontrollable and deep attraction between two flawed people which made our hearts crack.

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Love, X-Statix: Guy + Edie

It's arguable the entire run of Milligan and Allred on X-Force (#116 to 129) was a great (or the greatest) love story, set on a backdrop of mutants, fame and death.

I remember their constant antagonism and sexual tension running through their first issues together, and their first kiss --

-- their (many) brushes with death and the aptly titled story 'Edie and Guy Finally Do it', with Darwyn Cooke's teaseful cover of Edie in bed wearing nothing but Guy's costume top

A lot of the power of the romance didn't come from the script at all, as they never exchanged cliched vows and empty promises. Instead, Milligan put his complete trust in Mike Allred to convey their passion in their body language and the way they would steal glances at each other

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Love, X-Statix

It's not a real celebration. It's a commercial fad. It's an excuse for cheesy Valentine's specials and sappy 'Top 10 couples' themed articles.

Well, thank Mephisto we don't have to do that this year!

Since I am a cheesy sap for dorky tie-ins, I present you:

Love, X-Statix:

a day-long descent into utter fanboyness as I lazily post panels from The Greatest Comic Ever Created.

(yeah, I mean X-Force/X-Statix by Pete Milligan and Mike Allred, get caught up, will you?)

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Panel of the Week Voting 13.02.08

Last poll ended in a deadlock, even after 2 weeks of voting, with Wolverine and Brand New Day Spider-man.

Last week didn't have much to offer in terms of panels, so decided to merge the two weeks for one stronger poll.

Panel AStarman Who? (Justice Society of America #12)

Panel B
Teen Relief (Teen Titans Year One #2)

Panel C
One More Jab (Amazing Spider-man #549)

Panel D
Wonder-whipped (All-New Atom #20)

Panel E
Humpty Dumpty Saw The Great -- (Jack of Fables #19)
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Buffy Season 8 #11


Writer: Joss Whedon

Artist: Georges Jeanty w/ Andy Owens

Dark Horse Comics

I actually went out and did research this month for this review. Yup, scholarly, that’s me.

For those of you just joining us, the much-adored Buffy TV franchise is continuing in comics form by original creator Joss Whedon as a show runner and himself with other veteran Buffy TV writers and friends on script duty. Oh, and it’s damn good! Buffy, Xander and Willow are living in a Scottish castle training the Slayers Army (yes, we’re using the A-word now), while facing a new enemy: the human army who are viewing Buffy Inc. as a WMD, and are seemingly in cahoots with a magic apocalypse-type evil who has remained in the shadows – till this issue!

And his name? Twilight.

Here comes the research part of the review. And by research I of course mean copy-pasting from Wikipedia:

Twilight is the time before sunrise, or after sunset, when sunlight scattered in the upper atmosphere illuminates the lower atmosphere, and the surface of the Earth is between light and dark.

And the adjective is crepuscular: neat!

Although the issue is devoted to Twilight’s formal introduction, I can’t say I was blown away or particularly intrigued. The name hints at a connection between night and day, vampire and human. The costume is a combination of tacky dark 90s comic-book villain (trench-coat, body armour, full face mask with a generic design and no eyeholes) with a militaristic black/tan colour-scheme that simply doesn’t work on the comic page. Whedon teases about revealing the man under the mask (in a real page-turner / cop-out that makes fun use of the comic page layout in lieu of actual ad breaks), strongly hinting that it may be someone we’re already familiar with. Let the speculation begin!

The story in the issue plays out in three scenes:

[SPOILERS] Buffy and Xander review the tapes from a new renegade cell of Slayers stealing army ammunitions and discuss running issues while the Slayerettes are having a keg party on Dawn (hmm, Dawn - Twilight... and isn’t the next issue about Werewolves by Night, in the Land of the Rising Sun? ‘Hmmm...’).

Buffy sets out on a fun whack-a-vamp run with Season 8 standout Satsu, as an excuse for some girl-to-girl talk about girl-on-girl issues; it’s nice to see Buffy having moved on from her creeped-out reaction at the time of Willow’s coming out, to her more mature handling of Satsu’s schoolgirl-crush.

While the vamps make for easy pickings and fun action, Twilight decides to crash the party and leave his greeting card by way of Boot-on-Face (Errant though: iIs it simple artistic license that ‘Twilight’ attacks at twilight?). Buffy gets a good whipping on two fronts as the Big Bad manages to not only get her hot and bloody, but also strike a blow to her moral superiority and motivation. Jeanty once again handles the battle choreography with great flair as Whedon continues to revel in the ‘bottomless special effects budget’ that the comics medium provides him with.


Several fans of the TV series have become alienated by the choice to move the official continuity to the comic medium; although the book still does great numbers outselling almost all other comics, it doesn’t even grasp at its utmost potential considering the heights of Buffy’s popularity even so many years after the last season. The show’s fans were used to the three-act structure as it’s applied to TV episodes: with a clear three-act structure, character arcs within each episode as well as through the season. The show’s viewers came in expecting the TV episodes in comic format, while Whedon has been experimenting with adapting the form of the classic Buffy episode recipe to fit the comics format.

The first storylines of four issues were more similar to the amount of content, plot and characterisation found in the average episode, maybe as an easy step-in for the readers new to comics. Shifting gears, the last two issues have been self-contained stories, something you don’t actually see in today’s comics, and a fresh step for Joss himself who is used to decompressed storytelling. The plot structure is still here, and one could see the meat and bones of this story making it into a whole TV episode if it was filled out with different sub-plots. Even without the clearer character arcs and story themes that come with looser economy of space, the story is still tightly knit and entertaining, providing both high action, comic relief, the usual Buffy lines (I still get a little SMG voice in my head when I read the Buffyisms in the word balloons) and meaningful characterisation.

This is the real Season 8; it has its own theme and feeling with Buffy trying to fit in a whole new interesting role and setting in life.

Grade: 7/10

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Revolving Door of Death

Source: Captain Marvel #2 (Marvel Comics)

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Fantastic Four #554

Fantastic Four #554

Writer: Mark Millar

Artist: Bryan Hitch w/ Paul Neary

Marvel Comics

They’ve hyped, they’ve teased and they’ve flat-out lied about it and now it’s here – - well, it will be this Wednesday...

The Ultimates team of Mark Millar (Marvel’s Golden Boy) and Bryan Hitch (Marvel’s Tardy Boy) have set their sights on Marvel’s original super-hero team/family; Millar has been making his usual playful declarations and promises of restoring this title as ‘the World’s Greatest’, playing it a short breath away from Hubris (they actually named their first storyline thus) – but who could blame him after his proven sales-topping track record? Meanwhile, ‘Hitchy’ has himself promised a smooth schedule with no delays after the increasingly erratic Ultimates 2 schedule. Start your betting pool!

Millar is of course no stranger to the team, having launched the Ultimate Fantastic Four, with a dodgy rocky first arc and a brilliant follow-up with the Marvel Zombies/Frightful Four and President Thor. But can he handle the real deal?

At first glance, Millar seems to be going back to the evolved archetypal characterisations of the Foursome: the absent-minded genius, the immature hothead, the good-hearted monster, and the MILF keeping the balances. Of course Millar takes each of them a step further –or in some cases a step too far:

Reed is the one most benefiting from Millar’s touch, gaining a level of smart sexiness that makes sense, as school-teachers start melting away at his super-hero good looks and brains. Thankfully that pesky ‘I clone my dead friends and send them out to kill and incarcerate my family and other friends’ characterisation from Civil War has been locked away safely. Wasn’t that Reed erased by Mephisto anyhow?

Sue is the voice of reason for the team, and it usually gets boring fast; here she goes all suburban Desperate Housewife and starts a charity in the form of a new all-girls super-team in the legacy of the original Miss America, grabbing She-Hulk and the Wasp as the Edie and Gabrielle to her Lanette.

Johnny always reverts back to ‘frat boy’ mode as soon as a new writer comes on board, as they figure the readers will be thrilled at yet another chance to see him go through a maturing character arc. (... NOT!). That’s usual writers. With MM everything gets upped a level into super-characterisation, making FlameHead into the super-hero equivalent of Paris Hilton. I quite like this change for the worse, and this shallow fun attitude suits him just fine.

Finally, Ben. Oh, dear Ben. Gone are the days of ‘This Man, This Monster’, the self-pitying, the romantic awkwardness which nicely contras
ted the kind soul and fun-cracking characterisation. The MillarWorld Ben now wears form-fitting Tees, has chiselled himself a bodybuilder’s physique (Note To Hitchy: The Thing’s a Square-shaped rock monster. Look it up, honest! He does not have normal legs and a waist), and is hitting on pretty ladies. Did they swap minds with Johhny in the interim issue? I didn’t mind the playful nudging towards Reed and guilt-tripping him into helping out, but having him so comfortable and confident in his monstrous appearance to hit on girls is a huge jump from the Ben who couldn’t even accept the blind sculptress’ affections.

The story beats are pure Millar. A big splashy attention-grabbing opener in a suitably off-beat scenario (the family escaping a cowboy stampede in the Wild West), followed by a lot of quiet moments, a chance to get acquainted with the new take on the family, lots of snarky and silly odd bits thrown around the coffee table, closing with a mouth-watering double-page spread Bryan Hitch panorama and the trademark last splash page: an extreme character close-up giving a short marketing-friendly power-phrase.

Millar gets a tad carried away with his ‘funny and ironic’ dialogue, and you’re likely to have hours of fun at home playing ‘spot the Millarisms’ in every single panel – we recommend Tequila Shots for maximum effect. Not saying it’s bad at all, I actually enjoy the queer notes here and there as long as they don’t get too intrusive. If anything, the Fantastic Four’s original concept as the Big Idea book is the most appropriate venue for this particular flavour of super-heroic irreverence. Who else could pick up their family for a weekend trip back in time to DisneyWorld's Grand Opening, with antique collector's item tickets they bought on ebay? And who else could have thought of it and put it in the issue as nothing more than a passing mention between panels. This is the most appropriate book for Millar's talents.

Bryan Hitch is on an allegedly (ok ok, I'll stop the vile stabs soon) faster mode while working on this title as he's approaching it a regular super-hero book instead of the more realistic Ultimate assignment. I've always been a fan of his, going back to his fill-in assignments in the X-Office, and he's only been getting better with each year, so it's hard to spot how this piece of work lacks in comparison to the Ultimates issues which required four times the work. Hitch is in the uber-quality league with the likes of Cassaday, Quitely, McNiven etc who can manage to pull off this deflated plot deal and make me drool for more double-page (or 12-page) spreads to show off their excellence.

Overall, a quirky arrogant fun look at superheroes. It will take some great effort to bring this title back to its cover blurb’s promise as the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine, but we’re off to a promising start. I haven’t been this confident in this title’s direction since Scott Lobdell and Alan Davis’ Heroes Return relaunch.

Grade: 8/10

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Who's That (Wonder) Girl?

Girl knows how to make an entrance.

Wonder-Girl/Donna Troy on the final page of the beautifully-rendered Teen Titans: Year One #2 by Karl Kerschl (DC Comics)
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