Tuesday, June 29, 2010

B is for Blockbuster

So, as some of you may know, I'm a huge fan of the Mindless Ones blog. In spite of the moniker, they never fail to offer insightful comics criticism and commentary, and I love them for it even when I don't agree with them (which isn't too very often). Anyway. Zom of the Mindless has begun a series of articles in which he'll be dissecting and analyzing all the Bat-Villains, in alphabetical order. He recently did the Bs, where he serves up an interesting look at Black Mask, links to an earlier (and absolutely stunning) Mindless piece on Bane, and gives a short dismissal of Blockbuster.

Now, I've always kind of dismissed ol' Blockbuster myself. He was originally a "Hulk-Lite" sort of character, a mindless monster controlled by his criminal brother. His primary threat was his great strength, and his primary weakness was that he was dumb as a box of rocks. He never appealed to me. You could get the same sort of stories far more entertainingly out of Solomon Grundy, for one thing. But for another, Blockbuster was just boring as owl shit. They tried to alleviate this problem sometime in the last decade or so by having him make a deal with Neron the Spandex Satan to get super intellect. So all of a sudden, Blockbuster (still a hulking monster) got a giant brain in addition to his giant muscles, and started running around in white gangster suits.

Zom doesn't have much use for either version of the character, and I can understand that. But I've always liked super-smart Blockbuster (even if I hate the character that made him that way). I'd never quite put my finger on why, but Zom's dismissal made me really think about it. Now, keep in mind that I’ve read maybe three panels that featured the character in any significant manner, so this is all just speculation. Pure potential that I’m sure has already been trod upon by unimaginative writing. But…

Monday, June 28, 2010

Funnybook Battle: Powers vs Batman!

So last week was one hell of a week for funnybooks. I got two of my favorite current on-going comics, two of my favorite “pulp” comics, a new issue of a mini from my favorite funnybook writer, and tried out a new mini-series. All this equals happy me.

But! As I sat down to write my usual one-week-later reviews, it hit me: I held in my hands the most recent issues of the two best on-going series currently in print. Now, I’m not talking about mini-series here, or six-issue storylines by top-notch creative teams, or even annual OGNs like Scott Pilgrim. I’m talking about on-going funnybook series. Books with dedicated creative teams working at long-form serialized storytelling. Now, that sort of thing is still pretty much the industry standard, and I still read a good bit of it (Daytripper, Fables, the Boys, etc), but two books really stand head-and-shoulders above the rest to my mind, and I’m hard-pressed to say which is the better on-going funnybook. So I decided to just work it out in front of you, my adoring audience. And thus, I give you…

Bendis vs Morrison!
Marvel vs DC!
Realism vs Fantasy!
Or, more to the point…


Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Last week's funnybooks, today! For your active lifestyle!


New Avengers #1
by Brian Bendis and Stuart Immonen

The last of the big Avengers launches (at least, the last of them I was interested in). We get to see Luke Cage's full reaction to Cap's Avengers offer, and it's pure gold. As is Luke pulling his team together, including the Thing, Iron Fist, and Victoria Hand.

Unfortunately, the rest of the issue deals with Brother Voodoo and some kind of demon invasion, and I'm not the biggest fan of Bendis writing the Marvel magic characters. I kind of like his narrative quoting of the esoteric names of all the spells, but it seems like a better idea than it works out to be in actual practice. The names feel fairly authentic, but they lack pizazz, and that annoys me to no end. I mean, "The Longorian Spell for the Battle of an Astral Incursion Into the Corporeal World" has got NOTHING on "The Crimson Bands of Cyttorak!"

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs The Movies

So it kind of burns my ass that I've seen two or three times as many pieces on the upcoming Scott Pilgrim movie from funnybook websites as I have on the Scott Pilgrim comic itself. Last year, I found out that the fifth volume was coming out from an Amazon recommendation robot before I saw a single word on it from the comics interweb. And this year, I've seen 18 billion pieces on the upcoming movie, while things have been relatively quiet in regards to the final volume in the series. Which is, by the way, in case you've missed the news amongst all the moving picture frenzy, being released on July 20th. That's the funnybook event of the fucking year, so mark your calendar now, fan-man!

(I don't know exactly when the movie's coming out, but I'm sure you can find that information reported a couple dozen times on every other comics website on Earth, so I don't feel particularly compelled to look it up.)

Now, I'm sure some of this disproportionate coverage is because the movie studio's got a much larger promotional budget than Oni Press. And of course, people love the movies. I understand that. I love movies, myself. I even love some movies that were based on funnybooks. But when funnybook websites that have barely acknowledged the existence of Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim funnybooks get real excited about the movie... I catch a whiff of bullshit.

And out here on the Dork 40, we don't cotton to bullshit.

So just allow me to officially state, right here and now, that I'm about ten times more excited about Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour than I am about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. I'm sure it'll be a kick-ass movie. Edgar Wright hasn't let me down yet, and I don't expect him to this time out, either. But holy crap I can't wait for the final volume of the comic to come out. After all that pathos last time, I NEED the catharsis of seeing Scott Pilgrim fight the final Evil Ex-Boyfriend. I NEED it! So many questions to be answered! CAN Ramona change? WILL Sex Bob-omb break up for good? WHO is Gideon? WILL Scott ever grow up? Or at least get a clue? And what about that cat?!

Can't. Fucking. Wait.

Holy Natty Dressers!

Some nice Bat-villain re-designs, by artist Dennis Culver, whose flickr stream with tons more like this can be found here. Nice stuff. The Terrible Trio there are already awesome, of course, but he even makes me wanna read a story about freaking Hush!

Picture found at Robot 6.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Floppies for Trades 1: Torso

So I recently did that thing that aging funnybook dorks sometimes do, where I traded in a big chunk of my comics collection and replaced the good stuff with trades. It’s a great deal for the discriminating fan-man (even at pennies-on-the-dollar trade-in value). You rid yourself of a few hundred pounds of unsightly storage boxes filled with staple-bound pamphlets you may never look at again, and replace them with an attractive bookshelf filled with square-bound volumes you can discuss with your snooty literary friends.

Or, you know, at least you can find an old funnybook you wanna re-read without having to move a mountain to get to it…

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


It's last week's comics today! FUNNYBOOKSINREVIEWAREGO!!

by Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver

This second issue of Jonathan Hickman’s SHIELD is the first Marvel work from him that reads like a Hickman comic to me. It’s got all the hallmarks of his Image work: strange sci-fi ideas, genuinely weird characters, an obsession with history, long discussions of philosophy and plot, and a willingness to break traditional comics narrative with pages of script-style dialogue accompanied by representative illustrations. It’s also my favorite of his Marvel work to date, which says a few things about what it was that attracted me to Hickman’s work in the first place.

Artist Dustin Weaver also really knocks this issue out of the park. He’s very good at drawing strange technology and panoramic architecture, I like his inventive layouts in the action sequences, and I can see hints of both Brent Anderson and George Perez in his work. He’s got room to grow, certainly, but this is fine stuff.

All in all, a very satisfying issue for me, and a guarantee that I’ll be back for more.

Grade: B+

Walking the Pop-Crime Beat

Batman #700
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Tony Daniel, Frank Quitely, Scott Kolins, Andy Kubert, and David Finch

Normally, such a long list of artists as the one above would indicate that the book in question was a visual clusterfuck. But because the issue's been broken up into four distinct chapters (or, actually, three chapters and a post-script), it's not as bad as it might seem. The only place it's jarring is when Scott Kolins steps in to finish up Frank Quitely's chapter. And while that's VERY jarring, I do like the style Kolins is using on his pages for the most part, and the substitution was apparently unavoidable due to Quitely having some back surgery, so I'll only bitch about it a little.

Anyway, the story. This is the big anniversary issue, understand, and Morrison has rather wisely served up a stand-alone story for it. A time-tripping mystery story starring all three of the Batmen he’s written in his run: Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, and Damian. So we have more alternate Batmen, the major bat-theme of the Morrison era, in service to a story that just about anyone could pick up and read with little prior knowledge of current storylines. That’s a good move for one of these big anniversary things, I think. Too often, they’re the final chapters of a big long-running story arc, and anyone who picks the comic up just for the milestone issue would probably wind up feeling pretty lost.

Some have reported feeling lost in Morrison’s murder mystery anyway, of course, and in this case I can understand it. The mystery is fairly simple, and is in fact solved by Dick Grayson in the second chapter. Which only sets the reader up to expect a twist. A twist that doesn’t come. And matters are only made worse in the final chapter, when a grievous art error by Andy Kubert confuses the details of the murder even more. So the mystery aspect of the story is pretty much a failure.

But fortunately, the overall success of the issue doesn’t depend on that. The mystery is really just an excuse, a framework upon which to hang a celebration of the longevity of Batman. And, by extension, the longevity of the Joker, too. The Joker’s Joke Book is just as much a linking concept here as the mystery, and a more successful one. It gains legendary status as a sort of grimoire of crime, but it’s actually blank. Or perhaps, as Bruce Wayne eventually decided, the words in it are only visible to the insane. Which is a great nonsense idea, and hardly the only way in which the Joker is important to this story.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Worst. Funnybook. Ever?

The Rise of Arsenal #1-3
Written by JT Krul
Art by Gerard Borges

So the funnybook interwebs are all a-flutter about this DC Comics mini-series, with some claiming that its third issue is the Worst. Comic. Ever. So of course I had two immediate reactions. 1) “I’ve GOT to read that!” and 2) “Worst funnybook of all time, eh? We’ll see about that!” And see I did.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Man Who Fell to Earth

I recently got to see The Man Who Fell to Earth in its entirety for the first time. It's one of those legendary counter-culture dork movies that I'd always intended to see, but never quite got around to for whatever reason. So I'd seen bits and pieces of it here and there, and had no real feel for what it was really like. Turns out it's really weird, and a little tedious. In the film, David Bowie plays a space alien who comes to Earth with amazing technological advances that he uses to make enough money to build a rocketship he can use to bring water back to his drought-stricken homeworld. But, through the magic juju of television, x-rays, sex, and alcohol, he's slowly turned human instead. It plays a bit like a science fiction version of Citizen Kane, though I'm sure he's really supposed to be more like Jesus.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Is It Too Early To Say That I Hate the iPad?

So I'm getting a little annoyed with iPad censorship. Well, "censorship" may be too strong a word. "Content restrictions" might be more accurate. What I'm hearing is that Apple won't allow any iPad content that goes beyond a high "PG-13" rating. There's a strict "no nudity" policy in place, and concerns have been voiced about similar restrictions on high-end foul language. I've seen a number of writers and comics creators voice concerns on this front, but a case I read about today kind of bothers me.