Category Archives: at the racks

Great Caesar’s Ass!

I watched Superman: Doomsday yesterday, in a fog induced by the worst cold I’ve had in a while.  So my impressions of the movie are definitely clouded by headache, earache, eyeache, neckache, and faceache.  I should also mention that I took a three-hour nap in the middle of the Superman/Doomsday battle. All that notwithstanding, I liked it.

It was a little jarring seeing the classic Timm animation models voiced by such radically different actors, but the new crew does a pretty good job.  I have to say that as much as I love Adam Baldwin, he sounds a bit gruff for Big Blue.  Minor complaint, though.

I was also a bit surprised by the PG-13ness of the whole production.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but I suppose years of conditioning by the strictly PG Batman/Superman/Justice League series had prepared me for non-lethal violence and sugar-coated dialogue.  Not so.  Doomsday kills people.  No injuries here.  He flat out kills people.  And Perry White gets to say “ass”.  Twice!  Not once does he mention the spectral form of long-dead Roman leaders!  It a particularly creepy scene (sorta spoiler – well, yeah, it is a spoiler) Lex Luthor beats furiously on Superman with Kryptonite gloves in a red solar radiation room, finally murmuring “Who’s your Daddy?.  And not-so-oblique references to (another spoiler, sort of…) Superman and Lois Lane having sex are sprinkled throughout.

The story is a rather radical departure from the comic its based on, which, if you’ve ever read the comics, isn’t really that bad of a thing.  Death of Superman was pretty good (and the first trade paperback I ever owned.  Thanks Dad!) but World Without got kinda boring and Return of was weak.  Needless to say, Capizzi and Timm make up their own plot, borrowing some vague elements of the original.  At times I felt like I’d seen the story before, in one or another of the Superman Animated episodes, but that was probably my drug-addled brain.

All in all, I enjoyed it.  If nothing else, it will get you really geared up for the New Frontier adaptation due in February.

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ceebeegeebee at the racks roundup

Having been away on and off for the last little while, I haven’t really reviewed any comics.  Luckily, I bought a fat stack of the things yesterday, and will now tell you what I thought of them in 7 words (contractions count as one):

 Punisher #50 : 🙂 Chaykin draws Barracuda, Frank gets a surprise.

 Chronicles of Wormwood #6: 🙂 This funny and thoughtful series ends well.

 Detective Comics #835: 😦 Weak story plus lacklustre art equals lame.

Midnighter #10: 😦 Much better when Ennis was writing it.

Batman #666: 😐 Futuristic, apocalyptic, satanic, and yet somehow underwhelming.

The Immortal Iron Fist #7: 🙂 Loved it despite some jarring art changes.

Queen & Country #32: 😐 Good, but tardier than All Star Batman.

The Programme #1: 😐 Muddled story not saved by Maleevesque art.

World War Hulk #3: 🙂 Banner appears, and he’s pissed off too.

Thor #2: 🙂 I missed number one, but this works.

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ceebeegeebee at the racks, July 1 2007

The Boys #8: 🙂 I read some superhero comics. I enjoy some superhero comics. But I have to admit, Ennis does some pretty deft skewering of a couple of familiar tropes that the genre loves to cart around. Hughie and Butcher’s conversation at the beginning of the issue addresses something that has always anoyed me: the seemingly random bolding of words in comic book dialogue. And Butcher goes on to deride the tendency of super hero comics to attempt some sort of social relevance by address complex issues in a ham-fisted, laughable way. Super hero comics are great at action and mad science and grand, epic sort of tales, but when it comes to enything requiring subtlety, I’d say the genre falls a bit short.

Immortal Iron Fist #6: 🙂 I could go on about the imaginative action sequences, the wonderful dialogue, and the pitch-perfect art, but this panel should really tell you everything you need to know:

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Spoiler alert: the bad guy does not snap the good guy’s neck, because the good guy’s kung fu is better.

Amazons Attack #3: 😦 You know its Bad News Bears when there are two “See Such-and-such # 10, in stores now!” editorial notes on the same page, directing you elsewhere for crucial plot points. Far, far too much of this story is being told in other books, so much so that the plot of the main series is cluttered and virtually unreadable.

criminal_7.jpgCriminal #7: 🙂 As I lay napping on the couch after coming home from my local shop, my girlfriend nudged me awake and asked why I had a comic with Michael Jackson on the cover. In my semi-catatonic state, I couldn’t tell if she was joking. This creepy resemblance notwithstanding, Criminal #7 is yet another great issue from the Brubaker/Phillips team, and the second issue in a row that seems to pack about three issues worth of story into 22 pages.

I’m enjoying this arc a bit more than the first one, truth be told. Not that Coward was weak in any particular way, I’m just more interested in the story Lawless is telling. If you’re a fan of crime comics, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not picking this title up. I’m hoping that Criminal will become popular enough for Marvel/Icon to consider publishing more titles outside of the superhero genre.

World War Hulk Frontline #1: 😐 I read an issue or two of Civil War Frontline, and was not impressed. I think that story suffered from the disjointed nature of the title. There were too many stories being weaved through the book, and it felt weak. Also, the comparison of the Battle of the Somme to the Green Goblin killing Atlanteans left me with a decidedly weak impression. This one works a lot better, mostly because it tells one story. This is The Hulk’s invasion from a man-on-the-street perspective, just as the title promises. It’s not essential reading, but it is amusing. If you really enjoyed the first issue of the main title, you will want to pick this up.

Hellboy: Darkness Calls #3: 🙂 Duncan Fegredo’s artwork continues to impress me, as he mashes his natural style so organically with Mignolas. The story line is a welcome change of pace from the rather slow and surreal tales told in The Island and The Third Wish. What is the storyline, you ask? Well, Hellboy does a nice job of summing it up while sharing a cigar with a Russian house spirit:

hellboy-chats-with-a-house-spirit.gif

How can you not love Hellboy?

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ceebeegeebee at the racks, June 24 2007

Brave and the Bold #4 🙂 It’s been said before, but this title is the most fun you can have in the DCU these days. I wasn’t really sold on it until this issue, whichlobo-sez-gizz.jpg features Lobo and Supergirl tear-assing around the galaxy while Blue Beetle deals with a half-cyborg Batman. One point of procedure, however: are they allowed to say gizz in all-ages comics now?

Captain America #27 🙂 You wouldn’t think a book could have this much life following the murder of the title character. Despite the inevitable outcome of the Winter Soldier’s quest, I can’t help but root for him. Is there anyone left who actually likes Tony Stark?

Incredible Hulk #107 🙂 Speaking of not liking Tony Stark, Amadeus Cho continues his quest to help The Hulk with his war. After this issue, I want Greg Pak to write a Hercules miniseries, even if it’s just him in an internet cafe.

Chronicles of Wormwood #4 🙂 In this issue, we finally find out what happened to Hitler. I continue to enjoy this series, although I’m not entirely sure why Satan and Jacko are working together. Ennis shows once again how easily he can switch gears from the profane to the touching. I wish there were more writers as talented as this.

Ex Machina #29 😐 It’s not that I didn’t like this issue, I just felt like the ending was a bit of a, well, deus ex machina. To have the mysterious stranger (spoiler alert, folks) simply teleport away was a letdown for me. I really enjoyed the coda, however: a flashback to Hundred’s exploits on 9/11. I remain a stalwart fan of this series.

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Two-Fisted Glory

I admit it: before reading Two-Fisted Tales, I was only vaguely aware of Kurtzman and EC Comics. And what I had heard or read mostly concerned the horror comics and the catalytic effect they had on Wertham’s theories and the creation of the Comics Code Authority. I had never heard of Two-Fisted Tales or Frontline Combat, and aside from a dog-earred reprint of the first issue of MAD my dad bought for me when I was 10, I don’t think I had ever read anything by Harvey Kurtzman.

Now I know why they named the awards after the man.

Reading Two-Fisted Tales is a treat. The stories are, to jam them into a rather broad category, adventure tales. A number of the stories in this first collection focues on soldiers in the Korean or Second World War, but there are a variety of settings: one goes as far back as the Spanish conquest of America. These are adventure stories of the highest order: men (and they are almost exclusively men) fighting and dying, confronted by the tragic realities of war. These aren’t gung-ho, jingoistic recruiting comics: they are, without a doubt, an attempt to show readers just how senseless and destructive war can be.

The issues were edited by Kurtzman himself, who also wrote (or had a hand in writing) almost all of the stories. On the art chores are Kurtzman, John Severin, Wally Wood, Jack Davis, and others. That’s some pretty heady company, you must admit. And these guys bring the goods. Working on strict layouts from Kurtzman, they fill the pages with wonderful artistic details and perfect character acting.  The stories have all been re-coloured, as reprints of stories from this era must be, but the editor of this collection points out that they took pains to match the original colouring of Marie Severin.  The colouring is a great addition: perfectly serviceable when it needs to be and adding some real emotion when used the highlight certain panels.

What is most pleasing is Kurtzman’s story telling. The man could cram so much story into a mere eight pages, without making it feel rushed or overly verbose. Kurtzman’s brisk story-telling is a sharp contrast to Al Feldstein‘s heavily-narrated style, which dominated the other EC books. having read some other comics from the era, I was blown away by how well Two-Fisted Tales stands up today.  I’d put these on my shelf with any modern war comics.  Two-Fisted Tales is good comics, folks.  Damn good comics.

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ceebeegeebee at the racks, June 16 2007

World War Hulk #1: 🙂 What’s that you say? You have not seen enough comics lately that feature The Hulk beating the shit out of Iron Man? I agree. This comic will cure all that ails you.

Green Arrow #75: 😐 Hold on, hold on… The entire JLA? Really? Now that the door has been opened, every single battle in every single DC comic has to end like this from now on.

Justice #12: 🙂 In this issue, The Joker apparently gains the power of teleportation. Vague similarities to the finale of Justice League Unlimited notwithstanding, this is a pretty damn fun comic. Braithwaite’s pencils give Ross’ beautiful but staid art a much-needed dose of fluidity.

Batman Confidential #6: 😦 Is this the most poorly illustrated comic I have read in years? Why, yes it is.

New Avengers #31: 🙂 Brian Bendis’ latest attempt to break the internet in half caps off a great initial arc for the Dirty Avengers. I trust Bendis to treat the can of worms he’s just opened carefully, and I have faith this will pay off with some interesting stories down the line.

Punisher War Journal #8: 😦 There are, I guess, two ways to handle Frank Castle: one is to make him grim, determined, intelligent, violent, and scary. The other is to dress him up like a refugee from the early 90’s and have him declare himself to be Captain America. This comic takes the second route.

World be Warned, it’s Franklin Richards, Son of a Genius: 🙂 Eliopolous and Sumerak channel Bill Watterson for some whimisical adventures with Lil’ Frankie.  Not everyone’s cup of tea, perhaps, but really cute fun.

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ceebeegeebee at the racks, June 10 2007

Detective Comics #833: 😐 I think I might be 100% alone on this, but I haven’t been a fan of Dini’s run on Detective Comics.  I think part of it might be that I was promised J.H. Williams III and got Don Kramer.  I think mostly it’s that the stories have lacked punch.  There hasn’t been much in the way of entertainment value for me, and this issue is the same.  It’s not a bad issue, per se, but it just doesn’t do anything for me.  The story seems really dated: there aren’t that many stage magicians these days, and one that caused that much mayhem on stage would be shut down right away.

Punisher #48: 🙂 This is an arc that I’m sure will read better as a collection.  This issue feels a bit disjointed, but keeps up the pace of the story and maintains the quality dialogue.  If I have one complaint it would be that Frank Castle hasn’t had much to do for the last couple of issues.  Lan Medina’s art is a highlight.  His characters emote really well.

Midnighter #8:  😦 This title had a strong start to it with Ennis’ arc and Brian Vaughn’s issue, but this one doesn’t work.  John Paul Leon’s does the job, but Christos Gage’s story?  Not so much.  It feels like a Batman story with a bit of killing added.  The Midnighter teleports a bad guy to Interpol.  Since when does the Midnighter lock up bad guys?  I keep hearing good things about Gage, so I’m looking forward to reading something of his I enjoy, but this issue ain’t it.

Black Summer #0: 🙂 Warren Ellis tells us Juan Jose Ryp can pencil and ink a whole page in a single day.  If that’s true, this guy is some kind of lunatic.  His pages are packed with the kind of incredible detail you have to see to believe.  Storywise, Ellis teases us with the promise of an intelligent, violent take on superheroes.  His concepts are always fascinating, and this one is no exception.

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