Saturday, October 1, 2011

DC Comics New 52, Week 4 - Part 1 (Aquaman, Flash, Firestorm, Blackhawks)

Well, the final week of the New 52.  Truthfully, I'm hoping the hoopla ends but the enthusiasm remains.  Its been fascinating coming into Austin Books for a solid month and seeing all of these titles sold out every single week. 

I should add, I don't know if ABC had a secret stash or what happened, but they have copies back in stock, which means your local shop might have that issue of Animan Man you missed.

What did I NOT get?

BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #1 - the aforementioned plan to purchase Batman in trades remains in effect
GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS #1 - same goes for GL books
I, VAMPIRE #1 - I haven't even read American Vampire yet, which looks much more my speed.  I'm sorry if I have a knee-jerk reaction to all-things vampire right now.  Jamie plied me with wine and got me to watch the first three Twilight movies.
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #1 - The solicits just did nothing for me.
THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN #1 - I dunno.  The solicit made it look like a terribly generic superhero book with nothing new.  And I just got over re-imagining Hawkman, like, three years ago.  Too soon.
VOODOO #1 - well, since I have no idea what this is about or why I should care and its tied to comics I didn't read the first time, and the solicits were written as if I knew and sounded like "mystery happen to lady! who she? what she do?" I figured - I'm spending enough money.

What I did get (Part 1):

Aquaman #1 - writer Geoff Johns, artist Ivan Reis

I've come to understand that Geoff Johns would be an amazing offensive coordinator, but he's not the guy you'd necessarily want to see at quarterback.  He's great at ideas, he's great at figuring out how to get the pieces moving in ways that will get you over the goal line and win games, but he may know how to throw a spiral, but he's not the guy you want on the field actually busting through lines, seeing escape routes and lacks other writer's abilities to perform with natural athleticism.

That's a bad analogy, but its my way of politely saying he can tell an interesting story and provide great framework, but he's still super-awkward sometimes with the specifics from dialog to being just way, way too much into decapitations.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Blondie = No Post Friday

Went with SimonUK to see Blondie.  I'm afraid there's no post for Friday.  Or, at least, anything on comics.

That show was AWESOME.  If Blondie is coming to your town, I can't recommend enough that you go.

Debbie Harry is an amazing frontman/lady and it was this great all-ages crowd who all knew all the words.

Ms. Deborah Harry still has it

I will say a few things about Debbie Harry:

1)  she is such a weird/ bad dancer, that it kind of circles back and becomes awesome again.
2)  her voice hasn't changed at all.  She sounded phenomenal.
3)  she seemed to warm up to the crowd as the show went on and was having fun by the end.  And she kept pointing to the 40-something guy in my row who was freaking out completely at seeing Blondie.

The band is full of amazing musicians
I've seen a lot of bands, but its rare I see a bands and walk away thinking "those guys are remarkable musicians".  That's something I think the 3-chords and an attitude approach to rock has really eliminated from live shows, but these guys still totally do that.

Simon and I were en route to my car and saw a crowd waiting behind the building near the buses and decided to humor ourselves.

SimonUk poses with guitarist Tommy Kessler (he is awesome)
No, I have no idea who these girls are in the picture below, but they wanted to be in the shot.  I am sad Simon apparently had a seizure while taking the picture.  It makes this a bit of a Bigfoot moment.

I granted Mr. Kessler a photo-op
Ms. Harry did not exit through our door, or at least while I was standing there, and I doubted she'd want to pose with me if she DID show up, so Si and I moved on.

So, anyway, yes, the show rocked.  And Blondie went straight from "Rapture" into The Beastie Boys' "Fight For Your Right (To Party)".  It was hilarious.

But I was more or less satisfied when "Atomic" made the playlist on the 3rd song.

CanadianSimon is back with Week 4 Guest Reviews! (All Star Western, Justice League Dark and Firestorm)

CanadianSimon is back with another round-up!  I have not yet read Simon's picks below (MythBusters season premier was on, people), but once again there's some cross-over here.  I did pick-up All Star Western and Firestorm

Let's see what our friend from the Great White North had to say...

After taking last week off where I didn't bother to review Blue Beetle which did not elicit positive or negative feelings I'm back picking up another three floppies.

All Star Western #1
written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
pencils by Moritat

I did not collect the previous Johan Hex series by Palmiotti and Gray but I was interested in this book. The idea of Jonah Hex being let loose in Gotham City was very appealing. Add on top of that the character of Amadeus Arkham, the guy who goes on to build the lunatic asylum where all of Batman's foes end up, gives this book a dark psychological bent.

The two are brought together to investigate a series of murders. The pairing seems to be odd homage to Holmes and Watson. As they begin to investigate they discover an even greater conspiracy. This mystery really helps to pull the reader into the book. Moritat's moody pencils also contribute to the creepy mood of this book.

In this book Hex's character seems to be pure Id. All he does is drink, fight and generally tick folks off. But, upon further reflection's on Hex you can see that he is actually being driven by his ego as what appears as uncoordinated instinct is actually very organized and calculating as he attempts to uncover the killer.

On the other hand Amadeus Arkham is the super-ego. He is critically analyzing everything that Hex does and this thoughts are shared with us through captioning. Also, Arkham gives off this incredibly creepy Norman Bates vibe which I expect to pay off in future issues.

I can't help but to cynically wonder if the name change from Johan Hex to All Star Western was partially to pay homage to the series from the 1950's but also to distance itself from that horrible, horrible Johan Hex movie that was released last year.

Even though this book is $3.99 it weighs in at 28 extremely well written and drawn pages. I'll be back at my LCS for this next month.

Justice League Dark #1
written by Peter Milligan
pencils by Mikel Janin

This is a book that I was hoping to love and I can't say it completely delivered. It wasn't a perfect issue but it was good enough to leave me wanting to come back next month.

Basically it is a "getting the band together" issue where a new type of Justice League is being formed to combat mystical threats since the main Justice Leaguers like Superman and Cyborg are woefully out of their depths confronting magic.

One of my favourite characters, Madame Xanadu, is pulling together Deadman, Zantana, Shade the Changing Man and John Constantine to be the Justice League Dark (still a dumb name). Sadly, we don't get to see all of the characters together but we can see how all the threads are being intertwined. The big bad in the Enchantress is setup and we are introduced to all of the characters, albiet briefly.

I'm a little disappointed that the JLD doesn't have 7 members as that would be the perfect amount for a mystical super team a la Seven Soldiers.

The Fury of Firestorm #1
written by Ethan Van Sciver and Gail Simone
pencils by Yildiray Cinar

I really love Gail Simone so I really wanted to love this book even though I can honestly say I've never bought a Firestorm book in my life before. Sad to say this will probably be the last Firestorm book I buy.

I know this book is being co-written with Ethan Van Sciver so supposedly we have one conservative and one liberal writer trying to given Ronny and Jason different voices. Sadly the conflict between the two seemed really forced to me and really paint by the numbers. Maybe I don't understand the jock vs geek mentality as that wasn't part of my high school experience.

As well the amount of violence in this book seemed to turn me off a bit. I know this book is rated teen but SPOILERS having a kill crew off an entire family and a bunch of high schoolers just seems excessive END SPOILERS but I guess this is the way a lot of the new DCnU books are.

I wasn't really familiar with Yildiray Cinar but I did really like his art on this book. So while I can say this book isn't for me it might just be for you.

A Special Announcement Regarding Reviews of DC's New 52 (and thanks to @AustinBooks)

Hello, Signal Corps.

I have fallen into a bizarre and amazing situation courtesy of our friends at Austin Books and Comics (conveniently located on sunny Lamar Boulevard in fabulous Austin, Texas).  I have been extended an invitation to receive copies of all the DC New 52 #1's that I did not read for review.  And I am totally going to do it.

Fortunately, the offer they made works within my own review policy, and will actually be getting these comics on loan (yes, I will return them... except the ones I really like).  Then I'll be handing over more money to Austin Books, which is, I am perfectly aware, Brad's evil scheme.

Austin Book's owner, Brad Bankston
There's no clause that says I need to say anything nice about any books, or even anything nice about Austin Books, but when local merchants go out of their way to see that a customer such as myself is done a huge favor (completely unprompted), and just because they know I am a particularly serious DC dork, then I say:  I AM TELLING YOU TO SHOP AT AUSTIN BOOKS AND COMICS.*

It seems this is a good guy doing a solid for a guy who likes Superman.  And that's what makes the world go-round, people.

You can expect the next round of New 52 reviews to begin this weekend.  Yes, I will cover Red Hood and Catwoman.

Don't worry Brad and Brandon, I will keep my cat away from the comics and will limit the number of grape jelly sandwiches I consume while handling the comics.

*seriously, I've been to shops all over the place, and ABC is still the best one I've visited.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Signal Watch Reads: Superman #1 (DC's New 52)

Superman #1
What Price Tomorrow
script & breakdowns - George Pérez
pencils & inks - Jesús Merino
colorist - Brian Buccalleto
letterer - Carlos M. Mangual
cover - George Pérez & Brian Buccalleto
associate editor - Wil Moss & editor - Matt Idleson
this review is of the print edition of this issue

If any comic from the New 52 embraced what it means to explain the new status quo in a digestible way for a new reader who may only be vaguely aware of the existence of Superman, this book has tried the hardest to be that comic.  It doesn't always succeed, but I'll spoil this review by saying: this is one of my favorite books of the relaunch, and not just because its Superman.  In fact, I would say I went into this book deeply skeptical of "change for change's sake", and was won over by the team of Pérez and Merino.

I'm going to go ahead and take up a sentence or two here to say that Chris Roberson deserves a huge nod for his work on Superman, especially with the matzah ball he was handed to correct in Grounded.  Somehow out of that mess, Roberson went on to create some of my favorite Superman comics of the past several years, and set the bar especially high for even an industry vet like George Pérez.  I'm just glad that, like Superman swooping in at the last minute, Roberson ended that volume on a high note.

Like a real storyteller, with actual storytelling skills, who understands that stories aren't always literally about two grown adults in funny outfits punching each other, Pérez manages to tell a story that's not so subtly about taking down the past and turning your face to the future, even when its making you uncomfortable. The first pages witness the ending of a symbolic landmark in Metropolis, something we're all familiar with. "Superman fans," Pérez seems to be saying, "even Superman isn't happy about this new state of things, but there's so much opportunity if we move forward and quit looking at the comforts of the past". As much as its almost comforting to wallow in the question of how and why things were changed, I like the fact that the discomfort generated by change is played up.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

No Post Wednesday

Today was a busy, busy day at work.  And then I went to the gym.  And then I tried to watch The Playboy Club because I mistakenly believed it would be a show about humans and the stories about how and why they worked at the very real Playboy Club in the complex and shifting sands of gender roles in the swinging 60's.  

Nope.  Its a really dumb nighttime soap.  I made it about 7 minutes in and quit.  (Psst.  TV-Makers!  People don't watch Mad Men because of boobs.  They watch it because its an amazingly well written show.)

So no post.  Not really.  Maybe after comics tomorrow.

Instead, here's a cover to Wonder Woman 170, featuring 3 of my favorite characters in comics.  Lois Lane does a "human interest" story on Wonder Woman.  And, yes, she knows Clark is Superman and Diana is his good buddy.  Its a great issue, detailing a single day in the life of WW when she's not out busting heads.

I really miss Phil Jimenez's writing and art, and the covers by AH.

Anyway, here you go:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Two Pilots of the Fall TV Season - Pan Am and Terra Nova

The Fall TV Season is upon us, and with it come the new shows, brought to us by the bright-eyed, hopeful business majors who've been running the studios and networks for a while. As we must each Fall, we are given another opportunity to try to cover the same territory that we've already seen in the lives of doctors, laywers and police and see some new twist upon the long-since drained-of-all-life-and-joy concept, and then call it a day.

You won't see me watching the new cop show about a lady cop in a hat (that's your twist?  A hat?), or the sexy cop that has photographic memory or some other super-power blown way out of proportion with reality, or the latest sexy medical drama or legal drama.  The only sitcom I've tried was the one with Zooey Deschanel because Zooey Deschanel (it was kind of twee, and I don't think its much of a set-up, but Deschanel was pretty funny).

I did, however, watch Pan Am and Terra Nova.

Mr. Peppermint Merges with the Infinite

I saw online that local Dallas kids' TV icon, Mr. Peppermint, has passed.

Mr. Peppermint was actually Mr. Jerry Haynes. And while he played the jovial, puppet be-friended Mr. Peppermint on TV, he was also the father of Gibby Haynes, frontman for The Butthole Surfers. A fact I have never really been able to wrap my head around.

When I was about 4 years old we moved from Michigan to Dallas, and its important to note a couple of things (a) we spent a lot of time in fantasy la-la land as kids, going to puppet shows, plays, movies, etc... and the KareBear was all about the magical land of make believe. I assume it kept us very quiet, and (b) I have only vague memories of Mr. Peppermint, but all of them are colored with candy-coated awesomeness.

Younger readers may not remember that local TV stations used to have a kid's club host, usually on the UHF channel. Sort of like how they would also have a late-night host. These sort of spun out into ideas that got picked up nationally like Bozo the Clown for morning programming and Elvira for late-night programming. On the morning shows, they'd host cartoons, maybe have a live audience that would play games, etc... *

But, honestly, I don't remember much about what was actually on Mr. Peppermint's show, Peppermint Place. I was 6 years old when we moved away.

I do recall it made a huge impact on me that my Ma, The KareBear, took us to see Mr. Peppermint when he did a show at the mall.  I had only seen one celebrity before, and that was some random guy dressed up as Darth Vader signing 8"x10" glossies at the JC Penny.  But Mr. Peppermint came out and talked to his puppets and he had the suit and cane and everything.

Part of why I've gone on and on about this is that:  well into college, I secretly really wanted to be a Kid's TV Show Host.  I'm totally not kidding.  I didn't yet have a character in mind, but I liked the Mr. Peppermint model of just being a genial guy in a colorful suit with puppets.  At the time, Austin just had this kind of loud lady named Kelly who would intro the cartoons, but she clearly didn't give a damn about Animaniacs or Batman.  And I figured if I could get the right angle, I would make the cartoon block way, way more fun.

And then, about 1995, they quit having a kids' club host, and that was that.

I think I grew up with ideas about how things worked that were sort of stuck circa 1955, especially when it came to what made for good TV.  Other kids were watching The Cosby Show and I was watching Mr. Ed re-runs and Leave it to Beaver.  And I'm not unconvinced that a friendly guy on TV talking to kids isn't a better model than the hyper-kinetic mess that makes up most kids' programming these days.

Anyway, here's to Mr. Peppermint, Gibby's dad, and friends to kids in the greater DFW area for generations.

* I remember conversations in middle school about how Bozo's "Grand Prize Game" was f'ing IMPOSSIBLE - where you through ping pong balls into buckets as far away as ten feet.

Our Valued Customers has the Final Word on the Real Problem with Sex and Sexiness in Comics

The problems with comics, writers and readers - they run deep.

If you haven't bookmarked Our Valuable Customers, do so now (but never, ever stray into the comments).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

So, those guys were hiking the Iranian/ Iraqi border?

I've kind of/ sort kept an eye on the story of the three Americans who were held by Iran for the past few years after they, apparently, strayed over the Iranian border whilst out for their morning constitutional.  I, too, had been concerned for the welfare of my fellow Americans caught in a potentially deadly situation playing out on a global scale.  But, I admit, my sympathy for the situation dropped significantly when I figured out today that the three had been hiking the Iranian/ Iraqi border.  To which I say:


How has this not been a part of the story?  Why is this buried several paragraphs down in every article where the information actually does appear in some form other than "hiking along the Iranian border"?

I guess I know now why the Iranians thought our friends may have been up to no-good shenanigans.  Hell, I'm not sure I don't believe they were up to something.

Guest Post - Jamie reads Wonder Woman #1

Hey, Signal Corps!  We've got a guest post I wasn't expecting.

Jamie plays it down, but she actually reads a lot of comics.  She does buy her own stuff from time to time, but mostly she reads my comics when the mood strikes her.  This weekend she picked up my copy of Wonder Woman off the coffee table, breezed through it and then started talking to me about it.  

In talking about the book, I thought she made some good points, so I asked her to put some of that down in a post.

Jamie hasn't been overly curious about the rest of New 52 launch, and as far as I know, this is the only one of the books I brought home that she's read.  But she's a woman of mystery, so for all I know, she's read everything off the coffee table while I'm at the gym.

As Jamie is actually pretty familiar with the last decade or so of Wonder Woman comics (I don't think she realizes those trades are pretty much everything going back to 2000 or so), but isn't particularly invested in DC or their publishing efforts, I thought it would be useful to hear what she had to say.  She also (I think) likes Wonder Woman on her own, and I would think a young, well-read, bright woman such as herself might be someone DC would want to buy their comics.

Ryan asked me to post a short review of the new Wonder Woman (#1 in the "New 52" relaunch).  I am not a regular reader of WW, aside from a few trades and a few issues here and there that Ryan has tossed my direction.  Nevertheless, I still felt a bit sheepish when halfway through the first issue of this reboot I looked up at Ryan and confessed, "I have no idea what's going on".  

I have never been particularly good with reviews, which is why I tended to avoid them on my own retired blog, but let me just quickly tick off a couple of issues I had with this...issue.

1. I admit, I got lost right after Diana and her new friend the Pantsless Wonder were sucked back to Virginia and the black and green voiceover boxes started popping up.*  Who the hell is this talking?  Is it the horse people?  Who are these horsey people?  Ryan kindly explained that the voiceover was coming from Glowy Eyes and his possessed lady friends back in Singapore from the opening pages.  I was embarrassed to have not picked up on this myself, but in my defense it had been 14 pages since we'd even seen Glowy Eyes and I don't like having to flip back through a comic trying to figure out what I'd missed.

Honestly if I didn't know about this relaunch and the book didn't have a "#1" slapped on the cover, I would have no idea this was the beginning of a new story.  It felt like any other of Ryan's WW issues I'd randomly read over the years where I knew I needed to just let some stuff go because I wasn't completely caught up. 

2. Not enough Diana.  For an issue that's attempting to draw in new readers, I would have liked to have seen more Wonder Woman in my Wonder Woman.  I understand that they are trying to lay down a story and it's just the first issue, but new readers are going to be picking this up expecting to see Diana in action.  

Like I said, my knowledge of WW and her mythos is less than impressive so I have no idea if this series is going to truly take her back to her roots or what.  My favorite incarnation of WW so far was the Greg Rucka era around 2004-5 of Ambassador Diana where she had no secret identity and a great cast of secondary characters with which to interact.**  I prefer to read comics that have a little joy in them from time to time as opposed to all violence and angst.  Personal preference, of course.  

All in all, I liked the art, and wasn't turned off enough by the story or the initial confusion to refuse to read any more.  I'll stick around for a few more issues, at least.

*I'm sure it's not called a voiceover box, but please cut me some slack, I don't know the lingo.
**Minotaur buddy? That's pretty awesome.