Saturday, 29 September 2007

Who'd Like A Cocktail? #4

To be honest, it wasn't difficult this week choosing which comic to feature here. Yes, there was the first issue of volume two of Uncle Sam And The Freedom Fighters which showed its success wasn't reliant on the gorgeous artwork of Daniel Acuna; there was Green Arrow Year One #5 which, while nothing brilliant, was as solid as the rest of the run has been; there was Countdown #31 with the new Crime Society; and there was even Teen Titans #51, featuring the Titans of tomorrow.

Out of these and other titles I picked up this week, though, Blue Beetle #19 shone out. Keith Giffen, though he left the title after #10, appears as writer along with regular John Rogers. So seamlessly did Rogers continue with the story, I'm not sure whether Giffen's name appears as an error or not. Whether it was written by both of them or just Rogers is immaterial, however, as the issue is a joy to read.

There's been an element of humour throughout the series - probably inevitable with Giffen's involvement - and it's still evident; the last thing this book should become is grim and gritty. Beetle's supporting cast are realistic - witness the exchange between Paco and Peacemaker when they're confronted by Giganta tearing down the local villain's house. I can't help but wonder how Paco would have fared had Giganta still been wearing her leopard skin bikini.

Talking of which, it is nice to see Giganta wearing an all over body suit; it just makes so much more sense than that bikini... though that had its plus points...

The house Giganta's destroying belongs to La Dama, the local crime boss who happens to be the aunt of Beetle's best friend, Brenda. While Beetle's more than aware of who La Dama is, Brenda has remained ignorant of this for the whole series but finds out quickly during Giganta's attack.

Having previously met Traci Thirteen, Beetle taps her for information when he is told by Peacemaker that Giganta's transformation to huge size is magically based. Traci, having a handle on magic herself, points him in the direction of how to bring the villain down (literally) and, with Peacemaker's help, Beetle manages to stop her rampage.

Whereas most superhero fights are full of dire proclamations and gravitas laden statements, usually made through gritted teeth, Beetle's battle is a more lighthearted affair, as can be seen in the picture on the left.

But it's not all laughs in this book and that is perhaps why it's so consistently good. There are genuinely touching moments, particularly in the resolution of this issue. Brenda - La Dama's niece and Beetle's friend - finds out in the most insane way that her aunt is the crime lord that everyone in town is afraid of. To compound this, she finds out that her friends, Beetle and Paco among them, already know this and have been lying to her for months. To say she's upset is something of an understatement.

Instead of an angst ridden confrontation, however, Beetle sends his mother to comfort Brenda.

There is heart and understanding in this series, as well as some laugh out loud moments; if you're not buying this, you really should.

Friday, 28 September 2007

DC Versus Marvel - 70's Style!

As I mentioned when I started this blog, I'm in the process of re-cataloguing my entire collection. Using the database from, I'm going through, adding cover scans and notes, plot descriptions and character appearances. It's a long old task but it gives me the opportunity to look over some of my comics that I haven't seen for a while, much like the one show here: Justice League of America #103 from December 1972.

About ten years ago, in 1996, the big event of the comics industry was what legions of fan-boys had been waiting for: a no holds barred, knock-down, drag out fight between the heroes of the big two companies. DC Versus Marvel was a four issue mini-series that pitted Batman against Captain America, Superman against the Hulk, Storm against Wonder Woman. The twist was that the fans got to vote for the winners of five of the battles, giving Marvel a narrow victory - a result that, with my blatant favouritism towards DC Comics, I disagreed with. I mean, come on - Storm beating Wonder Woman? Wolverine beating Lobo? Ridiculous.

Anyhow, while the heroes battled for the sake of their respective universes, I'm guessing a minority of fans remembered that they'd seen something similar before. True, not on the massive scale that the '96 series offered and with absolutely no interactivity, but the two universes had clashed previously.


Back in 1972 in JLoA #103, the League are warned by the Phantom Stranger that there are dark doings afoot in a city called Rutland, Vermont. Felix Faust, an old enemy of the League, is summoning demons for his own nefarious purposes and it's up to the League to stop him.

It being Halloween - when else would demons be summoned? - Rutland is hosting its thirteenth annual Halloween parade which means that not only are the League involved in it, but most of the people are in fancy dress costumes. As the plot thickens, the Flash encounters some possessed party-goers (hence the glow surrounding them) and while he recognises two of them being dressed as Supergirl and Adam Strange, the third introduces himself as Commando America. While none of the Marvel heroes are named, I can only imagine that back in the 70's there wasn't a great deal of worry spent on being sued over likenesses as there's no doubt that's Captain America!

Possessed, the party goers attack and the faux Captain America manages to lay out the Flash by flinging his shield which connects with a mighty BTANNG. They knew how to write sound effects in those days.

Batman, meanwhile has problems of his own as he is attacked by someone he describes as a "bargain basement web-slinger"! I swear, the balls on Len Wein - the writer of the story - are unbelievable! To get away with not only writing this but clearly having the Marvel characters depicted so that there was absolutely no mistaking who they were referring to beggars belief.

There's no way this could be done in today's litigious world.

Back to the story, though, and Batman is aided by the arrival of Green Lantern who manages to defeat the Spider-Man character. No sooner is that done, though, than another Marvel stalwart appears. Batman again shows his disdain for these characters, referring to the classic Jack Kirby designed costume of Thor as "a poor man's version"! Green Lantern's no help this time round, however, and both he and Batman fall.

The story turns out okay in the end, of course, and there are no other mentions of Marvel characters. As with the '96 battles, there is a narrow victory but as the fights take place in JLoA, it's no surprise DC wins out. There is one last guest appearance, though - Captain Marvel in his first (sort of) appearance in a DC comic.

Forced by DC Comics to stop publishing the good Captain because he was too similar to Superman, Fawcett Comics eventually licenced the character to DC. In what could only be a bit of a slap in the face to Fawcett, the Captain's first appearance has him going up against Superman, the very character that caused his cancellation!

There is light at the end of the tunnel in the shape of an advertisement for Shazam!, the new series DC were launching. The tag line actually reads Watch out, Superman! Here comes the "original Captain Marvel" The "original" line refers to Marvel Comics having trademarked their own Captain Marvel character in the period between Fawcett ceasing publication and DC getting their hands on him.

So there you go, the first unofficial meeting of the DC and Marvel heroes. As with almost every other first encounter, it ended in a fight, but at least this time the DC guys won!

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Picture (Im)Perfect

Just a short note to say I've been having some problems with the pictures I've posted here; everything seems to be sorted now, however.

I'm sure both of you will rest easier knowing this ;-)

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Who'd Like A Cocktail? #3

For the second time in a row, a week containing a Garth Ennis comic - two, actually, and one of them was a Garth Ennis DCU comic at that - gets beaten to the dubious position of starring in a Who'd Like A Cocktail? post.

As strong as JLA/Hitman #1 was and as wonderful as it was to read about Tommy Monaghan again, it was Justice Society of America #9 that worked best for me this week. Other highlights included Streets of Glory #1 (the other Ennis written comic), the Green Arrow And Black Canary Wedding Special #1 and the better than expected Countdown To Mystery #1.

Each of these first issues, though, were beaten by JSoA #9 which showed once again why Geoff Johns is such a good writer. There are moments of comedy such as Flash gently warning off a firefighter from Stargirl or the charity boxing match between father and son Wildcats as well as the gruesome scene of an old Titans villain, Goth, being discovered murdered. In each scene, Johns ably manages the characters, staying true to each of them. His writing - particularly his dialogue - has come a long way since the less than brilliant Day of Judgement back in 1999. He now has the measure of the characters and in particular one that, when he was writing JSA, he was reluctant to introduce.

Power Girl was not his favourite character but he has, over the years, obviously grown to respect her, recently installing her as chairwoman of the JSA. She may still be finding her feet a little - as illustrated by the brief hesitation below - when it comes to making decisions but that's to be expected when starting a new job.

With the new story arc, Thy Kingdom Come, beginning, Power Girl is likely to play a major part; the story involves the arrival into the DCU of the Kingdom Come Superman - since the last issue of 52, I guess that should be the Earth-22 Superman. Incidentally, the last page of JSoA #9 is a clear pastiche of the cover of Crisis On Infinite Earths #7 and as such has been added to the relevant page over at The Annotated Infinite Crisis.

With this new Kal-El - older and looking like her Earth-2 cousin who died at the end of Infinite Crisis - coming into her life, Power Girl is likely to have a difficult time ahead of her.

Public Enemies

Typed up some short notes for the Public Enemies page over at The Annotated Infinite Crisis. There's only a tangential tie-in to IC as it's where Luthor finally puts on the green and purple warsuit that he wears throughout IC, but it was worth covering.

The Who'd Like A Cocktail? post is a little late this week as I was away all weekend; I'll sort something soon.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Who'd Like A Cocktail? #2

It was something of a tough week this week to choose which comic to babble about; Booster Gold #2 was a clear front runner for a while, as was Green Lantern #23. The Search For Ray Palmer Wildstorm one-shot almost made it and there was the Ostrander written Suicide Squad to consider among others.

Eventually, though, I went for the Justice League of America Wedding Special which is essentially Dwayne McDuffie's first issue as writer of Justice League of America.

I'll admit I don't really know the guy's work; a quick look through my database shows a couple of one-shots and the dreadful wrap-up he did for the last series of Firestorm. As far as I'm aware, that was a job he was handed and told to finish it as soon as rather than him running it into the ground and that's kind of encouraging. Those last three issues of Firestorm were terrible but this Wedding Special mostly works.

I say mostly as there's a couple of things that niggle - particularly the appearance of Felix Faust in the Hall of Doom (pictured on the right) as well as Major Force in the double splash page showcasing the villains Luthor has assembled. Faust is meant to be imprisoned in Dr Fate's tower as at the end of 52 - a fate which is shown in this week's Black Adam #2 - and Major Force was killed by Captain Atom/Monarch at the end of Battle For Bludhaven. I know Force has died and returned several times, but even so - post-Infinite Crisis, continuity in the DCU is supposed to be a lot smoother.

Those quibbles aside, however, this was an enjoyable story even if, despite the title, it didn't actually focus on the wedding at all. McDuffie seems to have a handle on the characters as shown by the exchange between Red Arrow and Batman and it was nice to read a copy of JLoA without trying to remember which characters' narration boxes were which colour. As much as I enjoyed Brad Meltzer's run on the series (as well as Identity Crisis) trying to work out who was narrating based on the colour of the box was a pain in the arse.

The Wedding Planner leaves me eager for the main run of McDuffie's JLoA; while it wasn't the best comic ever, it was more than enough to whet the appetite.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Who'd Like A Cocktail? #1

Well first off I have got to come up with a better title for these semi-regular babblings than My Week In Comics. Another day, though.

Normally any week that contains something by Garth Ennis - as this week did with The Boys #10 - would mean I'd focus on that; I like the guy's work and will pick up just about anything he puts out, even the less than fantastic things like Ghost Rider or 7 Brothers. As you can probably tell by the picture, though, the comic that really got to me was The Atom.

Since its launch following Infinite Crisis, Gail Simone's writing has never failed to make me smile, particularly when dealing with the miniature aliens that live on the Atom's dog's back. The adoption by the Atom of a floating head left behind by the aliens is just weird enough to work and the scene in this issue of the head shouting "Have heroism or death!" as it helps one of the Atom's friends attack two giant monsters is priceless.

And how is the problem of two giant monsters faced? Well, the Atom uses his head while one of his colleagues offers a more simplistic approach as shown on the right: A + B = C(atastrophe)

Who'd like a cocktail, indeed?

Actually, that's not a bad title for these posts...

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Final Crisis, First Steps

Just added some blank pages to The Annotated Final Crisis so that, as next May rolls around, I've got something in place that I can just start typing on.

I have to admit to some trepidation about FC - Grant Morrison's knowledge of obscure characters is enormous so trying to find out who's who is going to be both challenging and terrifying.

No sense worrying, though - plenty of time left.

Covers Are Done

I finished adding the credits and annotating the covers for Infinite Crisis and have published everything over at The Annotated Infinite Crisis. A fair bit of credit must go to the contributors to this thread over at Comic Book Resources; much of the work had already been done which is probably why I was able to finish them so quickly.

There are still a fair few things to do, as I mentioned in my first post here, and I hope to get everything done before the end of this year.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Damn George Perez!

I've just spent the best part of an hour over at The Annotated Infinite Crisis annotating the covers for issues 1 and 2 of Infinite Crisis - it's something I've been meaning to do for a while but just haven't gotten round to and I think I know why.

George Perez, damn his eyes, just packs way too much detail into his artwork! The Jim Lee variants, however, are nice and simple by comparison.

Once the seven issues of IC are done, I'll publish all of them at once.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

And We're Off!

As the little text box on the right states, this is (hopefully) going to be a periodic chat about comics - primarily DC's output as the vast majority The of the titles I buy are from DC - but also about the two sites that I run. The Annotated Infinite Crisis has been up and running since the middle of 2006 and I've recently prepped a site for next year's big event where I plan to do much the same. No surprise, then, that I've called it The Annotated Final Crisis.

There are a handful of things that I still have to do on The Annotated Infinite Crisis which include listing creators, finding scans of the Jim Lee covers, annotating the covers of the issues themselves and a couple of other bits and pieces.

Due to time constraints, you can probably expect updates once a week, usually on a weekend.


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