Sunday, 25 November 2007

Who'd Like A Cocktail? #10

I'm probably as surprised as anyone else here to find that my Cocktail comic this week is Countdown To Final Crisis #23. While I've enjoyed the series so far, it's come in for a fair bit of bad press from both the comic journals and the fans. True, it's never had the must read aspect of the series it grew from, 52, but I've found it to be dependable if nothing else. Maybe I'm just not as discerning as the rest of the comics world?

And it's not as if it didn't have some competition, particularly from The Boys #12. As I've said before, I love Garth Ennis's work but this seemed to be something of a place holder; The Brave And The Bold #8 was a good, solid story, too, though nothing exceptional; both Countdown To Mystery #3 and Countdown Presents The Search For Ray Palmer: Gotham By Gaslight #1 had their plus points but didn't quite get there. So, at the risk of damning with faint praise, Countdown To Final Crisis got the Cocktail this week almost by default.

But it wasn't just that nothing else hit the bar, either. Concentrating mostly on Superman-Prime's torture and questioning of Mr Mxyzptlk it showed the flawed, one-time hero to be a deeply troubled but very powerful character. This is a guy who, back on his home world pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths, was due to grow up and become Superman. Following the disastrous events of Infinite Crisis, and the Sinestro War (which is, confusingly, still going on over in the pages of Green Lantern) he has turned into the self-named Superman-Prime. Determined to find his perfect world, his Earth-Prime, he isn't above destroying people or whole worlds - as shown in Countdown #24, he destroyed the entire Earth-15.

With his level of power, conviction that what he is doing is the right thing and his unwavering determination to carry it through to the end, he has truly become a force to be reckoned with. I find myself wondering how much the character will affect the forthcoming Final Crisis and whether he will be one of the major villains of the piece.

In this issue, having captured Mr Mxyzptlk, he needs a way to prevent the powerful imp from freeing himself. To that end, Superman-Prime forcibly ropes in the spell caster from Earth-3, Annataz Arataz whom he tortures into compliance. The evil counterpart of Zatanna (note the backward spelling of the Earth-3 sorceress' name) she receives short shrift from Superman-Prime and rightly so; she admits herself that she had done terrible things on Earth-3.

At the end of the issue, however, there is an element of redemption for her as she helps Mxyzptlk escape, restoring his magic that she has been removing continually. Her redemption is short lived, though, as Superman-Prime - still an immature boy despite his physical stature - destroys the hideout he has been using, killing her at the same time.

There's been a fair few deaths of characters in the lead up to Final Crisis - witness the destruction of Earth-15 as mentioned above - and it seemed a shame to see yet another character who had potential thrown away without a thought, much like the Jokester in Countdown #29 who was worthy of his own one-shot (Countdown Presents The Search For Ray Palmer: Crime Society) but was then dispatched mere moments later. Not only did Annataz manage to redeem herself but there was also a nice visual touch that set her aside as shown in the picture above. Not only were her spells said backwards like Zatanna's, but they were upside down as well!

There were brief interludes with both Mary Marvel, who was still teamed with Eclipso, and Lord Havok who reveals he is now Monarch's number two, but this was definitely Superman-Prime's issue and, for once, it makes me really look forward to next week's.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

More Pages Published

Just a quick note to say I've published the FAQ and Help Needed pages on The Annotated Final Crisis site.

Obviously the FAQ's a bit of a misnomer - no one's asked me anything yet - and the Help Needed is empty as nothing of Final Crisis has been published yet.

Still, they're up and ready so one less thing for me to do in six months time.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Updated Headshots!

I was away for the weekend, hence the lack of a Cocktail post for last week - for what it's worth, it was a toss up between The Punisher #52 and Booster Gold #4 with The Punisher just ahead.

Anyway, this is just a quick post as, checking Newsarama, I found the picture on the left, the cover for the upcoming Justice Society of America #13.

There's obviously a meeting between our Superman and the Kingdom Come/Earth-22 Superman, but check the heads surrounding the main picture: it's a clear homage to the headshots shown around the covers to Justice League of America (Vol 1) #207 - 209 and All-Star Squadron #14 - 15, the original Crisis On Earth-Prime story which gives this blog its name!

Now, of course, I have to decide whether to pinch the head shots from this cover and incorporate them into the picture heading for my blog . . .

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Who'd Like A Cocktail? #9

A tough decision this week for the cocktail, partly because I only picked up a handful of comics. Infinity Inc was never in the running, however; the third issue has simply made me realise that the title's not working for me so I'll be dropping it. Both Midnighter - Keith Giffen continues to impress with his dialogue even though the plot seems a bit haphazard - and the Red Rain issue of The Search For Ray Palmer - if only for the Kelley Jones artwork - were close contenders but, as I did for the very first cocktail, I've gone for The Atom.

Once again, Gail Simone has written a fast moving, tightly plotted adventure, free of the confines of the Search for Ray Palmer crossover from previous issues, that can deal with the characters she so obviously enjoys.

It's probably no coincidence with Simone taking over the writing of Wonder Woman that Diana turns up in Ivy Town this issue, intent on using Giganta - whose alter ego of Doris Zeul teaches at the same university as Ryan (The Atom) Choi - as bait for something bigger. Complications arise, though, when it turns out that Ryan and Doris, as was hinted at in previous issues, are almost beginning a relationship.

Their first date isn't just complicated by the arrival of Wonder Woman, however, as a new villain - or possibly villains - arrive to throw a spanner in the works. A man arrives at the class of Ryan's friend Panda and uses mind control to implant the suggestion that Panda should kill Ryan the next time he sees him; either the same villain in a woman's body - as shown on the right, he/she seems to have the ability to swap brains/bodies - or a related one tells Giganta that Ryan's selling her out to Wonder Woman. While the results of the latter incident are played out almost instantly, it seems likely that Panda's troubles will be picked up in future issues.

Giganta and Wonder Woman have a long history which invariably involves violence - at their date, Doris complains about the way calves are kept before being killed for veal. Ryan, despite his obvious attraction to her, can't help but mention how many times she has tried to kill Wonder Woman.

The date doesn't end well, partly due to the villain mentioned above informing Doris that Ryan is going to turn her over to Wonder Woman. While he had originally agreed to wear a wire, Ryan's principles had come to the fore and he had decided not to betray Doris's trust. Unaware of this, and prompted by the mysterious villain, Doris becomes Giganta and ransacks the restaurant.

Wonder Woman launches an attack and despite the Atom's attempts to calm things down, Wonder Woman ends up knocking Giganta down, forcing the Atom to come between the two women and stand up to the Amazonian princess who seems intent on hitting her foe even when unconcious.

While Wonder Woman compliments the Atom on his bravery, Giganta mysteriously disappears and unknown to either of the heroes, Ivy Town is about to be quarantined by the Department of Metahuman Affairs.

Simone writes an excellent Atom; his interactions with both Giganta and Wonder Woman work a treat. She doesn't forget the alien Head, either, with a throwaway line from him as he stares at Wonder Woman and says "Head have feel oddly aroused by non-head appendages!"

What she doesn't write well, though, is the obviously British male villain that confronts Panda. While it starts off well - using the term "mate" as opposed to "friend" or "pal" and referring to the Atom's nemesis Dwarfstar as a "git" - she loses all credibility with the line "Off snoggin' with the birds, weren't he?"

Trust me, Gail: no-one in Britain speaks like that.

Despite that, this is still a damn fine comic.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Questions From The Bar

As any regular readers will know, I'm a big fan of DC Comics; my (usually) weekly posts headed Who'd Like A Cocktail? deliberately focus on the comic that I've enjoyed most that particular week. There are other blogs out there that bitch and moan - some of them I read regularly because they're also funny about it, while others seem to just moan for the sake of it.

I'm not much of a whiner - if I don't like a comic I'm reading, I'll give it a few months and if it doesn't pick up, I'll ditch it. However, there were a couple of issues this week that bugged me so I thought I'd do something a little different and have a look at them.

JSA Classified has rotated stories about the members of the Justice Society with different writers and artists and the last three issue long story arc called Mr Horrific has finished in #31.


Story-wise, it featured the JSA going up against an American senator with apparent leanings toward Nazism.

Art-wise it featured Alex Sanchez's attempts to render human beings as contour maps; just compare his drawing of Heinrich Himmler with a portrait I found just by doing a Google Image Search.

The story was weak to begin with but by this final issue it appeared the writer, Arvid Nelson, had just had enough of his own half-arsed story and made no attempt to play it straight. Having (presumably) written himself into a situation where only the most bizarre idea could rescue him, he reveals that the brain of Heinrich Himmler is alive and well and living on the Moon!

No, seriously! To make it worse, Himmler wants a harem "stocked with the finest German women!"

I'm not making this up and I wish that Nelson hadn't either. When you consider that Justice Society of America is one of the DCU's premier teams and being written by one of DC's premier writers, why is this companion title being treated as a dumping ground for terrible stories and atrocious artwork?

Some people may like Sanchez's work but I don't and when coupled with a really poor story like this, I can see it being pulled, either by the company or from my reading list.

The other thing that bugged me was Countdown To Final Crisis #26, the first issue of what used to be called Countdown to have its new full title.

It was extremely exposition heavy which was a deliberate move by the writers according to this interview at Newsarama and whilst I didn't really need it, I can see it had some benefits. It summarised what was happening or had happened in Countdown up to that point and revealed the big villain behind everything as Darkseid . . . even though he'd been revealed as the bad guy in the first issue, #51. As far as summarising everything was concerned, it made no mention of Pied Piper and Trickster's story nor Holly Robinson and the Amazons; Eclipso and Mary Marvel barely got a mention as well so while it attempted to offer everything as a neat little package, it left some bits missing.

That wasn't what bugged me, though. It's been established that for each of the fifty-two universes in the Multiverse, there is a Monitor. Fifty-two universes equals fifty-two Monitors, right?

Check this out:
That's page 1 of Countdown To Final Crisis #26, the opening to the series that will lead to DC's big event of next year.

Everyone of those red dots is a Monitor and without counting the half dozen to a dozen or so that could be hidden by the panel in the top left or the two or three directly in front of the main Monitor, there are seventy-four of the buggers.

Seventy-four! That doesn't even include Bob whose off exploring the Multiverse with the Challengers From Beyond!

Someone at the DC offices really needs to have a word with Scott Kolins who drew almost half again too many Monitors.

Six Months To Go

With the release of Countdown To Final Crisis #26 last week, the ball well and truly gets rolling towards next May's Final Crisis.

I've done some preparatory work on The Annotated Final Crisis and over the next couple of weeks aim to build on the information that's out there.

I changed the colour scheme so that it's more readily distinguishable from The Annotated Infinite Crisis and while it's looking fairly bare and straightforward for now (there's still only the front page that's been published) there's more to come.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Google Provide Search Engines, You Say?

Sometimes the most obvious things are the hardest to see.

I'm a big fan of Google's products: I use Blogger to power this blog; Google Page Creator for the two Annotated sites I have; gmail for my e-mail; and a whole host of others but it was only this evening that I thought of adding a search engine, powered by Google, to The Annotated Infinite Crisis site.

Live and learn, I guess.


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