Thursday, 31 January 2008

BUGger Me!

Just a quick note of happiness: Ambush Bug is coming back!

Now if only we can get Giffen to do something with The Heckler . . .

Monday, 28 January 2008

Who'd Like A Cocktail? #14

Another tricky decision this week as to who got the Cocktail post: Countdown To Final Crisis #14 was a good, solid read as things really seem to be kicking into gear now; Blue Beetle #23 was as entertaining as ever; Teen Titans #55 stepped out of the shadow of Geoff Johns at last and moved various characters forward; and the lives of doctors Gordon and Nelson in Countdown To Mystery #5 took a turn for the strange.

Despite those and a bunch of other titles I picked up - not least the second trade paperback of the Tangent Comics line - I just had to go for Uncle Sam And The Freedom Fighters #5 for a whole bunch of reasons, not least of which was the gorgeous cover and the fact that the very first page contains the immortal line: "She wants me to father a thousand explosive insect children."

This title's been splendid from day one and has built on the strong characters introduced in the first mini-series that followed the events of Infinite Crisis. Both in the first mini-series and this one, the writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti haven't shied away from being brutal with their characters - I think the first series had one of the highest body counts of recent years and even with today's wholesale slaughter at DC that's saying something.

And it looks like the deaths aren't about to stop.

The line about "explosive children" comes from the Human Bomb who is being forced by his one-time team-mate Red Bee to impregnate her following her transformation into an alien insect/human hybrid. Stripped of his containment suit, however, the Human Bomb does what a bomb does and begins to countdown to an explosion.

Mind controlling her team-mates and using it as a way of removing female competition, Red Bee commands Miss America - a character that Gray and Palmiotti brought back into the DCU in the first Uncle Sam series - to absorb the Bomb's blast and fly into space before it explodes, presumably killing the all American heroine. Of course, with no body to be cradled in someone's arms, there's always the chance that Miss America could return but based on the writers' previous series, I don't hold out much hope.

Something else Gray and Palmiotti have done with these series is the introduction of new heroes and villains, some brand new, others as the latest incarnations of older heroes.

The latest Firebrand, along with the other members of the team have been stuck to the walls and, once they've been forced to mate with Red Bee, will be eaten by the resulting progeny. Breaking free, Black Condor manages to attack Red Bee and stoically pronounces that for everyone to be freed, Red Bee must die.

Ever the liberal, Firebrand doesn't agree while one of the newest heroes introduced - the new Captain Triumph - has no qualms whatsoever about Condor's rough treatment of his former team-mate as can be seen in the picture.

Condor's efforts, though, are for nothing as the mind-controlled Human Bomb attacks him only to be commanded by Red Bee to kill him.

It's a great series and I for one would be well behind an ongoing written by Gray and Palmiotti and illustrated by Renato Arlem who, despite his tendency to use the same scene several times in one issue, is a damn fine artist.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Geek Alert!

It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this thing to hear me admit to being a bit of a geek.

I'm a huge comics fan (that much is obvious what with this blog, the two annotated sites I run and submitting plot info to the Collectorz online database) but I also like software and things that encourage me to do things.

I'm a big fan of Google products and as much as I like Google Calendar, the one thing it's been lacking since launch is a To Do List. Having tried a handful of others, I came across Todoist which, as you can see from the screenshot, lets you create individual projects and manage tasks within them. If you click on the image, you'll see I've got a bunch of things to do with The Annotated Final Crisis and I'll be working through them over the coming weeks - you should see the non-comics list of things to do that I've got!

The screenshot and annotations, by the way, were made with a program called Fireshot, a free extension to the Firefox web browser which is also one of my favourite bits of software; I honestly can't remember the last time I used Internet Explorer.

So there you go - now that I've geeked all over the place I'm off to complete something on my to do list!

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

We'll Have No Continuity Here!

As any right thinking person of my generation (closer to 40 than 35) should attest, a defining point in their lives should be Star Wars and all that it entails. I was lucky enough to see it first time round and can remembers watching it in the cinema, eight years old and just being blown away. A few years ago when my wife and I got married, she walked down the aisle not to "Here Comes The Bride" but the Imperial March! Only yesterday evening I sat and watched Family Guy's loving take on Star Wars called Blue Harvest - well worth a watch if you haven't seen it yet.

All of this is by way of preamble to a quick post about Star Wars: Resurrection Of Evil, the third trade paperback by Dark Horse which collects the original Star Wars comics that were first published by Marvel in the 70's and 80's. I picked it up just after Christmas and read it, cheerfully remembering the first time I'd read them as a kid but this time round noticing a few things that made me chuckle.

The original comics adapted the first Star Wars film way before it was retitled Episode IV: A New Hope and was, as all things Star Wars related was at the time, very successful. Rather than wait three years and then just do an adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back, the writers - principally Archie Goodwin - actually continued the adventures of the "star warriors" as they were termed in the comics. By the time the adaptation of Empire began (which Star Wars: Resurrection Of Evil leads off with) they were up to issue #39.

The adaptation of Empire's pretty good - they obviously had a look at the script and were able to do a decent job with the overall look of the thing. One detail that the artists (Al Williamson and Carlos Garzon) seemed to have difficulty with, though, was Yoda.

Not only was he depicted throughout as wearing a short cloak that finished about mid-thigh, thus revealing two very spindly legs, he was also about ten inches tall as can be seen in the picture above!

However, it's the further adventures of the "star warriors" that are strangest. Most of them are straightforward tales of the rebels vs the Empire but occasional gems stand out. The Third Law, for instance, features Princess Leia visiting a banking world to raise funds for a new fleet of fighters. Attempting to stop her is none other than Darth Vader himself but on a world where all outsiders are banned from carrying weapons they have to rely on their wits to carry out their individual goals. And, having escaped his clutches once before, Leia's obviously not scared of him as the picture shows! It's a strange story that finishes with, of all things, Darth Vader cracking a joke at Leia's expense!

In the pre-Return Of The Jedi early 80's, no-one knew Luke and Leia were siblings and the comics continued hinting at the possibility of romance. In a later story, The Last Jedi, the pair of them are disguised for various reasons, Leia with blonde hair, Luke as a bounty hunter complete with beret, eye-patch and fake mustache. Having seen Leia cavorting with Prince Denid the night before, Luke confronts her and with more than a touch of jealousy, bitches about her and Denid, accusing her of "playing spin-the-bottle" with the Prince! Nice to know that teenage games concerning random kissing made it to a galaxy far, far away.

The Dark Horse reprints are wonderfully done and if you can get past them contradicting everything we know of the Star Wars universe today, they're an entertaining read. Just don't go looking for continuity.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Realistic Dialogue

What Forerunner should have said in Countdown To Final Crisis #15:

Monday, 14 January 2008

Who'd Like A Cocktail? #13

Despite being really busy with boring things like work, I'm going to endeavour to get back into the weekly swing of things as far as the Cocktail posts go. Having said that, I'm away next weekend so that one might be delayed as well.

Tricky one this week: The Four Horsemen came to a satisfying conclusion with #6; Green Arrow And Black Canary #4 almost redeemed Judd Winick's urge to kill every hero from the previous issue (though I still have reservations which I'll deal with in another post); Green Lantern Corps #20 almost made it but the short hand conversation between Kyle and Guy rankled a little; Countdown To Final Crisis #16 killed a lot more people; Salvation Run #3 almost got the Cocktail for the great surprise ending; The Boys #14, while a good solid read, didn't do anything spectacular; and the frankly bizarre Teen Titans Lost Annual #1 was just too . . . bizarre to cope with unless you'd taken as many drugs as Bob Haney had.

Which you couldn't because he'd taken all of them. All of them.

As you can tell from the picture, though, it was Suicide Squad #5 that stood out for me this week.

Having taken his time in explaining how Colonel Rick Flag (previously thought dead) was back in the Squad, John Ostrander's story begins to pick up pace nicely as the first mission for the new Squad is placed in jeopardy before the members even leave the warm and welcoming corridors of Belle Reve prison.

Giving the bad guys the most attention this month, Ostrander neatly reveals that The General is still as devious a son of a bitch as he ever was. Unknown to Amanda Waller, the Squad's leader, The General is in control of Flag and plans to sell the Squad down the river to the very people they're due to go up against.

On top of that, Bronze Tiger has to reprimand Captain Boomerang for pissing off Deadshot, neatly foreshadowing an upcoming conflict between the pair. Deadshot and the original Boomerang were never the best of friends and with the new Captain's ill considered attempt to annoy him, it's certain that things will quickly come to a head.

Rather than rush into explaining how Flag returned, Ostrander once more showed what a damn fine writer he is by bringing him back in a way that, while bizarre, made perfect sense within the larger world of the DCU. Using the same steady flow, he has built the series towards what promises to be a damn fine climax which should hit just before Final Crisis.

I for one can't wait.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Wait, You Mean I've Been Mindwiped Too?!

Looking through my old comics once more, I found Justice League Of America #153 from April of 1978 and having re-read it, I've come to realise that I - and indeed you, the reader - may have grounds to sue DC Comics.

A meeting of the JLA, held aboard their satellite, is interrupted when several of the members - Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, The Flash and Green Arrow to be exact - find themselves suddenly whisked away, vanishing before the eyes of the other Leaguers. They reappear 22,300 miles above the Earth where the satellite should be only to find themselves in space. Thankfully, Lantern's able to whip up a protective bubble around them and get them all to Earth safe and sound where they can begin working out what happened to them.

With true heroic timing, they land in New York just in time to stop what Superman refers to as "an old-fashioned bank robbery!" No sooner are the robbers caught and handed over to the police than the boys in blue gently tell the Leaguers to stop playing around in capes and tights and despite Superman telling them who they are, for some reason they don't believe him.

A young girl does, however, as she happens to be carrying around a copy of Justice League Of America #151 and asks for The Flash's autograph. For her sister. Yeah, right; we all know it's for her really.

Moments later and The Flash finally works out that they're on . . . Earth-Prime! Yes, the League are here in modern-day New York! Or they would be if it was still 1978 . . .

Knowing where they are, though, allows Flash to realise there's a way home for them all. On one of his previous visits to Earth-Prime he built a Cosmic Treadmill and left it in the care of then-DC editor, Julius Schwartz. A quick jog up town brings them to Schwartz's office but, despite his best attempts, The Flash can't get the treadmill to take them back home. Something is preventing them from leaving . . .

That something, unknown to them at that point, is presence of Ultraa, Earth-Prime's first and only super-hero. In a quick origin, it's revealed that Ultraa is the last survivor of an alien race and has been living with the Aborigines in Australia. A robot called Maxitron that was to have served as Ultraa's nursemaid and helped him had suffered damage upon arriving on Earth-Prime and has since gone mad - instead of caring for Ultraa, it now wants to kill him. The League get involved and enter the flying yellow pyramid of Maxitron to combat the insane mechanoid.

That's right: a flying, yellow pyramid. And that brings me to one of the main things that got me writing this little piece.

As any Green Lantern reader worth his salt knows, the Lantern rings have a "necessary impurity" in their make-up which renders them useless against anything coloured yellow; it was established when Green Lantern was re-launched at the tail end of the 50's in the Schwartz-edited Showcase. The inability to affect anything yellow meant a lot of the early Lantern stories featured the hero coming up against something that was coloured yellow - it was as reliable as Kryptonite became to Superman.

As you can see in the panel on the left, being on Earth-Prime doesn't affect the Lantern's ability to affect anything yellow. Brought aboard the flying, yellow pyramid of Maxitron, Lantern is bombarded by yellow laser beams that sting him.

On the next page, he reasons that they're only stinging him to soften him up for the next round which is against a "Tiger Bear from the planet Osarus" whose "yellow fur is impervious" to the Lantern's will powered ring beams. The hero comes through in the end (using a Captain Kirk-style two handed punch!) but it's clearly established that even though the League are on a different Earth, his ring still won't work against yellow.

How the hell, then, does he do the following once Maxitron's defeated?

As Ultraa worries about the consequences of his actions, taking the potential loss of life from the about to explode flying, yellow pyramid as his responsibility, Green Lantern simply whips up a scoop to direct the flying, YELLOW pyramid away from Pearl Harbor.

It goes against everything that was written about Green Lantern for years before and - even more baffling - it goes against everything that was written just a handful of pages before in the very same issue!

Green Lantern uses his power ring to deflect something coloured yellow when it should have just fallen straight through his ring-construct!

But that's not the strangest thing about this issue. Just three panels later, on the last one of the issue, Green Lantern comes up with this brilliant solution to the problem of Earth-Prime citizens having seen them:
That's right, folks - everyone except Schwartz and the good people of DC Comics was mindwiped in 1978! You, me, everybody who was alive then! Just so that we wouldn't remember what happened but the DC writers would so they could then publish the comic. What about that young girl who's so obviously a fan (remember, she wanted an autograph for her sister) that she's bound to buy this issue. When she opens it up and sees her own meeting with The Flash is that going to bring back the ring-erased memories?! Where is that girl now? Probably locked away in an asylum muttering "I'm the only one left who remembers the infinite earths. You see, I know the truth."

If we all band together, we can probably sue for damages - DC had to be complicit in the mindwiping, right? And there's no way we can sue Green Lantern as he's now on New Earth, so it's got to be DC.

Now, anyone got Dan DiDio's address . . . ?

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Finite Earths Published

Just a quick note; I've completed (for now) the page compiling a list of the known worlds of the post-52 multiverse on the Annotated Final Crisis. A link to the page is here.


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