You know, as I looked at my stack of comics last week, I feel a little bad that there’s only one DC title. Then again, marvels kind of dominating things right now with their Devils Reign event and all of its tie-ins. I suppose I make up for the lack of DC comics by focusing on their television instead. I did manage to catch up with Superman and Lois, and my opinion hasn’t really changed. It feels like the last three or four episodes have really just been about cramming as many confusing and heartbreaking emotions in to the viewer as possible and it’s beginning to wear on me a bit. It doesn’t help that they are also indulging in the same, played out “the government is evil” trope that Star Trek Picard is beating into the ground as well… But at least Superman and Lois is watchable The Flash is back as well, after a reasonably strong start with the Armageddon miniseries. I know, technically that’s supposed to be a arrow versus crossover, but considering that we’re crossing over with two canceled shows, and one that nobody’s watching… It’s really just a flash show. In fact, this is turning into the best way to showcase some of these characters. Since justice league tied up the rights to most of the main line DC heroes after the flash, The CW is had to pursue increasingly obscure characters… And it stopped working a while ago. Bringing them in as guest heroes though, that’s actually not a bad idea at all, it has been a lot of fun. It’s helped The Flash kind of reinvigorate the series, after a very slow start to the last season (but also very strong finish)
There’s a bit of a caveat when I say The Flash
is back… Because The Flash doesn’t actually appear in this episode. This one is strictly an excess and impulse story, where they’ve done something that messed up the timeline, and they have to go back and fix it… All the way back to right after the explosion at Star Labs. Back to a time before The Flash existed. It’s a good and fun little romp, but this feels suspiciously like a back door pilot to show the chemistry between excess and impulse as they engage in some speedster highjinks.
Actually, that sort of makes sense considering The Flash showrunner Eric Wallace revealed to Comicbook.com
that he’s currently writing the Season 8 finale as if it also needs to be a proper sendoff for the series. If that’s true, then I’ll tell you this much, I expect a spectacular season this year, with the show trying to go out on top.
Back to comics, I’m still on board the Batgirls
train. Really, the thing that we’re reading this for is a relationship between Steph and Cass. That’s a good thing too, because the current story arc feels like it’s stretching out a little bit too long. This issue feels a lot like filler, with half of the book literally taking place with them going out cruising and checking out a used bookstore. We’ve got Stephanie explaining to Cassandra terms like BFF or Bestie, and it’s actually a little weird. I get what they’re going for and how they’re building this friendship, but we have Cass portrayed is shockingly naïve in a lot of ways, despite being In Barbara Gordon’s care for a long time (an entire series even! Remeber that 2000-2006 run kicked off by Kelley Puckett and Scott Peterson?). Then there’s the constant affirmations that Cass makes to Steph. We get it again in this book… In fact it seems like it’s I requirement that at least once an issue somebody remind Stephanie how amazing she is. Again, it’s weird. Steph is already a complex character. She is broken away from her super villain father, created a superhero identity in the Spoiler, been trained in large part by Robin, falling in love, falling out of love, gotten pregnant, become Robin, died… No, wait, faked her death
… Came back, then has been Batgirl. All of this, and she still needs daily girl power affirmation from her best friend?
Like I said. Weird.
It makes me wonder how much of both of their canon has been dropped in the face of the constant DC reboots… New 52 to rebirth to whatever this currently is. It’s a shame actually, because these desperate attempts to shoehorn girl power and strong female characterization into these characters feels forced, mostly because they already WERE strong female characters… and this kind of stuff actually deconstruction chips away at that. It’s a step backwards, not forwards. Whatever, I’m still going to enjoy Steph and Cass bantering back-and-forth.
Devils Reign continues to be good stuff, and actually so does the Superior Four. It’s one of those tiles that probably didn’t even need to be tied into Devils Reign, it’s got enough potential on its own in a what if sort of way. But the real find this month, is the Moon Knight tie-in to Devils Reign.
As I mentioned a week or two ago, I do enjoy prison stories. Devil in cell Block D
was a brilliant handling of Daredevil, and the Punisher really works in those sort of context as well. Just look at the first chapter of Circle of Blood
, or the one shot The Cell
. This feels a bit like an amalgam of both. We have the skill and cunning of Daredevil, mixed in with the murderous brutality of the Punisher.
It’s a straightforward story. Moon Knight gets himself caught and thrown in jail to get at a particular con in there… making his way to him and his bloody revenge through a trail of broken bones and beaten down prisoners. It’s a solid one-shot adventure for people who like this sort of thing. I’m not a huge Moon Knight guy, so it’s hard for me to say what the appeal would be to his fans, but I really enjoyed it despite not being a fan.
I admit, the more I am trying to ease back into reading modern comics, I’m discovering… I’m getting very tired of the Multiverse. Look, this was cool back in the 70s and 80s when DC really kicked it off. It allowed us to have the golden age superheroes on one world and the modern age ones on another… We could have back up stories about golden age Batman and the huntress, and All-Star squadron running… Completely doing their own thing in continuity. At the same time, we could have Superman and Wonder Woman and the Justice League over on another rack, never touched by the events that were happening on earth 2… Except in the very rare crossover every few years, when that you were us would get together and battle a threat like the Crime Syndicate on earth 3. Even Marvel approached it this
way around the turn of the century when they were really pushing their ultimate line. It was confirmed that the ultimate comics weren’t just their own continuity, but their own universe when the fantastic four accidentally crossed over into the Marvel zombies universe. Then somebody had the bright idea that the MCU would be just another stop in the Multiverse… And DC then picked up this ball and really ran with it on The CW. The Flash
was the first showed a really tie all the various sundry DC properties together, even with that first, brief glimpse of John Wesley Shipps Flash from the 90s projected in the vortex as Grant Gustin hopped worlds.
But now it’s everywhere. I mean everywhere. Hopping between parallel dimensions and worlds is done with the same ease and regularity of jumping in your car and driving one town over to see a movie. What used to be the domain of imaginary stories and rare crossovers has
become so common place, that it genuinely waters a lot of the source material down. I peaked at the Gwen-Verse issue this week, and it really just underscores my point and how we are and I am of this stuff. There’s some cute stuff, Gwen is Thor and stuff… But it really just belongs in a sidelined imaginary story, not in main continuity, where everything
is now canon. I think we’ve gone a little too far, and it’s become an excuse for lazy writing. Personally, I’d really like to get back to more grounded tales. Heroes that are fairly unique in their one universe and continuity… A minimum of derivatives and a special focus on a non-powered supporting cast. Maybe that’s just the street-level story fan in me, but I really do think that’s what we really need to ground comics and get them back on track. I’d definitely be buying more books if that were the case!
Got a Harper show coming up this weekend with lots of longboxes to dig through. Maybe I’ll start looking for just that sort of thing Sunday!
March 14, 2022 | Categories: As Seen on TV, Comic Books, Comic Bookshelf | Tags: Batgirls, Devil's Reign, Gwenverse, Moon Knight, Superman and Lois, The CW, The Flash | Leave a comment
Could whoever is running the control board over at Superman and Lois turn down the “soap opera“ dial a few notches please?
Seriously, that’s most of what I observed this week. A sort of soap opera filler episode. The daughter found out about the affair Lana‘s husband had. This of course, ruins her quinceanera. Elsewhere, there’s drama between Superman and the General who thinks he’s in cahoots with Bizzaro, that’s why all but one of his team is dead… And Lois‘s partner meet up with the cult leader who slips her Mickey. Honestly, it’s just so soap opera it hurts. I know we’re gonna get past this, but I remember these kind of long stretches in The Flash as well… where it would kind of forget that it’s a superhero show and go full CW.
On the other hand, I don’t wanna complain too much. It’s still the best version of Superman I’ve gotten in ages, and man if they haven’t made Bizarro just terrifying. Like I mentioned last time,
that’s no mean trick.
We too often see Bizarro as a goof, a clown, and this one is anything but. This one is absolutely a stone cold killer with a chilling warning that war is coming.
Nothing much else on television, although I did check out a couple of comics this week. Nothing great to speak up there as well, it must be filler week for DC. Human target
was really one of those stock filler issues as well, with a meeting between chance and Martian Manhunter that primarily occurs entirely in chances head. It does very little to develop the characters and nothing to forward the plot. Same thing with Spider-Man
… Although in fairness, Peter is back in costume and getting back in action here, teaming up with Ben Riley. It’s more a penultimate story than it is a real driving
force. That is to say, nothing to write home about. I’d really like this arc to be over soon please? Maybe get back to a status quo Spidey for a bit huh?
The one thing that I did find interesting this week was Devils Reign : Villains for Hire
. The Kingpin, now mayor of New York, is doing the whole thunderbolt thing. Incomes USAgent basically offering his services to try and keep these villains under control. I’ve always enjoyed USAgent, and this is a prime example of why. He doesn’t have the virtue or moral fiber of captain America, but he definitely has the drive and the earnestness. When it comes to Truth, Justice and the American Way (hey, that’s catchy!), he’s a true believer. It’s a nice little side step. It can’t really stand on its own, but as a sort of sidequel, it’s one of the better ones.
February 28, 2022 | Categories: As Seen on TV, Comic Books, Comic Bookshelf, superheroes, superheros, Superman | Tags: DC, Devil's Reign, Human Target, Marvel, Spider-Man, Superman and Lois, The CW | Leave a comment
Of all the titles that DC could put out as black label,
Suicide Squad actually makes the most sense. There’s been a lot of times during that original 80’s run where this title crept right up to the edge of mature readers territory… And quite frankly, the first Deadshot miniseries absolutely should’ve been mature. So I was definitely interested when I saw Suicide Squad Blaze.
It’s splintered off of the main continuity, doing it’s own thing, and it’s fine, because it’s not really focused on the squad we know.
The government has several doses of a new drug called blaze, that will give an ordinary person superpowers… The problem is it also kills them in about three months. However they have a threat that they just can’t handle on their own, so they go through Gen Pop looking for volunteers (That is, after some of the more regular members of the squad flat out refuse). So the story is generally told through the eyes of a lonely loser who stepped up because the girl he loves also volunteered. What does it matter if they’re gonna die in three months?
The mission goes poorly, in grand Suicide Squad tradition and that’s fun. It’s gorgeously drawn in that gritty photocopy style that always appeals to me. Along with our super powered experiments, we still have some familiar faces from the roster. Peacemaker is there because they’re still trying to make this a thing, and tie into the TV show. Harley is there, because she’s kind of become inextricably linked to the Suicide Squad over the years. We’ve also got king shark from the movie…Not quite so dumb as he is in the film, but not the super intelligent plotter that the comics have portrayed him as in the past. He mostly just fights for special privileges, it really just wants to call his Mom. Rounding out the team is Captain Boomerang, a personal favorite. Boomerang’s always been good as the amoral comic relief of the team… And always added an interesting dynamic. In a lot of ways his role is been usurped by Harley, but I’m always happy to see him whenever he shows up. Interesting, they’re drawing him to look a lot like John Simm. (You may remember him as my least favorite version of the master from Doctor Who, but really you should look up some of his other work. His early comedies like Human Traffic are brilliantly cynical in a year 2000 way. Reminds me a bit of Seth Rogen and a touch of Adam Sandler).
Harley for her part is interesting here. This isn’t a typical portrayal for her… In her own books she’s cute and sexy. She’s charming and funny, it’s a little cracked in a slightly homicidal way. In this black label story, they’re not trying to make her pretty. She’s an attractive enough girl at times, but she’s also dangerously insane. Her face contorts into crazed anger, and she’s genuinely a bit frightening. There’s a sociopath edge to her personality that we’re not used to seeing anymore. Gone is the quirky, cute girl Deadpool routine we’ve become so familiar with, replaced by a dangerous psychopath and I got to say… It’s refreshing. This is exactly the sort of character I want to see in Suicide Squad. I’m really happy with this book.
I picked up Batgirls number three. It’s actually turned into one of those tiles I look forward to each month now. We’ve got a kid on the street using Scarecrow schtick, fear gas and such. It’s a nice straightforward adventure, and just a fun chance to spend some time and hang out with Steph and Cassie.
Steph is one of those characters that can be effortlessly charming in the hands of most writers. She basically writes herself, and you can stick her into a variety of situation and costumes and have her come off well. (Quite frankly, that’s pretty much what they’ve been doing for the last 20 years) but Cassandra is more of a challenge. You need a good writer to really handle her well. She’s largely mute, and very
withdrawn, except for her physical prowess. You can basically either turn her into a background character or a tank. That’s about all. I’ve never really connected with Cassie. Oh, there’s been moments… I seem to recall an issue of Cassie’s old Batgirl series where Barbara takes her on a cruise and chance of having to fight bad guys. There’s some good moments there, like when they’re at dinner, or describing how wearing a swimsuit makes her feel uncomfortable because of the way she reads the body language of everyone around her. The almost romance with Superboy peaked my interest and I didn’t go anywhere, and the way Batman fired her at one point did nothing for me. In the past They would try too hard with her when they try at all, like putting her in the classic Batgirl suit (“Look! She tripped on her high heels!
” Bleh.), or portray her as quirky, walking around the Outsiders compound naked in front of people because she just didn’t care… None of it lands.
That’s actually what’s been so special about this book. Giving Cassie a foil to bounce off of helps develop her and draw out her personality. One of the
strangest things to me was a dialog box where they describe Steph as her best friend. And attacking her best friend is obviously going to make her angry… That’s interesting. It’s interesting because I never really looked at Cassandra as someone who even had friends. Maybe Barbara, but she’s more of a mentor. Cassie with that sort of a relationship… The best friend… A typical teenager thing… I like it. It feels like growth.
Barbara Gordon is living her best life here too. When they rebooted her as bad girl in the new 52, she felt decidedly younger. I know she’s probably 19-ISH… the way she was in the silver age, but especially once we got to that Batgirl of Burnside thing in the rebirth era, she seriously looked and felt like she was a 16-year-old herself.
This Barbara feels more mature. She feels like a 30 something with the age and experience to really mentor these two girls (and I’d love to see that discussion between Babs and Bruce… About setting up basically the girls dorm of the Batman family, and him needing her to mentor them because there’s things that women need other women to teach them.). Barbara really feels like Oracle again here. And I gotta be honest, that was really her best destiny. I know that sounds ghoulish to say that her best, most ultimate form, was the ex superhero, paralyzed and trapped in a wheelchair, but Oracle really did more good with a greater reach and Batgirl ever did. Barbara Gordon had a greater maturity and depth in that era and it just makes her more interesting character rather than just a cute but derivative one. I like that I’m seeing some of that character in depth here, and all these elements together just make this a great book.
I had a friend in the Panels Comic Club
mention to me that he may wait to get this in the trade… You can do that, but honestly, I don’t know how long this series is gonna last. After watching the untimely demise of the super sons, I’m honestly
approaching this personally as a miniseries. If we get more than six issues, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. If we get more than a year, I’ll be shocked. But, as one of the few new comics coming out that I’m really liking, I’m going to hang on and enjoy the ride.
Don’t be fooled by the cover of this next book. Spider-Man (Neither Ben nor Peter) appear in this issue. Issue 88.bey is strictly a side story and I got to admit, I really wish they’d just done a separate issue – kind of the way they did with that Mary Jane and Black Cat story last month
. It was just a better way of doing things, even if this team starts to become bigger players in the main title.
That’s all I have to say about this issue. I probably would have passed on this thing if I’d realized what it really was.
I picked up Secret X-Men on a whim. Mainline Marvel titles like the Avengers books or the X titles I like to dip my toe in every once in a while just to see if there’s anything worth reading. X-Men hasn’t been all that worthwhile for quite a long time now. The X titles are ugly preachy books with some disturbing ideas. It used to be that X-Men was solid superhero storytelling with a subtext about equality. It would bubble to the surface here and there, and frequently they would deal with things in metaphor. The problem is, metaphor isn’t good enough anymore and the current crop of writers have put the subtext in the foreground and frequently forget to write an adventure. You know how I describe large chunks of the CW shows as “attractive-people-standing-around-in-hallways-talking-about-their-feelings“tm? The X-Men comics are all that. And all the talk is very much “Look how diverse we are! Look how gay we are!“ (It’s strange actually, every new mutant created seems to be required to have some LGBT characteristics. Just being a mutant isn’t enough… But then again like I said, these people don’t understand metaphor anymore. Wierd. It’s a statistical unlikelihood and sure fire Darwinian path towards extinction by the way). The X-Men themselves have become full on segregationists living on an island only for mutants. It’s actually almost crossed over into kind of racist territory… Like I said. These books have gotten ugly.
Secret X-Men jumped out at me in large part because of the lineup. It feels a lot like an X-Force variation. I always really enjoyed X-force, perhaps even more than its predecessor New Mutants. They managed to keep the relationships and chemistry very much intact here. One of the real pleasures of reading this book is watching sunspot and cannonball interact. It’s too old best friends just falling right back in the sink… It’s just Roberto and Sam, and it feels very genuine. That’s sort of male relationship where you can let down your guard a little bit and where you just know each other. We need to see more of these kind of friendships.
I like a lot of this team. Boom Boom and Banshee have always sort of been fan favorites and Strong Guy is a really fun character when he’s in the right hands. I’m actually a little disappointed that we don’t get more funny stuff with him, although there’s a bit of a whopper towards the end involving holding breath at a graveyard.
I’m also really enjoying these costumes. A lot of the X-Men redesigns have been hit or miss, but as far as this whole uniform looks goes, it’s a great take on it. The artist blends the aesthetic of the classic Xavier uniform with modern elements like the digital X and the more ribbed and leathery textures.
More importantly, it’s a genuinely fun book. Bobby is hitting a party and trying to impress people by telling them he’s the leader of the X-Men… But this backfires when Deathbird recruits him because she needs the X-Men’s help. Bobby then recruits a crack team of familiar faces… Mutants who didn’t qualify for membership in the current roster of the X-Men, and off they go on a spacey adventure. It’s good
times and it feels like 90s X-Men to me (an era I’m particularly fond of). I’m not sure if I’m gonna stay with this book, but I’m definitely gonna pick up the next issue just to see where this goes.
By the way, I’m also sticking with Devil’s Reign. It’s a hard book to review, because it’s really one big six-issue story, but it’s been good. REALLY good. Gimmie a crossover like this with political intrigue, super villians, the Marvel universe heroes, and put Daredevil at the center for a change? Yeah. I’m really liking it. Can’t wait to finish it so I can really digest it and talk about the whole thing.
February 14, 2022 | Categories: Comic Books, Comic Bookshelf | Tags: Batgirl, Batgirls, Comic Books, Comics, Daredevil, Devil's Reign, Harley Quinn, Secret X-Men, Suicide Squad, X-Men | Leave a comment