Friday, March 31, 2006

With great writing, comes great responsibility.

It’s the little things, really.

World-changing plots like Crisis, the Infinity Gauntlet, Secret Wars and Zero Hour? These things come and go. The fabric of the comic book universes is routinely folded, spindled and mutilated.

As fans of superheroes, we’ve come to accept this. But we do ask for something in return. We make a bargain with the creators of comic books, and to a lesser extent, those who adapt comics into other media, that they can change the universe, as long as they don’t change who our characters are.

I don’t mean cosmetic things, like letting the characters eventually grow older, so that they’re in college instead of high school. Or letting the characters marry, or even have children. So long as this is done right, we generally don’t mind. In many cases, we even cheer when it happens. To this day, the marriage of Lois and Clark in Superman is one of my favorite comic books. The issue of X-Men where Scott and Jean got married was the only issue of any X-Men title I picked up from the time that Wolverine had the adamantium removed until Joss Whedon started writing Astonishing X-Men. So, we’re ok with this.

There’s a fundamental feel to these characters, and this is what you are not allowed to change. Clark Kent is an optimist at his roots, who truly does believe that he can make the world a better place through his example. Bruce Wayne is solitary, driven and emotionally distant, still the orphan boy who mourns for his parents. Steve Rogers is a patriot, who can see the flaws in the system, but still believes that the dream is worth fighting for. Scott Summers has taken the role of atlas, putting the weight of Xavier’s vision on his shoulders.

And Peter Parker? Well, Peter Parker is the everyman. The hard luck hero. The one for whom things never go quite right, but who still believes that with great power comes great responsibility. And no matter how bad things get, he keeps a sense of wit about him.

In the 616 Marvel Universe, Peter Parker lost this, in a mess of family members dying and being reborn, archfoes coming back from the grave, clones, alterations to his power, changing his identity and more. And Carnage. Mustn’t forget Carnage (as much as I might like to). Hence, the reason I haven’t bought any Spider-Man comics other than the Ultimate line for years. Sure, I enjoyed him in New Avengers, but that was enough for me.

All of which gets back to the fact that, as alluded to here, JMS is a bastard.

I broke down and bought Amazing Spider-Man 529 featuring the new costume. Why? Because I’m a sheep, and I had to at least know. And from the first page, when Peter and MJ were asleep in bed being woken by Tony Stark’s mechanical bird, I realized, “Oh god, he gets it.”

I picked up the following issue as well. Watching Peter be guided through the Senate conferences that will one-day lead to the Civil War has been fascinating, and I suddenly realized that here was the Peter Parker I hadn’t seen since the early nineties.


So, Straczynski has made me a liar. I am now reading Spider-Man again. And I urge you to do the same. The new costume will still go away, we all know this, but it doesn’t matter. For now at least, JMS has brought Spider-Man back home to us.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Weekly Comic Round-up

Well, once again, Marvel is over-represented. Blame it on the Captain America Special, the New Avengers Special, and the fact that one box arrived to my local comic shop late, so I didn't get to pick up either All-Star Superman or Action Comics this week. Don't worry, I'll include them next week. But you didn't come here to read about problems with UPS. You came here because it's Thursday and therefore time for the Weekly Comic Round-up!

As always, there are spoilers below. Be aware.

Blue Beetle 1
So, I decided to give this a shot, and I'm glad that I did. I've always thought Blue Beetle was an underused character, and his death in Countdown really hit me hard. I want to like this new Blue Beetle, and I think I'm going to. I liked how they cut between his fight with Guy Gardner and his life leading up to finding the scarab. There's a lot of questions introduced in this issue, such as what happened in outer space during Infinite Crisis? And why does the scarab have such a strange effect on the Lantern rings? Why can't he control what the scarab does?

Oh, and bonus creepy points for the fact that the scarab burrows inside of him when it isn't wrapped around him like a suit of armor. There's a very strong Guyver feeling I get from the scarab now, which is a marked contrast to how the scarab worked for both Ted Kord and Dan Garrett.

Captain America 65th Anniversary Special
So, we have a lot of good in this issue. Flashing back to WWII and seeing Cap and Bucky working alongside the Hollowing Commandos is always a blast. The girl who Bucky falls for is a nice tragic touch, especially with the flashback to the present and Cap and Sharon talking about whether or not Bucky would have gone back for her. Seeing the Nazis working with a 50-foot tall robot is cool, and of course if there's a robot in WWII that has been buried for 500 years, of course it originated from Dr. Doom. He does have a time machine, after all.

What I didn't need was the bit about Cap running a mile in a minute. He's supposed to be as good as a human can be. The world record for running a mile is at just under 3 minutes, 45 seconds. I'm willing to accept that Cap is a little better than that, so having him run a three-minute mile I'd accept. But a one-minute mile? There was just no call for that.

Fantastic Four 536
Well, we're leading up to Civil War, and dammit, I'm intrigued. This was a real nice, solid issue of the Fantastic Four. Great character interaction in the midst of good action, including the highlights of Reed giving Ben the "We need to be in the air in five minutes" countdown, Sue trying to get answers from Reed about the Illuminati meeting (read my description of New Avengers: Illuminati to find out more about that) and Ben loudly announcing "Flame Off" for Johnny's benefit. Of course, anytime Doombots and Doctor Doom is involved, things only get better. I love the fact that Doom is trying to claim Thor's hammer. It's not like he's going to be able to pick it up. But again, people, coordinate your mysteries better. The cover of the comic shows Thor's hammer (in Doom's hand if you're observant). Why try to maintain the mystery of "What was that meteorite?" for the entire issue if you're going to put it on the cover? It's a beautiful cover, no question, but if you want it to be a mystery, that should've been next month's cover.

Green Lantern 10
Here we go. Finally, an issue of One Year Later that got it right. We start with action as Hal crosses into Russian airspace to catch a supervillain. Within a few pages we see the Rocket Reds trying to take him down, and we get teased with the Freedom of Power treaty. The issue doesn't build to a single shocking "Surprise" moment, it introduces mysteries throughout. And they're intriguing mysteries. What were Hal and the two others doing when they crashed, and why should Hal have worn the damn ring? Who is trying to kill Hal Jordan, instead of Green Lantern? And why doesn't Alan trust Hal anymore? All of this, wrapped around two good fight scenes, great character interaction between Hal and Ollie, and touching on the biggest mystery in the wake of Infinite Crisis: Where have Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman been?

Oh, and the appearance of a Green Lantern that Hal thought he'd killed. But in the overall scheme of things, that's a minor mystery.

New Avengers: Illuminati
If you read one Marvel comic this week, it should be this one. Go. Read this comic. Right now. We first saw this shadowy group in New Avengers, and I've been intrigued by the idea ever since. Seeing that this group first met in the wake of the Kree-Skrull war is frighteningly obvious. There may be some places it hurts continuity, but I'm willing to deal with the hiccups because of how cool the idea is. The warring personalities in this group really do represent the greatest powers in the Marvel Universe, at least on the heroic side. Namor's reaction to their ideas is beautifully idealistic, and speaks to the liberal side of many of us. But Tony's speech regarding Superhero registration is absolutely beautiful. The prediction is based in logic, perfectly rational and chilling. The groundwork for the Civil War has been laid, and a storm is coming.

Sentry 7
So much about The Sentry hurts my brain, which is fitting for Marvel's Superman. Is the Sentry Rob Reynolds? Is he a figment of Reynold's mind? What does the Void represent? What are the limits to their powers? Question after question after question. This issue has the Sentry in an asylum, making us once again doubt the reality of his existence, and leading up to him returning to face the Void. Will we get answers in issue 8? I kind of doubt it, but I'm certainly going to read it and see.

It's scary to think that the Sentry represents a greater threat to the Marvel Universe Earth than the Hulk, or than Hyperion did to the Squadron Supreme's earth. The answers to his origin scare Dr. Strange, and that alone should unsettle everyone.

Ultimate Spider Man 92
This issue had some of the best banter between Spider-Man and the characters around him that I have ever seen. Of course, while it was great fun to read, I'm amazed that the X-Men haven't decided to just hit him. I love the fact that the relationship between Peter and Kitty has led to Spidey getting caught up with the foes of the X-Men. Those who read Ultimate X-Men knew that we'd see Krakoa again, and using that as a way to introduce the Ultimate versions of both Deadpool and the Reavers was a nice, nice touch.

Two shining moments from this issue, and there were a lot to choose from, would be the following. Deadpool's statement about leaving Peter's mask on was a nice touch "Masks mean something. Respect the mask." Here we have someone willing to kill Spidey for mass-entertainment, who thinks he's a disgusting genetic freak, but he still respects the mask. That tells you something about who this Deadpool is. The other golden touch this issue would be how Kitty convinces Peter that it's really her. I would love to know what she whispered to him...

So, another week down. Mostly. Like I said, I missed two Superman titles this week, and I'll include those next week. I also picked up two issues of another title, which deserve their own post. All I'm going to say about it for now is that there is an excellent science fiction writer who now works in comics, and this man is a bastard who turned me into a lying hypocrite.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I want to be different. (Just like everybody else)

Enthusiastic victims: You saved us! Thank goodness! Who are you?
Hero: I'm... Unique Man.
Victims: Oh. Just like all of them?

They point to posters on the wall featuring One-of-a-Kind Guy, The Original, and Captain Never-Been-Done-Before fighting Dr. New.

Sometimes people just don't get it. There seems to be a continuing quest to create completely unique heroes and villains. Now, this can be a Good Thing. There is little that is as disapointing as picking up a new comic book and immediately going, "Oh, look, this guy is just a thinly veiled Superman." Completely aside from the legal issues involved, that would get really boring.

But not every super-strong flying guy is another Superman. Captain Marvel, with all of the complications of being Billy Batson, and his dealings with the wizard Shazam, is not just Superman in a different costume. Marvel Comic's Wonder-Man is different than both of them, and Thor is different then all of the previous examples. Do they have some similarities? Sure, but they have differences that make them interesting.

And the biggest of these differences aren't in their powers and abilities. It's who they are underneath the costumes. Strip them of their superpowers and put Clark Kent, Billy Batson, Simon Williams and Donald Blake in a room together and you will see four completely different individuals. A good comic book focuses on who the hero is outside of their heroic identity, and so making the people unique will almost always be enough to make heroes with similar powers different in the minds of their readers.

When playing superhero games, be they role-playing games or computer games like City of Heroes, there seems to be a fear of overlapping. "You already have a martial artist/gadgeteer, huh? Hmmm. Ok, guess I'll try playing a speedster then."

I think when we do this, we rob ourselves of a wonderful opportunity. There have been many wonderful comic books featuring heroes with overlapping abilities, or in some cases, even the same exact powers. Every member of the Green Lantern Corps has the exact same powers, but that doesn't keep them from being unique individuals. The Bat-family is made up of gifted atheletes with keen detective skills who use gadgets to help them fight crime, but anyone who thinks that the Huntress and Robin are "the same character" has clearly never read their comics. Helena Bertinelli and Tim Drake come from completely different worlds.

So, to the creators of new superheroes, whether it be for comic books, films, novels, webcomics, roleplaying games, City of Heroes or doodling between classes, stop stressing about it so much. Worry about who your hero is, not what he does, and I promise you that you'll have a unique character that everyone will enjoy.

(And a special thanks to Abby at The Green Avenger, who did a wonderful job of making the Green Avenger completely different than any other super-strong flying hero around, and the people I game with in Oxford for making me think about this topic.)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

They're not symbiotes. They're parasites.

By now I think I've made it obvious that I don't really care for superheroes who kill, and certainly not those who kill casually.

So, why did I cheer when, in New Avengers #2, the Sentry ripped Carnage in half?

Because I hate Carnage. I really, really hate Carnage. And I don't mean the Darth Vader "You're so evil that I love hating you" kind of hate. No, I'm talking about the "Dear god, please never, ever let me pick up another comic that this character appears in" kind of hate.

I've said before that the only Spider-Man books I read right now are his appearances in the Ultimate Universe. This isn't entirely true, I also get Spider-Girl and New Avengers, but for the most part, I've written the 616 Spider-Man off.

But Aaron, you say, Spider-Man is the perfect everyman hero. He's a great character. He gets pushed to his limits more than anyone else in comics. He has great dialogue, and a killer rogues gallery. And you would be right. But there are two sins that have removed Peter Parker from my weekly pull.

The first would be the Clone Saga. What a piece of work that was. Still, it's mostly gone away. So I could almost forgive it. Almost. But there's another sin, an unforgivable sin. Carnage.

Dear god, do I hate Carnage.

So, let's talk about why I hate Carnage.

Set the way-back machine for 1984, the summer of Secret Wars. I was of the perfect age to remember Secret Wars and think it was cool, without being a critical enough thinker to realize where it was weak. Three-quarters of the way through, Spider-Man aquired the Alien Costume. The black costume. The symbiote who would one day become Venom.

I still wish he had just picked up a needle and thread.

But in any case, Secret Wars #8 came out, and Spider-Man got the black costume. This was one of the first times an iconic superhero costume changed. Long before Iron-Armored Vigilante Killer Batman, Electric Kool-Aid Superman or Kyle "I'm a graphic designer and can't wear the classic costume" Rayner picked up the ring. And you know what? It was cool. Look at it. Great design. Iconic in it's own right. Sleek and impressive.

But it couldn't last. Fans wanted to know what happened to the Spidey costume they'd known for two decades, so it had to come back. But the symbiote had functionality that Peter would be stupid to give up, so they had to make it a bad thing for him to keep.

We all know what happened here. The costume fled after being separated from Parker, bonded with Eddie Brock, and by the time we get to Amazing Spider-Man #298 Eddie Brock became Venom.

And Venom was kind of a cool idea. Especially once you realized that, other than the fact that he hated Parker, and his brand of justice made the Punisher seem lenient, Venom wanted to protect others. He was very much the dark mirror that Peter had to examine himself in.

Ah, but there is that segment of the comic book reading population who doesn't share my opinion of what makes a superhero. They like their vigilantes dark and gritty. And Venom was cool. Venom became less a dark mirror of Peter Parker, and more his own anti-hero. He even made peace with Parker, of sorts.

But wait, if Venom is the dark mirror of Spider-Man, but he's no longer the bad guy, then we need something even worse than Venom!

I swear, if I could find the person who made this pitch at Marvel, I would kick them in the shins.

So, we get Carnage in Amazing Spider-Man #361. If Venom was bad, then Carnage was worse. Venom wanted to kill Peter Parker, or people who hurt other innocents, so Carnage wanted to kill everyone. Venom could use the symbiote to make tentacles, and he had nasty teeth and claws, so Carnage could make the symbiote form weapons. Venom was stronger than Spider-Man and Carnage was stronger than Venom. Venom was vulnerable to fire and sonics, Carnage didn't care about these things. Eddie Brock could be separated from the symbiote, so Cletus Cassidy had the symbiote living in his blood.


Even before we got to Maximum Carnage, I hated this character. Even before Venom and Carnage started spawning hordes of symbiotes, I was tired of them. The longer it went on, the more I wanted someone to just pick him up and toss him in the sun.

The Sentry didn't quite throw him into the sun, but hey, close enough.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Clothing makes the (Super)man

The biggest problem I have with superheroes is that they wear their underwear outside of their clothing.

I was talking to a friend of mine about an idea for a Live-Action Roleplaying Game (LARP, for those of you in the know) involving the X-Men and Spider-Man, as they were portrayed in their respective movies, when that statement came up.

So, let's talk about the superheroic costume, shall we? When taking superheroes out of comic books and putting them into virtually any other type of media (other than cartoons), their costumes are the hardest part to translate. Film and television directors have tried a number of different approaches to handle this thorny issue.

Sometimes, the directors had the courage to just put their actors into tights. And sometimes this works out. Christopher Reeve had the physique to pull off the Superman costume, Adam West did not have the physique to pull off Batman. This technique hasn't had a huge representation in modern superhero films, for good reason.

The next option is for the silhouette hugging costume that is made of something a little sturdier than spandex. The Spider-Man costume that Toby Maguire has worn, and the Superman costume for Brandon Routh both fit into this category. Visually they follow the design of the costumes from the comic, but the textured fabric they're made of gives the costume a weight and reality that spandex lacks. The sculpted muscle-suit of the Flash television show also followed this pattern, and while it didn't work, so did the rubberized Captain America uniform.

Then we have those costumes that aren't superhero costumes, but neither are they ordinary clothing. The leather outfits that the X-Men wear, the "costumes" of the Mystery Men and the armored Batsuits fit into this category. (Although there is an argument for the Batsuits fitting into the previous category.) These outfits aren't something that any sane person would wear down the street, but neither does the audience viewer think of them as being "men in tights." Personally, I put armored costumes, like that of Judge Dredd or Robocop, or if they ever make an Iron Man film in this category as well.

And then the final option is to keep your superhero out of costume. Tom Welling on Smallville, of course, is the quintessential example of this. However even movies and television shows that take one of the above approaches tend to give us a lot of time with the heroes out of costume.

Part of this is practicality. Regardless of the fact that Judge Dredd has never shown his face, you don't pay Sylvester Stalone's salary and not use his face to sell your movie. (Which is really a damn shame. Stallone was willing to do it, and the Judge masks and armor looked really good.) Also, unless you're dealing with a Hugo Weaving, it's hard to have your actors emote through a mask. But I think part of it is that, regardless of how good your superhero costume is, people are afraid of showing too much of it, because they think it looks silly.

Outside of licensed novels, superhero novelists shy away from costumes too. In the Wild Cards novels, very few of the Aces wore a costume, and those who did still had serious concessions to practicality. Part of this was the "realistic" nature of the series, but having tried my hand at writing a superhero novel, I think the other part of it is that when describing a costume, it's hard to not just describe someone in colored tights.

I give Hollywood credit for it's continuing attempts to get the superheroic costume right. But I fear that the costume will largely continue to be restricted to the drawn image, and that our live action heroes will continue to mostly wear leather, plastic and trenchcoats.

Dr. McNinja

Ok, as a rule, I don't plan to talk about the extensive number of WebComics I read on this blog. Why? Well, because right now I only read one that is about superheroes, that one being The Green Avenger.

(Green Avenger is rather excellent. The art is still a little rough, but both art and writing keep getting better and better the more Abby works on the strip. I don't see myself not reading this comic for as long as she keeps producing it.)

But as much as I adore Green Avenger, that's not what inspired me to write just now. No, what has inspired me is Dr. McNinja.

He's a doctor. And the eldest son of a family of Irish ninjas. And a ninja.

It is absolutely hillarious. The current storyline involves a Raptor destroying his office, and in his quest to find answers, he is opperating off the "W.W.B.D." principle.

(That's What Would Batman Do, by the way.)

Go. Go now.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a rerun!

I live in a television market where we don't have a WB affiliate. We have a UPN affiliate, and once UPN and the WB make their merger we'll have the CW. This means I'll finally get to watch Kids WB! (under whatever name they give it) again, not to mention watching Smallville at a reasonable hour. Right now, I only get to watch it if I stay up until eleven, and decide to take a pass on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

Normally, I am willing to be under-slept as I drag myself into work on Friday. And I can always catch the replays on Comedy Central.

But for the last few weeks, I've been able to go to sleep and watch John Stewart and company in the comfort of my own bed.


Because there hasn't been a new Smallville on forever.

Now, I've been a big fan of Smallville since the beginning. Tom Welling looks and acts exactly the way that a young Clark Kent should look and act. Michael Rosenbaum is a brilliant young Lex Luthor (and he gets bonus points for also providing the voice of the Flash on Justice League. At least for one more season.) Despite being gorgeous, I couldn't care less about Kristen Kreuk's Lana, but that is more than made up for by the beautiful and talented Allison Mack as Chloe.

(Why have the comic writers not found a way to bring her into continuity yet? They brought Harley Quinn into continuity in a much shorter time.)

Don't get me wrong, Smallville has had it's problems. The whole "medieval witch from France who wanted to possess Lana so she could obtain the powers from the Kryptonian artifacts that have been in the cave for centuries even though Clark has only been here for twenty years" thing left me with a terrible taste in my mouth. Even writing that sentence hurt. But I stuck with it.

And I'm glad I did. This season has been really good. I adored watching James Marstairs as Braniac. I cried when Jonathan Snider's Pa Kent died. I hissed as Lionel Luthor hit on the widowed Martha Kent. And I am still eagerly awaiting seeing more of Zod.

And now, it's time for another edition of Predictions I make here that will be proven totally wrong in the future!

Terence Stamp has provided the voice of Jor-El on Smallville. Terence Stamp played Zod in Superman. Jor-El has been awfully creepy on Smallville in his interactions with Clark and Jonathan, but was shown to be a really good guy in the "Smallville of the 50's episode", where Tom Welling played Jor-El. I think that the voice of Jor-El that we have heard in the cave and the Fortress has actually been Zod pretending to be Jor-El, communicating with them through the Phantom Zone.

But as much as I adore this show, I can't watch it if they don't air new episodes!

Please, I implore you. No more re-runs. I had to go months without a new episode of Justice League. I can't handle any more repeats of Smallville.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Dark Knight... misrepresented

Mr. Wayne, can we talk?

Bruce, I'm concerned. Concerned with your image. Your alter-ego is one of the most well-know superheroes on the planet. Of course your comic books have been wonderful, at least on the average. You've been the star of a successful live-action television series. You've starred in many, many cartoons. Some of these were good, such as the ones directed by Paul Dini, and the new series too. Some were not so great. You really need to avoid working with teenagers who don't wear a mask. And stay far, far away from the comic-relief talking dogs. There was a good radio drama starring you and Mr. Grayson, and you even had an off-Broadway show.

But you know which media outlet really matters, right? That's right. Movies.

And those have all missed the mark.

Ok, that wasn't entirely fair. The 1966 film wasn't bad. The new one didn't suck, although there was a complete lack of you using your mind. You're supposed to be the World's Greatest Detective. Lucius Fox doesn't explain Ra's Al Ghul's plot to you, it works the other way around.

But the films from the late 80's and the 90's... oh, Bruce, how could you?

Now, among your fans, it's generally accepted that the second two of those films were terrible. Joel Schumacker will never be allowed to touch another superhero without fans being in an uproar. We know this. But even the holy grail, Tim Burton's Batman, seriously missed the mark.

Now, it did do the thing I complained that Batman Begins was missing. You were smart. God, were you smart. You figured out the Joker's plot in half a minute. Go you. Visually, Burton made Gotham look absolutely perfect. But there were two serious, serious flaws in this movie, and they were deal breakers for me.

No, not the costume. Or the fact that it was hard to imagine Michael Keaton as being able to do anything physically impressive.

The first flaw was the Joker. Or rather, Jack Nicholson. Jack is a great performer and entertainer. But he plays Jack Nicholson. Always has. And this was no exception. He just happened to be Jack Nicholson with a bad complexion and a fixed grin. But hey, I'm a fan. I can overlook this. It was close enough.

But Bruce, you killed. You killed a lot. And not accidental deaths, or failing to save someone, but deliberate acts that you had to know would kill people as a result. You couldn't even be content with small acts of murder, like throwing someone down the center of a bell tower (although you did that too.) But you blew up a factory. Blew it up. While at least a dozen or so guards stood outside the Batmobile you used as a murder weapon. And that's not counting the people who worked elsewhere in the factory.

Dozens, if not hundreds, of deaths on your black-leather covered hands. I could accept this from V, but from you? Tsk tsk tsk.

Oh well, maybe someone will get you right one of these days. For now, I guess I'll just content myself with the knowledge that there was one movie starring you that was done absolutely right. It was animated, and it starred Kevin Conroy as your voice, but we got one.

So, we'll give Nolan another chance. But for now? I'm going to go watch Mask of the Phantasm again.

New Blogrolling Friends

Just a short update here. I've added two new entries to my blogroll, and everyone ought to check them out.

The first is the Ferret Press/PANEL blog. A collective of comic book artists and writers, based around Columbus, Ohio, and including several of my past and present co-workers. Check out their blog and their site. There's original art, comic reviews and general ramblings about the industry.

The second is a blog belonging to one of the members of that collective. Sean McGurr reviews the graphic novels he's reading. I'm more of a "Get the comic issues as they come out" kinda guy, so Sean's reviews are a great place to go to get information about comic book collections.

I've gotten some weird e-mails about my vague criticism of Tim Burton's Batman, so hopefully I'll be able to get a more in-depth explanation of that up later today.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Weekly Comic Round Up

Phantom: What day is it?
Swan: Thursday. Today, is Thursday.

Thanks Mr. Williams, I'll take it from here. Today is, in fact, Thursday. Which also means it's one day after new comics hit the comic book stores. This, in turn, leads to another recap of what I'm reading in this week's comics.

Something astounding happened this week. Despite being tempted by Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes, I didn't have a single comic from DC in my pull this week.

Not a one.

This is bizarre. My pull list is heavily weighted towards DC, and DC has several specials related to Infinite Crisis that are coming out, further adding to my DC books. But none of them hit this week.

So, off we trudge into the merry land of Marvel comics. Incidentally, with me not reading the large amount of X-Men related titles, and not reading Iron Spider-Man, and wavering on Civil War, Marvel is entering a stage where I'm considering dropping everything that doesn't have "Ultimate" as the first word of it's title.

But not yet. So, without further ado...

Captain America 16
There are a few comic book deaths that are sacred. Captain Mar-Vel. Barry Allen. Ben Parker. And Bucky.

Wait, Bucky's alive? Never mind.

The whole Winter Soldier thing interested me, but at the same time, Bucky being alive just bothered me. Making the Red Skull, Crossbones and Sin a subplot was even stranger to me, so it's nice to see them interweaving. I'm also really happy to see Steve and Sharon have another chance together. While Diamondback was always my favorite of Cap's girlfriends, Sharon is the one who makes the most sense. And I'm excited about figuring out what AIM's involvement in all this will be.

Daredevil 83
Mr. Murdock? Peter Parker called. He wants his title as "most tortured Marvel comics character" back. I don't know why it never occured to me that, despite all the torment Bendis and Brubaker have put Ol' Hornhead through in the last few years that they could kill Foggy. But they did. Matt has lost his job. His identity. His best friend. His freedom. He literally has nothing left to lose. I'm glad that he stopped short of killing the Owl, but I have a feeling that if he gets to Fisk, we may need a new Kingpin of Crime.

And now, it's time for Predictions I make here that are proven totally wrong in the future! I'm also going to predict that the fake Daredevil running around is Peter Parker. There, I am now on record. In two months when it's revealed that it was Matt Murdock's unknown brother who has been raised by Shaolin monks, you can all point back to this entry and laugh.

Incredible Hulk 93
Set the way-back machine for the early 1980's. Picture our humble narrator as a small child in a comic book store owned by friends of the family. As my father and mother chat with their friends, our humble narrator is being chased around the store by another of the family friends. Now, this individual is over 6' tall, and solidly built. So imagine the delight in the young child as this towering figure bellows "Hulk Smash Puny Human!" and chases him.

So began my love affair with the Hulk. Other comics have come and gone from my reading list. But since I was able to purchase comics regularly I have never removed the Hulk from my pull. Never.

Planet Hulk? It's making me get close. End this story. Please. Put the Hulk back on Earth. Put Banner back on the run. If we end up with God-Emperor Gladiator Hulk with the personality of Joe Fixit, I may have to scream. What's Peter David doing right now? Why can't we get him back on this book?

New Avengers 17
Oh, Bendis. Thank goodness for Bendis. I didn't read House of M. I probably won't read Civil War. Bendis makes this not matter. There were a million tiny elements in this issue that just rang perfectly true. Cap's talk with S.H.I.E.L.D. The Sentry having an "off" day. Stark telling Parker that he needs to go use that brain of his instead of wasting it by swinging into battle. The off-hand reference to the fact that the Fantastic Four are in another dimension. And Carol Danvers rushing into battle, firmly convinced she's doing the right thing.

I don't know if Michael is Korvac. I don't know if we're going to see the return of Binary. I do know that I'll be counting the days until I can get New Avengers 18.

She-Hulk 6
The rebirth of Bucky. The death of Foggy Nelson. Gladiator Hulk. Impending apocalypse for the Avengers.

Does anyone remember when comic books were just fun?

Yes! Yes, someone does! And we're getting it here. Or, there are important details. She may be responsible for Hawkeye coming back to life. She did bring the Two-Gun Kid back into modern times. But that's really incidental.

On the one hand, yes, I care about what happens with Starfox. Yes, I want the romantic triangle between Jen, John and Pug to be resolved. But ultimately, all I care about is that I'm having fun with every issue of Shulkie.

Ultimate Fantastic Four 28
The Ultimate universe works best when it is willing to tell 616 to shove off. We see that best here. The President Thor storyline has been incredibly fun, and the idea of a world where everyone other than Ben Grimm has superpowers is wonderful. The Super Skrull is frighteningly scary, especially if you remember this. Reed Richards of the Ultimate Universe is even more of a genius now than he was before the radiation accident because his mind can stretch too. The 616 Super Skrull has always been able to be defeated by being outwitted. This Super Skrull can copy Reed's brain, as well as the psychic abilities of any nearby superhumans.

A final thought: What happened to the zombie FF when Reed started mucking around with time?

So, another week down, another batch of comic books reviewed. Hopefully next week DC will work itself back into the mix.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Ten Live-Action Superhero Movies You Didn't See (but probably should)

As fans of superheroes, we love to pan Hollywood in their attempts to create superheroes on the big screen. Superhero films have been saddled with bad scripts, poor actors and second rate special effects for years and years. Lately, we've been blessed with a run of really good superhero films. Films like Spider-Man, X-Men, Blade and Batman Begins that stay true to the spirit of the character, if not their continuity, with A-list actors.

We still need to navigate our way past gems such as Elektra and Catwoman, and noble but failed attempts like Daredevil, The Hulk and Fantastic Four. Regardless, from our position of comparative luxury we look back and say "They just couldn't do it back then, other than Tim Burton's Batman."

(Incidentally, I think Batman is fundamentally flawed as a movie. But that's a topic for another post.)

But all was not dark and dismal in the past! We did have good superhero films from the 1960's all the way through the present.

So, in chronological order, here are ten live-action superhero movies that you may not have seen, but are well worth the rental. I tried to avoid the terrible, as well as the obvious.

Batman - The Movie (1966)
Was it perfect? Of course not. Is this Batman familiar to modern audiences, with a dark, gritty, determined Bruce Wayne facing foes who were reflections of his own damaged psyche? Not even close. But it was fun. Camp, when it doesn't apologize for itself, can make a great afternoon's diversion. Sure, Adam West had the Bat-pot-belly, Burt Ward had the corniest lines, you could see Caesar Romero's mustache through the pancake makeup, and they wimped out by using Lee Meriweather instead of Ertha Kitt, but how can you not love a film that includes the Bat-Shark-Repellant, the UN Security council getting their personalities mixed up, and the line "Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb."?

Superman - The Movie/Superman II (1978/1980)
Indulge me here, as I consider these two films together. Donner intended them that way, and I will honor that. Now yes, these films were blockbusters. And yes, they were followed by two sequels we do not talk about. But a surprising number of superhero fans have never seen them. Do so. I implore you. It's not the Superman, Lois and Luthor you're familiar with from animation, Smallville or even Lois & Clark, but no one has ever done it better. Hackman made a wonderfully over-the-top Silver Age Luthor, Terence Stamp remains the most terrifying foe Superman has ever faced in the live-action arena (Kneel before Zod, son of Jor-El!), and despite being third billed Christopher Reeve was Superman. I have high hopes for Superman Returns, but Brandon Routh has some awfully big boots to fill.

Remo Williams, The Adventure Begins (1985)
What a wonderful movie. They, fortunately, toned down the massive levels of power that Sinanju will give you according to the long running series of books (They were well past 160 last time I looked), and there are moments of pure ridiculousness in this movie, but there are also some killer performances. Fred Ward makes an awfully good Remo, and I still picture him when I read the books. The same thing goes for Wilford Brimley as Harold Smith, and the speech he gives Remo was so perfect that our GM in a game where we played agents of CURE used it on each of us.

Robocop (1987)
Paul Verhoeven at his best. Long before Starship Troopers, Verhoven made a movie about the quest for the perfect policeman. Peter Weller turns in an amazing performance as Robocop/Murphy, and the supporting cast is good all around. The ED-209 looks a little clunky by today's standards, but it still isn't too bad, and at the time I remember being thoroughly wowed by it. Look for a special appearance by Kurtwood Smith (of That 70's Show fame) as Clarence Boddicker.

The Flash (1990)
It was the pilot episode for a television series, which got picked up, for all too brief a period of time, but for many years you could only catch this as a Direct-to-Video movie, so I'm including it here. John Wesley Shipp embodied Barry Allen, and may very well be the only live-action Barry we ever get, since a modern Flash movie or television series is likely to focus on Wally West, or Bart Allen (Impulse/Kid Flash). The costume was falsely muscled, and he made for a slightly bulkier Flash than might have been ideal, but even today that blur of red makes for the perfect way to handle the Flash's speed. Return of the Trickster was worth watching as well, and now that the entire series is available on DVD, I know what I want for my birthday.

Darkman (1990)
When they announced that Sam Raimi was going to be directing Spider-Man, I had no fear. Why? Because I saw this movie. Darkman's breed of vigilantism goes beyond my definition of what a superhero should be, but everyone should understand exactly what drives Liam Neeson's Dr. Westlake. The sequels aren't terrible, although they lack the originality of the first. On the other hand, while Neeson may be a stronger actor, Arnold Vosloo is a lot easier on the eyes.

The Rocketeer (1991)
Oh man. Everything about this movie was just perfect. Bill Campbell's Cliff has that perfect mixture of enthusiasm, youth, ability, clumsiness and overconfidence that every young superhero needs. Jennifer Connelly was possibly at her best in this movie, and Dalton's Neville Sinclair was everything a Golden Age villain needs to be; Suave, overconfident, treacherous, wants the girl, and a Nazi. I weep for the fact that Iron Man wasn't made ten years ago, when Dalton would have been the perfect Tony Stark.

The Shadow (1994)
"Psychically, I'm very well endowed." And there we go. This film had it all. It captured the look of the era, it had the right mixture of mystery and action, good effects, and incredible banter. I'm not the biggest fan of Alec Baldwin, but he nailed it in this one. As creepy as his Shadow is, every dialogue between Lamont Cranston and, well, anyone is full of wit. Credit goes to the David Koepp for the writing, of course, but Baldwin and his co-stars delivered them perfectly.

Mystery Men (1999)
They're second rate heroes, at best. They need help, and the only real superhero in the world has been dispatched by Casanova Frankenstien. There are a grand total of three people with superpowers on the team, and two of them have questionable powers at best. But this band of misfits manages to entertain for two solid hours, and they even defeat the evil in the end. Plus we get to see Paul Reubens again, after his long departure from film.

Sky High (2005)
It's a new movie. It was made by Disney. It wasn't as good as The Incredibles. We know all this. Get over it. This movie may have been as much about life in High School as it was about superheroes, but there isn't a bad moment in the movie. Lots of good, funny moments, a smokingly hot villainess, good comic relief supporting characters, decent special effects all overpower the terribleness that is the Commander and Jetstream's costumes. And we get to see Lynda Carter in a superhero role once more. (Joss Whedon, you are on notice. She gets a cameo in Wonder Woman. I'd hate to hold your puppy hostage. But I'd do it.)

So, there we go, ten superhero films that you probably didn't see, but really ought to. Feel free to disagree or argue with me on them. But in the meantime, at least you have something to rent from Blockbuster tonight.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Some people are born superheroes. Some people achieve superhero-hood. And some people have being a superhero thrust upon them.

And then there are those who become a superhero because of a reality television show.


Ok, dirty confession time. Reality TV is not banned in our home. I sometimes wish it was, but it isn't. We watch American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, Nanny 911 and Supernanny, and occasionally the shorter lived, more inspired shows such as SciFi Channel's Mad Mad House.

So, I'd like to claim the moral high ground in regards to Stan Lee's Who Wants To Be A Superhero? After all, it is being produced by SciFi Channel, who managed to keep Mad Mad House as a fairly respectful look at the lifestyle of the Alts.

But, I mean, come on. They're currently taking applicants and will narrow it down to 11 finalists. These finalists will then take part in physical, mental and moral challenges while wearing costumes of their own design.

Physical. Mental. Moral. Wearing costumes of their own design.

Am I the only one who sees this as a pure disaster?

Stan Lee has a great legacy in the world of superheroes. He is the man who is at least partially responsible for the creation of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, many of the original Avengers, Dr. Strange, and more. His later works have included some masterful creations as well. I, for one, loved the Just Imagine... series, where Stan Lee reimagined DC's iconic characters. But between Stripperella, the upcoming related project with Hugh Hefner featuring Playboy Playmates and this, I would like to suggest that Mr. Lee has officially lost it.

Now, where do I apply to become a contestant...

Monday, March 20, 2006

What makes a superhero?

Alright, so if we're going to talk superheroes here, we should probably start with a definition of what a superhero is.

Well, let's start with the dictionary definition, shall we? The American Heritage Dictionary defines a superhero as "A figure, especially in a comic strip or cartoon, endowed with superhuman powers and usually portrayed as fighting evil or crime."

That looks like a decent definition to start with, doesn't it? But let's break it down some.

I think we can accept the first part of the definition. "A figure." While there are a few exceptional superheroes who are composed of more than one figure, such as Marvel's Multiple Man, who makes copies of himself, or DC's Firestorm, where two people combine to become a single hero, generally a superhero is a singular individual.

(And for the sake of this argument, we'll make superhero gender-neutral, shall we?)

Moving on to the next part of the definition, we have "especially in a comic strip or cartoon." Hmm, this one seems to be a bit more problematic. First, there is a difference between a comic strip and a comic book, and the comic book is of course the greatest depository of superheroes. But we'll leave that as being merely a semantic issue. The word "especially" does allow for exceptions, but it seems to me that this part of the definition is unneeded. Dark Angel and the Greatest American Hero have their origins in live-action television. Black Scorpion and Darkman were both created for film, and all of these characters would be qualified as superheroes. Furthermore, there are comics and cartoons that detail figures with superhuman powers that fight evil or crime who are not superheroes. Much of DC's Vertigo imprint deals with non-superheroes who battle evil for whatever reason, but it's hard to argue that Lucifer is a superhero. So I think we can leave this part of the definition on the cutting room floor.

Let's keep moving on: "endowed with superhuman powers". Here we hit a major stumbling block for any true superhero fan. The list of superheroes who have no superhuman powers is lengthy. Batman, Robin, Green Arrow, the Black Knight, Hawkeye, and Astro City's Crackerjack and Altar Boy, each have no superhuman powers. They do all make use of extraordinary equipment to varying degrees (most modern takes on Green Arrow have removed the gadget arrows from Oliver Queen), but for many of the characters, the equipment is mostly mundane technology available to anyone on the street. Or at least any citizen of those comic book universes.

Taking this example further, we have ordinary humans who use truly extraordinary devices to do superhuman feats. If you take Tony Stark out of his armor, or take away Hal Jordan's ring, you are left with an individual who is certainly not endowed with superhuman powers, but they don't suddenly stop being superheroes as a result.

Still, it is hard to say that superheroes aren't defined by having abilities beyond those of ordinary humans. It might be extreme levels of training, or high-tech device, or the study of magic, but they certainly have the ability to do things no normal human is able to. So, let's change this part of the definition from "endowed with superhuman powers" to "having abilities, either inborn or through external influence, that are greater than those of ordinary humans."

The final part of the definition, I think, we can leave alone. Superheroes are defined as such because they fight evil or crime. (Arguably, superheroes are more interested in evil than crime. You don't generally find Spider-Man or Batman going after jaywalkers, tax evaders or those who speed on the freeway.)

But there seems to be something lacking from this definition. And it's not something easy to pin down. There are characters who fit the above definition that many superhero purists would say are not superheroes. Personally, I find it hard to accept the Punisher as a superhero, and DC's Elite were a wonderful poke at the Authority and their right to call themselves superheroes.

So, is it an issue of superheroes wearing costumes? Certainly not. Buffy Summers and Luke Cage are certainly examples of superheroes without a costume, while the Punisher wears one.

Perhaps it's keeping a secret identity. Well, again, there are superheroes whose identities are known to the public, such as the Fantastic Four, and there are anti-heroes whose identites remain a secret.

What about an unwillingness to kill? For a long time this marked the dividing line for me, but reflection has caused me to waver on this. Batman is resolute about never killing, at least in the comics, but Superman has killed. Captain America has killed. And Wolverine has certainly killed. What separates these acts from those of the Punisher or the Elite?

For me, the issue becomes about the moral code to which they hold themselves. There may be cases where an "unheroic" act may be the only option, and a superhero may find themselves forced to make that choice. But it should never be the prefered option for a superhero. Being a superhero means holding yourself to a higher standard. It means not taking the easy choice. It means that when you are fighting evil, you strive not to become evil yourself.

Those characters who lose that code may be fascinating characters. They may even be heroic figures, but they fall short of being "superheroes" in my book.

Feel free to disagree with me. Heck, I'd love to hear your opinions on the matter. And while this blog is going to be focused on the superhero, we will talk about their relatives and offshoots as well, as seen by our recent discussion of V for Vendetta. But I think it important that when I talk about the superhero, that you know what I'm talking about.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

My name is Edmund Dantes

Remember, remember the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot.
I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason, should ever be forgot.

Ok, we’re going to push off the discussion of what makes a superhero a little longer. There’s something a bit more pressing to talk about.

I am referring of course to V For Vendetta, the film released this week by Warner Brothers, based on the comic series by Alan Moore and David Lloyd.

Alan Moore has had more blow-ups with the major comic book companies than just about anyone, which is a damn shame. Moore is responsible for writing several milestones in comic books, and is as responsible as anyone for changing comics from their Silver-Age roots to the darker, more sophisticated works we now see, for better or worse. Among Moore’s major credits include Batman: The Killing Joke, Miracleman (or Marvelman to purists), the transformation of the Swamp Thing from a muck monster into the elemental of the Earth, V for Vendetta, The Watchmen, From Hell, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Moore, of course, has wanted nothing to do with the film adaptations of those last four. This is understandable in some cases, such as LXG. -shudders-

All of this comes back to the fact that his fighting with Marvel and DC is a damn shame because V for Vendetta is a fine, fine movie. I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers here, but even from the trailers we can learn the essentials of the plot. In the near-future Britain is controlled by a totalitarian extremist government. V has begun a terrorist campaign against the government to wake to the people of England up, and make them fight against the corrupt regime. Natalie Portman’s Evey gets ensnared into V’s plots, and it is largely through her eyes, and the eyes of Inspector Finch, played by Stephen Rea, that we get to see who V is.

Ok, there, we have the plot out of the way. Sure there are details, such as what exactly V plans, how he becomes the man he is, why Evey gets her head shaved, and so on, that I could go into. But I won’t, because you really ought to go see the film for yourself.

What I can tell you is that this is a masterfully done film. The visual tone of the piece is established immediately, and the movie manages to be dark and shadowy without forcing you to squint. I’ve never been the biggest fan of the Wachowski brothers, but the script and pacing are tight, and there are moments of such tenderness that I actually found myself crying at a few points within the film.

A superhero film can be made or broken in how it handles the fight sequences, and while V is not a superhero, he is a comic book figure made flesh, so in this sense it’s close enough. While I had some issues with the early battle sequence with it’s multiple cuts, making it hard to follow the flow of the fight, V’s final fight in the film was pure beauty. I generally object to slow-motion fight sequences, but in this case, everything about it worked. Everything.

For all the visual elements, what makes the film shine is the acting. Rea does a wonderful job of dragging you through the investigation of V’s past, and showing you how hard it is to be an honest official in a corrupt administration. Portman reminded me that, Star Wars be damned, she has some real acting chops. I was moved during her transformation within her prison, and I would be astounded if more people do not feel the same. But the real star is Hugo Weaving.

The makers of this movie managed to do something that is all too rare in a comic book film. They left the mask on. We never see V’s face, something which remains true to Moore’s comic. V’s mask is a full face mask, showing no eyes or lips, and for the bulk of the film Weaving is in a tight fitting black outfit underneath a black cloak. Weaving’s performance, and everything V’s mind, had to be told through his voice and subtle gestures of the head.

And it works. He gives a performance as nuanced as any I’ve ever seen, without once seeing his eye, or the quiver of his lips. Weaving also uses his voice as a fine instrument. None of the vocal mannerisms of Elrond or Agent Smith intrude on V. Indeed, my wife didn’t even make the connection that Hugo Weaving played those characters until we left the theatre.

It isn’t a perfect adaptation of Moore’s work. A 300-page graphic novel needs to be cut down to be turned into a two-and-a-half hour movie. Storytelling techniques that work on the page must be altered for the screen. And if elements of the movie were adapted to resonate with 21st century residents of America and Britain instead of those living in 1985, I for one, am not complaining.


Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Thoughts about what makes a superhero a superhero will be coming later today.

But in the meantime, here's a picture of Sean Cassidy, the X-Men's Banshee to wish you a Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Weekly comic round-up - Here be spoilers!

So, here we go with my first round of my weekly comic buys. I'll give you a head's up warning at the front. The mainstream Marvel Universe lost me a long time ago. I keep a passing interest in it, but I buy almost no X-Men or Spider-Man that isn't an Ultimate title. Just so you know. Also, I'm a text person. Rarely will art be the thing I focus on in a comic book. Bad art might turn me off from a comic, but good art won't be reason enough to get into it. And to get this out of the way. I saw the Spider-Man with the new costume. I didn't buy it. And it won't be around long enough for me to care about it.

Green Arrow 60
One Year Later, and Oliver Queen is now the Mayor of Star City. Star City clearly got decimated during the Crisis, and I'm sure that 52 will tell us all about how that happened. There's a lot of good character development here; I'm interested in seeing how Big Business copes with an utterly incorruptible Mayor, his staff seems interesting, and watching them hire Deathstroke to go after him should be entertaining over the coming months. My largest criticism here would be that the suspense seemed forced. Even if they somehow managed to not hear about the future of Mr. Queen, no one who reads this comic will get past the fourth page before they realize that the new Mayor is clearly Ollie. Still, it's a minor quibble.

Infinite Crisis Secret Files 2006
Wow. Color me impressed. If there's been one thing that has bothered me about Infinite Crisis (ok, there's been a lot more than one thing, but work with me here) and that would be the motivation behind Alexander Luthor and Superboy Prime. What turned these incredibly selfless heroes into the masterminds behind the deaths of millions? Well, here we get to find out. I also like the idea that Superboy's pounding on the walls of their "prison" is responsible for the changing history and continuity. It's a little bit sloppy, sure, but it works.

Spider-Woman Origin 4
I want to like this comic. I really do. Jessica Drew is a fascinating character. Bendis is one of my favorite authors. And yet, it just isn't working for me. I don't know if it's the casual disregard for human life that Jessica and Fury display, but I'm feeling very "meh" about this mini-series. If I wasn't so heavily invested in the New Avengers, I doubt I would finish out this mini-series. Fortunately there's only one more issue. Oh? What happens? Jessica runs from SHIELD and Hydra, mouths off to Nick Fury, and tries to find her parents.

Superman 650
One Year Later. Alright, I'm going to confess it. They got me on this one. When Lex busts open Clark's jaw with that punch, I didn't see it coming. I should've. Why would Clark not be active as Superman if he still had his powers? No reason I can think of. None at all. Heck, they shouldn't have been able to sneak up on him either, for that matter. Pretty solid issue. I'm interested in finding out more about Supergirl's filling in for Kal-El. I'm chomping at the bit to find out what happened to Superboy and why he isn't filling in as well. Also, the Kryptonian crystal Lex has in this issue made another appearance this week, over in Teen Titans Annual. We know that they're going to mess with the past to make it more like Smallville, and here we see more of it coming. I wonder when we'll see Chloe.

Superman/Shazam: First Thunder 4
I want to bookend this series with Kingdom Come. The dynamic between Superman and Captain Marvel has always fascinated me. By being Billy Batson, Marvel brings a perspective that Superman just can't provide. Marvel has always intrigued me also because any of us could be told the magic word and become Marvel, but none of us were born on another planet. (As a side note, if you're an alien reading my blog, please contact SETI.) So, it made total sense to watch Billy lose it and almost kill Sivana. And it was even cooler to watch Superman tell off Shazam. I can't help but wonder if this will have further ramifications in the post-Crisis world, since Marvel is now the keeper of the Rock of Eternity. Which also begs the question: Where does the Marvel Family get their power from? If it's from the gods and heroes that make up the acronym, the Marvels should have been weakening the same way that Wonder Girl has been. If it's from the wizard, they should have lost their power when he died. I'll have to think more on this.

Teen Titans Annual 1
In case you missed my last post, I loved this issue. Absoultely loved it. Aside from the romance of Cassie and Conner, it was wonderful watching Robin taking the lead in the reconstruction of Bludhaven. Good characterization all around. I'd also like to give a call out to the DC editorial board here for this issue, and recent events on Smallville. Teenagers have sex. There. I said it. We may wish they didn't, but they do. I have a daughter, and while she's still far too young for it to be an issue (she's 17 months old), I still wish she wouldn't. It would have been easy for them to keep the romance unconsumated, and that might have appealed to the family values crowd, but it isn't realistic. Other comics show teenage superheroes having sex, but Superboy and Wonder-Girl are iconic figures. That's a gutsy move. Good on DC.

Ultimate Extinction 3
Hmmm, now this is interesting. The Silver Surfer has shown up, fired at Earth by Gah Lak Tus. He also kicked the crap out of Iron Man and Marvel, but that's beside the point. So, who is the silver guy with the wings? It's also interesting watching Reed's inner struggle here. While there is certainly something amazing about the 616 Reed being a super genius just because he is, it is equally fascinating that the Ultimate Reed can literally "stretch his mind" around a problem. And the Ultimate Ultimate Nullifier is something that Reed will create. Wow. That's a level of angst no teenager needs. Thank goodness for Sue.

Ultimate X-Men 68
I don't know why I don't care about this. There's a lot good here. Logan is going to be cloned. Storm and Logan's romance develops, Bobby and Rogue's romance develops, Scott and Jean's romance develops, and even Kitty is getting into the act with Spider-Man. This is the kind of stuff I should be loving. Our new reality warping mutant has potential, and the relationship between the Shi'ar, Phoenix and the Hellfire club is a nice twist on the 616 Universe. But something about this comic just left me feeling blah.

So, there we go. These are the comics I read this week. Next week we'll do it again! And tomorrow? Well, tomorrow we'll talk about what makes a superhero a superhero. At least in my book.