Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Memorial Day Interference

Hey gang,

Comic books were delayed due to a lack of shipping over the Memorial Day holliday. As such, I can't get my new comics until tomorrow, which in turn means that the Round-Up is going to go up on Friday.

Sorry to disapoint. I'll try to get something interesting here tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Rest in peace, Mr. Toth

A while back, I mentioned that Alex Toth had been hospitalized.

Well, sadly, Alex Toth passed away this Saturday.

Mr. Toth died at his drawing table, still working.

I think I'm going to stop on the way home and buy one of the Challenge of the Superfriends DVD boxed sets tonight, and watch one of those in memorial.

Sorry, I don't have anything funny or inspiring today. I saw X-Men: The Last Stand again last night, and I find it better on a second viewing, although it still has some plot point issues that don't work for me. And I still think Ratner doesn't have the subtle touch that Singer does, and which this movie demanded. But it's actually pretty decent.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Weekly Comic Round-Up

Lets skip the preamble, and get right to the comics, shall we?

52 3
Week number three, and a new status quo is being established. Booster is still being a professional super-hero, despite Skeets "history" files being full of errors. The body of Alexander Luthor has been found, which explains how Luthor has been cleared of charges in the One Year Later continuity, and Black Adam has established himself as a force for… well, not quite good, but something.

I don't agree with Adam's philosophy of heroism, and Terra-Man didn't deserve the fate he got, but I do enjoy seeing Black Adam.

A minor complaint about this issue would be that we didn't see anymore of the Question or Ralph Dibny. But I can handle that, so long as they're back next issue.

Blue Beetle 3
Poor Jamie. Being a superhero isn't working out well for him. Guy Gardner wants to kick his butt, he lost a year of his life and now his mother can't accept that he's back. This on top of the fact that the scarab is still acting beyond his control and seems more than a little homicidal.

Of course, I still want to know why the scarab is behaving so much differently for Jamie then it did for either Ted Kord or Dan Garrett. Not only in terms of the abilities it grants, but in terms of how it behaves. Perhaps it has something to do with the Tenth Age of Magic?

On the plus side, his friends seem willing to accept his return, and he hasn't done the stereotypical "I must hide this from everyone" thing. Oh, and of course, there is more to be done with the Posse.

Sadly, I'm not finding the supporting cast to be all that compelling, so unless Jamie hooks up with a team like the Titans or the Justice League (once they reform), I think I might soon drop this book.

Daredevil 85
Mysteries abound for poor Matt Murdock. We're still no closer to figuring out who "Daredevil" is, or who killed Foggy. On the upside, we had another classic meeting between Daredevil and the Kingpin.

Personally, I'm a little bothered that Matt was even briefly tempted to use the shiv on Fisk. Matt shouldn't have even brought the shiv with him from his cell.

The other highlight of the issue, of course, was the guest appearance by Frank Castle, the Punisher. The Punisher was originally created to show how the "street level" heroes like Daredevil and Spider-Man could go wrong. So, having him be in the same jail that Matt is brings things around in an interesting circle.

I wonder also how the registration act is going to affect Murdock's status in jail. Will he be forced to remain there? Will they pull him out if he registers? Questions, questions and more questions.

Green Lantern 11
Well, it was inevitable that Jordan's actions leading up to Parallax would come back to bite him in the ass. And here we go. I suppose it's a good thing that some of the Lanterns Jordan thought he had killed have somehow survived, although it's rather unfortunate that they ended up on the Manhunter homeworld. Jordan disobeying the Guardians to go and rescue the missing Green Lanterns isn't going to go well. At all.

It's also good that they're acknowledging the fact that the other Green Lanterns don't trust Jordan, and nor should they. Honestly, Guy, John, Allen and Kilowog have all been way too trusting, in my opinion. True, it's not Jordan's fault that Parallax possessed him, and he did eventually battle back from that. But I still don't get why people are comfortable around him.

But we're not talking about the really cool part of this issue. The return of Hank Henshaw, the Cyborg Superman.

The Cyborg got overused shortly after the end of the Reign of the Supermen, but I always thought he was a cool villain. The idea that he's been upgrading the Manhunters into cyborg-like creatures, using organic materials and Kryptonian technology makes me want to squeal with joy.
Is there a reason for him to again be wearing the "S" shield or the cape, both of which he abandoned once he stopped pretending to be Superman? Nope, but they make for a great visual, so they get a total pass on that one, at least in my book.

(And a brief Teen Titans related thought. Henshaw's body is made of a combination of cloned material from Kal-El and the technology of the birthing matrix. Henshaw could probably clone Superboy back, if he were so inclined.)

Last Planet Standing 2
More fun in the MC2 Universe. Galactus wants the Odinsword, and Thor and the other Asgardians are going to stop him! This new herald, Waverider, can't possibly stand up to the power of a Warrior Born!

Oh, wait. He can? Crap.

So, Galactus is destroying galaxies, and collecting artifacts of immense power. And now he's on his way to Earth. Reed Richards and the Fantastic Family (I'm tired of trying to append a number to them, and there's way more than four or five at this point) are trying to outrace him to use Reed's new Ultimate Weapon.

There is some irony to the fact that Galactus has become the major threat to the MC2 Earth, the Marvel Zombies Earth (well, the zombies became Galactus, but close enough) and the Ultimate Earth, but is noticably absent in the regular 616 continuity.

In any case, Galactus is coming, and Waverider already took out Nova and the Earth Sentry. Thunderstrike has been de-powered with the loss of Asgard, and all in all, things are looking grim.

The best part? This is a bi-weekly book. So I get to read issue 3 soon!

New Avengers 19
One would think that a superhuman entity containing all of the mutant powers of those mutants who lost their powers due to the House of M would be the biggest threat that the Avengers have to deal with at one moment.

One would be mistaken.

Oh, the fight with this "Michael" matters, don't get me wrong. And it has been handled wonderfully, with both the Sentinal and Iron Man doing the heavy fighting. But that's not what matters in this issue. What matters in this issue is the cross-over into Civil War. They specifically talk about the fact that the Registration Act is being written during the issue.

And S.H.I.E.L.D. is downright despicable in this issue, pulling information from Spider-Man's head, shutting down the new Vision, and pulling rank on Captain America. Presumably, this takes place before the battle with Captain America in Civil War 1, otherwise I imagine they'd do more than simply "pull rank."

The wretched part is that S.H.I.E.L.D. made the right call here, and it is a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who points out that letting Michael go to his destination, which might very well be the Scarlet Witch, would be the best course of action. And where else would he land other than Genosha?

Secret Six 1
And the sixth member of the Six is... the Mad Hatter?!?

I love it. Seriously.

That said, it makes no sense to me why Blake and Lawton are teaming with the rest of the Six. Ok, Scandal is useful, and smart and sane. But she comes with Knockout, who is quite frankly, psychotic. And Ragdoll is just plain demented.

In any case, I enjoyed the "rescue" of Deadshot from the camp, and I enjoy the idea that the Society hasn't forgotten about the Six. Doctor Psycho especially. It's almost like he has some sort of grudge against Catman...

Oh, that's right. He does.

Anyhow, I had hoped for something other from the Six then becoming mercenaries. It's not that there's anything wrong with it per se, it's just less than I hoped for. On the other hand, this doesn't have the One Year Later logo on the front cover, so perhaps this is still in the immediate aftermath of the Crisis. Maybe things will be better by the time they catch up to continuity.

She Hulk 8
Well, the whacky-ness of the She-Hulk's transformations has now been corrected, although it comes at the price of allowing those who wish the She-Hulk harm can now target Jen Walters.

Right at the time when super-heroes are really unpopular. What wonderful timing.

It's intersting that She-Hulk is so conflicted on the Registration Act. As She-Hulk she supports the act, and sees the need for it. As Jen, she doesn't want her private life being threatened. I suspect most of the heroes share similar conflicts, not including the ones who have openly stated their identities, but in Jen's case the division is more obvious than many.

And the backlash against the New Warriors is absolutely terrifying to me. I liked the Warriors, I really did. And it's really regretable that they screwed up so badly that it sparked the Registration Act, and the ensuing War. Now, even their biggest fan, and almost member, Hindsight Lad, has turned against them.

Marvel, you are handling the Civil War absolutely right. It is chilling, scary but realistically handled. I emplore you, stay on this path. Don't back down, don't take the easy way out.

Teen Titans 36
I never trusted the Chief of the Doom Patrol. Never. The Doom Patrol may be made up of misfits and freaks, but I always felt like he talked down to them, and that he manipulated them to working with him. It's kind of like "What if all the nasty suspicions everyone ever had about Xavier turned out to be true?" Even if the Chief isn't a psychic himself.

This issue did nothing to increase my trust for the Chief. At all.

I find it interesting that Kid Devil has been lying to the Titans about still being in contact with Blue Devil. The Titans are really a home to the lost now, for both Ravager and Kid Devil. I hope that Cyborg chooses to stay with the Titans, and even manages to get Gar to return, rather than having Cyborg join the Doom Patrol. I hope Cassie rejoins the team. I hope that somehow, somehow, Superboy returns.

I'm going to be really sad if my two favorite characters from the Reign of the Supermen, Superboy and the Eradicator, are both gone from the DCU, but Steel and the Cyborg remain.

In other news? The Brain has a body again. The cloning worked. I'm almost positive that next issue Robin is going to try to get his hands on the cloning equipment.

Man, this series just keeps getting better and better.

Wolverine 42
I am not the biggest Wolverine fan. I haven't really been fond of the character for close to fifteen years now. Why? Well, because the evolution of the character was dropped in favor of the "cool" factor of having him kill. A lot.

But this is a Civil War tie-in, and I'm glad I picked it up. The issue did a nice job of integrating moments from the other Civil War titles I've seen, including the exchange between the Sentinels and Wolverine at the "accident" site, and the fight between Earth's heroes regarding the Registration Act.

That isn't why I enjoyed the issue though. What I liked about this issue is how Wolverine approached the issue of Nitro. Why hadn't he been captured yet? He isn't that powerful, or that hard to track. And of course, Logan hits on the reason. Because someone doesn't want him to be found. Nitro is scarrier if he remains un-caught, not unlike a certain terrorist figure today.

The real world doesn't have Wolverine, however.

I have no doubt Logan will find Nitro. I have no doubt bad things will happen to Nitro as a result. I have no doubt that Nitro will never be taken into US custody.

So, we reach the end of another week in comics, gentle readers. Until next time, Make Mine Marvel! (And DC. And anyone else writing good superhero comics. Oh, never mind.)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"When the time comes, who will you stand with?"

I will stand with the people who said "Give this movie a chance."

It deserved a chance. And now, the X-Men have made their last stand, and it left me feeling... ok.

Not bad, but it didn't capture me like the first two did either. I'd put it somewhere behind X-Men, X2, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2 and Batman Begins, but significantly ahead of The Hulk, Daredevil or Batman Forever. (Each of which I enjoyed, despite being unhappy with many parts of them.)

I'm going to do my best to make this review spoiler free, so you can read on with impunity.

Why didn't the movie work for me? Well, in large part, it was because of my fears referenced here. Pretty much everything I thought I was going to happen in that post came true.

There was a lot going on in this movie. Without saying anything other than what was in the trailers, we know that Jean Grey comes back from the dead, rising from her grave like a Phoenix. We know that they have developed a "cure" for mutation, that theoretically would work permanently, and that Magneto sees this as the opening salvo of a war.

That's a lot of plot, and there's more to it besides. Warren Worthington II is the financier behind the cure, and his son, Warren Worthington III makes his appearance as Angel, although he has a much smaller role in this film then I'd have expected. There's a romantic triangle brewing between Iceman, Kitty Pryde and Rogue. We meet a ton of new characters, and they all have lots to do.

And that was my biggest single problem with this movie. Oh, I had problems that offended me as a comic book fan, but those are continuity based, and spoiler-y, so they'll wait. In terms of thinking of these characters simply as they exist on the screen, I can forgive most of the choices that were made. Most of them.

But I just felt like they tried to do too much.

Honestly, X2 did too much as well, but Singer could make it work. Singer is a master of the subtle touch. There is a moment in X2 when we see John looking at the photographs of the Drake family home, wistfully. In that moment, we learn everything we need to know about John's home life, and the support he has, or doesn't have, from them. This sets us up perfectly for the other definitive moment for John, when he talks to Magneto about his real name.

Two scenes. Less than three minutes of screen time. Lots of depth of character being revealed.

Rattner just doesn't have that touch. Little moments that invoke that sense from the earlier films fall flat, and seem like he is teasing us by withholding information, rather than illustrating the point through the microcosm.

I also, as has been discussed before, have a problem with superhero movies with a high body count. Wolverine killing I will excuse, simply because I know that fans won't let it be avoided anymore. Other superheroes shouldn't kill though. But there is a lot of death in this movie, of both extras and main characters, and some of it done by people who shouldn't be able to shed blood that casually, if at all.

There is plenty good in this movie, don't get me wrong. Stellar acting all around, and some moments that are perfectly drawn from the pages of the comic. Anyone who isn't impressed by Magneto floating in mid-air as he drops the Golden Gate bridge onto Alcatraz is made of far sterner stuff than myself. Wolverine remains the perpetual badass, and the confrontation between Juggernaut and Kitty Pryde was perfect in so many ways.

Oh, and when you see it, stay through the credits. All the way to the end. Trust me.

Did I enjoy it? Oh yes. In fact, I'll be going back to see it again this weekend. But did it work for me the way that the first two did? Sadly, no. On the positive side, I did win a t-shirt at the premiere, by virtue of being a mutant myself. (I'm an extremely hairy man, for those of you who don't know me personally.)

The title aside, The Last Stand paves the way for a fourth movie. I don't expect it'll get one, and unless Singer decides to come back, I really hope it doesn't.

(As a side note, last night I saw a new trailer for Superman Returns, which just served as a sad reminder of how much better this film could have been with Singer at the helm.)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Three random bullet-points

First, my show closed this weekend. It went very well. There may be big doings a-foot regarding my future with the theatre company. More details will come as I know something more solid.

Two, I begin stage combat classes this week. I still don't know what my schedule is going to be for these. As such, my time may not become any more free for writing than it has been during my rehearsals.

Three, I am going to see X3: The Last Stand tonight, due to getting a preview pass from my local comic book store, The Laughing Ogre. Tomorrow I will be writing about it. There will be spoilers. If you don't want to read those, I suggest you avoid the blog tomorrow and come back on Thursday for the Weekly Round-Up.

Friday, May 19, 2006

A House Divided...

I have rarely been so torn about a special event in comic books.

Possibly never.

Death of Superman? It was always going to be temporary. Breaking of Batman's back? Again, it couldn't last. Secret Wars only really affected the course of comics by giving us the Symbiote. (For which I will forever curse it). Crisis on Infinite Earths? Neccessary book-keeping, which I maintain to this day. (Well, it wouldn't be neccessary if DC had just allowed characters to age and die, but they didn't.)

Civil War is different.

I like the myth of the superhero. This should be obvious, I do, after all, have a blog dedicated to superheroes. I like the fact that superheroes are those rare beings who have amazing abilities and do right with them. And for some reason, I like the fact that they aren't soldiers, or firemen, or police officers.

Most people are willing to call those individuals heroes. They choose to put themselves in harm's way, for the good of the rest of us. They make this decision, then make a career (or at least a job) out of it, going through training.

Most superheroes didn't make that choice, or at least not as formally. They gained their powers, and then they decided it was better to use them for good. They decided they couldn't sit back and not use their powers, or use them selfishly. This is where superheroes inspire in a different way then the real life heroes around us. We would like to believe that if suddenly blessed with the power to make a difference in the world, we would act like Spiderman, Superman or Iron Man. We might be fooling ourselves, but we would like to believe that.

But most of us aren't willing to give up our lives, our identities or our privacy. That's why we don't become policemen or soldiers. We want to be responsible only to ourselves: our families, our friends, our ideals, our hopes and our dreams. Like most superheroes.

As such, the Registration Act violates my dream. Forcing all superheroes to become soldiers and policemen will only drive many of them to sit on their hands and not act, or to continue to act as heroes, in direct violation of the law.

And yet... if they are breaking the law, do they not become supervillains?

In Civil War 1, Captain America says that he doesn't want Washington to decide who is, or is not, a supervillain. The S.H.I.E.L.D. director responds that she always thought that supervillains were people in costumes who broke the law. Neither side is being entirely truthful here. Both are oversimplifying. Both are right, but both are wrong as well.

For all that I dream of the myth of the superhero, if actually lived in a world where people could fly, or bend steel with their hands, or laugh at bullets, I would want them to be held responsible.

I don't trust our government any more than the next guy. In fact, I am very actively political and trust our government less than most. Still, I think that the system, as a whole, is designed to minimize abuses of power, and to hold people responsible when they violate the public trust. And even when it fails, I believe it to be better than anarchy.

Registration and requiring the heroes to be held responsible is for their protection, and ours. A police officer has a defense if he shoots and kills someone. Superheroes, currently, do not. Registration also keeps the heroes from feeling that they have the right to decide what is right for the rest of us. If they are responsible to us, then we need never worry about suffering the fate of the Squadron Supreme's Earth.

I am torn. I don't want my heroes to be forced to register. I want them to continue on as we have envisioned the superhero for over sixty years. I want the heroes of the DCU to look at their counterparts in Marvel and recognize the heroes from the villains. But the rational part of my brain can only look at superheroes and say "They should register."

I fear for the future of my superheroes. And I hope that Marvel has the courage of their convictions. If this law is proposed, things will change forever, even if it is later repealed. While I do not want the events of Civil War to happen, if they are going to write and publish this story, I hope they let it have the impact it needs to have.

(Oh, and my review of Civil War 1? It was good. Really good. It had intense action sequences, good art, and it made me think.)

Next issue will get a regular slot in the Weekly Comic Round-Up. And I apologize for the time it took me to get this commentary written.

Now, off to the theatre!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Weekly Comic Round-Up

Yeah, even with the insanity that is the theatre, I have managed to find time to keep up with the weekly comic round-ups. Up, Up and Away!

52 2
Yeah, you guys should get used to seeing this at the top of the Weekly Round-Ups. So, we are into the second week, and the thot begins to plicken, as they say. Apparently the Crisis has altered the timeline that Booster Gold comes from.

We saw the beginning of this in Week 1, what with the failure of Superman to make his speech. Sadly, Skeets doesn't seem to be reacting to the changing timeline well, and is having glitches and errors. Booster goes to Doc Magnus, creator of the Metal Men, to get Skeets repaired, which leads us into a meeting between Doc Magnus and T.O. Morrow, creator of the Red Tornado. Morrow informs us that the Mad Scientists seem to all be going missing. Interesting. This bodes ill.

In other DCU news, the Question is still being mysterious. He breaks in on Rene Montoya and her lover, scares the beejezus out of them, and then hires Montoya. For what, I'm not entirely certain. Especially since the Question is a detective himself.

And speaking of detectives, someone has apparently vandalized Sue Dibny's grave, and the Elongated Man means to find out why. But the grave wasn't just vandalized, it was painted with an upside down, all too familiar, stylized "S". Ralph knows that the symbol is more than simply Superman's logo, but it has a meaning in the Kryptonian language. Normally, it means "hope", which is appropriate. But apparently inverted it means resurrection.

Sadly, Superman is MIA, and Supergirl isn't around either. And Superboy is, well, dead. So, Dibny goes to find Cassie Sandsmark, better known as Wonder-Girl, who has been conducting memorial services for Superboy over webcams across the world.

Of course, reading Titans, we know that Conner doesn't come back from the grave, at least not during 52. Teasing jerks.

There's also a backup feature, where Donna Troy is going through Dark Angel's records to get the history of the DCU, post-post-Crisis. Interesting enough read, but it feels a bit like homework.

Captain America 18
I don't often talk about the art, but I really do feel like the current artist on Cap just doesn't know how to make pictures dynamic enough. Maybe its the shading and dark color pallet, but while I've been enjoying these stories, there just hasn't been a sense of action to the images.

So, Cap is now in England, where he has enlisted the current Union Jack and Spitfire to help him track down the Kronas corporation and Luskin, presumably to find Luskin before Bucky does, and gets himself killed. Again. Apparently, despite this being a new Union Jack, it's the original Spitfire, somehow made young again. I'd worry about it, but she's a hot blonde speedster, and the world always needs more of those. And if it really mattered to me, I could go get the Invaders comics.

Luskin, with the Skull working inside of him, is plotting something big, and Crossbones and Syn are also working their way to find Luskin. They, of course, don't realize that the Skull is now inside of Luskin, and are just trying to kill him.

Luskin/Red Skull on one side. Captain America on another. The Winter Soldier/Bucky on a third, and Crossbones and Syn on a fourth. When they finally all meet, this is going to be a mess. I'm looking forward to it.

Green Arrow 62
One would think that walking into one's office to find Deathstroke sitting there would be a sign that one is in trouble, even if you are Oliver Queen.

One would be wrong.

Deathstroke got played.

There's just no other way to put it. Ollie had everything set up. Somehow he knew Deathstroke was coming for him, and Ollie had traps set, including an explosive under the desk, an adhesive cable to pull him away, a pit of adhesive to throw him into, and some new gear, including coating his boots in a solvent so the adhesive wouldn't bother him, body armor under the costume, and a sword.

Yeah, a sword. During the missing year, Oliver went and retrained. And he's good. Damn good.

The final moment, of course, is the perfect one. The National Guard have been called out, and Deathstroke is surrounded, and at the bottom of a pit. This was all an object lesson to show the world that Star City, it's Mayor, and Green Arrow are not to be taken lightly.


Moon Knight 2
This doesn't seem to be a series about a superhero, so much as it is about the fallen hero.

Moon Knight is kind of a scary hero, and falls short of my definition of the "superhero". His abuse of his girlfriend in the first issue shows that, and this issue continues it. We get to see Moon Knight's final battle, where he breaks his legs. And he hurts his enemy, quite a bit, before finally killing him.

I'm not up on my Moon Knight lore, so I don't know who Crawley is. I don't know who the guy that is monitoring Spector is. I have absolutely no idea who the "Gaelic Friend" is.

What I do know is that the writing is intelligent, and a mood is being evoked that I find fascinating. The art has a great feel to it, and it's amazing how dark a bright white costume can be made. So the other thing I know for sure is that I'll be picking up next month's issue as well.

Shadowpact 1
It's no secret that Villains United was my favorite of the Infinite Crisis prequels. But Day of Vengeance was a close, close second. The character interactions were just so much fun. And I've always liked the magical heroes of the DCU.

So, somewhere in the heart of somewhere, a blood barrier has been placed around a town. Strega, Jack of Fire, Bagman, Karnevil, Sister Shadow and the White Knight are planning a necromantic ritual that will require a good deal of human sacrifice. I rather enjoyed Strega's address to the town about this. Very matter of fact, very "yes, some of you are going to die. Sorry about that, but someone has to. No, it's not fair. Please work with us, and we won't have to kill others beyond those chosen for the sacrifice."

I don't know any of these characters, but I'm looking forward to learning more.

When the non-magical heroes of the DCU find the barrier, they're stymied. So, the Phantom Stranger sends the Shadowpact (consisting of Blue Devil, Ragman, Nightshade, Detective Chimp, Enchantress and Nightmaster) to bring the barrier down. That was a year ago. Today, the Phantom Stranger is having people monitor the barrier, either for it to come down, or for the Shadowpact to return.

Two mysteries: What is the ritual for? This I'm not at all certain of. I imagine it'll be something huge, along the scale of the Spectre or Nabu or the Phantom Stranger. But I don't know what it'll be exactly.

The other mystery is a continuity thing. If the book is occurring in "real time", as in, concurrent with One Year Later, when did Green Lantern and Superman find the barrier? It has to be after the Spectre destroyed the Rock of Eternity and killed Nabu, but then there isn't any time before we get into the meat of Infinite Crisis, at the end of which Superman is de-powered.

Thunderbolts 102
The Squadron Supreme, or Squadron Sinister, or Supreme Power, under whatever name they choose to operate, are still, and always will be, cheap copies of the DC icons. As such, they've never excited me. I wasn't even really able to get into JMS' Supreme Power series. (And why does the Squadron Sinister want to be called Supreme Power now? What a lame way to say "Hey, buy this book!"

The storyline with the Grandmaster manipulating people to get power returned to the Wellspring, which apparently powered the Squadron, just isn't at all interesting to me. And this issue spends entirely too much time going into Joystick's background.

Joystick doesn't interest me. At all. She's a lame character, with undefined limits to her abilities. She's irritating. And of course she's going to try to take the power for herself instead of letting Zemo have it.

Still, we got one nice moment in here, when Zemo and Mach IV were talking to Gyrich and Riordan about the registration act. I found it interesting to see that Abe feels so strongly about civil liberties. He really does have a hero inside of himself, trying to get out. And of course Zemo sees no need for these liberties. Of course.

In any case, Thunderbolts is still one of my favorite comics, and is in no danger of falling off of my pull, but I won't be sad to see this storyline end.

Ultimate X-Men 70
So, the new guy is going to get his mission. Bully for him!

In all seriousness, this was one of those issues where the superpowered battle meant less than the two subplots going on. Don't get me wrong, the battle between Cyclops, Storm, Iceman, Rogue and Colossus and Havoc, Polaris, Angel, Sunspot and Northstar was fun. And with Mastermind making Havoc and company see the X-Men as the Brotherhood, it even made sense. The second part of the battle, with the X-Men against the Brotherhood, was also fun. But, ultimately, unimportant.

The main subplot was the title of the issue. Phoenix. Jean is going to allow Lilandra and her assistant to examine her to see if she's Phoenix. We get to find a key difference between Jean and her 616 counterpart: This Jean was dumped in a looney bin by her parents after her powers manifested. We also find that, like her 616 counterpart, Jean is willing to kill herself rather than let Phoenix take control. Of course, based on the last page of the issue, she may not get that option...

(Incidentally, does anyone else think that Gerald might actually be the Ultimate version of Gladiator? I kind of hope so.)

But the real heart-wrenching moment of the issue comes right at the beginning. Where Kurt Wagner, Nightcrawler, is confessing to the comatose Dazzler, about his concerns about Piotyr.

You see, Piotyr Rasputin in the Ultimate Universe, is homosexual. And I'm happy about this, we need more openly gay superheroes I believe. (Well, open as much as their sexuality is an issue for any superhero.) But something that tends to happen in comics is that all of the other heroes, being the icons of virtue and tolerance that they are, never have an issue with their teammates being different.

It's admirable, but that isn't honest. And Kurt is a deeply religious man. A deeply religious man from a faith that believes that homosexuals are abominations. And Kurt doesn't know how to deal with this.

There is irony, of course. Mutants are even more persecuted in the Marvel Universes (what is the plural of universe anyhow?) then homosexuals are in the real world. So, having a mutant be intolerant of someone else is deeply ironic. Truthful, but ironic. Plenty of minorities have their own prejudices after all. But they get credit, in my book, for having the guts to tackle the topic.

Alright, one more week down. I'll be at the theatre again tonight, so no promises about my ability to get my Civil War thoughts up tomorrow. I'll try, but, I make no promises.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The state of affairs in theatre

Just for those who were wondering...

My show is going fairly well. Despite entirely too little rehearsal time, my actors and tech crew put on an amazing show opening night, last Thursday.

Friday was also good, although there were some glitches in line memory. And the author came to see the show that night. But he enjoyed it, and he and I were out until 1:30 in the morning discussing the differences in my production and earlier productions of the show.

Saturday night I was having a terrible day, so I left before my show started, but after I did the opening welcome schpiel.

Tonight my actors are getting together to run lines, but I won't be there.

And tomorrow we start over again. We close Saturday. Whooo!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Long Awaited Infinite Crisis Review

Apparently, it is believed that every few years we need to reset comic book continuity. I don’t agree with this theory, but I suppose it’s inevitable.

After all, continuity can be hard enough to keep track of when you have a single author working with the characters.

That’s not what DC is dealing with.

They’re working with a comic book universe, and not just any comic book universe, but one where you are dealing with the icons of superhero-hood (and while I may prefer many of the Marvel heroes they just don’t get any bigger or more recognizable than DC’s Big Three).

In this environment you have dozens of authors currently working with the characters, and hundreds who have come before you, editors and executives, all of whom are pulling the characters in a dozen different directions.

So, as much as I despair over it, it’s only natural that there are going to be gaffes in continuity. Hence, we get Crisis on Infinite Earths and Zero Hour and now, Infinite Crisis.

This wasn’t all bad. It really wasn’t. There were bad parts, to be sure, but there was some enjoyable moments throughout the series as well.

We began with Identity Crisis, and the murder of Sue Dibny, the brain-wiping of supervillains, and the revelation of Dr. Light as a rapist. A good friend of mine explained why he hated this. It exemplified the “maturity” of comic books in recent years.

By maturity, he didn’t mean complex stories that reveal the nature of the characters. He meant “mature themes”, like sex and gritty violence. These aren’t comics he would feel comfortable sharing with his son. And I get that. I read these issues, and I love them, but there is a real loss of innocence with these stories.

And the DC icons have often struggled with that issue, as shown in the fabulous What's So Funny 'Bout Truth and Justice? from Action Comics #775.

Reading Countdown, we see the world turn even darker. Maxwell Lord’s plot pervaded the entire DCU, and the death of Ted Kord was absolutely shocking. The other lead-ins continue this trend.

Villains United has the Secret Society of Supervillains and the Secret Six show a terrifying unity of purpose with supervillains, villains determined to get revenge on the Justice League.

Day of Vengeance has the Spectre destroy all magic.

The OMAC Project continues Max Lord’s villainy.

And The Rann-Thanagar War sets an intergalactic war the likes of which the DCU has never seen, ranking right up there with the Kree-Skrull War from Marvel, which redefined the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and established that humanity has an incredible potential in the universe.

The DCU has become a scary, scary place. The Justice League has broken apart at the seams, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman no longer trust one another, and we are so far removed from the sense of joy that comics contained when I was a kid.

So it made perfect sense for Kal-L, the Superman of Earth-2 to want to bring his universe back.

Now, there were problems with Infinite Crisis, don’t get me wrong. First, Alexander Luthor and Superboy Prime’s plan to rebirth the universe involves them violating everything that ever made them heroes.

And the argument that this universe is going away, so anything they do to achieve their goal is worthwhile doesn’t hold up. "It was for the greater good" is the last argument of the failed hero, in my book.

But generally, I liked Infinite Crisis. I’m looking forward to reading 52, and what I’ve seen from the One Year Later continuity has me hopeful. Sure, there are some dark, dark moments in their history, but there is a renewed sense of hope in the One Year Later books.

Did we need the deaths and other changes to characters that Infinite Crisis is responsible for? I’m not sure, but they will make for some good stories, I believe. And they illustrated how far Luthor and Superboy Prime had fallen. I look forward to seeing a resolution to the death of Conner Kent. I want to know more about the future of the Marvels. I thrill at the idea of seeing Kyle Rayner become something more than “the fill-in Green Lantern.”

Did we need all of the changes to continuity? Again, probably not. I dream of a comic universe where the characters age and grow as time passes, and that the Cosmic Reset button need never be pushed. But that way lies madness, and a lack of marketing potential. And none of these changes are going to drive me insane, so I’ll manage.

So, while I wish it hadn’t been needed, Infinite Crisis manages to get a passing grade in my book. Sadly, it’s still going to fit in the category of “homework”, something that you need to read to understand the new DCU. It’s not the best story ever, but I think it will be more enjoyable, and less of a chore to read than Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Sorry this took so long to get up. I blame the theatre. Civil War is coming soon.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Weekly Comic Round-Up

My show opens tonight.


We had our only full tech and dress rehearsal last night.

I have the most amazing actors and crew on this show, but I just don't think we were able to give them enough time.

Look to the right side of the screen. This is what my life feels like right now.

I have left behind the state of controlled panic and am now in full fledged terror.

Doomsday is going to kick my ass.

So, let's forget about my show for a little bit, and look at this week in comic books, shall we?

52 1
So, the Crisis has passed, and now it is time to move on. (And yes, I know, I still owe you my thoughts on Crisis. It's coming. Really. I promise.) So, we have a world with many deaths, and a world without Batman, Superman or Wonder-Woman. So, who do we have to mind the shop?

The Question. Steel. Booster Gold. Detective Montoya. And a suicidal Ralph Dibny, once the Elongated Man.

I think we've got some real potential with this series, although not a lot actually happened in this series. But that's ok, after all, it's the beginning of a 52-issue, one book a week series. We established that the Big Three are missing, that the future is no longer set in stone, and the state of mind for Ralph, Steel, Montoya and Booster. And the Question does the mysterious action of removing the bat symbol from the Bat-Signal and replacing it with a question mark.

I think the Question we see in this series is going to be a little bit more like the one from Justice League Unlimited. And that really makes me happy.

Last Planet Standing 1
So, I am one of the few people who really enjoyed the MC2 Universe. I've been a loyal reader of every MC2 book since it's inception. Of course, at the moment, that only means Spider-Girl, but that's beside the point.

So, it looks like this may be the end of the MC2 Universe. Galactus has his new herald, the Wave-Rider, and they've eaten the Shi'ar homeworld.

Something involving overloading suns so that they go nova is helping Galactus "evolve to the next level", whatever that means.

And at the very end, we see that Galactus is going to go eat Asgard before he makes another attempt on Earth.

Ok, they've got my attention. And if this is the end for the MC2 Universe, well, at least it'll go out with a bang.

She-Hulk 7
Wow. This may be the most serious issue of She-Hulk I have ever read. And I feel a little dirty reading it.

Starfox is on trial for, essentially, rape. You see, his superpower is to make people love him. This means that he never has a shortage of willing company for the evening. It also means that the company isn't always really willing. The trial is being brought against him by a married woman who cheated on her husband with Starfox. And yes, she threw herself at him. But not by her own conscious choice.

One of the researchers at Jen's firm commented on how uncomfortable that makes him. Someone like that shouldn't really be an Avenger.

Half-way through the issue, Jen realizes that Starfox (his actual name is Eros) may have used his power on her, which might be the reason she hooked up with him many years ago.

What bothers me most about this, aside from the horrid relationships that sprang up around Eros, is Jen's reaction. She becomes livid and beats the snot out of Eros, but not until she begins to think that she was a victim. It seems to me that if Eros was using his powers against people to make them throw themselves at him, essentially acting as a walking, talking date-rape drug, Jen should have been mad from the get-go. The fact that her anger is only personal struck me as being less heroic, and more selfish. And I don't like that. This series has, largely, been about watching She-Hulk mature. I believe this is a step back.

Spider-Girl 98
Goblins are scary.

There has been a trend to overlook the Goblins as the greatest foes of Spider-Man. Doctor Octopus is flashier. Venom is creepier. But all of the worst moments of the Parker family can be traced to the actions of the Goblins.

Roderick Kingsly, the original Hobgoblin, got released last issue. And now he is systematically destroying Spider-Girl's life, starting with her friends. Peter has found out that Normie Osborn is now bonded to the Venom symbiote, making him a terrible synthesis of both the Green Goblin and Venom, and has forbidden May from being Spider-Girl any longer.

Things look grim. The Hobgoblin is every bit as terrifying as Norman Osborn ever was. And the final page of the comic, when we see May's friends and allies, The Buzz, the Ladyhawkes and Raptor beaten, bound, and possibly dead, hanging off a fence sent shivers up my spine.

May has her hands full. And I don't know if telling her dad the full details would be the right choice, or a horrible one. It's possible that Peter would bring the old costume out of retirement, and possibly get himself killed. Kingsley doesn't seem to have slowed down in the past twenty years. Peter lost a leg and is seriously out of practice.

We're building to issue 100. This might be the end of Spider-Girl. If so, it has been one hell of a run.

Superman 652
Up, Up and Away continues. Clark now knows that he has his powers back, at least to some extent. He quickly theorizes that his powers were gone due to his own unwillingness to let them return. He enjoyed being Clark, and having time to spend with Lois and his friends.

But Lois's reaction was perfect. Lois is his real strength, and when he is full of doubt, she is the one who hands him his costume and tells him to go and be Superman. She knew what she was getting herself into when she married Superman, and wouldn't let Clark deny that part of himself.

The fight between Superman and the assembled Intergang goons was fun to watch, but ultimately, unimportant. A sad truth is that when it simply becomes an issue of "Will Superman win this fight?", the story isn't that interesting. Of course he'll win. He's Superman, it's what he does. But the writers have picked up on what does make Superman worth reading. Exploring what being Superman means, for Clark, for his friends, for his family, and for the world.

And of course, Superman's return has pushed Lex into overdrive in his quest to use the Kryptonite to get that Kryptonian artifact. I wonder what it could be...

So, that's this week in comics. Hopefully I'll have some downtime now that my show is opening, and I'll get that Infinite Crisis/Civil War recap up this weekend. After all, Doomsday may be coming, but if Clark Kent could get back up from that, I can too.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Tech Week

Hey gang,

I'm directing a show right now. We're in tech week. We open on Thursday, and still haven't done a full tech rehearsal.

The way things are currently going, I need another four hours added to the day to get everything I want to get done accomplished. And that's if I forego sleep.

I'm working on the Infinite Crisis and Civil War write-ups. But it may take awhile to get 'em here.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Free Comic Book Day

I know I'm violating the primary rule of blogging by making not just one, not just two, but three posts in one day, but I couldn't not mention that tomorrow, Saturday May 6th, is the Third Annual Free Comic Book Day.

Drop on by one of your local comic shops and pick up an assortment of diverse comics for free. There will be fun books for kids (Owly, Archie, Donald Duck, etc.,) mature books for grown ups (Mr. Jean, Scott Pilgrim, etc.,) and all sorts of action/adventure books in between (Conan, X-Men, Star Wars, Batman, etc.)

(And thanks to my co-worker Dara Naraghi over at Ferret Press for reminding me about this.)

I may be bad, but I feel.... good.

Let's just dive into the Top Five, shall we?

5 - Lex Luthor
Gene Hackman
Superman I, II, IV
Why He's On The List: Luthor. The greatest criminal mind of our time. Among the most feared of all supervillains in the DCU, and without any superpowers of his own. Any list of the top supervillans of all time would be incomplete without Luthor. This is the only man who should ever earn the honor of killing Superman.

Why He's Number Five: Because you could see that Hackman's heart wasn't quite in it. Luthor, as portrayed by Hackman, was a comedic character. Dangerous and deadly, sure, but ultimately comedic. This isn't a slight on Hackman, he's a fine actor. Nor is this a slight against Donner. Luthor's Hackman was a fine option in light of the Silver Age Superman portrayed in the movies. He wasn't the Luthor of the comics, but in some ways he paved the way for the post-Crisis industrialist Luthor. But Clancy Brown's Luthor in the animated DCU and Michael Rosenbaum on Smallville have set a different standard. Now, if I were to redo this list in a few months, once Superman Returns has been released, Spacey's Luthor might have taken the Number One spot. But the comic Luthor of Superman I, II and IV just can't compete with the other heavies who make up the Top Five.

4 - Norman Osborn a.k.a. The Green Goblin
Willem Dafoe
Why He's On The List: Even before he became the Green Goblin, Norman Osborn wasn't a nice guy. He was business first, and he neglected his son, Harry. And unlike Octavius, Osborn is responsible for his own transformation into a psychotic supervillain. As the Green Goblin, Osborn was maniacal and murderous. And Dafoe nailed the voice. Everything about that voice is designed to give you nightmares. Finally, for all his impressive physical power and dangerous weaponry, the Goblin is a genius. Spider-Man's enemies work best when they mirror the attributes that make Parker a hero, and no one, not even Venom, does it better than the Goblin.

Why He's Number Four: He looked like an evil Power Ranger. I know it's a petty reason to keep him down, but it's one I can't get over. The Goblin mask was just ridiculous looking. The other reason he doesn't rank higher is an issue of scope. Osborn wants money, power and prestige. He wants Oscorp to be the biggest dog in the game, and he wants to rule it. But he doesn't want to take over the world, and even his criminal pursuits are limited to making Oscorp more successful. Or personal revenge.

3 - Ra's Al Ghul
Liam Neeson
Batman Begins
Why He's On The List: First, because he totally got me with the swerve. I believed that Ken Watanabe was Ra's, and that Liam Neeson was just the Major Domo. But beyond that, Neeson was just so smooth. I loved watching him train Bruce, and set him up to become a master assassin. I enjoyed the fact that they made the hooks on Batman's gauntlets have a real world application. And, well, to be brutally honest, he used a sword, and that gets bonus points for me. But as the head of the League of Shadows, Ra's pulls strings throughout the world, and destroying Gotham just to prove a point is what being a supervillain is all about.

Why He's Number Three: Well, there are a few reasons. Part of it is name recognition. If you ask the average Batman fan to list the famous members of Batman's rouges gallery, Ra's is going to come after the Joker, Catwoman, Penguin, Riddler, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow and Mr. Freeze. He may very well come behind Killer Croc and Clayface. He also loses points for a dumb plan. Here's a hint: A microwave laser that will make the water in the pipes explode will also make the water inside human bodies explode. Finally, he loses points for a bad death. And possibly a bad fight scene, but truthfully I couldn't tell. (Comic book movie makers: Go watch the superpowered fight scenes in Spider-Man and X-Men. Realize that you can actually show the fight while keeping the tension going. You don't need a million cuts and super-close-ups. Let us watch the fight. Please.)

2 - Eric Lensherr a.k.a. Magneto
Ian McKellen
X-Men, X2
Why He's On The List: Because he is Magneto. Magneto is utterly unfaltering in his conviction that he is the last, best hope for the future of mutantkind. And he may be right. Magneto and Xavier represent two different paths for the future, and while we might like to follow Xavier's past, the way that humans in the Marvel Universe, both in comic and film, treat mutants suggests that Magneto is a bit more realistic. His ideology is unshakeable, and well-reasoned. His personal power is amazing, and he oozes charisma. When Magneto is on the screen, the aura of power around him is tangible, from casual displays of power, to the impressive, to the easy way he pulls people to his cause. Now, a Polish Jew who grew up in the United States probably shouldn't have an English accent, but I'm willing to let that slide.

Why He's Number Two: The thing which makes Magneto such a wonderful villain is also his one fatal flaw. Magneto is not an evil person. Or at least, not an evil mutant. He truly believes that he is working for the greater good. He doesn't hate Charles and his students, he just thinks they're dangerously misguided. If Magneto were ever to succeed in making a world where mutantkind was ascendant, and safe from homo sapiens sapiens, he would be content. He probably sees himself as having a ruling position in such a society, but that isn't why he does what he does. Magneto has never recovered from being that little boy in Auschwitz who watched his parents be taken away for being different. It's why we admire him, and why we love him. But it also makes him just slightly less villainous than our top villain.

1 - General Zod
Terence Stamp
Superman I, II
Why He's On The List: Kneel, son of Jor-El! Kneel before Zod! We know that the super-criminals from Krypton are bad news when they first appear in Superman I. We don't know the full details of their crimes on Krypton, but they were bad enough to be banished to the Phantom Zone, which is pretty much an unending hell. And when they are released, they immediately think big. This is a nice planet, and we have amazing abilities here, why shouldn't we rule? The fact that Jor-El's son lives on the planet is just a nice bonus and opportunity for revenge.

Why He's Number One: Zod has it all. Physical power in spades. Charisma to attract devoted followers. A cunning tactical mind. Utter and total ruthlessness in the pursuit of his goals. He will betray or kill anyone. And he isn't afraid of anything. Zod doesn't hide behind others, he stands out front and says "Zod. Not God." Zod has also cast a shadow through Superman's mythology. The appearance of Zod in the pre-Crisis continuity was a minor one at best. Zod in the post-Crisis continuity became the only sentient being Superman ever killed, and sparked an even more dangerous foe for Superman later on. And Smallville has been threatened by the shadow of Zod for at least two seasons now, with his appearance promised in the finale, according to TV Guide. Terrence Stamp established a bar for what a supervillain had to be, and in my mind, no one has topped it. Ian McKellen's Magneto may have equaled it, maybe, but Stamp set the standard, and for this reason, Zod triumphantly stands over the fallen bodies of all his foes.

So, that's my Top Ten. I hope you enjoyed them. Now, feel free to rip me apart in my comments. Monday will have my thoughts on Infinite Crisis and Civil War, assuming I'm able to sit on my thoughts about Smallville. I'll try to hold those ideas until next week when we get the Season Finale, but I'm just busting at the seams to discuss it.


Before I finish the Top Ten Supervillains, here are the Honorable Mentions, followed by the Hall of Shame. All of the Honorable Mentions did a good job as their respective villains, they just didn't set a standard for future villains. And the Hall of Shame, well, they get their license to appear in future superhero movies yanked.

Honorable Mentions:
Cassanova Frankenstien
Geoffrey Rush
Mystery Men
The Mystery Men were jokes of superheroes. Most of the villains in the movie were no better. But Cassanova Frankenstien was a viable villain in any world.

The Scarecrow
Cillian Murphy
Batman Begins
Good mask. Good personality. Utterly chilling. But a minor player in the film.

Michelle Pfeiffer
Batman Returns
She wasn't really a villain in this movie, but Michelle Pfeiffer replaced Ertha Kitt as the sexiest Catwoman for me based on this movie.

Anton Arcane
Louis Jourdan
Swamp Thing, Return of the Swamp Thing
They were only so-so movies, but Arcane's performance stands out in both films, and they actually hold up better than you might expect.

William Stryker
Brian Cox
Stryker had a great plan, and Cox played the part to a tee. But his failure came too easily.

Top Dollar
Michael Wincott
The Crow
Top Dollar runs his city with an iron fist. Wincott has the look and the voice for the ultimate crime boss. And he sleeps with his half-sister who is also a witch. And he almost wins.

Shiwan Khan
John Lone
The Shadow
If he had been a little less silly, Shiwan Khan would've made a classic villain. Even with his silliness, he has an impressive plan, personal magnetism, a good tie into the hero's history and a wonderful set of abilities. This movie has a soft spot in my heart, even with his light-hearted moments.

Lord Zedd
Mark Ginther
Power Rangers: The Movie
I know I lose all credibility by including him, but Lord Zedd was scary. Far scarier than the villain on a kid's show really should have been, I think. Twenty years from now, someone will revamp the Power Rangers the same way that He-Man and Voltron have been revamped, and Zed will be a truly terrifying force. Mark my words.

Neville Sinclair
Timothy Dalton
The Rocketeer
He was a Nazi. He does his own stunts. He's a former Bond, and he could've been Iron Man ten years ago. Not to mention, he nearly gets Jennifer Connelly, and for that alone, he deserves credit.

The Hall of Shame
The Kingpin
Michael Clarke Duncan
I don't object to them making the Kingpin a black man. I object to him being an idiot. I object to him losing a fist-fight to Daredevil. And I object to the notion that you need to "put the fear into" the Man Without Fear in order to kill him. Try a gun, I'm told they're remarkably effective.

Halle Berry
Yeah, she wasn't the actual villain in this movie. That honor (?) goes to Sharon Stone's character. But... but... the damage she did to superhero movies with this film makes her the worst of the worst among supervillains.

David Banner/The Absorbing Man/Zzaxx
Nick Nolte
The Hulk
You know, there was a pretty good Hulk movie inside this movie. You just need to take out all of the scenes involving David Banner.

The Red Skull
Scott Paulin
Captain America
Hey, here's a great idea. We'll make the Red Skull Italian! And then he'll try to diguise his appearance in the present! And he won't even really look like he had a skull for a face! Oh, and let's have him fight a Captain America in a rubber suit with fake plastic ears and a plastic shield.

Ivan Ooze
Paul Freeman
Power Rangers: The Movie
I said that Lord Zed was scary, and I meant it. Even Rita was acceptable as a villain for the Power Rangers. But Ivan Ooze? Ivan Ooze? Are you fricking kidding me?

Mr. Freeze/Poison Ivy/Bane/Two-Face
Arnold Schwartzeneger, Uma Thurman, Jeep Swenson, Tommy Lee Jones
Batman & Robin/Batman Forever
Jim Carrey and Danny DeVito weren't good as the Riddler and the Penguin. But they didn't make me want to throw things at the movie screen. The others on this list did. Hollywood, let me explain this simply. Stars are acceptable in superhero movies if they fit the role. If you're just using a star in the hope that it'll make people come see the movie, it will not work. Please stop.

Edited by the author to correct the entry for Neville Sinclair. Mr. Sinclair was the villain in The Rocketeer, not The Shadow, as I originally wrote, and blame on sloppy cutting and pasting.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Weekly Comic Round-Up

Hey gang, we’re going to get an abbreviated round-up here. Because, you see, there were two major comic events that released issues today. The first one is the final issue of Infinite Crisis. The second one is the first issue of Civil War.

These two comics need more than a brief bit in my round-up, so they’ll get their own entry. Probably Monday, to avoid putting off the Top Five Supervillains for too much longer.

In the meantime, here are the comics for the week that aren’t part of a world-changing crossover.

Action Comics 838
Up, Up and Away continues. Clark is still without his powers, and life seems to be going well for him as far as that goes. His career as a reporter has never been better, his relationship with Lois is going strong, he has time to hang out with Jimmy, Supergirl is on hand to protect Metropolis, Luthor is still plotting something big with all of the Kryptonite in the world, and Intergang is sending superpowered assassins after him.

Hmmm. Ok, maybe all is not well in the world. It turns out that Clark’s physiology is still that of a Kryptonian, but following the Crisis it resisted absorbing solar radiation. Maybe it just got supercharged with red solar energy. Meanwhile, Lex’s plan involves focusing the kryptonite radiation into an ancient buried Kryptonian artifact. This can’t be a Good Thing. And, in the midst of being attacked by Neutron and Radion, Clark’s powers seem to be returning.

Or at least, that was the impression I got from his arm surviving a radiation blast, and him being unhurt by the train that hit him.

JSA 85
The assault by the Gentleman Ghost continues apace, and the casualties are rising. What is the JSA to do when Power Girl seems to be the only one who can touch him? Why, Jakeem will use the Thunderbolt, obviously.

Incidentally, isn't it nice that, even deprived of Dr. Fate and the Spectre, the JSA still has one deus ex machine available to them?

I actually quite liked seeing the ghosts of the JSA brought back to battle the Ghost, even if Batman was in there. It looks like we’re going to have some odd continuity issues that have now arisen from the ashes of Infinite Crisis.

And you know what? I’m fine with that. The opportunity for Jenny to come and say goodbye to Alan was rather touching as well.

Supergirl 6
I was always fond of the “Batman and Superman masquerading as Flamebird and Nightwing inside of Kandor” stories. So, it should come as no surprise that when I saw that Power Girl and Supergirl are now in the new continuity Kandor as Nightwing and Flamebird, I was excited.

There’s a lot weird going on here. The implications of this story suggest that there are numerous Kryptonians inside Kandor, which I didn’t think was the case in current continuity.

Of course, post Infinite Crisis, there’s a whole new continuity to learn.

Now, the biggest mystery is who is the Kal-El ruling Kandor? It clearly isn’t Clark. It might be the Eradicator, but I’m not willing to make a prediction on that.

Swamp Thing 27
Swamp Thing remains moody and contemplative, which is exactly what we’ve grown to expect with this book. Abigail is having trouble coping with the strangeness that is Alec’s life, and Tefe is glad to see that her father visited.

I consider the Toad-King to be a minor character, and not terribly interesting, but he does give Alec something to do battle with, so that's ok.

But there are two story elements introduced which matter. The first is that Alec’s utopia in the swamp is now going to come under attack due to the Toad-King’s minions. Swamp Thing versus the World is going to happen, and soon. Which, when you get right down to it, is darn ironic.

For me, the bigger surprise and the more interesting development is that the little wood creatures are the fragments of the Floronic Man returning. It makes sense that people would assume the pieces of living wood were a part of the Swamp Thing, but personally I’m happy to see Dr. Woodrue return from the Green.

Teen Titans 35
This may be the best book that DC is putting out today, at least in my opinion. And a lot of the mysteries of last month’s issue are now beginning to be revealed. Incidentally, if you avoided the spoilers from last month, then you don’t want to keep reading this.

Wonder-Girl is probably going to rejoin the team, which I’m happy and excited about. Beast Boy and the Doom Patrol have reappeared, which has Cyborg happy. Ravager is not dating Robin, but based on her showing up naked in his bedroom, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that she sure wants to.

(Personally, I hope that Tim removes the stick from his butt and lets her in. It'll be good for her, and good for him. Besides, we need to continue the tradition of Tim dating the children of supervillains who were once villains themselves. And Rose has potential.)

But the major issue is that Tim’s attempts to re-clone Superboy may have unexpected success. Wonder-Girl is trying to track down the Brotherhood, and the Brotherhood is trying to get cloning equipment to make a new body for the Brain. It seems that no one has been able to clone a human being since the Crisis, but the researcher the Brotherhood was after has the knowledge.

If the Titans play their cards right, Tim may find out what he was doing wrong. Superboy will be back, but it still won’t be Connor. And what, exactly, will Cassie’s reaction to Tim’s cloning attempts be? I don't think she's going to be thrilled, truthfully.

Ultimate Spider-Man 94
Well, of course Deadpool wasn’t Xavier. It was a disguise. The same disguise Deadpool used to ambush the X-Men and get them into Genosha in the first place.

The battle proceeds, and an increasingly angered group of teenaged superhumans take the Reavers apart, little by little. Mojo gets an unpleasant surprise when Jean (or should I say Phoenix?) releases the Professor, and Bendis handles that with just the right touch. We have no idea what the Professor did to Mojo, and I think we’re happier not knowing the details.

And the relationship between Peter and Kitty seems to be going strong. I don’t know how well they’re going to manage to keep this story going. The urge to get Peter back together with MJ must be overwhelming. But I hope they manage to make it happen. I really like them together.

The issue ends on a tragic note, however. Peter may have dodged a bullet with Aunt May being out all night. His secret identity is still safe, at least for now. But with the identity of May’s date revealed, readers familiar with the 616 continuity are now filled with dread.

No clones. No Ultimate Clones. Please, please, please.

Of course, Bendis has earned enough trust that I’ll keep reading. At least to begin with. Heck, if he could write a story with Carnage that I managed to not hate, he deserves a chance to make clones palatable. But only one chance. That’s it.

So, other than Infinite Crisis and Civil War, that’s this week in the world of my comic book collection. Tune in tomorrow for the remainder of the Top Ten Supervillains, and then on Monday, we’ll take a look at the Mega-Crossovers.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

For the first time, I feel... Wicked

Villains. We love them. We hate them. We love to hate them. A hero is only as good as the villain that he opposes. With that in mind, I've decided to take a look at some of the best supervillains from the movies.

Here are my rules:
1 - We're only going to look at Live Action supervillains here. Otherwise, Mark Hamil would be Number One with a bullet as the Joker, and Clancy Brown would be close behind as Luthor.
2 - We are only going to look at bona fide supervillains. Ming the Merciless and Darth Vader are great villains, but the genre of space opera is not the same thing as the genre of superheroes. Close, but not the same.
3 - I'm also not going to look at yet-to-be-released superhero films, otherwise I suspect that Kevin Spacey's Luthor, or Thomas Church's Sandman would have a place on this list.
4 - This is entirely subjective. My blog, my list, my ideas. Feel free to disagree, or suggest people who didn't make the list. But be aware that you probably won't convince me to change my mind.

Today we'll get the bottom five of my Top Ten. Tomorrow we'll have the Weekly Round-Up, and I'll put the top five up on Friday, and maybe I'll follow that up with some honorable mentions.

10 - Gwen Grayson, a.k.a. Royal Pain
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Sky High
Why She's On The List: The best supervillains aren't just powerful. They're smart. Raw power makes a great brute, but the mind of a supervillain gives them their menace. And for all of the silliness of this movie, Gwen Grayson is smart. She's a technological genius, and she has a great plan. Seduce the child of her greatest foe to betray him and raise an army of superhumans under her guidance. It's really remarkably clever. Plus, she has a good costume in a movie full of duds. Not to mention that she's quite attractive, giving that whole "femme fatale" thing.

Why She's Number Ten: Sky High was a kid's movie, and her plot, for all of it's fiendish cleverness, is a kid's movie plot. In a different movie Gwen Grayson would've been a true terror. But in Sky High she is menacing without actually being scary. Royal Pain is also a terrible code name.

9 - Oroku Saki, a.k.a. The Shredder
James Saito
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Why He's On The List: Yes, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were icons of my childhood. And it is tragic that the cartoons and movies were kidified, rather than being based on the slightly more serious and dark versions created by Eastman and Laird. And sure, the films got terrible. But the first one was pretty decent. And the Shredder was scary. He's a great crime boss and a killer martial artist (re-watch the movie. The fight scenes are pretty good aside from the fact that swords and sais are used in totally non-fatal ways.) Not to mention that the Shredder armor is creepy, scary, effective and useful.

Why He's Number Nine: Much like Royal Pain, the Shredder can't escape the fact that he is in a kid's movie. Furthermore, he gets defeated by an animatronic rat. He has a bit more menace than Royal Pain, but he lacks the grandiosity of other entries on this list. He is, after all, just a crime boss.

8 - Victor Von Doom, a.k.a. Doctor Doom
Julian McMahon
Fantastic Four
Why He's On The List: Because he's Doctor Doom, obviously. Doom is brilliant. Arrogant. Possessed of raw power, fantastic wealth and political influence. Doom could be the world's greatest hero, but his ego gets in his way. I don't care as much for the metal skin and electrical powers that both the movie and Ultimate Doom possess, but at least they're still portrayed as absolute geniuses.

Why He's Number Eight: Because the Doom who appeared in Fantastic Four wasn't Doctor Doom. He was Lex Luthor with superpowers. McMahon played a good villain, and got a lot of undeserved criticism for the role. This movie is a lot better than people give it credit for. But this wasn't Doom.

7 - Jack Napier, a.k.a. The Joker
Jack Nicholson
Why He's On The List: "Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?" The Joker is a complete and utter psychopath. His menace comes from the combination of his brilliance and his complete unpredictability. That's why he makes such a great foe for Batman. To quote Chess "That's the problem. He's a brilliant lunatic. Just like his game, you can't predict him or analyze him. Which of course means he's not a lunatic at all."

Why He's Number Seven: Because this was still Jack Nicholson, not the Joker. Oh, he was scary. He was smart. He showed no respect for human life. But he was always Jack Nicholson, playing the Joker. He never overcame himself to embrace the role, which leads to a disconnect for me. Sadly, it was a disconnect that followed through all of the Batman movies. Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito, Jim Carey, all of them overshadowed their role, which was something that other actors managed to avoid in other superhero movies.

6 - Otto Octavius, a.k.a. Doctor Octopus
Alfred Molina
Spider-Man 2
Why He's On The List: This Doc Ock was a tragic figure. We learn to admire and respect Octavius, and then we have to watch as he becomes a monster. Octavius was a brilliant man who wanted only to help the world. He could have been a wonderful mentor to Peter Parker. But the accident that fused the arms to his spine, that destroyed the control chip, and killed his wife all took that away. Even as we wait to see what insanity he will pursue next, we can't help but feel sorry for him. And the special effects team brought the illusion of the arms perfectly to life.

Why He's Number Six: Even at the height of his insanity, and his blaming of Spider-Man, Osborn and all the rest, Octavius is still motivated by good. And not a sense of "the Greater Good" the way that Magneto is, but by the desire to create a machine that will help mankind. He's willing to hurt and kill to do so, and his machine would, in fact, cause terrible disaster, but Octavius always remains a tragic figure, which keeps him from taking a place in the top five.

Alright. So, here's numbers ten through six. Who will take the top (or should that be bottom?) five spots in the ranks of superhero movie villainy? Time will tell.