Monday, November 20, 2006

Return to Newness

After a long drought, I managed to get myself to the LCS and pick up some new* comics. It's been dicey trying to avoid spoiling some of the bigger event titles for myself, but somehow I managed.

52 #23 - #28 - As always, it's nicer to read 52 issues in bulk. The Good: The development of the Black Adam Family (including an analog for Talking Tawny which made me laugh out loud in wonder as I read it). The Bad: It seems that the predictions that Vic would be getting killed off during this series have been proven correct. I don't know how I feel about this. I loved the O'Neil series, and always felt that Vic remained unresolved, especially concerning his daughter.

Agents of Atlas #4 - I've been enjoying this series, though this issue seemed a little light to me. I don't know much about Namora, and I expected at least a little exposition on her, her importance. I should probably know it, but I've been a bad fanboy.

Astonishing X-Men #18 - Probably my favorite ongoing right now. Whedon takes hits for writing what seems to be fan-fiction, but I ask, is there any other way to write the X-Men? This book sings to me, bringing in elements from my personal favorite eras of the team. I guess what elevates it from 99% of bad fan-fiction is that Whedon isn't just wallowing in the past, but seems to be investing in the future... how cool are Hisako and Blindfold coming to the rescue?

Civil War #5 - Not quite what I expected this time out. This series has been pretty good about being self-contained (for the most part) until this issue. I definitely felt like I missed the setup to Peter and Tony's big blow-up, which makes me angry. Also felt let down by the villains hunting Peter after. Was looking for a big slugfest, but he gets taken down by a couple of c-listers.

The Escapists #3 - I know I'm quite behind on this title. I still love it, though it seems to get drowned out by the other titles I buy.

Seven Soldiers #1 - Um. I liked it? Definitely not what I was expecting, and a few threads go unaswered, and really made less and less sense. I feel like I should reread the whole thing at some point. I applaud the grand experiment, but felt that the ending was a bit unsatisfying. Hell, I don't know...

Recent Trades:

Ex Machina: The First Hundred Days (Vol. 1) - I've avoided this title til now. I figured I'd give the first trade a spin. It was good, though I'm not sure it's one of my priorities to pick up in the future. I think that I'm too much of a superhero junkie to enjoy this title, which is sad to say. I want to see more flashbacks of Mitch's time as The Great Machine rather than him dealing with the politics of being mayor of New York. I'll probably check out the second trade when i have some spare cash.

Captain America: Winter Soldier (Vol. 2) - I waited a long time for this to come out. I only heard about this storyline after the monthlies had wrapped. Rather than try a back-issue hunt, I decided to wait for the trades.
Maybe it's because I spoiled the ending for myself, or the long wait between volumes, but I felt underwhelmed by this storyline in the end. Don't get me wrong, it's well written and probably the most clever way to do something I pretty much thought impossible. It changes a lot of continuity without changing the emotional subtext and relationships. I reached the end and said, "so that's how it ended." No real punch for me... I didn't find a resonance. Maybe it's part of a larger storyline involving Winter Soldier's redemption.

*New to me, anyway.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Nexus Back from the Dead?

I may been hasty earlier. Evidently Baron and Rude have worked out their differences.

My reservations remain in place, though. I'm hoping for a really kick-ass return of one of my favorite comics from the 80's, but I'm a bit wary over whether they'll be able to replicate the quality and tone of the pre-Dark Horse series. Not that I thought the latter issues were terrible (God Con is one of my absolute favorites), it's just that the stories kind of gelled into a holding pattern, with not much change or movement. I always chalked it up to the forsaking of the monthly format in favor for yearly minis. Hopefully, that pattern won't be repeated.

Honestly, I can't think of a better time for this series to make its return. Back in the day, it examined the fine line between mass murderers and the man that was charged to execute them. With everything that's happened in the world since the series parked itself in limbo, I imagine it would be interesting to reopen that old debate.

Also, maybe Sundra can finally give birth to that baby. What's it been? nine, ten years now?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

99¢ Adventure

We found ourselves in the 99¢ Store Sunday night, looking for some deals, looking to walk off a particularly greasy meal. I find walking around a store for an hour or so, looking at all the gee gaws, is good for the the old digestion.

The 99¢ Store always looks bright and clean from a distance, but like the storefront version of Jekyll soon reverts to the Hyde reality of the interior. I don't know how they do it. They always look inviting, but then something happens when you cross the automatic-door threshold. They seem uniformally dirty and depressing once I get inside.

We picked our way through the isles, scrutinizing every potential purchase. It's surprising what you won't buy, even for 99¢. As Kirsten put it "That's how they get you. A little here, a little there... before you know it, you've got a hundred things in your basket which probably cost them five bucks."

Suddenly, I was confronted with a spinner rack. I didn't know they carried comics. Confronted by such an unexpected sight, I couldn't process what I was seeing. Kirsten knew from experience that I needed to be alone, and she continued without me.

I was bouyed by the rush of discovery. I've have dreams like this, finding a hidden cache of comics in an unexpected environment (what does that say about me?). There were comics on the spinner rack, but my back-issue-bin sense tingled... I knew there had to more nearby. I found a pile of more comics stacked with the coloring books not four feet away.

What did I find? Well, it was mostly DC Comics Who's Who, issues #1 & 2. The comics seemed well preserved, but not in a bagged & boarded kind of way, but more like inventory that's been hidden in a warehouse for the last twenty years kind of way.

I was hit with such a sense of nostalgia. I've written about Marvel's Handbook before, and Who's Who was DC's answer. It came a few years after, but like OHOTMU, it seemed perfectly timed. It came out right at the point that I was starting to become interested in things that weren't Marvel. DC's continuity had about 40 years more depth than Marvel's, so it seemed inpenetrable to a new reader. Who's Who provided an entry into this world.

It's ironic though that just as DC was ready to write down a definitive guide to their shared universe, they were also thinking about simplifying it. Crisis of Infinite Earths started shortly after and with that, history was being radically rewritten. Who's Who straddled pre- and post-Crisis, perhaps featuring the last appearance of many characters and concepts.

Who's Who is graced with gorgeous art. Like OHOTMU, artists who were most associated with a character (for the most part) provided the art. Unlike OHOTMU, artists either inked themselves or were teamed with an inker that conplemented their unique style. OHOTMU relied on Joe Rubinstein to ink the lion's share on entries, giving the appearance of a house style while DC's reflected the sheer diversity of their line.

The excitement of seeing these comics again soon gave way to a certain dread. To be honest, it was like finding an old friend homeless on the street. To find these great comics of my youth stacked willy nilly in a 99¢ Store, awaiting certain doom or eventual disposal saddened me. I wanted to rescue them, but I couldn't save them all. Finally, I decided to buy a handful of each issue and hopefully pass them on to someone.

Also, I scored this:

I never got into this series back in the day, though I thought the toys were cool. I don't imagine the story holds up, but still, how could I refuse. Such a deal at 99¢... wait a minute... cover price 35¢?

Oh man.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ick Factor

No, I'm not participating in Chris' "Let's All Stop Writing Our Blogs For A While" month. To be honest, I just haven't been to the comics shop in a while and/or haven't found a whole lot to write about lately.

Until I ran across this endorsement of Heroes on Aint it Cool News. [WARNING] Before you read it for yourself, I would like to paraphrase Futurama "Once you read it, you can't unread it". To summarize, Harry endorses the show, then goes on to speculate on the nature of Claire's (the cheerleader) powers, and how they would affect her sexual life.

Aint it Cool has always had an ick factor, mostly due to the juvenile nature of respondents in their forums. I usually skip those, but have always found the reviews and sneak peaks somewhat useful (if poorly written). To have this kind of pointless speculation come from the site's founder has kind of pushed me over the edge... I don't think I'll be stopping by there much anymore.

It's creepy and says more about the author than I care to know. It also, in a way, peels back the layers of geekdom and reveals some pretty fundamental problems, not just with geeks, but our culture as well. We just can't stop sexualizing women, can we?

I'm no prude. I accept that we are sexual creatures. My only problem is that we, as a society, seem only to acknowledge this fact when it comes to women, to the exclusion that they are anything but objects of our sexual desires. Maybe it's my age, but over the last few decades, I've seen this trend grow worse. I might speculate that it's some form of reaction to the 70's wave of feminism, or a sign of our increasingly consumer culture... I'm not sure.

Evidence of the former: My girlfriend teaches college. Her reviews on Rate My are by no means an accurate sampling, but what does it say about the next generation when the few negative reviews of her work are explained by the comment "she's a feminist" (or some variation). What does that have to do with one's ability to teach college composition?

For the former: Look around. For the last twenty years, corporate America has been turning us into consumers at younger and younger ages. Not in the "Hey kids, tell you parents you want _______ !" because now kids have their own money, and it's entirely disposable (kids have no bills to pay). Companies are free to aggressively market directly to kids. Considering that the teen market is hitting a point of extreme sexual awareness and their maximum earning potential before accumulating debt at the same time, it doesn't take a genius to see that companies need to push that sex to maximize their profits and establish enduring buying habits and brand identity.

All this results in sex seeping in to even the most inappropriate places. Geeks are all about speculation, but this kind of specualtion is off-topic. It would be one thing if the show was dealing with issues of sexuality, but it's not. Its main theme is, strangely enough, heroes and the idea of becomming a hero. To fantatsize about Claire's abilities and how they impact her having sex ranks up there with those guys who turn up at conventions and ask an artist to draw Wonder Woman naked. There is a subversion on the part of the fan/viewer to wrest the object away from its intended use and drag it into a creepy little sexual cul-de-sac.