Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Bottom of the Pile: August 31st, 2016

Article 3 of 4...

 Avatarex: Destroyer of Darkness
This is still one of those books that's straight-forward enough that it feels like there's nothing going on, but is actually super-busy if you're paying attention.  I'm not sure if I like that less or more than Grant Morrison's usual "this book was made on so many drugs the author must've seen Star Fleet 7 when he wrote it"-style work, but I'm definitely still enjoying this book as a whole.

The idea of a literal god-like being needing a "mere" human to maintain his power on Earth during this fight against the tide of darkness threatening to claim human civilization as we know it is entertaining enough, but what's more noteworthy is that Avatarex is a jerk, basically.  He needs the help of this "mortal" just as much as humanity needs him and yet here he is sulking like a child, lamenting that his partner sucks and that humanity almost doesn't seem "good enough" to be worth saving.  What I'm saying is even though the partner he was meant to have got injured at the end of last issue, it feels more like this is the one he actually deserves. 

At any rate, this issue was still kind of slow because it's basically part two of the origin story.  Grant's in this for the forseeable future so I'm looking forward to when he starts expanding the universe outward and introducing some of the characters he mentioned at SDCC.

Future Quest
Ugh.  I just...fuckin'...ugh.

It's times like this I question my ability to be a writer.  Do you know how many times I sat around my house as a teenager trying to find the perfect story that would combine all these cool-ass, 1960's Hanna-Barbera characters?  They did crossovers in the original toons every now and again so a working universe made all the sense in the world, but the perfect story always seemed right out of my grasp.   Which isn't all bad--it means I get to enjoy this instead of agonize over every painstaking detail necessary to make a comic like this work.

Y'know, there are actually people who feel like this is the weakest of the Hanna-Barbera revivals, and that's how I know that I'm an oddball.  Because the other H-B properties have all ventured deep into "Ow the Edge" territory and I feel like ten years from now that'll be obvious, as we look at panels where "Yabba-Dabba-Doo" is a focus word for people going through PTSD.  Meanwhile this series sees stone age superhero Mightor battling interdimensional "outer beings" threatening all of humanity...and that's just in the first three pages.   The literal ONLY way this book could be better is if they dragged Ruby-Spears characters into this, so I could get the Centurions.  Which is probably for the best, since my brain would melt out of my ears if they did, I think.


Ms. Marvel

If you're not keeping up with Ms. Marvel, its currently in tie-in phase alongside multiple other Marvel comics for Civil War II.  For her part, she's been assigned to be in charge of a group of teens/twentysomethings who are using Ulysses' powers in order to stop crime before it happens.  Things were going well enough...until suddenly her best friend got himself injured trying to save a fellow student of theirs after he was tossed in jail for something he hadn't even done yet.  This month's issue opens with Kamala praying her unconscious friend actually heals and makes a recovery, while realizing how everything up until now has been more "playing" at being the hero, and finally understanding the consequences of putting on the costume.

This is the benefit of having one creator shepherding a character over multiple years.  Kamala Khan has grown ever so gradually since her introduction in 2013, and gone from a girl who wanted to be different so badly she literally used her shape-shifting powers to become caucasian, to someone proud of her family and its rich heritage.   She's grown from someone who could barely handle an eccentric builder of shitty robots to an Avenger, and someone trusted enough to lead her own squad under Captain Marvel.

And now, writer G. Willow Wilson is guiding her into the second phase of her career.  Where heroes experience loss and Kamala realizes what it is to make hard decisions that go against what the popular opinion might be, or even against one's best friends...or role models.  It's an obvious story--what's the protege do when the person who inspired her is going down a wrong path--but its a good one, and one that makes me wish Kamala played a larger role in Civil War II rather than this being just an ancillary tie-in.  Still, it's a good tie-in, and this trainwreck of a crossover could definitely use more of those. 

Spider-Man
For Miles Morales' part in Civil War II, the primary conflict is a lot more internal than with other people.  He's watching things that are definitely wrong happen as a result of Captain Marvel's stance on all this, and so far the only thing he's been able to do is stand by and watch.  

Ultimately he does need to stay out of it, and that's where I hope Mark Waid's new teen-focused team book Champions goes rather than what it seems like from the preview pages which feels more like kids whining at adults for stuff they don't understand yet.  

Sidenote: Bombshell's argument is overly reductive.  Yeah Tony's totally a rich white guy but this is definitely down to more than just "Iron Man told me to do thing, I'm going to do thing".  Captain Marvel is literally deciding the fate of people based on stuff that may not even happen, and even though she's been told time and time again how dangerous a precedent she's setting, she's still making excuses and claiming "we'll fix that later" without realizing that later slips up on you real fast and a year later the argument can easily become "Well, its been working fine so far why change anything" and by the time it'll be too late for the heroes to do anything at all.  

And we haven't even gotten to what happens when the government steps in and starts utilizing Ulysses for more than just "the greater good".   Civil War II is once again a case where the person who's right is going about it in such an asinine way that governmental abuse is the only real end. 

Spider-Man 2099
Meanwhile, in the future Peter David's Spider-Man is confirming what I already knew: that Ulysses powers are the fucking monkey's paw of future-sight.  With the exception of that very first prediction, everything he's predicted in the main book and even some of the tie-ins has changed to create a future that's not much better (if better at all) than the one we saw in the first place.

Hopefully that's where this eventually leads us, because all this talk about predictive justice makes my skin itch.

Transformers
 

This issue of Transformers introduces the G.I. Joes into the IDW Transformers universe proper, and I'm still not sure if that's a good thing or not.    Honestly, the current story is already busy enough with former Autobot "leader" Sentinel Prime having returned from the dead and seemingly attempting to take control over all of the Titans in order to wipe out anyone aligned with the Decepticon cause...and whoever made peace with them.   Adding in this set-up for September's Revolution event seems overkill.   I love continuity and expanding universes...but not when they get in the way of decent stories.

Bottom of the Pile: August 24th, 2017

By the end of the day, I should have all of these up except for this week's. Probably a weekend thing.

Action Comics

Mercifully, this three month/six issue fight scene has finally come to an end.  When you think about it, Superman has basically been doing the same thing since it got launched as well.  Eradicator should take all of a page or two for Kal-El to knock into some other solar system, but somehow it took six issues.  I wouldn't even say the difference is a focus on family as Lois and Jon are front and center in both, but people have received Superman far more warmly than they have Action Comics.  Personally?  I can take or leave them both--having *my* Superman back doesn't work when he's removed from all the things that connected him to this Earth.

As for why I used this otherwise unrelated image?  Well, it's because I think Wonder Woman's a bad-ass and I love that it's only because of her Superman didn't get fucking wrecked this issue, even if this version of Supes shouldn't have any trouble beating Doomsday.


Bottom of the Pile - September 14th, 2016

Last week's.  I'm gonna say this week's hits this weekend but if it doesn't happen pretend like this was a mirage.
Astro City
Astro City's overarching plot since it returned--about The Broken Man and whatever mysterious, all-seeing threat he's fighting against--started out being one of the things I was most excited about.  But ever so gradually, that excitement waned as I remembered that Astro City isn't that type of universe.  It's the type of place where you focus on the mundane in the fantastic--one where the story of heroism is less important than who that heroism affected.  If anything, the most interesting thing about a potential fight against an unseen foe is how that would cause the already complex world of Astro City to change.  

And on that note, that's why this second part of Broken Man's story is a bit more interesting than the first--to learn that Astro City/Romeyn Falls once had a protector that was a living personification of the music of the time.  Of course, that leaves the question: what would that protector have looked like through the eras of rock-and-roll, or hip-hop?   And what would they look like now?  

The next Astro City comic is a two-parter starring the Hanged Man, so obviously we won't get that answer today.  But I'm absolutely hoping we're not left hanging for too long.  (Ugh, I do apologize for that awful end pun...)

Bottom of the Pile: Sept. 7th, 2016

Woo-hoo~  Made it!  ^_^

All-New All-Different Avengers
When I first read this comic, this scene was probably the most powerful thing in it--it gave me chills--and on the whole, I'm completely on board with the new Wasp.  Nadia Pym seems like a real sweetheart and I can't wait to see what she's like when interacting with the rest of the Marvel Universe.  Still, I can absolutely see how one could see this scene independent of the comic itself and see it as over-the-top and melodramatic.

So let's set the stage and talk about it.  The girl here is Nadia Pym, the heretofore unknown daughter of Hank Pym that's spent her entire life training in the infamous Red Room that gave us characters like The Black Widow, until she got a hold of some Pym Particles and used them to escape, joining up with the newest incarnation of the Avengers.  This issue is meant to be both her first focus issue that leads into her ongoing The Unstoppable Wasp and a Civil War II tie-in, as after saving herself and Janet from nearly being kidnapped, the pair learn about the fight breaking out between the heroes and Nadia has a break down.

To be fair though, Nadia absolutely has a point.  Though the fights are over big philosophical differences, its absurd that none of the heroes can seem to have them without ending up punching one another in the face.   It absolutely would be more heroic if they could just discuss their differences like adults, but...that would make for very interesting reading, I suppose. 

Sage, The Broken Gamer: Not Pro Enough


I think this generation of gaming has finally broken me. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Bottom of the Pile: August 17th, 2016

Week two up.

Aquaman
The problem I'm having with Aquaman lately is that it's not capable of staying focused like it should.  It's trying to spin three different plates with different groups of characters in the air, and that's before you get to the other villain group. 

Well, that and my other problem which is simply that this book still feels very by the numbers.  Atlantis joining up with the surface-dwellers could've been a fascinating story with interesting long-term ramifications that could've been explored for dozens of issues, but instead that was immediately shoved to the side so Aquaman can continue dealing with strife in his kingdom (a story unto itself), and Black Manta can become second-fiddle in a villain group we've never heard of.


Batman
Without question, the one character the writer has the best grasp of is Alfred.   And in this issue, Alfred absolutely gets the best scene. 

Aside from that, the secret of Gotham is kind of a bummer and it's frustrating to see Batman actually go to the trouble of summoning the Justice League only for them to get trounced like a bunch of clowns.   It raises a couple crucial questions:

- How does this team beat any major cosmic threat when this one dude can wipe the floor with them?

- If gaining power on this scale is so easy, why wouldn't you enlist some "suicide soldiers"?  Seriously, can you imagine the power you'd have at your fingertips?   Trained men who could fight for hours at a time punching at a weight class that could easily destroy the Justice League, which means they could lay waste to an entire country in minutes!  

I'll apologize to King if he either answers why that doesn't work or explores what would happen in the case of that second question in future storylines.

Green Arrow
Two things: Isn't the worst case scenario always the only real outcome for superheroes?    Second, are we really going back to this thing where Oliver is poor and has no way of restoring himself and doing all the good he was showing at the end of the first issue?  'Cause that'd be quite the bummer.

Justice League
They're mashing so hard on that button of "I came back before".   The original Pre-Flashpoint Superman never worried about dying much because after he died the first time he came back so stupidly strong that he was rarely ever threatened.   Even when Imperiex handed him his ass he just took a dip in the sun, went Super Saiyan for a few panels to finish the guy off, and ended the story even stronger.

So what I'm saying here is: this feels artificial.  Clark only died once in a universe where people died all the time, and he's faced way worse threats than what's going on in this arc, something Lois should be more than aware of.
Nightwing
Rebirth Batman must be an incredibly decent guy.  Which, not that inspiring fear in criminals is a good thing, but short of killing a person the original Batman was willing to go to an means to accomplish his goals--and often did go just that far.   Why is Babs so salty about this?

Supergirl: Rebirth

Let's get the important stuff out of the way: that cape makes Kara look like a fucking boss.  I love the regal, imposing look of having it draped over her shoulders rather than just behind her back.  Also, this art is pretty fucking slick.  Props for putting a star team on this book to make Kara's book feel important.

That said, I'm still kinda iffy on this comic.  Kara's got a "mom and dad" and works for the D.E.O. and I hate all of that, because it's from the show.   Comics have got to be the only medium where the originators steal from the people who're adapting their work.  Of course my real problem might be that Linda Danvers to me is the bad-ass from PAD's 90's Supergirl run so I can't get that out of my head.

Thor

For whatever reason, I find the idea of Captain America and Thor sexting each other permanently hilarious.   But setting that aside, I'm so far past tired of all the idiot humans in this comic speaking to gods, goddesses and mystical creatures like their opinions and existence actually mean something.  In the next panel, Thor hits these idiots with an electrical storm but I wish she'd literally fried them. 

Seriously, what gives two idiots with guns the right to make threats against people who can lift mountains and fly multiple times the speed of sound?


So....Prowl's apart of MTMTE.  *sighs*  James Roberts is doubtlessly my favorite writer working in comics consistently today, but I kinda hate this.   Across multiple mini-series and several ongoings, the established characterization of Prowl is that he's a manipulative monster who's probably done more horrible shit than anyone on the Autobots short of Megatron. 

And yet, Roberts has this odd way of humanizing his characters and making them feel likable through humor and other human traits that display vulnerability.   And in one page he's done just that with Prowl, making me laugh and making him seem borderline likable.   Which is a unique talent that he deserves all the praise in the world for but...some people aren't decent deep down.  And its frustrating that after he turned Megatron into a person even I could shed tears for (though I cry about everything) that it looks like the same thing may happen with Prowl. 


Carol is uniformly being turned into a fascist dick in every comic book she's appearing in.  Now if she just starts getting her ass beat randomly by every person against her who's book she pops up in?  Her transformation into the new Tony Stark will be complete.

What's really stupid here is that she's not even trying to make any changes.  They literally just shut down traffic on a busy block in New York and terrified an otherwise innocent woman, browbeating her about something she might do but might also never happen.  And she's STILL not sorry.  She's still talking about we can "work on it", when the time to work on it would be RIGHT after such a major fuck-up.

But not to worry, Miss America's here to smack Carol in the face with a chair and start that other thing I was talking about.  The random ass-beatings.   Next up is probably Kamala.

Web Warriors
We're one or two issues away from Web Warriors' finale, and that sucks.  This book could've totally been stupid since it was a bunch of Spider-people from different universes, but they managed to make each person varied and you never got any of them confused.

Still, an idea like this only has so much in the way of legs.  They'll inevitably write the end of the group off by explaining that the devices they use to travel the Web are completely unsafe, but ultimately it's because this comic wasn't selling.  Still, I'd love to see this team pop up again one day--even if its just as a sub-group of the Exiles.  (Who Marvel should totally bring back.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Bottom of the Pile: August 10th, 2016

Can I catch up?  Bitch, please.  I was made for this.*

Action Comics
We're something like four issues in and the one thing I've come to with regards to the latest in Action Comics is...it's fucking terrible.  It's literally been Superman vs. Doomsday Pt. 1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3, Pt. 4.  The only saving grace is the fact that it does ship every two weeks.   All these issues and we're just now getting to the whole "something bigger at play"?  The thing is, though...I wouldn't have expected this from Dan Jurgens.  Pre-Flashpoint he had one of my favorite comic books month in and month out with Booster Gold.  

It could be that he just gets that character, but I'm thinking there IS something bigger at play here: Dan either wasn't prepared to do a bi-weekly comic, or there's a certain plot point integral to DC's "Rebirth" deal that he can't get to until a certain month.   We know that Superman is important to whatever's going on with this universe, and we know that this is basically "Geoff's story" too, but Geoff can't just write it next week.   He's busy trying to right the DCEU ship, and that's going to take some time. 

And even if some of that story can be told without Geoff, if they're not careful they'll have told it all before the guy can come back and finish things up.  Then they'd be really screwed, so instead you stick some of the bigger books in a holding pattern just like this one.   It's a bit of a far-fetched conspiracy theory, but the alternative is that Dan Jurgens literally only knows how to write one character, and I don't much like that one.

 All-New Avengers

Aside from the weirdness of Vision basically trying to purge himself of emotions after spending decades wanting to be a real boy, it also features him trying to kill Kang in his crib.  Which is absurd for a lot of reasons, but primarily because they've clearly been told over and over again time is broken and yet he wants to do something that will obviously fucking shatter it.  

Still, I can't lie and say Kang War One doesn't look hype now that Mark Waid's gotten the brats out of the Avengers. 

Amazing Spider-Man

Okay, so Dan Slott's doing this story called "Dead No More"/The Clone Conspiracy, and what appears to be happening is longtime Spider-Man villain Miles Warren (The Jackal) is using cloning to bring dead people back to life.   And it's at this point that you realize...if anyone ever pushes Spidey completely over the edge and turns him into a killer, it's totally Miles, right? 

Like, if he ever finds out Peter's true identity and wreaks havoc by doing something absurd like bringing back Uncle Ben, only to turn him into dust or something equally absurd...there's really no coming back from that, is there?   There's no way he doesn't go full-on possessed by the Venom Symbiote crazy, I think.   So yeah, I think Dan's upcoming story has a lot of potential.

 Deathstroke: Rebirth
I fucking hate Deathstroke, so normally I'd be avoiding this story like the plague.  But since one of the baddest motherfuckers alive, Christopher Priest, is writing it--I'm all in.  Hey--he's older than me, and he's blacker than me.   (If you're too lazy to do your research, Chris Priest is one of those pioneer-types you'll see shared on Facebook--where he's one of the first to break into a predominantly white male industry as a black man back in the 70's/80's.   He was the first black editor at Marvel and DC and gave us the noir brilliance that was Peter David's Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man run.)

And its a good thing I'm all in too, because Priest has done two things I'm really in love with.  One, he went back to the original stories Slade Wilson was featured in for his inspiration.  Two, he's not doing that awful thing that usually happens to villains when publishers realize they're likable and give them books.  Y'know, the Deadpool/Harley Quinn thing where suddenly they're less evil and more anti-hero-ish?   Yeah, I hate that shit.   The "moral gray area" argument seems fine in theory until you realize there are legitimately shitty people in this world, and Slade happens to be one of them.  So yeah, as long as Slade's a complete and utter dick and Priest is writing this comic, I'm there.
 
 Earth 2: Society

Yup.  That makes sense--the bad guy wants something that would literally allow him to alter reality and when people suggest the logical response of "destroy it", you respond with "I'll kill anyone who touches it". 

It's this kind of idiotic fighting between superheroes that makes them look like children.  Good thing Marvel wouldn't dare stoop to this kind of thing...

Scarlet Witch
Oh wait.

This is probably the worst comic moment I've experienced with either universe all year, I think.  There's literally no reason for this behavior--it's always, always been that Quicksilver's been a jerk to EVERYONE except Wanda.   And under the watchful eye of Peter David, he'd even been working on that--gradually working on changing into a decent person and developing a friendship with his other sister Polaris.  (Until they retconned the two being related because lolnomutants.)

This issue tears down every single bit of that.   Any sign of the regal, intelligent hero who's maybe just a little impatient and has made mistakes but is otherwise a decent dude literally DOES NOT EXIST, on any level, in this comic.  He's beyond jerk-ish, he's disrespectful, demeaning, abusive, and nearly murders Wanda in this issue.  This is nothing less than character assassination (worse even than what Carol's going through), and the guy isn't fit to be anything except a villain after reading something like this.   (And yet he's over in Uncanny, slugging it out with Ultron like nothing bad happened here...)

And for fucking what?!  A Civil War II tie-in.   Not even the original event that mattered, the fucking sequel.  What a waste.   And I was so in love with what James Robinson was doing with this comic, its artwork and panel layouts and with the character.  Ugh.  I feel sick.

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps
 I'll be honest: I had enough of the Green Lantern Corps getting shredded back during Geoff's run.  And it seems like during the time I've been away from the franchise it's only gotten worse.  But you can tell what they're doing here is showing them at their worst before they start to build them back up, and I'll give the writer this: he's perfectly capturing John, Guy, and Hal.  And there's a distinct Silver Age vibe I get from the way they're currently drawing Jordan that makes this whole thing endearing in an old-school kind of way.  So while it's still shaky, I'm definitely enjoying what's happening right now.

New Super-Man
The Justice League of China felt wrong to me--I couldn't figure out why they'd be appropriating the team's name like that.  But Gene Yang addresses that perfectly with a single panel, with an answer that makes perfect sense.   And he brings up the Great Ten and explains why they aren't really relevant to what this team is doing.

You get the sense that these guys are meant to be almost adversarial to the Great Ten because they aren't controlled by the government, but they're not entirely "good" guys either.  They definitely are capable of doing good though, which adds another layer when the people at the top of this very shadowy organization reveal themselves for what they truly are and our heroes have to decide whether they're going to be proper good guys or continue in servitude.   And even before you get to that, the potential clashes this Justice League can have with the Great Ten have me giddy with excitement.

Y'know, if our new Superman can stop being such a big jerk. 

Spider-Man 2099
There's nothing important about this panel; I just wanted to show Captain America of the 22nd century stealing off a tiger.

Superwoman
I kind of hate the "twist" ending here because I'm totally in love with what Phil Jimenez has done here by making Superwoman not one, but two women.  It almost validates all those years Lois and Lana basically spent as Superman's version of Betty and Veronica, right?  Suddenly they're carrying on in Clark's name, being utter bad-asses and saving Metropolis from certain doom.

And how cool is Lana's outfit?!  It's totally inspired by Superman's time as a lightning bolt, and more specifically Superman Red, but it works here.  So I'm really hoping Lois comes back and these two can continue on in Superman's name, even if Rebirth eventually restores most of the DCU proper, because these two ladies kick ass.

The Flash
I'm desperately hoping our new "Wally" gives him something that makes him standout from the original.  It seems like they're hinting at that with him tapping into something "new" inside the Speed Force, but who knows if that isn't something basic like simply sustained speed.

Also: give him a different outfit.  The more you make him stand out from the original, the less likely he is to get wiped in the next retcon.

*Having said that, I'm skipping some weeks on Anime Weeklies since that's more of a pain to keep up with.