Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Bottom of the Pile: August 17th, 2016

Week two up.

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.

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.
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.


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'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.

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.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Injustice Roster Speculation

Let's talk roster line-ups.  Usually I don't do this but its a Wednesday and I'm trying to find a way to delay doing the three Anime Weekly columns I'm behind on, plus the latest Injustice trailer has me hyped.   DC are my favorite fictional characters after all, and the RPG-esque loot system combined with NetherRealm's penchant for offering decent-sized story modes in their games has placed Injustice pretty high on my list of games for 2017.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Bottom of the Pile: August 3rd, 2016

Crazy behind so I'm gonna shotgun a bunch of stuff.  Articles might be a tad short, but let's go.

For a moment, Tom King almost tricked me into thinking Bats was going to have a pair of super-powered bad-asses helping him out with crime and wasn't going to go with the very obvious "they turn evil" plot.  And to be fair, there's still time for things to turn around and surprise me...but they probably won't.

In all fairness though, I didn't see the plot twist of them actually being decent people only later being brain-washed by Psycho-Pirate.  Speaking of, when you start seeing that guy regularly in the DC Universe, it means reality has recently been altered/is subject to be "de"-altered.   No, I'm totally not bouncing in my seat just thinking about it, why do you ask?

Friday, August 12, 2016

Anime Weeklies: Summer Week Four

If Batman were a psychotic murderer...
91 Days 3: It says a lot that when I started looking at the episodes for the column this week this was the first series I came to; that I wasn't disappointed with my choice says even more. This third episode plays directly off of Bruno’s actions in the second. The killing of Serpente and Vanno have a ripple effect that’s probably going to lead to a war not unlike what the series' opening implies, and watching the dominoes fall is fascinating.

This third episode focuses on the missing body of Serpente--which ended up in the hands of a corrupt Federal agent Scuso, who immediately takes it to the head of the Vanettis and offers them a chance to pay for it disappearing so they aren’t tossed into war with the Orcos and/or risk pissing off the Galassias. Meanwhile, Bruno manages to talk his way out of his own death when Nero Vanetti orders him to find Serpente’s body, as proof that he isn’t secretly helping the Orco family. Speaking of, we’re finally introduced to Don Orco, head of the Orcos.

91 Days is utterly unafraid to introduce utterly unsympathetic characters--Don Orco is a bastard who literally has someone killed because his lasagna isn’t completely perfect. His head enforcer Fango is so deep into BDSM last episode he was having a woman beat him bloody while this episode he nearly burns a guy’s eye out and was clearly getting off on it. Even the series’ “main” character Bruno Avillio is completely heartless. This isn’t the story of the rise of a Batman-esque hero: he’s a guy who has a singular main goal: kill the people who took his family from him, and he doesn’t seem to have any qualms about how it happens or who he has to go through to get it done. It’s only the third episode, he’s just barely dodged being killed by the Vanettis, and yet when Nero has to leave town as a result of what’s happened with Serpente, Bruno immediately decides to go with him to have a shot at ending Nero as well. He doesn’t even seem to have any regrets as he watches Nero at Vanno’s funeral, clearly torn apart over the loss of his best friend. Look at the image above--that’s the face of a remorseless monster.

Having said that, it’s my hope that the series only has Bruno kill three people: Vanno, Nero, and the head of the Vanetti family. And even though I give it two episodes before they ruin that, that’s the sort of perfect poetry that would give this series a perfect ten in my eyes.

In any case, my thoughts in the first episode remain semi-accurate--as new factions arrive and they take steps to introduce more visual flair to make each character stand out, I can’t help thinking a bit of extra variety to the colors to make things more “anime-esque” would’ve done wonders (especially in helping some viewers tell characters apart), but then that might take away from the stark realism of this show. I haven’t been this into a “non-anime” anime since Shingeki no Bahamut.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Bottom of the Pile: July 27th, 2016

New installment.  Next update on Thursday.

Monday, August 1, 2016