Friday, March 23, 2007

THE WARLORD #113 DC Comics, 1986

DC's comic book The Warlord would make an excellent Las Vegas topless dance spectacular. Skartaris! A Sexotic Fantasmagoria!!! Now at the Sands!

The long-running fantasy adventure series was either an homage or rip-off of Burroughs' John Carter of Mars books, depending on one's point of view. Both series chronicled the adventures of a bad-ass white guy from Earth who has been marooned on a savage world full of terrible monsters, exotic locations, and people who wear very very little clothing. As you might imagine, Young Dave loved both John Carter and Travis Morgan, aka The Shiznit, aka The Warlord.

It must be pretty warm in the bizarre medieval land of Skartaris deep inside the center of the hollow Earth, because seriously, nobody wears any clothes to speak of. Travis Morgan himself wears a white leopard loincloth and a seagull helmet and... yeah, that's about it. Loincloth and helmet. Well, he does have some cool chain accesories and a Gwar shoulder pad. Aside from that, Travis Morgan wears no armor - that's just not how they roll in Skartaris.

One side note: In many Warlord comics Morgan rides a horse wearing his customary loincloth. After a while that saddle would get pretty nasty, don't you think? Would you want to sit on loin cloth guy's saddle? Jesus, let me hit that thing with some anti-bacterial spray or something first.

The Warlord's nubile female travelling companions wear outfits that would make a Brazilian blush. The hot red head Mariah wears a black stripper outfit and make-up from Boris Vallejo Cosmetics, while the cat-woman Shakira (yes, Mariah and Shakira) wears a black fur bikini and a collar. At least I hope that's a bikini - if not Shakira has some nasty-ass body hair.

This comic is like, part seventeen of The Warlord's quest to save his equally scantily clad daughter Jennifer, who has been on death's door for several years. The Warlord can't be rushed, man. In this issue Morgan's been hypnotized by Mariah into loving her - he just didn't feel the same about her after Glitter - and now he's sort of her love slave. This annoys Shakira (whose hips don't lie) to no end because all the tongue kissing between the two is really slowing up the already glacial pace of their quest.

The immodestly attired trio get attacked by half-naked cylopses (cyclopsi?), and Shakira is grudgingly forced to come to Mariah's aide by turning into her lethal kitty cat form!

CYCLOPS vs HOUSE CAT - who ya got?

After scratching and stabbing all the half-naked cyclopsi, the trio are assaulted by a flight of totally naked gargoyle men who shoot lasers from their eyes. No shit. The totally naked gargoyles are doubly dangerous, for they possess beaks and teeth, which is rare.

Beaks or teeth or both, it matters not! Travis Morgan will stab you! No blood, of course, but still. Stabbed is stabbed.
Man, I have had this comic for twenty-one years. It's outlasted all of my pets.
Reading The Warlord #113 brings back fond memories and a wistful nostalgia for a time in my life when the totally adolescent and totally fabulous underground world of Skartaris was 100% cool, when I could look at something like The Warlord without layer after layer of cynicism and postmodern wankery.
Ah, youth.
You know what else I noticed, aside from the near-nudity?
Travis Morgan cannot get a fucking word in! My man is always getting interrupted - he cannot finish a sentence to save his life.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Too busy! Lame picture post for you! Too busy!

Monkey STRONG!

My ass-doctor! Hi ass-doctor!!!

Don't be sad, rainy day lady!

Radium cigarettes bad!

Air guitar hero!
Must go now! TOO BUSY!!!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

BADROCK #1 Image Comics, 1995

I am not one of those people that enjoys slandering comic book creators that I’ve never met.
That doesn’t mean I won’t; I just won’t enjoy it.

Ha! I kid.
Seriously, though: how worked up can I be expected to get if somebody makes a shitty comic? I’ve never understood the vitriol that some “fans” have for cats like Chuck Austen or Rob Liefield or Mark Millar. So they didn’t write or draw a comic book character in accordance with your fundamentalist notion of how that character should be portrayed. Is that a good reason to hate somebody?

Take Paul Jenkins, for example. Now, I really hated Civil War: Frontline #11, which Jenkins wrote. Hated it. I don’t think I’m alone. But Jesus, it’s not like Paul Jenkins killed my uncle or anything. I’ve enjoyed his writing (Jenkins, not my uncle) in the past and will likely enjoy his writing again in the future, but I didn’t enjoy one book he wrote. BFD. It’s nothing personal.

However, if I were so inclined, I would mercilessly take the piss out of Civil War: Frontline #11 online with no guilt because I’m mocking the product, not the producer. If you put your shit out there and people buy it, they've bought the right to have an opinion.

Which brings us to Badrock #1, by Rob Liefeld, the enfant terrible of the comic industry. I got nothing against Rob, but man --
-- this comic sucks all kinds of ass.

This is one of those comics from the go-go Nineties that is full of sound and fury that signifies nada. It’s full of HUGE panels and glib banter that reveals very little about the plot or the characters. In place of a plot, Badrock #1 just has a series of sequences where our heroes are attacked by homoerotic bad guys. The comic confuses character appearances with plot points.

Here’s the story: Badrock and his thong + eyepatch wearing comrade Gunner Solo rescue Badrock’s father from the Chicago super-mobster Overlord and his gang of freaks the Vicious Circle. We aren’t told in this issue why Overlord captures Badrock’s dad. I can’t tell if this piece of information is withheld from the reader by design or accident. I’m guessing the latter.

Badrock (who is like a cross between Captain Marvel and the Thing) and company try to elude/kill their hunters in the mean streets of the Windy City, taking on villains such as Lowblow (short), Girth (fat), Cutthroat (eyepatch, stabby), and Hellrazor (ponytail, stabby). Throw in an awkwardly set-up flashback sequence and a cameo by Savage Dragon, and you gots yourself a standard mid-Nineties Image comic.

The art in this book is insane.

Unmotivated lighting, hideously deformed physiques, overly rendered characters, and an abundance of gooey strands of saliva make this book a visual feast - for crows.
Take a look at this panel:
Badrock has got some major Saliva Strand Syndrome going on there. It's like a hideous oral cargo net of mucous and bacteria and spit. Yuck. Damn near everyone in this book has tendrils of ropey saliva dripping from their mouths - it's so prevalent that it looks out of place when characters don't have spit webs. It goes beyond "stylistic choice" and strays into "fetish."
I may be reading too much into this, but Badrock #1 has an undercurrent of homoeroticism flowing so deep that I wonder if the creators were even aware of it. All the bad guys are these S&M looking guys with lovingly rendered chest hair and a tendency to talk about asses. Now I could be wrong, but after the third time somebody mentions how badly they want Badrock's ass, it makes you go, "Hmm..."
Here's the furry little bear Lowblow neck-humping our man Badrock:
That Lowblow is like a cross between Wolverine, Puck, and porn star Jeff Stryker.* And come on - dude's name is Lowblow? What's his last name, Ballsucka?
Here's another questionable panel where Badrock is grabbing one of Girth's man-boobs:
Man, and I didn't even scan pictures of Hellrazor (who should have been called Codpiece) and Cutthroat (who should have been called Gay Dungeon Master).
For some reason, I never did pick up Badrock #2 (if it came out at all) so I've wondered all these years what Overlord wanted with Badrock's dad. I like bad comics as much as the next guy, but even I have limits.
I'm going to dust off the ol' Dave's Long Box The Pain Award and present it to Badrock #1 - truly deserving.
Rob, bro - I got nothing against you, but this comic was just no damn good.
*Ha! Did I get you to look at the Jeff Stryker Wiki? Explain that to your boss!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Lame-ass villain #18 - Signalman

Back in the day, all you needed to be a Batman villain was a gimmick, an ugly-ass costume, and a wildly unrealistic sense of confidence.
Signalman is a classic example of this forgotten strata of comic book villainy, and is therefore today’s Lame-Ass Villain. I could have gone with Calendar Man, Spellbinder, The Spook, Crazy Quilt, or Cluemaster, but Signalman easily has the worst costume of the lot.
I mean, look at that outfit. That is not a subtle color palette. If I were him I would give up crime and just focus on marketing Signalman Brand safety vests and cycling jerseys.

Signalman perpetrated elaborate crimes with a signal motif – hence the name. He was always incorporating Morse code or smoke signals or sky writing or whatever into his heists, and he used clever signal gadgets to defend himself against Batman. Well, clever might be too kind of a term. Signalman often resorted to shooting people with flare guns or smacking them with stop signs. I guess it depends on who was writing the comic.
Today’s uber-competent Batman, the guy who Superman described as “the most dangerous man on Earth” would make short work of Signalman, a relic from a gentler time. He’d appear in two panels, max.
Panel 1: Signalman begins to explain his elaborate plan to disable the radar at Gotham Airport.
Panel 2: Batman, while eating a sandwich, chops Signalman in the throat.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Register Now, America!

"Hey! You mixed your social commentary in my comedy!"

"No, you got your comedy stuck in my social commentary."

"Wait - it tastes great!"

Crazy-ass Shane Bailey over at Near Mint Heroes has created, through the magic of computers, a brilliant series of WWII-style propaganda posters that reflect the current draconian state of civil affairs in the Marvel Universe.

Go check it out.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

AVENGERS ANNUAL #19 Marvel Comics, 1990

I loves me the Terminus.
An alien ravager of worlds encased in a giant suit of armor, Terminus is a classic “big monster” bad guy who has tussled with the Avengers and The X-Men. There is no such thing as too many giant monsters in my opinion, so I’m a big fan. I’d like to see a Thunderdome-style cage match between Terminus and Red Ronin where they just hack the living bejeezus out of each other with giant chainsaws and polearms. Two giant monsters enter – one giant monster leaves! Do you hear me, Marvel? Make it happen!
Despite my affection for Terminus, I do not loves me The Terminus Factor, the four-part storyline that ran through Marvel’s Avengers annuals during the summer of 1990. The stories themselves were pedestrian and, as was often the case with annual books, the level of quality suffers in comparison to the regular monthly books. The annuals of that era were always written and drawn by somebody other than the regular creative team (in this case writer Roy Thomas and artist Herb Trimpe), which made for a jarring reading experience, and the page count was padded with lame back-up filler stories.
In a nutshell, the Terminus Factor features an ever-growing, ever-evolving Terminus monster who starts out small and fights Iron Man, gets bigger and fights Thor, then two Terminus monsters fight with the West Coast Avengers, and then a frickin’ HUGE Terminus tries to wipe out St. Louis and The Avengers. Don’t ask me to explain, I haven’t the will.
Our story begins with the combined might of the West Coast Avengers, the Great Lakes Avengers (yeesh), and the Regular Non-Sucky Avengers confronting a massive four armed Terminus who is floating above St. Louis.
Are we sure that’s St. Louis, Missouri? Looks more like Brownsville, Texas to me.

The combined Avengers Army takes the fight to the new Super Terminus, but that bastard is tough. Plus, he’s got this crazy energy lance thing that has some sort of psychedelic powers – it makes giant screaming blue heads appear over Earth’s cities. Trippy.

While the earthbound Avengers are getting their asses handed to them by Terminus, our homeboy Thor is lost in space without his magic hammer. It’s not a dignified situation for the God of Thunder, who falls victim to the gravitational pull of “yon planetoid” in a sequence that still cracks me up to this day:

Since this is a Roy Thomas script, everyone explains what is happening to them in real time. Thor has the presence of mind to describe to himself his situation right before he face plants into an asteroid. I’m going to try that next time I’m in a car accident: “That car--! Pulling out in front of me! Going faster - faster!! There’s no way to stop, no way to avoid it – looks like I’m going to --" SMASH!

Thor pulls himself together and realizes that since this planetoid has an atmosphere, he can speak – and if he can speak, that means he can SING! The guy’s got a song in his heart that he just has to let out! Actually, Thor starts chanting an ancient Norse rune spell in the planetoid’s thin atmosphere, and his magical sea shanty carries across the airless void of space to planet earth. Don’t ask – it’s Nordic magic, it doesn’t have to make sense.

The God of Thunder has such a lovely singing voice that Terminus blasts off into space, drawn into the cosmos by Thor’s siren song. It’s kind of like those cartoons where Bugs Bunny smells something cooking and follows the scent in a trance.

Once out in space, the Avengers blow up Terminus or turn him into a black hole or something and Thor gets his hammer back and everybody returns safely to Earth and it's high fives all around. The end.

Like I said, not the most gripping yarn.

Avengers Annual #19 gets points for giant monster action, Roy Thomas’s overwritten script, and Thor singing, but loses points for an uninspired plot, the Great Lakes Avengers, and twenty-odd pages of terrible back-up stories.

I was curious about Thor’s beautiful song, however, so I ran it through an online Ancient Norse/English dictionary. Turns out that Scandanavians of all eras are big fans of the super-group ABBA.
Question: What other music could lure a rampaging giant monster into space?

Answer: The Cher song Believe would have worked equally well.
"Do you beli-eeeve in life after love?"

Friday, March 09, 2007


Today we have a special Relevant Content Week epilogue. I thought I would round out my week/fortnight of commentary on new comics with a quick summary of the comics I got this week. That sounds positively gripping, doesn’t it?

CAPTAIN AMERICA #25 - OMG WTF CAPS DED!!! That ain’t right, man. That ain’t right. Actually, I thought this issue was pretty well put together – Ed Brubaker is a solid writer and the book struck an appropriately reverent/solemn tone. The story telegraphed the hell out of the actual shooting – they might as well have had a countdown caption on each page: “CAP GETS SHOT IN T MINUS 5 MINUTES”

I don’t know if I can really complain – the plot points of Civil War had backed the character into a corner and the logical storylines were either a) Cap in prison, b) Cap hitchhikes across America getting back in touch with Joe Sixpack and Jane Nascar, or c) Cap dies for 25 issues. Now it seems like there are three options for NewCap: a) Winter Soldier, b) Hawkeye, or c) The Punisher. I’m going with “a” on this one.

FANTASTIC FOUR: THE END #6 - Alan Davis’s futuristic FF fable end on an emotional high note, but the big galactic threat sub-plot was too handily resolved by divine intervention – Galactus ex machina, if you will. What is this, a Bendis book? In hindsight FF: The End suffers from some of the same overpopulation and diffusion of focus as Davis’s DC series Another Nail, but the excellent art and upbeat story overshadow the flaws. And at the risk of sounding too adolescent: The Invisible Woman and her Aryan pixie haircut are hot.

THE MIGHTY AVENGERS #1 - I’m going to leap to writer Brian Michael Bendis’s defense for his use of thought balloons in this comic. Bendis breaks a little from the traditional use of thought balloons and uses them in this issue not as expository tools, but rather as a means to enhance dialogue and reveal character traits. Frank Cho delivers the goods in the art department – despite the guy’s reputation as a cheesecake artist, he’s clearly a well-rounded and inventive comic book artist. This issue has giant monsters rampaging, Wonder Man’s safari jacket, a cameo by Godzilla, and a cute flapper hair style for The Wasp. How can I not like it?

DYNAMO 5 #1 – Jay “Noble Causes” Faerber’s new series gets off to a fun start and has the requisite SHOCKING ENDING that I’ve come to expect from the man. Dynamo 5 is the story of the teenage offspring of a big shot superhero with a Wilt Chamberlain-size libido and a Zeus-like proclivity for inseminating mortal women. Each bastard child of the (now deceased) hero inherits one of the hero’s many powers, i.e., super strength, eye beams, shape shifting, etc. and they band together to form a fledgling super-team. It’s a great idea and the story and art for this first issue was crisp and peppy – I’m giving Dynamo 5 a thumbs up.

There you go! Now we’re up to date and we can properly put Relevant Content Week to bed. I ran out of stock photos of exultant, rhapsodic business people, so you’ll have to settle for a picture I call, “Chuffed Grandparents.”

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

FANTASTIC FOUR: THE END Marvel Comics, 2007

Relevant Content Week comes to a gripping conclusion with this look at a shinier, happier corner of the Marvel Universe.

There’s a lot to like about Fantastic Four: The End, British artist/writer Alan Davis’s six part tale of the “final” adventure of Marvel’s first family of super-heroics.

For starters, it’s written and penciled by Alan Davis, a modern comic book master who can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned. Seriously, the guy could draw a 12-issue miniseries called Alan Davis’s Greek Diarrhea Vacation and I would still buy it. Mark Farmer brings his usual smooth inks to enhance Davis’s pencils, and John Kalisz’s coloring work on this series has been the cat’s ass.

Fantastic Four: The End is the latest of Marvel’s The End titles, which all chronicle the last tales of a given hero or group at some point in a non-canonical future. In other words, it’s an Alternate Reality Where Everybody Dies.

So far these books have been very grim and dramatic. Downers, even. The Punisher: The End made me want to crank “White Rabbit” and electrocute myself in a bath tub, and NFL SuperPro: The End gripped me with a sweet sorrow I have not felt since reading The Prince of Tides. Yes – the book is Pat Conroy Good.

Thankfully, Davis’s Fantastic Four: The End takes a different tack. It’s a little more upbeat. Although the story takes place in the aftermath of a family tragedy and the sundering of the mighty FF, there’s still a lot of fun shit going on. If you can stuff the Imperial Guard, Namor, The Mole Man, Annihilus, Ronan the Accuser, The Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D. in space, The Inhumans, Kree, Super Skrull, She Hulk, a female Dr. Strange, tons of super villains, and a couple of alien armadas in one mini-series? You’re doing something right.
In this futuristic tale set after the apocalyptic “Mutant Wars,” Reed Richards has transformed Earth and the Solar System into a high-tech utopia with his incredible technology. He’s wiped out disease and prolonged human life with the “Methuselah Treatment” and enabled man to survive in space with PEGs, Personal Environment Generators.

But there’s been a cost. Reed monitors and tinkers with the world from his huge orbital satellite base, immersed in work, but very alone. The Fantastic Four broke up years ago after a disastrous fight with a monstrous final version of Dr. Doom. Reed’s wife Sue has gone on an extended archaeological expedition –

--which is code for Atlantean Booty Call!

Sue heads down, down into the deep searching for ancient artifacts, and if there are any half-naked Spock-looking bad boys swimming around, so much the better, am I right ladies?

Actually, Sue doesn’t get any. She’s still loyal to her husband, the one with the flexible body parts. It’s a beautifully inked and colored scene, though.

The whole thing is beautifully put together and very slick. The coloring doesn’t bury the art work, and as usual Farmer’s inks are the perfect compliment to Davis’s smooth pencils. Davis and Farmer have got to be one of the all-time best penciller/inker teams in comics today and I will fight anyone unarmed and smaller than me who says otherwise.

Plus, the story is pretty enjoyable. It extrapolates a possible future based on Reed's technology that's interesting and recognizable - non-canonical stories like FF: The End great places to explore ideas like that. The narrative suffers from a wandering focus and a fuzzy through-line in the first few issues, but it's coming together nicely towards the end.

If you're one of those people (like me) who bitches and moans about the direction the Marvel Universe is going in the wake of Civil War, keep in mind that there are still people out there creating great comics like Fantastic Four: The End. Go check that shit out!

Thus ends Relevant Content Week! Drive safely everybody!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Your dose of slow-motion heavy metal comic book radness

Because when your team walks in slow-mo into battle, you gotta have wailing guitars.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

THUNDERBOLTS #111 Marvel Comics, 2007

Relevant Content Week rolls on like a redneck trucker with a look at Marvel's revamped Thunderbolts series, now with 100% more Warren Ellis.
Before we begin, I'd like to just throw out that I am listening to the Canadian power trio Rush as I write this. The song "Tom Sawyer," at this very moment. Like many emotionally adolescent men my age, I find it comforting to keep one foot in the Eighties at all time. I'll be playing with my G.I. Joes and listening to "Red Barchetta" shortly. Sad.
Anyway! Ha ha! Despite my pathological nostalgia and chronic Peter Pan Syndrome, I still consume pop media in the here and now, and that's what Relevant Content Week is all about.
Thunderbolts was my absolute favorite Marvel title when it first debuted back in the Nineties during the Heroes Reborn era (otherwise known as Marvel Goes Image!). I'm saving my post about Kurt Busiek and Mark Badgley's brilliant Thunderbolts for the upcoming High Concept Week, but in twenty words or less, the comic is about a team of super-villains who pretend to be super-heroes.
This new incarnation of Thunderbolts from writer Warren Ellis and artist Mike Deodato takes that core idea and runs with it in a depraved new direction. This Thunderbolts is about a government-sponsored group of "reformed" supervillains who hunt down renegade superhumans who haven't complied with the Superhuman Registration Act introduced in Marvel's Civil War crossover. The protagonists of the series are supervillains and killers who have been transformed into heroes through marketing and media spin. Each Thunderbolt has been chosen for their lethal skills and their "toyetic" appeal - how well their powers and appearance can be translated into toys. It's a wry, amoral comic book that looks at the power of marketing and media manipulation in an increasingly cynical and violent world -- with lots of explosions and shit.
Of course, I love it.
You may recall me bitching previously about how fucked up and out-of-character it was for guys like Tony Stark and Reed Richards to sanction a team of pscyhotics to help hunt down renegade superheroes. How that was something a supervillain would do? I still think that, but I've moved on now. Let the healing begin; I'm ready to embrace the concept of Thunderbolts and just enjoy it.
Because really, the book is basically a Marvel version of Suicide Squad, isn't it? And I loves me the Suicide Squad, as I will explain in excruciating and obsessive detail during the upcoming SUICIDE SQUAD WEEK! How could I not enjoy the same basic concept applied to the Marvel Universe?
The main difference between Thunderbolts and Suicide Squad is that the Thunderbolts team is unashamedly public and operating with the blessing of Tony Stark, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., while the Suicide Squad was a covert team that skulked around trying not to draw the attention of the Justice League. As a matter of fact, Batman tried to bust them because he can't be tolerating a bunch of villains running around. Therein lies the difference between the two fictional universes, n'est-ce pas?
Thunderbolts #111 deals with the hunt for an unregistered D-list hero named Jack Flag, a protege of Captain America. The public members of the team - Songbird, Moonstone, Radioactive Man, Penance (aka Dark Speedball), Venom, and The Swordsman - confront their prey in a parking lot in Cleveland, Ohio.
Here they are strutting in telegenic slow-mo towards the camera as guitars wail:

I am a total sucker for shit like that, the bad-ass Slow-Mo March.
Like the scene in Tombstone where Kurt and Co are striding up the street towards the O.K. Corral, with an inexplicable burning building in the background. Or the end credits of Buckaroo Banzai. Or - don't laugh - the scene at the beginning of John Carpenter's Vampires when James Woods and his vampire hunters all strike a bad-ass pose before marching side-by-side towards a house of undead. That shot made Dr. Pepper come out of my nose when I saw it - such is the power of the Slow-Mo March.
Right. After their theatrical arrival, field leader Moonstone orders the newly re-designed Radioactive Man to ignite the gas tanks in the parking lot to get Jack Flag off-balance. In the press conference later they'll accuse Jack Flag of mining the parking lot. Shit blows up real good, and then Swordsman and Venom get to play. Jack Flag has apparently learned a thing or two from Cap, because he sorta takes them out and makes good his escape.
Or does he?
The Thunderbolts have an ace in the hole, the lethal Daredevil villain known as Bullseye. All the media spin and marketing in the world can't make Bullseye a consumer-friendly brand, so the team keeps him hidden and secure from the public until they need him to get all stabby. I'm not going to spoil the ending, but let's just say Jack Flag gets a Reverse Eleketra Treatment from Bullseye.
The other behind-the-scenes character in Thunderbolts is Norman Osborne, a brilliant businessman and inventor whose hobbies - dressing up as the Green Goblin and killing people - could best be described as "eccentric." Osborne is the director of the group, but his organizational acumen seems tempered somewhat by an unhealthy obsession with Spider-Man that bleeds into his professional life at inopportune times...
I bet Osborne has Spider-Man panic attacks all the time:
Perky barista: "I have a triple tall soy mocha for Norman?"
Osborne: "What did you say? Did you say Spider-Man?"
Perky barista: "Umm, no sir."
Osborne: "Because it sounded like you said, 'WATCH OUT BEHIND YOU IT'S SPIDER-MAN, NORMAN!' "
Perky barista: "N-no sir..."
Osborne: "Oh. Okay. Is that my mocha?"
Perky barista: "Yes sir."
Osborne: "Soy?"
Perky barista: "Yes sir."
Osborne: "OK, thanks."
Ellis brings his usual smart-ass dialogue and penchant for "wide-screen" carnage to Thunderbolts. I like that kind of stuff, but as they say, your mileage may vary. The guy knows how to construct a plot, and I always feel like Ellis's tough guy theatrics serves a greater function in his stories - it's not just empty macho bullshit.
Mike Deodato delivers in the art category. As the years go by his stuff reminds me more and more of Neal Adams' art, although sometimes his characters look too photo-referenced. Deodato's Norman Osborne is basically Tommy Lee Jones with corn rows. Deodato has done some great design work on Thunderbolts, particularly with Radioactive Man, who finally looks cool.
Deodato did what he could with Jack Flag, whose original character design is unfortunate. It's not all Deodato's fault -- he didn't have a lot to work with -but basically Jack Flag looks like a Yankee Doodle version of Grifter from WildC.A.T.S..
This storyline will probably read better in trade format, but I'm intrigued enough to actually check it out in floppy format, which is high praise indeed. Ellis and Deodato have managed to pull off something I didn't think possible: create something interesting from Civil War.

Friday, March 02, 2007

This is brilliant and I want more, please

We interrupt Relevant Content Week to point out some radness going on over at Eric Poulten's blog: Steampunk Star Wars.
Go check out Eric's brilliant illustrations and ideas for a retro-tech version of classic Star Wars.
Phlogisabres? Mr. Chewbacca? I am sold.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

WONDER WOMAN #4 DC Comics, 2007

Relevant Content Week* rolls on with this look at the recently published Wonder Woman #4, from writer Allan Heinberg and the brother and sister art team of Terry and Rachel Dodson. I’m just kidding, they’re not brother and sister – the Dodsons are hot twin sisters who also pose for cheesecake calendars that are given away at auto parts stores. Seriously.**
I can tell you don’t believe me so let’s move on.
I am really not in love with the cover of this comic book. What's not to like, you ask? It's a classic Wonder Woman in bondage cover. It’s a classic convention of WW comics. Did you know that Wonder Woman has been tied up on a total of 573 comic book covers since her first appearance in 1941? I should know, I have 328 of them and I will not rest until I have the other 245 comics. It’s a thing with me. I’m not a big guy or anything, but stay out of my damn way if you have copy of Wonder Woman #219 because I will take that shit from you and strike you if you try to stop me! I will thrash you soundly about the shoulders with my cane!
Anyway, the cover.
I’ve seen better from the Dodson Twins. It’s difficult at a glance to tell what the hell’s going on. It feels too cluttered, busy. The focal figures of Wonder Woman, Circe, and an alligator from Fantasia are buried in a tangle of lines and washed out by the coloring. And the light blue tentacle or snake or whatever in the foreground is annoyingly distracting; it draws my eyes off balance and makes me crazy!
You see it, the blue tentacle? Now that I mentioned it you can’t stop looking at it, can you? The coloring really kills the cover for me.

Let’s talk about the comic itself. DC rebooted Wonder Woman after the reality-punching Infinite Crisis crossover series, giving the title a facelift with shiny paper and big name creators. Unfortunately, the hot new Wonder Woman book went from monthly to bi-monthly in no time and DC is announcing that the creative roster is changing after the first storyline wraps up. I'm no publisher, but that cannot be the best way to build momentum on a book.
Okay, enough cattiness. The story and art for WW #4? I can’t complain, really.
I’ve long been a fan of the Dodsons’ art. They produce the kind of clean, classically American comic art that I enjoy. I think of their work as sort of a hybrid of Adam Hughes and John Byrne’s art, and I mean that as a compliment.
The kitchen sink plot begins one year after Wonder Woman handed over her tiara and lasso to Donna Troy in the aftermath of Infinite Crisis. Don’t ask, I don’t have the energy to explain. The de-powered agent Diana Prince of the Department of Metahuman Affairs teams up with the dreamy secret agent Nemesis (it's nice to see Nemesis getting some page space) and gets tangled up in a plot orchestrated by her arch-enemy, the sorceress Circe that involves an army of classic Wonder Woman villains like Silver Swan, The Cheetah, and Dr. Psycho. What, no love for Red Panzer?
Have I mentioned the white jumpsuit?
(Oh, re: the "RRRRRT" word balloon in the panel above? Nemesis has really bad gas and is just farting like a yak off-panel.)
In a wink to the now legendary “Emma Peel” era of Wonder Woman when she traded her star-spangled panties in for a sleek white jumpsuit, Agent Prince gets a sexed-up white body suit and cute tinted glasses. She looks fabulous.
Despite my irritation at the book’s lateness, I actually am kind of enjoying the story, which reminds me of Loeb and Lee’s Batman saga Hush in the way it gleefully crams all the signature elements – all the cool stuff – into one crazy storyline. It’s got the invisible jet, magic lassos, the spinning-transformation thing, the secret identity – everything. It truly feels like a reboot.
Now if DC could get their shit together and publish it every month, we might have something.
There you go! Another post about a comic that has been published this decade instead of some forgotten 2nd-rate book from the Eighties! Truly, Relevant Content Week is a thing of wonder.
*I'm using an ancient Hebrew calendar in which weeks last ten days, BTW.

**Gah! No! I’m kidding. Don’t sue me, Dodsons. They’re husband and wife, not hot Sapphic bikini model sisters.