Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Top Ten Suicide Squad Lines, part 2

Continuing the festivities of Suicide Squad Fortnight, let’s take a look at some of the best lines of dialogue ever printed in the pages of Suicide Squad, a comic that has yet to be surpassed in terms of awesomeness.

Fellow Squad enthusiast Brian Cronin over at Comics Should Be Good was kind enough to host Part One of the Top Ten Suicide Squad Lines, and now we finish our bloody work here with Part Two.

5. Deadshot doesn’t read minds

Deadshot, the Suicide Squad’s smugly deranged marksman, is literal to a fault. He’s like an evil genie that will twist the wording of your three wishes into curses if you’re not careful - an evil genie with guns.

Here's the set-up: In Suicide Squad #22, batshit crazy Rick Flag intends to kill a crooked US senator in order to keep the Squad secret. Waller orders the Squad to keep Flag from killing the senator using any means possible. When Deadshot catches up with Flag and his soon-to-be victim at the Lincoln Monument in D.C., he executes his orders to the letter – by killing the senator before Flag can! D’oh! Then Deadshot nearly lives up to his name by getting shot like, twelve times by police – APE POLICE!!!

No, that would be stupid.

Later in a hospital, Waller asks the miraculously not-dead Deadshot what the hell he was thinking.

Deadshot: Said to keep Flag from killing Cray… any means possible. Exact words.

Waller: I didn’t mean by killing him yourself!

Deadshot: Shoulda said so. I don’t read minds.

4. Friend or foe?

I like this simple Count Vertigo line from Suicide Squad #28, a chapter in The Janus Directive crossover. It’s just something the arrogant European noble would say, and it reminds me of Adam Ant. I love Adam Ant.

Anyway, during a big-ass battle, the Squad’s Count Vertigo flies up to lay a whammy on Peacemaker, who despite appearances to the contrary, is not wearing a bedpan on his head.

Peacemaker: Friend or foe?

Count Vertigo: Oh, foe. Definitely foe.

3. How zen

Aww, Bronze Tiger and Vixen used to be such a cute couple. It's too bad their lethal, paranoid work enviroment and his psychosis from years of assassin conditioning drove them apart. Nowadays there are treatment programs for ex-assassins, but back in the Eighties there wasn't a lot of professional help for guys like Bronze Tiger.

Anyway, before they broke up they were a handsome pair who would engage in playful banter whilst on deadly missions.

2. Deadshot totally believes you

In Suicide Squad #18, Task Force X battles a reformed Jihad in Manhattan, with bloody results. As in their previous encounter, the Squad wipes out the Jihad big time - meaning they totally murder them dead.

Deadshot goes up against Jaculi 2.o, an upgraded mini-skirted version of the original Jaculi. Deadshot shoots her in the knee, which slows her down considerably.

"Kill me American," she says. "Or I will come back for you."

Deadshot considers this for a moment. Then - and this is mean - he shoots her.

"I believe you," he says.

That is ice cold.

1. "Is there a plan or do we just shoot things at random?"

Be careful how you answer Deadshot's question because he will start shooting things at random if instructed to do so. That's just how he rolls.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Night Fights: Granny vs The Wall

It's a special Suicide Squad Week version of Friday Night Fights here at Dave's Long Box. Bahlactus has spoken and the word is: fight!

From Suicide Squad #35, I present a royal rumble on Apokalips between two she-beasts - Amanda "The Wall" Waller, extra-wide leader of Task Force X versus that girthsome gargoyle Granny Goodness, leader of the Female Furies!

Get it on!!!

SUICIDE SQUAD #2 DC Comics, 1987

I thought I’d dig deep in the proverbial Long Box and do a post about the very first issues of the Suicide Squad, one of the greatest monthly books DC published in the Eighties. Or ever, for that matter. My love for the Suicide Squad is based on fact (i.e., it’s awesome) as well as blurry, uncritical nostalgia – unlike some properties from my childhood, the Suicide Squad holds up really well.

The first two issues of the Suicide Squad series were written by series creator John Ostrander, the Aaron Sorkin of Eighties DC Superhero Espionage Books, with pencils by Luke McDonnell and inks by superbad Karl Kesel. This storyline introduced a rival team, a group of terrorist supervillains known as The Jihad. Like the Squad, the membership of The Jihad rotated – mostly because the Squad keeps killing them.

This issue is no exception. The first issue was all build-up leading to this showdown with the Jihad on their home turf. Rick Flag and his bright yellow shirt lead the team in an assault on Jotunheim, the mountain headquarters of the Jihad in “Qurac” that looks like a big upside down wedding cake smashed into a cliff.

With the help of a double-agent on the Jihad, the Squad infiltrates Jotunheim just as Sheba, their Airwolfy gunship, starts blowing the hell out of the wedding cake. The Squad has a traitor of their own, ferreted out by Nemesis the master of disguise. There’s a lot of intrigue and shit.

There’s also a lot of violence. The team breaks off and hunts down the Jihad members. The Flash villain Capt. Boomerang has experience with super-speedsters, so he takes on the lightning quick Jaculi, who is not nearly fast enough to stay not-dead.

Boomerang may be a cowardly and morally bankrupt and sort of ridiculous, but he's also really dangerous, and Ostrander never forgot that. He was used for comic effect a lot, but every now and then Boomerang would do something completely evil and self serving. Capt. Boomerang is a total dick. What a great character.

Meanwhile, Bronze Tiger fights the Indian assassin Ravan and totally schools him, breaking the guy's back. Tiger was one of the few good guys on the Squad and was often used to keep the less trustworthy team members in line. Plus, he has a fabulous karate pimp outfit. You have to have confidence to wear an outfit like that.

This scene, where Tiger leaves Ravan with a broken back and refuses to kill him, sets in motion a rivalry between the two masters of fu that runs through the series. Ravan eventually gets a cybernetic spine and gets drafted into the Suicide Squad, where he's quite useful until he goes up against the master villain Kobra and gets killed big time.

Deadshot gets dropped off in the elevator shaft where the Jihad keeps The Manticore, a genetic terror with an organge Godzilla tail and David Lee Roth's hair. The super tough monster goes after Deadshot, who is just a dude with guns after all, right?

Deadshot hoses down the Manticore's face with some AP rounds and that's it for the guy with the tail. The Jihad liked The Manticore so much that they made another one - which the Squad killed, of course.

Suicide Squad #2 is densely written and drawn - you get a high plot-to-panel ratio that makes for a satisfying reading experience. Stuff happens. Ostrander's story is full of tough guy dialogue, double crosses, and narrow escapes. McDonnell was the Suicide Squad penciller forever, and I think his stuff is great when he's paired with the right inker. Fortunately, Karl Kesel is a fantastic inker.

I have fond memories of picking up this comic at my local comic store and reading it again and again. I'm happy to say that twenty years later this still seems like a good comic book to me. And that's why Suicide Squad is so awesome.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

THE F*@% YEAH FILES #7: Deadshot in the Drop Zone

Suicide Squad has had more than its share of "F*%$ Yeah" and "Holy Sh%t" moments, so it's tough to pick just one. But pick I shall.

Here's the scene: in Suicide Squad #54, part two of "The Dragon's Horde" storyline, a team of Squadies consisting of Count Vertigo, Deadshot, and the scary Russian superman Stalnoivolk are flying to Cambodia in a Blackhawk Express plane.

Stalnoivolk has been drafted by Squad leader Amanda "The Wall" Waller and is none too happy about taking a holiday in Cambodia. Thousands of feet above Southeast Asia, Stalnoivolk decides it's time to leave:

Stalnoivolk is tough as hell so he's not particularly worried about the fall. His rapid descent will give him the head-start needed to escape from his "comrades."

Count Vertigo, who can fly, is about to take off after their fugitive teammate, but he's not happy: "We are most aggrieved." Deadshot gets that psycho look in his eye - it's his job to look after the Russian. He grabs an extra chute, and jumps out of the plane.

Deadshot rockets down to Stalnoivolk, pulls a laser pistol, and the two of them have a mid-air standoff while the ground rushes up to meet them...

Is Deadshot going to go splat? Or is Stalnoivolk going to put on the parachute? F*%$ yeah he is!

Deadshot keeps the laser pointer on the Russian's forehead while they fall and forces him to put on the chute. Stalnoivolk's escape attempt is foiled; both of them pop their chutes and continue the job.

I loved that scene. It's a good piece of macho action, but it also shows the reader something about Deadshot as a character. Ever since the opening scene in Moonraker where Jaws and 007 fight in free fall I have been a sucker for mid-air action sequences. You may recall that a previous F*%$ Yeah File post also featured people jumping out of airplanes. There's just something about fightin' parachutists that just works for me.

Celine Dion! Give me a F*%$ Yeah, sister!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Squad Personal File: Col. Rick Flag

Ahh, Rick Flag.

SUICIDE SQUAD WEEK continues with a look at the uptight field commander of the Suicide Squad. How uptight? We're talking Cyclops level. Flag is most famous for the hideous yellow shirt he insisted on wearing into combat. He was like Linus from Peanuts, only instead of a blanket Flag had his lucky shirt that made him feel safe - even when bad guys were shooting directly at his neon yellow center of mass.

It's funny that Rick Flag's name rhymes with "punching bag," because that's basically what he is - a superhero punching bag. Flag gets his ass handed to him in every other issue of Suicide Squad. There's just something about Flag, some je ne sais quoi that just makes people want to punch him directly in the face.

Batman wants to punch Rick Flag. In Suicide Squad #13, our team meets the Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire era of the Justice League. Naturally, they fight. As per the rules, the two teams eventually realize they shouldn't be fighting and the declare a truce.

Except Batman, he's not done fighting. He wants to punch Rick Flag. Punch him dead.

I gotta hand it to Rick Flag, anybody that can go toe-to-toe with Batman for more than two panels is pretty bad ass. He even manages to chip the end off of one of Batman's ear things. Despite Rick Flag's pluck and spunkiness and chutzpah, he is fighting Batman - and that means he's going to the hospital.

While Flag bleeds and twitches on the floor, Batman turns and walks away, his victory somewhat diminished by the absence of one of his pointy ear things. Maybe there's a lesson there for all of us: Batman will hospitalize you if you touch his pointy ear things.

I don't know what it is. Maybe it's the shirt, or the weird stare, or his haircut, or his lack of respect for personal boundaries, or his braying donkey-like laugh -- whatever it is, people want to punch Rick Flag.

Pirates want to punch him:

I take back what I said about Flag being tough; it looks like he's getting his ass kicked by a salsa dance instructor. Just kidding! That's actually Mark Shaw (aka Manhunter) in his rakish Privateer identity, and he's a tough mother even with an eye patch and a puffy pirate shirt. He beats the living bejeesus out of Flag, who may have been drinking as well.

Flag sleeps there on the floor for the next six hours while people step over and around him. Never end your evening with shots of Jaegermeister and nitrous hits, my man. Also, don't fight pirates.

After a while, all that bludgeoning and punching that Rick Flag endured took its toll, and he went a little bit crazy. It went beyond wearing the day-glo shirt; Flag got really creepy and possessive with this girl Karen who worked in IT, and he murdered this one dude in order to keep his job. And frankly, his psychosis was affecting his performance at work.

Flag was last seen in Suicide Squad #26, invading a mountain fortress in "Qurac" on a literal suicide mission - but he was wearing a sensible black outfit, thank God. He was trying to dismantle a terrorist atomic bomb, but Flag's long time rival Rustam had other plans.

Plans that involve punching Rick Flag. And stabbing him. And maybe kissing him...

I won't tell you what happens next... but let's just say that we don't get to see the end of Rick Flag and Rustam's fight because an atomic bomb explodes and totally kills them.

It's a good thing, too, otherwise we would have had to watch Rustam kick Rick Flag's ass. I understand that somehow The Man in Yellow is coming back from the grave in the relaunch of Suicide Squad. If it involves Rick getting in brawls with anybody and everybody, I'm all for it.

Good old Rick Flag, obliging sparring partner to all comers in the DC Universe. I salute the sacrifice the man made to his cognitive abilities in order to keep me entertained.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I still love thee, Suicide Squad

Man, I fucking love Suicide Squad.

It's got everything I like in comics and nothing I don't. It's satisfying, but doesn't fill me up and make me feel bloated. Plus, it tastes great.

I've posted about the Squad previously on Dave's Long Box, but I've never gone full-out and devoted an ENTIRE WEEK (more or less) to one of my favorite comic series of all time.

Previously I have discussed:

For those of you unfamiliar with Suicide Squad, I will quote from a previous post:

"Suicide Squad was spawned from the 1987 mini-series Legends (which I will get around to reviewing/mocking at some point). Written exclusively by John Ostrander, the book had a consistent vision and “through-line” that you don’t see too much of anymore in today’s age of reboots and revamps.

I liked Suicide Squad because it had a (relatively) sophisticated and cynical approach to politics, crime, and punishment and often tread a moral grey area between the few “good guys” on the team and the “bad guys.” Plus, it was more hardcore and lethally violent than any other comic books, so it scored extra points with me. The Squad actually called Task Force X) was a group of incarcerated super-villains who would go on secret government missions to work off their sentences. They were based out of Belle Reve prison in the swamps of Louisiana, and went on all sorts of deadly assignments with explosive bracelets clamped to their wrists to keep them in line. [...]

The cast was made up of 2nd tier characters that were kind of disposable. Led by a hard-ass beaureaucrat named Amanda “The Wall” Waller, the Squad had a couple of good guys like Rick Flag, Nightshade, and Bronze Tiger, who were basically brought on to ride herd on a bunch of super-thugs. The main bad guys were Flash villain Captain Boomerang, a craven but devious Aussie; Batman villain Deadshot, a cold blooded sniper with a really cool but impractical costume; Duchess, an amnesiac villain from the planet Apokolips; Count Vertigo, a Euro-trash noble with “vertigo” powers; and Batman villain Poison Ivy, the poisonous plant chick. Other villains rotated in and out of the Squad like The Penguin, Captain Cold, and The Parasite, and a ton of other 3rd rate villains who were killed with impunity."

There, you should be roughly up to speed.

This week we'll take a look at some of my favorite issues of SS, spotlight some awesome and not-so-awesome characters, examine a truly F*$& Yeah moment in Squad history, mock Rick Flag, and generally just worship at the Altar of Ostrander. I'm stoked for the return of Suicide Squad to the DC Universe, so this seems like a good time for Suicide Squad Week.
Let us fucking do this thing!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Welcome to Suicide Squad Week

To prove I have no dignity, here's an awkward VIDEO INTRO to our next theme week here at Dave's Long Box. Yes, this week we're going to lavish praise upon one of my favorite comic books of all time ever ever: Suicide Squad.

( Special thanks to my homey Brandon Mosby for shooting and cutting the video. )

Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday Night Fights: Neck Shrapnel!

Opponents wrap chains around Luke Cage's neck at their peril.

In this scene from Cage #1, a villain whose name escapes me does just that. He also makes the mistake of referring to Luke Cage by a previous sobriquet, Power Man, which totally pisses him off. This must happen all the time to Sean Combs. "It's just Diddy now, man."

Cage inflates his incredible neck muscles so much that the chain not only breaks, it EXPLODES! That's a strong neck, am I right? That's a Henry Rollins neck right there.

Because Bahlactus demands it!

NOBLE CAUSES and DYNAMO 5 Image Comics

Sorry for the delay in posting, I was lazy/busy this week. Yes, busy and lazy at the same time - I am a human paradox machine! High Concept Week has dragged out over two whole Earth weeks, so I gotta wrap this shit up.

Writer Jay Faerber knows that if you want to be successful creating superhero comics outside the Big Two, you have to just go 100% high concept on everyone's ass. That's why Faerber has not one but two comics featured during High Concept Week; Noble Causes and Dynamo 5, both from Image Comics.

Let's start with Noble Causes. Here's the pitch: Ordinary bookseller Liz Donnelly marries into the Noble clan, a family of rich celebrity superheroes. She's immersed in a world of secrets, lies, ambition, and danger. It's a soap opera with superheroes! It's Dynasty meets the Fantastic Four! Or something, I don't know.

I've read three of Faerber's Noble Causes trades (available at Amazon) and I gotta say, he does a great job of unreeling dozens of parallel and interweaving storylines. The Noble family is full of scheming, beautiful people with super powers - except for Liz, our gateway character. When I first read Noble Causes I was sure that she would get killed off as soon as she hooked up with Race Noble, the superspeed stud. They meet cute, then start dating. She's doomed, right? She's going to end up in a fridge.

Not so much. *SPOILER* On their honeymoon in the South Pacific, Race gets killed in a random and Biblical way, and Liz is suddenly a widow... and a Noble.

Liz is actually kind of a cool character - she would have been played by Courtney Thorne Smith if Noble Causes was an early Nineties nighttime soap. She holds her own against her dangerously powerful and egocentric relatives and she sort of becomes the foundation of the series. Plus, she wears glasses - that's hot.

I enjoyed Noble Causes because when Faerber works in superhero or soap opera conventions like alternate universes and infidelity, the characters are so well defined that it's enjoyable to see them react the way they should. Do you know what I mean? Everyone's read a comic and thought, "Batman wouldn't gasp. Why do they have him gasping?" The reader knows how Batman or Wolverine would react, so it's fun to see them in parallel universes or have them get possessed and act out of character. Over time, Faerber has skillfully built up the Noble family as fleshed-out, familiar characters.

Noble Causes - it's not just high concept, it's high conept done well.

The same can be said about Dynamo 5, Faerber's newest book. It's in stores now and is definitely worth a look.

Here's how I previously described Dynamo 5:

"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

That about covers it. Dynamo 5 is fun pop art, with smooth colorful art, neat character designs, and some SHOCKING PLOT TWISTS!!! that I can't get into here. Plus - at the risk of sounding lecherous - it's got a cute super strong goth chick in a domino mask with a headband. That alone puts Dynamo 5 on my pull list.

Monday, July 16, 2007

POWERS Image Comics, 2000

High Concept Week continues, proving that time is fluid and speed is my master! Let's do this BENDIS STYLE!

Powers is the Eisner-award winning series that made writer Brian Michael Bendis the comic book demigod that he is today. Nobody even says his full name now, it's just... Bendis. Like Cher. Or maybe Bendis! Like Charo!

Created by Bendis! and artist Michael Avon Oeming, Powers was originally published by Image Comics from 2000 to 2004, then moved to Marvel where it is today. To be honest I lost interest in the series after a few story arcs, but the first storyline, Who Killed Retro Girl?, is pure high concept comic book chocolatey goodness wrapped in gold foil with the words KICK ASS stamped on it.

Here’s the pitch: Detective Christian Walker and his new partner Deena Pilgrim are homicide cops with a tough job: they’ve got to find out who killed Retro Girl, a big-time super hero. In a city full of heroes, villains and freaks, aka “powers,” there’s no shortage of suspects…

The genre-mashing of Powers -- the mix of buddy-cop / murder mystery /superhero-- is what makes Powers high concept. The execution by Bendis and Oeming is what makes Powers work. Oeming's clean cartoony artwork and his Eisner Deco designs compliment Bendis' retro tough guy police story. The colors are pretty, too.

Powers is all about the dialogue and quirks of the characters and the unexpected but totally logical way they react to plot developments. This is what Bendis is famous for, the snappy banter stuff. One of the reasons I think Bendis is so successful is because his dialogue is really fun to read and he writes great sitcom-type scenes. I mean that in a positive way; Bendis knows his shit:

The core relationship in Powers is between Walker and his new partner, Deena Pilgrim, a chatty female detective with a tendency to kick in the crotch first and ask questions later. Walker is one of those wounded lone wolf types, and he's more than a little irritated by his new partner. Pilgrim and Walker have a nice dynamic that doesn't feel phony, with just the right hint of romantic tension.

I think Powers is Bendis at his best. (Well, his Spider-Man stuff is probably his best as well.) He and Oeming have created a unique, wry tone for their story and it works 99% of the time. For me, Powers works on just about every level - it's funny and chilling and stuffed full of interesting characters. His Detective Walker is great - a stoic, put-upon lug with a secret past.

As is always the case, high concept can be marred by lousy execution, but Bendis and Oeming nail it with the first Powers storyline. For me, the series can end right there - "Who Killed Retro Girl?" is the archetypal Powers story, it's the Powers movie.

Go check it out - you can pick up a nice trade paperback collection on Amazon. Whatever you might think of Bendis current work - even if you're still pissed that he killed Hawkeye - you owe it to yourself to check Powers out. It achieves something that modern comics sometimes fail to do - it entertains.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday Night Fights! Doomsday vs Harmless Woodland Creature

It had to happen! Doomsday, the murderous monolith of mayhem, walking death, the creature that killed Superman versus the master of the forest, a curious deer. Who will come out on top?
One thing for sure - it's gonna be a fight!!!

The two opponents size each other up. The deer daintily approaches, silent and lightfooted, while Doomsday bulldozers through the forest, knocking over trees. The deer approaches, sniffs Doomsday...

Oh no! Doomsday strikes first with a deadly larynx crushing kung fu grip! What will the deer counter with? Nothing! The deer is out of tricks - and out of time!

That was a short but brutal fight. Tough call, but I'm going to have to give this one to Doomsday.

Head on over to Bahlactus's joint to see the other Friday Night Fight entries! (I know I'm late, but it's not even 9 PM on the Left Coast.)


High Concept Week shines an annoying red laser pointer on Laser Force, a gripping video saga of a future that may come to pass -- unless you and I stop it.

Here's the high concept: In the future, Blaze Laserson and his elite combat team battle evil lasers.

That's it. That's all you need. Laser. Force. It's like killer gorillas, the movie writes itself.

Brought to you by the crack film production team at Indian Chief Blowers,
Laser Force might at first glance look like a deliberately shoddy sci-fi video made by a bunch of foul-mouthed punks - and that would be exactly right. But the crisp dialogue, soul-rending character development, and raw man vs laser action scenes elevate Laser Force to another level.

Visit the Laser Force website or just check out the video here.

Laser Force.

If that shit isn't high concept I don't know what is. Prepare to be

Thursday, July 12, 2007

SLEEPER Wildstorm Comics, 2003 - 2005

High Concept Week rolls on like a futuristic inline skater in some crazy death sport with a look at one of my favorite comic book series ever: Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' Sleeper.

Here's the high concept behind Sleeper: Holden Carver is a double agent, a mole planted deep inside the global criminal network of Tao, a ruthless mastermind. Carver really works for the director of the I/O spy agency, John Lynch, who is the only other person on the planet that knows he's a good guy. Unfortunately,Lynch goes into a coma and Carver is left out in the cold, alone among the enemy.

I tend to gush rhapsodically about certain comic books and defecate on others, but read these words and understand: Sleeper is fucking awesome.
In Sleeper, writer Brubaker and artist Phillips create the seedy underworld of the Wildstorm Universe, a collection of superhero intellectual properties like Gen-13 and WildCATS that Jim Lee took with him when he moved shop from Image to DC and created the Wildstorm imprint. Most of the characters have superpowers of some sort, but there are no capes or tights here - this is a hardcore crime/spy story that skirts around the edges of the superhero genre. It's full of violent people who swear a lot and do bad things to each other. While swearing. So of course, I love it.

It's all in the execution, though, isn't it? High concept films or books or comics can always suck if not handled properly. Anybody read Congo? See the movie? It's about killer gorillas. How can you mess that up? Killer. Gorillas. It's a two-word high concept. Everyone loves killer gorillas! Despite the presence of killer gorillas, the final product somehow turned out to be lame. Same with Planet of the Apes, the remake.

But enough about the gorillas.

Sean Phillips perfectly capture a high-tech film noir sensibility with Sleeper. His art is dark and moody and drenched in shadows, and his layouts are master examples of visual storytelling. Phillips created an interesting visual theme for Sleeper- his panels float over one or two background panels on the page, if that makes sense. Look, there's an example page over there. He never tilts the thick-bordered panels, which are always rectangular or square. The panels cascade across the page, guiding the reader's eye. The end result are elegantly designed panel layouts that read well and don't call attention to themselves. Phillips' layouts remind me of a really dynamic movie storyboard.

Brubaker writes tough guy dialogue that doesn't sound self-conscious and he keeps throwing sucker punch plot developments at you and Holden Carver. Our hero is forced to do terrible things to maintain his cover as a top operative in Tao's sinister organization - and he's more than capable of doing terrible things.

Carver is super bad, a former Black Ops commando leader who was given a strange superhuman power by an alien artifact. He can't feel anything, but his regenerating body absorbs pain and can transmit it to others via touch. If you shoot him, he'll absorb the energy of the bullet, then while he quickly heals, he'll take the bullet energy and turn it into a sizzling electrical blast and mess you up bad. Or he will jump through the air sideways firing two guns at you, riddling you with bullets. Carver trained at the John Woo Academy.

Tao has a few other lieutenants at Carver's level, including Miss Misery, a wicked evil assassin with a taste for pain. She derives pleasure and power from inflicting pain. Carver and Misery have a tumultuous and not entirely healthy relationship that plays heavily into the plot. She's super hot and totally evil and depraved. And he loves her.

Tao himself was a character who first appeared in the superhero book WildCATS back in 1995, when Alan Moore was writing the book, so think of him as an Alan Moore character. Tao stands for T.actical A.ugmented O.rganism, meaning he's a genetically engineered supergenius. He is diabolically evil and supernaturally smart, one of those Hannibal Lecter types that can talk you into shooting yourself. The reader is always wondering how much Tao knows and what he's going to do when he inevitably finds out Carver is a traitor. He's creepy.

The whole series is a densely plotted, pleasantly complicated, perfectly paced descent into a glamorous and seedy world of spies and criminals. It's like a cocktail made of a few James Bond movies, a couple Raymond Chandler novels, the Hong Kong films Infernal Affairs and The Killer, David Mamet himself, and maybe Scarface, Deep Cover, Ronin -- add in a high concept and some grenadine. If that's your drink, baby, you have to get Sleeper. There are four trade paperbacks, you can get them on Amazon.

You will email me and thank me and praise my wisdom.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

High Concept Week Interlude: Rats!

Dave's Long Box readers may recall that I've posted in the past about my battle with vermin in and around Camp David. Previously I have resorted to lethal methods in tackling the mice that infested our kitchen -- I've even resorted to making an unholy alliance with Dr. Doom to destroy the rodent invaders:

(I also had a Captain Cold themed mouse trap with a drawing of the Flash villain urging mice to "chill," but it wasn't as cool as the Dr. Doom one.)

Some readers took issue with a) my partnership with Doom, and b) my lethal methods. P-Tor in particular eloquently argued for more humane means of eliminating those damn mice.

Well, now I've got rats in the garage. Big fucking Norway rats. You can hear them scurrying noisily around behind the paint cans and under the cabinets - they sound like invisible dwarves. They leave turds the size of deer droppings on my countertops. My daughter Ava saw one the other day when she was getting in the car, and she mistook it for a squirrel. I'd let my cat deal with them, but I'm afraid the rats would kill and eat her. My mouse traps are inadequate - they would just piss these gamma-irradiated monsters off and I'm afraid they would come for me and my family while we sleep. I need to get rid of these bastards or make them pay mortgage. Clearly I needed to get some spring-loaded bear traps or some terrible poison to get the job done.

Or so I thought. Then I took Ava to see Ratatouille.

It was her first movie theater experience, and at first she was a little overwhelmed by the digital sound system and the huge screen, but she enjoyed it. So did I; it's another quality Pixar movie with absolutely stunning animation. Ratatouille even has a F*%# Yeah moment - the climactic scene when sinister food critic Anton Ego finally tastes Remy the rat's cuisine is absolutely brilliant.

On the drive home Ava and I were talking about the movie and what parts we liked, what parts were scary, etc. I pulled into the garage, and my daughter says: "Dave, we have rats in our house, too, don't we?" Yes, she calls me Dave.

Well, crap.

Now I can't kill the hideous vermin that infest my garage. Now I'm going to have to buy little cages and humanely trap these little bastards.

You win, Pixar. You win, P-Tor and Ava. You win, tiny little Angel Dave on my left shoulder.

You live another day, Norway rats.

Monday, July 09, 2007

THE BLACK DIAMOND AiT/Planet Lar Comics, 2007

This is pissing me off - I can't seem to write titles for my blog posts. No idea why - I think Blogger is punishing me for some transgression. I was kidding about going to Wordpress, OK, Blogger? Please give me my titles back. I'll buy you a cookie! Nice Blogger want a cookie? UPDATE: Fixed it! Thanks Blogger, here's a cookie. Good boy.

The Black Diamond: why didn't I think of that, damn it? 'Cause AiT/Planet Lar's two-fisted madman Larry Young thought of it first, that's why.

Kicking off High Concept Week, I offer you The Black Diamond, a comic book about Dr. Don, a charming dentist (or is he an orthodontist?) on the West Coast whose wife has been kidnapped by some chatty goons on the East Coast. Dr. Don has to get to her - stat - and since nobody much flies anymore on account of the terrorists, he's got one option: the motherfuckin' Black Diamond, an eight-lane elevated transcontinental super-highway where speed rules.

That's the basic idea. Up on the Black Diamond, an entire sub-culture of 'jackers and mechanics and black marketeers and oil warlords has sprung up, and the military wants to close that shit down. That's why Dr. Don's wife has been kidnapped. You see --

Ahh, you should just read the damn thing.

This is AiT/Planet Lar's first color book, and artist John (Gun Theory) Proctor makes the most of it. His photo-referenced art is suffused with vivid colors and warm sunset glows that makes the line work really pop. That shit is pretty.

Young's script is chatty and idiosyncratic, full of dialogue that has nothing to do with the plot but is fun to read anyway. The story is built around an action movie premise, yet the action seems sort of peripheral. I can't tell if Young is doing this by design, leading us up to a huge blow-out death race at the end of the six issues, or if The Black Diamond is a post-modern adventure that is sort of thumbing its nose at genre conventions. To me, that's kind of refreshing - although truth be told, I'm gonna be pissed if there isn't some car-nage before this story screeches to a halt.

My one complaint about The Black Diamond is the format - it's paced in such a way that I think it would play better as a graphic novel rather than a monthly. I'll probably end up getting the trade, as well, so I guess it doesn't matter.

I'm giving The Black Diamond a thumbs up - it's a high concept comic book served up with style and what's more, you can pick it up at your local comic book store right now. Yes, I'm actually talking about a comic that was published within the past ten years. Shocking, I know.

On an unrelated note: Larry and Mimi from Ait/Planet Lar had a baby boy recently, so I have to throw in a F*&% Yeah and a congratulations for the happy parents. Raising a kid in today's crazy-ass world is no easy task, but raising a little bad-ass kid? That's High Concept indeed.