Wednesday, July 24, 2013

REVIEW: The Movement #3

Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Freddie Williams II
Review: William R. Davis Jr.

The flagship books of the New 52 have come up way short, prompting a backlash from fans that seems to never end no matter what the company does. Superman and Batman have taken a vicious beating at the hands of their new creative teams. All of the George Perez interviews that came out after his six issue run of Superman paint a picture of a company full of battling egos, a lack of a concrete editorial hierarchy, and way too many cooks in the kitchen, rewriting entire sections of Perez's Superman scripts. That pure Perez Superman that most fans were salivating for when the reboot was announced never even saw the light of day. Grant Morrison quickly turned Action Comics into one of the most confusing mainstream comic books of all time, rivaling Flashpoint in the convoluted plot department. Don't get me started on the Batman titles when they were first launched. I stopped collecting Detective Comics for the first time in my life after two months of the new Detective.

Admittedly there have been a lot of major disappointments in the DCU, but there have also been a lot of books that have strangely gone unnoticed and under appreciated. The Movement is one of these books. Topical, interesting, and full of richly developed characters, this title has great appeal for anyone who appreciated (I obsessed over) Simone's time on Batgirl.

Coral City is quickly becoming one of the most uniquely grounded settings in the DC lineup. The Movement, or Channel M, consists of the misfits from this broken urban metropolis battling a corrupt Government and championing the common man. While other critics have been despondent over a superhero title bringing the occupy movement into comics, sometimes due to their political leanings or the want of a purer escapism, I find this aspect of the book to be quite palatable to the plot and not out of place whatsoever. What worked for Alan Moore in V for Vendetta can work in the superhero universe as well in my opinion. The current arc is focused around locating the "Cornea Killer", but this seems to be a minor point in the story thus far. The Movement spends most of it's time battling the local police force and protecting the less fortunate inhabitants of Coral City.

The characters are what really makes this title pop. Mouse and Burden are two of my favorite superheroes (?) out right now. Both are weird, whimsical, and sometimes equally terrifying. Burden, a bi-polar superhero with an oppressive religious background that believes he is possessed by demons, never fails to entertain. And Mouse is the equivalent of a grimy pied piper on LSD. Right now those two characters alone are more interesting than anyone in the Suicide Squad. The rest of the team core: Virtue, Tremor (Simone Secret Six), Katharsis (Knightfall Batgirl), and Vengeance Moth are also not without their admirable qualities as well. Simone also adds a Gen 13 character, Rainmaker, into the plot as well. At this point it's hard to say how she will fit into the story, but I've got my money on her joining The Movement within the next three issues.

Instead of writing diatribe after diatribe on all of the comic forums, stop banging your head against the wall and pick up some of the solid books that are coming out of DC right now. The Movement, Wonder Woman, Flash, JLA, Nightwing, Aquaman, Animal Man, and All-Star Western all promise a fun read. Even the main titles are getting tweaked lately. After two issues the new Batman/Superman book seems solid. Superman and Action Comics both now seem to be heading the right direction as well. Fellow nerd and one of my Facebook friends MIguel recently compared the big two to "junk food", and I would tend to agree, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Image is definitely where I'm spending my majority of time and money, but that doesn't mean I'm going to start chucking the McNuggets out the car window either.

Monday, July 15, 2013

REVIEW: Suicide Squad #21

Writer: Ales Kot
Artist: Patrick Zircher
Review: Will Dubbeld

I would like, if I may, to relate an anecdote I picked up in the miasma know as the Internet before the review. The originator of this story eludes me, so in the event he or she reads this article, mea culpa.

No infringement or disrespect intended, merely boosting your signal.
The timeframe for this particular story is shortly after Flashpoint, if memory serves:

"Last Thursday at Comic-Con International, during the first of four New 52 panels held by DC Comics to discuss their line-wide relaunch of superhero titles this September, a fan walked up to the microphone and posed a question to Co-Publisher Dan DiDio about the demographics of the New 52 creators:

'Why did you go from 12% in women [creators] to 1% on your creative teams?'

To which DiDio replied in a startlingly aggressive tone, 'What do those numbers mean to you? What do they mean to you? Who should we be hiring? Tell me right now. Who should we be hiring right now? Tell me.'

Who should you be hiring? How about the 11% of your creators that you at some point thought were good enough to work on your comics?"

I cannot vouch for the veracity of this statement, as I was not at CCI that particular Thursday.

Or ever.

During my tenure as the HCBs Twitternaut, however, I have heard tales, witnessed exchanges, and had brief discourse with industry folks about instances of rampant misogyny/nepotism within the business, sexual harassment at conventions, and other distasteful practices that we're all really too old and presumably too intelligent in which to engage.

The comix industry has always been perceived as a boys club, but that sorry outlook has been mythbusted by the Joyce Brabners, Wendy Pinis, Weezie Simonsons, and others too numerous to mention simply in the interest of upping my word count.

Big high fives to Gail Simone, for getting rehired by DC comics after getting fired via email by some peabrain. Despite her frequent oblique Twitter updates and her Cult of Gail followers...
I dunno, I guess I'm just more of a Kelly Sue DeConnick fan...
Point is, stop being dickbags, fellas.
The girls isn't going anywhere, and a lot of them are doing a better job at writing! Deal!

After that, forgive me if I segue into another Nu52 rant/diatribe.
Or don't.

I'll do it anyway.

I sincerely hope that comic book fans were as crestfallen after the wake of 1985s Crisis on Infinite Earths as many of us are in the swirling toiletbowl eddy of post-Flashpoint DC.

Everything from its hugely overcomplicated costume redesigns to the arbitrary erasure of years of (and I'll use this term lightly, DC) continuity, to GODDAMN WILDSTORM CHARACTERS IN MY DC, leads me to poo-poo the Nu52. Perhaps it's all a plot to further convolute Power Girl's backstory (Atlantean? Kryptonian? Arm candy for Mister Terrific?) even more.

Perhaps the random bits of conflicting history and retcons are intentional plays to toy with our weary fanboy hearts.

I'm not saying Dan Didio and Jim Lee are high-fiving over Geoff Johns (or 'DC Bendis') back, but Nu52 may have some editorial issues.

I just hope the irony of characters from The Authority existing in the DCU is not lost on Warren Ellis.

Perhaps I'm still really bitter over Before Watchmen ( but I tend to gravitate towards the less popular DC books. All Star Western, Whistling Skull, (the Shazam! backup story in Justice League was amazing, incidentally) dearly departed Sword of Sorcery, and the Suicide Squad.

See, I got around to it...

I adore the Suicide Squad, I always have. It's the Dirty Dozen, but starring super-villains.
If you don't think that's a great concept, you're a Red.
It's like Marvel's Thunderbolts comic, but 20+ years older.

And usually better.

A rotating roster of super-criminals whose ranks were bolstered with expendable morts who the writers could snuff at a moments notice without depleting the core group of characters was the formula, then and now.

And yes, I am mastering the art of Lovecraftian run-on sentences, thankyouverymuch.

The current incarnation of the Squad has a few familiar faces and some new blood, including:

Captain Boomerang, a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad Flash villain, but an amazing-flavored amazing member of the Suicide Squad. He throws trick boomerangs, guys.

And is from Australia. Because he throws boomerangs. Nevertheless, was always one of my favorite Squad members, because he was such a hapless fucker. "Busted by The Flash AGAIN?!!! *sigh* guess I'll do another tour with The Squad"
Or at least that's how I like to see it.

Harley Quinn, one of the worst fashion victims of the Nu52 redesigns. Poor Harley went from Carnivale Jester to leather lass, getting a slutty makeover because bewbs.

And really no other reason.

Harley has split ways with Mister J, presumably because she finds Face/Off Joker as stupid as the rest of us, and now serves in the Squad over a stint in Belle Reve prison. I nearly balked at her somewhat juvenile depiction in the book, but harkening back to her original appearances in Batman:TAS she was essentially a sadistic woman-child.

King Shark, this guy is amazeballs crazy and gets a free pass from my usual distaste for wonky DC characters. Probably because he's a giant shark-guy that eats people. Apparently he's the son of a Hawaiian shark god and, I dunno, a lady shark I guess. His Nu52 makeover changed him from a great white shark head guy to a hammerhead shark head guy, but whatever, he still eats folks.

The latest issues have introduced as members the Unknown Soldier from the latest GI Combat book, a sort of Jason Bourne/super soldier kind of chap, and some spawn of Commissioner Gordon, his craaaaaazy son from that totally kewl arc Scott Snyder wrote where he was craaaaaazy.
Not so crazy as to cut his own face off, however.

The last two noteworthy characters in the book are the closest thing to flagship characters the book has had, omnipresent in nearly every issue of every incarnation of the Suicide Squad.
Deadshot, never has a 1950s throwaway Batman villain struck it rich like Deadshot. Going from a betuxedoed mustache-twister in a top hat to a nihilistic gun-bunny with death wish, Deadshot has turned into a fan favorite over the years, spawning miniseries and a co-starring role in the lamented Secret Six comic from Auld52.

Finally, Amanda Waller, the Squad's liaison/handler/all around take no shit tough bitch. Mrs. Waller used to be a back talkin', portly African-American matron, but has since gone on a severe weight loss program and has undergone a 'hot treatment', apparently because the Nu52 has a 'no fatties' policy.

Also, she was apparently in Team 7, which was a top secret government project to PUT WILDSTORM IN MY DC!!!!!

This installment sees the Squad on lockdown in Belle Reve Prison and surprise! something goes awry. Harley escapes and goes after Amanda Waller, and releases Deadshot because they have some kinda weird 'thing' going on, the kind of thing only a murderous clown girl and a cold-blooded gunman could have goin' on.

The book is a painfully quick read, too quick, but not to the fault of the page count or the writer. It just flows in a way as to seem much shorter than it is. From Harley capturing Amanda Waller and psychoanalyzing her (because, writer Ales Kot did fans the service of remembering that she was a criminal psychiatrist before she was a wacky clown) to a pretty visceral knockdown dragout tussle between Deadshot and the Unknown Soldier, the characters play off one another very well and the art is sublime, with the colors subdued to the tone and mood of the book.

After Jim Gordon, Jr. strikes an unrevealed deal with Harley, the book returns to an earlier scene depicting a fight between the Squad and a monolithic creature composed of a pile of corpses. The issue ends with a nearly full page spread (pun not really intended) of Cheetah wielding Jesse Ventura's minigun from Predator in a rather phallic manner.
And you all heard that right, The Cheetah (usually fights Wonder Woman) straddling a minigun (big enough to be considered aircraft ordinance) and fighting a gigantic mound of undead.

And shit like that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I will continue to look forward Suicide Squad every month.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

REVIEW: Ghosted #1

Writer: Joshua Williams
Artist: Goran Sudzuka
Review: William R. Davis Jr.

"Ghosted" in the comic world means doing most of the work, getting a little of the money, and none of the credit. Living in Asia, I don't get those awesome preview newspapers that always seem be plastered with pictures of Popeye from the comic shop anymore. But Image has all the street cred in the world right now, and I found myself hoping that the quality book parade over at Image would continue unabated. When I read that they picked up God Hates Astronauts at Image Expo, I knew that they were still honed in on promoting quality work. Now I find myself counting down the days until October, and I cannot wait for issue four to hit comic store shelves so I can see some new God Hates Astronauts. For those who haven't read GHA, remember that you heard it here first at The Hammond Comics Blog almost a year ago. Check out the archives for previous reviews and interviews with creator Ryan Browne.

My main motivation for picking up Ghosted was the aforementioned street cred over at Image, and a distasteful loathing of all the reboots and mega events going on over at the Big Two. The opening pages of this book were dark and brilliant, a nice little insight into prison life. I always thought that sitting around reading books all day would be the best part about prison, but it never entered my mind that people would tear out pages to roll joints or write notes leaving all of the stories incomplete. My distaste for prison life has grown immeasurably after reading the first few pages of Ghosted.

Unfortunately this book started spiraling out of control quick. Ghosted is a highly entertaining read, but quickly marched out every overused storytelling trope in the book. The main character is straight out of Oceans Eleven, a master thief whose last attempt at robbing a casino was botched resulting in the death of his crew. Then he is busted out of prison during a staged prison riot by a cookie cutter femme fatale character who promptly takes him to meet a collector of the occult. This billionaire collector of all things macabre wears a red silk smoking jacket and has a study filled with skulls, hands, and 'insert cliche here'. The only thing that is missing is the snifter of brandy. To complete his collection he needs an actual ghost, and Oceans Eleven has to procure one from a haunted house or get sent back to prison. But Oceans Eleven plays by his own rules, and insists on using "his guys" to catch this ghost. A team building montage introducing a rag tag group of rogues ensues, and then they head to the house to do some serious ghost busting.

The art for this book was pretty pedestrian throughout. The best adjective I can come up with is: Serviceable. It's not Dark Horse Star Wars comic book bad, but lacks originality and makes an already worn out theme even more cliche (see previous paragraph). All is not lost with Ghosted. The dialogue is snappy at points, and it needs to continue to be in order for this book to be successful. The first few pages and the last page were the best part. The middle was necessary from a story building standpoint, but left me wanting in almost every way. Purely as a base form of entertainment, issue one is pretty solid. If you're going into this book wanting Fantagraphics you are going to be extremely disappointed, but if you're willing to settle for a supernatural/grand heist romp, Ghosted could hit the sweet spot. Goran Sudzuka draws a very detailed and enticing last page, and although Ghosted did not blow me away I will continue reading. Issue one managed to do its job in that regard. This comic could be good, but there's an equal chance that you're going to see a film poster for Ghosted starring Jason Statham that goes straight to DVD in one to two years. Only time will tell.