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Batman: Perfectly fine Bat-book. I like the new forward-thinking Wayne and the tech stuff, but we don't need two Robins and Nightwing. (Why is the Batman mythology the only one where the past seems to have stuck? It sticks out.) I have insufficient caring. Pass.
Birds of Prey: Canary is still Canary, and the art is gorgeous. Need to see the rest of the team, but this could work out. Will observe.
Blue Beetle: I've seen this story before! Fortunately, I liked it last time and they're doing a good job again. Subscribed, will continue.
Captain Atom: UGH do I hate that character redesign. Also the art is bad and the writing's lame. Pass with extreme prejudice.
Catwoman: An unbelievable heaping pile of feminist fail. OMG no.
DCU Presents: Nothing here for me. Pass.
Green Lantern Corps: Again, nothing here for me. Pass.
Legion of Super-Heroes: Still, nothing here for me. Pass.
Nightwing: Solid, if not arrestingly awesome. Will keep an eye on it.
Red Hood: Fuck no, and not just for the way they abused Starfire. Burn.
Supergirl: Workmanlike, nothing exceptional. Pass.
Wonder Woman: I will admit, this is something new for Wonder Woman. But the art doesn't grab me, and I'm not sure what to think of the story. Pass, but might be worth checking again in a few issues.

Totals:
Read: 7 (Stormwatch, Static Shock, Batwoman, Demon Knights, Resurrection Man, Superboy, Blue Beetle)
Observe: 7 (Batwing, Swamp Thing, Batman and Robin, Green Lantern, Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey, Nightwing)
Skip: 25 (Action, Animal Man, Batgirl, Detective, Green Arrow, Hawk and Dove, JL, JLI, Men of War, OMAC, Deathstroke, Frankenstein, Grifter, Legion Lost, Mr. Terrific, Red Lanterns, Batman, Captain Atom, Catwoman, DCU Presents, Green Lantern Corps, Legion of SH, Red Hood, Supergirl, Wonder Woman)
kilroy: (Default)
Batman and Robin: Surprisingly not bad. I still hate Damian, but the writing's worth another look.
Batwoman: I've been waiting months for this one, and it is full of win. Great art, good characters, nice story. Am subscribed, will continue.
Deathstroke: Perfectly well written, I just don't care. Pass.
Demon Knights: Umm... surprisingly, yes! And I think I may see a female dominated team. Also, Vandal Savage as a good-ish guy. I love Paul Cornell. Will subscribe.
Frankenstein: It's the monster squad. It might actually be okay, but I don't think I could get past the premise. Pass.
Green Lantern: Pretty interesting, actually. I'll keep an eye on it, but we have to overcome my natural apathy for the characters.
Grifter: I have no idea what the deal with this one is even after reading it. Pass, but possibly worth checking in on after a few issues when the story has developed.
Legion Lost: Too many characters for a new reader, even if I am passably familiar with the Legion. Story's not terrible, but I'm not feeling it. Pass, with a possible re-look later.
Mr. Terrific: Casual racism and the standard dead child time travel scenario. Plus they screwed up my girl. Pass.
Red Lanterns: Just no. Pass.
Resurrection Man: Surprising and awesome. That's the way you re-introduce a character. Will definitely read next issue, may subscribe.
Suicide Squad: I hate all the character redesigns, but the feel is right. Worth observing.
Superboy: A true reboot. Well-written, amazingly drawn, and you get Rose Wilson into the bargain-- plus the new Teen Titans, in all probability. Definitely will read the next issue.

Totals:
Read: 6 (Stormwatch, Static Shock, Batwoman, Demon Knights, Resurrection Man, Superboy)
Observe: 5 (Batwing, Swamp Thing, Batman and Robin, Green Lantern, Suicide Squad)
Skip: 16 (Action, Animal Man, Batgirl, Detective, Green Arrow, Hawk and Dove, JL, JLI, Men of War, OMAC, Deathstroke, Frankenstein, Grifter, Legion Lost, Mr. Terrific, Red Lanterns)
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Action Comics: Well-told, but not Superman. It's some teenage punk vigilante with annoying Lois and Jimmy sidekicks. Pass.
Animal Man: Interesting and dark, but I cannot stand the art (or the new costume). Pass.
Batgirl: This is like everything Gail Simone does wrong in one issue. She's a strong writer, but this is just weak. Pass.
Batwing: I am surprisingly engaged, and the art is gorgeous even if this is basically Batman cloned and put in Africa. Will continue to watch to see if it develops its own identity.
Detective Comics: Standard Bat-fare until the ending... and that was just eww. Pass.
Green Arrow: There is nothing interesting about the lead in this version, and it's now a team comic with his support crew. Pass.
Hawk and Dove: Liefeld art, badly written angst, poor dialogue. Pass.
Justice League: We have learned that Green Lantern is a complete asshole. Points for the ring-swipe, but that's pretty much it. Pass.
Justice League International: Interesting concept, but this is another incarnation of the "funny" Justice League. Gardner and Godiva alone are enough to drive me off. Pass with a possible relook later.
Men of War: Not my area of interest. Pass.
OMAC: So full of fail I cannot even describe. Pass with a bullet.
Static Shock: Pleasantly surprised here. It's a rock-'em-sock-'em superhero comic. Energetic and well-written. Definitely looking again next month, and may subscribe.
Stormwatch: I have to admit I'm not looking forward to Apollo and the Midnighter being rebooted, but apart from that this is full of win. It's the new Authority in all the best senses. And I was shocked to see that I'm going to love J'onn in this. Am subscribed, will continue.
Swamp Thing: They're pulling something with Alec's history and nature here, but it's not clear what at this juncture. I don't like it, but I could if it's handled correctly. Requires further observation.

Totals:
Read: 2 (Stormwatch, Static Shock)
Observe: 2 (Batwing, Swamp Thing)
Skip: 10 (Action, Animal Man, Batgirl, Detective, Green Arrow, Hawk and Dove, JL, JLI, Men of War, OMAC)
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What I had:
Birds of Prey
Justice Society of America
JSA All-Stars
Secret Six

What I have:
Batwoman
Blue Beetle
Stormwatch

Things I'll be watching:
Batgirl
Birds of Prey
Justice League Dark
Wonder Woman

Reasons available on request.

DCU reboot

Jun. 2nd, 2011 10:47 am
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So, they're essentially rebooting the entire main-line DC Comics universe. My feelings about this are complex. In no particular order:

* Well, there's your death knell for comic shops. They're done. They've been dead industry walking for a while, but it's over now. Which means paper comics are also done. Graphic novels will probably still hang on for a while. I love comic shops and I'm going to miss them. But if this means I can get my *&^%$#@! comics without 50% of the pages being advertisements, I'm still probably pro.

* Didn't they just reboot Wonder Woman? And the Flash again? And restructure the whole line of Bat-comics? And change the whole setup of the Justice Society? Seems like a waste now.

* They're not going to be able to finish the stories they have now satisfactorily. Any of them. They'd need at least another six months lead time to be able to arrange an appropriate closing for the universe. As it is, it's just going to stop. Which sucks for everyone.

* I approve of the Reyes Blue Beetle and the Kane Batwoman likely getting some spotlight.

* Most of the main-line series I like are almost certainly gone. But if they touch Vertigo, I'm going to personally go down to their offices and break about a dozen necks.

* I really hope that a) Secret Six survives and b) they leave Gail Simone on it. A world without that comic would be a worse place, and I don't think anyone else could do it justice. It's so idiosyncratically hers.

* The Marvel "Ultimate" experiment in a similar vein worked out really well critically, but it seems to not have been self-supporting economically beyond a smaller niche. I believe that good stories can result from this shift, but I'll be really, really curious to see whether or not it works out as a business move.

* There's always a precarious balancing act between building on the history and innovating to draw new blood in with comics. This really does upset the apple cart. I'm not sure how any fan of the comics can respond to this-- it's just different. So very, very different.
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The successor to this note which in turn followed from this one.

1) I'm watching more television now than at any previous point in my adult life: Castle, Venture Brothers, Doctor Who, Sarah Jane Adventures, Fringe, Smallville, Burn Notice, White Collar, Leverage, Human Target... and I'm sure I'm forgetting some. If you ran all my shows together in one sitting it'd be like Saturday morning when I was a kid.

2) There are only two game shows I will ever love: Whose Line Is It Anyway (the British version) and QI. In other words, game shows that aren't really game shows but excuses to get neat people together to do neat things. I love the fact that they both embrace failure and that both crews are always willing to embarrass themselves for the greater laugh.

3) The Kids in the Hall were my Monty Python growing up. I loved the Pythons then and I love them even more now, but the Kids were the ones that me and my friends would rush back from classes to eat in front of.

4) I try only to keep books that I want other people to read, and that goes double for graphic novels. About a third of my comic library is floating around to different people at any given time. Right now I have one friend reading 100 Bullets and another reading Fables, and I'm waiting gleefully to start passing around Ex Machina and Astro City.

5) Every year I set myself a media consumption goal. For three years the goal was to watch 100 movies in 12 months, and I made it every time. Since then I've mostly fallen off the movie wagon--the last couple of years I've seen maybe a dozen new movies per annum if I was lucky. Recently, however, I got Netflix... and built a collected queue of about 200 in under two weeks. It still grows every time I look at it. I haven't even touched it for television series.

6) In the car earlier today I was reflecting that I really need to get a copy of Brick, LA Confidential, and Wag the Dog now that I have a real job and can afford it. Wag the Dog has a special place in my heart, and anyone who loves it is always welcome in my house.

7) A couple of weeks ago I found someone else who was introduced to The Prisoner by watching Harlan Ellison do an all-day marathon on the SciFi Channel in his bathrobe. It made me so happy.

8) I never got around to watching Buffy even though I always intended to. It was one of those series that everyone hyped up so much that I didn't want to touch it with a ten foot pole. I'll probably start cranking through it some time next year, safely insulated from the show's attached phenomenon.

9) There's a local comic shop that I love dearly and have been supporting for ten years now. I started off there because I wanted to get in on J. Michael Straczynski's Rising Stars from the ground floor, being a big fan of superheroes and Babylon 5. I ended up hating it by the end (and his current run on Wonder Woman makes me want to shake him really hard), but I do owe him a little gratitude for the hundreds of comics by other writers that I now have in my house.

10) I love bad movies. My dad used to watch MST3K with me (my mom and my sister didn't think it was funny at all), and eventually I branched out with my friends to start heckling movies ourselves. Old favorites include Zardoz ("Starring Sean Connery's chest hair."), Sinbad of the Seven Seas ("Oh no, not the nipple trick again."), Beastmaster 2 ("Some guy masters some beasts. He's done this before, apparently."), Dungeons and Dragons ("I attempt to disbelieve!"), and many others.

Two things

Nov. 11th, 2010 10:16 pm
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Gail Simone's Huntress is a thing of great joy.

For me, video games and roleplaying games are an important sanity valve. They're worlds that I can escape into and usually ones where I get to be awesome.
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There's a recurring trope in urban fantasy that the fantastical elements have to be concealed from the mortal population. I understand why on at least one level; if the ramifications of adding dragons or wizards or vampires to a modern setting were fully explored, the setting would be different enough to lose that easy context which fuels the genre. Alternately, some authors use the dodge that the fantastical elements just got here and therefore haven't had time to change the world yet-- which has the same effect.

And then there are superheroes.

Secret identities aside, superheroes are about as public as you can get. They've been around for a while in most timelines. And yet 90% of the time the world is still aggressively the same in those stories as it is out here in real life. Nobody's cured cancer, solved world hunger, assisted manned missions to other planets, or invented any piece of meaningful technology that's gone public. The fact that people can actually go to hell and talk to ghosts has had no impact on world religions. They stop disasters or crimes to preserve the status quo, but they never change anything. Universes where this isn't true (Watchmen, the Authority, Aberrant) always stand out as vanishingly rare.

As a writer, waving my hands at something fantastic and pretending it wouldn't change anything seems lame (unless it's a relatively minor addition). Making up a reason for the weird to remain secret feels like hamstringing myself. And having it just have cropped up recently prevents me from developing a rich history. The inescapable conclusion I'm reaching is that if I want to have a universe where multiple strands of the fantastic have been publicly and meaningfully around for a while, I can't do a realistic modern setting.

Am I missing something here, or do you guys concur with the assessment?
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So I spent part of this weekend reading (and re-reading) comics. Some highlights:

* I am utterly uninterested in JMS' Wonder Woman after an issue and a half. Much though I loved B5, I have yet to see a comic written by him that actually worked for me. He writes in a sort of realistic/gritty way that has a lot of villains that look like they work for SPECTRE... and that just does not work for WW. Do not care. I'll try reading it again when she finishes her current continuity shift and someone else starts writing her.

* I had one of those delightful geek crossover moments reading Paul Cornell's Action Comics. This is a guy I've known for years from Doctor Who, and seeing him writing a comic series starring a fully-over-the-top Lex Luthor is wonderful. And the comic itself is absolutely hilarious, which is something you don't say about a Superman line very often.

* The most recent reboot of Power Girl is fabulous. It's fascinating to see her basically as the girl-on-the-street but with super-powers-- at the same time refreshingly different and completely intuitive to what we know of Kara. She's impatient, not super-intelligent, not fantastically witty, and I love her to pieces. The creative team responsible for the reboot just left, but Judd Winick took over and I feel like he's going to do just fine. I may subscribe to this one in a few issues.

* Jaime Reyes is still getting namechecked in DC comics! He's still out there!

* I have three unread Hellblazer issues sitting in my house. John Constantine Goes Crazy! I just can't bring myself to wade through it even though I love the current writing team.

* The current massive JLA/JSA crossover is bad. Really bad. Like, I'm just going to let the next-and-final issue that will be coming to my house just live in its plastic bag untouched. The writer is trying to cram way too much in, and the lack of clear narrative thread just makes me not care about the events at all.

* I finally went back and bought the graphic novels for the entire (first) Simone run on Birds of Prey, and have been blowing through them. I love these comics. I'm imagining a conversation between Simone and her artists early on in her run: "Look, they're awesome-looking women and I know you're going to want to put in some cheesecake. It's cool. Here are the ground rules. The girls should never pose just for cheesecake; there's plenty of opportunities to use what they're already doing in a sexy way. Ditto their non-costume outfits. If they're actually in bed and you put them in a nightgown, go nuts. But they should dress like actual women do. They're going to wear belly shirts sometimes, but not all the time. Also, their costumes are made of leather. There will be no bodice-ripping at any time. Are we clear?"

* And today, this, via Shortpacked! Sometimes I am embarrassed to be a comic fan.
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Wonder Woman is awesome because...
...she's endlessly brave, always able to fight through her own fear and do what needs to be done.
...she isn't just a fighter, she's a warrior; she treats her enemies and her allies with equal respect, and she fights for things, not just because she enjoys fighting.
...even though she can kick Superman's ass if she puts her mind to it, she always, always tries to find a peaceful solution first.
...she is noble. She carries herself with an authority and grace that are unmatched and unassailable.
...she's a believer-- in her gods, in the goodness of people, in herself. At her core is a faith that never falters.
...she's decisive, willing to make a choice and abide by the consequences without angsting about it. She always makes personal sacrifices if they serve the greater good.

Diana is nearly unique in the world of comics in that even other heroes wish they could be half as awesome as her. And I don't mean they want to have her powers; they want her inner strength, her ability to face problems head on and never choose the easier, lesser answer. She inspires them to be better just like she inspires us out here. She's a beacon of hope.

It's not about the costume or the origin story. It never was. It's about her attitude, her choices, and her beliefs. She'd be awesome even without her powers, just a little less visible.

Keep that in mind, JMS.
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So a friend of mine lent me the complete Justice League animated series and the first season of Justice League Unlimited. I'm thinking "Yeah, this is about what I'd expect, dramatically better the second season, I wonder what the deal is with Unlimited?"

Well, the deal with Unlimited is genius. In the first episode they basically make it clear that since they've restructured the League they've tried to get as many heroes as possible involved-- basically giving themselves carte blanche to have any hero in the DC universe guest-star for an episode or two. It's not really the Justice League show anymore, it's the Entire DC Universe show. They have no compunction whatsoever about throwing whatever characters, references, or fun bits from the comics they feel like. The freaking invisible jet showed up in episode two, as did the Fortress of Solitude, Braniac, Krypto, and Mongul. The first episode had Captain Atom, Green Arrow, and Supergirl (and a monster I recognize but can't place) with about fifty identifiable DC heroes just hanging out in the background.

That alone makes me clap my hands in fanboy delight, but on top of that they reduced the average story length from two episodes to one. The two episode stories were good, but the one episode stories feel a lot tighter, brisker, and generally better told.

My only problem is that they changed the music, so I keep getting distracted by fits of laughter every time the wailing 80's power guitar breaks out. :-)

A yay

May. 19th, 2010 01:35 pm
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In my continuing quest to "read a bunch of comics that I should have read a long time ago," I'm catching up on the current version of the Justice Society of America.

And it's awesome. :-)
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From Gail Simone's Wonder Woman:

CHERRI: Are you... are you an angel?
DIANA: What? No, Cherri. I'm not.
CHERRI: I prayed for you and you came. Maybe you are and you just don't know it.
DIANA: Um... that is a complicated proposition.
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Birds of Prey is back, and Gail Simone's writing it again. *happy dance*