DC News & Views

There is plenty of news this week, but the biggest is that sweet logo above. Big ups to Danielle (she of being Mr. Hatton’s girlfriend and being generally excellent fame) for creating that little diddy for us. I may still be relentlessly untalented, but now I have a sweet logo to win me respectability. Thanks Danielle!

The Golem Sleeps Tonight

The end came, as they often unfortunately do, with little fanfare -in DC’s solicits for January, the solicitation for Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Phil Winslade’s The Monolith included the two ugly words: final issue.

Newsarama has covered the title since its first days, and with regret, we spoke with Palmiotti and Gray about the end of the series.

Bow your head at Newsarama

Well, as long as we are bragging, I too have covered and championed Monolith from the beginning. You may recall me pretentiously discussing German film and advocating the series when the first announcements were made (What, I took a few German film classes, okay? I’m not ashamed of it. Well, alright, I’m a little ashamed, but whatever. There was some great stuff in there.). Where was I?

Ahh yes, the end of Monolith. It is really too bad. I am still boggled by how the first issue sold out and then, 11 months later, it is on the chopping block. Did the book really bleed readers that fast? Has there been any book as of late that went through such a quick fall? I don’t know the answers (thought I suspect that that initial “sell out” was from a very small print run (say 25,000 issues maybe) so any downturn in sales quickly dropped Monolith below that blessed 22,000 mark.).

At least Monolith can count on good company in back issue heaven. Stars and STRIPE, Aztek, Chase, Hourman, just to name a few, are other great, offbeat DCU series that were count down far too soon. A year is not much, but it was still a year of strong storytelling and well realized art. And that, my friends, is better than nothing.

Rome-ing with the Cat

Catwoman is one of the Batman’s oldest rogues and a character Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale have chronicled several times before in their various Batman related projects. But this is the first time she’s the focus of an entire miniseries created by the DC exclusive dynamic duo. Catwoman: When In Rome takes place, as the title suggests, in Rome, but the when isn’t now. The story is set from the days of the popular Dark Victory storyline and Catwoman isn’t the only rogue in tow. Joining the feline fatale is Edward Nigma, known to most Batman fans as The Riddler. You can bet their trip to Italy isn’t for romantic reasons or pasta and pizza. Although not wanting to spoil anything for readers, Loeb’s tongue did escape from the cat to give us a few comments.

Do as the feline does at The Pulse

God, Sale sure does produce some nice art, doesn’t he?

2 Years of Bennett

Joe Bennett, the acclaimed artist of The Crew, Amazing Spider-Man, Captain American and The Falcon, Elektra and other series, has signed a 2-year exclusive contract with DC Comics.

Because there hasn’t been one of these for awhile, why not just read the press release at Newsarama

Did you know there are 42 J, Joe, or Joseph Bennett’s in the state of Connecticut? It’s true, (according the phone book anyway). I’ll give you even odds that none of them are this Joe Bennett. Thus, while this is a good move for DC, it does very little for Connecticut. Maybe DC should show good ol CT some love now and then, huh? Yeah, I think so.

Oooh, Batman! Exotica Internationale

DC Comics announces BATMAN: EUROPA, an upcoming fully painted miniseries spearheaded by Jim Lee and featuring both U.S. and continental European contributors.

Lee, fan-favorite artist and Editorial Director of DC’s progressive WildStorm imprint, recently returned from a year living with his family in Italy and immersing himself in the Italian comics community.

To read about people with a slightly better grasp on the Italian language than I, check out Newsarama

I germi del diagramma si sono presentati qui lo interessano pochissimo, ma gli gradisco l’idea. Una specie di internazionale prova affinch la DC espanda i loro orizzonti artistici certamente una buona idea ed i rifugi ha dimostrato ripetutamente che slouch a cercare il talento. Buon per DC per provare qualcosa poco un differente.

Marketing 101: Controversy Sells!

Just two days after GREEN ARROW #43 (AUG0403886) arrived in stores on October 13, the issue has sold out at DC Comics. This powerful story, written by Judd Winick with art by Phil Hester and Andy Parks and a cover by Marcos Martin, reveals that Green Arrow’s aspiring partner Mia Dearden is HIV positive.

I can’t think of anything but inappropriate things to say here so do us both a favor and just go over to The Pulse. My 8 readers thank you.

I’d feel a lot more encouraged by this if I knew that no speculators were involved with this sales spike. However, I probably shouldn’t look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth and at least be pleased that the book might have gotten a few new readers from this. Heck, if half stuck around, I might just dance myself a jig.

And not to pimp my stuff or anything, but I did review the book for the site. It is available here if you’d like to check it out.

Marketing 201: Controversy Sells! A LOT!

With the second printing of IDENTITY CRISIS #1 (APR045288), written by Brad Meltzer with art by Rags Morales & Michael Bair, sold out before its in-store date of October 20, DC Comics is sending the issue back to press for IDENTITY CRISIS #1 Third Printing (APR045290). The new printing will feature a brand-new cover by Morales & Bair and is scheduled to arrive in stores on November 10.

Every two weeks I write about another edition of ID Crisis or another sell out of said new edition. The least you can do is read the bloody article at Newsarama

There were actually people talking about buying this new edition simply for the cover. It boggles the mind. We cannot complain about prices or variant covers when we are willing, as fans, to pick up a third edition of a book simply for a new cover and say that that alone is worth the cover price. No one can take our cries of foul sales play seriously when we repeatedly play right into it. This new edition should be for people who missed the first issue, not for variant cover hunters. Ugh.

Marketing 301: Tom Selleck Sells! Or, He Would If the Universe Had a Sense of Justice

Here’s the one where we get our Geek Intellectualism on, big time. We let it fly with the kind of discussion you don’t find outside of your greater metropolitan comicbook stores around 6:30 PM on any given Wednesday. That’s right, kids… it’s Marvel vs. DC! A clash of titans! A fortuitous face off! We dare ask the universal question… and we dare to search for our own answers. And, even more intriguing, what the hell does this all have to do with Magnum P.I.?!

To see how the excellently mustached private eye from Hawaii figures into this, stroll on over to Comic Book Resources

I included the first Basement Tapes in this column a few months ago and decried it as bleak. And I maintain that that first column very much was.

However, in the sense of fairness, I have included this edition of Basement Tapes as a counterpoint. With the first one, I couldnâ??t even understand why either of them had bothered to stay in comics, but this one, I can feel the love.

Plus, it is pretty funny. Especially the mentions of Magnum, P.I., the Hawaiian James Bond.

Nothing you probably haven’t heard before here, but it is still pretty interesting and more of an industry angle on some of the points while still drawing the same conclusions. Worth a read.

NOSTAGLIA TIME (Sponsored by 90’s Trivial Pursuit)

Aztek #1-10

First, we are changing things up a bit this time out. In the spirit of critiquing taught to me by my Film Professor David Tetzlaff, the “What I Liked” etc is gone, replaced by “What Worked” and “What Didn’t”. It is supposed to make my criticism more insightful and less confronting. I am sure you will notice no real change, but it is certainly a more professional way of saying things.

Also, I’ve added a “Stand out Issue” portion to the mix to highlight the best single issue of the arc or series I am reviewing. Think of it as the issue to pick up if you are not sure if you want to get the whole run.

Surprisingly and miraculously enough, this is my first time actually reviewing Aztek for this column. Considering the mentions of him and the series I have managed to fill this column with, you’d think I would have gotten to this months ago.

So why do I like this series so much? Well, hopefully, this nostalgic look back will tell you all you need to know. Enjoy.

What Worked

While it may seem like an obvious thing to say, the protagonist, Uno, aka Dr. Curt Falconer, aka Aztek, is a great part of why I enjoyed this series so much. I loved the fact that he was the only hopeful, naive person surrounded by cynics and violent psychos. It did not matter if he was talking to Bloodtype, the ultra violent hero of Vanity, the city that Aztek comes to call home, or Joy Page, his “first girlfriend”, the same sense of wonder and commitment to justice always shined through.

Perhaps in and of itself, that is not so hard. However, Morrison and Millar also managed to give the killers and the cynics and killers their own unique voices. Even if the point of Bloodtype and his wife Death Doll was how generic they were in the dying days of the grim ‘n gritty era of comics, he still spent enough time on them not to render them as boring carbon copies. Besides them, you have Synch, the supervillain who is a genius one day and a near vegetable the next, the retired supervillain (and real Doctor Falconer, The Piper) who re-enters the “life” for his daughter’s sake, the insane Lizard King, and the least hopeful utopians ever, the Q Foundation. On the civilian side, the hospital staff has a great rhythm will one another and a dead on gallows humor that never comes across as forced.

Even what could have been gratuitous guest appearances are put to good use. Batman, Green Lantern, Superman (in a great joke about his at the time upcoming transition to “electric Supes”) and the whole of the JLA all show up, but none of the appearances feel like marketing stunts that interfere with the tone and plotlines of the book.

With both Morrison and Millar are writing, it might go without saying the
“ideas” are all pretty genius and over the top. There is an overwhelming sense of tragedy that emanates from Vanity and it seems to infect everyone in the book. The manifestations of this “aura” are particularly creative and keep with the dark humor that the book revels in without undercutting the emotions that grow from these tragedies. The later inclusion of a key DC supervillain (no, not the Joker appearance) is also a smart move, adding a whiff of conspiracy and darkness to the Foundation that has sent Aztek out to save the world.

Harris’s art is the only element that took some time for me to get used to. When I first started to collect the book, it was the weakest part, in my opinion. However, over time and subsequent readings, I have come to enjoy it more and more. It is by no means “traditional” superhero art, but this is by no means a traditional superhero story. Harris manages to convey both the strange sickness of Vanity and her residents as well as nailing the iconic hero shots that any good comic needs. Check out his Batman at the end of #6/the beginning of #7 to see what I mean.

What Didn’t

What didn’t work for me was the ending. Why? Because it simply is too much of a tease. There is so much excellent stuff on those last 2 pages with the man who may be Aztek’s brother, the Quizler and the upcoming Supervillain Convention, and the superhero groupie Patty that it kills me every time I get to the end. It is especially lousy considering Aztek’s disappointing end in JLA and that there is almost no chance these plotlines will be picked up again. (Well, I think it would be relatively easy to bring Aztek back, but one does not get the feeling that such a move is particularly in demand.)

Besides, my childish desire to know exactly what would happen, I just don’t have any complaints.

Stand Out Issue

I cannot choose all 10 so let me instead zero in on issue #5. Aztek goes head to head with the insane Lizard King, a villain who claims he, not Aztek, is better suited to saving the world from the coming darkness. To prove his point, he sets up a “deathtrap” (a word he, by his admittance, cannot stop saying) involving Joy, the first and only person Aztek has ever gone on a date with. The older more experienced King brutalizes Aztek, steals his helmet and… well, that would be telling. Sufficed to say, it all comes to a close with Aztek on a stretcher clutching Joy to him. Except Joy is… different.
Add in an epilogue that reveals normal guy Lawrence Rodman (I know, who? You’ll see) coming slowly unhinged and you have the whole of what was great about the Aztek series in a sweet issue serving size.

Bottom Line

If you don’t know by now that I love this series then you have just not been paying attention. It is only 10 issues long and it is the best of the excellent short lived DC series of the 90’s and early 2000’s. Well worth a look at mycomicshop.com or milehighcomics.com.

OPINIONS ON THE WORK OF PEOPLE FAR MORE TALENTED THAN I

BLOODHOUND #4

Doing brutality in comics is like doing horror in comics: it is not impossible (peek Joker wailing on Jason Todd with a crowbar for confirmation of that), but it is pretty damn hard. Comics are a static art, (as in they don’t move, like TV or film) and as a result, it can make moments less visceral. You may recognize that a moment would be brutal if you were witnessing it in real life, but seeing it on the page can undercut that sick, squeamish feeling of shock that brutality often conjures up.

I say all this as prelude to saying the Leonard Kirk delivers brutality in Bloodhound that makes you feel that way, that lingers in the corners of your mind after you finish the book. And, in the context of the stories being told in Bloodhound’s pages, that is nothing but a good thing.

EX MACHINA #5

Let me just acknowledge, again, what an excellent job Mettler is doing on colors for this book. There has not been an issue yet where he has dropped the ball which is saying a lot considering the presence of snow in every issue as well as the plethora of greens (either in flashback or in present day). Every issue he emphasizes the change of locations with a varying palette, but it never overwhelms the pencils or inks. I know so little about the coloring process, but his work always impresses me.

As for the issue itself, it is Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris, and Tom Feister. Could it be any less than excellent?

FIRESTORM #6

Only an Identity Crisis in the most tenuous of senses. If you are only looking for this issue to make sure you have all the ID Crisis related stories, I would encourage you to damn your completist tendencies just this once. You’ll be happier for it.

However, if you are just looking to give the series a shot and the ID Crisis crossover was just kind of the icing on the cake, then by all means, step right up. This is perhaps not as much Jolley’s baby as Bloodhound, but he still weaves a pretty good meditation on power. There is nothing complex here, but there is no need for it either. If you became a superhero at 17, you would probably act in much the same way. Batista’s art may not please all the CrissCross lovers who have been following the title, but he slides nicely into the penciller role. It will be interesting to see if Batista’s style asserts itself more or if he will continue to reflect CrissCross’s influence.

Oh, and it should go without saying that Raymond fans will also find little to celebrate here. Sorry guys.

GOTHAM CENTRAL #24

The end of “Corrigan” comes quicker than I expected, but that’s no complaint. I just thought it was a three issue story, not a two issue one. Rucka delivers another great Gotham Central story here, showing the length partners will go for one another. Last month it was Allen killing the Black Spider, despite his teaching of nonviolence to his children. This month, we see Montoya return the favor as she goes toe-to-toe with the scummy cop Corrigan (still want to know how he fits in with the Spectre Corrigan) to exonerate Allen for the shooting of another criminal on the scene who was handcuffed at the time.

Along the way, we meet an elderly woman who collects supervillain memorabilia (Rucka does a nice job of not making her some eccentric kook), visit with the Allens, Montoya, and Dee (Montoya’s girlfriend) bonding on their off hours, and witness Dee’s fear about what happens to Montoya when she’s on the job. It all serves to enrich the tapestry of Gotham City and the book, but does not interfere or derail the story being told. Month after month, this book is just excellent.

GREEN ARROW #43

You can peek my full length review here.

HERO #21

The casualties continue to mount as Robby finally decides to take the fight to the evil forces who are possessing the HERO device.

And it is all good.

IDENTITY CRISIS #5

I feel lousy saying this, but…

This is the weakest of the Identity Crisis issues thus far. For most of the issue, the Green Arrow “voice” remains dead on, but it is in the service of very little.

However, then the final five or so pages hit. (Although the cover gives away a bit of the end, humor me as I avoid spoilers, okay?) The father-son dichotomy that Meltzer works in those final pages is intense and well told. He plays the emotional strings very well and even if you can guess the outcome before it is revealed, you remain riveted throughout. It is a strong end and it does much to redeem the issue. Sadly, this is the first issue Identity Crisis that was in need of any rescuing at all.

Still, a dead spot in the midst of a miniseries is not unheard of and even this effort is above most of what you find on the shelves.

JSA #66

For me, a great story remains great even when I have already heard how it is going to end. I knew how JSA was going to end this month and I still enjoyed every panel of it. Kudos to the JSA team on this one.

MANHUNTER #3

This is the first issue of Manhunter that the creative team has hit out of the park. I’ve been enjoying the first 2 issues of the book, but was still waiting for everything to entirely gel. Issue #3 is that moment where it does.

Saiz’s work on the Shadow Thief’s powers is very creative and very spooky. Andreyko’s script, writing Thief as an individual of shattered personality nicely rounds out the effect.

Now is the time to give this book a shot. This issue will confirm that it is worth your time and your 3 dollars a month.

NIGHTWING #98

I am so beyond interested in War Games at this point. By the time we find out that the police have been given permission to shoot any mask on sight, I’m not even involved enough to question why the Commissioner who, while not Gordon, was still an upstanding guy would greenlight such a repulsive act. Being pissed at Batman is one thing. Declaring hunting season is entirely another.

I can’t wait for this mess to be done with so Grayson can go back to writing her story, not another chapter of this overlong mess.

On the art side, Sean Phillips (Sleeper) does some nice work. I just wish it was in service of a better story.

ROBIN #131

You can peek my full length review here.

TEEN TITANS #17

Man do I love alternate dark future stories. This is the best one I have read in some time.

Still not convinced that you should buy it? If you don’t, you’ll never see Tim as Batman. And boy, is he a bad ass.

Got your attention now? Yeah, I thought so.

Next week, I am bound for Washington, DC to see friends, monuments, revisit old haunts (I lived, worked, and took classes down there for a semester in 2002), and celebrate Janelle and I’s three year anniversary. You know, taking it back to where it all began, back to our roots, if you will. Anyway, because I will be busy being ultra romantic and stuff (fried chicken from KFC is still romantic, right?) I will be unable to perform my duties as DCNV guy for the week. I have left you in capable hands. Hands that I think you will find both nurturing and rough (but in the good way). And then, the week after that, I’ll be back and we’ll pretend the whole thing never happened. Just like all good WASP families.

That was pretty obscure, huh? Well, that’s what I am here for.

Have a great one.

Un Gajje. Not Just for Breakfast Anymore.