Who’s Who in the DCU

Nightblade headshotNightblade. You probably don’t know who he is. Or if you do, you certainly don’t know what he’s up to these days. And, your life is better for it.

No worries though, Who’s Who is here to change all that.

In addition to the skinny on Nightblade, we play a game called, “Which Flash run is worse”, attempt to explain away Ultraman’s new source of power, and take apart All-Star Batman, for your reading pleasure.

Don’t thank us, just read the column. That’s how we feel the love.

Tim, are you watching anything on TV right now?

There isn’t much doing on TV these days, sadly. I’m watching Lost, but there will be no new episodes of that for a month. I’m watching In Treatment, but that’s all said and done. I’m rediscovering How I Met Your Mother, but that’s just a half hour sitcom, so that leaves lots of empty hours in my day planner.Thankfully, it is March and that means one things: Championship College Basketball! And I’m watching as much of it as I can. Mens, Womens, it doesn’t matter. I’ll take my (tv) drug any way I can get it. Heck, I even snuck in a couple of NIT games. (I am NOT too proud to watch the NIT). All hail March Madness and its ability to fill with life with greatness.

Best moment? Duke losing. Oh, sweet glory!

Links

Diehard GameFAN

The DVD Lounge

Inside Fights

MachineGunFunk

Moodspins

Radio Exile

Popcorn Junkies

Primetime Pulse

Tailgate Crashers

Our DC Boards has tons of debate about “The Blackest Night”, the abundance of proactive teams in the DCU and, (ugh) the Secret Six?

What are you linking this week?

Looking at professional basketball, I am linking this Youtube video all about “Gino”. Why? Well, watch it and then check the box score of the Suns/Celtics game from Wednesday, a game I was attending. Then you’ll understand. Oh, and take that, Mathan. New England over Southwest. Dig it!

What I Read Last Week

Catwoman #77 – I loved seeing Selina kicking all sorts of butt, but given how J’onn saved her life this issue, it makes her selling him out in Salvation Run seem that much cruddier. I mean, she really did the guy wrong.

That’s the way it is with ladies, man. That’s the way it is.

Ex Machina #35 – I love the concept of the city as a machine that Hundred can speak to. I also love how the Great Machine is always getting punked. But mostly I love how Harris illustrates dreds; they look so realistic.

Really? Of everything, that’s what appeals to you?In other news, more comics should revolve around discussions of “white guilt.” Lots more.

Just a thought I had.

Justice League of America #19 – Interesting. I liked seeing super-breath actually be useful. I liked the swerve. I don’t know about how easy Kanjar went down. But decent issue.

You know, it wasn’t bad. But it was hard to shake the feeling that, as a friend summarized for, this is the issue where this incarnation of the Justice League became irrelevant.

The Programme #9 – First off, poor Max being manipulated like that. That scene with Candy on the phone totally broke my heart. And Senator Joe’s realizations equally suck. But Milligan did a great job of layering Joe’s speech. It seems like with every issue, I become more and more passionate about this mini.

It is such an odd book, but I’m sort of hooked.

100 Bullets #89 – That defection is certainly going to put a crimp into Graves’ plans. But that reunion was totally sweet and heartfelt. And that stuff with Lee and Pip, I totally can’t wait to see where that ends up. Huge props to Risso for the shot of Pip’s panic over unintentionally dissing Lee.

Brave & the Bold #11 – Par for the course, this was a fun team up issue. I am almost going to miss Megastus, but it was nice to get some back-story on the guy. And seeing Superman and Ultraman really cut loose on each other was great.

The Killing Joke Deluxe Edition – It’s more that just a hardcover, larger sized version of the story; it’s masterfully colored by Bolland himself. I flipped through both versions side by side and the difference is devastating. Seeing how Bolland intended it to look and how the original was colored it’s shocking. The new version is to far superior. When you see the new version, it’s arguable that Bolland did a better job than Moore did with this tale. Look for scans on the net and see for yourself. This book is a masterpiece.

Countdown #6 – On the other hand.

Also a masterpiece?

Superman/Batman Annual #2 – Not as fun as the first annual, but a nice reinterpretation of a silver age tale. I really liked Batman trying to fill the void in Metropolis. And the inclusion of Robin was a nice touch too.

Batman & the Outsiders #5 – Finally Ralph and Sue return! Those two pretty much more than make up for any shortcomings on this title. I’m giddy with their return!

Sweet (and saucy) ghost on ghost action! It could only be better if it was sweet dude ghost on dude ghost action! Perhaps I’ll write this “Chuck Dixon” a letter and see if he agrees with me.

Checkmate #24 – I loved the debut of the Rooks. I really liked the concept of a threat so big that Checkmate was in over its head, even with the inclusion of various other teams. But those Rooks were a nice treat.

It was good, but I’m such a pessimist that it only sharpened the pain of upcoming issue #26 and the new creative team.

Tangent: Superman’s Reign – I’m not a fan of Tangent Superman being a bad guy, but perhaps it’s a shot at Mark Millar. Still, I’m happy to see the Tangent characters again. And the Tangent recap that ended the issue was a perfect way to catch up on everything. Oh and I love the Tangent cover with all of the various indicata.

The Flash #238 – I’m totally digging Wally struggling with parenthood. I also like preachy Jay. And the Spin is an interesting villain, with clear touches of Peyer there. Oh and I also like the introduction of Roy Raymond Jr.

Definitely a strong start. I like the look and the concept behind Spin and think it is a character that some mileage could be gotten out of even beyond this one storyline. Also found the children more palatable then previously, so that was nice.

For Dhaise, actions speak louder than words

Which was more painful to read…the last issues of Wally’s run, or Bart’s run as the Flash? I’m torn, because I think they both stank for completely different reasons and cannot decide which run to throw in Dan D’s face at SDCC this year.

This isn’t even close; the end of Wally’s run.

Of course I’m biased because as I pointed out last week, I’ve got every issue of Wally’s run. So I’ve been through the ups and downs on that title. I wasn’t that enamored with either Mark Waid or Geoff Johns’ initial arcs on the title, but I stuck with them both to see the glory those runs came to be.

I survived the Porcupine Man and Wally forgetting he’s the Flash. But there was nothing worse than how Wally’s run ended. And here’s why;

No Geoff Johns – We went from the (flawed) ending of Rogue War to an inexplicable “drawer issue” fill in to an oddball creative team to end things with a head scratcher. Rogue War was action packed, but those last few issues ended the series on a “Huh?” rather than a note of emotional importance, deserving the series.

It was a stunt – Maybe if there had been some indication that the book was lacking sales or drawing to a close it would have felt better. But this literally came out of left field. And it was all done to hype Infinite Crisis.

Seriously, it was confusing – While I appreciated the symmetry of having Vandal be the villain in the title’s first arc and the final one, that last story was lacking in clarity. And that’s coming from a guy who’s read every issue of the title and writes a Q&A column about the DCU.

While Bart’s run as the Flash was bad it wasn’t that painful for me for a couple of reasons.

I loved Impulse – Guess what other title featuring a speedster I collected from the first issue on? Impulse was one of the more pure books on the market. And just thinking about its fate at this moment is making me sad and angry.

He’d been mishandled before – Changing Impulse to Kid Flash was a mistake in my opinion. Even though I grew to appreciate Kid Flash, he was never as good as Impulse in my eyes.

And that’s pretty much where I stand. Like I said, I’m biased. Even though I love both characters, I’m clearly more attached to one.

Tim, how you, which was handled worse in your eyes?

I’m onboard with it being the end of Wally’s time as Flash. I won’t try to tell you that the beginning of Bart’s run was anything to speak of because, really, it wasn’t. In fact, it was downright bad. However, with Guggenheim coming on and Daniel’s art, it was trending upward. Bart remained a cipher, the Rogues often seemed out of character, and yes, the actions of Aunt Iris did not make a ton of sense. All of that having been said, it was competently done and illustrated with bright fluidity.The end of Wally’s run, however, was workmanlike at best. It behaved like it was a c-grade title limping towards cancellation, not like it was a title that just finished one of the more popular, well regarded runs on a book of that time. It was slapdash, often confusing, often ugly, and generally speaking, underdone. It felt like everyone was just a bit too busy on other things, but this had to get done, so let’s throw something together.

Jag, like everyone, has his own opinion about why Countdown sucks

I think everyone has their own opinions about why Countdown sucks. I think mine is that the characters they chose to be the focal point all kind of suck. I mean, no one cares about Harley Quinn as a Amazon trainee or whatever she is…they want to see her as the Joker’s assistant (although its debatable if she really has translated well from the cartoon to the comics at all). Does anyone really give a darn about Jimmy Olsen in such a high-profile role? And Jason Todd’s Red Robin costume looks too much like that doctor guy in the JSA (and he looks kind of silly in it, too). I think the Mary Marvel thing could have been intriguing with the Eclipso thing but that kind of petered out, too. Man, I hope Final Crisis is worth it. What do you guys think of the characters chosen for Countdown (you may have covered this)?

Geez, why all the negativity this week?

While I think we may have covered Countdown characters before, I’ve got no problem covering them again.

Harley Quinn – I’m not the biggest Harley fan, which isn’t to say that I hate the character. I’m just not really her biggest fan. To me she comes off at best, as interesting and at worst, annoying.

I think that her inclusion wasn’t really a bad thing. I mean the guy who created her is overseeing the whole deal, so I’m sure that some people were sold on that point. And it wasn’t like she was really going to be used elsewhere in the DCU, so what’s the harm?

The harm is it overexposes a character that is best in small doses and crafted a story for her that felt very much like a story that was not for her at all.

Donna Troy – Honestly I feel bad for her. As if it isn’t bad enough she’s often the focus of fanboy rage, she has to star in this reviled book too? I’m going to go ahead and say that I’ve got more empathy for Donna for having to be in this book than I do for her losing her husband and child in a car accident.

Wow…

But again, I’ve got no problem with her being the book. She didn’t really have anywhere else to be and she’s got ties to the Multiverse, so it make sense that she’s be here.

I don’t know, it feels a bit like trotting out Britney Spears and making her dance and lip sync catatonically while wearing little clothes to conceal her out of shapeness and calling it a “comeback bid.” Yes, Donna (like Britney) is a mess of a person (or character, and I’ll let you choose which is which) who used to be interesting and could be interesting if someone actually invested the time to clean them, straighten them out, and work out a sensible plan for them. Instead, they went for the easy, wrongheaded fix and dirtied the character even more.

Jimmy Olsen – Now for me, this book has made me not care about Jimmy. Jimmy chapters were the first things that I stopped reading. I’ve gone from kind of liking the guy to trying to score one of those “Jimmy Olsen Must Die” buttons. He dragged this book into the Fourth World, and I’ll never forgive him for that.

Jimmy remains so vanilla to me that reading his chapters, if and when I did, felt like perusing blank pages.

Mary Marvel – Again, she wasn’t being used elsewhere, I’ve got no problem with her inclusion in Countdown. I found the seduction angle to be an interesting one. And I liked the notion of being lost in the world and searching for one’s role and identity to be a workable theme.

Still the tussle with Eclipso went on far too long. It was like they had a good beginning but no middle.

Great themes, to be sure, but…from the parts of Countdown I’ve checked in on, the execution was dodgy. Then again, she’s a Marvel, so I don’t much care how she’s used and/or abused.

Jason Todd – I’m a fan of the guy. And initially I didn’t have a problem with his appearance here. I think that it was a pretty important step to have Jason associate with some characters not from Gotham, if only to show how he truly was a gray character.

But like I said, I’m a fan, so if he returns from Countdown as a more clear cut good guy, who’s forgiven Bruce and officially adopted the Red Robin moniker, I’m not going to be happy. Not because I’m opposed to characters evolving, but rather because I appreciated the uniqueness of Jason’s role in the DCU and the Gotham landscape.

Like Jason Todd, greatly dislike the whole Red Robin thing. They make great burgers, sure, but as a superhero name, it belongs in Kingdom Come and nowhere else.

I think that’s pretty much everyone in Countdown.

Tim, any other thoughts about Countdown’s characters?

Overall, I don’t think there was anything wrong with the choices DC made. Don’t forget that 52 made big hay out of the likes of Booster Gold, Animal Man, Black Adam, Steel, and Animal Man and they are hardly top-tier, in terms of popularity, characters. Heck, for name recognition, Jimmy Olsen’s got them all trumped. So, I take no issue with the choices made. I only take issue with what they did with them once they put them in the book.

KyleJordan lays a trap.

Whatever happened to Nightblade from Green Lantern Annual 2?

Really. Really? Your going to ask me about a character who made his debut in the New Blood annuals of 1993? Totally not cool.

I mean it’s bad enough that The Wire’s over, Life won’t be back until next year and Conan is all repeats this week, but you want to bring up New Bloods?

Nightblade is dead! Are you happy? He’s dead. He was killed by Superboy-Prime in Infinite Crisis #7. Did I say “killed?” I meant the lame-o was put out of his misery.

Ooh, I get it. You hit me with the whoopty-wham, so now I’m the negative one.

Well played KyleJordan. Very well played.

Do you think that anyone mourns the fallen New Bloods, Tim?

Is Gunfire still alive?Yes?

Okay, then. No, no one mourns the fallen New Bloods.

Jag thinks Frank Miller is just no good anymore. What a unique perspective

Read the newest All Star Batman and Robin…gosh, when did Frank Miller start sucking so bad? His Batman dialogue is PAINFUL to read considering this is the guy who gave us Year One and The Dark Knight…it hurts me to see Jim Lee’s art wasted so much.
I don’t know, I guess I just don’t hold Miller up the same esteem that you do. Dark Knight Returns was a dope read, but Year One resonated more with me. I can remember reading that trade, from Warner Books. I loved that book so much. It was the first trade I ever got and I got it from the lamented Haunted Bookshop. Great memories of that place.

Anyway, I think that Frank Miller has become a brand, due in part to Sin City, resulting in his feeling the need to put his stamp on the character. So as opposed to telling an iconic Batman tale, like he did in Year One and DKR, he’s doing a “Frank Miller” Batman story.

(And for the record I don’t hate All-Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder. I wouldn’t give it a hearty endorsement, but I find the book entertaining.)

I’ve got a friend who posited the theory that the Batman in All-Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder is how someone like Batman would be actually be. From his overcompensating by being uber macho, to Robin noticing that he’s trying too hard. Miller’s Batman is a damaged man and a madman, much like you’d probably be if you’d seen your parents killed and decided to dress like a bat in response.

Tim, what’s your take on Miller’s take on Batman and given the trauma in Bruce Wayne’s past, which writer do you think offers up the most realistic portrayal?

Miller’s take on Batman in this book is, psychologically speaking, not around the bend. He was stuck with a terrible trauma in his childhood that he was never forced to properly confront by first being allowed to isolate himself (with his butler) in a giant home, then by running from his past all over the globe, and finally be erecting two sides of himself to do with his life, the dandified dolt and the head smacking creature of the night. So the loon who has difficulty reading or utilizing social cues and mores makes sense in that context. His “trying too hard” especially makes sense if you think of him as being eternally locked into the eight or nine years old he was when his parents died. He is both a bully and someone desperately in need of validation and because he sees Dick as a peer as much a protégé he is forever pushing him around/trying to be cool. That is why he peppers his speech with profanity and says things like “retarded”. They are the “ooo, dangerous” words of childhood. (Interestingly, the deadly serious Batman of Arkham Asylum is actually pretty similar in terms of profile. The big difference is how they choose to present. All-Star Batman is the big shot who does whatever he wants. Arkham Batman is the kid who acts more mature than anyone. Both are after the same thing though…they want to be the coolest and most well liked.)

All of this being said, no matter how many times Miller tells us otherwise, the Batman of All-Star is not a logical evolution of the Batman of Year One. There psychological profiles are just…different. But, both remain valid.

The fact is, if you view Bruce’s journey from childhood to adulthood through another lens, the tortured, obsessive, but largely functional adult is psychologically consistent as well. He had an immediate father figure in Alfred who provided structure and love for him in the wake of the terrible tragedy of his parents. He had a mother figure in Leslie Thompkins who did those things as well as monitor his psychological well being. He took a journey around the world during which he “found himself”, learned coping strategies (meditation, martial arts), and found a way that he could stop feeling like a victim. His transition from traumatized youth to “well” adult is still incomplete, but that’s not unusual. A tragedy of that magnitude would echo throughout most people’s lives and he is using it as fuel making him even less likely to want to fully resolve it.

(This is, of course, the Batman that most writers use.)

The final style of Batman is not distinctly different from the one above, but has a bit of a twist. He has reduced all people in his world to objects, making them easier to make outrageous demands of, to manipulate, to use as he sees fit and then toss away. And again, this does makes sense given his trauma, as he would wish to avoid any sort of closeness with anyone around him. By reducing them to objects, he is attempting to preempt any negative feelings he might have when they inevitably “leave” him, be it by death or growing up or whatever.

(This is the 90’s Batman that everyone came to regard as a dick.)

The only difficult Batman for me to crack is the “love god” Batman that Morrison is playing with now and that Adams used in the 70’s. I suspect that is because this Batman probably integrates a lot of pieces from each of the profiles above, but I haven’t gotten enough of a hold of him to really figure that.

Pneumothorax is a word that is long. As is Mixyezpitelik. Guess which one Glen has a question about.

Is B&B #11 the first appearance of Mister Mixyezpitelik?

Judging by the sheer volume of exposition delivered by the guy, I’m guessing that it is indeed his first appearance. For a second I thought that he may have appeared as part of the Justice Underground (the only good thing to come out of Kurt Busiek tackling the Crime Syndicate of Amerika) but it turns out that I was thinking of Sir Solomon Grundy.

For the record I like the guy. I like twisted mirror images, be they in the form of sinister counterparts like Wrath or from other dimensions like Spock with the goatee. I dig them.

So Mixyezpitelik was a treat. I liked how Superman regards his imp as a nuisance, and Ultraman is terrified of Mixyezpitelik. I also like how dapper the guy is.

Tim do you ever get tired of warped versions?

Slap a goatee on a guy and I just get giddy about it.

Juan Francisco Gutiérrez Santiago asks us to picture the best of a bad bunch

I know you don’t particularly care for “Superman-Batman” but, what’s your favorite story from that title?

Unfortunately I’m going to take “story” literally and not provide an arc that I enjoyed, because honestly every arc on that title was kind of shaky.

I’m probably going to surprise some people with my pick, but I’m a huge fan of Superman/Batman Annual #1. It’s a fun retelling of a wacky Silver Age tale. Joe Kelly did a great job of telling a good story, yet keeping things light. That’s my favorite Superman/Batman story.

A close second is Superman/Batman #26. The only reason why it’s second is because it brings me down. It’s a great and powerful issue. But the story behind the issue is such a blower that it’ll ruin an entire afternoon for me.

Tim, have ye got a fave Superman/Batman story?

I guess I’d have to echo #26, but I think the current arc going on now is shaping up nicely.

Glen has a stumper

Since when does Ultraman get his powers from a Yellow Sun?

Hmmm. I’ve really got nothing on this one.

It’s been clearly established that Lt. Clark Kent was remade by some powerful aliens who gave him ultra powers. The mental and physical manipulations warped the dude a bit, even more than he already was, being from the Anti Matter U and all.

Anyway, he maintains his abilities by exposure to Anti-Kryptonite. If he’s too far from it or away from it for too long he grows weaker and weaker.

So why is Superman blabbing about “you get your powers from the same place I do…”? I really can’t say. Maybe it’s a “when in Rome” type situation? I mean, it’s not like Ultraman would carry Anti-Kryptonite with him when traveling to the positive universe, right? And the positive matter universe would seemingly be pretty far from any source of Anti-Kryptonite, so in theory he could get trapped in the positive universe if he lost his powers there.

So it could kind of make sense that when in the positive matter universe he gets his powers from a yellow sun. Right? Maybe?

Tim, can you help me out here?

It is all new DCU. Everything is similar but different. Until we tell you otherwise, everything is the same. When we choose to change something, then it is different. What about this aren’t you people getting?

Sorry, but I’ve got to call it a column. I know, I know I was supposed to cast my Legion movie this week, I’ve had a trying weekend culminating in an emotionally draining past 24 hours. But I promise next week we’ll get some casting done.

We’ll also possibly cover the end of the world (as we know it), villains who flopped and further loss of faith in Frank Miller. And we might even answer your question, provided you sent it my way.

Feel free to email me your questions (mathan@insidepulse.com) or post them on our thread

Before I go here’s my question to you this week; Who do you think dies that gets Hal Jordan angry enough to form a proactive Justice League?

“It’s hard to argue when you won’t stop making sense.”

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