Thursday, February 21, 2008

On leave

The LookOut will be on a temporary hiatus while dealing with some thorny Real Life Stuff. Hopefully, things will be sorted out by Monday so I can go back to providing you all with the important Haiku Reviews, incessant 'shipping, geekery and smart-assery that you've all come to know and tolerate.

In the meanwhile, please make me smile by answering the following questions:

1. First comic book you ever read?

2. Favorite comic book superhero? Supervillain?

3. Favorite comic book couple?

4. How long have you been collecting comics?

5. Most importantly, who would win in a fight - Squirrel Girl or Batman?

At least I'm not as bad off as Batman. Wayne Industries must have tanked because the poor guy is now dancing for spare change:

Clearly, the man is troubled. I think his long slide into darkness began when he started hitting the OJ. Rest assured, I won't be making the same mistake.

Have a good weekend all and I hope to blog at you again soon.

Haiku Reviews for 2/20/08

Why do you always ruin these
Delightful reviews?

Angel: After the Fall #4 - Joss Whedon & Brian Lynch and Franco Urru - B+

I have to admit
Self-loathing Vampiric Gunn
Is kinda awesome.

The Mighty Avengers #9 - Brian Michael Bendis & Mark Bagley & Marko Djurdjevic - B+

All Doom Sex aside -
Double page spreads? Time travel?
I approve of this.


So, when Doom makes love
Do you think he screams "RICHARDS!"
After . . . or During?

The Order #8 - Matt Fraction & Barry Kitson - A

Lesbian Hawksmoor,
Cyborg Shapeshifter Sex plus
Blonde Agent Smith? Fun!

Ultimate Human #2 - Warren Ellis & Cary Nord - B

Hulk want smash, eat Stark
Too bad puny Stark stop Hulk
But wait! Leader smash!

Madame Mirage #5 - Paul Dini & Kenneth Rocafort - B

I'm quite impressed that
Strange film noir sci-fi cheesecake
Plays out this smoothly.

Checkmate #23 - Greg Rucka & Eric Trautmann and Joe Bennett - A+

Rucka and Trautmann
Write grand spies and Superman
Yet it ends soon. Damn!

Cable & Deadpool #50 - Fabian Nicieza & Reilly Brown - A+

Bad week made better
By double-sized Deadpool with
Dino Symbiotes.

Runaways #29 - Joss Whedon & Michael Ryan - C+

Momentum is gone
Still, Molly's always awesome
Split the difference?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

An apology to you, my loyal readers

When I moved into a new apartment recently, my already scattered longboxes got even more scattered. As a result, I haven't been able to find my copy of Astonishing X-Men #14, which I was planning to use as one of my cornerstones for the whole Emma/Scott posts. Rassum-frassum lack of organization!

Luckily, I've found a place to put out feelers - the wonderful world of Scans Daily. Please click the link above to enjoy my limited contributions from Marvel Comics Presents #5, which includes dinosaurs, Black Widow II and a variety of wonderful crack.

Here's hoping I find what I need soon, so y'all can enjoy the stunning insights into Scott and Emma you've no doubt been staying up nights waiting for. *crosses fingers*

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Feeding the Comics Jones - 2/20/08

Assuming I'm not feeling too crappy to make my way to the comics shop on Wednesday, here's what I'm buying . . .

ANGEL AFTER THE FALL #4 - After the last issue's last page reveal, I'm totally over the moon for this series. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Whedonverse bad-assery I've been missing terribly.

CHECKMATE #23 - There's rumors afoot that Rucka may leave this title, which saddens me. Still, Mr. Trautmann seems more than capable of bringing the awesome by his lonesome.

- I'm a sucker for the film noir aesthetic and you can tell Dini's having a lot of fun with this one.

- You know, after reading the previews, I'm still kind of horrified that a comic is going to exist wherein Doom has a sex life. *shudder* I'll be buying this with a very hesitant, terrified look in my eyes.

- You all know that I kid because I love. But seriously, it's about freakin' time. I've been jonesing for Molly Hayes-related awesome.

- Guys, this series is awesome and there's a trade of the first few issues out this Wednesday as well. Maybe if y'all decide to buy the trade in droves, we can get a stay of execution on the cancellation! . . . And magical unicorns that crap gold doubloons will fly out of the moon. *sigh*

ULTIMATE HUMAN #2 - Peter Wisdom versus Iron Man and Crazy Hulk. Ah, bliss.

What I'm NOT Buying This Week:

Ultimates 3 #3 - I just realized that Loeb isn't trying to be deliberately funny with this title. :( Luckily, this frees up a slot for Blue Beetle, which I should have been reading ages ago from what everybody's told me (thanks, SallyP!).

Justice League of America #18, Catwoman #76
- You know, if you'd told me two years ago that I wouldn't be purchasing either of these titles, I'd have called you a filthy liar. What a difference a series of crossovers make. *sigh* I should totally just start picking up Casanova and The Immortal Iron Fist instead.

What YOU Should Be Buying This Week:

GEN 13 TP VOL 02 - ROAD TRIP - Gail Simone. Wacky teenagers. Brutal murders. The Authoriteens. Doooooooo it! Please, please, please? I don't want another one of my favorite titles going the way of The Order or Welcome to Tranquility.

ORDER TP VOL 01 - NEXT RIGHT THING - Matt Fraction writes a Superteam based in L.A. What else must I say?

How about y'all?

A brief note on a new title from Joss Whedon

Hey, have you guys seen this preview for a brand-new Marvel series from Joss Whedon called "Runaways"?

I'm always happy to see new work from Whedon but what's with this "#30" business? Some kind of surreal marketing tactic like Booster Gold #0? I think it's kinda crazy for him to start this "in media res" but I guess it worked out pretty well for his Angel Season 6 series. Still, from the preview pages, this looks pretty complex for new readers to just jump into. Who are all these Victorian moppets and time-traveling mutants? I do like the art, even if I have no idea who these characters are. I especially like the look of this "Nico" character - very original design!

Speaking of the characters - a Skrull? This better not be one of those stupid Secret Invasion crossovers. Plus, another lesbian couple - wow, what a surprise from Joss Whedon. I love your devotion to GLBA stuff, sir, but c'mon, isn't it high time you create a male couple in love? I mean, really.

Still, these "Runaways" seem pretty unique and fun as a whole. This "Molly" character in particular seems like a riot. At least people can't accuse him of riffing on Buffy again with these guys.

So, are any of you going to give this new title a try? I know I am!

On hold

Sorry for the delay on my Emma & Scott post, all. I've been kind of under the weather lately but I hope to be up and running again soon. I also need to find my damned elusive copy of Astonishing X-Men #14 before I can get further into the zen of Cyclops but that's another problem altogether.

In the meanwhile, please enjoy this story of a man searching for the true identity of Batman (thanks, Occasional Superheroine!):

Sunday, February 17, 2008

14 Comic Book Couples I Love - Emma Frost & Scott Summers, Part 1.

Consider my promise to you, my long-suffering readers, at least partly fulfilled! Here's part one of my Mega-Sized Emma & Scott post . . .

Part 1 - Little Boy Lost and Found - The Life of Scott Summers

Most people don't think about this fact but Cyclops has been a part of the Marvel Universe for as long as Spider-Man, the Hulk or the Fantastic Four. He's got a lot of history behind him but for the most part - having shown up in 1963, for God's sake - but people don't give a crap about him. He's never been as big, flashy or noticeable as the other characters in Marvel's bullpen. As part of the X-Men's ensemble, he often gets lost in the shuffle. Hell, even I was guilty of thinking he was just a boring, stoically heroic piece of cardboard . . . until I started to look closer. The reason I looked closer? His relationship with Emma Frost, naturally.

To really understand why I like their relationship so much, I think it's important that we take a look at the parts of Scott Summers that make him just as interesting and fully realized as Peter Parker or Bruce Banner - the incredibly sad, messy, ugly parts. I may play fast and loose her and I'm not anywhere near a total expert in continuity, so if I get something wrong, please feel free to correct me.

If you stop and think about it, Scott's past is way more tragic and emo than Peter "Boo hoo, my Uncle died" Parker. This is a boy who grew up with acres of emotional pain and abandonment issues. His parents shove him and his younger brother Alex out of a plane to save them before they both "die" (in actuality, Scott's parents are kidnapped and put into slavery by aliens but that's not relevant at the moment. Ah, comics). As the two fall, Scott manages to get a severe head injury that leaves him comatose. After he wakes up from a year-long coma, he finds out A) he's an orphan, B) his brother's already been adopted elsewhere. Try to imagine just how lonely and lost he must feel.

And on top of all of that, he's got these destructive eye blasts that can only be contained by ruby quartz. Or does he? In Joss Whedon's brilliant Astonishing X-Men #14, an addled Emma Frost systematically rips apart all her teammates from the inside-out. She begins most expertly with Cyclops, whose bed she shares. Because she still loves Scott, she leads him to a realization so painful it leaves him briefly comatose and powerless. Emma shows him just one terrible memory he's put away and forgotten. A memory of a decision that changed his life forever.

Earlier in their discussion, Emma says "Control. First to last, that's the thing." in regards to Scott's cornerstone." This memory - the story of a boy who decides his powers are just as out of his control as the rest of his life - is just the cornerstone upon which all his other neuroses are built.

Oh, and did I mention he's in an orphanage run by a guy named Mister Sinister who proceeds to experiment on his mind and his body? He lives there for quite some time, until he wisely runs away, more alone than ever before. He leaves with mental blocks put there by Sinister and one he's installed himself.

So after all this loss and heartbreak, what happens? He finally gets adopted . . . by a C-list Supervillain who beats him if he refuses to use his abilities to commit crimes with him. A violent man Scott eventually kills to save the lives of himself and his new "adopted father," the emotionally distant Professor X. A man named Jack O'Diamonds . . . whose ability was to turn into living diamond.

Yeah, let's let that one sink in for a little while, shall we? Morrison, you magnificent bastard.

Ah, but now Professor X takes him in and suddenly all is right with the world, right? Not so much. Think about it - Scott Summers is taken out of a relationship where he is beaten if he does "wrong" and placed in one where he delivers the beatings if he does right. A relationship where his new, aloof father figure only gives him praise and encouragement if he masters his abilities to hurt and destroy - even if it is for some lofty, unrealized goal of peace and equality. Not all that healthy, when you stop and think about it, is it?

Scott is a man whose very adolescent existence were defined by two things - using his powers and demanding father figures. The lesson he gets hammered into his head over and over by the Professor and the nature of his powers is a simple one that is damaging when taken to extremes - "Control". Control the situation, and above all else, control yourself and your powers. People will get hurt otherwise. As a result, the emotional straitjacket that makes Scott into a bland, controlling leader is born - a straitjacket Scott both hates and secretly loves like a warm, comfy blanket.

"Control. First to last, that's the thing."

A recent flashback shown in X-Men: Legacy has even gone so far as to hint that Xavier used his telepathy to enhance these feelings and need to be a perfect, controlling leader rather than to destroy them. His disowning the Professor makes more and more sense the more you think about it.

Of course, his new life with the X-Men is not all bad. He gets to feel in control - blissful, beautiful control. He also meets new friends who tease him to get him out of his shell when he's not busy leading them into life and death battles. Best of all, he meets a pretty girl named Jean who likes him. Kind of a lot. After an adorkable courtship, the two teens develop a relationship and they both fall in love for the first time.

Now, you might think I dislike Scott and Jean, given the title of this post. The funny thing is that I like Scott and Jean. They make an adorable teen couple. They're supportive, sweet and everything an adorkable first love should be. Scott and Phoenix, on the other hand? Not so much of a fan.

Let's just try to look at this from an everyday perspective. You've got a girlfriend who you love and who loves you back and that's fine and dandy. She then gets possessed by a space alien pretending to be her, which is not so good. She's also now so powerful that she can EAT THE SUN. After she creates a permanent, all-encompassing psychic link with you, your love becomes one of the only things keeping her centered, sane and, oh yeah, NOT EATING THE SUN. Putting aside the notion of how a total telepathic link between you and your lover would actually be more creepy than intimate in practice, the whole thing just seems hinky. Scott Summers is left with the one aspect of his life he could count on for some degree of non-judgmental comfort turning into a source of great stress. If he doesn't control the situation and love her exactly enough, people will die. So, in a less than shocking development for our boy Scott, he begins to love her more instead of less as she gets insanely powerful and well, a little crazy. Because "control" is the thing, "first to last."

When Jean dies (the second time), Cyclops is left adrift. Not only has he lost the first love of his life, he's also gained a terrifying amount of freedom. It's interesting to see whom he chooses to date when he thinks Jean has passed on. Notably, we have Lee Forrester, a beautiful blonde ship captain and Madelyne Pryor, an airline pilot with the job of his Father and the exact looks of his dead girlfriend. Stop and look at how the two people he yearns are alike before we get into how unhealthy Madelyne is. They're antithetical to Scott - two women who travel wherever they want to, steer their own course, have no responsibilities to anyone but themselves. They control their lives; they don't let life control them. It's only natural Scott would be attracted to such an idea, the notion of a life without his stern self-imposed rules and regulations. Of course, Scott can't loose control, can't give up his way of thinking just yet, so he falls hard for the woman who screams "Jean" in neon letters - Madelyne Pryor, a clone created by the same Mr. Sinister who tortured him in his orphanage days.

And people wonder why Scott's been so humorless and unhappy. I mean, really, he's never been a healthy man.

So, our boy Scott doesn't know a thing about Sinister. He thinks he's found all of the Jean with none of the crazy. He goes so far as to fool himself into thinking a normal life is what he wants now. He loses a match with a powerless Storm for control of the X-Men, most likely on purpose, so he can rebel a bit and try to live outside the lines. He even has a baby with Madelyne, trying to start a family. So what happens when he learns the real Jean is alive? He abandons Madelyne, abandons the baby and races to Jean's side. He runs back into X-Men business and hurts Madelyne terribly by acting like she's just a copy of the real thing.

Rather than tell the story of Cyclops as The Worst Husband Ever, we instead learn about Madelyn being a literal clone, the writer believing this somehow makes Cyclops' immaturity acceptable. And because this is comics, her being a clone of his dead wife created by the man who abused him as a child just isn't enough to end the relationship in an adult manner. She has to go and become a demonic supervillainess named the Goblin Queen, who dies and vanishes completely. In the end, Scott gets the Jean and the Crazy he's always secretly wanted two ways. A battle situation is something he can always control and understand - it's what he's good at. Emotions? Not so much. This makes two loves of his life he's had to fight. It's a disturbing trend but sadly, not all that surprising.

So, yes, the Original Jean comes back with a connection to the Phoenix Force that impersonated her. Still dangerous, but considerably less crazy. Madelyne is gone and shortly after that, their child together gets sent into the future. All is reset to the past, to his comfort days of being a teenager. Cyclops and Jean have reform the original group of X-Men in a new group called X-Factor and things are just as Scott likes them all over again. He gets to be a little boy all over again and people pat him on the back for it.
(I know I'm being a little sloppy with the timeline but hey, this is getting unwieldly.)

Naturally, it doesn't take long before Scott and Jean are back with the X-Men proper, Scott working under the command of his father figure, Professor X, all over again. The world is safe again for Scott as he fulfills everyone's expectations of him. Soon after that, in a combination of what he thought he thought he wanted with Madelyne and what he was actually capable of with Jean, Scott and Jean get married.

They seem happy. Blissful, even. Scott and Jean's son and daughter from the future have even appeared to tell them that theirs is a comfortable, unchanging destiny (I refuse to discuss Cable and Phoenix/Marvel Girl because this post is already insanely long. Also, I hate Cable.). But what we have to remember is that all of Scott's neuroses are being fed here, getting reinforced and being left completely unchallenged. Jean loves Scott just the way he is . . . possibly as the boy she grew up with instead of the man he should be. All of which may sound romantic but it sure as hell isn't healthy.

On an interesting sidebar, the telepathic Psylocke begins to throw herself at Scott somewhere around this point. One has to wonder why it is telepathic women find Scott so irresistible. Is it because only they can sense the real, dark places he keeps under wraps? All the passion that the control he loves so much holds back? Does they have to know if he lets himself go during moments of intimacy or if he still holds back? These are the sorts of sticky questions one never expects to see answered in a mainstream, comics code approved comic. Surprisingly, however, an answer is just around the corner . . . in the form of a telepathic sex therapist with her own considerable issues - one Scott will find a lot more persistent and insightful than Psylocke ever was. One that falls in love with him as a man, warts and all. One that will free him of his need for control via any means necessary . . .

To Be Continued In Part 2 - Emma Frost: Poor Little Rich Girl

A Knight Out East and One Bad Knight


Here's a sneak peek of the upcoming anime film Batman: Gotham Knight that creates a bridge between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

The writing cast alone - which includes Greg Rucka, Brian Azzarello, and David Goyer himself - would be impressive enough to get me interested but add to that Satoshi "Paprika" Kon being involved? Oh, yeah. I'm beyond THERE. I'm particularly fond of anime-style Scarecrow and damned intrigued by every single aspect of this.

How about y'all?


And if that wasn't enough Batman for you, may I direct you to this dramatic tale of Batman eating eggs. If you're as moved by this touching tale as I was, I think you'll enjoy this phonetically accurate dramatic read-along of Mr. Chimaera's opus. Or, if you're not much of a reader, you can just skip to the animated version:

Friday, February 15, 2008

The LookOut: Slacking off Post-Valentine's Day Edition

In case you missed it, yesterday was all about VD - Valentine's Day, 'natch. Since I've decided to split up my Number 1 Comic Book Couple I Love Post into three parts, I hereby direct you to my fellow, non-slacking bloggers and their romantic notions in lieu of my own.

First off, we have the always wry and witty Mr. Kevin Church of Beaucoup Kevin fame providing you with a soundtrack. He made you a mix tape and subsequently started the newest debate between comics bloggers everywhere - are mix tapes creepy or cool? I've never made a mix tape for anyone but the first gift I ever got from my HS Sweetheart was a mix tape of sorts. The A side was Denis Leary's No Cure for Cancer and the B side was Aerosmith's Greatest Hits, starting with Young Lust. Ah, sentimental, water-colored memories.

Moving on, Chris has made you some valentines over at his Invincible Super-Blog. They make you fall in love with him, so be careful.

Additionally, the good Doctor Scott over at Polite Dissent has not one, but TWO sets of Valentines up to woo your nerdy heart.

Meanwhile, the wonderful and whimsical Ami Angelwings sensibly foregos the romance and flowers and goes straight to the candy instead. I look forward to reading more of her amusing polls and Rants of DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM.

The multi-headed hydra of happiness that is Blog@Newsarama reveals that Entertainment Weekly has ripped me off, as if the idea of listing charming fictional couples was some sort of popular and fun thing to do around on Valentine's Day. The NERVE of some people!

Additionally, the charming and talented Valerie D'Orazio over at Occasional Superheroine drops off her list of SuperVillain Couples In Love - enraging fellow fanpeople with her lack of gay monkey/gay cyborg love, even as she makes me wistfully wish that I could have included Spike & Dru in my all-too pedantic list of comic book couples.

And last but certainly not least, D0nnaTr0y, mistress of music and keeper of The Bottomless Cup, details a real life story about kids, jazz and Valentine's Day that will make you smile.

Please dig around and explore these fine blogs in lieu of my own while I take care of pesky social obligations. I assure you all that I will be back to blogging obsessively about comic book characters soon!

Hugs and Kisses,

The LookOut

Thursday, February 14, 2008

14 Comic Book Couples I Love - Part 1 - Introducing . . .

1. Emma Frost & Scott Summers

While they are a controversial pair, to say the least, it comforts me to know that I'm not alone in loving them (Kitty/Colossus is your numero uno, Marvel? Seriously? Wow.). Not alone in the slightest, apparently.

Now, unlike my previous choices, I'm breaking this up into three parts because their history is complex enough that my inner Psych Minor feels the need to go all "Graduate Student" on their behinds. I mean, c'mon - they're X-Men. That alone guarantees my sitting here and typing for 20 minutes. :P

Additionally, they're one of the only couples I've posted thus far who have numerous, unhappy detractors. I'd honestly like to address some of their concerns with my own in-depth beliefs on why the two of them work so well. Of course, this is all just going to be one fanperson's opinion on why they're "Teh Uber-AWESOME", so feel free to deflate my pompous academic ego with a well-placed jab at any time. ;)

So, with all that said, please enjoy clicking on and finding all about . . .

Part 1A - Little Boy Lost and Found - The Life of Scott Summers

Part 1B - Poor Little Rich Girl - The Life of Emma Frost

Part 1C - Adult Situations - Cyclops, The White Queen and their future

I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I'll enjoy writing them. :)

14 Comic Book Couples I Love - Part 2

There's really no DC couple I love more than . . .

2. Batman and Catwoman

I love these two even if they're almost never together. Yes, they're rarely a canonical couple. In fact, they're messy, complicated and sometimes just flat-out opposed to one another's methods - all of which delights me. If ever there was a yin to another character's yang in a superhero romance, it's Selina Kyle to Bruce Wayne. Their chemistry is as undeniable as it is possibly untenable.

And when I judge this relationship as nearly being untenable, that's because it seems like for every ten of these moments of romance-

we've had to deal with one of these moments -

Of course, the fact that Batman's even shown having chemistry or wanting a romance with Selina Kyle is pretty damn notable. Batman is usual about as sexual as a Ken doll IMHO, but when writers put him in the same room with Catwoman, a whole new version of him emerges. This version is a version of Batman I actually like quite a bit better as a person - somebody who shows he can feel love, in his own emotionally stunted man-child way.

The best couples can bring out entirely new sides in the people they're with and I'd say that's pretty undeniable when it comes to these two. Of course, when these two flirt, it usually involves Batarangs, claws and a bullwhip. Not that I'm judging them negatively, mind you. Given that they both spend their nights wearing leather and running around rooftops, you just know they wouldn't be satisfied with anything less than love that's a bit on the rough and ready side.

Naughty costume fun aside, the real reason they're so good for each other is that they make one another question their lives and themselves. In the face of Catwoman, Batman's unyielding inner child is forced to realize that not all criminals are evil and not all answers are easy. Selina, on the other hand, has to deal with a man who is both someone she can trust and turn to but at the same time is the first person in her life to judge her when she missteps. It's a fascinating dynamic, frankly.

(Who else but Catwoman could make Batman take the night off and go to the movies?)

Now, I know there's happier couples out there but almost none that interest me half as much as these two. They fight, they make up, they come together and break apart - it'd be exhausting if it wasn't so damn interesting to read. They're a couple that easily respect and care for one other but are all too rarely able to admit that they might actually need one another. The very qualities that make them so compatible - each of them being painfully self-reliant, driven and cautious to trust others - also drive them apart. Both of them have to be in control and this is the tragic flaw that keeps them apart.

(just look at the Batman Returns pic and tell me that one of them having to be on top all the time isn't a problem :P)

Of course, they aren't always apart and emo. In fact, in current continuity, they've gone so far as to show that they're "Friends with benefits" with an emphasis on the Friendship. They've finally found a way to be together that involves mutual respect without demanding all the so-called baggage a "relationship" would force on them (I still say they're terrible commitment-phobes). "The Goddamn Batman" won't buy just anyone's daughter a teddy bear, after all. :D

They always seem to bring out each other's softer sides, whether they mean to or not, and I know I'm not alone in taking delight in that (thanks for the scans, Rachelle!).

In fact, so many people have loved Bats & Cats together that there's enough alternate futures with them getting together that you could almost throw a dart and hit two.

And way back in that wacky Silver Age, the two of them even overcome their fears of commitment (via Scarecrow's Fear Gas, naturally), fall in love and have a daughter named Helena Wayne - The Huntress.

So whether or not they end up being together in a happy future or stay together in a relaxed present, I still love these two. Let's hope that whatever happens that DC will keep putting out stories about this fascinating couple that make us smile.


Angsty-emo yet catchy as hell tribute video to these crazy kids that has just about every scan I've used and a few I missed -

And an animated short of DCAU Batman & Catwoman that speaks for itself, sans words -

Comic Book Haiku Reviews for 2/13/08

These quick and dirty
Comic book reviews contain

Booster Gold #0 - Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz & Dan Jurgens - A

Booster's origin!
About time for new readers
Zero? Apropos.

Gen 13 #17 - Simon Oliver & Carlo Barberi & Drew Geraci - A-

Look in Caitlin's mind
Intriguing but all too brief
Next issue? RUMBLE!

Wonder Woman #17 - Gail Simone & Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson - A

Wow. Have to say this -
Bloody "W" war paint
Gave me the good chills

Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure #1- Stan Lee & Jack Kirby & Joe Sinnott - A+

This is surprising!
Millar's writing fun, retro-
. . . Oh. Sorry. My bad.

New Avengers #38 - Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos - D+

Look, here's the problem
If one of them is a Skrull . . .
This story still sucks.

X-Factor #28 - Peter David & Pablo Raimondi - B

Dark She-Hulk? Not cool.
Miserable X-Factor?
Totally noir!


Comic shop ran short
So no Rucka Widow, Blade
Ka-Zar or Cap . . . YET.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

14 Comic Book Couples I Love - Part 3

Sorry to say that this will be something a quickie post, due to Real Life Drama (I'm okay but there's trouble brewing with some friends of mine, unfortunately). I had been saving this comic book love story for #2 because it both qualified for tie status with numero uno and because it's an easy post. This isn't a famous superhero couple with loads of backstory. No, this is the simple, elegant story of two teenagers falling in love and growing up. When I say this is one of the most beautiful things I've ever read, I'm not exaggerating in the slightest. Please take the time to get to know . . .

3. Craig and Raina - from Craig Thompson's autobigraphical GN Blankets

This story moved me in a profound and personal way. The story is ostensibly about one young man's realizations about the true nature of love, religion and life in general . . . but I feel it can and will touch anyone who had a first love that changed them. This is real, lushly detailed and a rarity - in not just the world of comics or autobiographies but in the whole of storytelling. If you think you can boil this story down to "boy meets girl", well, you're right but that would be as much a sin as reducing the Mona LIsa to "that smiling chick".

It's rare that I just fall back on the quotes and raves of others but when you see who these others are, I think you'll understand why I'm using book jacket blurbs. More to the point, they summarize how this story made me feel more succinctly than I ever could.

"Thompson manages to explore adolescent social yearnings, the power of young love and the complexities of sexual attraction with a rare combination of sincerity, pictorial lyricism and taste." -- Publishers Weekly

"I thought it was moving, tender, beautifully drawn, painfully honest, and probably the most important graphic novel since Jimmy Corrigan." -- Neil Gaiman

"A rarity: a first-love story so well remembered and honest that it reminds you what falling in love feels like … achingly beautiful." -- Time Magazine
(emphasis mine)

There's a seven page preview of this book available here but it's really just an amuse bouche that doesn't give the complexity and beauty of this work justice. Thompson's artwork is as delicate and hypnotic as the first gentle snow storm of winter, both swirling and unfailingly precise. The counterpoint to his story, his aching, confused characters searching for meaning, gives the graphic novel a one-two punch prose or mere art alone never could. Blankets is on the short list of GN's I offer to people who refuse to read comic books. It's just that good.

Blankets is available for purchase online directly from the publisher's website. If you've been terrible and haven't bought your significant other a VD gift yet, you could do a helluva lot worse than surprising them with this. I'm immensely pleased to see any GN sprout up everywhere but I'm especially happy that every Borders or Barnes & Noble I've ever browsed at seems to carry a copy of this GN on their shelves. And of course, if your Local Comics Shop is awesome, they'll have at least one copy on hand. In other, less subtle words - BUY IT NOW.

Whenever I'm down on love and need a reminder of how good, transformative and beautiful it can be, this is the book I read. If Craig Thompson should ever come across this shameless plug, I just want to say thank you for making something beautiful. Thanks for letting us know that everybody falls in love, everybody hurts and everybody grows up sometime.

Happy Valentine's Day, all.

(parts 1 & 2 should be up sometime tomorrow evening)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Feeding the Comics Jones

Here's what I'm buying this week:

Booster Gold Vol 2 #0 (Zero Hour Tie-In) - BWAH-ha-ha!

Gen 13 Vol 4 #17
- I'm loving this title way more than I ever thought I would sans Simone.

Wonder Woman Vol 3 #17 - More monkeys! More Nazis! More Monkeys fighting Nazis!

Fantastic Four Lost Adventure - Kirby! Lee! As you've only seen them before a long, long time ago!

Marvel Comics Presents Vol 2 #6 - The last issue had Blade nuking Korea and dinosaurs eating mechas. What will this issue bring?

New Avengers #38
- Gaydos art spotlighting Jessica Jones? Boo-yah! I just wish the preview pages didn't fill me with such dread.

X-Factor Vol 3 #28 - OMG TEH ARCADE!!1! He's seriously like my favorite X-Villain EVAH.

How about you?

14 Comic Book Couples I Love - Part 4

I've been feeling rather out of sorts today but I'm not about to let a day go by without another comic book couple getting posted. This particular couple's first appearance had a "meet cute" that wasn't exactly "cute" by traditional standards. Georgia presses actually refused to put ink to paper because they were so offended by the drunken hook-up and subsequent implied anal sex scene between the two characters (or perhaps it was just because the scene in question depicted implied interracial anal sex, because hey, way to live the stereotype Georgians). In any case, it tickles me greatly that these two were pissing off the narrow minded and stupid before their love affair even went to print. While their marriage might be in jeopardy at the moment, you never know what these two will do next and I love them for it. Of course, after an introduction like that, I can only be talking about one couple . . .

4. Jessica Jones & Luke Cage
(No, not Cloak & Dagger! God. What is the matter with you people?!)

Now there's a lot of older, more well-established superhero couples in the comic book world but none whom I feel have earned a happy ending as much as these two.

Jessica Jones was the star of the brilliant superhero film noir series Alias and subsequently, The Pulse. Bendis created Jessica Jones to exist as an outsider in the Marvel Universe - a moody, self-destructive alcoholic with erratic abilities whose dark view of the world around her turned the shiny colors of the Marvel Universe into muted grays. Her only valued friends and associates were characters who, like her, lived somewhat on the margins of the Marvel Universe . . . most notably the underappreciated street-level superhero Luke Cage. Like Jessica, he didn't choose a superhero name and fought crime on a very personal level. An ex-con with steel-hard skin who had seen both sides of the system, Luke Cage respected Jessica for what she did and how she did it and she extended him the same courtesy. Before they became "friends with benefits", which is where the Alias series begins, they were simply friends who felt a mutual attraction towards one another.

In the course of the series, Jessica slowly finds herself on a healthier path to recovery and Luke Cage comes to realize that he cares for Jessica as more than just a friend. When Jessica realizes that she's pregnant with Luke's baby from the Georgian-enraging scene mentioned above, the two sit down to reevaluate their relationship. This is the resulting conversation, which ends the entire Alias series:

Coincidentally, this is the exact point where I fell in love with this couple. The whole conversation is so charming, so real and so honest that it knocked my socks off. Each moment between them is hesitant, honest and refreshingly human. Jessica and Luke are the total opposite of "saccharine", so when they make each other happy, it's like both they and the reader have earned a smile more worthy of value because you know it's been fought for. The darkness and rage in their past, the depths to which they've been - it makes the happiness they find together all the sweeter. Honestly? I'd take one Jessica Jones and Luke Cage book over ten Reed & Sue Richards stories any day of the week.

Amazingly, Bendis and the upstairs folks at Marvel didn't pressure either of them to get married at first and they simply cohabitated in bliss - or as close to bliss as 'real life' concerns would allow. This was an unmarried couple with a baby on the way and, outside of financial concerns, they were okay with that. I was, and still am, in awe of this couple existing in the Marvel Universe.

Eventually, Luke Cage decided to propose to Jessica shortly before she gave birth to their daughter, Danielle Cage (who, according to some, made comic book history just by existing). While a part of me was a little sad that they were going the traditional route, the whole off-the-cuff proposal felt surprisingly organic and perfectly suited to the characters. Best of all, IMHO, was that Jessica Jones actually took her time deciding whether or not to say yes instead of answering right away. Luckily, she talked it over with a brilliant young lady who helped her to decide on the affirmative.

As adorable as I found the way Jess decided to say yes to Luke was, it didn't even compare to the cuteness of Luke's reaction to Jessica agreeing to marry him. Seriously, give in to the cuteness -

Their wedding had Stan Lee as the minister, which made me chuckle. Not just because it's Stan "The Man" Lee but because he's approving of this relationship by de facto. The man who created Spider-Man and Mary Jane is giving the nod to a couple whose first appearance was a graphically depicted drunken hook-up. It's almost as if Old Marvel is giving permission to New Marvel to depict relationships in all their messy, complicated and occasionally less-than-pretty glory. And whether or not you feel Marvel's gotten freer in their depictions of love since then, I still think it's pretty damn awesome. Here's to a fictional blessing on a love story that was earned through sweat, tears and inner strength.

Now, as time has gone by, Jessica and Luke have had their share of problems. Existing on the losing side of Civil War and living in Dr. Strange's house with Baby Danielle have made them both less than thrilled. I don't see or read nearly as much of Jessica and Luke as I'd like. Still, even under duress, I've found them adorable.

Unfortunately, there's a preview out there of a disturbing new direction for the couple in tomorrow's New Avengers #38. While I don't care for this series of events one whit, I'm sad to say that it does hold true to Jessica's character to react the way she has. I just hope that however this issue ends, that the marriage they've fought for stays intact. I love this relationship too much to have the two of them end things with a whimper.

Now, if this marriage ends because of a mutual discussion I can respect, I might be okay with it. It's doubtful, but it's possible. If there's a very intelligent reason behind all of this, like Jessica Jones playing double agent, I'd accept that as well. Of course, it goes without saying that if this has anything to do with that Skrull malarkey, I'll be wicked pissed off. Still, even if this wonderfully 'real', sometimes troubled and altogether terrific marriage ends tomorrow, I'll still have my Alias omnibus, copies of The Pulse and New Avengers. Besides which, if Wolverine thinks they're cute enough to buy baby toys for, it's totally meant to be.

So here's to Luke Cage and Jessica Jones - may their messy, gorgeous love stay intact and gleefully snarky until baby Danielle is grown up enough to be at least twice as awesome as either of her already kick-ass parents.