Sunday, March 29, 2009

Solicitation Copy for Detective Comics #854

Written by Greg Rucka; Art by JH Williams and Cully Hamner; Cover by JH Williams : Variant Cover by JG Jones
Sup, Dawg, we heard you like Greg Rucka Comics, so we put a Greg Rucka Comic inside your Greg Rucka Comic, so you can read Greg Rucka Comics while you read your Greg Rucka Comics.

* Batman
* 32pg.
* Color
* $3.99 US

On Sale June 24, 2009

Friday, March 27, 2009

Flown The Coop

So, I usually like to keep things light and fluffy here at The LookOut and only talk about things that make me happy. That said, I just gotta let out a rant.

I hated the ending to Birds of Prey. Whether or not it was editorially mandated or not, it blew. I've always been of the school of "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" but some things just irk me until I can't keep quiet.

You see, I have this bad habit. I tend to analyze stories on their own merit. As a strict literary critic, it is a fine habit. As a bad deconstructionist and someone who doesn't always agree to the social contract that a comic book in a superhero universe is never, ever entirely it's own series - well, it drives me batshit nuts. Let's say I wrote a novel about two women who each have problems. One has a bad habit of dating cocky, blonde jerks (I'm not deliberately trashing Green Arrow here - that is one of the problems Dinah herself states at the beginning of the series). The other has issues stemming from an attack on her life that left her physically handicapped. One reaches out to the other to regain her feeling of power and ability to restore justice to the world. The other accepts her friendship and learns more about herself as a result. They both improve as people along the way and their circle of friends grow. Now, I would think the natural ending for such a story would be to have the outgoing character lead her introverted friend into a more comfortable space, filling her with confidence. The other half of that story would naturally dovetail into the more outgoing character becoming aware of her flaws and finding the confidence to live her life alone and only choosing to take a life partner if she feels that person is worthy.

That is not even remotely how this story ended.

Birds of Prey was a story, at it's core, about women making names for themselves and owning their own power. They acted with agency, competency and drive. They did so with joy in their hearts. And now, the series has just ended with Barbara Gordon dissolving her own team and leaving the care of a minor to someone else - all via a Dear John Letter. 127 issues and we get to see the main female lead end things, not in triumph, but awash in self-doubt, self-pity and just before running away.

To have a series devoted to such capable heroines - one that has lasted over 100 issues in a market that has not always been favorable to superheroines and even spawned a (mostly terrible) live action series - dissolved in a way that has Oracle berating herself and throwing in the towel, well, it's more than insulting. It's bad storytelling.

So why do I have such a bug up my nose, you might ask? Some back story for the uninitiated, first. Birds of Prey started with two characters - Barbara Gordon and Dinah Lance a.k.a. Oracle and Black Canary. Both were female characters who had supporting roles in the books of male superheroes. Black Canary was Green Arrow's girlfriend and Oracle was the Batfamily and the Justice League's hub of information. In BoP, each of these characters was given a place to shine and to grow. While Chuck Dixon was more than a bit guilty of making Black Canary a trifle flghty, he created a space where Barbara and Dinah could be the stars instead of the sidekicks.

In fairness, I didn't start reading Birds of Prey under Dixon. I read the trades, enjoyed them but felt like it was missing something. Cue Gail Simone. Her run, possibly because it was finally two female characters actually being written by a woman, felt alive, interesting and authentic in ways Dixon's did not. There's a quote I quite like from Gail Simone, the writer whom I took to following the book for because I love her work -

"Birds of Prey got a reputation for scraping the barnacles off of a lot of characters, which I find very flattering. [...] One amusing thing is, we managed to do fifty issues without a single serious romantic plot of any seriousness. I'm actually pretty tickled about that, as that seems to be the first thing writers think of when writing women - "Who is she in love with?" The Birds can stand on their own in that regard."

Simone wrote Dinah as fighting her way into being the equal of Lady Shiva - one of the DCU's greatest martial artists, on par with Batman. She wrote her as having enough control over her sonic abilities to shatter a billiard ball in a person's fist without breaking their fingers. She wrote Barbara as a woman who could always fend for herself but surrounded herself with friends who mattered. Who, in taking in Lady Blackhawk, Huntress and Misfit, made a team a family. More than anything, this became a book where women supported each other and superheroines had a place to shine. Just check out this exchange between Canary and Huntress to see how tender Simone's run could get.

And Oracle, quite simply, kicked ass. This was an Oracle who'd carved out a niche in the DCU and shined as one of it's stars. The Birds of Prey became a team as important in their own right as the Justice League or Teen Titans. When Simone had a villainess appear to forcibly take over Oracle's team - to remove her agency - Oracle called in everyone who owed her a favor and it looked a little like this:

Gives me shivers every time I see it.

And now? Now, Dinah is the "co-star" of Green Arrow/Black Canary. She's married to Green Arrow, the man who got her hand in marriage by faking her adopted daughter's death and lying to her about it. The man who, in a recent issue of Green Arrow/Black Canary, demonstrated his respect for her by shocking her unconscious before going to do things himself.

Not to mention the fun plot wherein Dinah was so sloppy that she needed help defeating someone hand to hand, then stopped him with a sonic cry that deafened an innocent bystander. Yeah, that's just terrific respect for the character and her abilities.

On the Oracle side of things, we now get an Oracle mini-series to follow up the underwhelming ending to Birds of Prey. I won't even start on how obnoxious it is for Oracle to have abandoned Misfit, a girl clearly in need of supervision and care, because that would lead me down Cassandra Cain Drive to Rantypants Road. Let's just say that the former team leader and heart of the Birds of Prey now toils alone in a crappy apartment with the promise of a cure for her paralysis dangled in front of her (scroll down here for several far more salient reviews of Oracle: The Cure).

A lot of people have been saying that this story will lead to Barbara Gordon becoming Batgirl again, which I'm sorry, does not strike me as a step up. As Oracle, she was a team leader, a woman who called the shots. I don't think this character needs to reclaim anything by becoming a girl again.

Here's a fun question - exactly how many appearances did Green Arrow have in Birds of Prey? Ever? And how many times did Batman ever appear? I ask because, after reading 50-plus issues of Simone's run, I don't remember Green Arrow doing much of fuck-all. And I remember the one time Batman appeared, he got told off by everyone for being a prick and then subsequently thanked for not being a prick once he stopped trying to run the Birds of Prey himself.

Please understand that, for somebody who read Birds of Prey - and only Birds of Prey - having Black Canary shipped off to be married to Green Arrow felt like a crazy random plot twist. It was like reading fifty issues of Batman only to have Alfred say "Hey, I'm in love with Martha Kent and we're moving to space now, KTHNXBYE." Yes, I get it. I'm being unfair by, heaven forfend, judging the series on it's own merits. There's history. There's continuity! They wanted to respect the longterm, hardcore DC fans who've followed the Black Canary/Green Arrow relationship for decades. The problem is not that they wanted to do that. It's how they did it and how they're continuing to do it. If they did it in a way that was organic and spun out the story in Birds of Prey naturally, I'd be all for it. If they were writing Black Canary at the same level Simone did, I'd be happy as a clam. They didn't and they aren't. If they're going to write a book about Black Canary and Green Arrow as a married couple, it should be a book that treats them as equal partners, not one constantly having to be incompetent to make the other look good. Hell, I still think that if they wanted Green Arrow to win Black Canary back, they should have had him do it in her title as well as his. That's called a partnership and I think it was something that the character of Black Canary, strengthened by Simone as she was, had earned.

Hey, I know I'm talking like a crazy entitled fan here and I apologize. These are not my characters and I have no real right to demand they be written any which way. The thing is, I give out my Simone trades of BoP to non-comic book readers to encourage them to enjoy comic books. I see BoP trades in the teen sections of my local library, where young girls are reading them. It's a story of how Oracle took back her power and showed Canary just how much she could take back hers and seriously? That's awesome. So when I see this story ending with one of them being married off to a guy who's acting like a jerk and the other one left full of self-doubt and confusion, it feels like a betrayal. Not just a betrayal of the characters' own arcs but moreover of the principles on which the book itself was formed. And that makes me angry and more than a little sad.

Anyways, I think I've ranted enough for one night. Here's hoping that both characters end up more awesome than they are currently being portrayed. And failing that, let's hope that Lady Blackhawk, Huntress and all the good work previous writers have done on the title doesn't get forgotten, ignored or, heaven help us, fridged away*.

*Seriously, guys, I will go all Chris Crocker if anything happens to Lady BlackHawk or Huntress. Of course, to be brutally honest, I wouldn't mind it too terribly if something bad happened to Misfit. Sorry.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I'mma blogging in the rain, news is falling and I feel the gain

Hola, my wonderful and incredibly patient readers!

Sorry for the long lack o' blogging. Please know I am not dead, merely trying to write fancy-pants artsy-fartsy stuff, a poorly drawn webcomic and even a possible one-shot comic book for a non-major anything. Fingers crossed, I might even have something to put on display for my upcoming local comic book convention.
And yes, I know I deeply, terribly suck about my failure re: 14 Couples I Am Too Lame To Update. Again, sorry, about that and I hope to write something at least marginally coherent soon.

While I woke up too late for buying Wednesday comics today and have no limerick/haiku reviews as a result, I did find great news to share. I'm so enthused that I'm shamelessly regurgitating content I found at the always excellent Robot 6! Kathryn "Hellcat" Immonen
and Sara "NYX" Pichelli are taking over Runaways from Moore & Ramos starting with issue #11!

About Runaways - I love the book more than is healthy. For those of you who've lived under rocks, the series details the lives of a group of teenagers who find out that their parents are supervillains of the highest order. They run around the rarely seen West Coast of the Marvel U, just trying to survive, help out where they can and generally make amends for their parent's misdeeds. It's a brilliant premise with lovable characters and a pet dinosaur named Old Lace. Yes, that's right - a dinosaur named Old Lace.

Vaughan and Alphona's original run was something unique, fun and vibrant in the Marvel Universe - a breath of fresh air where continuity took a backseat to characters who mattered. A book where anything could happen, people could die and the unexpected was always expected. The series more than deserves the big screen treatment it's going to get and it's a flat-out great book, period.

Now, the downsides. I hate to say it but Joss Whedon and Michael Ryan's delay-plagued run just about killed the book. I'm usually a pretty big Whedon fan, so I feel bad to throw stones at all - hell, I imagine that writing a good story about a cyborg, two aliens, a mutant, a sorceress and a dinosaur can't be that easy. Still, several years later, I thought Whedon had written a good run but not a great one, Molly punching the Punisher aside. Putting Terry Moore and Huberto Ramos on the book after Whedon gave me high hopes but, well . . .

Regretfully, I say "meh". They just haven't clicked for me. While I've been flat-out loving Echo (I'd recommend this book and The Sword to just about anyone), I'm sad to say that Moore and Ramos' work on Runaways has left me more than a little cold. Ramos does great teenagers - his work on the excellent books DV8 and Impulse proved that without a shadow of a doubt. That said, his emphatic style's a bit jarring on the characters in Runaways, who've always been portrayed in an uniquely subdued way. Moore's stories haven't been thrilling me much either, which surprises me. His Chase is just a hair too obnoxious and I'm quite literally stunned that he got rid of a certain character. "Kill your darlings" maybe? Still, rather upsetting to see a character with such potential removed and such an fascinating relationship nipped in the bud.

In any case, here's hoping that Immonen and Pichelli can recapture that uniquely off-kilter mix of tenderness, hilarity, drama, dinosaurs and mutants that Runaways has displayed so well. Considering that Kathryn Immonen wrote the beautifully insane Hellcat series - wherein Hellcat has to defend Alaska all by herself, meets a talking calendar and then things really get weird - well, let's just say that I think she's got it covered. ;) And Pichelli's art is pretty damn nifty to boot (said art blog is NSFW, by the way).

(For instance, I LOVE the little details in this panel of Dr. Cecilia Reyes, folks. Sweatband drawstrings!)

What do you all think?

And as a bit of penance for my long lack of blogging, I bring you . . .


Friday, March 20, 2009

Batman? Batman.

In lieu of real, intelligent commentary or content, I give you Batman:

Meanwhile, in real life, a heroic bat tried to travel into outer space. Sadly, not even Batman himself can travel into outer space without a Zeta Beam. Space Bat: R.I.P.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Limerick Reviews for 03/17/09

Erin Go Bragh! I'm actually updating, in honor of St. Patty's Day!

Limerick Reviews for 03/17/09

Some spoilers for books can be found
If you keep looking down and around
Of course, some are not new
So it's all up to you
All these reviews just cover old ground.

Incognito #2 - Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips - A+

There's a young supervillain named Zack
Who really should be watching his back
It's really quite noir
With violence galore
This book goes to the top of my stack.

Angel #18 - Kelley Armstrong & Dave Ross - B

There once was a vampire named Liam
Whose feats made all LA folks screa-um.
This Angel book is good
And it does what it should
But I'm surprised Kate charges per diem.

Thor #600 - J. Michael Straczynski, Olivier Copiel, Marko Djurdjevic, Mark Morales, Stan Lee, David Aja, Chris Giarrusso - A

So, there's this Thunder God who's named Thor
And his sister-slash-brother's pretty sore
The main story's fine,
Mini Marvels divine,
And this "Stan Lee" fellow should write more.

Action Comics #875 - Greg Rucka, Eddy Barrows, Ruy Jose & Julio Ferreria - B

I gather there's Kryptonian spies
Who are getting knocked out of the skies
Lieutenant Commander
Ursa takes a gander
I, too, don't know any of these guys.

Daredevil 116 - Ed Brubaker, David Aja, Stefano Gaudiano - A

There once was a mob Kingpin named Fisk
Who put people at terrible risk
Just by hanging around
He got some folks struck down
Sophocles would say "Tsk, tsk, tsk."

Captain Britain & MI13 - Paul Cornell, Leonard Kirk & Mike Collins, Jay Leisten & Robin Riggs - A+

Vampire missiles fall from the moon
Wisdom will attack Dracula soon
I have no more to say
'Cause Vampire Missiles? Yay!
Go buy this book, for it is a boon.

Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk #3 - Damon Lindelof, Lenil Francis Yu, Dave McCaig - C+

This book's been on hiatus for years
So just printing it deserves some cheers
A decent enough read
Flashback Wolvie sure bleeds
Only Ultimate She-Hulk stops jeers.

Secret Six #7 - Gail Simone, Nicola Scott, Doug Hazelwood - B

There once was a killer, first name Floyd
Whom folks usually try to avoid
A Tarantula dies
And, wow, Junior? Surprise!
Leaving all folks but Scandal annoyed.

Echo #10 - Terry Moore - B

There once was a lass named J. Martin
Whose chest and shoulders were now smartin'
Evil drifter comes near
Phone call ending in fear
A cliffhanger like that? Nice partin'.

She-Hulk #38 - Peter David, Steve Scott, Vicente Cifuentes - C+

All of the "meta humor" aside
I tried taking this ending in stride
But the book's fall from grace
Leaves me with a sad face
Emo Shulkie? I just can't abide.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

An apology and an announcement

Still no Muse on hand for my much delayed finale to the 14 Comic Book Couples I Love and I apologize to you, my long-suffering readers. The news is not all bad, thankfully, as my muse has struck in another direction. I've started a webcomic - K. D.'s Real Life.

Please go read, enjoy and/or mock it mercilessly here.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Men at Watch

So, given that none of you live in a cave, I'm sure you all know that there's a really big movie coming out this week today based off of a graphic novel. Yes, Wonder Woman finally has her own animated DVD! I don't know about you, but I'm very excited.

Also, I guess there's a movie called "The Watchmen" out too. I guess it's been in the works for a while now. If it's anything like the animated series, this "The Watchmen" will be yet another silly kid's movie.

C'mon, guys, get it together! I don't think Neil Gaiman would appreciate you butchering his masterpiece like this.

Honestly, why must everybody still think comic books are for kids? It just breaks my heart. Why, things like this could drive a man to drink.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Something we can all agree on (hopefully)

Look - whether you love Scans Daily or hate them, can we all agree on one thing to come out this nerdy nightmare of arguments and yelling?

Call me old-fashioned but it is never, ever appropriate to tell someone to "Die In A Fire".

Go to hell, bite me, suck a donkey's placenta, you FAIL at life - all fine. Be angry on the Internet all you want, if you must, but at least realize that the real people you're talking about may have really bad real life associations with fires and people dying in them*. There's more than a few comic book creators and comic book fans who would agree with me on that score. Yeah, I know that trying to get folks to behave like civilized adults on "Teh Interwebs" is like herding cats. Still, if this gets people to donate to help comic book people in need - even if only to prove that we comic fans are not all angry jerks with poor taste in invective - at least something good will have come out of all this freakin' drama.

*Not to mention that there's a little thing called "Critiquing the work, not the creator", but hey, I wouldn't want to talk crazy or anything.

And with that, I think I've used up my amount of pretentious "Someone is WRONG on the Internet" snark. Anyways, hope all's well on your end and I hope to have something more substantial than this up soon.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Not Dead, Just Thinking

So, first off, a quick but sincere apology to you, all my long-suffering followers. After my tech disaster, I had a pretty life-changing week that really made me stop and think about my priorities. I saw Obama live in person and it was pretty damn amazing. Made me stop and reconsider what I wanted to do with my life. I'm probably going to start blogging less and writing more, if that makes sense.

. . . none of which excuses the fact that I've been a terrible host and haven't written what I said I would write days/months ago. So, please forgive me and bear with me as I get that finally taken care of for you all this week.

In the meantime, there's quite a few good links for you to check out.

The Nerdy Bird needs your help
to fly high and raise money to fight Muscular Dystrophy. Go forth and donate what you can.

4thLetter! has put up a heartbreaking post connected to Empowered, showing yet again that the series has more heart and more brains than half the damn mainstream stuff getting put out on the stands. My thanks to Kalinara for pointing the way.

Speaking of awesome links, My Bottomless Cup was kind enough to expound on this excellent post on Secret Six, which discusses some of the many reasons why I love this series so damn much. If you aren't reading Secret Six, you are currently suffering from an awesome deficiency.

There's quite a bit else going on in the comics blogosphere right now, not least of which is a huge kerfuffle over the implosion of Scans Daily. I could discuss my interactions with the community at length but I try to save the drama for my mama, as a general rule. On the other hand, Kevin Church - that cool blogger with a heart of brass - has had the huevos to kick the hornet's nest on his blog. Peter David, the author who was rather rudely told to "die in a fire" on Scans Daily, is also predictably not shedding any tears about this turn of events. Favorite writer of mine Gail Simone has a radically different and more positive view, while mad genius Warren Ellis predictably uses his fine, analytical mind to apply stark realism and basic facts to the situation. Absolutely none of which changes the fact, love them or hate them, they're just going to get the community up and running again in five minutes somewhere else (psst, it's already happened).

ETA: The inimitable MightyGodKing is also doling out the harshness to all involved on his blog, if you're in the mood to read some serious snark.

And what do I think about all of this? I'd like to live by the immortal words of Mr. T - "I don't start no trouble. I mind my own business." I've got enough on my mind as it is. Still, I'll just say that, while my heart is certainly in one camp more than the other, there are a lot of valid points on the table from people I respect on both sides of the issue. So there you go.


Drama aside, how are all of you doing today?