Sunday, August 23, 2009

Beyond The Capes: DMZ

I thought I'd take a minute and recommend a comic book you might not read but really should. Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli's DMZ is a a clever, dark and thought-provoking read from DC's Vertigo line of comics. I've only had the pleasure of reading up to volume six (following it solely in trades) but what I've read has blown me away. I'm not the first person to recommend it and I hope I won't be the last.

DMZ is both a social commentary, an heart-in-your-throat action book and the best comic book discussion about what the press should do (and what it actually does) since Transmetropolitan. This is not an easy, light-hearted read and nor should it be. In a country where people have started wearing guns to public meetings about health care, a story about a Second American Civil War tearing us apart should strike any American as maybe a little too close to home. In DMZ, the island of Manhattan has turned into a Demilitarized Zone, a place where the line in the sand between The Free States and The United States is held but continually shifts. What makes this book shine is that this isn't yet another story of soldiers at war - it's about the people trapped between the soldiers. The stories are of the ones just barely getting by in a warzone, the stories the news almost always avoids. DMZ is fearless enough to focus on people living their lives in a country torn apart, great and small, happy and miserable. All of this is documented through the P.O.V. of a young, inexperienced reporter named Matty Smith, who is unexpectedly and unwillingly stranded in the heart of New York City. His stories soon become fought over and occasionally edited without his control or consent by the powerful news corporations. He doesn't stay inexperienced or naive for long, instead becoming angry, frustrated and sad as he damn well should. Riccardo Burchielli's art is grungy and expressionistic but detailed enough that everything and everyone you read about feels painfully real, complimented perfectly by Jeremy Cox's muted but varied and expressive coloring.

A lot of people have held up mirrors to our society since the beginning of the so-called "War On Terror", notably Brian K. Vaughan with his heartbreaking GN Pride of Baghdad (and, one could argue, Y: The Last Man). DMZ doesn't just hold up a mirror to war, it is demanding enough to hold up a mirror to our mirrors. DMZ assaults the Fox News agendas and top-down policy dictations from the Government that shape the public perceptions of any war. Matty Roth, the protagonist, is occasionally powerless for all his access and insights. It's a hellish, frustrating read but all the same more noble for how occasional quixotic Matty's quest seems. Much like the character Zee - a med student who deliberately stayed behind when Manhattan got evacuated to tend to those who couldn't get out in time and Matty's initial guide to the DMZ - half the nobility of the character's quests are how futile they seem in the face of overwhelming destruction, hatred, blood and greed. At it's heart, then, DMZ isn't necessarily as story about how divisive, messed-up and painful America can be - it's about how people are strong enough to find hope in even the most horrifying of places. There is a one-shot story in DMZ about a graffiti artist called 'Decade Later' who risks his life for years to do just one thing in a warzone - make art. If you read that story and don't feel something, then I feel sorry for you.

In short, DMZ is an amazing, insightful read that I think people will look back on and read long after the history books close on us. Like the best fiction, DMZ will give future generations insight into our current troubled society to understand just who we are and exactly what the hell we were thinking. Also, well, it's just plain awesome. Hell, I had the pleasure of meeting Brian Wood at a recent con, got a signed copy of the first trade and have actually loaned it out to a friend the first chance I got.

Do your brain and heart a favor and give it a read sometime.

Friday, August 21, 2009

This just made my day

Courtesy the good folks over at Robot 6, I present Deadpool and Hal Jordan discussing being played by Ryan Reynolds:

Friday, August 14, 2009


Today is an exciting day, folks!

First off, we have The Siegels getting the rights back to Superman! I'm very much for the old school creators of icons getting their due. Additionally, this will force Warner Brothers to fast track any possible Justice League notions and Superman/Batman thoughts, which may or may not be a bad thing.* In any case, I'm really interested to see what the Siegel estate will do with the character in 2013.

Secondly, AMC, the home of Mad Men and Breaking Bad, have picked up Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead to make into a TV series!** While it's not a series I follow in regular issues, I've been a fan of the series in trade format. This is not your typical zombie story. It's not one of those "hack by numbers" movies where everyone dies in two hours, amusingly or not. The Walking Dead tells a much more interesting story - how people survive day to day in a hopeless, horrible world. It's a lot smarter, moodier and character driven than just about any zombie story I've ever read. You can read the first issue of The Walking Dead for free at Image Comics, along with the first issues of a lot of their other titles, because they are clearly a very smart company***. And speaking of smart, any story where zombies are around less in the winter because they freeze up and then appear in more numbers in spring when they thaw out = CLEVER. Mind you, it's still not the cleverest zombie story I've ever seen but it's still an impressive, bleak ride. I'm very curious to see how dark they'll go with this series and how casting will shape up.

And lastly, Dark Horse Comics MyspacePresents website is, uh, presenting new comics again! Huzzah! Any site that brings us Sugarshock, Empowered in glorious color and other delightful fare is worthy of celebration.****

Again, I say huzzah!

*Since I really didn't like Superman Returns (outside of Kevin Spacey and that guy who played Jimmy Olsen), I wasn't really too psyched for a Batman/Superman movie anyways.

**I shamefully admit that I haven't watched more than a few episodes of Mad Men Season One. It's a great show and all but I just don't want to fall down a rabbit hole and get obsessed. I'm sure I'll watch it all eventually, if just because I adore Christina Hendricks (who was great in Firefly and Life, too, but I'm sure most of you haven't seen her in those regrettably canceled shows). I liked the one episode of Breaking Bad I saw, too, but the cognitive dissonance from seeing Hal from Malcolm in the Middle fingering a woman under the table during a PTA meeting kinda broke my brain a little. Anyways, hooray for AMC!

***You can also hunt around and read the first issue of The Sword for free on said site, which is another series I'm sure some of you remember me being pretty enthused about.

****I still need to get the Dark Horse TP that collects both Sugarshock and the Empowered one-shot. Any collection that has both Adam Warren art and a panel that declares "Squirrels have no souls!" clearly deserves my hard-earned cash.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Free Comic of the Day

4thLetter! hipped me to this wonderful little 22-page post-apocalypse story from Top Shelf Comics. Go read and enjoy.

Your Non-Comics Post of the Month

While I still haven't seen the G.I. Joe film, this "Ballad of G.I. Joe" with a star-studded cast is made of pure joy:

Vinnie Jones as Destro and Henry Rollins as Duke = WIN. For many reasons, this now becomes the best G.I. Joe related thing on the Internet (with this now becoming the silver medal winner and this and this tying for the bronze).

And if that didn't blow your mind enough, here are the adventures of Mister President Doctor Steve Elvis America, Man of Action:

You're Welcome!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

For Crying Out Loud

Maybe some of you already know that comic book writer Gail Simone has a forum where she and her fans chat about things. She's a very funny, forthright author who loves to interact with her fans online. So, when somebody posted this page from the new, poorly-received Cry For Justice mini-series from James Robinson, she naturally had something to say about it.

"I could see Lady Blackhawk, actually. Two pilots having some sexy fun, okay, I get that.

But I hate to see Huntress get branded as a slut again. The whole point of the Josh story was for her to realize she deserved better.

And I can't see them doing a threesome, that affects their friendship, and the Birds were ALREADY one of the very few books about female friendship which is so fucking rare in comics it might as well be moonbeans captured in mason jars. Not that friends can't have sex, but once again, this is all about the man, and "Well played, sir" is just, ugh.

I love James Robinson. But I really feel like most writers of mainstream comics get the sex thing all wrong over and over. It's all wink wink nudge nudge and women as trophies and thumbs up and it seems so weird and off-character to me.

But I haven't read it in context and I'm just the dumb girl anyway.

But James Robinson is a great writer, he's never written anything I didn't enjoy in comics and I still think Silver Age is an underrated classic. Maybe I'm reading it wrong. But it does feel weird that people can read bop and still come away with the impression that THAT Huntress and THAT Lady Blackhawk would get drunk and be someone's sad Penthouse fantasy.

It just shows again that Bop was an important book for a lot of reasons and its absence is keenly felt in the portrayal of female characters in the DCU. Not my bop specifically, just the book overall."

She comments further on why this page is more than a little sexist and disappointing in the link, if you dig through the comments. I could say a few choice things myself but I'm trying to keep my blood pressure down lately.

. . . oh, what the hell. I'll say them anyways.

First off, I decided against collecting this series since I read the agonizingly boring and annoyingly self-righteous 5-page preview shoehorned into the back of my fun, entertaining issue of Power Girl. Yes, Hal, let's do lecture Wonder Woman about justice. You know, the woman who unflinchingly killed Max Lord and got whined at for two years about it? And hey, while, we're on the subject of smacking down villains, remember Parallax? I sure wish somebody had taken that power-hungry murdering maniac down permanently right about now.

You know, I really wish I could like Green Arrow and Hal Jordan. I like Black Canary, I like Guy Gardner, I like Kyle Rayner, hell, I like Arsenal and Kilowog. I know a lot of great fans that I respect who love Hal Jordan to death, so I keep trying to see what's so awesome about him and, to a lesser degree, Green Arrow. Still, I just can't get into these two characters because half the time I read about them, they're being portrayed as, well . . . how to put this politely? Asshats.

When Hal Jordan's quoting John McCain about bravery and Green Arrow's electrocuting his wife to end an argument, I just can't find much to like about either one of them. And "hey, ain't we studly manly men?" banter like this isn't helping my general disdain for their characters much.

Anyways, I know I'm probably being unfair to both characters by judging them only by the recent stuff I've read but, hey, you know what? Fuck it. If the Powers That Be at DC want to portray two of their most iconic heroes as self-righteous frat boys, then that's clearly how I'm supposed to approach the characters. And I really, really don't like frat boys.

Ahem. Anyways, since I try to be more of a "light a candle" than "curse the darkness" kind of guy, let me recommend some good comics with female protagonists in lieu of Snivel For Peace, Whine for Justice.*

Echo is about a woman on the run with powers given to her by accident via the death of another woman, a fighter pilot in an experimental flight bodysuit. Julie, the protagonist, is being tracked by another woman who is more than just a femme fatale. Julie has to try and reconcile the memories of the fighter pilot whose dangerous experimental flight suit has now become partially bonded to her, all the while avoiding the government, a deadly lunatic and more. Echo is one helluva read, a complex, interesting and smart sci-fi thriller.

The Sword is, to quote the creators website, "a modern-day fantasy series that follows Dara Brighton, a young woman whose life is destroyed by three powerful strangers. Her journey begins when she discovers a unique sword." I've been tradewaiting on this one due to poor finances and haven't yet gotten the new trade but this series has been consistently interesting, suspenseful and surprising. If you don't mind gore (the titular sword sure ain't used for slicing yams), it's a really great read.

And speaking of female sexuality in comics, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the smart, funny and frankly adult Empowered. While James Robinson turns two established heroines into a tasteless threesome punchline, Adam Warren writes about mature, adult superheroines whose sex lives are yes, funny, but also hot, heartfelt and occasionally awkward - i.e., "real". Hell, there's more honest, heartbreaking interaction between lesbian superheroes in volume five of Empowered than in all of Greg Rucka's Detective Comics thus far - and that's saying something, given how much I'm loving Rucka's run on Detective Comics**. It's both funny and kind of sad that Empowered, the series that is supposedly "exploitative" enough to get slapped in shrink wrap and labeled with a "Mature Readers" sticker, treats it's female characters with more respect than a book that says "Justice League" on the cover.

Anyways, feel free to share your thoughts on the above page and Simone's response, 'natch but . . . you know what? I'd like this to be a positive post. Feel free to kvetch with me but I'd rather you go ahead and tell me what comic books you're really enjoying lately in the comments. I'm always looking for comic books that make me happy rather than make that tiny vein in my neck twitch.

*Bonus Points to all of you who know what I'm referencing with that joke.

**Oh, and Detective Comics is kicking all sorts of ass and looking amazing, but I'm sure you knew that already.