Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Marvels Project

The Marvels Project: It takes a lot at this point to get me to get a Brubaker book. But, I'm a sucker for the golden-age characters and the artwork by Epting was mostly clear and legible so I felt obligated to pick it up. Indeed, Epting is an artist who really has grown by leaps and bounds. I remember liking his style on the GA Invaders heroes in Roger Stern's Marvel Universe and he brought a much needed sense of realism and dynanism to Aquaman. I think the modern coloring still too often renders the pages too dark, muddying their clarity and power, but his line is still allowed to shine through for the most part.

I enjoyed the book more than I thought I would as it wound itself through the early days of Timely and their earliest characters. Links to characters that in-continuity predated them is provided by the inclusion of the Two-Gun Kid in what ultimately is the weakest part of the story. One of the things that may annoy readers is that unless you are a long-time Marvel reader, there are several characters introduced with no real explanation to who they are. Sure, you can look them up on the internet, I did. But, that can be a problem with books that are about continuity, just how much do you tell the reader about a character? Do they really need to know why Lt. Sawyer or Red Hargrove are important to Nick Fury lore? I think stories like this are in part dependent on those connections, it's part of the reason why the story is being told. Even if it's not included in this particular issue, I think it should be at some point before it's over. It's the difference between a cameo and an "easter egg". Cameos are meant to be recognized and dependent on it. Easter Eggs on the other hand are meant to be discovered and hunted for, the thrill is finding where it's from. Some of these will no doubt play out, if you don't know who Erskine is, you will later. But, will they explain who Horton's partner Bradley is? Does this mean we might see the early heroic careers of some of his partners?

In some ways it's not too dissimilar to some of Thomas' books from some years ago that tried to outline the history of the Sub-Mariner and the original Human Torch, complete with their retcons or his America vs the Justice Society. The chief difference is that there's more story tying it all together without feeling like one of those special flashback episodes of your favorite and not-so favorite sit-com (or the ninth or so chapter of many movie serials). Hopefully, it will continue to be more of filling in the gaps and such than any outright complete massacre of the original characters and origins ala Bucky. Brubaker is on record that he thinks the Angel's costume is horrible though it is completely fitting for the time. But, he has to be careful with changing it. Already by adding a mask on the cover and he becomes more generic, not less as with his signature mustache and cape he looks a lot like MLJ's Wizard and DC's Mr. America.

The only real flaw is the opening section with the Two-Gun Kid. He's an old man dying in a hospital in 1939 talking to Tom Holloway who will become the Angel. He talks about how he had been in the future with all these heroes, but when he got old they sent him back. Like Dracula with a base on the moon, it's a cool bit for all about 30 seconds, once you give it any thought. It actually makes not a single bit of logical sense as something that anyone would actually ever do.

The Two-Gun Kid grew up in the Old West circa 1880's. He travels to the future, our present. As presented in this story, he spends about 60 YEARS here. He's an old man and even if he's longing for home, he's NOT sent back to the time he came from and that he'd be remotely familiar with, but the time period he'd be in if he lived all those years in the past. It's a time period that is completely alien to him as it would be to any of us that are currently under 60, a period he'd read about in history books, that's it. He has no friends or family. The ones he left behind in the Old West would be mostly dead and he'd been out of touch for decades. Indeed, the vast majority of his friends and family would more than likely be in the future where he had lived most of his entire life! Instead, he's stuck in a past he doesn't know as an old man with their idea of medicine, cleanliness, hospitals and comfort OVER A CENTURY older than the time he just came from and had been living in for decades. Do you think when Captain America finally gets old and is dying the surviving Avengers will do him a "favor" and send him to 1971 to live out the last few days of his life? It sounds like one of the cruelest things you could actually do to someone. It's a scene that is kewl on the surface but really makes not one lick of sense.

It may seem a minor flaw, but it's the death of Matt Hawk that serves as the hook to draw the reader in and to provide motivational inspiration and the impetus for Holloway to become a hero. It's a basic foundation and theme for the character that is to serve as mostly our eyes and ears. It starts the whole story off on a flawed premise even if plot wise it's only a small part of the history unfolding.

Pay attention and you will spot a pre-Captain America Steve Rogers.

Wonder if this mini will also finish before The Twelve?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Upcoming Comics and Reviews

When you look at the art previewing the upcoming Doc Savage/Batman one-shot and the pulp-world it's hard not to get excited. The one on the left which has now expanded out to show Doc as well as the Spirit, Blackhawk and Rima (and friend). The others, they have Doc looking much like an amalgam of his pulp roots and the covers by Bama in the 60s and 70s. Great stuff.

If only Azzarello wasn't assigned to the project. Here's what he had to say at

CBR: What were your thoughts on Doc Savage coming into this project? Are you a long-time fan or did you have more of a working knowledge of the character?

BRIAN AZZARELLO: “Fan” might be a strong word but I was definitely aware of him. I read a lot of books when I was younger. If [DC] wanted Doc Savage straight ahead Doc Savage, I probably wouldn’t be involved but the way that we’re doing it, I’m pretty excited about it.


Will readers need prior knowledge of Doc Savage heading into the one-shot or the series?

What. Do you think I want 10 guys reading this?

Ten guys in their seventies.

Those 10 guys in their seventies are going to be the guys who get pissed off. “He obviously doesn’t understand Doc Savage. That’s not my Doc Savage” That’s exactly what I want them to say.

But I guess your hope is to bring them around, as well?

What I’ve found is when people hate what you’re doing, they follow it even closer. But this is not for them. We’re taking these characters and like I said, we’re creating something new. They can be made relevant and viable

Honestly, I don't understand this attitude and actually being proud of it. One, there's that little bit of dismissal age-ism. Imagine you turn it around and say, "We're writing this for the cynical intellectual snobbish comic-shop guy fans, you know, the fat guy living in his mom's basement at age 40 that has never been laid in his life." Sure, not all comic fans fit that description, most of them don't probably. Guess what? The same can be said for Doc Savage fans, there's more than ten of us and a lot of us are under 70 (I'm only a little only over halfway there). Honestly, if you think that's all the fans of the character has, why is a publisher reprinting the original stories, why are comic shops carrying them and why did DC pursue getting the license? Because, there's more than just ten geriatric fans.

Then to go and brag about how his character won't be like the original character? Should not the goal of when you are working with an established character is to get the character "right"? Wouldn't you brag about how readers would be reading the book and saying, "that's exactly right! He nailed it!"

I understand the need for making changes to fit the medium. The last thing you want to do is to copy the pulp novels too closely. Apart from the fact that books and novels have different strengths and pacing from comics as well as just the changes in time, styles and perspectives. But, the goal should still be one of fidelity, to tell stories that are true to the spirit and gist of the characters while remaining exciting reads. Dent did that himself. As his writing style changed, as the times changed from growing out of the Great Depression to a world at war to a post atomic bomb Hiroshima era, Doc and his peers also went through changes. The post-war Doc novels especially have a changed, more subdued and human Doc. The humor often in the stories is more situational, wry and ironical than the frequent sophomoric and slap stick antics of Monk and Ham.

Frankly, I think a big problem of today's comics is precisely because they don't just do straight-ahead honest stories of the characters. Instead, the stories are often about continuity while sacrificing that continuity that made the stories attractive and relevant in the first place. Instead of setting out and writing what amounts to being a giant cross-over storyline (albeit all contained in one comic) that is about establishing the continuity and the characters on one Earth, set out to tell actual stories with the characters. We don't need a separate Earth, there was nothing really in DC's last series with Doc and the Shadow that explicitly said they weren't in continuity. They're too busy re-inventing the wheel and making more work for themselves. This kind of world building is often self-limiting (no superpowers rules for instance although Doc and the Shadow went up against invisible men, giants, men with super-speed, that had teleportation devices, etc) and ends up restricting more than it allows. It was a problem of the various universes Jim Shooter had a hand in crafting. Most did ok while it was solely his vision, but the limitations imposed strangled the sense of wonder and larger than life aspect that govern superhero books. Superheroes were allowed, but magic, super science and equally colorful villains were severely curtailed. By the time Valiant took steps to correct it, the books were already floundering.

It's funny how the character looks completely on model while Azarello talks about how different the character will be (without actually saying anything of substance in what the character actually IS). Maybe we can hope this is all just hyperbole on his part.

Dominic Fortune: I thought it was pretty cool that Chaykin was returning to a classic character of his after 30 years and in the time period that spawned him. It's a Max title and Chaykin is known for "adult" fare in his comics. So, when I saw nudity in an online preview, no big surprise, but then just a page or two later in a scene that is supposed to pass as being witty banter is the repeated use of a very vulgar and derogatory word. I know blue collar workers, guys that worked in prisons, and people with rather colorful language after a beer or two gets in 'em. And, it's a word I've never heard used outside as being the female equivalent of using the "N" word on an African American. There were "adult" comic strips in the Saucy pulps that are far tamer by comparison. Pass.

What also surprises me is not just that it's in the comic. The comic will be probably be bagged. This is not the first time that I've seen such material pop up in online comic book sites. I assume that they still operate largely under the radar, but they could quickly find themselves in legal trouble presenting adult material without any kind of safeguards that minors don't see it. They are basically asking for legal trouble.

The Marvels Project: As much as I'm leery of anything written by Brubaker these days, I will go on the record and say that the promos online not only look promising but actually enjoyable. I will definitely give it a look-see.

Cry for Freedom or Daddy, what's a threesome?: I'm not getting this Justice League book, all that seems left of Robinson are what flawed his comics beforehand: the self-appointed savior of obscure characters while miring them with extreme character flaws, tearing down established characters to make his pet characters look good and turning heroes into villains. And, the events and thinking that underpin this book... hamstringing the main JLA book written by another writer, rebooting the League all over again, and various characters that I'd be hard worked to care less about, it would be hard to make a title that I'd be more disinterested in. But, they actually succeed.

They give us this little conversation. What was Robinson thinking? His editor? That they're working on a Kevin Smith movie?

Are they even aware that they are writing superhero comics with characters established before they were born? It's totally inappropriate for the characters and comic they are in. The dialog could have been anything, but he chose some questionable sophomoric fanboy level speak that reflects poorly not only on GL but two characters that he has never written or has anything to do with this title. It's not as vulgar or explicit as the Dominic Fortune material but it's also far more out of place and inappropriate contextually.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - Century: 1910: Alan Moore's preoccupation of the sexuality and sex lives of fictional characters has gotten so excessive that it pretty much ruins this title, it distracts attention from the basic core conceit of the book. If I wanted to be reading a lurid bodice ripper erotic romance, I'd pick one up. I enjoy reading Anne Perry's Victorian set novels and they deal with a lot of the sexuality and mores of the era and the double standards and such. However, her novels treat the issues a little more honestly, providing context and addressing the double standards while at the same time really exploring and presenting the milieu and interesting characters and plots. It's old hat with Moore's works, almost all of his stories deal with sexuality and repressed desires in some way. Maybe that's why it's getting tired at this point. He can be a good writer, he does his research, the League is a great concept and idea, and there are some great little scenes in this book. But he cannot help pushing those buttons in stories that don't need it. Meanwhile, the characters have become subservient to serving his sexual agenda. The character Carnacki is nothing like his actual stories, so he serves no real purpose other than being just another name droppee easter-egg cypher. It ends up being a caricature of an Alan Moore story, to the point I have to double-check to make sure he's the writer and not one of the wannabes.

Doom Patrol: You know of those relationships. The ones you know that are bad for you. You can list all the reasons why on a piece of paper. However, you think, "this time is different, they've changed. This time will work." And, you are left banging your head against the wall when it turns out as bad as knew in your heart that it would, maybe worse. That's how I felt picking up the Doom Patrol comic written by Keith Giffen. I had given up on Keith Giffen as a creator, coming to the conclusion that he hasn't really tried to write characters as they came to him. Instead of finding things inherently interesting about them, he looks for ways that he can change them to make them interesting to him. The list is long of characters that he has changed: Dr. Fate, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, Legion of Superheroes, Ragman, etc.

But, I figured, with the DP that would almost be a good thing. The Morrison-Pollack runs were creative but the characters were severely compromised properties for a mainstream title. Arcudi had an interesting revival with some fascinating stories with bizarre villains, great scenes and dialog and new characters along with wonderfully idiosyncric but dynamic art by Tan Eng Huat. The series failed though, Arcudi never really fleshed out his new characters, never provided them with motivations or real lives and backgrounds. Byrne's take was a back to the roots. While I would have preferred an in-story reboot (and there is an explanation in his run) and he had a way to do so, editorial thought it better just to start completely over. I think it's a case where he would have been condemned one way or another. At least this way, he doesn't say the revered Morrison's run was wrong, he didn't try to write a second-rate Morrison's DP, it's just ignored. If DC wanted to continue with the Morrison-Pollack version under the Vertigo imprint, why not? This way, the two takes had nothing to do with each other. One version that works very well in the DCU and another that had the luxury of telling all the adult oriented stories they wanted. Byrne's lasted less time than Arcudi's. Had he been the one to relaunch it in the 90's with Kupperberg's writing, it would have probably been a stellar hit. Here, his writing nor his art really had the same feel as earlier. In some ways it has grown, but in others it has lost some of that primal iconic power that it once held. Still, the characters were likeable and truer to their old personalities and some new appealing characters in Grunt and Nudge.

Then the infinite final countdown crises happened and Geoff Johns came up with some idea that ALL versions of the DP happened, that they had memories of each incarnation. Nevermind that the characters Arcudi created seem to be left out. Nevermind, that it has at its core a huge problem, if Morrison's take is considered real, the Chief is a manipulative clinical sociopath. It makes absolutely no sense that they would remain with him. When Waid used them in Brave & Bold, they were portrayed as being kooky, eccentric and untrustworthy. Everything positive Byrne had done was undone, the characters aren't the least bit sympathetic or even all that terribly interesting.

Strangely enough, Giffen for once followed that lead. His story portrays all the characters as being unsympathetic to us and even to each other. When a member dies and one runs off, none of the characters can be bothered to care in the least, more wrapped up in their own little worlds. He uses Rocky Davis in the indescribably improbable, unexplainable and just a bad idea role as Catholic priest and counselor (used this way in the pages of Infinite Crisis as well). Likewise the artist provides nice modern looking costumes/outfits for the team as well as a new design for Robotman. They're along the lines of nice busy outfits with seams and such and a more ornate complex body, but the more complex, the less iconic you get. The designs are completely forgettable.

There's also a back-up of the Metal Men which is a pairing that makes sense. The tones and styles of the two are comparable. Moreso, since Giffen is also writing this one. The Metal Men seem to be back to their more or less default setting. I liked the secret origin of them some years back that revealed they had all been once human, which explained why they acted the way they did and Magnus' own contradictory actions. Didn't really care for the change of him into a Metal Man of a fictional ore though. Here, Giffen is a little more to his old self in that he seems to go out of his way to make the characters even more oddball than ever. The ever reliable and field-leader Gold is more annoying and self-congratulatory than Mercury.

The problem with both parts is not only do the characters come off as being different shades of annoying that you wouldn't want to spend ten minutes with, but there isn't really any story to either of them either. There are scenes, characters interacting, but the plotting is thin, serving as nothing more than introducing us to the set-ups and status quos of the teams. The Metal Men is more of a comedy skit than a story, you know when you are supposed to laugh and all, but it is all forced and un-funny. There's more story to the two pages of the Metal Men strip in Wednesday Comics that I read. There's nothing in the book that makes you want to care what happens next. Not the self-indulgent characters, no big mystery, no real dramatic tension. It's all flat. The pictures are pretty but comics are more than just pictures.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Reviews, News, and Reactions.

Marvelman: The biggest news of the past couple of weeks has probably been Marvel announcing the news that they have secured the rights to Marvelman. This has lots of people excited, hoping to see trade collection treatments of the Alan Moore material, the continuation of Neil Gaiman's storyline. Lots of praise about the "creator" of Marvelman getting compensation and Joe Quesada gushing over his talent and such. Which is funny since Marvelman is a Captain Marvel rip-off. When Fawcett chose to accept the courts decision against them regarding Captain Marvel vs Superman instead of appealing and just close shop on comicbooks, it put the publisher of his reprint stories in the UK in a bind as he was immensely popular. Enough so, that they chose to create a series of characters that were even more a copyright infringement of CM than he was of Superman. To the point, that some stories were nothing more than redrawn Fawcett ones! Yeah, a lot of creative genius there.

Quesada has been coy in talking about Marvelman though in regards to Miracle Man though. Or, maybe, no one has really noticed that in all his talking, he doesn't address really where this puts them in regards to the Alan Moore tales. Because, it seems that the copyrights to the character and stories may be as big a mess as ever. What I see in reading the interviews is that Marvel has bought the trademarks and copyrights to the original character of Marvel Man, not necessarily Moore's revisionist work. That would mean a little more work to iron out those details.

Likewise Quesada has not mentioned any details at what the plans are with the character (compared to announcements by DC in regards to Doc Savage and Dynamite with Green Hornet, the announcements were accompanied with some teaser artwork and hints at how the company envisioned acquisitions). Most fans seem to want and expect some kind of faithfulness to Alan Moore's stories and his take. The irony there is that Alan Moore did not create the character nor was his take at all faithful to the original characters and stories but was one of if not "the" first modern revisionist take on a character. Not merely updating a character but setting out to reveal that the old stories were silly, history got it wrong and replacing it with a dark and cynical version of the character. Why should one iota more respect be given to Moore's stories and version than he himself was willing to give what came before?

The other problem with following Moore's take is that when he did it, there was something original to it (even though he could just as easily created a character of his own) but has become incredibly cliched and dated. New readers reading Watchmen don't see how landmark it was. Even watching the movie, so much of it is firmly entrenched in the time. Some of it was deliberate, but a lot of it was thematic as well. In an industry dominated by the likes of the Authority, the Max and Vertigo lines, a team of Avengers being super-villains in disguise, heroes being ultimate bad guys (Superboy-Prime, Alex Luthor) and heroes getting offed in incredibly graphic ways, Moore's Marvelman is a cliche. I would say that it would be truer to his vision to serve as an indictment of what comics have become by returning the hero to a more standard superhero. Show that while comics are no longer juvenile, they have become more sophomoric and prurient. Instead of actually being adult in themes and ideas, they have become adult in shock value. They are the equivalent of teen-age boys sneaking cigarettes, looks at their dads' Playboys and talking about girls using vulgar language without any real idea what to do with one.

The Fighting American: Dynamite didn't want to be outdone so they released some Alex Ross artwork with the announcement that they had been in the talks with Joe Simon and the Kirby estate over the character of the Fighting American. This apparently was a big surprise to Simon who responded that he had said, "no" in no uncertain terms. Was it just last year that Dynamite had released a similar announcement regarding plans for the Phantom, a character that was and is currently being published by Moonstone? Which makes me wonder about Dynamite's sensibilities when pursuing these things as they seem to get their wires crossed rather easily as to when they are negotiating something and when it has been established as a done deal. Maybe, before they make these announcements they should wait until at least lawyers have actually gotten involved.

Not knowing all the facts, I am willing to give them a benefit of the doubt that they were operating in good faith and not trying to pull something over. Simon is in his 90s after all. It's easily possible he misremembers the gist of the conversation, that he thinks he said "no" in uncertain terms but in reality left it a little more in the air and with the Kirby estate on board, they thought Simon was just a formality that needed a little more working on. At that age, it's possible that the original or followup conversations were through someone that handles his business and financial matters and not Simon himself, and he was unaware that it was being pursued even though he wasn't interested.

Not overly fond of Dynamite's track record, so I am glad. I think a couple of years ago with all of the deaths and bleakness at the big two and the death of Captain America, the time was ripe for Archie or somebody to revive the Shield/Fighting American/Minute Man as a more optimistic superhero in Gruenwald Captain America style stories: full of colorful heroes and villains in non-decompressed storylines. To serve as a counterpoint to Bru's Captain America specifically and the cynicism and bleakness that pervades modern superhero comics in general. I'd like to see the Fighting American in straightforward superhero stories.

In that regards, not too thrilled with Dynamite getting Captain Victory or Silver Star either unless it allows Busiek to finish his aborted story lines. Have we seen Ross or Dynamite really do something that has that feel of grandeur that Kirby effortlessly lent everything he did? Nowadays, Kirby seems almost an embarrassment to the companies, his work getting retconned and heavily redesigned and remodelled. New Gods. Eternals. Omac. Atlas. Captain America and Bucky. Or titles like Galactic Bounty Hunters that are parody and pastiche of his work.

Captain America: Speaking of... so, the method to bring Captain America back is through some kind of time travel gun? Yet, Brubaker and his defenders talk about the realism he brought to the book concerning his takes on Captain America and Bucky? The "Reborn" title even has Cap in even more of a retcon styled costume, complete with stylized helmet, weapons belt and the buccaneer boots more of a stylized design attached to real boots. Sheesh.

In talking about his upcoming Marvel project, besides the ridiculousness of the Angel's costume (which is along the lines of Superman's), Brubaker talks about how much he loves history and the chance to bring history into the stories. He gives lip service to that love of history in that he brought on comic historian (especially of Timely Comics and all things Alan Moore) Jess Nevins for research. Which is good if you want to be sure to get the characters and context correct. However, Brubaker doesn't even get the broad strokes correct without feeling the need to rewrite it to fit his own vision and sensibilities. He loves history so much that he feels the need to correct it, to re-write the two most iconic, definitive and repeated stories of Bucky: his origin and his death. At least Brubaker acknowledges Jess' help and involvement. More than I got from ABC/DC for providing character information and copies of Pantha stories for the Terra Obscura minis.

One of the first complaints I had against his Captain America stories was that after a year, we were basically on the very same story, what was being passed on as stories were nothing less than chapters (otherwise as stories, they are structurally bad and unsound and unending sameness). After a year, there was little to no resolution to various plot elements brought up at the very beginning, the rhythm and meter was of a very long work (and Captain America was just a putz in his own book, reacting to things but not really serving as an interesting protagonist or driving force, but that's another issue). And, frankly, I didn't wish to dish out over a hundred dollars and several years of involvement for one story. At the time, most of his defenders told me I was wrong, that they were individual stories. Look around now at the talk and reviews and everyone is talking about how this has been a 3-year building story with still no definite end in sight and praising him for this epic. This type of book may be very successful in the limited market that comics are today, but story lines like this is going to keep comics from ever breaking out past a collector mentality market. It works on shows like LOST but viewers don't actually pay for the honor of watching LOST or soap operas (which are dying by the way). And, the gimmick shows signs of aging. Don't really hear people talking about it and other long-plotted shows like 24 like they used to.

Geoff Johns somehow keeps skating by as this great superhero fan and writer while killing scores of classic characters and writing some of the bleakest comics in history. While bringing back the Flash, he killed several Wally West villains, and brought back Max Mercury and Johnny Quick long enough to really kill Johnny Quick by skeletonizing him. Geez, what was the point then?

Editorially, it was a stupid decision to boot. DC actually owns Johnny Quick. Max Mercury on the other hand... DC does not own the copyrights to the Quality characters. Max Mercury is a nightmare trademark wise as well, he was originally Quicksilver but as their marvelous competition has a trademarked superhero speedster by that name, the original has his name changed. Not necessary but it simplifies things. Still, the choice is to then kill the character they own but NOT the character that isn't really theirs to begin with and they jump through hoops to justify using? Of course, for all I know, the next issue Johns may very well just decide to kill Max Mercury nee Quicksilver as well...

Legion of Three Worlds: I will admit to hypocrisy here. It doesn't overly bother me this book was late other than just on principle. As I don't really care about the story, the villain, the crossover it was supposed to be a part of it and was just getting it for Perez drawing bunches of super-characters fighting an all out superhero brawl, the timeliness of it really didn't matter. In that, it didn't disappoint. I don't know enough about the various Legion incarnations to really care about most of them. The story had plot elements that made no sense, Superboy is immune to magic because there was none from his universe? Uh, things don't work that way, it would mean he was MORE vulnerable to magic, not less (if anything that could be used to explain why Superman has had more problems with magic, that there was next to none left on Krypton). Superboy was vulnerable to kryptonite created by that one Element Lad because that Legion was from Earth Prime... huh? As Element Lad's powers are pseudo science-fiction, it stands to reason he changes things from one element to another, he doesn't actually magically create matter. Thus, any kryptonite or element he creates would be that universe's, he's using the atoms and molecules on hand. If all that mattered was creating kryptonite with a specific radiation, then any Element Lad could do it, Brainiac would easily be able to come up with the right formation. Yes, I'm giving it more thought than it deserves, it's superhero comics after all and that comes with it bad science. But, even in context the extrapolation and explanations have to make some kind of sense. Least, it all looked good.

BPRD: With the last issue of the latest arc of the War of the Frogs, I gave up on the ongoing series of minis as each was really just telling one longer story that was getting tiresome and boring. Yet, just when I thought I was out... two new minis start up, BPRD: 1947 and Witchfinder. Both are set in the past and have more of that gothic horror/dread going for it. Yes, I know, it's obvious that 1947 is set in the past and the other is actually set in the Victorian age so naturally the horror has more that gothic feel. Both just seem to get at the type of stories and tales that BPRD was built on whereas the present day series just seems to have lost that classic retro horror vibe that Hellboy began. I also read the hardback novel Baltimore but that's a different post.

Captain Britain and MI:13: I enjoy watching movie serials at times. They can be problematic nowadays as you rarely watch one at a time a week apart but can usually power through a couple of episodes at a time before repitition sets in. What they are known for are their cliffhanger endings of each chapter. Hero is fighting bad guy on an out of control truck. Bad guy knocks hero out. Sees truck is about to go over the cliff and jumps to safety. Truck immediately plummets over the cliff and hero is surely dead (unless the previews for next week ruin it for you). The following week begins where the other left off. It may truncate some of it but what seemed to happen in just mere seconds is stretched out. The truck is not as close to doom as it seemed, the hero has time to come to, see his danger and likewise make his escape. He was never in any real danger. I bring this up because I think that it's one of the flaws of Paul Cornell's writing. He often seems to be writing backwards. Details like how Dracula's men survive on the moon are brought up two issues after the concept is brought up. There is no story reason to do so other than it's a plothole that just didn't get noticed until later. Or his revising of the mission of MI:13, over the course of several issues we get different explanations. Then you have this last issue. Two issues ago, Dracula was looking all but completely triumphant. Last issue we get that serial cliffhanger trick where it goes back and shows us that there was more going on that was conveniently left out, that they used the being Plotka to give Dracula what he most wanted. Still, Dracula seems a major threat despite that setback and things still not going very well for the heroes. This issue then pulls the same trick as it backs up and shows us how almost all of this was planned out. It would be ingenious if it didn't also remove almost ALL dramatic tension from the storyline much as the finale to the first Agents of Atlas mini. It completely immasculates Dracula as a villain and the whole plot. Likewise Dracula gets taken out in a completely lame way by the writers pet Mary Sue character.

Some of this could be attributed to Cornell having to wrap up all his little plotlines and subplots. Except it has been a pattern of his writing. Just as continuing to have little plotholes and conversations that don't really make sense, only in this case there's no follow up issue. How did Dane's heart get healed, how did Jackie become vampiric when she never was before (she even aged naturally), why did Doom send Megan or if it was a betrayal, why did he betray Dracula, how is Faiza's father not an inhuman monster as he's now a vampire, etc?

It's no surprise the book is being cancelled. Take the title. Imagine 40 years ago someone at DC said, "I have this great idea for a superhero book. We'll call it 'Aquaman and the League.'" Or, instead of "Star Trek" it was called "Sulu and the Enterprise", the "Andy Griffith Show" becomes "Aunt Bee's life in Mayberry." The book could have been called The Black Knight and MI:13 and been just as an accurate title. Somewhere, an editor or someone basically screwed up. Titles and covers are advertising and promotion for the book. There is a reason those things are trademarked. It's contradictory and counterproductive to be advertising that you have enough confidence in Captain Britain's name to prominently display it as the title by which you are going to solicit sales for and then reduce the character to second banana even in an ensemble setting, perpetually taking a backseat to the most non-descript character in the book, as if you really don't have confidence in him to carry the book. Someone needed to sit down and decide "do we or do we not think that Captain Britain is popular enough to equal sales success on the book. If 'yes', the writing and stories need to show that. If 'no', then don't give him first billing in naming the book after him and call it Excalibur or Avalon or something."

It's much like the Hawkeye series some years ago that had covers by Scott Kollins with Hawkeye in full color and costumed superhero mode while the interior art was dark and moody and Hawkeye did not appear in costume until the final issue. Of course the book failed. What was being used to promote the book (the covers and a recognizeable superhero title) had absolutely nothing to do with the actual content.

And, now that Marvel has Marvelman, what will that mean for Captain Britain? With luck, Marvelman will be kept out of continuity allowing for the two to both exist.

Wednesday Comics: I got the first two weeks and then decided against. Some of the features look really good and have a sense of fun to them. I even liked the Metamorpho chapters with the art by Allred, whose artwork I generally find a bit cold and off putting, too deliberate in its pop-art sensibilities. However, in this day and age of expensive comics where I cannot even buy a regular comic for the most part and get a complete story, spending the same amount on a weekly comic that boasts a bunch of stories one page at a time for almost four months just seems too much. I'm not getting a satisfying read with any of them and as it's a fixed title, any that are less than satisfactory are doomed to be there until the end, no new interesting titles in the next installment.

One of the beauties of anthologies is the nature of variety. Some stories are longer than others and may continue over several months, some maybe just a couple of issues, some maybe just this one issue, some are ending, others are beginning. An organic and shifting nature. Then, there's also actual variety. Not just adventure, but maybe a western, a humor feature, a text feature, etc. Other than Sgt. Rock, there's an overall sameness to these.

I will give DC props for at least getting solid professionals for the tales. While the artwork on some like Wonder Woman tend to a little bizarre, none actually look amateurish as anthology comics often seem to eventually devolve into, work by creators not really ready to work at this level.

Doesn't mean I like them all. The Superman story looks lush, but the painted work ultimately doesn't really work for me here. Looks like perpetually sunset or dawn, Batman seems to be from a still from the movie, and the textures all seem the same. I generally find Pope's work ugly which I could get past but I don't understand why Rann suddenly looks like ERB's Mars. I get that the titles are out-of-continuity but that should mean they should be more on-model in general look and feel, especially in a format that's not going to let you explore and explain the necessities of this version being different than an on-model one. It's just change for change's sake. Go off model this much and just tweak the script some and there's no reason for it to be an Adam Strange story at all. I don't see the appeal though it seems to be one of the more critically acclaimed and I just think, "Really? What am I missing?" I thought I was going to like Baker's Hawkman, but it's a Hawkman that casually kills and the artwork seems to be striving for an identity. At times it's strong stuff, but other times it seems like it's just playing around with the Neal Adams style like a child playing dress up.

I figure most if not all will be collected in a couple of trade volumes and I pick which ones I want. It's a decision made easier by the fact that they ARE non-continuity tales which means their stories won't be as dated by the time the trades roll around. 'Cause I'd like to see how Kamandi, the Deadman, Supergirl and Catwoman & the Demon stories do pan out. And, I can read the whole story without having to pull out each issue and read them one page at a time.