Saturday, May 31, 2014

Black Canary apparently likes Sleater-Kinney.

At least according to this panel Joe Quinones drew in Black Canary/Zatanna: Bloodspell. The poster partially visible on her bedroom wall that says "Kinney" looks a bit like the cover to the band's final album, 2006's The Woods.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Review: Uncanny X-Force: The Dark Angel Saga Book 2

The "Dark Angel Saga" that began in the previous volume, much of which was spent with the members of the title team who weren't Angel journeying to the alternate world that "Age of Apocalypse" was set on in order to get some techno-magic Life Seed with which they hope to cure their ally Angel/Archangel/Warren Worthington, who had "ascended" to become the new Apocalypse.

If none of that means anything to you, this particular collection of the series—the fourth volume, although Marvel's pretty terrible at labeling these things—isn't the place to start, but Rick Remender and company's Uncanny X-Force actually is a rather strong comic book series, and I'd recommend it as a superhero action/adventure narrative that manages to wrestle with questions of morality and ethics while, having its cake and eating it too, constantly showing its various take-no-prisoners, more-violent-than-most-mutant anti-heroes waging violent and bloody battles.

After the mostly successful campaign in Age of Apocalypse-Land, our heroes Wolverine, Fantomex, Deadpool and Psylocke (all wearing matching black and gray uniforms, except for Psylocke) return to their headquarters in order to purge Archangel of Apocalypse, but find the Apocalypsified Archangel there waiting for them, along with his own super-team (Dark Beast, Genocide and current Horsemen War and Famine). After a brief melee, Archangel captures his lover Psylocke, who he wants to stick a Death Seed in and make into his bride or whatever, but the rest of the team escapes.

Much of the book's remaining 110 pages are so are devoted to the conflict between Archangel as the New Apocalypse and his followers, who include the Earth-AOA emigrees Iceman and The Blob among the previously mentioned characters, as well as the rather substantial cult of followers built up around Apocalypse (of which I was ignorant of before reading this series; as I've said before, most of my X-Men knowledge comes from the 1990s cartoon, rather than the comics that cartoonw as based on).

Archangel and Psylocke are engaged in a battle of rhetoric, as he tries to convince her to willingly submit to the Seed and join him and she tries to convince Warren Worthington to fight back and regain control of himself from his other personality (They also physically fight another off and on, as well). And the rest of X-Force fight their way into and through Apocalyse-Angel's forces, with Fantomex relying on a series of escalating attacks in an attempt to bring his former teammate down (First, he journeys back to the world of AOA in order to bring that world's X-Men here to help them, then he releases the clone of Apocalypse he's been growing and teaching via a virtual reality world since the end of the first volume of the series, Genesis—who will play a pretty substantial role in Jason Aaron's excellent Wolverine and The X-Men comic).

The good guys win, naturally, but at a pretty great cost. Psylocke does have to kill her lover Archangel, but, this being comics, he only kinda sorta dies—he is reborn immediately, but with no memory of his previous life at all.

It's a pretty propulsive read, all action and arguments, with a few jokes (Thanks, Deadpool!) and several rather inspired scenes of crazy fantasy. "Saga" is a pretty big word, one that's gotten smaller thanks to over use in super-comics, but this multi-part storyline, which Remender's been building to through the whole series so far, but which takes up about half of the previous trade and all of this one, really earns the word. "Epic" might have worked too, but would sound like a little much in the title of the book.

The final issue collected herein is a breath-catching, status quo re-jigger, between-arcs issue, drawn by Robbi Rodriguez in a cartoony, angular style that is in sharp contrast to every issue of Uncanny X-Force that's preceded it.
In that issue, Wolverine comes clean to Beast and Kitty Pryde about the heretofore secret existence of X-Force (which was meant to be a black-ops assassination squad kept secret from everyone but its members), and asks them to enroll both Genesis and the new, amnesiac Angel in the Jean Grey School. And one of the AOA visitors opts to stay behind, that world's Nightcrawler, who looks just like the late, Earth-616 Nightcrawler, save for a dumb tattoo of some kind (he's also a coldhearted killer). He opts to stay behind in order to hunt down and kill any of the escaped bad guys from his dimension still hiding in Uncanny X-Force's dimension.

Jerome Opena draws the bulk of the pages in this book. All of 'em, in fact, save for Rodriguez's final issue and a series of scenes that take place on the psychic plane in the penultimate issue (which Esad Ribic draws). He does his usual fine job, selling even the most garish and fussy of the characters' costumes (Psyclocke, Archangel, everyone from AOA), and really doing a rather fantastic job on many of the action scenes, especially those involving Archangel, who kills with a swipe of his wings (In general, Opena communicates the violence of such acts through Archangel's expressions even mores so then the way in which he draws the flashing, slashing wings which, when attacking, are composed as much motion lines as they are anything else).
I liked how he drew Archangel's wings at rest, too; when he's not flying or chopping people up with his wings, he keeps them folded and limp behind him, forming a long, flowing cape of metallic knife feathers.

And speaking of drawings I liked, here's the cover for Uncanny X-Force #19, drawn by Raphael Grampa:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Comic shop comics: May 28

Adventures of Superman #13 (DC Comics) Writer B. Clay Moore and artist Gabriel Rodriguez deliver a pretty great, evergreen, could-fit-in-any-continuity-really Superman story, one big enough to fill the entire issue, and substantial enough to read like a satisfying graphic novella. A Metropolis reporter has noticed how much time Superman spends around the Daily Planet and its staff, and is pursuing an explosive story by simply connecting the dots.

It all works out for Superman and friends—and the reporter, actually—but Moore wrings some suspense out of it. He also gives us a tour of Superman's rogues gallery during a visit to Ryker's Island. Metallo is the main villain of the piece, but we get a few panels each of Toyman, The Atomic Skull, Bizarro, Parasite, Kalibak and, most delightfully, Terra-Man (Oh, and there's a wordless cameo by Magog, whom I don't think we've seen anywhere since the New 52 launch, and I certainly didn't expect to see him here of all places).

Rodriguez's layouts are somewhat dictated by the digital format, with each page easily chopped in half, but the artwork within all of those sometimes strangely layed-out pages is quite fine. Rodriguez puts in a lot of detail, and has quite distinct character designs. I liked looking at his characters, I liked the way they moved and talked and emoted, and I liked the way they seemed to have weight. I would like to see more of Rodriguez drawing stuff.

Aquaman #31 (DC) Jeff Parker's script for this issue is pretty compartmentalized, with three distinct and unrelated plotlines being advanced. The main event, the one on the cover, features Aquaman and his The Others teammate Ya'wara traveling to the swamps in Louisiana to fight Swamp Thing over an algae bloom that I assume occurred in the pages of Swamp Thing (but was referenced in Aquaman previously. It's fun to watch Aquaman and Swamp Thing fight. It's fun to watch Aquaman and Swamp Thing fight.

In another, Mera, Aquagirl Tula and Some Other Guy travel to an Atlantean neighborhood closest to the ocean floor, where a bunch of people try to kill them. Tula totally murders an innocent eel for no reason. I liked the guys with guns who stood atop giant crabs, that were like crustacean Roombas.

Finally, we check in at Triton Base, where that guy who seemed like he was gonna rebuild that guy who got chewed up by sharks as some sort of sea monster is doing just that.

The issue has two art teams, Paul Pelletier and Sean Parsons, and Alvaro Martinez and Raul Fernandez. I liked them both just fine, and they were compatible enough that there was no unpleasant jarring feeling when they switched.

Batman Eternal #8 (DC) Hey, it's Guillem March! I'm a big fan of his work, and I think he's one of the better artists in DC's current roster, and he's long been one of their better Batman artists, although he unfortunately hasn't had a really great opportunity to prove it, with a sustained run on a relatively high-profile title with a stable creative teams and stable direction (Not that DC has a lot of those at the moment, anyway). His appearance here likely won't change that any, as after the first three issue "arc" of the weekly Batman series, every issue has been done by a different art team; so, in a sense, it's as if every issue is a fill-in issue.

No matter. This is one of the visually strongest of the issues so far, right up there with Dustin Nguyen's on #4. March draws a big, muscular Batman, akin to Jim Lee or Tim Sale's, but his linework is reminiscent of Joe Kubert's; lots of little lines forming bigger lines, and none of those little lines wasted (Additionally, he seemingly draws everything; nothing looks posed or dropped in with computers, not even the backgrounds, which is getting rarer and rarer...with the exception of the Hong Kong on the last page; way to prove me a liar, March!). I wouldn't be surprised to learn he spent some time re-reading The Long Halloween before drawing this, actually; his Carmine Falcone looks particularly Sale-inspired, right down to the heavy rings of shadow around his eyes.

And March additionally goes for incredibly dynamic lay-outs and panel constructions (Check out the third panel on page three, a car chase where the left border of the panel is the point at which the bad guys' car hits the road; it's essentially a sideways car chase...Or the angle of the first panel that stretches across pages 4 and 5). Throughout the issue, I saw suggestions, glimpses and reminders of Bat-artists like Norm Breyfogle (page 3, panel 2; page 14, panel 4; page 18, panel 3), David Mazzucchelli (The Jason Bard scenes) and Alan Davis (page 6, panel 4; page 7, panel 3) and, of course, the aforementioned Sale. Not that this issue is a pastiche or anything. March makes all of these elements his own, he just possesses a style that's fluid and dynamic enough to be able to incorporate things like Breyfogle's angry or surprised Batman face's with Sale's Falcone design and make it all work.

His work is, as always, well complemented by Tomeu Morey's colors, who here does a particularly fine job on lighting, presenting the same places in Gotham at both night and day in a few instances.

I would love to have a Batman comic book at least this well-written every month that looked this good. In the mean time, all I can do is cheer when March and Morey show up in the weekly, I guess.

As for the plot end of things, this issue seems to focus on Batman's current struggles with the Gotham City Police Department, thanks to the influence of Falcone. Batman busts a bunch of criminals who the police won't arrest, the new, crooked commissioner sets up a rooftop meeting/trap with Batman that Jason Bard helps him escape, Bard meets Vicki Vale, and, on the last page, a lady I don't recognize is unhappy to see Batman flying into Hong Kong. Should I recognize her? She says "bloody hell," so I assume she's meant to be British...?

The New 52: Futures End #4 (DC) So I didn't like how Frankenstein chopped the right paw off of a polar bear and then stabbed it to death last issue. In this issue, Frankenstein has his right paw chopped off (not his whole arm, as the cover suggests). The polar bear and Frankenstein aren't quite even yet, however. For one thing, Frankenstein is still alive, and for another, it wasn't the ghost of the polar bear who did the hand-chopping-off, it is Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld Agent of SHADE, whose face is scarred and who has one all-white eye, because this is the future, so she must look more like Cable than normal...?

I think this is the future, anyway. Frankenstein meets her in SHADE's neat-o "Ant Farm" base (which I'm assuming is just coincidentally named after a Disney Channel comedy show, because Jeff Lemire doesn't seem like he watches too much Disney Channel), where Father Time is, five years from "now," still inhabiting the body of a little girl who hasn't aged at all in five years...? That's weird, right? But this is still the future, since Hawkman's still dead, Tim Drake has a well-groomed beard, Ray Palmer has a big, bushy beard, and Amehtyst, Prince of Gemworld has Cable-itis...?

One shouldn't think too hard about this stuff, I guess. Because if one does, it just sort of falls apart. Like remember that polar bear I won't shut up about? It had a robot living in its body that attacked Frankenstein after Frankenstein killed the bear before the bear could kill a little Eskimo boy. The robot was labeled SHADE. It was all to get Frankenstein to come looking for Father Time, the leader of SHADE, so the latter could ask the former to investigate the deaths of StormWatch a few weeks ago. So, Father Time wanted to get a hold of Frankenstein, and he thought the best way to do this would be to put a robot inside a polar bear in the hopes that the polar bear and Frankenstein would cross paths and that Frankenstein would kill the bear.

Also in this issue, we spend some time with Tim Drake, who has changed his name to Cal Corcoran, grown a beard and moved to New York City, but he can't stop wearing the color red, nor can he stop himself from getting mad when he sees Batman Beyond on the news. Also also, Plastique and The Key meet with another villain (I don't know if these are the New 52 versions of these characters, or new New 52 versions, as this is in the future). Also also also, Grifter kills a bunch more aliens, and badly-drawn King Faraday shoots him in the spine and sets him up as a serial killer which...he is, he just kills aliens-posed-as-people instead of people who aren't aliens.

Aaron Lopresti draws this issue. It's not that good. But maybe he was just rushed (the last page is the worst page).

Secret Origins #2 (DC) The cover story in this second issue of the new Secret Origins, which features three New 52 origin stories per issue, is another recounting of Batman's origin, perhaps the most often told, re-told and referenced superhero origin story of all. In fact, I just read his new, New 52 origins tory within the last couple of weeks—in Batman Vol. 4: Zero Year—Secret City. Has it changed at all in the last few weeks?

No, it has not.

And so writer Ray Fawkes and the Dustin Nguyen/Derek Fridolfs art team run through the same story Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and company just told, including all of the new and relevant details the Batman team just added, although not making them clear; I wouldn't have known what exactly was up with the flock of bats and the sparkles in Wayne's library had I not read Batman Vol. 4 and thus already knew about Thomas Wayne's hologram-recording sphere thingee. I also woulda been pretty damn confused to see a monkey in a Batman origin story.

That's followed by the origin of Aquaman by Aquaman writer Jeff Parker and this week's Aquaman fill-in art team of Alvaro Martinez and Raul Fernandez. Parker basically comes up with a structure through which to re-tell all of the bits of origin Geoff Johns told during his opening run on the New 52 Aquaman title. I lived through almost all of this story once. Parker at least repeats it in an interesting way, and the art is nice—although I didn't like the bubble-stream effect on that last image of Aquaman, which I assume colorist Rain Bereoo added.

Finally, there was a Starfire story by Scott Lobdell and Paulo Siqueira, lettered by Carlos M. Mangual in a calligraphic font atop pink narration boxes, because Starfire is a girl. I...didn't actually make it all the way through this one. It was Starfire fighting in gladiator battles with Dominators or something...?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Professional wrestling...or professional comics-making...?

A particularly interesting passage from Box Brown's prose introduction to his own (excellent) comic biography, Andre The Giant: Life and Legend, in which the plight of the wrestler sounds an awful lot like that of the comics creator throughout a large part of comics history.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Sometimes I wonder about this woman.

Wonder Woman was created in 1941, was one of the very first female superheroes to have her own comic book, was one of the first comic book superheroes to have a television show based on her adventures and is one of only a handful of characters, along with Superman and Batman, whose comic book has been in continuous publication since her debut. Month in, month out, you would find a Wonder Woman comic book at the newsstand, or on the spinner rack, or on the comic book shops shelves almost every month for the last 73 years.

Despite two cycles of sustained popularity as a film genre, however, Wonder Woman has never appeared in a feature film like her peers Batman (nine films and counting), Superman (six films and counting), more recent characters like Spider-Man (five), Iron Man (four), Thor (three) or The Hulk (three). Even footnote comic book characters from the Big Two superhero universes like Blade have made it into theaters—repeatedly. (And this weekend I Marveled at the fact that I saw such relatively recent, minor characters like Bishop and Blink appear in a major motion picture, before which played a trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy, which is filled with characters from among the most obscure corners of the Marvel character catalog).

The reason usually given for this is that doing a Wonder Woman movie would be too hard or too complicated; Warner Bros. apparently turned down a proposal of a Wonder Woman film set during World War II (like Captain America: The First Avenger) by the guy who would go on to make Avengers instead. I don't know that that's necessarily true. As a character most people have already heard of an know a lot about, there's no reason to think a Wonder Woman movie would be any more difficult or complicated to tell than one starring John Constantine, or Green Lantern II or Jonah Hex.

But sometimes when I'm reading a DC comic, I'll come across a scene that portrays Wonder Woman in such a bizarre light, as a shrill, savage, bloodthirsty warrior more akin to Marvel anti-heroes like Wolverine or The Punisher that I'm kind of glad that Warner Bros hasn't attempted a Wonder Woman film yet (I mean, they had Superman break a guy's neck, imagine what their Wonder Woman would do!), and I think I even sort of see why they think the character might be hard to build a film franchise around.

It might have something to do with the fact that they have no idea who Wonder Woman is. I certainly don't recognize the woman in the scene below, written by Geoff Johns, DC's chief creative officer:

From Justice League #30; art by Ivan Reis, Scott Hanna and Rod Reis

That is Wonder Woman beating down the cyborg villain Metallo in an attempt to find Lex Luthor, who, as she says in the first panel of the third page, deserves to have her "sword in his throat." (The context shouldn't really matter that much, but I suppose it's worth noting for those of you who are interested. Why does Wonder Woman want to find and maybe kill Lex Luthor so badly? No idea. When he was last seen, in the pages of Forever Evil #7, he and his associates had defeated the entire Crime Syndicate and saved the world in the process; he then proceeded to perform brain surgery on Wonder Woman's ally and current boyfriend Superman, saving his life).

What's particularly frustrating about this scene isn't just how crazy Wonder Woman seems—and hey, this being comics, maybe she's actually the Crime Syndicate's Superwoman masquerading as Wonder Woman, or a White Martian shape shifter who has replaced Wonder Woman, or any number of other explanations, but this scene sure scans with the violent, semi-psychopathic Wonder Woman we most often see strangling people with her lariat.

No, what's frustrating is that she is trying to get information out of a bad guy by beating it out of him, when she's carrying a magical lasso that compels bad guys to give her information if and when she bothers to use it on them, instead of her fist, foot or blade (She does eventually use it on Metallo, off-panel; apparently she needed to beat the bejeezus out of him and argue about due process with Flash on-panel first). Wonder Woman, unlike Batman or even Superman, doesn't ever really have to intimidate or slap-around a perp in order to interrogate them; she only has to get her hands dirty when she wants to. Which seems to be pretty damn often.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Marvel's August previews reviewed

Word on the street—and by "street" I of course mean "Internet"—is that the boring, cheap-looking Marvel's Agents of SHIELD show has actually gotten a lot better than it was for it's rather universally derided first few episodes or so (Me, I may never know. I "wait for the trade" on television, watching it on DVD since, um, I don't actually have a TV anymore, and I am years behind on shows I love, so I can't imagine when or if I'll ever watch Agents of SHIELD. Maybe when I'm in my 80s...?).

Better or not, it still doesn't seem like the sort of thing that would make a great subject for a bunch of comic book artists to offer their own interpretations of on variant covers for, like, every comic Marvel publishes in August of this year, but nevertheless "AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. variant" cover pops up again and again in the publisher's August solicitations, along with plenty of examples (sight unseen, I think I prefer "selfies" variants).

Above is Emma Rios' variant for Uncanny Avengers, which is nice bit of design and an overall appealing cover, even if I don't know what's going on in the show or who all those people are (It will, of course, look pretty awful once all the logos and extraneous font are layered atop it). Michael del Mundo's variant for All-New X-Men looks pretty neat too; he seems to have constructed a labyrinth out of the show's logo:
Expect a lot of drawings of Clark Gregg in August, I guess.

Anyway, Marvel comics is publishing special variant covers based on a television show that is also based on Marvel comics, which airs on ABC, which is is owned by Disney. Just like Marvel is. Synergy!


Also? Awesome.

I'm eagerly awaiting the trade collection of All-New Doop. And a Doop appearance in an X-Men movie; maybe the next one...?

• GHOST RIDER has become a local hero
• Can ROBBIE REYES resist the call of street racing?
• Who is the mysterious figure who takes an interest in the new Ghost Rider?
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

Hey, look! Damion Scott is on art on this issue! That's great. I really love Scott's work, and he seems to be a nice fit on this series, as stylistically he's not in a completely different ball park than Moore, and there aren't a whole lot of artists of who that can be said, given how distinct Scott's style has become.

I like Phil Noto's cover for this month's issue of Black Widow, a series I'm not reading, even though a few of you have assured me is very good and that I should read it.

• Deadpool's.
• Daughter.
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

Pfft. My five-year-old daughter could have drawn part of that cover.


Nah, I'm just kidding. I don't have a daughter.

This is (one of the) cover(s) for the last issue of Original Sin, and it is by far the best cover in this batch of solicitations. And by "best," I of course mean "most hilarious."

In the past, when they've wanted to keep secret the identity of a character on a cover, they will either not show the cover at all and say that it's "CLASSIFIED!" or they will show the cover, but with the character in silhouette. Here they've instead chosen to pixelate Nick Fury or Frank Castle or whoever's face, like they were hiding from a cult or the mob but being interviewed in a day-time news magazine from the late 1980s.

I sincerely hope that, once that cover is un-pixelated, it is revealed to be Uata The Watcher.

Warren Ellis (W)
Declan Shalvey & JORDIE BELLAIRE (A/C)
• A threat from the first issue is back to cause problems for Moon Knight!
• This mysterious person is the new BLACK SPECTRE and it doesn't mean anything good for the protector of night travelers.
• Don't miss the conclusion of Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire.
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

Either they're missing a few words in that last bullet point, or they're killing off the creative team in this issue...?

Of all the places to have a gigantic venomous spider crawling...

Charles Soule (W) • Javier Pulido (A)
COVER BY Kevin P. Wada
• The return of superstar artist JAVIER PULIDO!
• Guest-starring Hank Pym!
• She-Hulk, Hellcat and Giant-Man team up to save one of Jen's officemates...but what else does Hank Pym have at stake, and what isn't he telling them?
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$2.99

Well, that's a pretty cool cover, and it sounds like a pretty fun story as well. I like all those characters.

Cover by KRIS ANKA
• A year of duplicity and double crossing leads to this – who will live, who will die, who will get the head of Silvermane?
• Spencer and Lieber bring this rollicking tail of evil to it's penultimate hour!
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

Penultimate...? Uh-oh. I don't like the sound of that.

Well, hopefully this book will be relaunched with the same creative team, the more reader-friendly price point of $2.99 and the new title All-New Amazing Foes of Spider-Man in a few months time...

• Extra-sized monumental issue, including a story drawn by living legend ADAM KUBERT (ORIGIN 2, AVX)!
• How is the Superior Spider-Man still around? Where is he? What is he doing? The road to SPIDER-VERSE STARTS HERE!
40 PGS./Rated T ...$4.99

"Living legend"...?

• First: Skull to Skull against the Ghost Rider!
• Then: watch lovers quarrel as Frank takes on Elektra!
32 PGS. (EACH)/Parental Advisory ...$2.99 (EACH)

Well that's an awesomely weird cover. I would kinda like a suit like The Punisher's wearing on it.

• The ULTIMATE UNIVERSE'S worst nightmare approaches
• Jump into the future of the Ultimate Universe as the DOOMSDAY CLOCK counts down.
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99

So is that cover left over from one of those months when they were doing animal covers, or is Ultimate FF a much, much weirder comic than I had originally thought...?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Comic shop comics: May 21

Afterlife With Archie #5 (Archie Comics) With the fifth issue of the series, Archie's surprisingly strong (and successful!) storyline about what would happen if a zombie apocalypse hit Riverdale reaches a major turning point, as our heroes must decide whether to stay in the relative but fragile safety of the Lodge home, or try to strike out for somewhere else before they run out of food and/or become zombie food.

As zombie narratives go, it's a pretty standard decision point, but then, that's what is such strange fun about this series: It takes the familiar, usually played for laughs, cartoon characters of the Archie Comics line and puts them in a typical zombie narrative and plays the entire thing completely straight, right down to Francesco Francavilla's representational artwork and stark, dark color palette.

In this issue, Reggie is an a-hole to Kevin Keller, Betty and Veronica's never-ending rivalry for Archie's affections returns to the fore briefly and we get more insight into the emotional lives of Hiram Lodge and his butler (and our narrator) Smithers than in, like, every previous story to feature them combined.

I'm still a little amazed that Archie Comics is even publishing this series...almost as amazed as I am glad that they are.

The back-up is maybe the strongest of the black-and-white horror shorts they've published in an issue of Afterlife With Archie yet. It's a six-pager by writer Donald F. Glut and artist Vicente Alcazar entitled "A Thousand Pound of Clay," and is a modern (well, then-modern) retelling of The Golem story.

If you missed the boat on this series but have been hearing good things about it, you should get a chance to catch up quite soon. This issue ends the first story arc, and it should be collected in a trade paperback scheduled for release in the next few weeks.

Batman Eternal #7 (DC Comics) I found my enthusiasm for this title, and the idea of a weekly Batman series in general, slightly dampened by this particular issue, which features maybe the worst artwork of the series so far (Courtesy of Emanuel Simeoni, colored by "Blond"). The storytelling is a little muddy, with several scenes that should be dynamite action scenes sort of hard to make out (The first three pages, featuring the bit with the Batmobile and detachable Batcycle, for example, or the splash page with the Dollotrons, or the Catwoman/Penguin bits).

Simeoni also lazily recycles the same image of a trained penguin with a camera mounted atop his head on the same page, mere panels apart, emphasizing the recycling in a way that draws attention to the laziness.

I was also rather irritated by Simeoni's Penguin, who is depicted as having Batman Returns-style deformed hands (a thumb, a forefinger, and then the remaining three figures fused into one large digit) under gloves. The Penguin was probably the most fluid Batman character in terms of design the last 20 years, with every artist deciding for his or herself exactly how short or how tall he should be, how pointed and beak-like his nose is, whether he has five fingers or "flipper"-like hands, whether he has normal teeth or jagged, shark-like teeth, whether his hair is long and scraggly or short and styled, how obese he is, even which eye he wears his monocle in.

The "new" New 52 DC Universe is only about two and a half years old now; they really shouldn't have so much trouble deciding whether or not The Penguin's hands are deformed. But on Andy Kubert's (fairly excellent) cover, The Penguin has regular, five-fingered hands (albeit with long nails), while Simeoni's interior Penguin has the flippers. (Flipping through the previous issues, I see Fabok has The Penguin with five fingers...and a huge, inflated second chin.)

Plot would seem to have primacy over art in a weekly comic like this though. In this issue, Batman fights Professor Pyg again, while Falcone goes after the Iceberg Casino, using a couple of agents (who both fall fairly squarely into the "freak" category of criminal that Long Halloween Falcone would have been fighting against rather than with). Catwoman and Batman show up, but not before the Iceberg has been completely destroyed.

And, in what may be the least realistic part of a comic that also includes a trained orca attacking a trained penguin, the new police commissioner sets serial killer and terrorist Pyg free simply because Batman caught him; okay, maybe Pyg's defense lawyer would bring that up in court, and get some of the new charges dropped, but Pyg would still be on the hook for all those kidnappings prior to issue #1, not to mention all the crimes he committed previous to this series, like, for instance, not being in the institute for the criminally insane he was sentenced to.

This was a particularly down issue, but the strength of a weekly series is that new issues follow so fast that so long as there aren't too many down issues in a row, a reader's negative feelings toward the series can be wiped away almost immediately, and certainly before they've had time to calcify into a decision to stop reading.

Batman '66 #11 (DC) First issue artist Jonathan Case reunites with Jeff Parker for an epic, 30-page, full-book story in which Catwoman and The Joker team-up, an evil alliance that will require the combined might of Batman, Robin and Batgirl to stop. Parker has a pretty great premise for the villain team-up, and the launch of their plan, which unfolds in the ten most fun pages of the book. Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, The Gordons and Chief O'Hara join Dr. Harleen Quinn at the Arkham Institute for a talent show of sorts featuring the various inmates, which leads to a neat greatest hits tour of many of the Bat-villains to have previously appeared in the series.
The Joker's set is so fantastic, I considered cutting off my own hand and mailing it Parker so I could high-five him, but then I realized that 1) I'll probably need my hand for other, more important stuff and 2) If Parker opened a package and found a severed hand in it, he probably wouldn't high-five it anyway.

Joker's set is probably the climax of the book, but there are a lot of fun moments in the remaining 20 pages. Also, this seems to be the origin of Harley Quinn '66...or, at least, is hows how Dr. Quinn was driven insane after too much, too close contact with The Joker. She's yet to paint her face white and dress up like a harlequin.

Classic Popeye #22 (IDW) Hey, IDW's published 22 issues of this. And I've bought and read 22 issues of it. Huh.

The New 52: Futures End #3 (DC) At first glance, I thought that tattoo read "FURRY," but, after a second or so of closer examination, I see that it actually reads "FaiRPLAY," so that dude working out while watching Batman Beyond cartoons must be Mister Terrific.

In this issue, drawn by Dan Jurgens ("layouts"), Mark Irwin ("finishes") and, I don't know, maybe Keith Giffen a little ("art consultant"), our four writers check in with several different characters. First, in arctic Canada, Frankenstein totally cuts the paw off a polar bear and then kills it (Jeez DC; you guys and dismemberment! Not even animals are innocent). Right now, in the world of 2014, polar bears are considered a "vulnerable species," which means they are on the cusp of becoming endangered, if conditions don't improve. In the dark future of 2019, during which this issue is presumably set, I would imagine they aren't doing a whole hell of a lot better, and yet here's Frakenstein, wantonly killing one just to save the life of a young boy who wandered too close to the bear's den. Come on Frank, don't tell me you've lived all these years and never learned how to take down a polar bear withou having to stab it to death.
Anyway, a little robot crab thingee crawls out of the bears body, and then Frankenstein kills that. The robot thingee is helpfully labeled S.H.A.D.E., which is the organization that Frankenstein worked for in New 52 series Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. until that got cancelled.

Meanwhile, Firestorm refuses to un-Firestorm himself, which means Jason is stuck as a disembodied floating head that only Ronnie can see or here. I like that Firestorm costume the more I see it.

Meanwhile, Grifter narrates and exposits about his crusade to kill aliens disguised as humans.

Meanwhile, Mr. Terrific works out and talks about Batman Beyond, who tried to break into his HQ, but was repelled by an army of security guys.

Meanwhile, Lois Lane follows a lead that reveals Red Robin isn't really dead, as she herself reported on her blog The Fast Lane, but is working as a bartender/bouncer at The Wounded Duck bar in New York City.

Meanwhile...wait, that's it for this issue.

Saga #19 (Image Comics) So hey, how about that opening page, huh? It was one of maybe four times this issue I laughed aloud. I really liked these panels, because I have no idea what's going on. Is she nursing? How does a baby robot nurse if it doesn't have a mouth, just a monitor for a face?
I also liked the introduction of this character, Fiona Staples' Batgirl:
It's been a while since we've had a new issue of Saga. I'm glad it's back.

Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles 30th Anniversary Special (IDW) Well, this was pretty interesting. It's an $8 prestige format (that is, there is a spine, but there aren't any ads) comic book featuring 32 pages of mostly-original comics, plus text pieces illustrated with bits of rare or interesting pieces of artwork from throughout TMNT history, and plenty of pin-ups.

It functions as a nice primer on the history of TMNT comics, essentially walking readers through the various eras. So, for example, it opens with four pages describing the period of "Early Mirage (1984-1993)" and features the very first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles art, an ad for the book, some promotional art and so forth, before reprinting a four-page Kevin Eastman story from a 2012 edition of Hero Comics. That's followed by a page about "TMNT Adventures (1988-1995)", the Archie Comics book based on the cartoon show based on the original Mirage Comics, which is then followed by an all-new "lost" seven-page story by Archie Turtles comics creators Dean Clarrain and Chris Allan.

There are also stories set in the Image Comics/Volume 3 era (by Gary Carlson and Frank Fosco), the Later Mirage/Volume 4 era (by Jim Lawson) and, finally, the current IDW continuity (by Tom Waltz, Bobby Curnow and Dan Duncan). The only thing missing is something from "Volume 2," the short-lived, full-color TMNT series that followed the conclusion of the original black-and-white series...but given that all of these comics are in full-color, and that volume was simply an extension of the continuity of the original series, it probably wasn't so distinct as to need a short story set during it.

All in all then, this functions as a fun little guided tour of Turtles history. It's hardly an essential read, but should serve both devout fans and relative newcomers looking for possible directions in which to head next for more turtles well enough.

I would have liked something bigger and more comprehensive, with fuller writings about each of the distinct eras, and maybe some essays on the "other" versions of the Turtles that appeared in films and video games and role-playing games (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness was my entry point into Eastman and Laird's Turtles comics) during these past 30 years, and a story set in the new, Nickelodeon cartoon continuity—which did spawn an IDW comic adaptation, did it not?—is conspicuously absent, even more conspicuously absent than something from Volume 2.

Finally, I would have liked, no, loved a checklist with some thorough explanation of what IDW is collecting and how, as I really want to read all these old Turtles comics in trade, but I can't quite figure out how IDW is collecting them, and why they're collecting them in such a weird way (Personally, I would have preferred a The Complete Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, collecting everything in the order it was published, from the short stories in Anything Goes and Gobbledygook to the stories in TMNT and Turtle Soup and Tales of the TMNT and so on. Instead, IDW seems to have collected all of the Eastman and Laird material, and then to have gone back and collected all of the non-Eastman and Laird material in colorized trade collections, but not in any particular order, and from multiple titles and anthologies, devoid of any organizing principle I can discern. So I really would appreciate a What's Collected In Which Volume, and What To Read In What Order sorta checklist article. I've been reading the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics in trade, but those don't include all the Micro-Series, which are apparently collected separately, and damn, they do not make reading Turtles comics in trade easy, despite the fact that they seem to be collecting all the new stuff and all the old stuff).

Anyway, filling out the page-count in this special issue are pin-ups from long-time letterer Steve Lavigne (who, next to Todd Klein, was the first letterer whose name I learned, due to how much I appreciated his work), inked by Peter Laird; long-time drawer-of-Ninja-Turtles Michael Dooney; Archie's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures and Mighty Mutanimals artist Ken Mitchroney; and Ben Bates (drawing Rocksteady and Bebop), T-Rex, Ross Campbell (drawing that fox lady from the IDW comics), Mark Torres, David Peterson and Andy Kuhn. Plus a back cover image by Mateus Santolouco and a cover by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.

(Actually, there are a total of nine covers in all, this being 2014, but I think the regular one is probably the best; "Cover RI" features pencil art by Eastman and inks by Simon Bisley, so I imagine that one's interesting too, and "Cover RE Awesome Con Exclusive" is by Dario Brizuela, who does a lot of work for DC's kids titles, and has a pretty chameleonic style. Oh, and "Coer RE Heroes Haven Comics" by Ozzy Fernandez and Tony Kordos looks like it feeatures all of the evil action figures fighting all of the good action figures; I wouldn't mind seeing that at a larger size than the postage stamp version on the inside front cover of this book. I sort of wish I knew what the difference between an "RI" cover and the seven "RE" covers are—is that "Retailer Incentive" and "Retailer Exclusive," maybe...?—but, at the same time, I'm kind of glad I don't.)
Wait, so here's the Fernandez/Kordos "Heroes Haven Comics" variant. Those can't be all the toys, as there are so few of 'em. And it looks like the villains from Secret of The Ooze are in there. Is there an organizing principal to the cover? Are these all characters from the cartoon? Or cherry-picked figures from the toy line? Or...what? Help me out Turtles fans. I didn't watch all of the cartoons (not sure what season I stopped at; maybe around the time Mike started fighting with a grappling hook?), nor did I pay too close attention to the toy line. I have no memory of whatever that bird guy is, though.

Forever Evil am over!

It was all worth it for this moment.
It's the moment you've waited more months than originally scheduled for, the final, climactic issue of Forever Evil! Who will live and who will die? Will any more limbs be lost? Which Bronze Age concept will get a new coat of New 52 paint and appear on the final page, setting up the next crossover? And who will emerge victorious from the senses-shattering showdown of Bald Luthor Vs. Beard Luthor! There's only one way to find out, and that's to buy a copy to read for yourself. Wait, no, there's two ways to find out! You can buy a copy to read for yourself, or you can click over to Comics Alliance for my seventh and final installment of Assessor Evil, featuring the final special 3D motion cover. Complete your collection now!

Thursday, May 22, 2014


I reviewed the long-in-the-works Paul Dini/Joe Quinones original graphic novel Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell for Robot 6. Yes, it has a stupid title, and yes it's ridiculously expensive (I'd advise trade-waiting; you've already waited eight years, what's another few months...?), but it is really rather good. I really hope it brings a lot more attention to Quinones (that guy's art is great, and he deserves to be as widely read as possible). And man, it was a blast revisiting the "old" DC Universe, and seeing the "real" or "classic" or whatever versions of those characters again, even if only for a little while.

And I'm afraid that's all I've got for you right this moment. I did visit the comic shop this week and come home with a fairly healthy stack of books, but I haven't had time to review 'em yet; hopefully this weekend. But maybe I can find something else for you to read in the mean time...

—I really enjoyed David Carter's post of sales analysis on DC's April for The Beat. Carter does a couple of things I really like.

One is attaching the prices of each comic to the sales info. I believe the high cost of comics to be a factor in how poorly so many of them seem to sell, but the sales evidence doesn't seem to back this up. The more expensive comics seem to sell better than most of the cheaper ones (Of DC's ten best-selling books in April, six of them were at the $3.99 price point). I think fans are pretty much always going to buy Batman and Justice League comics, no matter how much DC charges for them (and Marvel really helped them out, by training readers to countenance $4 super-comics), but it does mean they'll have less comic book money left to blow on things like The Flash and Green Arrow and Batwing and The Movement.

And two, and I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but I like how Carter points out things like, "After this point in the chart, all further titles are outsold by Image's The Walking Dead..." Which was, in April anyway, everything DC published save Batman, Batman Eternal and Justice League United.

I think it offers an important perspective that, for example, Lumberjanes outsold All-Star Western, StormWatch, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, most of Vertigo's titles, Batwing and The Movement, or that My Little Pony outsold not only all of those, but also three Green Lantern titles, Supergirl, Teen Titans, Green Arrow, Catwoman, Batwoman, Constantine, Swamp Thing and more.

Why, it's almost as if there's a large audience for things other than superhero books out there, a large audience looking for all-ages comics periodicals based on original concepts and licensed concepts...

During the course of his article, Carter suggests that maybe the publisher's Green Lantern line should emulate what's been going on with the Batman line, and perhaps cancel all the lower-selling titles and replace them with a Green Lantern weekly akin to Batman Eternal. In essence, DC has been publishing a Green Lantern weekly for pretty much ever now, as all of the Green Lantern titles regularly participate in big crossover stories that circulate through all of the books, but most of them don't sell all that well, and none of them sell as well as the main title, despite how closely tied together the storylines might be. Canceling Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians, Red Lanterns and, eventually, Sinestro (which seems to be replacing Larfleeze, although both books featuring Lantern villains will overlap for a bit) only to replace them all with a new, weekly Green Lantern Corps or Green Lantern Eternal or whatever would make a hell of a lot of sense, and probably sell a lot more comics.

I found the sales on two books in particular interesting. One was that of The Flash, which just launched a new creative team featuring art by Brett Booth, who recently received a lot of negative attention online for being a jerk on Twitter. Did that have anything to do with sales on his book? I don't know. Maybe not, as I'm not sure how his being-a-jerk fell on the calendar in relation to comic shops' deadlines for pre-ordering issues of The Flash, but the new creative team only added...59 new readers (Well, shops ordered 59 more copies then they did in March).

Sales on TEC, which also featured a new creative team (and, unlike the one that took over Flash, it was a pretty much universally lauded creative team), weren't explosively high either (less than 1,000 more unites shipped). That one genuinely surprised me. I read this one, and it was pretty well done, even if the plot was generic. Still, with Batman fans already spending $4 a month on Batman and now $12 more a month on four issues of Batman Eternal, I imagine all the less-important Bat-books are going to suffer, even, apparently, the B-book, TEC.

Look at these. They're all really nice, and would all work just fine in some sort of Elseworlds/Imaginary Story context. The Green Arrow one, actually, would work just fine in-continuity, and woulda been a better New 52 redesign then the one they went with. I like The Flash too, although it really echoes The Flash redesign that Frank Miller did for the character in Dark Knight Strikes Back. Anyway, some really nice drawings and some really nice costume design. (I only saw this because Tom Spurgeon posted a link to it on Comics Reporter. I hope you guys all read Comics Reporter; if you only read one comics blog, that should probably be the one you read.)

Here's Andrew Wheeler with an interesting fact: DC Comics has canceled 47 books since they launched "The New 52" in September of 2011. It's a really great bit of analysis, and Wheeler notes that there are different kinds of cancellations, not all of which are bad...or, at least, not bad in the same ways that the other kinds are bad (Batman, Inc's cancellation is different than that of Hawk and Dove, which was different than that of Animal Man, which is different than that of Nightwing for example).

One part that really struck me was the part where Wheeler noted that trying to keep 52 books going at all times, which means often quickly cancelling ones that aren't selling only to replace them immediately with a new book could be seen as a great virtue, if DC were using it as an opportunity to try out all kinds of different books constantly. But instead, there's a pretty homogenous tone and style to all of the books. Sure, they've flirted with different sub-genres of superhero comics, like superhero-horror, superhero-Western, superhero-military, superhero-fantasy and so on, but it's all been superhero comics, usually of the self-serious, humorless variety, and drawn in a Jim Lee-inspired WildStorm-esque house style. A daring idea in The New 52 has been reviving The Green Team (as a serious superhero comic) or letting Gail Simone invent her own team of superheroes, not creating books addressing new or different audiences, or setting books in the "old" universe or outside the New 52 DCU, or working in different modes.

This is probably the money line: "DC’s core audience can’t support such a sprawling line, but DC’s editorial approach can’t reach a wider audience." That's something I'd write down and tape on my office wall, if I were Dan DiDio.

Spurgeon has some additional thoughts.

Me, I think the problem with The New 52 is and has been apparent since they launched. First, the line was way too big. Second, they didn't look very far outside of the people already working for them in terms of finding fresh creative blood, and many of the "new" (too DC) creators they did seek out didn't work out so well, with Batman's Greg Capullo being the exception that proved the rule. Third, they apparently spent about a fortnight working out the logic, rules and history of their new universe, and conceiving of the new versions of all their characters, assuming the same creators who were fucking things up left and right before the relaunch would suddenly all turn into Grant Morrison after the relaunch, and a new, perfect, new-reader friendly versions of all their characters would somehow come into being if they just changed their costumes, reset all the dials back to #1 and had a shorter, secret continuity that no one knew about, not even the creators (or characters).

It hasn't really worked out for them.

—And hey, speaking of Andrew Wheeler, here's his next installment of "Original Spin" at Comics Alliance. I like that feature a lot.

—And, finally, speaking of DC and their need to replace canceled titles, the final issue of Forever Evil finally shipped this week. In addition to Grayson, which seems to be spinning out of the events of Forever Evil, I can see a couple of post-Forever Evil possibilities for new titles: Plastic Man, Blue Beetle, The Doom Patrol, Owlman, The Metal Men, Power Ring and Luthor. I don't know that we'll actually get any of those—Luthor, Power Ring and The Doom Patrol will be appearing in Geoff Johns' Justice League for a while at least—but all of those characters get some form of direction during the course of its series and/or tie-ins and none of them have had New 52 books yet (Except Blue Beetle, but Forever Evil introduces Ted Kord, who, in The New 52, could end up being Blue Beetle II, a legacy version of Jaime Reyes, who was the first and only Blue Beetle in the New 52 so far, a reversal of their roles in the old DCU).

Additionally, Owlman and Power Ring are evil opposite versions of Batman and Green Lantern respectively, and those are two franchises that DC has never been shy about expanding.

—Mini-reviews of all the comics I got this week, and coverage of Forever Evil #7, coming soon. Hopefully.

—Oh, and here's all you need to know about the most important issue facing the comics Internet today.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I saw Amazing Spider-Man 2, and then I typed up a bunch of words about it. These are those words.

A scene from Amazing Spider-Man 2, before they added the CGI.
I didn't really care for the first Amazing Spider-Man film (discussed here), nor did I really care about it,  to the point that I didn't even bother going to see it in the theater, and eventually seeing it on DVD many months after its opening weekend, I didn't feel like I had made a mistake and waiting to do so at all (I don't know; did that scene of wounded Spidey swinging from crane to crane look so great on the big screen it fundamentally altered the quality of the film?).

This time, however, I went to see it opening weekend, so, if nothing else, they did a much better job of selling this movie, putting together a better series of trailers, and reportedly packing it with villains in a more logical fashion than most too-many-villains superhero movies (these ones all seem/seemed to come from the same place, as Oscorp was suggested to be something of a Spider-Man villain factory in the previous film, so putting multiple Spider-villains in the same movie didn't seem like it would present the same sort of problems as putting, say, Morbius The Living Vampire, Kraven the Hunter and Carnage in the same movie).

Overall, I enjoyed going to see the film; it was a positive, film-going experience. It was a pretty fun movie. Was it a good movie? Well, probably not. It was a better movie, which is a good thing for a sequel to be. It certainly wasn't Amazing, but then, Not-That-Bad Spider-Man or Better-Than-The-Previous-Spider-Man Spider-Man are both probably too long to fit on most marquees, more accurate than Amazing Spider-Man  though they may be.

Here are some of the thoughts I jotted down in the week after I saw the movie, which I never assembled into anything resembling a formal review structure.


I still really like Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker/Spider-Man. I didn't think Tobey Maguire's was bad at all, but I do like Garfield's better, simply because he seems like a truer, more accurate version of the Peter Parker I knew from the comic books. I like his slim, skinny, slightly gawky build, in and out of the suit (in the suit, he looks like he should be outmatched by pretty much everyone he goes up against, making his super-strength all the more fantastic and alien, and making him a pretty clear underdog). I also like the fact that this Spider-Man is the confident, quippy, funny, motormouth version of the character from the comics, which has more to do with the screenwriters and director than Garfield, sure, but Garfield's the one who sells it (In the original trilogy, Spider-Man seemed to quiet and serious when wearing his mask).

Emma Stone is still very good as Gwen Stacy, and I think she works better in this movie as Peter's on-again, off-again girlfriend than as the love interest she was in the first. The pair were so clearly made for one another in the original film that their love story lacked much in the way of drama. Here at least they're already coupled.

The pair of actors still have a remarkable chemistry together, and the best parts of the film are still those between Garfield's Peter and Stone's Gwen. There just aren't enough of those scenes.

Dane DeHaan is excellent as Harry Osborn. Like Stone and Garfield, he seems young enough for the part, and actual teenager in a world bigger than him. They gave hims some awesome evil-guy hair, costumed him nicely, and DeHaan played the at times complicated role to the hilt. His relationship with his estranged father, the surprisingly hardly-there Chris Cooper (he gets one scene...maybe two, if you count his appearance in a Oscorp promotional film) is good, and probably wouldn't have even worked dramatically in the film if not played so well by DeHaan. There are major structural problems with the film, as DeHaan is introduced as Parker's long lost childhood best friend who suddenly appears out of the blue, but, again, DeHaan strives pretty heroically to make it all work. (I thought James Franco was a fine Harry, by the way, and was a believable best friend and romantic rival of Maguire's Parker; what DeHaan lacks in alpha dog appeal, he makes up for in sneaky, simmering emotions and, again, evil hair. Comic book Harry was defined by his weird-ass hair, so it was good to see a movie Harry with evil hair, albeit more realistic evil hair than that strange, wavy, widow-peaked hair artist Steve Ditko gave comic Harry.

I rather enjoyed the completely cast-off nature of The Rhino's appearance (which is much more brief than trailers would have you believe). Comic book supervillains don't all need operatic origins, motivations and plotlines. Many of them, especially of the sort Spidey so regularly butts heads with, are simply thugs and/or bank robbers in goofy costumes, so filmmakers really shouldn't be so hesitant to stick a new villain in just a scene or two of a movie.

They pretty radically redesign the character—which is fine, given the goofiness of the original design, which is maybe one of those things like Benjamin Grimm or Ghost Rider that doesn't really translate to live-action—so that here he's a little, angry man (Paul Giamatti, who seems an awfully expensive guy to cast in one-note role that anyone could have played) operating a big, robotic suit that can transform from a bipedal rhino-man robot to a charging, guadrapedal, rhino-shaped robot-like tank, all tricked out with guns and missiles.

The Rhino appears in the denouement, in a never-concluded battle with Spider-Man that ends just before the credits begin.

Sally Field's Aunt May is good. She seems closer to the middle-aged Ultimate Aunt May from Brian Michael Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man comics than the frailer, older, frailer version of the original comics, which Rosemary Harris played in the first trilogy. Field does a fine job with a relatively small role, getting at least two really good scenes, a comic one in which she and Peter argue about doing one another's laundry, and another when she finally reveals all she knows about Peter's parents.

The action is, once again, very well done. Granted, a lot of it is done with CGI, and the climactic battle between Spider-Man and Electro in the middle of some kind of power plant looks like it is from a very expensive video game, but even that has some nice effects with the electricity and Spidey's jumping and agility.

The best action scene by far is the opening one, in which Spider-Man foils a robbery of uranium from Oscorp by a gang of Russian bad-guys (lead by Giamatti). It mixes action with comedy in a fun way (I really liked that foot grab Spidey does with his sticky feet), and there are some inventive uses of webbing in the scene, as there are throughout the film (Strangely absent is a scene in which Spidey insulates his fists with webbing so as to better punch Electro, a stapble of Spider-Man vs. Electro fights).

Overall, I thought the film is much, much better than Amazing Spider-Man, but still not as good as any of the first three films. (Yes, even Spider-Man 3, dammit. That film had its problems, but they were mostly structural, and came down from the studio essentially making two tangentially related movies with the same characters on top of one another; that's the problem with this movie too, only they're making like four and a half movies on top of one another).


Still no J. Jonah Jameson, who J.K. Simmons was born to play, played so extraordinarily well in three films, and could quite easily have been included in this trilogy of films. What's worse, is Jameson is mentioned and appears via email, but that's it. JJJ via email!

As I said, there are pretty major structural problems with the movie. The entire Osborn plot seems like something that should have stretched across two films, with Harry and his dad having been introduced in the previous film and completing their particular character arcs here (or, alternately, being introduced in this film, and completing their character arcs at some point in the next film, which is obviously inevitable, given all the groundwork laid in this one).

The Mr. and Mrs. Parker, super-spy stuff was even more awkwardly grafted-on in this film than in the previous one. For one thing, a movie that is already overlong and overstuffed opens with a scene of The Parkers trying to flee the country with a laptop full of sensitive stuff, and being killed after a fight scene aboard their private jet (?). I have no idea how that scene survived the editors' knives.

The plot is returned to throughout the film, climaxing in a weird scene where Peter, after redecorating his room with a laughable serial killer's yarn, maps, post-it notes and news clippings decor, finally figures out clues to the mystery haunting him his own life, why his parents abandoned him (He does this mostly by Googling, oddly enough). Peter then discovers his father's super-secret, superhero-like headquarters, some research and a last message, in which Parker the elder says he is running away and abandoning his son to keep him safe...while also pointing out that his spider-man genetic research was conducted using his own DNA, so the super-serum derived from it would only work on him. Or, you know, someone who shares his DNA. Like, let's see...Oh, yeah, his son! So he ran away in part to protect his son, but then sent a message out to whoever might find it pointing out that if they really want to experiment on someone in order to extract the necessary genetic material or whatever they will need to build an army of spider-soldiers, they're going to have to go after his son.

That...doesn't make much sense.

Man, what was up with that Dr. Kafka bit...? He seemed like a character from Dr. Strangelove who accidentally wandered into the wrong film. I understand (though didn't while watching) that he is character from the comics (but he was a she in the comics), but tonally he didn't really seem to fit, and the name was so pseudo-smart cartoony it just fucking annoyed me.

I didn't understand the deal with Spider-Man's webbing, how strong it is, how long it lasts before dissolving, and so on. I guess I don't recall if that was ever discussed in the first film, and the "rules" of the webbing weren't discussed in this film at all, but, throughout, it's shown to be pretty weak.

Giamatti's pre-Rhino character is able to yank a cannister of plutonium from webbing early one, and later Gwen Stacy is able to cut her hand free from some webbing using either a nail file or a pocket knife. Later, during a very pivotal scene set during one of the movies three or four climaxes, a very important strand of webbing is severed by the gear of a clock turning, which doesn't seem sufficient to sever the comic book webbing, and if I think too much about it in the film, it only confuses me.

The webbing is strong enough to support 120+ pound of British hunk plunging from atop skyscrapers, and catch speeding automobiles, but can bet cut by gears and nail files, or torn apart by Paul Giamatti...?

This is really only important because the most important scene in the film is premised on a bit of Spidey's webbing being cut.

I didn't understand why Electro heard a rap song about his own mental state during his first encounter with Spider-Man after getting his electrical powers (via electrical eels, keeping with the Everyone Gets Animal Powers From Oscorp theme; even the Green Goblin in this film gets his powers from the Parker/Osborn spider-venom, mixed with a genetic disease that plagues the Osborn family). There are some odd, awfully annoying musical choices in the film, which had me thinking of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark throughout. (Hey, given how damn dangerous a stage show that seems, maybe they should just make a feature film out of it, and use green screens and CGI for all the risky stunts...?)

Hey, you all know what happens to Gwen Stacy at the end, right? That was maybe the weirdest structural part of the film, as Electro is presented as the major villain throughout the entire film, until the very end, at which point Harry Osborn turns himself into the Green Goblin. After the climactic Electro/Spider-Man fight, in which Spidey defeats his foe, The Green Goblin literally just swoops in from out of nowhere, picks up Gwen, and the climactic battle of the film is suddenly followed by a tacked-on, second climactic fight. Despite foreshadowing the hell out of it—almost every word out of Gwen's mouth revolves around the fragility of life—the Goblin fight and his interest in hurting her still seems to come out of nowhere.

Jamie Foxx does a pretty good job of being Max Dillon, radically rewritten into a completely different character, so as to better tie him to Oscorp, and is okay as the more emotionless Electro. I didn't really like his design though, which, as he gains power, casts him as a floating, glowing blue god-like being of pure power. He looked a little too much like Doctor Manhattan of Watchmen. I've no problem with the traditionally white Dillon/Electro being played by a black man here—there was never anything in the character's origin or essential characterization that mandated he be any particular race or have any particular skin color or look—but damn, there sure are a lot of black super-people with electrical powers, aren't there? Black Lightning, Black Vulcan, Storm (among her other powers), Satic Shock and now Electro.


—One aspect of comic book superhero-based films flowering into a mature genre ("mature" meaning "been around for a while," not "grown-up" or "the opposite of juvenile," obviously) that I've found particularly fascinating is the way that the films have begun to reflect particular aspects of the serial storytelling of the comic books themselves. The Sam Raimi trilogy of Spider-Man films, for example, represented a "run" by a particular creative team on a particular character or title. Some of the Marvel Studios movies featured "guest-stars" from other comics or franchises (even if often just in the end-credits), eventually blossoming into The Avengers, a superhero movie team made up of superheroes from several other movie stars.

While watching this poorly-structured film, in which seemingly unrelated, or barely related scenes and storylines shared the same story space, sometimes alternating with one another or intruding on one another in awkward ways, I felt like maybe this was the film equivalent of reading multiple Spider-Man monthlies by multiple creative teams, each telling their own storylines within a bigger, overarching umbrella story, simultaneously. Like, one comic by one creative team dealt with Peter Parker's relationship with Gwen Stacy and his personal problems revolving around guilt over the cost of being Spider-Man on his loved ones. Another comic book followed Electro's journey into villainy, and his rivalry with Spider-Man. Another still followed Harry Osborn and his relationship with Peter and Spider-Man.

Structurally, the movie was a bit like a few months of Superman comics from the "triangle" era. I'm not sure if the Spider-Man comics of the '90s ever did the same—I've never read more than one Spider-Man comic on a monthly basis—but that's what Amazing Spider-Man 2 felt like to me, a trade paperback collection of a bunch of distinct but related units from multiple comics titles.

—I was actually surprised that Gwen Stacy died. The fact that Gwen Stacy dies is so ingrained in comics book history and knowledge, and the film did such a thorough job of teasing that death, including giving Gwen agency in her own demise (during the fight with Electro, where she's like, "I'm going to go into that building and do something heroic, even though it's at the risk of my own life, Peter," and he's all, "No Gwen, you might get picked up by a new enemy on a flying mechanical glider, dropped from a great height and die, and then I'll feel horrible!" and she's like, "It's my choice to die in that exact manner, Peter, not yours!"), that I thought she might actually survive. It certainly would have been a more surprising, more unexpected, more suspenseful, more dramatic ending if she did survive.

The actual death is quite different than the infamous comic book bridge incident; I didn't hear a snap, and her head wasn't lolling around as if her neck snapped. The scene where the web catches her mere feet from the ground is pretty ambiguous (did the back of her head hit the ground?), and there are long, long seconds in which Peter cradles her body, which shows no visible wounds, calling her name, that I became convinced she was going to open her eyes and be alright.

Those moments were definitely the most emotionally charged ones in the film and, like I said, I was honestly unsure if she was going to be okay or not, and they leave you hanging for an uncomfortably long time.

—I thought the "teaser" for X-Men: Days of Future Past was really dumb. It was basically just a commercial for the film, as in it looked like scenes from the film, cut extremely quickly together.

—It was cool that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko got credits in the movie, but they seemed off. If I'm recalling correctly, they read "Based on the comic books by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko," which isn't quite right, as the film is actually based on comic books based on comic books by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, or based on comic books based on other comic books based on their comics. "Based on the characters created by..." or "Spider-Man created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko" would have made more sense.

—The movie got me thinking about how Warner Brothers should approach their DC Comics superhero movies. It seems like they are actually taking a cue from this film and are going to seed Batman Vs. Superman, or whatever they're calling it, with set-up for a Justice League movie and perhaps, but not likely, individual movies featuring the non-Superman, non-Batman Justice Leaguers (The studio's bizarre adversity to a Wonder Woman film and the fact that other Leaguers like Flash seem to be getting pretty good-looking TV shows makes me think that unlikely).

This studio seems to be trying to turn the film adaptation of Spider-Man into the Spider-Man corner of the Marvel Universe, the source of a franchise (in addition to the next Amazing Spider-Man film, they've already mentioned the development of a Venom and/or Sinister Six movie. Additionally, if these keep selling well enough, it doesn't seem like it would be too hard to movies featuring various lieutenant Spider-Men, like a Miles Morales Spider-Man or a Jessica Drew Spider-Woman. At some point, they could convert Harry into a good guy to oppose worse bad guys in his own movie, I guess. Or, depending on how they develop Felicia Hardy, introduced briefly in this film as Harry's loyal personal assistant, Black Cat could conceivably star in a film (provided 2004's Catwoman didn't make superhero movies starring women dressed in cat-suits something no studio will dare until a generation passes from this earth).

They're doing the same, or at least seem interested in doing the same, with the X-Men.

Similarly, DC could turn Superman into a franchise bigger than just making Superman movies; a Supergirl spin-off with a cameo or brief appearance by Superman wouldn't be inconceivable, for example. Maybe a Superboy or Steel movie would be possible too, depending on how deeply that Shaquille O'Neal film has wounded the psyches of all who have seen it (which, thankfully, isn't all that many). Or a Legion of Super-Heroes movie. Such Superman spin-off movies would also provide an opportunity for all those awesome, never-used Superman villains to finally make it onto the big screen.

And then, of course, there's Batman. There will always be an audience for Batman films, and if they can keep a single franchise with a single Batman and his supporting cast going long enough, there's no reason they couldn't spin-off a Batgirl movie (which, odd as it may sound, actually seems more likely to me than a Robin movie) or a Catwoman movie (Although, again, I think there's that specter of Halle Berry's Catwoman; I would hope its obvious to all that it wasn't the character of Catwoman, who wasn't even really in the film, that sunk the Catwoman film. I think people really liked Anne Hathaway's portrayal of the "real" Catwoman, and I think a movie featuring that character with that star woulda done okay. Better than the last Catwoman or, say, Elektra, anyway. Those seem to be the two movies that scare all the studios away from superheroine movies).

—I spent a fair amount of time during and after the movie trying to get to six supervillains for the next movie, and/or a Secret Six movie. This movie does a lot of teasing. In addition to introducing Electro, The Rhino and Green Goblin, there' s a bit at the end (and during the end credits), where we see a set of Doctor Octopus arms and Vulture wings. (and right before The Rhino attacks, an imprisoned Harry Osborn tells an underling in a hat whose name I didn't catch, but who the credits on IMDb make me think must have been Alistair Smythe—do correct me if I'm wrong, though, as I heard Osborn refer to him as "Mr. Somethingorother,"but didn't catch the surname—that when he moves against Spider-Man, he doesn't want to use an army, but keep it small. They start with recruiting the imprisoned and pissed-at-Spidey Giamatti to be The Rhino).

Anyway, Green Goblin, Electro, Rhino, Doctor Octopus, The Vulture—that's only five. Smythe would make six, I guess. But I think Electro is dead at the end, which would drop them back down to four or five. But then, energy can neither be created nor destroyed, right, and Electro is eventually converted into a pure, sentient electricity before his dispersal. So maybe he could return.

As I said, Felicia Hardy is introduced in this film, and is closely associated with Osborn. Given the fact that the company is all about giving people animal-derived powers, it seems likely she could be given super cat-powers and be a member of the Secret Six, and also serve as Peter's new love interest.

The Scorpion seems like a good candidate for a brand-new villain, as he would seem to fit in with the animal-powers/animal-technology theme they have going with The Rhino, Vulture and Doctor Octopus.

I wouldn't mind Mysterio or The Chameleon, particularly since their illusion powers and master-of-disguise schtick would allow for things like Emma Stone or Dennis Leary appearing in another Spider-Man film, even if its only playing illusions of themselves/The Chameleon-playing-them.

Anyway, I did a lot of time counting and thinking about Spider-Man villains.

—Speaking of which, can Spider-Man movies use The Kingpin? I know he was in The Daredevil movies, and I think Marvel Studios got Daredevil back, but since The Kingpin is also a Spider-Man villain, does that mean he can appear in both Daredevil and Spider-Man movies, regardless of what studio controls those franchises, in the same way that Quicksilver is appearing in both the next X-Men and the next Avengers movies...?


I went to see Amazing Spider-Man 2 with a friend. We got to see it kinda sorta free because she bought the video game based on the movie, and it included two free tickets or something...? She laughed during Gwen's valedictorian speech, in which she practically predicts her own death, and how often she talked about dying and death throughout the movie. She also laughed during the black out, when Aunt May displayed such a take-charge attitude in the hospital ("I thought she was studying to be a nurse, not run the hospital," she whispered).  She also wondered why The Rhino just stood by for an interminable few minutes while Spider-Man swung in to have a talk with that kid dressed like Spider-Man before their fight, rather than just gunning Spidey down when he wasn't looking. She said Gwen Stacy's death was her favorite part of the film; not that she didn't like the character or was happy she was dead or anything, she just thought it was a well-made bit of movie. Unlike me, she had no doubts that Gwen would die.