Spotlight Sunday 8.19.18

With not a lot to choose from and some reasons to not dive into the Archives, there are spoilers ahead for…

Thor #4
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Mike Del Mundo
Cover: Mike Del Mundo
Rated T+
$3.99
Marvel

“So today the dead make war! Valhalla says thee nay, demons of Muspelheim!”

When a comic is part of an ongoing story arc, as most are these days, if I’m going to write about it I prefer either beginnings or endings. The latest WicDiv is near but at the end of its arc, and I just wrote about The New Challengers not too long ago, and it’s not at the end of its arc either.

I have a special Archives post planned, but the fact that it’s “special” means that there’s some extra work involved, and I haven’t done that work yet, so…stay tuned for more on that at some point.

Plus, you can never really go wrong with Thor, which is at the end of its arc.

Thanks to the unwelcome arrival of Loki back in #1 over the past few issues we’ve gotten to experience a family reunion from hell, or rather, a family reunion in Hel.

The Odinsons – Thor, Loki, Balder, and Tyr – are all back together, just in time to face off against the armies of the Queen of Cinders that are laying waste to the lands of the dead.

Some time ago, in a Thor-adjacent comic I didn’t read, the goddess Hela was deposed as Queen of Hel, and replaced by Balder. That becomes a point of contention after Thor and his brothers capture some cargo being transported through Hel by Sindr’s army, and said cargo proves to be Hela and Fenris.

Once freed, Hela wants to reclaim her throne, but there’s the small matter of the invading army to attend to, so there’s no time for throne game-playing, and so the matter of who rules Hel will be decided, somewhat counterintuitively, through erotic means rather than thanatological.

Which is to say that Hel is set to become the ultimate destination wedding, as Balder and Hela prepare to prove that marriage, like war, is Hel.

Neither party really has much interest in the concept of connubial bliss, at least not with each other. Balder, after all, loves Karnilla, the late Queen of the Norns, who joined him in Hel after getting killed by the Mangog, and Hela has…Thanos?


The Mad Titan himself shows up just in time for the dramatic “I object!” moment of the wedding, but that’s only the second-biggest part of the wedding drama.

Thor realizes that though they have the legions of the dead at their disposal to fight Sindr’s armies, they’re not really the best and the brightest of the dead. This is Hel, after all. It’s not where the biggest, baddest, noblest warriors spend their eternity. Deciding that they need the help of the Einherjar, the warriors of Valhalla, he and Loki hatch a scheme to send Thor to Valhalla on a recruitment mission, doing so by allowing Loki to achieve his fondest wish: murdering Thor.

And that’s where we find ourselves in this issue, with Thor at the Gates of Valhalla, greeted by Brunnhilde, the Valkyrie (or just “Val,” as most of us who know – and love – her call her).

In Hel, Sindr and her soldiers go all Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson and crash the wedding to add to the already high – if somewhat typical for a wedding, tbh – levels of chaos and drama.

It turns out that Thanos isn’t there to put a stop to the wedding, but is instead breaking up with Hela, so that he can go off and see an infinity war.

Breaking up with Hela wasn’t exactly a “snap,” eh, Thanos? Eh? Eh? (Please don’t kill me.)

It also turns out that Loki didn’t really kill Thor, having merely cast a spell that would make him appear dead so that he could be transported to Valhalla, which is otherwise inaccessible to anyone who isn’t Odin or a Valkyrie.

Loki attaches a chain to the hammer that Thor left lying around, providing a way back to Hel for Thor once the hammer returns to his hand.

Even though he’s heckin glad that his master is still alive, Thori is mad at Loki for doin him a bamboozle:

“Thori still hate you. But Thori hate fire burps more! Death to all fire burps!”

The battle rages on, though the odds favor Sindr, until Thor shows up with the Einherjar and the Valkyries along for the ride.

Picking up Hela’s crown after Sindr knocks it from her head, Thor puts it on and becomes, for a time, the King of Hel, and God of the Deathstorm.

“Blood Hammer” would be a great Dethklock song title. Brutal.

The tide turns, and Sindr decides to exercise the better part of valor.

With the battle won, it’s time for the war – which is to say, the wedding – to begin in earnest, but despite having been scorched by Sindr, Hela gets cold feet, and declares that she will not marry Balder.

It turns out that Hela is correct, as Karnilla slides the ring, which she snagged from Balder’s pocket during the battle, onto her own finger and declares, “I do!” binding herself in marriage to Hela

Over Balder’s objections, Karnilla takes his crown, Loki transports those assembled who are still among the living back to Midgard, and the pact is sealed, with Hela and Karnilla declared the Queens of Hel.

The Valkyries, with Tyr, who is dead, in tow, return to Valhalla with the Einherjar, though Val has decided to remain among the living in order to fight in the War of the Realms, joining Thor, Loki, Balder, Thori, and Toothgrinder on Thor’s boat.

Loki takes his leave soon after, declaring that he met the terms of the agreement he made with Thor back in #1 – though Thor disagrees that they ever agreed – and that he is leaving with his payment.

Thor assumes it’s some weapon kept on the boat, though Loki never said it was a weapon he wanted, and he sets his companions to try to find what isn’t there.

Before Loki leaves…
After Loki leaves. Awww….

I don’t have too much to add about this; like every other issue of Thor, this was fun. It’s a good mix of drama, action, and humor – although it has been leaning more into the humor a lot more since Thor: Ragnarok landed in theaters, but that’s an observation, not a complaint – with some surprising twists and turns.

It will be particularly interesting to see the twists and turns that the marriage of Hela and Karnilla will take; I suspect that it won’t be quite so acrimonious as we – and they – expect it to be.

I was also glad to see Val show up, though I have to admit that I’m not keen on Del Mundo’s take on her. Val is a personal favorite. I like the Tessa Thompson-inspired version of Brunnhilde in Exiles, and I have no complaints whatsoever about Thompson’s Valkyrie, who was one of the many highlights of Ragnarok, but while she was a great Valkyrie, and Thompson made the character her own, she just wasn’t Val.

Brunnhilde in Exiles is kind of a perfect blend of the personalities of OG Val and the Ragnarok version, but I’m eager to see what Aaron does with classic Val.

There was a lot going on in this issue, but while the Hela/Thanos break-up was fun, the issue’s MVP was Thori, and his emotional journey, from believing that his master was dead, to distracting himself by murdering “fire burps” – which was, by his own admission, enjoyable – to realizing that he was home and that he could just find a place to settle down, and maybe find a new master, to ultimately committing himself to his “Thunder Master.”

You’re a good boy, Thori.

My quibbles about the look of Val aside, I do like the art, but my original observation stands: it needs a stronger delineation. Everything tends to bleed together a bit too much.

But yeah. I enjoyed an issue of Thor. Big surprise.

Relationships are Hel, amirite?

Recommended Reading:

Jason Aaron!

That does it for the Spotlight. Be sure to come back on Saturday for the Showcase.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

Supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.


Showcase Saturday 8.18.18

A relatively light week – at least in terms of regular books – but not a cheap one, given the purchase of a particularly weighty tome*.

Let’s take a look:

From DC:


JACK KIRBY’S FOURTH WORLD OMNIBUS – These are the legendary tales written and illustrated by Jack “King” Kirby that introduced the warring worlds of Apokolips and New Genesis, their rulers, Darkseid and Highfather, and countless heroes and villains including Orion, Lightray, Kalibak, Granny Goodness and more. Witness the return of the Newsboy Legion and the struggle of the New Gods and the Forever People to stop Darkseid’s quest for the deadly Anti-Life Equation! This new omnibus edition includes SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #133-139 and 141-148, NEW GODS #1-11, FOREVER PEOPLE #1-11, DC GRAPHIC NOVEL #4: THE HUNGER DOGS and a story from NEW GODS #6 (1984).

NEW CHALLENGERS #4 – The Challengers tackle undead barbarians and a zombie-dinosaur stampede way down under in otherworldly Skartaris. Good thing they find that flock of pterodactyls, too—turns out to be handy against rogue agents setting up a super-weapon! Unfortunately, the Challengers also find their HQ destroyed and their predecessors missing. Plus, their borrowed time might be up, because the hourglass tattoos are on the fritz. All in a day’s work for the Challengers! (Face palm!)

From Image:


THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #38 – “MOTHERING INVENTION,” Part Five We’ll probably call this episode “In-Between Days,” just to make Jamie happy. Jamie deserves to be happy. Meanwhile, Kieron has to reread The White Goddess, as he deserves to suffer.

From Marvel:

THOR #4 – THOR & THE VALKYRIES TAKE ON THE QUEEN OF CINDERS IN THE WAR FOR HEL! The Queen of Cinders and her fire goblin army have invaded the land of the dead. To keep the afterlife from going up in flames, Thor and his brothers will have to forge alliances with some of their greatest enemies and seek to unlock the secrets of Valhalla and the mighty Valkyries!

That does it for the Showcase. Be sure to come back tomorrow for the Spotlight.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

Supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.

*There is no chance I’ll be writing about that one tomorrow. At some point in the future? We’ll see.


Spotlight Sunday 8.12.18

The birth of a new dream and the return of some icons means that there are spoilers ahead for…

The Sandman Universe #1
Writer: Neil Gaiman (Story), Dan Watters, Kat Howard, Nalo Hopkinson, Simon Spurrier
Artist: Sebastian Fiumara, Max Fiumara, Tom Fowler, Domonike Stanton, Bilquis Evely
Cover: Jae Lee
Mature Readers
$4.99
Vertigo

“You know the feeling – right? Sure you do. Happens every damn morning. Right after you wake. The moment you forget your dreams.”

Nearly thirty years ago I remember seeing a house ad in DC’s comics for a new series for “mature readers.”  It looked to be a series in the genre that, in those days of the several years after Alan Moore had reinvented Swamp Thing and began driving the nail into the coffin of the Comics Code Authority, DC referred to as “Sophisticated Suspense.”

It was a book by a new writer whom I recognized as being part of the post-Moore “British Invasion” of comics, but whose work I’d never read, but while I was mostly unfamiliar with the writer, the title of the series was a familiar one: The Sandman.


It seemed to be a year for new incarnations of old characters, or at least old character names, as that same year saw the launch of a new Starman series.

Like Starman, The Sandman was a name that had been held by more than one character over the years. The ad didn’t provide a lot of details about what the new comic would be about, so I wasn’t certain if this new version of the character would be an update of the gas-masked Golden Age version of the character, who was, at the time, absent from DC continuity, or an update of the Jack Kirby version character, whose stories were something of a riff on the old Little Nemo comic strips, featuring a super-heroish version of the mythical Sandman, or if it would be something new entirely.

It was, of course, in its way, all those things, or at the very least it incorporated all of them to varying degrees.

I seem to recall there also being an ad offering a subscription deal on the new series, but I may be conflating the new Sandman with the new Starman. If there was such an offer, I didn’t take it (in either case), because no money, and because it wasn’t a comic that would show up on the shelves at the places where I usually got comics, I was not able to get onboard.

In fact, it wasn’t until a few years later, after reading countless articles in the comics press – and even in the mainstream media – about how excellent it was that I finally picked up, via the Science Fiction Book Club, a hardcover volume collection of a story arc from the series.

I was hooked, and though in time I was able to collect everything else that had come before that collection, and started picking up everything that came after, I regretted not being there from the very beginning.

I was, however, there for the beginning of Vertigo, which launched shortly after I started reading The Sandman.

Vertigo was a new Mature Readers imprint from DC, which absorbed some of the existing Mature Readers titles, such as Swamp Thing, Doom Patrol, Hellblazer, and, of course, The Sandman, and also served as a launching point for new titles, which, over time, grew to include classics like Preacher, Y: The Last Man, and, spinning out of the pages of Sandman, Lucifer.

The Vertigo line was overseen by the great Karen Berger, and it fared reasonably well for two decades under her leadership, but after Berger’s departure, and the imminent end of one of the line’s flagship titles, Fables, and with nothing comparable to The Sandman to sustain it – Hellblazer, the longest-running Vertigo title was cancelled and its lead character, John Constantine, was placed directly in the mainstream DC Universe – it faced an uncertain future as it approached the quarter-century mark.


Which brings us, finally, to The Sandman Universe.

Along with several new, unrelated titles, Vertigo – now DC Vertigo – is relaunching with The Sandman Universe at its core. The Sandman Universe will consist of new titles featuring characters both old and new, built on the concepts Gaiman put into the waking world 30 years ago.

This comic serves as an introduction to those new titles, with the character of Matthew, the raven of Dream of the Endless, serving as the connective narrative thread.

We open in the Dreaming where Lucien, the librarian who attends to the Library of Dreams, where the shelves are lined with every book never written, makes a startling discovery: there is an empty space on the shelves…and Lucien, who “knows them all, every spine, every line” can’t remember what is supposed to fill that empty slot.

There is, however, a bigger problem – according to the other residents of the Dreaming, at any rate – in the form of a great big crack in the Dreaming.

Everyone insists that Lucien should summon the king, but Lucien demurs, as Lord Daniel is away, attending to a “personal matter,” but ultimately gives in and attempts a summoning. However, there is no response, and so Matthew is sent on a mission to find the Lord of Dreams.

The easiest way to enter the waking world is to accompany a dreamer who awakens, and Matthew finds a woman who’s dreaming of a party and attempts to cause her to waken.

He is interrupted by another inhabitant of the Dreaming named Dora, who angrily insists that Matthew leave the woman alone. Dora has been enjoying the woman’s food, and her company, and has no interest in letting Matthew bring her good time to an end.

Dora is a new face, someone who entered the Dreaming (unseen by us, as far as I can recall) shortly before Dream’s death and rebirth, and she holds a bit of a grudge.

There’s more to Dora’s insistence on letting the woman continue to dream than the promise of free food; Dora can see the woman’s waking life, see her lying in a palliative care ward dying of esophageal cancer – hence the emphasis on food in her dreams – and Dora wants the woman to be able have as much joy as possible.

Matthew is sympathetic, but still in a hurry, and insists on hitching this ride to the waking world. Dora won’t have it, and in her anger turns into something monstrous, causing both of them to be ejected from the woman’s dream.

We will, presumably, learn more about Dora once The Dreaming lands in comic shops next month.

Matthew finds another ride to the waking world, which turns out to be none other than Tim Hunter, who will star in the new Books of Magic series that is part of The Sandman Universe. Tim wakes, late for school, where he encounters a new teacher who appears to be a version of Rose Psychic, albeit not a version who is like the Rose we know.

From there, Matthew follows the trail to Louisiana, where he encounters some girls whose stories are about to become entangled with a figure of myth in The House of Whispers.

same tbh

The trail goes cold for Matthew, so he heads to a familiar place in search of the Devil himself, only to find that Lucifer is missing, and, according to a dead raven, trapped somewhere terrible as a result of his quest to free the imprisoned…mother of his son?

Once again, Matthew picks up the trail, and it leads him to his missing lord, but then, just as he’s closing in, something makes him lose his way and almost forget what he was doing in the first place. He returns to the Dreaming knowing that he failed, but unable to explain how he failed. Lucien informs him that he didn’t find Daniel because Daniel made him forget.

Forgetfulness seems to be catching, as Lucien momentarily forgets the way to the Gallery, but once they arrive, he explains to Matthew that there are bigger problems than the crack in the Dreaming, because there is a reason Daniel doesn’t want to be found.

Quitting his job? Daniel is *ahem* living the dream.

While this is the launchpad for several new books, much of it is built on the foundation of existing stories, relying on what has come before – though, as much of it involves dreams dream logic, there is room for some flexibility on that front – so I’m not certain how easy it would be for someone not versed in that history to just pick this up and read it with fresh eyes.

If you’ve never read The Sandman could you follow what’s happening, or rather, what’s happened before, as you read this prologue?

I suspect that you could; while it hints at a deeper history, I think it does so in a way that gives you a sufficient understanding of what you need to know in order to move forward, but leaves enough mystery to inspire you to go back and take a look at what you may have missed.

(Though honestly, if you haven’t read The Sandman what are you even doing with your life? Please proceed directly to Recommended Reading.)

The individual set-ups for the books that are to come seem interesting enough that I will check them all out, though it’s The Dreaming that I’m most looking forward to, as I’m already heavily-invested in many of the characters and in the setting itself.

Also: Bilquis Evely.

I follow her on Twitter, where she occasionally posts some work-in-progress videos, and it’s a rather Zen-like experience to watch those immaculately-manicured fingers confidently and unerringly spread ink across the page with swift, decisive strokes of the brush or pen.

Or rather, it would be if I weren’t so utterly consumed by feelings of unbridled envy. And not just of her talent and skill; it’s bad enough that my hands are incapable of such deft movement – there’s one video in which she just casually drew a perfectly straight line, in ink, without a ruler – but the sheer ugliness of my ragged nails and mangled cuticles just adds insult to injury.

But despite my envy, I am very much looking forward to seeing more of her excellent work on a regular basis.

I am admittedly skeptical about a Berger-less Vertigo and a line of Sandman-related titles that are not written by Gaiman himself, but I did find this little preview anthology intriguing, and I’m glad that the Vertigo imprint is continuing with a renewed focus, one that looks to the future without forgetting the past.

Recommended Reading:

That does it for the Spotlight. Be sure to come back next week for the Showcase.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

Supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.


Showcase Saturday 8.11.18

The return of an iconic brand and set of characters serves as the centerpiece to this week’s Showcase.

From DC:

BATMAN BEYOND #22 – Batman’s got a bullseye on his back in part four of “Target: Batman.” Thanks to the machinations of the Scarecrow, the entire city of Neo-Gotham is looking to take aim at Batman—including his own partner, Robin! Will hero turn against hero when fear is in the air? Elsewhere, former Royal Flush Gang member Melanie Walker looks to upgrade her image and take on a new heroic mantle, so she seeks advice from newsman Jack Ryder—unaware that he’s a total costumed Creeper!

CATWOMAN #2 – Gotham’s a toxic litter box for Selina Kyle of late, so she hits the road looking to clear the air, change her look and clear her name, too—there’s a copycat burglar swiping her M.O. who needs sorting out. In her hometown, Catwoman runs afoul of a crime boss who’s also hunting this impostor. Can the two declare a truce to hunt a mutual enemy, or will Selina end up just more roadkill?

PLASTIC MAN #3 – Eel went looking for a kid, but he found a Man-Bat instead, who brought him not only to the kid but also to the lair of the secret society that needs Plastic Man to stop asking inconvenient questions. Yes, it counts as comically good fortune if you squint your eyes and look around the corner (which he can totally do without even breaking a sweat. Or, you know, his neck).

SUPERMAN #2 – The world quakes and shakes as it begins to succumb to the effects of the entire planet being moved into the lifeless realm known as the Phantom Zone. As Superman works with the World’s Greatest Heroes, an old enemy trapped in the same prison returns to stop the Man of Steel and escape.

THE IMMORTAL MEN #5 – Caden Park comes to grips with his immortal lineage, thus launching a bold new era for the Immortal Men! However, this new epoch is threatened right out of the gate, as the Immortal Men must battle an unstoppable army of their fellow immortals in a floating war-city miles above New York City. That’s one bite the Big Apple may not survive! Meanwhile, this war of immortals draws all kinds of unwanted attention, starting with black-ops badass Amanda Waller. Gulp!

WONDER WOMAN #52 – At the behest of Aztek, Diana and Artemis join her for a trip to Mexico, but there’s no sightseeing on the agenda. Instead, they must rescue a long-lost Amazon who’s being held captive by rogue deity Tezcatlipoca, who’s trying to break into our world. Can our three heroes save the missing Amazon, stop a raging god and not kill one another in the process?

From Marvel:

DOMINO #5 – Topaz and [REDACTED] have upended Domino’s life completely, dragging her ugly Project Armageddon origins out of the shadows for all to see. Now, having been torn down to her very foundation, Domino is confronted with the deepest cut of all: BETRAYAL. There’s a RAT in the henhouse.

EXILES #6 – The Exiles land in the Old West! A dusty town of innocents is under the thrall of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants — including their sharpshooting leader, Magneto! But this town ain’t big enough for all those mutants, and the Exiles aren’t about to let the Brotherhood get their way. Saddle up for a wild ride with guest artist Rod Reis!

From Vertigo:

THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1 – From the mind of New York Times #1 bestselling author Neil Gaiman comes a new world filled with dreams, nightmares and wonderful characters living together in a shared universe for a new story unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

A rift between worlds has opened, revealing a space beyond the Dreaming. Meanwhile, a book from Lucien’s library is discovered by a group of children in the waking world where it should not exist. Lucien calls for Matthew the Raven to seek out their master, Daniel, Lord of Dreams.

As Matthew flies across the Waking World and others, he finds a young boy named Timothy Hunter who, in his dreams, has become the world’s most powerful magician—but in his nightmares he is the world’s greatest villain. A new House has appeared in the realm of the Dreaming: the House of Whispers, with its proprietor, a fortune-teller called Erzulie. And elsewhere, Lucifer has fallen again, only this time he might be trapped in a Hell of his own design.

Spiraling out of this special issue will be four all-new series set in the Sandman Universe. It all starts here!

That does it for this week’s Showcase. Come back tomorrow to see which – if any – of these comics makes its way into the Spotlight.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

Supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.


Spotlight Sunday 8.5.18

One way or another I would have ended up writing about this, so I decided to just lean into it, which means there are spoilers ahead for…

Darkseid is.
Yep. Even here: Darkseid is. Especially here.

Mister Miracle #10
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Cover: Nick Derrington
Variant Cover: Mitch Gerads
Rated M
$3.99
DC

“Plus, I’m sill kind of thinking of trying to convince Barda to sacrifice him to win a cosmic war. So if I do that…and get the dog. What’ll we do with the dog? I don’t want a dog.”

I must admit that as much as I was looking forward to a new issue of Mister Miracle I was also kind of dreading this issue. The last one kind of gutted me, and I’ve found myself having difficulty moving past it, and with that Gerads variant cover, this one…

My fears were…well, not unfounded, but the reality of this issue was, in many ways, a lot less harsh than what I had anticipated.

That’s not to say this wasn’t a consequential issue – it was – or that it didn’t leave me gutted, just like every issue does, in its own way, it just wasn’t as traumatizing as I’d anticipated.

As has been the case throughout, not a lot happens in this issue, but there is a lot happening.

To bring us up to speed, in the last issue, as part of peace discussions between New Genesis and Apokolips, Darkseid offered to cease his aggression and bring the war to an end…if Scott and Barda surrender custody of their son Jacob to Darkseid.

This issue opens with Scott and Barda wordlessly returning to Earth after receiving that offer.

This is followed up by Scott having a night on the town with his friends and former teammates, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle.

In a moment of seriousness amid the drunken revelry we get the first discussion of the situation and learn that Scott is not at all certain what he should do.

Upon returning home to Barda he’s told that he needs to order a birthday cake for Jacob in the morning, preferably one with Batman, because Jacob likes Batman.

Across the nine panels of the next page, we see Scott slowly break down in the shower, while off-page Barda talks about the details of the upcoming birthday party, such as the guest list, and how it’s not really for Jacob, but for them, and that “they” say you need to have the celebration even if the child has no idea what’s going on.

“It’s like… It’s been a whole year. And he’s alive and we’re alive. We made it.”

At the store ordering the cake, Scott is still considering Darkseid’s offer as he dithers about when he wants the cake to be ready; Jacob’s birthday is on Sunday, but, if he agrees to Darkseid’s terms, they would be sending him to Apokolips on Saturday.

That evening at home, after Barda finally puts Jacob down for the night, Scott decides the time has come to stop avoiding it and broach the subject with Barda.

It…doesn’t go so well.

I love how much Gerads emphasizes the “Big” in “Big Barda.” Impressed by the size of the lass. An absolute unit.

Scott consults his oracles and learns that if he keeps fighting against Darkseid, he will lose, and everyone everywhere will suffer.

At the party store, he poses a question to the cashier, explaining his dilemma. The cashier talks about the answer ultimately being found in math, stating that life is a matter of maximizing happiness, and to determine the best way to do that – Will sacrificing one life maximize the happiness of all other lives? – you must include all the variables you can identify in your, ahem, life equation.

While enjoying a day at the park with Barda and Jacob, Scott argues that he and Barda both grew up on Apokolips, and they survived, and they’re doing okay, and they’re happy.

This discussion of one elephant in the room leads to the discussion of the other elephant that’s been in the room the whole time: Scott’s suicide attempt.

Later, while decorating for the party, Funky tells Scott a story that contains within it – or so he claims – the meaning of life. It’s a story he asserts that he and Jacob came up with, despite the fact that Jacob, per Scott, “can say, like, six words.” Funky insists that they don’t need words when they have the vastness of Jacob’s imagination. And so, Funky relates the story of “Stareater and the Golden Retriever and Jake Jones.”

Better than most of my shitty comics. I love that they use a riff on the introduction of Galactus to have the relationship between Funky and Jacob pay homage to the Lee-Kirby synergy when it was at its best.

While Scott can’t quite see how this story provides the meaning of life, he does come to a decision, and, after putting Jacob down for the night, he informs Barda of his plan. He’ll bring Jacob to Darkseid.

Then, when they’re alone, he’ll kill Darkseid, or, more likely, die trying.

Then they’ll have the party.

“Sounds good. I’ll come too.”

One of the strengths of this book is that it contains so many quiet, intimate moments that seem disconnected and distinct from the larger events that are taking place, largely off-page, but which are entirely informed by those larger, cosmic events, just as those larger, cosmic events are born out of these quiet, intimate moments.

(The confines of the rigid nine-panel grid, in addition to making the book feel claustrophobic also add to the sense of intimacy. We are right there, up close and personal with Scott and Barda, just as caught up in the events of their lives as they are, and it helps that Gerads is so adept at capturing those small moments.)

The allure of stories – and of super-hero stories in particular – is that they can take the small, quiet, intimate moments of our lives and make them larger and louder, until they’re big enough to fill the universe, the multiverse, and what I find most appealing about the particular storytelling alchemy of King and Gerads is that they can go through that process, and then distill it back down into something even smaller, something that can fit into nine small panels per page without losing any of their heft or potency.

The central theme of this issue is one that is easily-understood: the fear that we* have as parents about passing on our damage to our children, and the difficult choices we have to make about their futures. Granted, most of us don’t have to balance the lives of untold trillions against the lives of our children or contemplate handing our child over to an evil god.

But in the broad strokes…

Of course, to any parent, it may seem as monstrous as it does to Barda to even consider the idea – Barda, understandably, is perfectly willing to lose something as trivial as a cosmic war for the continued existence of life in the universe if it means keeping her son – but it’s worth considering that, in his role as Highfather, Scott is God, and has much more to think about than his own happiness or the welfare of a single child, even if that child is his own.

Beyond that, Scott has the example of his own life to refer to, even if Barda doesn’t agree that it provides the comfort that he thinks it does. As a child, his own father gave him away to bring an end to war. How can he do any less?

Of course, unlike his father, Scott is the World’s Greatest Escape Artist…

As I’ve said before, while I like having the opportunity to talk about this book, the main thing I find myself saying is that me telling you about it can’t convey even an approximation of experiencing it for yourself. So…do that. If not now, then when the trade paperback collection of this masterwork by an Eisner Award-winning team is released.

Recommending Reading:

Eisner Winners!

That does it for this week’s Spotlight. Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to come back on Saturday for the Showcase to see what new books I bought, one of which I might write about in the next Spotlight.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artwork, my Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

As a reminder, we live in a capitalist society, and things like comic books, web-hosting, and eating and having a roof over my head cost money. Currently, I get that money by working at a job, a job that, in exchange for said money, is draining the life out of me day after day, leaving me with very little remaining energy to devote to this site and to developing it into the platform it’s intended to be.

Ideally, I’d like to make money by devoting the energy that’s being expended elsewhere to this site and developing it into the platform it’s intended to be.

You can help with that, by becoming a patron of OpenDoor Comics, or by making donations via PayPal, by buying something via the Recommended Reading links, and by helping to spread the word about the site, its mission, its contents, and its potential.

*The ”we” here being humanity in general. I don’t worry about passing anything down to my non-existent kids.

Showcase Saturday 8.4.18

A damaged shipment at the comic shop makes for a rather light Showcase this week.

From DC:

MISTER MIRACLE #10 – Darkseid has put an offer on the table— something that can end the war between New Genesis and Apokolips once and for all. The stakes are high, but peace is important. Mister Miracle finds himself caught having to make a decision that won’t just change the new life he’s been building, but potentially the entirety of the universe.

 

 

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #1 – The Super Sons are back in an all-new 12-issue miniseries written by Peter J. Tomasi! Check out the lost and secret adventures of Damian Wayne (Robin) and Jon Kent (Superboy) in this flashback miniseries that takes a deep dive into the bombastic bromance between the sons of the DC Universe’s greatest heroes. It’s an epic dual storyline that transcends current events, as Superboy and Robin find themselves targets of an interstellar team of young badasses called the Gang.

After the last issue of Mister Miracle, I’m not sure I’m emotionally prepared for tomorrow’s Spotlight post.

In any case, that does it for this week’s Showcase.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

If you like the Showcase, the Spotlight, or any aspect of OpenDoor Comics, please remember that there are ways that you can support the site and its development – not to mention my comic-buying, food-eating, and mortgage-paying habits – via Patreon and/or PayPal.



Spotlight Sunday 7.29.18

There was nothing in this week’s stack of books that really cried out for the Spotlight, but there is something in the Archives that I’ve wanted to write about for a long time that is newly-relevant, so there are 36-year-old spoilers ahead for…

The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Walter Simonson
Cover: Walter Simonson
Marvel/DC

“This used to be a skyscraper – ‘til it got trashed by the X-Men. Media describes them as outlaws. I wonder why the Titans have never tangled with ‘em?”

The other day on Twitter I saw some highly-relatable content about looking for a recipe online and ending up on a food blog with the recipe obscured by paragraph after paragraph of a travelogue filled with purple prose detailing the author’s journey of self-discovery in Tuscany.

I laughed, of course – like I said, “highly-relatable content” – but then it occurred to me that my Spotlight posts aren’t much different. (Except that the food blog posts generally do have useful information in there somewhere.)

After all, as with last week, every post has at least one nostalgic anecdote about the subject of the Spotlight, comics in general, and the instability of my access to comics in my youth.

This…this is going to be one of those. (And there won’t even be a recipe at the end. Also, I’ve never been to Tuscany.)

Most of my purchases of comics that weren’t in digest form, or weren’t cheap bag o’ mystery comics, happened at grocery stores, and, for a variety of reasons, there were only one or two stores we went to with any regularity.

This was troubling for me, as there were several stores that we didn’t go to regularly that had much larger and more diverse selections of new comics to choose from – and, indeed there were even some newsstand-type places that had an even larger selection that we went to even less frequently – and it was always cool when we would go to one and I could get my hands on books that were otherwise inaccessible.

One of those places we didn’t go to often was something of a general store, filled with a strange assortment of random items. We mostly avoided it because, I think, it was somewhat out of the way for us, and because in terms of groceries, it didn’t have much that we needed and what it did have was more expensive than at the other places.

I liked the place because in addition to just having different comics it had different kinds of comics in terms of the actual format. Mass market paperback editions, or special oversized editions, such as the comic we’re (eventually) going to talk about.

I won’t go into too much more detail about the specifics of the trip to that store that landed me a copy of this comic, though I’m guessing that it marked an occasion on which we were a little more flush – maybe my dad had just gotten paid for a big job? I don’t recall – as I recall that it was on the same night that we, as a family, went to see a movie* which was something we did even less-frequently than shopping at those other stores.

(Relevant to another Archives post, the digest in which I first read the story that Spotlight focuses on was purchased from the same odd little store from which I bought this comic.)

The reason I opted to talk about this particular comic is that it holds a particular significance, to me, personally – I loved the hell out of this comic, as evidenced by the fact that I read and re-read it to the point of destruction – and to the history of comics generally.

It wasn’t the first inter-company crossover between Marvel and DC, but it’s arguably one of the biggest, given the immense popularity of the characters it brought together.

The Uncanny X-Men (UXM) and The New Teen Titans (NTT) were two of the most popular comics for their respective publishers, so this was officially a Big Deal, particularly given that NTT was launched by DC as something of a response to the growing popularity of UXM over at Marvel.

The two teams had very much in common, with sporadic publication histories that stretched back to the early 1960s, relatively young main characters, something of a “family” dynamic that wasn’t as present in other team books, they told stories that tackled some of the social issues of the times, they each had, throughout their history, a changing roster of members, and they were filled with angst. So much angst. You would have to vigorously wash your hands after reading an issue of UXM or NTT because they would be covered with the angst that positively oozed off the pages.

At the time, I was probably more familiar with NTT than UXM, the latter of which I had only recently started reading, and I was always more of a DC person than a Marvel.

I do recall being a bit disappointed that the art on this crossover was not handled by NTT artist and co-creator George Perez – who was my favorite artist – but it’s hard to be too disappointed when you get Walter Simonson.

It’s interesting to look at the credits and see that neither Wolfman nor Perez are listed as contributing. Only the late Len Wein is listed in the credits (as Consulting Editor) from the DC side of things.

The other reason I opted to pull this one out of the Archives is that both teams are in the news these days, with a, oh, let’s say “mixed” reaction to the recently-released trailer for the upcoming live-action Titans series, which appears to draw heavily from the early Wolfman/Perez era of NTT, the release of the animated Teen Titans Go! To the Movies** this past Thursday (also with mixed reactions), and the announcement that Marvel is reviving the Uncanny X-Men title, and that Chris Claremont is going to be writing the X-Men Black series. (I’m out of the X-loop, but most of the X-titles these days seem to be color-coded.)

Okay, so, anyway, when I arrived in Tuscany, though I had never before trod upon Italian soil in my life, I was nevertheless struck by an overwhelming sense of having returned home. I –

Oh, right. Comics, not recipes.

Our story opens at the Source Wall, under the stony gaze of the Promethean Giants, those ancient entities who in eons past attempted to breach the Wall, as so many have tried – and failed – to do throughout history and got turned into decorations for their trouble.

Metron of the New Gods means to succeed where they failed, his endless quest to know all there is to know leading him to this final frontier. A shadowy figure, with whom Metron has a less-than convivial relationship, is offering Metron a means of breaching the Wall in exchange for something Metron calls a Psychon-Wave.

Metron, in his Mobius Chair, uses the device given to him by his mysterious interlocutor (Spoiler: It’s Darkseid), heads towards the Wall, and in a flash of light, he’s gone, leaving behind only the Mobius Chair, adrift in space, and the new owner of the Psychon-Wave, who laughs at his incipient triumph, which will give him “dominion over the stars!”

We cut to a training session in the Danger Room back on Earth, with Colossus, Wolverine, and Nightcrawler managing to impress Professor X with their performances. Elsewhere in the mansion/school we see Cyclops and Storm each enjoying some down time, while the youngest of the team (and secret imaginary girlfriend of comic nerds everywhere) Kitty Pryde prepares dinner for the team.

Later, with training complete, and dinner eaten, it’s all “Good night, Danger Room, good night, Cerebro…” and all the X-Men drift off to sleep, sleep that is troubled by dreams of their fallen teammate, Jean Grey, once known as Marvel Girl, then Phoenix, and then, by the time of her demise, Dark Phoenix.

The dreams are more than dreams, however, as a strange figure seems to be causing them – and using some device to draw out the essence of those memories – visiting each sleeping X-Man in turn, until finally reaching Kitty.

Darkseid is.

After responding to Kitty’s scream, the X-Men realize that it wasn’t some imaginary monster, given that each of them had troubling dreams about Jean, and they all know better than to believe in coincidence.

The discussion is tabled by someone at the door, with that someone turning out to be none other than…Jean Grey?

Meanwhile, in Titans Tower, Raven is having a rare night of untroubled sleep, her soul-self drifting in the vast and quiet cosmos. Alas, for the Daughter of Trigon, peace can only be short-lived, and, like Kitty, she soon wakes screaming after a massive bird of fire assaults her soul-self.

Her teammates, Starfire and Changeling (you youngsters know him by his original code name of Beast Boy), comfort her, but Changeling finds himself on the wrong end of an angry Tamaranean princess once he tries to use his powers to replicate the flaming bird that Raven describes.

Starfire, it seems, is familiar with the Phoenix, and the sight of it sent her into a warrior’s rage. Realizing that Raven’s dream might be more than a dream, she summons the other members of the Titans: Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Cyborg, and Robin, the latter of which doesn’t show up at the Tower.

The Boy Wonder is busy in Gotham, dealing with a break-in at S.T.A.R. Labs by thugs working for a re-formed (but not “reformed”) Intergang. He gets more than he bargained for when he removes the mask of one of the unconscious felons and discovers an inhuman face. A Parademon, he learns, from none other than Deathstroke the Terminator, for whom the Parademons are working. The Terminator (in those days the “Terminator” part of his name was used more often than “Deathstroke”) quickly knocks Robin out, and we learn that he was rendered unconscious before he could receive the alert Koriand’r sent out.

The X-Men, meanwhile, are at the home of Jean Grey’s parents, having been summoned there after Jean’s father received a visit from his late daughter that was nearly identical to the one Cyclops got. Professor X soon reaches out to them with a telepathic summons, alerting them to the fact that he’s detected strange incidents in various locations, each of which has some connection to the late Phoenix. If the pattern holds, it can lead them to the next likely location to confront the perpetrator of the night’s strange events.

We cut to the Titans finding their leader unconscious in an alleyway, and they soon bring him up to speed on what’s happening. Starfire tells the tale of the destruction of the D’Bari system, and the death of billions of beings, caused by an entity known as Dark Phoenix, which was related to her people, in the time before Starfire was enslaved by her sister and later made her escape to Earth, by Lilandra of the Shi’ar Empire. Lilandra informed them that Dark Phoenix had been destroyed, but Raven’s dream leads her to suspect otherwise.

Robin isn’t so sure that there’s anything they can do – “Kory, cosmic menaces are a little out of the Titans’ league. Perhaps we should notify the Justice League or the Avengers…?” – and believes that dealing with the Terminator should be the priority, but ultimately, when Koriand’r insists that she’ll go it alone if she has to, relents, as Titans stick together.

That commitment to unity pays dividends.

We then check in with the villains of the piece, where we learn that – unsurprisingly – the Terminator is connected to the whole Phoenix thing, as he’s working for the big boss behind it all. (Again, it’s Darkseid. The attempts at obscuring that fact are rather silly, in that even his silhouette is recognizable, we already know that the Fourth World – and in particular, Parademons – plays a part in this, and his picture is on the back cover.)

There is some unfriendly rivalry between the human Terminator and the Apokoliptan flunky – Ravok the Ravager – who is also working for the “mysterious” leader, but each is sent off on a different mission. Th Terminator is sent to collect some last, pivotal bit of energy, while Ravok and his troops are sent to capture the X-Men.

Things don’t quite work out that way, as an impetuous Starfire bursts into the X-mansion and assaults Professor X, who manages to knock her out with a psi-bolt. But Charles is soon taken down by the other Titans. Robin isn’t exactly thrilled about how things went down, what with the breaking and entering and possibly attempted murder, but they don’t have time to debate, as they are soon attacked and captured by Ravok and company, who mistake the Titans for the X-Men. In the confusion, Changeling avoided capture, and uses his shapeshifting abilities to take on the form of a Parademon, following the rest of the troops through the Boom Tube in the hopes of rescuing his friends.

In New Mexico, the X-Men tussle with the Terminator, and though they ultimately end up captured as well, they do at least manage to destroy the device that was being used to siphon the residual psychic energy left behind by Phoenix during an adventure with the X-Men.

Back at the Wall, Ravok feels like he’s really gotten an edge over that filthy human, and proudly presents the “X-Men.” The boss isn’t thrilled – Charles is the only useful person in that pile of unconscious bodies, but he needs the rest of the X-Men – and Terminator booms back in, just in time to rub Ravok’s nose in his own success at capturing the X-Men.

Having succeeded where Ravok failed makes up for the loss of the especially potent energy the boss (Darkseid) was hoping to acquire.

Ravok’s troubles only get worse from there as the boss notices that one of the Parademons is unusually green. Terminator realizes it’s Changeling, and quickly takes him out.

That’s the last strike for Ravok, however, and the boss (IT. IS. DARKSEID.) disintegrates him.

The X-Men and the Titans (mostly for the hell of it) wake to find that they are hooked up to some big doohickey, and Kitty, who finds that she can’t phase her way out of it, sees a familiar, horrible face:

“You’re the thing from my nightmare! You’re real!”

“I am indeed! Adults deny me, but children know me for what I am. That makes them dangerous, and worthy to be cherished. For in their innocence lies the universe’s salvation, and in the loss of that innocence, my ultimate victory!”

The device is designed to draw out the remaining residual psychic energy of Dark Phoenix to bring her – or at least a decent facsimile thereof – to life. And it works.

Wait, whaaat? You mean it was DARKSEID the whole time? Mind = Blown

Cyclops tries to reason with Jean, and appeal to her love for him, but, game recognizes game, and so she chooses Darkseid.

Like any villain worth his salt, Darkseid explains his plan in a monologue. He’s going to use Phoenix’s powers to transform the Earth into another Apokolips, and then use it as a base to engage in the conquest of New Genesis and then, ultimately, everything.

Darkseid and Dark Phoenix and their entourage Boom Tube out, leaving the heroes behind with no means of escape from the hunk of rock floating in space.

Once he leaves, with no reason to keep them restrained, the device sets the team free, and we get the first official meeting of the two teams.

Kitty and Changeling hit it off pretty quickly, but the teams have a more pressing issue than how well they get along, in that they need to save the Earth, but first they need to find a way off the asteroid, as its atmosphere is rapidly depleting.

Cyborg, with his assorted devices, and Charles, with his psychic abilities, detect some sort of object floating nearby, and soon, powered by Cyclops’s optic blasts and Starfire’s starbolts, they manage to move the asteroid within reach of the object, which turns out to be Metron’s Mobius Chair.

Of course, to them, it’s just a chair, but soon Kitty and Changeling inadvertently discover that it’s much more than that and is capable of bringing them back to Earth.

The question is how they’ll all fit, but Kitty and Changeling soon solve that problem. Changeling turns into a dragon. Charles will drive the chair, Changeling will ride it, and everyone else will ride on him.

This solution provides a moment of requisite angst, along with a bit of humor.

I remember being bothered by this because I thought, “Oh no: now Kory will know that Colossus called himself a fool! How embarrassing.”

Once on Earth, they soon find their way to the secret base from which Darkseid plans to create Hell on Earth, and though they’re too late to prevent Dark Phoenix from sending a psi-bolt to the Earth’s core to kick off the whole process, there’s lots of fighting – including the requisite bit with each being impressed by the other as Wolverine and Deathstroke face off – which is ultimately resolved by…love, of course.

Working together, Charles and Raven zap Dark Phoenix with the love that her team members felt for her, and remind her of the loving, kind, and good woman she had once been. The psychic toll proves too much for her and her body begins to discorporate.

With Dark Phoenix weakened, Robin comes up with an idea, telling her that she might be able to keep herself together if she takes back the energy she just sent into the core. Darkseid objects, but everyone else lays into him, with Starfire scoring the definitive blow by blasting him directly in the eyes as he’s about to unleash the Omega Effect.

Dark Phoenix pulls back the energy she unleashed, but it’s not enough, because she’s missing the corporeal host she once had, and Darkseid tells her there’s a chance that she can sustain herself if she finds a host.

In death, as in life, she settles for Cyclops, but she’s not strong enough to overcome his love for her, and she realizes that this illusion of life isn’t good enough. She angrily departs Cyclops and heads for the cause of her misery: Darkseid.

She scoops him up and disappears. Though the X-Titans have no idea where they went, they know the danger has passed.

In fact, she’s taking him to the Wall, in the hopes that the Source can restore her, though she knows it’s too late for that.

We end with the teams triumphant and enjoying each other’s company, though there is the lingering question of where those ghostly images of Jean that visited Cyclops and Mr. Grey came from.

In the epilogue, as we see the Mobius Chair return to the Wall, and Metron’s butt return to the Mobius Chair, we learn that he sent those images in order to ensure that Darkseid would be stopped, and that the balance of things could be restored.

We also learn that things didn’t work out so well for Darkseid.

Obviously, this comic holds a special place in my memory, for multiple reasons – on of which is that, as you can see in the footnote, I have reason to associate it with a young Diane Lane…rawr! – but beyond that, it has a more general significance. There had been – and would be more – other Marvel/DC crossovers before this, but this was a big one. There weren’t many (any?) comics more beloved than UXM and NTT at the time, or any two books that were more ideally-suited for a crossover, given their similarities.

Beyond that, for all the angst, and melodrama, and overwrought dialogue, it was a good story, and it was drawn by Walter freakin’ Simonson, so…well, ‘nuff said.

It would be more than two decades before the other two major teams in their respective universes had a crossover, and it was a long, tumultuous path to publication.

While there have been other intercompany crossovers, there have been additional Marvel/DC crossovers since JLA/Avengers, and there likely won’t be, which means we won’t see a sequel to Wonder Woman/Conan now that the rights to Conan are back at Marvel.

The tricky part of crossovers is finding the right balance, and in this case – and I attribute this to Jim Shooter – the balance was a bit off, if, like me, you were a slightly bigger fan of NTT than UXM. The Titans are treated pretty well, but we get much more of a focus on the inner lives of the X-Men than we do the Titans.

It is interesting, though, that so many people involved in the comic – or at least the individual comics that were being brought together for this special event – had done a lot of “crossing over” between the companies themselves.

Shooter started out at DC before landing at Marvel, Wolfman and Perez had both done work for Marvel before launching NTT at DC (which is, in part, why they were tapped to create a book that could compete with UXM), Simonson had worked for both companies, and so had Len Wein.

Thanks to the cartoons, the perception of the Teen Titans by the general public and to comics fans who are younger than I am is very different from what would be found here. I’m not going to say that this other perception of the Titans is wrong (though it is), but it is very different.

Still, given my fondness for the Titans, I’m glad to see that there at least is a perception of them at all within the general public, but I find it unfortunate that the upcoming live-action series that’s drawing inspiration from this period appears to be doing so very poorly. (Based solely, and perhaps unfairly, on the trailer, I would say that Young Justice is a much better spiritual successor to this era of Titans history than the Titans live-action series will be.)

Oh, and the other great thing about this crossover is that it’s the second time that year that Darkseid got his ass beat by a bunch of teenagers.

Recommended Reading:

Crossovers!

That does it for this week’s Spotlight. Next week, no matter what, I’ll pick something new to write about, I swear.

In the meantime, one evening in Tuscany, after a day filled with food and wine and self-discovery, I found myself amongst newfound friends – though I felt like we’d known each other all of our lives – on the patio at a quaint, rustic home nestled in the countryside, enjoying the cool, evening breeze, and the delightful desserts that had been laid out for us on an uneven table crafted from rough-hewn timber that tilted precariously to one side with each tray placed upon it by the lively and passionate septuagenarian woman at whose home I was a guest. “Guest” seems too cold a word for it; in that moment I was familigia. I called her “Nonna Grace,” as did everyone, whether she was their grandmother or not, and though I should have, perhaps, felt a tinge of shame or anger, I couldn’t help but be delighted every time she laughed at my clumsy attempts at speaking in Italian. “Idiota!” she would exclaim, hitting me on the head with a wooden spoon, before unleashing peals of infectious laughter.

And that was when I learned how to bake chocolate chip cookies, though I didn’t so much learn the recipe as I lived it…

*I’m reasonably certain the movie in question was Six Pack, starring Kenny Rogers.

**I haven’t seen it myself, and probably won’t until it’s available for home viewing. After all, given that I have to work at a full-time job *COUGH* *COUGH* I don’t have the freedom to just go to the movies whenever I feel like doing so.

Showcase Saturday 7.28.18

This is the part where I try to come up with something clever to say as a means of introducing this post in which I list the comics I bought today, one of which I might write about tomorrow.

Look, here’s what I bought, okay? Don’t make this weird.

From DC:

ACTION COMICS #1001 – Acclaimed writer Brian Michael Bendis’ new chapter for the Man of Steel and the world of tomorrow begins here! The devastating repercussions from the Man of Steel miniseries still reverberate as Metropolis enters a new age! The Daily Planet teeters on the brink of disaster! A new criminal element has made its way onto the streets of Superman’s hometown! The longest- running superhero comic of all time explodes off the page with art by fan favorite Patrick Gleason.

DC’S BEACH BLANKET BAD GUYS SPECIAL #1 – It’s summertime in the DCU and the bad guys are taking over! Beat the heat with 10 all-new stories by top comics talent starring DC’s most spectacular super-villains! In this issue, find out what Mr. Freeze does on the hottest day of the Gotham City summer! Learn what made Grodd such a bad gorilla! Then, while in a small beach town, Deathstroke gets hired for murder by the last person he’d expect! And The Joker and Bizarro team up for a truly weird summer bromance!

THE TERRIFICS #6 – No one escapes Element World! The Terrifics find themselves out of their, uh, element in a battle to save a town turned into elemental monsters. With Metamorpho and Mr. Terrific out of commission, Phantom Girl battles the Kingdom of Gas (insert joke here), while Plastic Man tries to survive the Domain of Rock by turning it up to 11. All this, and the source of the Terrifics’ terrible tragedies has one more masterstroke: Tom Strong must die!

 

WONDER WOMAN #51 – Then, is Man’s World ready for Wonder Woman to bring Amazonian justice to today’s society? Guest writer Steve Orlando (Justice League of America) delves into that theme in “Transformation Island,” which sees Diana visiting the small-time crook known as Mayfly in jail over the course of several years. But how do these visits impact Diana and Mayfly?

 

From Dark Horse:

RASPUTIN: THE VOICE OF THE DRAGON TPB – Hellboy’s future guardian Trevor Bruttenholm, working for Britains Military Intelligence, uncovers a collection of messages. The messages throw him into a world of animated corpses, deadly mystics, and Nazi agents. The treacherous journey leads him face to face with the man who will bring Hellboy to Earth–Rasputin! Collects Rasputin: Voice of the Dragon#1-#5.

From Dynamite:

BARBARELLA #8 – Barbarella has a corporate target on her back, and only the arrival of an old friend can save her bacon. But the mistress of the spaceways whose heart belongs to no one is out of the frying pan and into the fire-literally! For her latest adventure has her headed for the heart of the sun!

That does it for this week’s Showcase. Come back tomorrow to see if one of these comics appears in the Spotlight.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

I’d say to remember to tip the waitstaff, but this isn’t a restaurant, so, instead, I’ll say remember to tip me, either via Patreon or PayPal.



Spotlight Sunday 7.22.18

A desire to write about something new combined with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia means that there are spoilers ahead for…

New Challengers #3
Writer: Aaron Gillespie, Scott Snyder
Artist: Andy Kubert, V Ken Marion
Cover: Andy Kubert
Rated T
$2.99
DC

“I don’t give half a crap if you kids listen or not.”

I keep – and will likely continue to do so – talking about how my access to comics was rather erratic when I was a kid. It was difficult, even nigh-impossible, to buy any one comic with regularity, and I didn’t always have control over what I got.

Sometimes my mom would just semi-randomly grab a stack of comics for me, and I’d get a lot of comics that were bundled together in a sort of bag o’ mystery. Those bags of illegally-sold “damaged” comics were a big contributor to my collection, and, given that they were frequently not especially current, a big source of my knowledge of old stories and characters.

Digest-size comics also played a significant role in that latter point, as they generally contained a mix of new stories – the kind that might appear as back-ups in regular monthly comics, or in some of the anthology-style books of the day – and reprints of classic stories.

I got a lot of digests, because they were a bargain, costing just a bit more than two comics, but generally containing much more than two comics’ worth of content. DC had a rotating schedule of digests, generally clustered around a theme, such as holiday stories, or “Superman and Luthor’s greatest battles,” or “Funny Stuff,” which reprinted some of DC’s old “funny animal” comics.

They also moved the Adventure Comics title from standard monthly “floppy” into a digest, which is what today’s comic brings to mind, as it was those Adventure Comics digests that first introduced me to the Challengers of the Unknown, a group of men “living on borrowed time.”

The Challengers, or “Challs,” as they referred to themselves, were four men from very different backgrounds, each of whom was prominent in his chosen field, brought together as if by fate. After surviving a plane crash that by all rights should have killed them, they decided to band together to seek out adventure and the unknown, living out whatever “borrowed” time they had remaining to the fullest, all while wearing purple jumpsuits.

(Like you do.)

The Challs didn’t borrow much time for the relaunch that ran in Adventure – the Challs had first appeared back in the ‘50s in the pages of Showcase before getting their own title that ran until 1970 – but they’ve popped up every so often over the decades, and they remain just one of those beloved, though not exactly popular, pieces of intellectual property that DC likes to bust out every so often.

And now here they are again, in a new incarnation, as part of the “New Age of Heroes” that has spun out of the pages of the “Metal” crossover event.

It was my nostalgia for those old stories of the Challs that led me to select this as one of the “New Age of Heroes” titles that I would check out, though so far, of those books, only The Terrifics has managed to stand out as one that I particularly enjoy.

New Challengers ups the ante on the concept of “borrowed time,” as the new Challs are people who were grabbed at the moment of their deaths and brought to live a kind of half life inside Challenger Mountain, only able to exist outside of their HQ for a short period of time – the hourglass symbols they are marked with serve to keep track of how much time they have – before their time runs out for good and they’re reduced to unliving protoplasm.

Each new Chall was yoinked away from death by someone who appears to be Prof, one of the original Challs, and he’s recruited the latest team – the latest in a long line of New Challengers, apparently – to go out into the world and retrieve various artifacts before some mysterious opponent and his forces can do so.

The last issue ended with the New Challs returning to Challengers Mountain after the successful completion of one such mission, only to see Prof shot dead by…the original Challs?

So far each issue has been told from the POV of one of the members of the new team, showing flashbacks to their early lives and the circumstances that led to their untimely demises. This issue is from the POV of Krunch, an apparently metahuman mountain of a man who had been part of a gang that helped keep the peace on the mean streets of Suicide Slum in Metropolis.

Krunch and his crew ran afoul of Intergang after Krunch stole a piece of Apokolitan weaponry in order to keep it off the streets, and while he was doing a stint on Stryker’s Island, Intergang wiped out Krunch’s “family.” The hotheaded Krunch’s demise was the result of busting up another exchange between Apokolips and Intergang using that stolen weapon.

In the present day, we learn that after the New Chall had a run in with Aquaman, the King of the Seven Seas, recognizing the Challenges’ symbol, but not recognizing them, sent a priority message to Challengers Mountain, which woke the original Challs from the stasis that they, apparently, have been keeping themselves in. The New Challs don’t take kindly to the old Challs murdering their boss, and everyone is confused by the fact that there appear to be two Profs: the one lying dead on the floor, and the one standing with the originals.

After Krunch pops Rocky, of the original Challs, in the face, Mumbles, from the New Challs, pulls out a gun and tries to get everyone to calm down while they get everything sorted out.

It turns out that “new” Prof wasn’t as dead as he seemed, and, once again ambulatory, he explains that he isn’t Prof, but that he also is. He’s some kind of entity created by the energies of the Dark Mutliverse that has the form, knowledge, and memories of Prof.

He’s been assembling teams of New Challengers for years – thanks to some spacetime fuckery – to gather missing pieces of a skeleton he found in Challengers Mountain shortly after retroactively coming into existence in the past. The missing pieces keep entering spacetime in different locations, and the skeleton is that of a Promethean Giant, shaken loose when the Source Wall was shattered. New Prof’s mysterious opponent is trying to get his hands on the skeleton because it has the power to alter reality and change history, and New Prof wants to prevent that. As Krunch reflects on his past, he seems to focus on the idea of changing history…

A new piece of the skeleton has appeared in Skartaris, but while the Challs are still skeptical about this New Prof, they don’t prevent him from sending the New Challs to retrieve it. The Challs themselves stay behind, in part to keep an eye on New Prof, but mostly because they seem to also be confined to living in Challenger Mountain for the time being, as indicated by their depleted hourglasses.

In Skartaris, the New Challs are confronted by a team sent by their adversary, who appear to use a chunk of Promethean Giant bone to raise a couple of dinosaur-riding undead warriors, one of whom bears a resemblance to Travis Morgan, AKA The Warlord, about whom more in a bit.

For his part, Krunch is pleased, as he’s spoiling for a fight, and, unlike Rocky, these guys look like they’ll hit back…

Back at Challengers Mountain, New Prof is dodging the Challs, and has turned the mountain’s defenses against them. They have a bigger problem than that, though, in the form of the mysterious adversary who has breached the defenses and shoots the Challs down. Said adversary looks rather suspiciously like a distorted version of Prof.

Three issues in, I’m really not feeling this. I think the biggest problem is that it’s just too convoluted. The appeal of the original Challengers of the Unknown was that it was a simple concept: We shouldn’t be alive, but we are, so let’s make the most of it.

There’s definitely a “We shouldn’t be alive” component here, but…it’s too convoluted. The whole thing seems like some kind of mash-up of The Challengers of the Unknown with Task Force X and that movie Freejack. It’s just…too much.

Also, so far I haven’t found the backstories for the New Challs and how they died particularly compelling.

I liked the simplicity of the original Challs, as they followed a pretty basic template, with a team of people from disparate backgrounds, each one slotted into a different role: pilot, daredevil, brawler, and egghead. The complexity and convolutions came from the adventures, not the characters. What made it compelling was the Unknown part more than the Challengers part. Of course, that didn’t prevent the Challengers part from being compelling, and having the characters pigeonholed presented opportunities for taking them out of their pigeonholes and forcing them to take on different roles to, one might say, challenge them with what to them was unknown.

There is some of that with the New Challs – they definitely each fit a certain archetype – but so far I’m not hooked, and I think a lot of that is just that too-convoluted setup at the core of the series.

However, they are in Skartaris, so I’ll probably pick up the next issue just to see how that plays out.

Skartaris, for those who don’t know, is a world inside of the Earth, a land of eternal sunlight and filled with creatures from bygone ages and ancient magic and science.

It follows the contours of the Earth in reverse; its sun is the Earth’s core, and people live at an angle 180 degrees opposite of us.

Of course, the Earth isn’t actually hollow; Skartaris exists in another dimension, and it simply appears as though it’s a world existing inside of our own.

Skartaris is the stomping grounds of Lt. Col. Travis Morgan, who crash-landed there after being shot down by a Russian MiG while performing a reconnaissance mission in his SR-71 back in 1969.

A warrior to his very core, Morgan fit in quite well in that harsh and barbarous place where the only rule is to always expect the unexpected, and he went on to become the legendary hero known as The Warlord.

I was a huge Warlord fan back in the day, in large part because series creator Mike Grell lived nearby – he was interviewed on an episode of a local newsmagazine show when I was a kid – but mostly because I was a huge fan of Grell’s artwork, and I was always captivated by the credit listing in every issue: Created, Written & Illustrated by Mike Grell.

(Well, every issue other than the ones that he didn’t write or illustrate, of course.)

“I’m going to have a credit like that someday!” thought young, stupid Jon, wistfully. (I mean, yeah, young Jon was stupid, but…well, I did achieve that dream eventually. Kind of.)

Fittingly enough, while I read The Warlord on as regular a basis as I could, by the time I was reading it, the book had been around for several years, and I managed to get caught up on what came before thanks to – you guessed it – a DC Digest reprinting his earliest adventures.

Like the Challs, The Warlord is a beloved, yet ultimately unsustainable piece of intellectual property that DC likes to trot out every now and again. It’s kind of funny that having a story set in Skartaris is enough to keep me reading for another month, given that I dropped Trinity just as that book was starting an arc set in Skartaris. Perhaps if, at the time, I’d known that’s what they were doing, I would have held on to that book a little longer.

The art on this is from Andy Kubert, who appears to be the Kubert brother whose style is most reminiscent of their late father, the legendary Joe Kubert. I thought it was a nice touch that in the opening flashback sequence we see a young Krunch playing with a Sgt. Rock action figure, given that the Rock of Easy Co. is so closely associated with Joe. It was a nice little nod.

Like I said, I’ll see where this is going, but things aren’t looking too hopeful, and it’s a shame that “The New Age of Heroes” hasn’t managed to make a bigger splash than it has, or at least make a larger impression on me.

I suppose that I might be more excited if I ever got around to reading “Metal,” which I suppose I should one of these days. After all, it’s not often that a comic book crossover has its own soundtrack.

Recommended Reading:

Challengers! There’s even some Kirby in there!

That does it for the Spotlight for this week. Be sure to come back on Saturday for the Showcase.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

Challenge the Unknown! Find out what will happen if people (like you!) support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon and/or PayPal! You don’t even have to wear a purple jumpsuit to do it! (I mean, you can, if you want. I won’t judge.)  Don’t make me keep living on borrowed time!



Showcase Saturday 7.21.18

Time to make the donuts Showcase!

From DC:

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD: BATMAN AND WONDER WOMAN #6 – It’s an epic battle for Tir Na Nóg in this finale, as King Elatha has opened its Causeways and both Fomorian and Dé Denann creatures are spilling into our own realm! Batman must go back to Gotham City to try to close the Causeways from the inside, while Wonder Woman will fight alongside King Elatha against his once-banished brother, Balor Evil Eye! Who will take the crown and rule Tir Na Nóg for eternity?

NEW CHALLENGERS #3 – It’s the New Challengers versus the Old Challengers! The original Challengers infiltrate Challengers Mountain to uncover the identity of the professor who’s been manipulating both teams! As dark matter leaks from the Dark Multiverse, the New Challengers travel to the prehistoric underworld of Skartaris, stomping grounds of Travis Morgan, the Warlord!

From Dark Horse:

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON 12: THE RECKONING #2 – With his ownership of Slayer memories, Harth has come from the future to destroy Buffy and all the Slayers, stealing their power for his own. At his side are demons and evil-kind, a massive army that Buffy and the Scoobies weren’t expecting. To even the playing field, the gang travels to the future to recruit Fray and learn of their dismal fate–should they fail in this battle against Harth . . .

From Image:

EAST OF WEST #38 – “IT’S TIME TO START PAYING IN BLOOD” When you’ve spent your entire life trying to arrange the fates of others, don’t expect mercy when the bill comes due.

 

 

 

 

From Marvel:

THOR #3 – War rages across the land of the dead, and not even the reunion of Thor with his brother Balder can stop it! Perhaps peace might come from the wedding of the century… in Hel! With Hela, the goddess of death, as the bride, which Odinson brother is going to be the lucky groom? And what special surprise guest is looking to put a deadly stop to the nuptials?

That does it for this week’s Showcase. Be sure to come back tomorrow to see which – if any – of these comics gets to have the Spotlight shine on it.

Also: Congratulations to OpenDoor Comics favorites Tom King and Mitch Gerads for their well-deserved Eisner wins last night!

And also to Mike Mignola and Adam Hughes for their win, as well as Saladin Ahmed (though given the timing of the awards he didn’t win for the book of his that’s been featured in the Spotlight) for his!

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

And remember, you can – I swear that, despite the lack of it happening, it’s absolutely true – help support OpenDoor Comics via Patreon and/or PayPal. You can do it. I promise you it’s true. Please do whatever you can to help me keep making the – metaphorical – donuts.