The Threshold

Spotlight Sunday 7.15.18

A desire to accentuate the positive means that there are spoilers ahead for…

Domino #4
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: David Baldeon
Cover: Greg Land
$3.99
Marvel

“I resent that. I like a lot of snacks and sexy bits. I’m a well-rounded person.”

My sister passed away this past week, marking the second loss of a family member this year, as she was preceded in death by our mother in March. I frequently make decisions about what comic to focus on based on how they align with or in some way reflect personal events in my life, and with that in mind, I considered talking about Wonder Woman #50, as the story deals with the loss of a sibling.

Ultimately, that seemed like the wrong choice, though, given that the sibling lost was Diana’s twin brother Jason, and…well, I was glad to see him go, so despite the thematic connection, the wildly-divergent response to the “loss” kept it from being a fit. (For the record, Jason didn’t die, exactly, but he was taken out of play, and given that this issue marked the end of Robinson’s run on the title, I have my doubts that anyone who follows will be eager to take advantage of the opportunity for Jason’s return that the story left.)

I also considered The Immortal Men #4, but I have to say that I just haven’t been feeling it with this book and am considering dropping it. It’s not bad, and it was one of the small number of titles in DC’s “New Age of Heroes” line that I felt was worth taking a look at, but so far, of that already small grouping, The Terrifics is the only one I can say I actually enjoy reading, as opposed to simply not minding.

There wasn’t much that I could say about a book that I feel ambivalent about, and my intention with the feature is to share a love of comics, not a benign indifference.

The point is, I wanted to write about something positive, and what could be more positive than a book that features Shang-Chi, he of the Deadly Hands of Kung Fu?

…okay, that may not track if you’re unaware of the fact that Shang-Chi is one of my all-time favorite comic book characters, but he is, and now you are aware, so it does.

But yeah, Domino.

There’s a pretty significant gap in my knowledge of a lot of Marvel characters and events, as I wasn’t reading many Marvel books even before I took my extended hiatus from reading comics at all, and in the time since I picked the habit back up I haven’t gone back and familiarized myself with the things I missed in the way I have with the DC books, but Domino had popped up often enough back in the day that I at least had a passing familiarity with her and her luck-based mutant gifts. And, of course, as portrayed by Zazie Beets, Domino was a breakout character in this year’s Deadpool 2.

Prior to this series, I wasn’t at all familiar with Domino’s friend Outlaw, a super-tough mutant gal from Texas (who also appeared in DP 2, albeit only as a cardboard cutout), but so far she’s been fun.

I’m much more familiar with the third member of Domino’s posse, the non-powered Diamondback, who is a thief turned (sort of) hero who used to date Captain America back in the day.

The Merc With a Mouth himself has turned up a time or two so far, as part of the fun for writer Gail Simone has been having the opportunity to play with some of her favorite toys in the Marvel Universe’s toy box, which, as should be obvious, includes the aforementioned Shang-Chi.

Anyway, the story so far:

Domino has luck powers. The “luck” isn’t under her control, and frequently comes at a price, as it may save her from getting killed, but might not save her from getting hurt in the process. We learn in this issue that the price isn’t always one that Domino herself has to pay.

Still, powers. She has them. And while they might not have always been ideal, she’s been able to rely on them, and use them – along with her other skills – to make a living as a mercenary and sometime-hero.

Until recently, anyway. Her powers have been failing her and given how some of her recent jobs have shaken out, it seems like one of her friends has been ratting her out, providing an unknown enemy – one who seems to be the cause of her luck running out – the opportunity to strike when Domino least expects it.

To resolve both problems, Domino decides to go on a bit of a journey, to study under the tutelage of the legendary Shang-Chi in order to sharpen the edge that’s been blunted by the recent unreliability of her powers, and to find out if it’s true that either Diamondback or Outlaw has betrayed her (accomplishing the latter by making certain they’re the only two people who know where she’s headed).

Studying under Shang-Chi either gets off to a terrible start, or a fantastic start, depending on your perspective:

Eventually, they move past the rocky start and the training begins in earnest.

Meanwhile, back home on their recently-acquired riverboat casino, Diamondback and Outlaw – after Diamondback puts two and two together and concludes that Domino thinks one of them is selling her out – decide they’re going to solve the mystery behind their recent troubles, and then head to Hong Kong to have it out with Domino for thinking that one of them could betray her. (Though the way this whole scenario plays out does make one suspect that Diamondback is the Judas in the group – as a former member of the villainous Serpent Society who went straight, this wouldn’t be the first time Diamondback has betrayed her comrades – though that seems too obvious and smacks of misdirection…unless that’s what Gail wants you to think.)

Last issue we caught a glimpse of Domino’s early life as a lab rat in one of those shady research centers that tries to create super-soldiers by experimenting on mutants – in the Marvel Universe they’re more ubiquitous than Starbucks – and in this issue we revisit that time, but from another perspective.

Domino’s mysterious new antagonists are an old man named Desmond and a woman named Topaz, the latter of whom has been the cause of Domino’s power malfunctions. Though they are unfamiliar to Domino, they seem to have a strong personal antipathy towards her. Topaz, in particular, straight-up HATES Domino, though Domino has no idea why.

In the flashback in this issue, we get a bit of an explanation. Desmond is also a mutant, and was born on the same day as Domino, and was raised in that same super-secret facility. Topaz was the daughter of the man in charge of the lab, and loved the poor little boy locked up in a cell.

It seems that Desmond is on the opposite side of a probabilistic coin from Domino; when something good happens to her, something bad happens to him. In the last issue, we saw young Domino get a kitten for her birthday. In this issue, we see the “birthday present” that Desmond gets as a result of that.

Due to this connection, the love that Topaz feels for Desmond becomes a polar opposite hatred for Domino, and, unbeknownst to her mutant-hating father, Topaz is herself a mutant.

With an assist from Deadpool, Diamondback and Outlaw make their way to the lab where Domino was raised as they search for their mysterious opponents. They hit paydirt, as Desmond and Topaz are there waiting for them. (Along with the mentally-broken doctor who ran the place.)

Desmond has been made young again and gotten a power boost from Topaz, and calls himself “Prototype,” and we cut away with the two villains seemingly victorious.

Back in Hong Kong, Domino’s training has gone well enough that she’s earned a break, and that break takes the form of a night of dancing with Shang-Chi. Not wanting to rely on her unreliable luck powers, Domino tries to make her own luck with Shang-Chi, but she soon learns that she’s not the only one who has enemies.

Okay, first of all…Shang-Chi!

Being a comic from the 1970s, Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, the title in which Shang-Chi starred, was problematic as hell.

Good lord, the coloring alone was just…yeesh.

And that’s before you get into “Black” Jack Tarr constantly referring to Shang-Chi as “Chinaman,” or the fact that Shang-Chi’s father was Fu Manchu.

Like I said: yeesh.

Still, I loved me some Shang-Chi, and at his core, the character is fantastic with plenty of material to work with even if you jettison all the rest of the racist trappings.

So I was glad to see him here, handled well, and I was especially glad to see a reference to his old enemy Razorfist, because this sequence that was so brutal and yet so beautifully-crafted has been burned into my brain for decades and is at the heart of my love for this master of the martial arts.

As for the comic itself, well, it’s Gail, and she rarely disappoints.

Again, I’m not that familiar with most of the characters (except for Diamondback), so they’re mostly new to me, but in four issues Gail has managed to give them all distinct personalities and a personal appeal that makes it easy to move past the lack of familiarity and appreciate them for who they are, to the extent that it’s troubling to think that one of them might be a rat.

There are obvious parallels to the Birds of Prey, but that’s not in any way a slight, as the kind of familiarity it evokes adds to the enjoyment of the distinctiveness of this group of women. The things that are similar help you appreciate the things that are different, I suppose, and vice versa.

Speaking of vice versa, I like the interesting twist on the interconnected relationship between protagonist and antagonist – though I’m sure that Desmond didn’t find the “twist” of his arm interesting – and the way it makes things simultaneously personal and impersonal.

That is, it is intensely personal for Desmond and Topaz, whereas for Domino, who has no knowledge of the why of any of it, there is no personal connection. Or at least there wouldn’t be, if it were merely a matter of the two interfering with her professional life, but they’ve made it personal for her, attacking her in her home, and sowing seeds of doubt into her relationship with her friends.

The art by Baldeon, as you can see for yourself in the included images, is fantastic, and is a perfect fit for the story being told, with smooth, flowing action, and clean, expressive line work.

On Twitter recently, Gail started a conversation about the ways in which comics have had a positive impact on the lives of readers, and many people shared great stories about how comics made them feel accepted, or that it was at least possible to be accepted, and to be true to their truest selves.

For my part, I mentioned how comics helped me deal with some of the nightmares that plagued me as a child, but that’s just one small example, and as I grapple with the loss of a sibling while still grappling with the loss of my mother, in what has been just a miserable year all around, between the general state of the world, and my own personal and professional circumstances, comics feel more important than ever, and I don’t care how silly that may sound.

That’s why I chose to talk about this book, because setting aside the actual story and the characters, at its core, this comic is an expression of love for the medium and for the power of comics. And sharing the love and power of comics is what this whole site and the vision behind it are all about.

And it’s also why I don’t write typical reviews or critiques, with star or number ratings and whatnot, and why, even when I do happen to write about a book that I didn’t particularly enjoy, I try to focus on the parts that I did enjoy (though, if I’m honest, I do also like to complain, so…).

I keep saying that these Spotlight posts are a conversation, and I mean it.

I’m talking with you about comics, and I’m doing that because I love them, and because they are a source of comfort – among so many other things – to me, and because I want you to love them, too, even if you don’t love the specific comics that I do.

I’m not a Christian, but there is a precept within Christianity that “they will know us by our love,” indicating that the best way to evangelize your way of life is to live your life well. To show your love.

I chose this comic because the comic itself loves comics just as much as I do.

There’s a lot of crap going on in my life – and in everyone else’s – but hey, at least we’ve still got comics.

I love comics. And I hope it shows.

Anyway, if you’re on Twitter and you’re not following @GailSimone, please remedy that. And if you’re not on Twitter, get on and follow @GailSimone.

Recommended Reading:

Comics! Gail Simone! Comics by Gail Simone!

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

We live in a world in which people are trying to crowdfund $100 million so that they can give it to Kylie Jenner to push her personal worth past the $1 billion mark.

I mean, you can do what you want, but I think she’ll be okay with her $900 million, and will hit a billion soon enough anyway, so I would humbly suggest that maybe we could divert a small portion of those funds to supporting OpenDoor Comics on Patreon, or via PayPal.

Just putting that out there.



Showcase Saturday 7.14.18

This week’s Showcase includes a double helping of Gail Simone, a new start for the Man of Steel, and something that’s probably going to interfere with my ability to sleep, if history is any indication. Let’s take a look.

From Avatar:

PROVIDENCE ACT 2 HARDCOVER – The second arc of Providence is unveiled in this special hardcover-only edition. Robert Black came looking for a story but what he found is a world of misery and woe. He’s becoming a broken man, only beginning to accept the horrors of the Lovecraftian world are real and hiding in plain sight. Alan Moore’s quintessential horror series has set the standard for a terrifying reinvention of the works of H.P. Lovecraft. It is being universally hailed as one of Moore’s most realized works in which the master scribe has controlled every iota of the story, art, and presentation. The result has been a masterpiece like no other and a true must-have addition to his essential works in the field. We present a collected Providence Act 2 Hard Cover edition that contains Providence issues #5-8, and all the back matter, in this one-time printing of this edition.

From DC:

PLASTIC MAN #2 – Eel didn’t like it when a spy blackmailed him over his secret identity, and then a kid found out, and now the dancers at his club know and the concept of a secret identity has gotten stretched way the heck out of whack. But the dancers are helping him find the kid, who was nabbed by some bad guys who don’t know his secret identity, just his costumed persona, which is still a terrible day, even in his pretty rotten life.

 

SUPERMAN #1 – A bold new chapter for the greatest superhero of all time begins here as the superstar team of writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Ivan Reis begin their run on the all-new SUPERMAN! The fallout from the Man of Steel miniseries has Clark Kent looking at the world through new eyes…with new ideas about what Superman could and should do for the city of Metropolis and the planet Earth. His first job? Getting the planet back out of the Phantom Zone!

THE IMMORTAL MEN #4 – Can an Immortal Man hope to defeat an Infinite Woman? Armed with a weapon courtesy of the Batman Who Laughs, the Infinite Woman takes aim against the Immortals. It’s the House of Conquest versus the House of Action in the oldest secret war in the DCU—now revealed to the world!

WONDER WOMAN #50 – A new pantheon of gods has been born! But who are they? Where did they come from? What do they want? All questions for Wonder Woman, because she played more of a role in their arrival than you’d think! Will it fall to Diana to end their existence as well? Meanwhile, Wonder Woman’s brother Jason learns his true purpose. It’s all here in this extra-sized anniversary issue!

From Dynamite:

RED SONJA #18 – After discovering the provenance of her sword — and the fact that the original owner has promised a large reward for its return — Sonja travels to the realm of Lord Skath, only to discover a legendary warrior who can no longer live up to his reputation. (And because Sonja is who she is, she also discovers treachery and danger and a conflict she can’t help but be drawn into!)

 

 

From Marvel:

DOMINO #4 – SOMEONE IS ABOUT TO GET LUCKY……and it just might be Shang Chi, Master of Kung Fu! If he plays his cards right, that is…Domino’s search for answers about her past takes her to Hong Kong! Will she stay on the straight and narrow? Or go right for the seedy underbelly?

 

 

 

EXILES #5 – TIME TO DIE! The identity of the Time-Eater has finally been revealed! And the Exiles have nowhere left to run. It’s time for the Exiles to face down their enemy — no matter the cost. And in historic Exiles fashion, not everyone will survive. Don’t miss the first arc’s epic conclusion!

That does it for this week’s 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).

Is not contributing financially to OpenDoor Comics interfering with your ability to sleep? No, obviously not, but even if your sleep is untroubled, it’s worth mentioning that besides supporting OpenDoor Comics on Patreon, you also have the option of making direct donations via PayPal. Don’t be caught napping; give whatever you can – and encourage others to do the same – today!



Spotlight Sunday 7.8.18

The conclusion of the introduction to a new chapter for DC’s flagship character means that there are spoilers ahead for…

The Man of Steel 1-6
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Various
Cover: Various
Rated T
$3.99
DC

“I meant caca poo poo on some level.”

Within my lifetime there have been two significant shifts in employment between the “Big Two” comic book publishers that can rightly be referred to as seismic. There was another – and, as of this writing, arguably the most significant – that occurred just a bit before my lifetime began.

That one that predates me is, of course, when Jack Kirby, less than a decade after revitalizing and reinventing comics with Stan Lee, departed Marvel and went to work for DC.

In 1986, John Byrne, who had long been a fan-favorite at Marvel and was famously-quoted as being content to be “a cog in the machine that is Marvel,” shook things up by departing for the, er, bluer pastures of DC once his Marvel contract expired.

And now we see another major shake-up as Brian Michael Bendis, who, regardless of whatever your feelings about his work there may be, has been a driving force at Marvel since 2000, makes the move to DC.

Comic book publishing is a relatively small industry, and such movement is common, particularly among freelancers, and it’s not my intention to downplay the movement of other creators between companies that have occurred over the years; one could easily compile a litany of significant departures and returns that have had a tremendous impact on the industry – and fandom – over the decades.

However, few of them have involved creators who were so thoroughly associated with one company defecting, or creators who achieved such renown and had so much impact during their employment.

I also can’t recall any other such change in employment that garnered as much publicity, particularly with the latter two, which got some coverage outside of trade publications – I recall reading an interview with Byrne in, of all places, The National Enquirer – and with house ads in comics published by the receiving company, as seen above.

In addition to the ads, Byrne’s imminent arrival is even eluded to in a story published around that time, in what is one of my favorite gags from the fourth-wall-shattering Son of Ambush Bug:

Part of the big news of the arrival of Bendis goes beyond what he’ll be doing in terms of writing comics, as he’s also being tapped to provide some amount of assistance with DC’s multimedia efforts in film, television, and streaming, which would itself be big news, given that he has played some part in the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, both directly and in terms of providing much of the source material that the movies have adapted.

At 50, Bendis was alive at the time of Kirby’s exodus from Marvel, but his arrival at DC has more in common with that of Byrne, taking over the Superman titles following the completion of a six-issue mini-series titled The Man of Steel, which sets the new status quo for DC’s most well-known character.

(It’s worth noting, however, that while Kirby didn’t take over the Super-books, much of his work did involve the Man of Steel, as significant portions of his Fourth World Saga unfolded in the pages of Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen.)

Unlike with Byrne’s Man of Steel, however, Bendis is not providing a whole new origin for the character or introducing significant changes to continuity, but he is changing things up quite a bit by shuffling the pieces around.

(For my take on Byrne’s Man of Steel, you can visit my old, defunct blog, starting here.)

Some of those changes were loudly decried as soon as the first issue hit the stands, as they involve the – presumably temporary – removal of two important characters, one of whom has been there from the start and is, in many ways, given the current state of the world, a character who should be getting more exposure, not less.

That specific character is, of course, Lois Lane, who is largely absent from the book. There’s a strong case to be made for the assertion that in a time that is increasingly hostile to both women and members of the press, Lois Lane should be front-and-center in the Super-books.

I agree, but I would feel that way anyway, just because it’s Lois Freakin’ Lane, and she should be front-and-center no matter what. As I’ve said before, it’s her 80th anniversary, too, so she should be getting just as much attention as her husband.

The other missing character is, of course, their son Jon, and the question of “Where are Lois and Jon?” is just one of the mysteries explored throughout the mini-series.

In the first issue, with art by Ivan Reis and Jay Fabok, we find ourselves somewhere out in the vastness of space in the not-too distant past, before the destruction of Krypton.

A warrior named Rogol Zaar is arguing to a conclave of cosmic and alien entities – including Appa Ali Apsa of the Guardians of the Universe – that the people of Krypton represent a unique danger to all life throughout the universe, owing to their tremendous scientific prowess and their unique physiology and physical capabilities.

He argues that the universe must be “cleansed” of the infection of Kryptonians before that can happen.

From there, we move to the present, to Metropolis, where, after apprehending two Batman rogues who were hiding out in Metropolis, Superman helps the local Fire Department deal with a burning building.

While surveying the damage, we catch snippets of memories of Jon and Lois asking about some unseen phenomenon. While he stands there distracted by the memories and the devastation around him, he’s approached by Melody Moore, the new Deputy Fire Chief/supermodel, and after some brief flirtation revolving around the fact that this fire, like several other recent fires, was the result of arson, Superman flies off, informing the improbably-attractive Deputy Fire Chief – we’re informed that she’s “taller than Wonder Woman” – Superman flies off, mentioning that one of the people he just apprehended is an arsonist who goes by the name Firefly, so that might be worth checking out.

We move back in time again to find Rogol Zaar on hostile alien world where he’s visited by Appa Ali Apsa who is there to inform him of the decision made by “The Circle” RE: Krytpon, Eradication of. While they all have a great deal of respect for Rogol Zaar’s many deeds – whatever they may be – given that the people of Krypton are peaceful, and that no one is on board with destroying an entire planet and killing its population just because some guy says they should. And so he is instructed that under no circumstances should he engage in any planet destroying.

This does not sit well with him.

Back on Earth in the present, we find Clark in the newsroom at The Daily Planet, where it’s clear that Lois is very much absent. Looking at a picture of his wife and son, Clark flashes back to a typical evening at home with his family, an evening interrupted by a mysterious flash of light…

The second issue, with art by Evan “Doc” Shaner, Steve Rude, and Jay Fabok, opens with Krypton’s destruction, and an argument between Appa Ali Apsa and another member of “The Circle.” The Oan asserts that it was just a coincidence, but Lord Gandelo is convinced that Rogol Zaar is responsible, and hints that he believes Appa Ali Apsa was complicit.

The Guardian isn’t here for being accused of such a thing, however.

From there, Appa heads off to Rogol Zaar’s home, to find it abandoned, and he expresses his hope that Zaar died, along with all of the other ugly secrets.

On Earth, a nosy new reporter at the Planet is digging into the mystery of the absence of Lois and Jon.

Superman, meanwhile, is off in California, on his way back from helping out with tsunami relief elsewhere, dealing a quick defeat to Toyman, who had hoped to have better luck with committing crimes somewhere that Superman (normally) isn’t.

It is where Green Lantern normally hangs his ring, however, and he pops by to say hello to Superman and help with the clean-up. Superman is a dick to him and takes off once GL starts asking personal questions, but it’s just Hal, so it’s not like it matters that Superman is a dick to him.

As he flies away, we catch another glimpse of that night with Lois and Jon, as a strange object appears inside the blinding light, and Supes takes out his obvious frustration on the moon.

At a bar somewhere in the Vega system, a very-much alive Rogol Zaar learns that a Kryptonian survived and lives on a planet called Earth.

On that planet, Clark, who (foolishly) thinks he owes Hal an apology, has a run-in with that nosy new reporter, while listening to Perry lament the state of print media, and then rushes off to deal with some problem he sees unfolding live on a TV in Perry’s office.

We end with Rogol Zaar making his way to Earth.

Issue three, with art by Ryan Sook and Fabok – it’s worth mentioning that Fabok’s been providing the art for the Lois and Jon flashbacks – opens with Rogol Zaar landing on Earth and making his way to the Fortress of Solitude, overcoming poor Kelex, the robot butler/sentry, and then looming menacingly (Is there really any other way to loom?) over the bottle city of Kandor.

In Metropolis, Superman is at the scene of another fire, engaging in some more friendly banter with Melody Moore, though they’re not alone, as Superman brought Batman along to help investigate the fires.

While there, however, Superman hears an alarm that only he can hear, and heads to the Fortress, only to find it destroyed.

Superman wasn’t the only one to hear the alarm, however, and his cousin Supergirl arrives just in time for the two of them to discover that Kandor’s bottle has been shattered, the city destroyed, and its people murdered.

Taking only a moment to mourn, the two Kryptonians head off in search of the perpetrator, and Clark thinks back to that night with Lois and Jon, as the object opens to reveal a humanoid figure inside.

The – deliberate – trail the two heroes follow leads them straight to Metropolis, where Rogol Zaar awaits.

Issue four, with art by Kevin Maguire, and, of course, Jason Fabok, finds Superman and Supergirl in a pitched battle with Rogol Zaar.

The special preview, with art by Jim Lee, featured in Action #1000 takes place (off-panel) in the middle of this fight, and we get another flashback to that night, in which it’s revealed that the figure inside the object was Jor-El, still rocking the Mr. Oz look, stating that he’s there to take Jon.

Zaar takes off before Superman regains consciousness, and Green Lantern shows up (despite how much of a dick Superman had been to him) and insists that they’ll bring the League in on this issue, and asks where Jon is. No one pays any attention to Hal, of course. Supergirl heads off in search of Zaar, and Superman heads back to the ruins of the Fortress, where Zaar is waiting. Zaar confirms that, as he hinted during the battle, he knew Jor-El, and asks Superman if he’s procreated, as he comes up behind him, preparing to chop off his head.

It was, however, merely a ruse on Superman’s part to draw Zaar in close enough to hit him with a solar flare.

Issue five, as illustrated by Adam Hughes (and Jason Fabok), opens from the perspective of the last thing the citizens of Kandor ever saw.

From there we cut to the continuation of the battle between Superman – apparently the previously-established “using a solar flare depletes his powers for a day” thing is no longer established – taking place on the moon.

On Earth, yet another fire has been started in Metropolis, and the Deputy Fire Chief who is just as hot as the fires she puts out, shows up in time to find Supergirl rescuing the building’s residents and putting out the worst of the blaze. Supergirl is looking for her cousin, but Melody doesn’t know where he is (Though she’d like to…RAWR!), but fortunately the Justice League shows up to help with the search.

With a little guidance from Wonder Woman, Kara realizes where Superman would take Zaar, and rushes to the moon, where she finds her battered cousin unconscious under a layer of lunar regolith.

Back at Justice League HQ, the recuperating Superman and the League put their heads together to try to figure out where Rogol Zaar has run to, or, as Diana points out, strategically retreated to, given that he is a “creature of war.”

Superman tries to puzzle out the meaning of the symbol Zaar wears – a sort of circle with a slash through it – and then, prompted by Batman’s reference to Zaar wanting to cleanse the universe of Kryptonians, Superman takes off, leaving Supergirl annoyed that he just keeps bailing on her.

But he had a good reason to be a dick – Rogol Zaar is planting some kind of device at the Earth’s core!

Oh yeah, and Jor-El is there for Jon because he wants to take him on a cosmic journey to learn things that his parents can’t teach him on Earth. Yeah, it’s a no from Lois and Clark, dawg, but Jon is up for it.

Issue six, with art throughout by Fabok, has some more fighting, but the fight is ended by Supergirl who shows up with a Phantom Zone projector to put Zaar away. Superman says that’s only a temporary solution, as they need answers. Kara agrees, but points out that under Kryptonian law, if he really did destroy Krypton, and because he definitely destroyed Kandor, Zaar would have been sentenced to an eternity in the Zone.

Mixed in with the fighting, we get the rest of the story of that night, on which it’s revealed that the reason Jon is up for the trip is not just that he thinks it will be cool, it’s that he’s very worried about the possible future in which he loses control of his powers and kills millions of people. It’s his hope that his grandfather can teach him what he needs to know to prevent that.

Jor-El’s invitation includes Lois and Clark, but Clark can’t shirk his responsibilities to Earth. Lois, however, can.

And so, despite Clark’s reluctance, Lois and Jon agree to go on a summer tour of the universe with Jor-El.

(In addition to being there to keep an eye on her son, Lois plans to write a book about her experiences, though I’m not sure how, exactly, she plans to sell a book about her adventures exploring the cosmos with her alien father-in-law and her half-alien son without, you know, telling the world that she has an alien father-in-law and a half-alien son.)

A bit after reading it, I realized that the final issue also gives us a bit of an explanation for why #TheTrunksAreBack – Superman gives Lois his costume to wear, for her protection (pushing a button inside the belt buckle will adjust it to fit her) on her space adventure, and when Lois asks what he’ll wear, he says that he’ll “find something.”

As Superman, Supergirl, and the League hold a memorial service for Kandor, Supergirl states that she’s going to head out into space to find the answers they weren’t able to get from Rogol Zaar.

She tells him that she’ll be back, and so will Lois and Jon.

Superman informs her, however, that the device Jor-El left with him that would allow him to communicate with Lois and Jon was destroyed in the battle, and so, with his cousin gone, he’s now more truly alone than he’s ever been.

The issue ends at the firehouse, where the fire-haired Deputy Fire Chief is visited by a kid who says that he’s seen on TV that no one knows who’s been starting the fires, but that he knows who’s been doing it, because he’s seen the culprit with his own eyes. The arsonist is…Superman!

Okay, so, first things first. The art, across-the-board, is fantastic, which is not the least bit surprising given the level of talent involved.

Having multiple artists was a smart move on DC’s part, as it helped to ensure that the book would be on-time despite the brutal weekly publishing schedule. (As it is, due to some personal issues, Shaner wasn’t able to complete his issue, but who can complain when Steve Rude stepped up to fill in for him?)

When Byrne did his Man of Steel back in 1986, he had the advantage of having one of the best artists in comics working on the book: himself.

I gather that Bendis is something of an artist himself, but it’s not what he’s known or acclaimed for, so it made sense to bring in top-tier artists to bring his story to life, as it helped to generate some additional excitement, and it guaranteed that, regardless of how the story turned out, it would look great.

The obvious question is, how did the story turn out?

Ehh.

In the first issue, Superman repeats the tautology “Fire is fire,” several times. I…I don’t really know what that’s even supposed to mean, but there is another tautology that sprung to mind as I read this: Bendis is Bendis.

That can be a blessing or a curse, depending on your perspective, but it’s something that is bound to have an impact on the telling of the story, no matter how good the underlying story is, or isn’t.

In terms of the underlying story, while it seems like something that significantly disrupts the status quo without completely shattering it, there’s really not that much to it. There are some mysteries still to be solved – did Rogol Zaar really blow up Krypton? It seems likely, but we never actually see it happen, despite the fact that he nearly does it to Earth, so there is room for doubt. Was Appa Ali Apsa in on it? If so, why?

Destroying Kandor seems like a big deal, but is it? It’s been quite some time since anyone did anything with Kandor – that I’ve seen, anyway – and whether or not it even existed in current continuity was something I’m not sure I knew the answer to before now.

I’m also not that keen on the “I destroyed Krypton!” trope, personally. My preference is for it to have been a natural event – admittedly, Byrne also set up some artificial circumstances that ultimately led to it, but it was never the result of some deliberate effort by a third party – rather than someone taking an active hand in causing it. I say that mostly because it just doesn’t matter. While there are interesting stories that can be told about Krypton, Krypton itself isn’t the point.

The whole “Circle” thing strikes me as a science-y knock-off of the old DCU parliament of magical entities, The Quintessence, and also feels uncomfortably close to the whole Illuminati thing Bendis did over at Marvel, which, bleh.

Beyond that…I’m not going to lie – the idea of Lois and Jor-El and Jon having adventures across the cosmos has a certain appeal, particularly in that it gives Lois something to do for a change, and I would love nothing more than to see Jor-El finding out that his invulnerability and super-strength provide him no advantage whatsoever when it comes to butting heads with Lois.

But when you’re place-setting the new status quo for the Superman books, taking Lois (and, to a lesser extent, Jon) off the table just seems like a boneheaded move.

Within the narrative, it made a kind of sense, as it kept them safe from Rogol Zaar, but the people who quite vociferously criticized Bendis for not taking this opportunity to focus on Lois were 100% correct, although I’m not certain that I would really want to see Bendis doing any sort of extended take on Lois.

My other quibble is around continuity. There is some commitment to it, particularly with the callback in the form of Jon worrying about his possible future, but the sequences showing “that night” with Jor-El lacked some punch, as there was no reference – beyond the visuals in terms of Jor-El’s appearance – to the Mr. Oz storyine, or the resolution – or lack thereof – to the arc, with Jor-El’s redemption. Here, he seems much more like he was at the beginning of that arc than he was at the end of it, and there’s no reference at all to the mysterious force that transported him away from Krypton in the first place, and then away from Superman at the end of that storyline.

I suppose there’s the potential for that to be addressed as the mystery of Rogol Zaar, and the nature of the relationship he claims to have had with Jor-El, is explored in Superman and Action.

(One assumes that Jor-El knew that Rogol Zaar was on his way to Earth, and that, more than a sudden desire to show his grandson the universe, was the reason for his sudden appearance.)

But beyond the issues I have with the narrative – though obviously of a piece with it – is…Bendis.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve read anything he’s written. I absolutely loved Alias, but I have never gone back to reread it for fear of the aversion I later developed to Bendis ruining the experience.

That aversion is something that developed over time, and it was cumulative. It was a lot of little things. Plot points that made no sense. The inconsistent relationship with continuity. The way someone might make a casual reference to some villain committing an atrocity that is completely out of character for that villain.

And, of course, the dialogue.

Bendis writes dialogue that is intended to be naturalistic and that reads as if written to be spoken aloud rather than simply read on a page.

It’s often sardonic, cynical, and wry, filled with pop culture references, strange idioms, and just the slightest hint of contempt for whomever the words are being addressed toward.

And it’s the way everyone he writes talks.

Everyone.

Men. Women. Old. Young. Cosmic entities of incalculable power older than the universe itself. Dogs. Cats.

Everyone.

It’s a kind of patter, and it has a rhythm, and it can be – in small doses – entertaining.

In. Small. Doses.

But it’s never a small dose, and the fact that everyone sounds exactly the same – if you removed the context of what’s being said, you could just randomly swap the tails of the word balloons between characters and it wouldn’t really change anything – just wears you down.

That said, it’s possible that he’s improved a bit, or I’ve built a tolerance in my absence from his work, but it’s not quite as bad here as I expected it to be, though I’m inclined to give the credit to the editing skills of Chen, Cotton, and Cunningham, who were, perhaps, able to rein him in a bit.

There were also some clever bits; I liked that in the battle at the Earth’s core Superman goaded Zaar into attacking – and moving away from the doomsday weapon he was working on – by expressing sympathy for him and betraying just the slightest smile when the tactic worked.

I also liked the notion of the denizens of the underworld realizing that Superman has triggers, certain expressions, tones, and volume levels that will catch his attention. It was a good set-up that delivered a solid punchline.

And sometimes – like I said, in small doses – his dialogue tics can work; I particularly liked the bit when, after telling her it was nice to meet her, Melody Moore watches him fly away and quietly says, “Nice to meet yooooou, Superman,” only to have him look back at her and have her realize, “Super-hearing!”

(That said, I’m annoyed by where the excessively-attractive flirtatious redhead – just like his first girlfriend – with an alliterative name that’s one letter removed from the standard Superman alliteration who pops up and has to work closely with him just as he becomes a temporary bachelor is so obviously headed.)

Of course, one of the many other problems he has, even if he does manage to give characters distinct voices – it does happen, on occasion – is that he’ll have come up with something that he thinks is clever that he really wants someone, anyone to say, and he’ll just have those words come out of some random character’s mouth, with no concern about whether it’s at all in character.

See, for example, the quoted text that opens this post, spoken by the Flash. Because, sure, that’s something he would say.

Obviously, his work resonates with people, and he is capable of doing good and even great things, but I have to admit that while I recognize the significance of his arrival at DC – I called it “seismic” and spoke of it in terms of Kirby and Byrne for a reason – I was not exactly thrilled to learn that he’d be taking over the Super-titles.

In point of fact, I viewed it as the worst-case scenario.

(Honestly, as much as I love his work on Thor, if DC had to poach anyone from Marvel to work on Superman I would so much rather it had been Jason Aaron.)

Still, all of my concerns and complaints aside, there is enough that’s interesting to keep me from removing Superman and Action from my pull list for the foreseeable future.

Ultimately, I’m relieved that while the shift in terms of employment is seismic, the shift in the status quo of the character is less so; certainly, I wouldn’t want Bendis in charge of a complete relaunch of the character, and while Lois is – temporarily, one hopes – out of the picture, at least there was no dissolution of their marriage and elimination of the possibility of any kind of romantic relationship as there was with the New 52.

Recommended Reading:

SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL VOL. 1 (KINDLE & COMIXOLOGY) – A stunning tale of heroics and history, SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL VOL. 1 magnificently retells and reinvents the origin and early adventures of the Man of Steel. In this fastpaced, revelatory book, Superman begins his ascension to iconic hero as he leaves Smallville and becomes Metropolis’s revered protector and guardian. Featuring the Man of Steel’s legendary first encounters with Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, and Batman, this amazing book also includes a deadly battle with Bizarro, a fateful encounter with Lana Lang, and Superman’s astonishing discovery of his Kryptonian heritage.

ALIAS OMNIBUS – Like I said: I can’t bring myself to reread it for fear of destroying my love for it, but if you haven’t read it, you should check it out…

Once upon a time, Jessica Jones was a costumed super-hero, just not a very good one. Her powers were unremarkable compared to the amazing abilities of the costumed icons that populate the Marvel Universe. In a city of Marvels, Jessica Jones never found her niche. Now a chain-smoking, self-destructive alcoholic with a mean inferiority complex, Jones is the owner and sole employee of Alias Investigations – a small, private-investigative firm specializing in super-human cases. In her inaugural arc, Jessica’s life immediately becomes expendable when she uncovers the potentially explosive secret of one hero’s true identity. But her wit, charm and intelligence just may help her survive through another day. Thrust into the midst of a conspiracy that reaches the highest levels, has Jessica burned too many bridges to turn to old friends for help? Plus: Jessica travels to upstate New York to investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl rumored to be a mutant in a prejudiced small town, goes on a date with the Astonishing Ant-Man, teams up with Jessica Drew, the original Spider-Woman; and confronts the demons of her past! Collects Alias #1-28, What If? Jessica Jones had Joined the Avengers.

SUPERMAN: THE MANY WORLDS OF KRYPTON – From some of the industry’s greatest creators come the life and times of Jor-El, father of Superman; the story of a forbidden love that would ignite a civil war and lead to the eventual destruction of the entire planet; and the Kryptonian legends that defined their history.
Collects World of Krypton (Vol. 1) #1-3 and The World of Krypton (Vol. 2) #1-4, with stories from Superman #233, #236, #238, #240, #248, #257, #266 and Superman Family #182.

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

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).

Today you got to read about six comics for the price of none. How about tossing the cost of a comic or two this way by supporting OpenDoor Comics on Patreon?

Showcase Saturday 7.7.18

Thanks to the holiday, I picked up my new comic books on New Comic Book Day for a change. I considered doing a special, one-off Weigh In Wednesday, but I already gave advance notice of which book(s) I’ll be writing about on Sunday a while back, so I decided against it. If – and that’s a HUGE if – you’ve been paying attention, you already know which of these will be featured in the Spotlight, which is kind of a shame, as there some things I’d rather write about, but my course is set, but let’s take a look at what I got anyway.

From DC:

BATMAN #50 – It’s the wedding you never thought you’d see! The Batrimony is real as Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle are set to tie the knot in a can’t-miss, extra-length milestone issue that will reshape Gotham City. All their friends (and a few enemies?) will be party to a comic book coupling for the ages.

Superstar scribe Tom King officiates the sure-to-be-offbeat nuptials, joined by an all-star lineup of guest classic Bat-artists doffing their hats to the lucky couple in a series of pre-wedding flashback scenes sure to set the romantic mood.

CATWOMAN #1 – The wedding night’s barely over, but Catwoman’s back on the streets, this time to expose a copycat who’s pulling heists around Gotham City. As Selina cracks the whip on her former criminal cohorts, she’s attracting unwanted attention from one of Gotham’s most dangerous groups. The mob? Nope. Try the GCPD. And as if the Bat-Bride didn’t have enough problems, don’t miss the debut of an all-new villain determined to make trouble for all nine of Selina’s lives. Don’t miss the start of an all-new monthly series written and illustrated by Eisner Award-nominee Joëlle Jones!

THE MAN OF STEEL #6 – The fate of Lois Lane and Jon Kent is revealed! Metropolis’ survival hangs in the balance! And Superman must somehow put an end to Rogol Zaar’s rampage! It’s do-or-die time for the Man of Steel in the final chapter of this explosive miniseries!

 

 

 

From Dynamite:

RED SONJA/TARZAN #3 – The adventure continues and the mystery deepens as Sonja and Tarzan must save the Greystoke family from extreme peril and try to rectify the disturbances in time caused by the evil Elon Duul!

 

 

 

That does it for this week’s somewhat anticlimactic Showcase. Be sure to check back next week when there will be a little more in the way of mystery about which comic will show up in the Spotlight.

And, of course, come back tomorrow for the not-very-mysterious Spotlight Sunday.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention yesterday’s news of the passing of the legendary Steve Ditko.

Few people have had as much impact on this medium that I love as Ditko, and, as with his contemporary, Jack Kirby, what he contributed to the world of comics goes beyond his own direct contributions. He made a huge splash on his own, of course, but the ripples that have extended out in the form of his influence on those who followed him continue to spread and will likely do so for as long as comics exist.

His ideals weren’t mine, but by all accounts he held true to those ideals, and that’s something to be respected.

As Jim Lee put it on Twitter, Ditko provided the – necessary – counterpoint to Jack Kirby in the visual language that developed in the early days of Marvel.

He will be missed, but he left behind a tremendous body of work, and his influence will live on.

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).

There is also no mystery involved in the question of whether or not I would like you to support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon.  (In case there is some mystery, somehow, let me be clear: I would very much like for you to do that.)



Spotlight Sunday 7.1.18

Because I can’t live on the ~$75 of revenue this site has generated in the three years it’s been around, I have to keep working at a day job, and because I have a day job, I missed my chance at this the first time around, but because some new copies arrived at the shop, and also because I have to keep working at a day job, nobody else gets a say in what I write about anymore, so there are spoilers ahead for…

Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey Special #1
Writer: Brian Hill, Jeff Parker
Artist: Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz, Scott Kollins
Cover: Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz
Variant Cover: ChrisCross
Rated T
$4.99
DC

“I don’t have time to make you believe in any of this. I don’t really care if you do.”

The 1970s were…well, they were something.

My direct recollection of the time is limited; after all, I wasn’t even around at the very beginning of the decade, and I didn’t start forming solid memories until somewhere slightly past the mid-point. That said, I was there for much of it, and was certainly exposed to the leftover portions of it that stuck around into the next decade.

Along with disco, two things for which the 1970s are largely remembered are Blaxploitation and the Kung Fu craze.

While Hong Kong Phooey is most obviously an artifact of the latter, given that the character was coded as black – he was voiced by the late Scatman Crothers, after all – the cartoon about the crimefighting canine martial artist is a product of the overall zeitgeist, combining elements of both, which is why, in the context of the crazy idea of teaming up Hanna-Barbera characters with DC characters, pairing him with Black Lightning – and setting the story in the ‘70s – makes perfect, for a given value of the word, sense.

There is also precedent within comics – though more notably on the Marvel side of things – for mingling Blaxploitation with Kung Fu, so again, the pairing makes sense, of a kind.

It’s also the only pairing of the various DC/H-B characters that started happening last year that really piqued my interest, in large part because the pairing made sense. (While I enjoyed it, for what it was, the Super Sons/Dyno-Mutt special wasn’t something I deliberately added to my stack.)

The other factor that caught my interest is that the book features another pairing that just makes sense, in the form of Denys Cowan, as penciller, and Bill Sienkiewicz, as inker. (More on that in a bit.)

I’ve never been a big fan of most Hanna-Barbera productions, as even as a kid the lazy and cheap nature of the animation stood out, but H-B characters in one form or another have been – and remain – a mainstay of childhood cartoon consumption since before I was born, though HKP is probably one of the lesser-known, at least in comparison to a certain modern Stone Age family or a cowardly mystery-solving dog.

DC has been utilizing the stable of H-B characters in interesting ways that go beyond the team-ups with DC characters – but which includes a regular series that includes DC/H-B crossovers that is distinct from these specials – taking some core characteristics and veering off into wildly-different directions, as with the Mad Men-esque take on The Flintstones, or the post-apocalyptic adventures of Scooby and the gang.

That’s the approach this book takes, holding on to some of the essential elements of the character – most notably the fact that he’s a talking dog that walks and acts like a man in a world primarily populated by humans, and yet, for the most part, no one comments on that – while eschewing some others.

One thing that is jettisoned – thankfully, in my opinion – is the “bumbling hero who manages to save the day either despite his best efforts, or due to the unnoticed intervention of a competent sidekick” trope.

Cartoon HKP was well-intentioned, but wasn’t any good at crimefighting, usually solving problems – and causing even more along the way – clumsily and inadvertently as he referred to his copy of The Hong Kong Book of Kung Fu, an instructional guide from a martial arts correspondence course, to find the right technique to deal with a given situation. (Which rarely worked.)

Mostly the day would be saved by his companion, a striped cat named Spot, who was intelligent, but non-verbal, and was kept as a pet in the weird world of anthropomorphic animals living amongst humans.

Here, where HKP is competent, Spot is not needed, and is absent, though cats do figure into the story.

Gone too is the thin pretense of a secret identity – though he does wear a mask when in action – and his role as a janitor at a police department.

Rosemary – the police switchboard operator who had a crush on Hong Kong Phooey, but no interest in his alter ego Penry Pooch on the cartoon – is present, as HKP’s companion and a martial arts instructor.

As our story begins, it’s clear that Jefferson “Black Lightning” Pierce and Penry “Honk Kong Phooey” Pooch have a pre-existing relationship, as we find Pierce in Pooch’s office recounting the tale of his encounter with three martial artists who had killed a man in Metropolis and then threw Black Lightning out a window when he attempted to apprehend them.

BL seeks out HKP’s assistance, as anything involving martial arts is HKP’s beat.

Despite their victim’s obvious wealth, the three assailants only took a fragment of paper, which HKP reveals contains a portion of the secret of the God Fist fighting technique.

The God Fist technique was discovered centuries earlier by a monk who bound a demon and forced the demon to teach it. Having learned the technique, the monk used it to destroy the demon, and then realized that the God Fist was too powerful and should never be taught to anyone. However, he didn’t want the knowledge of it to die with him, as there might arise a time in which its power would be needed, and so he wrote it down on a scroll, which the then separated into three fragments, entrusting one fragment apiece to his three greatest students and extracting a vow from them that they would protect the secret of their fragment and continue the tradition by passing their fragments down to their greatest students, and always keeping them separated.

Naturally, HKP is the inheritor of one of the fragments, and he and BL head to Chinatown to retrieve it from where HKP placed it for safekeeping.

However, while our heroes are away, two of the villains – Bronze Tiger, and Cheshire – descend upon the martial arts school, and while Rosemary puts up a good fight, the villains prove too much for her. After HKP and BL have an encounter with the leader of the villainous trio – Professor Presto – and defeat him, Bronze Tiger and Cheshire show up with Rosemary in tow and use her as leverage to force HKP to hand over his fragment of the scroll.

With the final piece in his possession, Presto gains the power of the God Fist, and, as per his arrangement, shares a portion of that power with Cheshire and Bronze Tiger.

After extracting a promise from BL that he’ll do what’s necessary should the need arise, HKP reveals that he was not just in possession of the fragment of the scroll, he had the full knowledge of the God Fist technique the whole time, and so he uses it to confront Presto while BL and Rosemary – who BL equipped with some power gloves that when charged up by his lightning will allow her to pack more of a punch – deal with Bronze Tiger and Cheshire.

The secret to defeating the God Fist is for HKP to channel the demon who taught the technique to the monk and was betrayed by him and offering the demon the opportunity to avenge itself on the current user of the God Fist. The demon drags Presto away to hell, then attempts to convince HKP to continue to serve as its vessel. HKP does not give in to temptation, however, and the demon recedes.

It was the fear of being consumed by the demon that led HKP to ask BL to kill him should the need arise. For his part, Black Lightning is glad the need didn’t arise.

The backup feature, despite what the solicitation stated, is not a story pairing the Funky Phantom – an even lesser-known H-B creation – with The Spectre. Instead, it involves Jason Blood being prevailed upon to summon forth the spirit of a dead Revolutionary War hero, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, one Jonathan Wellington “Muddy” Muddlemore.

After running afoul of British soldiers, Muddy had been shot and was on the run, in search of a hiding place. Sneaking into an unoccupied home, he climbed inside a large clock, where he ultimately bled out and died, and the clock served as his casket for more than two centuries.

Had he lived, Muddy would have likely been one of the framers of the Constitution, and so, as his spirit had been trapped with is body all this time, Blood is tasked with releasing his spirit, during a televised event organized by a gun rights-supporting Senator, so that a Founding Father can provide direct support for an absolutist reading of the Second Amendment (all the other Founders’ spirits are too far-gone to be summoned forth).

With that accomplished, Blood takes his leave, and the awed members of the audience ask Muddy for his take on the Second Amendment. Of course, having died before the Constitution was written, Muddy has no idea what they’re talking about, so they supply him with a copy of the Constitution so that he can read it and let them know what his friends’ intent would have been. This takes some time, as Muddy is particularly gregarious and has an anecdote about his old pals for each passage he reads.

He asks for a little more clarity about the question once he – finally – gets to the Second Amendment and is shown an example of the kind of weapon that people feel entitled to own and openly carry and is given a demonstration.

Don’t forget Space Force!

A mishap with some of the loaded firearms on the premises leads to a lot of gunfire and a shredded flag and a very rattled Senator, though fortunately no fatalities, which leads to…

One thing I’ve found with the DC/H-B crossovers – and with the DC/Warner Bros. crossovers – is that playing it somewhat straight actually seems to lead to more interesting and amusing stories than you might get if the writers and artists aimed for silliness.

That is, the whole “yeah, just go with it” attitude when introducing silly talking animals into the overall dark and gritty milieu of the DC Universe creates its own kind of silliness that has more…heft than you might find from a more gag-oriented story. Even if it doesn’t really resemble it in terms of structure, it’s evocative of the Airplane style of humor, and I like that it’s a recognition of the idea that a talking dog who’s a martial artist isn’t really any more ridiculous than, oh, let’s say an inner-city school teacher who can shoot lightning bolts out of his hands.

And yet, it does seem more ridiculous, at least when the two are brought together, and your brain rebels as the willingness of your suspension of disbelief is pushed to its limits.

That said, the story itself wasn’t particularly great, and I think it could have benefited from leaning into the 1970s-ness of it all, making the most of its setting in a way that it just…didn’t. (At the very least they should have included a Prez cameo.)

I also initially found it odd that for the DC villains they went with Cheshire rather than Lady Shiva, given that Cheshire wasn’t introduced until the 1980s, whereas Lady Shiva was part of DC’s own 1970s’ Kung Fu efforts, and was a companion to Bronze Tiger. But then I realized: “Oh, duh. Cats.”

The highlight of it all, of course, was the art. Cowan and Sienkiewicz each have a distinctive style, but they are, in some ways opposite sides of the same coin, as they are both expressionistic and almost abstract, but while Cowan tends to be a little more controlled and tightly-confined, Sienkiewicz cuts loose a bit more.

Having Sienkiewicz doing the inking – which is generally where the looser pencils are tightened up – was an intriguing choice, as it loosened up Cowan’s pencils in a way that was suitably funky. The colors were fine, but I wish they had gone with someone who could have done more to emphasize the wildness of the line art.

The back-up feature was, of course, topical, but it remined me of the Phantom’s appearance on Harvey Birdman, Attorney-at-Law, in which they did a similar bit, albeit with a focus on the Funky Phantom’s dismay at the excesses of First Amendment absolutism.

Obviously, we can’t summon the spirits of the Founding Fathers to get their take on today’s debates, but ultimately, why would we need to? The specific thoughts of men who lived 250 years ago, and many of whom owned other human beings, don’t strike me as particularly relevant, and what they had to offer of value is already in place for us to refer to and use in reaching our own decisions.

Regardless of whichever side of the debate you take, I think those last two panels of the story drive home the ridiculousness of viewing whatever people who lived before the Industrial Revolution and the cultural and technological developments thought as sacrosanct and authoritative.

In any case, I wanted to carve out some space to talk about at least one of the weird crossovers that DC has been doing with some of the other properties available in the stables maintained by their shared corporate overlords, and so…this.

Next week’s entry is a foregone conclusion, of course, as The Man of Steel will have its last issue hit the stands on Wednesday, so I wanted to pick something a little surprising, even if it wasn’t exactly new, or the best thing in my stack.

Recommended Reading:

I don’t know. Just read some stuff. There were a lot of great, fun – and decidedly not woke – Kung Fu and/or Blaxploitation comics in the 70s.

Like the old Shang-Chi comics.

Or the early Luke Cage stuff.

And, of course, Black Lightning.

So buy some of those. Or don’t. (The “don’t” option seems most likely.)

That does it for the Spotlight. Be sure to check back on Saturday for the Showcase. (Even though you know which comic(s) I will end up writing about.)

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).

Want to have a say in what I write about here? Well, if I made any money from this, I could quit the day job and do this full-time, and that would lead to the revival of the Weigh In. One way to help make that dream a reality is to support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon.



Showcase Saturday 6.30.18

(To the tune of the theme song of ABC’s early 90s “TGIF” programming block)

It’s Saturday afternoon
On the last day of June
Been to my favorite spot
Show you what I bought
Showcase Saturday!

From DC:

BATMAN BEYOND #21 – “Target: Batman” part two! When a hyper-crime crisis strikes Neo-Gotham, Batman flies in to save the day. But why is the local news bashing him for his heroic deeds? Stranger still, why are the very people Batman saved suddenly turning on him with anger and almost uncontrollable violence?

BLACK LIGHTNING/HONG KONG PHOOEY SPECIAL #1 – Back from Viet Nam, kung fu master Hong Kong Phooey has set up his own detective agency in the inner city. Meanwhile, Jefferson Pierce (a.k.a. Black Lightning) has uncovered a plot by three assassins to collect the components of a sacred text revealing the darkest secrets of Martial Arts magic, and they’ll kill anyone who owns them—including the dog who holds the last chapter of the book, Hong Kong Phooey. Plus, a tale of the Funky Phantom as he goes toe-to-toe with the Spectre in a tale by Jeff Parker and Scott Kolins.

THE MAN OF STEEL #5 – Beaten by Rogol Zaar, his city burning at the hands of an unknown arsonist and the secret of what happened to Lois and Jon drawing closer to revelation—even Superman feels powerless against all that stands before him.

THE TERRIFICS #5 – What happens when the Terrifics have to fight a whole town made entirely out of…Metamorpho?! If the streetlight doesn’t get them first, they’ll need to save the innocent people transformed into elemental avatars in a world gone completely berserk! We’re talkin’ gas armies, rock monsters, orbs of Ra and ancient element people to boot! Everything’s possessed and crazy! Somebody call an exorcist—or four!

 

WONDER WOMAN #49 – “The Dark Gods” part four! Humanity worships new masters. Its heroes have fallen. And Wonder Woman? Wonder Woman stands alone!

From Dark Horse:

NEIL GAIMAN’S A STUDY IN EMERALD HC – This supernatural mystery set in the world of Sherlock Holmes and Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos features a brilliant detective and his partner as they try to solve a horrific murder.

This complex investigation takes the Baker Street investigators from the slums of Whitechapel all the way to the Queen’s Palace as they attempt to find the answers to this bizarre murder of cosmic horror!

From the Hugo, Bram Stoker, Locus, World Fantasy, Nebula Award-winning, and New York Times bestselling writer Neil Gaiman comes this graphic novel adaptation with art by Eisner award-winning artist Rafael Albuquerque!

From Dynamite:

RED SONJA #17 – Following the defeat of Kulan Gath, Sonja discovers her trusty sword has a secret history as the legendary Blade of Skath and faces a decision: does she keep her steel, or return it to its rightful Cimmerian owner?

From Image:

KILL OR BE KILLED #20 – The grand finale to KILL OR BE KILLED! Will Dylan find a way to live his secret life as a vigilante, or will he throw away the mask? And was there ever really a demon, or is he just crazy? And will he (or any of us) get out alive? All the answers are here!

SEX CRIMINALS #25 – “FIVE-FINGERED DISCOUNT,” Conclusion How have we gotten through 24 issues already and not made an “exciting climax” joke in the solicits? C’mon, Matty, wake up and get your head in the game.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #37 – “MOTHERING INVENTION,” Part Four None More Goth.

 

 

 

 

 

From Marvel:

THOR #2 – REUNION FROM HEL! The sons of Odin ride again! In the land of the dead, Thor is reunited with his long-lost brother, Balder, the King of Hel, just in time to face the Fire Goblin armies of the Queen of Cinders, as the War of the Realms continues to burn its way across all creation. Plus Loki! Thori the Hel-hound! Skurge with a really big gun! Monster trucks! And more!

 

 

That does it for this week’s Showcase. Come back tomorrow to see which – if any – of these comics I decide to ramble on about.

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 just to let you know, I’m not above using the threat of writing more parodic musical intros as a means of bullying you into providing support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon. I’m not saying there will be more if you don’t, but are you sure you want to take that chance?



Spotlight Sunday 6.24.18

Given the nature of fandom – I’m becoming increasingly convinced that people don’t actually like to like things – there will probably be some consternation over the fact that there are spoilers ahead for…

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 12: The Reckoning #1
Writer: Joss Whedon, Christos Gage
Artist: Georges Jeanty
Cover: Stephanie Hans
$3.99
Dark Horse

“Hey! Who wants to talk about the apocalyptic crisis event? Raise your hand!”

I was rather late to the Buffy party. I had watched a handful of episodes, but it was already in its last season by the time I started watching it regularly, though I quickly got caught up on the prior seasons via reruns and marathons on some of the channels that carried it in syndication.

Because I tend to avoid getting particularly involved in fandom – I don’t write or read fan fiction, I don’t hang out in fandom communities online or in real life, and I’ve never really had a lot of friends – I wasn’t really aware of the fact that many fans wished that last season, and a varying number of seasons before that, depending on who you ask, didn’t exist. (And some would insist that they didn’t. “Oh, you mean that show that only had three seasons?”)

For my part…meh. It was an entertaining show, sometimes more entertaining than others, and for whatever reason, the parts that weren’t so entertaining didn’t fill me with any sort of white-hot incandescent rage the way they did for others.

I also generally avoid licensed tie-ins to properties that aren’t part of the canon of the properties they’re tied to, so up until Dark Horse launched Season 8, which was intended as a canon continuation of the story and had the direct involvement of the show’s creator, I hadn’t read many Buffy comics.

As with the show, the various seasons of the comic have had their ups and downs – and managed to produce that same white-hot incandescent rage for many – but overall, I’ve enjoyed them.

It’s also worth noting that there has been a very public reconsideration of Joss Whedon’s place in popular culture and his public image due to some of the details of his personal life, which have implications on his professional life going beyond the standard “separating the art from the artist” considerations. This isn’t going to be about that. It’s not that it isn’t a subject worthy of discussion, but not everything worth discussing gets discussed in every discussion. I will just note that I understand that beyond some of the inherent issues of fandom, and matters of personal preference, there are other reasons that people would just as soon avoid this comic and any discussion of it. To which I say, I get it, but that’s all I really have to say on the subject, as I have no interest in arguing for or against Whedon and his behavior (In particular, I have no interest in arguing for).

Anyway!

Because I didn’t read the tie-in comics before Season 8, I don’t really know much about Fray, the future slayer who figures prominently in this story, but, thanks to this story, I’m learning more.

In short: In the 23rd Century, magic is mostly gone from the world. Vampires still exist, but they are confined to the shadows, no longer able to appear human, and are referred to as Lurks. Slayers are gone, too, and have been for two hundred years. That is, until a young woman named Melaka Fray becomes the first Chosen One in centuries. She carries the memories of every Slayer who lived before her, but through a quirk of birth, so does her twin brother, Harth. Unfortunately, Harth is a vampire, who, thanks to his Slayer memories is able to be the old-fashioned kind rather than merely a Lurk.

Four years ago, Buffy found herself transported to Fray’s future, and it was assumed that when she returned to her own time her knowledge of the future would prevent that future from happening. And yet, the future continued as it did. Will. Whatever.

In any case, this issue opens in that future, where Harth is the prisoner of a sorcerer who tells the legend of the Reckoning, the turning point at which the Slayers and the demons and most of the magic disappeared. The sorcerer is in possession of an artifact that will allow him to travel back in time where he hopes to be the Reckoning, drawing upon Harth’s memories of the event as an asset. Harth agrees that it’s a fine plan, though he suggests one alteration.

Back in the 21st Century, it’s been a year since the events of Season 11, and a world that had been shaken to its very foundation by the very public revelation of the existence of magic, and the ensuing policy debates and political action that resulted from it, is trying to move on and go back to pretending that magic isn’t real.

We open in our own time with a fake-out in which there’s an attempt to make us believe that Buffy has become a mommy, which raises a lot of questions, given that her boyfriend is a vampire. Of course, it turns out that Buffy is an aunt – the baby, Joyce, which, it’s nice that they’ve honored the late Mrs. Summers, but that is a terrible name for a baby, worse even than Linda, is the daughter of Dawn and Xander (cue fandom rage, and not entirely baselessly) – and that vampire is, it turns out, no longer Buffy’s boyfriend.

In these relatively quiet times, Buffy and Spike, despite putting a lot of work into building a relationship over the past few seasons, have realized that they don’t really know how to be a couple when the world isn’t ending.

As luck would have it, however, the world is ending. Or at least in crisis.

The action of the story takes place at a housewarming party for Dawn and Xander (and baby…Joyce), and two of the guests – Angel and Illyria – deliver the good/bad news.

They have intel about a vampire from the future who’s up to no good. Buffy immediately twigs that it’s Harth, and so the Scoobies – minus Dawn, who’s on breastfeeding duty, but plus Fatih, who they meet up with along the way – head to the offices of Wolfram & Hart, where Harth is gathering his forces.

The threat from the future, it turns out, has also brought a blast from the past, in the serpentine form of the Mayor, who managed to put himself back together after being blown up, but has been laying low for the past several years. This, of course, has as devastating an impact on Faith’s psyche as a blow from the Mayor’s tail does on her body.

The fight doesn’t go well, and the Scoobies beat a hasty retreat via a portal opened by Dawn, who, as a result of some of the alterations that have occurred to the rules and nature of magic, has regained some of the abilities that she derives from being the Key.

This, of course, was all according to Harth’s plan.

Realizing that, the Scoobies reckon that they have to find a way to counter Harth’s access to Buffy’s memories, and when Buffy reveals that in Fray’s time she encountered a massive library containing all of the combined knowledge of the Watchers, they decide that the future is the place to be. The books didn’t do Buffy much good in the time she spent there, but this time there’s someone who was trained as both a librarian and a Watcher who can come along for the ride.

(Giles, who, as a result of dying and being restored to life a few seasons back, had been de-aged and become a teenager once again, has, in the past year, apparently been restored to his true age. That may have happened/be happening in his solo book, but I dropped that because unlike the main books it had nothing going for it to make it entertaining.)

Illyria has the ability to move through time, but her control is not what it once was, so it’s deemed too risky for her to transport them, at least on her own. Willow determines that, since Buffy has been there before, the “energy” of that time is inside of her for Willow to use to help navigate. Dawn, who was annoyed at having to sit out the last adventure, is pumped for the trip, both figuratively and literally – she’s pumped her breasts and left plenty of milk to allow Xander to stay behind on feeding duty. She pairs up her portal-opening abilities with Illyria’s time travelling abilities, and with Willow’s guidance, they soon find that the future is not what it used to be.

I think one of the biggest problems in fandom is the fact that familiarity breeds contempt, and the more you love something, the easier it becomes for that something to disappoint you. Thin line between love and hate and all that.

If something goes on long enough, the odds of the people behind it doing something that will piss off its fans increases exponentially, and beyond that, the shine wears off everything eventually. Old ideas get revisited over and over again. Tropes and clichés emerge. Tone-deafness sets in. What once was fresh inevitably decays.

I mean, I get it. I don’t intend to be judgmental, but the fact is that subjectivity plays a role in how and when a popular property hits the point of diminishing returns, and for my part, I tend to give a lot less weight to certain perceived issues of quality than others do, particularly when it’s something I’m not that invested in to begin with, as with Buffy.

I liked the show well enough, but I was never particularly fanatical about it in the way that I am about other properties, so there was a limit to how angry or disappointed the show or the subsequent comics could ever make me, and so I stuck with the show through the end, and the comics (minus Giles) this far because the entertainment value has managed to outweigh everything else.

That said, I am glad that the series appears to be moving towards an endgame, though I have my doubts that it will remain ended. (I suspect that there will still be tie-ins and “Untold Tales” and the like, even if there are no new comics driving the story further forward.)

As with the show, Whedon seems to have less and less direct involvement with the comic, serving as “Executive Producer,” though this is one of the first in a while in which he’s given any sort of writing credit (“Story” with Gage, who is credited with the Script), and his involvement is clear in some of the interactions between the characters, one of which involves a lampshaded (and poorly-executed) reference to a classic Buffy (the show) moment:

That’s actually one of the issues I have with the issue; it’s a story that involves the future, but it seems very heavily-focused on the past. I loved the Mayor as a villain on the show, but his time has passed, and I wasn’t thrilled to see him return, particularly given that the biggest part of his appeal for me was the performance of actor Harry Groener. As a kind of generic-looking snake monster here he’s less-than memorable.

Speaking of appearances, I’ve never been particularly fond of the work of Georges Jeanty on Buffy. I like his work with the vampires, but everyone and everything else is generally a bit off. Here, most of the characters are off-model even from his own model, which tends to stray pretty far from the actors who portrayed them, in most cases.

His big action scenes tend towards being overstuffed and difficult to follow, and his anatomy and proportions often prove distracting. One of the advantages of telling a story in comic book form as opposed to on TV is that you don’t have the same kind of budget constraints – though obviously there are still some constraints – particularly when it comes to exciting magical and superhuman action. That lack of constraints ultimately proved to be a problem in Season 8, as it led to going overboard in some significant ways, but here, the artist just isn’t able to deliver on the potential.

Still, there are obviously things I’ve enjoyed over the seasons, such as the sharp dialogue, the snark, and some of the personal and interpersonal drama, and this definitely has that. Like I said, however, I am glad to see it moving towards an end, but I am at least interested in seeing that end.

Recommended Reading:

Of the post-TV show comics, I’ve probably enjoyed Angel & Faith more than most of the others, so check it out. Or look for anything else you might be interested in; I’ll get a teeny-tiny cut if you buy anything via the link below.

That does it for the Spotlight. Be sure to check 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).

Oh, and maybe you could see your way clear to support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon?



Showcase Saturday 6.23.18

Sweet Christmas! This is cutting into my Luke Cage Season 2 binge, so I’ll make it quick. Look at the comics I bought this week – including some things I missed the first time around – and then come back tomorrow to see which – if any – of them I write about.

RICANSTRUCTION – Ricanstruction: Reminiscing & Rebuilding Puerto Rico is an anthology featuring contributions from writers and artists from the comic book industry like Frank Miller, Gail Simone, Greg Pak, Reginald Hudlin, Denys Cowan, Tony Daniel, Ken Lashley, Bill Sienkiewicz, Yanick Paquette, Gabby Rivera, Will Rosado, Jorge Jimenez, Mike Allred, Chris Sotomayor, to Puerto Rican and Latinx celebrities like Rosario Dawson, Rubén Blades, Javier Muñoz, Sonia Manzano and over 100 more. Produced and also featuring stories written by Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, this anthology teams up his original character LA BORINQUEÑA with some of the most iconic comic book heroes of all time from DC COMICS: Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, Aquaman, The Flash and many others. Original stories also take us to the past to explore the beautiful history of PUERTO RICO as well as tales that envision a stronger and rebuilt island. 100% of the proceeds from this anthology will go to the continued work to help over 3 million Americans living in Puerto Rico, providing solar-powered lamps, food, clothing and so much more. These short stories remind us all that the true power of being a hero is inside each of us. When we come together as a united people, we will never be defeated! ¡El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido!

From DC:

NEW CHALLENGERS #1 – From the pages of DARK NIGHTS: METAL! Challengers Mountain has returned to the DC Universe and chosen a new team of explorers! Five misfit strangers are given a second chance at life, but only if they obey the orders of the mysterious Professor and execute deadly missions in the most unexplored corners of the multiverse! And if the new Challengers of the Unknown fail…it will be more than just their own lives that hang in the balance!

NEW CHALLENGERS #2 – The Challengers of the Unknown venture on their first mission for the Professor…to the bottom of the ocean! But when the ancient artifact they have to collect turns out to be far more dangerous than expected, the new teammates realize they might not all make it out alive!

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD: BATMAN AND WONDER WOMAN #5 – There’s a grave missing detail of Batman and Wonder Woman’s investigation into the death of King Elatha—it’s not only about who killed him, but also what it means. As one king dies, another must arise…long live the new king Balor Evil-Eye! Now Batman and Wonder Woman must fight alongside Tir Na Nóg and destroy its causeways to our dimension!

THE MAN OF STEEL #4 – Rogol Zaar has committed a string of atrocities across the cosmos that have led him to the Fortress of Solitude—and now Superman and Supergirl plan to crush his schemes! But are even two Kryptonians enough to stop his sinister machinations?

From Dark Horse:

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON 12: THE RECKONING #1 – Joss Whedon! Christos Gage!

It’s one year later, and the lives of Buffy and the Scoobies haven’t been too eventful for a while–at least as far as fighting demons and the forces of darkness are concerned. But that’s all about to change when Dawn and Xander’s housewarming party is interrupted by some familiar faces bringing news of familiar foes from the future. Can you say Harth . . . and Fray?

  • The return of Fray!

  • The Reckoning will be the culmination of all the Buffy seasons!

From Dynamite:

BARBARELLA #7 – Barbarella is lost in a maze of Radically Unstable Space-Time, with Pulver Glain, his boys, and his smarter-than-smart gun Sally-Anne hot on her trail. But what’s at the heart of the maze is a threat – and a miracle – that none of them are ready for.

 

 

 

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).

Also: Where’s my money, honey? (Which is to say, please support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon.)



Spotlight Sunday 6.17.18

It was a pretty good batch of books this week. And also Wonder Woman.

That fact coupled with the lack of any sort of recurring or relevant theme in the books themselves or in my life this week has made it tricky to make a selection.

Exiles was fun and featured a deep dive into the (alternative) history of the Marvel Universe, with some delightful silliness, but while the issue does make an important revelation about the nature of the team’s time-devouring foe, it still feels…insubstantial. That’s not bad; as I said, it was fun, but it just didn’t grab me enough to make me want to devote much space to discussing it.

As I looked through my options, I decided to go with the book that contains a shift in direction and establishes a new status quote – and was also a lot of fun – which means that there are spoilers ahead for…

Thor #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Mike Del Mundo, Christian Ward
Cover: Mike Del Mundo
Rated T+
$5.99
Marvel

“No, you may not touch my hammer.”

The death of the Mighty Thor did not, it turns out, bring with it the death of Jane Foster, even though she did spend some time standing before the gates of Valhalla, but it did bring with it a significant amount of destruction for Asgardia, and the death of Mjolnir, which Jane hurled – with the Mangog in two – into the sun.

With Jane no longer able to take on the role, and the belief that there must always be a Thor, the role – and name – returned to the Odinson, who, worthy or not, has experience in the job.

He has a shiny new golden arm, a winged helmet, and a job to do, as many of the powerful artifacts contained within the vaults of Odin were scattered about the realms during the Mangog’s assault on Asgardia.

What he doesn’t have, however, is a hammer, and what is a Thor without a hammer?

We find the new/old Thor on the run from cultists of the Crimson Temple of Cyttorak, from whom he is liberating one of the missing artifacts.

Still, hammer or no, a few cultists wouldn’t pose much of a threat to the God of Thunder. Unfortunately, they’re not the ones he needs to worry about.

You can’t stop this motherf***er.

The problem of hammerlessness was very much on Thor’s mind, and so he set the dwarf Screwbeard to work on it, and though the attempt at addressing the problem is not quite ready, there is a pressing need, and so a new hammer, enchanted by Odin, is sent down to Thor on Midgard just in the nick of time.

Unfortunately, while it allows Thor to soar through the air, it’s not quite as durable as the hammer with which he’s grown accustomed to smiting his enemies.

Still, if you’re going to make a new hammer, why stop at just one? Thor calls for Screwbeard to send down all of the hammers that he’s crafted, and proceeds to try – and destroy – all of them until he finds one that does the trick.

Upon returning to Asgardia with the recovered artifact, Thor instructs Screwbeard to keep working on the problem – the problem being the lack of sufficiently pure Uru that can compare to the kind from which Mjolnir was forged – as the War of the Realms still rages and will need to be dealt with. Once Bifrost is restored and allows access to the other realms, at any rate.

From there we get a quick check in on how most everyone else in the extended cast is doing. Heimdall is no longer all-seeing, or seeing at all, as the Mangog gouged out his eyes, and Odin is unusually subdued, and his thoughts are on his estranged wife.

On Midgard, Roz Solomon has procured a temporary shelter for the refugees from Asgardia in the Bronx, where Volstagg – attended to by Odin’s aforementioned estranged wife Freyja – is recovering from his experiences as the War Thor and his battle with the Mangog and is well on his way to once again being Voluminous.

Freyja’s mind is not on Odin, but on Loki, who, despite the fact that he stabbed her in the back with a poisoned blade, she believes is not as much of a monster as everyone, including Loki himself, thinks he is. Thor doesn’t share her conviction.

Jane is progressing well in her treatment and can’t help but take an interest in Thor’s new hammer.

She informs Thor that they may have located another of the lost artifacts, which leads to a brief battle with Namor, the Sub-Mariner, and a nice dinner for Thori, the Hel-Hound, who, along with one of Thor’s goats (Toothgrinder; Toothgasher was killed by the Mangog), lives on a boat with Thor on the Jersey shore.

An unwelcome guest awaits in the form of Loki, who claims to have come offering the thing that Thor wants most: a way to travel to the other realms to deal with the war.

And he intends to give it to Thor – for a price to be named later – whether he wants it or not. As Loki casts a spell to send Thor away, Thor grabs Loki and takes him (as well as Thori and Toothgrinder) along for the ride.

The back-up story, with gorgeous art by Christian Ward, is a tale of King Thor in the unimaginably distant future. King Thor and his three granddaughters were introduced several years back as part of a storyline that touched on different periods in the long life of Thor and have been periodically revisited since then. They most recently appeared in Thor Special #1, in which the girls drugged their grandfather so that they could take some “time diamonds” for a joyride into the past to meet their idol, Jane Foster.

When King Thor first appeared, Midgard had become a lifeless husk, and, despite his best efforts, King Thor found himself unable to restore it to its former glory, until his granddaughters intervened and worked some magic, making the dry desert into the wet and green world it had once been. With that accomplished, King Thor set about creating some mortals to live in this new garden.

Rather than Adam and Eve, however, he created Jane and Steve, in honor of the two mortals he had loved best in all the eons through which he’d lived.

Now, nearly three hundred years later, King Thor is fighting off an invading Space Shark that has come to Midgard in search of meat while his granddaughters chum the spaceways with a meat substitute to steer it away.

Jane, who was preceded in death by her beloved Steve, is dying, and King Thor visits her at her bedside. He offers to extend her life further, but she declines, even after she learns that this is all there is when King Thor informs her that the time of the afterlife has ended and is beyond his power to restore.

One of his granddaughters, Ellisiv, however, knows that there is more mourning to come, as the fact that the Space Shark had to venture to find meat is a grave portent, as is the fact that King Thor hasn’t been carrying his hammer for days.

As she mentions this fact, the hammer returns, presumably bearing the news of what Ellisiv suspects: the universe is dying.

With hammer in hand, King Thor ventures far out into the cosmos, confirming his suspicions. Ellisiv is wrong:

As he considers the state of things, King Thor finds himself wishing he had something to hit.

Either fortunately or unfortunately for him, dead or not, the universe is still able to provide that something.

This issue was a lot of fun, and it’s an interesting new status quo, in a series that has regularly and frequently shattered the status quo in the course of Aaron’s lengthy tenure.

The “fun” part of that assessment is perhaps the biggest change. While humor has always been a component of the series, here it really moves to the forefront, and gives the book a tone that is much closer to that of Thor: Ragnarok. I’m not always on board with attempts to align comics with their adaptations in other media, but given how thoroughly I enjoyed Ragnarok, and how well Aaron executes the humor here, I can say that I’m well and truly in.

Not that there isn’t an underlying seriousness – the war is still going on, after all – but the more lighthearted tone and instances of levity help to provide a welcome contrast to and departure from the dark and grim context in which the story is set.

That said, I’m not totally sold on the Del Mundo art, though in fairness that may be because I miss Dautterman’s work. I like the line work, and I’m particularly fond of the expressiveness of the characters. I think it’s the coloring that’s throwing things off; everything seems to blend together in a way that’s distracting and that obscures the action. It’s clear in some cases that it’s intended to evoke a certain mood, particularly in scenes that are nearly monochromatic, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark.

I think it would benefit from a broader palette, or a less posterized style (it reminds me of some of Richard Corben’s work), or it could be better offset by thicker lines and fewer color holds.

It’s not bad! In fact, I think it could be great, but there’s just something…off.

Christian Ward’s art on the King Thor story, however, is unambiguously great, with a combination of clean lines and a painterly style that brings to mind the work of Bill Sienkiewicz. (I am very proud of myself for spelling that correctly on the first try.)

Recommended Reading:

Yeah, I continue to be lazy about this, but you continue to not buy things anyway, so let’s call it even. Anyway, you can’t really go wrong with any of Jason Aaron’s work on Thor, so have at it.

Bonus:

Admit it: you forgot about the Bonus, didn’t you? I nearly did, too, but while the Weigh In is gone, I am still wrapping up those books that won the vote and had ongoing storylines, and given that this is a limited (twelve-issue) series, and also that I wanted to write about this anyway, here’s the skinny on Mister Miracle #9.

The short version is summed up very well by Scott Free himself.

The war between Apokolips and New Genesis is still ongoing, but there is a push for peace, and that’s where we find ourselves in this issue, with a summit between the leaders of the worlds being held on Apokolips.

There is much back-and-forth, and it goes about as well as one might expect, and, of course, there are the small, personal moments between Scott and Barda, and some fun – if disturbing – interactions with other members of Darkseid’s crew, and a couple of pages following the progress of a drop of piss falling down into a seemingly – but not really – bottomless pit.

Then there’s…well, in the negotiation, Darkseid is represented by his son – and Scott’s step-brother – Kalibak, who gives Scott a gift. The Mirror of Goodness, which had belonged to the late Granny.

Eyes open. Eyes close. But do they see you and me? Goodness knows.

The mirror’s function is to show the underlying truth to the children Granny “raised.” The “lessons” she taught them often left the children physically damaged, though it was nothing that a few skin grafts and some reconstructive surgery couldn’t fix. But the mirror would show them the damage that the surgeries hid, or, as Granny said, “On the outside, you’re beautiful. And on the inside, you’re mine.”

Darkseid is.

In the end, a deal is reached. Or so they think; at the signing, Kalibak states that Darkseid will not accept the deal.

There is anger, until it’s revealed that the alteration that Darkseid wishes to make to the deal is to give up even more than he was originally asked to give up, providing something that was assumed to be off the table.

Darkseid recently acquired the Anti-Life Equation but is willing to surrender it as part of the peace agreement, in exchange for one small thing: custody of Scott and Barda’s son Jacob.

That does it for this week’s Spotlight Sunday. Check 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).

And if you don’t already – which you don’t, because no one does – you can support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon.



Showcase Saturday 6.16.18

It’s Saturday, and you know what that means…because if you don’t know what it means, you’re probably not here looking at this anyway, so who am I even talking to?

Anyway, I bought comics. Let’s you – whoever you may or may not be – and me take a look, shall we?

From DC:

MISTER MIRACLE #9 – After war comes peace. The bloody battles that waged across New Genesis and Apokolips have come to an end, and now Mister Miracle and Kalibak must sit down and discuss a truce. Can Scott Free trust the former minions of Darkseid to keep their word? Not likely, but a leader sometimes has to take a risk in service to the greater good. Perhaps the more pressing question, though, is whether Big Barda can make it through the negotiations without beating the life out of the assassin Kanto.

NEW SUPER-MAN VOL. 3: EQUILIBRIUM – In these stories from issues #13-18, Shanghai falls—and Emperor Super-Man rules the ashes! With an army of super-villains on the streets, the Justice League of China leads the movement to take the city back. It’s up to I-Ching and the New Flash of China to snap Kenan out of it and save Shanghai. As Kenan fights to save his city and its people, a final casualty shakes the young hero to his solid-steel core.

PLASTIC MAN #1 – Meet Eel O’Brian: a petty thug, thief and con artist who runs a strip club. Hey, he’s also dead, at least according to the gang that tossed him out like last week’s garbage. Literally. Don’t worry, though—he bounced back from all that, and now he’s trying to make a new life for himself, but the effort is stretching him pretty thin. How can he get revenge on his old boss, keep a street kid out of trouble, make a dancer fall in love with him and stop a mysterious society from taking over the world? Eel has no idea!

THE IMMORTAL MEN #3 – “THE END OF FOREVER” part three! The Immortal Men have risked everything to save the otherwise unremarkable teenager Caden Park. But neither Caden nor the immortal heroes who saved him know the crucial role he’s predicted to play in the upcoming war between the Immortal Men. So when the hero Reload falls into the horrifying hands of the Bloodless, Caden Park must learn the Secret History of the DC Universe, and the truth behind his family heritage—and fast—before the Batman Who Laughs has all his pawns in play!

THE MAN OF STEEL #3 – The merciless killer and zealot calling himself Rogol Zaar has searched the cosmos for Superman—and when he reaches the Fortress of Solitude, his actions will cut Superman to the core.

WONDER WOMAN #48 – “The Dark Gods” part three! Every hero on Earth has tested their mettle against the Dark Gods—except for Wonder Woman, who’s not on Earth! With Diana lost in space fighting off the Gods’ assault on the Star Sapphires, it’s down to Jason to protect her planet and her friends…but, uh, he hasn’t won a fight yet…

From Marvel:

DOMINO #3 – DOMINO’s luck is running out, and not just figuratively: Her powers are fading away! What good is our favorite soldier of fortune without the good fortune? She’s got her back against the wall, but that doesn’t mean nobody’s got her back: OUTLAW, DIAMONDBACK and a VERY SPECIAL (VERY SECRET) GUEST are in Dom’s corner! PLUS: Domino’s mysterious archnemesis strikes!

 

EXILES #4 – BLACKBEARD BEN AND THE BUSTED TALLUS! When the broken Tallus sends them hurtling through time, the Exiles find themselves on the open seas! But this is no pirate’s paradise. If the Exiles don’t recover the Tallus and return to their mission, Earth – and the rest of reality – is lost! But they’ll need help. The legendary Blackbeard – A.K.A. Ben Grimm, formerly the Thing – just might be willing to lend a ship. But for a price…

THOR #1 – JASON AARON & MIKE DEL MUNDO TAKE THE PRINCE OF ASGARD IN A WHOLE NEW DIRECTION! Thor Odinson has regained his mantle – and with it, a wild new world of trouble on his mighty hands! The artifacts of Asgard have been scattered across the earth, and to reclaim them, Thor will have to face some ugly truths. Like the production cost of hundreds of new hammers! And the Thunder God is going to need every last one of them if he’s going to stop the unstoppable Juggernaut. Jason Aaron takes the Prince of Asgard in a whole new direction with YOUNG GUN artist Mike Del Mundo joining him at the helm! And don’t miss the latest chapter of the King Thor saga with acclaimed BLACK BOLT artist Christian Ward, as the Thor of the far future encounters an old friend who’s undergone some startling changes.

That does it for this week’s Showcase. Come back tomorrow for the Sunday 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).

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