Spotlight Sunday 10.21.18

Some good comics this week – and we’ll get to that – but did any of the others have Fin Fang Foom? No. No, they did not, so there are spoilers ahead for…

Thor #6
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Christian Ward
Cover: Esad Ribic
Rated T+

“The Starbrand, the Iron Fist, the Spirit of Vengeance.The Sorcerer Supreme. Doom is all these things. In addition to being Doom.”

In the days before the dawn of the Marvel Age of Comics, the company that would launch that era was primarily known for monster comics, featuring dangerous, gigantic creatures such as Xemnu, Glop, and a certain bit of alien flora known as Groot.

Many of them would eventually find their way into the Marvel Universe that sprung up after the introduction of the Fantastic Four – some of them, like Groot, would be redeemed after their initial villainous appearances, and make their way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and more were introduced throughout the years.

That fondness for monsters is built into Marvel Comics – indeed, one of the flagship characters of the Marvel Age of Comics is a hulking, green-skinned monsters – and the monsters even have their own island.

Of all the monsters in Marveldom, though, my all-time favorite is Fin Fang Foom. I can’t say why, exactly, but I’ve always had a fondness for the giant, alliteratively-named dragon who wears purple trunks. I used to joke about getting a Red Dragon-style full back tattoo like Frances Dolarhyde’s, except, of course, the dragon would be FFF.

After all, did William Blake’s Great Red Dragon ever do this?

With that’s said, let’s get to the issue at hand, in which we see the latest installment of a tale involving King Thor at the end of time. The last time I mentioned King Thor, he was off in search of confirmation of his suspicion that the moribund universe was not just dying but already dead, and during his travels he encountered an old friend and comrade-in-arms, the former Wolverine, now in possession – or possessed by – the Phoenix Force.

As is inevitable, given that heroes fighting heroes is as hardwired into the Marvel Universe as monsters are, the two got into a bit of a scuffle. Old Man Phoenix, it seems, didn’t appreciate Thor restoring life to Earth, as it’s time for the lights to finish going out, and also because the act would draw the attention of a certain someone whose attention no one wants.

On Earth, meanwhile, we witness the arrival of some of the remaining monsters, including FFF, but they don’t represent the real danger, as those monsters are in service of the greatest monster of all: the man called Doom.

In what had, countless eons ago, been Latveria, Doom looks upon the garden that Thor planted there, and does not at all approve of what the All-Father has done with the place. Two mortals are there to greet the strange visitor, and though they live in an idyllic, pastoral world free from want and injustice, they know evil when the see it, particularly when the evil they’re seeing starts burning everything down.

The two men begin throwing rocks and pitchforks at Doom, though they have, of course, no effect. Thor’s granddaughters arrive just in time to get the two men to safety, and as we had already learned that one of the men is named Adam, we learn the name of the other in a gag that made me laugh out loud when I read it:

Thor made Adam and Steve, not Adam and Eve.

The girls don’t present much of a challenge to Doom, but fortunately, King Thor and Old Man Phoenix talked/punched out their differences and arrive in time to take over the fight, leaving the girls free to deal with the other monsters bedeviling the planet.

Doom proves too much for the two, however, and after apparently dispatching Old Man Phoenix, Doom turns the Penance Stare on Thor, forcing him to relive all the pain he has caused throughout his very, very long life.

Old Man Phoenix is not completely out of the game yet, however, and he realizes that just as Doom has consolidated all of the powers mentioned in the opening quote, the solution is to do the same with the power of Thor and the power of the Phoenix. Finally bringing his own seemingly-endless existence to an end, Logan places the Phoenix Force into Thor’s hammer, and the All-Father rises to once again face Doom.

After Thor takes the battle underground, we get something of a montage showing that the fight rages on for generations, but, even as the Earth shakes and rumbles, and volcanoes constantly erupt, and there is the ever-present sound of battle everywhere that there are ears to hear it, life goes on, until the day that Thor, exhausted to the point of death, finally emerges from a river of lava and declares that it is finished.

As Thor dies, the Phoenix moves on to a new host, a little girl standing nearby, and declares that the true darkness is on its way.

One of the more significant storylines in Aaron’s run has been Thor’s fight against Gorr the God Butcher. It was a storyline that introduced the King Thor future, and showed us a great deal of Thor’s pre-Mjolnir past, and that led, ultimately, to the period during which Jane Foster took on the mantle of God of Thunder.

While Gorr was ultimately defeated, the evil, powerful weapon he wielded – All-Black, the Necrosword – could not be destroyed. King Thor used it to defend Earth from the appetites of Galactus, and with the Necrosword in his possession, Galactus transitioned from being the Devourer of Worlds to the Butcher of Worlds, until ultimately he made a losing attempt at butchering Ego, the Living Planet, who then became possessed by the evil of All-Black and transformed into Ego, the Necroplanet, taking on the task of butchering other worlds.

While all of the main action was happening with King Thor and his granddaughters, somewhere out in the vastness of space another battle was raging between Ego and…a worm? Yes, a tiny little worm was crawling around somewhere on and in Ego, taunting the Necroworld, and challenging the mighty planet to do its best to destroy the worm.

As King Thor’s battle with Doom ended, so too did the battle between Ego – a world now in tatters, having nearly destroyed itself in its vain attempts at crushing a single worm – and the war came to an end, with the worm obtaining the prize it had sought for so long: the Necrosword.

And, of course we know just who that worm was, don’t we?

Next issue will find us moving in something of the opposite direction, with an adventure featuring Young Thor before we return to the present and the ongoing War of the Realms, which, like the the King Thor stories are always a fun little interlude. The King Thor stories are particularly fun, as they tend to provide some hints about things that are yet-to-come for present-day Thor. We’ve seen it already with King Thor missing his arm and wearing the Destroyer’s arm as a replacement, which played out a while back with the current Thor, and we also see that, like his father, King Thor is missing an eye. Perhaps most notable is is the fact that King Thor’s hammer looks very much like the now-destroyed Mjolnir.

We’ll see whether or not we return to the future to find out how it all ends now that King Thor is gone and Necro-Loki is ascendant, but while this was a somewhat somber story about sacrifice and inevitability, it was a fun little break from the present-day story, with great art by guest artist Christian Ward, some interesting versions of known characters, and some hints of what is to come. And, of course, Fin Fang Foom!

What Else Ya Got?

Showcase Saturday is gone – and was never well-known enough to even be forgotten – but on the off-chance that anyone is interested in what the rest of the week’s haul was like, here’s a simple list:

East of West #39

Lucifer #1

New Challengers #6

Red Sonja #22

Recommended Reading


That does it for the Spotlight for this week. Be sure to come back next week to see what it shines upon.

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).

Even though it may not feel like there is a reason to do so right now, supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.

Lights Out Sunday 10.14.18

Okay, so, yeah. No Spotlight today. Sorry.

I’m just not feeling it, and I have some non-comics-related stuff to deal with today.

The Spotlight will return next week, and one of these days I’ll get around to that Very Special™ post, but for right now…yeah.

I don’t think that the Showcase will return, however. Even by the standards of this site, the traffic for that feature is absolutely abysmal, so I don’t think it’s worth the effort at this point.

Anyway, apologies once again, and I’ll see you in a week.

Even though it may not feel like there is a reason to do so right now, supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.

Getting that support would go a long way towards ensuring that there are no more Lights Out days in the future. Just sayin’. 

Spotlight Sunday 10.7.18

Wanting to focus on something more lighthearted and fun means there are spoilers ahead for…

Adventures of the Super Sons #3
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Carlo Barberi
Cover: Dan Mora
Rated T

“Shut up, Robin!”

I mentioned a while back that I have plans for a very special™ Spotlight post. This week would have been a good time to spring that one on the world, as there was nothing in my stack – nothing that I finished reading in time, at any rate – that I felt a particularly strong compulsion to write about.

This isn’t a criticism of what I bought. Everything that I read was fine, but there just wasn’t anything that “spoke” to me and said, “Hey, devote a Spotlight post to talking me up!” or that shared some commonality with the current state of things for me or felt otherwise relatable*, so it would have been a good time to dive into the Archives and write that very special™ post.

Unfortunately, there are some other things I need to finish before I can write it, and life just isn’t providing me with the time and energy to get those things finished, what with the day job and the commute just eating up as much of both as it can get its hands on.

And of course, I have to have that day job to pay the bills (and buy the comics) because this site doesn’t bring in enough money to cover the cost of its own existence, let alone the cost of mine.

I guess the site just doesn’t “drive traffic,” because people don’t “click the links”, because the content “isn’t engaging,” and is “not interesting,” and is “not very good,” and the platform “offers no compelling advantages,” and while I’m “thankful” to the “twenty six or so people” who are likely to “look at this post,” I need to remember that “nobody cares,” and I should just “give up” and leave this sort of thing to the people who “know what they’re doing” and are “actually good at this,” and also I shouldn’t “use dated references.”

Remember to “support OpenDoor Comics.”

Wait, that took a turn. Lighthearted and fun, remember?

Let’s just check in and see what the boys are up to, shall we?

After the cancellation of Super Sons, I was surprised to see that a new title launched so quickly, even as a limited series, particularly given that Jon is currently on a cosmic road trip with his mom and his grandpa – or, rather, as has been revealed recently, just his grandpa, apparently. That latter bit led to a fakeout on the first page of the first issue, which featured a full-page image of Jon declaring that he was back. Turning the page, however, revealed that he was “back” from getting ice cream, and an editorial note indicated that the events in this story take place before National Periodicals’ Interstellar Vacation.

This issue opens with the boys imprisoned on a spaceship, captives of some alien kids who call themselves “The Gang.”

The members of The Gang are from a rigidly-ordered society where their only escape from the routine of their lives was observing broadcasts received from Earth, with a focus on the adventures of the heroes and, more to the point, villains that populate that distant backwater planet. Led by the evil Rex Luthor, The Gang has modeled themselves after some of Earth’s villains, taking on identities such as the Shaggy Boy, Kid Deadshot, and, more significantly to the state of the Super Sons as the issue opens, Joker Jr.

It seems that Joker Jr. didn’t choose the homicidal clown life so much as the homicidal clown life chose him. Or rather, Rex chose it for him, using the power of peer pressure to get him to join The Gang. But Joker Jr. wanted out, and towards that end, he helped Robin escape captivity and led him to where Jon was being held prisoner with a device that can simulate the effects of kryptonite.

The issue opens with the not-quite heroic Joker Jr. bravely running away in an escape pod, rationalizing that he’s done all that he can to help, and that even if Robin and Superboy don’t survive, at least he got away.

Or so he thinks, right up until a laser beam fired from a distance by Kid Deadshot cuts his ship in half and he’s sent hurtling unprotected out into the empty vacuum.

Back on the ship, Robin’s attempt at setting Superboy free had an unexpected side-effect. In attempting to change the frequency of the radiation the kryptonite device was generating, Robin accidently switched it from green kryptonite radiation to red.

This leads to an homage to a classic Superman story that was itself an homage to a classic Superman story.

The two Superboys don’t get along especially well, though their existence does throw Rex’s plans – which mostly consisted of killing someone just to make their bones as villains – out of whack, and ultimately does the same to the ship as the conflict onboard ends up taking out the navigation system.

Meanwhile, out in the vastness of space, Joker Jr. isn’t quite dead yet, and manages to activate some sort of force field/invisible spacesuit, just in time for some mysterious passerby to offer him a lift.

With the out-of-control ship about to make a crash-landing on The Gang’s home planet, Rex takes off in an escape pod, and Robin commands the two Superboys – who have been bickering over Blue’s taunting assertion that Red likes Ice Princess, the juvenile equivalent of Captain Cold – to evacuate everyone from the ship, but the two put their differences aside to execute a different plan, stabilizing the ship from the outsides to bring it in for a less catastrophic landing.

Unfortunately, being split in two seems to have halved Superboy’s powers, and Blue gets caught I the wake of the reverse thrusters that Robin fired to assist with the landing and appears to be dying as a result.

Before Robin can use the kryptonite device to try to reverse the effects of the split and restore a single Jon to health, Rex and The Gang show up and destroy it.

All is not quite lost, however, as Joker Jr. and his mysterious rescuer, an obscure character from DC’s past, arrive on the scene.

Space Uber and Space Lyft have seriously cut into his business.

This was a fun little issue, in large part because of the instant dislike that Red and Blue took to each other, and how their attempts at insulting each other really don’t pan out, given that they are each other. It’s a true case of “I know you are, but what am I?”

And, of course, he was telling on himself when he made fun of Red for liking Ice Princess.

Robin, albeit lacking a certain sense of self-awareness, sums things up pretty nicely.

The art has a good storytelling flow, which is impressive, given the story’s frenetic nature, and the slightly cartoony style is a good fit. I particularly like the design on the kid versions of the villains.

Like a said, it was a fun little issue, and there’s value in having fun.

Recommended Reading

There’s plenty of Super Sons material out there. And it’s fun!

That does it for the Spotlight for this week. Be sure to come back next week to see what it shines upon.

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).

Even though it may not feel like there is a reason to do so right now, supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.

*I mean, the two halves of Superboy not getting along is pretty relatable, but I didn’t really want to go down the path of exploring my sense of self-loathing.

Spotlight Sunday 9.30.18

The passing of a legendary artist and the opportunity to support a worthy cause mean that there are spoilers ahead for…

Heroes In Crisis #1
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Cover: Clay Mann
Variant Covers: Ryan Sook, Mark Brooks, J.G. Jones, Francesco Mattina

“Yeah. There’s going to be a fight.”

Before we dive into the issue at hand, I want to comment on the recent passing of artist Norm Breyfogle. For an entire generation of readers, Breyfogle is the definitive Batman artist; his clean, yet slightly surrealist style, with the physics-defying, endlessly swirling cape, and a Dark Knight who always seemed to be couched in shadow no matter the lighting conditions, was uniquely his own, yet evocative of some of the great artists, like Aparo and Marshall, who preceded him.

While he has rightly-earned his place in the pantheon of the greats for his lengthy tenure on the Bat-titles, and I am a fan of what he did in that time, my personal preference is for his work with J.M. DeMatteis on The Spectre, a series in which he upped his already-considerable artistic game.

Breyfogle was the first pro I ever met and got something signed by back when I was in college. I didn’t really speak to him, because I’m an awkward geek, but while I didn’t know him, I’ve long felt a personal connection to him. Not just because I admired his work, but because he was like me.

That is, he’s from where I’m from, or near-enough: Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Further, he and I share an alma mater, though he was a dozen years older, so our paths never crossed, other than at that signing that occurred when he returned to the area for a visit.

In a way, though, they did. In my student job as a janitor, I worked in the Fine Arts building, and during one shift cleaning the drawing studio I happened to see something lying on a shelf at the back of the room that caught my eye. On closer inspection, I realized that it was pages of original art from an issue of Prime, a comic that had recently launched with Norm Breyfogle as the artist. There was a note from Breyfogle explaining that they were a gift to his former teacher, who was still on the faculty at the time and gave instruction in that studio, to thank him helping him achieve his comic book dreams.

It was a very cool experience – though I will say that it was decidedly uncool of the professor to just leave them lying around like that – and is one of my favorite memories of my time at Northern.

The funny thing is that back in high school when I first saw his work on Batman, I had no idea that he was from the area. I didn’t actually find that out until that signing years later, when he was interviewed on the local news for the standard “local boy makes good” story.

(I also learned some time later that my brother, who is only a few years younger than Breyfogle, did know him.)

I had him sign this mini-poster, which was an insert in issue #604 of Detective Comics.

I say “standard,” but the fact of the matter is that there was nothing “standard” about it in that area, because local boys very rarely made good, which is why I wish that I had known that he was a Yooper back when I first discovered his art.

Few will admit it – and it may be that they just don’t see it – but for all the natural beauty of the place I’m from, and the admitted advantages of life in a small (miniscule, practically non-existent) town, growing up there imbues you with a kind of hopelessness, or fatalism. Or rather, it lowers your expectations and stunts your aspirations, in no small part because its very nature – sparsely-populated, remote, economically-depressed, and more often than not buried under snow – limits your opportunities and blinds you to the very existence of opportunities.

As a kid, I had dreams, and hopes, and aspirations, but as far back as I can remember they were always undercut by the suspicion that achieving them was impossible, and that working towards them – really working – was a fruitless endeavor. “Sure,” this small voice inside me would say, “try, but just, you know, don’t try too hard. You’re just some Yooper after all. No one even knows this place exists.”

It’s not my intent to blame my own self-doubts and limitations on the place of my birth, but that little voice was amplified by exceedingly rare examples of any kind of counterargument, and I can’t help but think that if I had known then that someone like me, a Yooper, had gone on to achieve the kind of success I’d longed for…well, things probably wouldn’t have turned out any differently. At least, that’s what that voice tells me.

But it would have been nice to know. To have that source of inspiration.

A hero.

And that’s why the death of someone I didn’t even know has hit me so hard, because even if I was late to discovering it, he was a hero to me.

I’ll wrap things up and get to the comic in a moment, but I want to mention something else. A few years ago, Norm Breyfogle had a stroke, and, as is so common now, crowdfunding efforts arose to meet the costs of his medical care, because, like most comic book creators, Breyfogle was a freelancer, and like so many freelancers, getting by with little or no health insurance.

So I want to mention the Hero Initiative, an organization that works to help comics creators in need. There are lots of ways to help support Hero Initiative, including buying comics signed by their creators. I have several comics in my collection that were signed by writers and artists for the Hero Initiative, and it’s a great way to help heroes who find themselves in crisis.

Which leads us, finally, to the comic at hand.

Tom King is, of course, no stranger to the Spotlight, and one of the aspects of his work that I find so appealing is the unflinching manner in which he uses comics, and the super heroes whose adventures those comics chronicle, to take an unflinching look at issues of mental health and the pervasive impact of physical and emotional trauma.

While that is a clear theme of his work in Mister Miracle, with Heroes In Crisis, that approach to grappling with those issues is front and center and is the very core of the concept.

In order to help the world’s super-heroes work through the trauma and stress of their lives, the Trinity – Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman – established a place called Sanctuary, hidden deep in a location nearly as remote as the place of my birth, a retreat where heroes can get the kind of specialized help that they need.

We open in a diner in Gordon, Nebraska, a place that’s not accustomed to seeing many super-heroes, where Booster Gold is having a cup of coffee. He’s soon joined by Harley Quinn, and we then get a double-page spread splash showing a red blur streaking through the sky over farmlands.

Next we see Harley in the first of the many “confessionals” sprinkled throughout the issue, part of the intake process at Sanctuary.

Back at the diner, Harley enjoys a piece of pie, and makes another confession.

“I hate pudding.”

Superman – the red blur we saw on the splash page – arrives at Sanctuary, where it’s clear, based on the scavenging birds enjoying a bloody feast, that something has gone terribly wrong.

At the diner, Harley finishes her pie and moves on to the real dessert: attacking Booster.

At Sanctuary, Superman discovers the bodies of several minor heroes, and is in contact with Batman and Wonder Woman, who are both en route.

Among the bodies he discovers are those of Arsenal – whose confessional about his struggles with addiction tie the super-hero lifestyle to the real-world opioid epidemic – and Wally West, who only recently returned to continuity as part of the “Rebirth” event.

Harley takes advantage of the fact that Booster doesn’t want to hurt her to hurt him as much as possible, until he finally grabs hold of her and takes to the air, intent on bringing her to justice.

At Sanctuary, the rest of the Trinity arrives, and are shaken by what they see. The dream of Sanctuary, along with the people who were there, is dead.

A message on the wall proclaims “The puddlers are all dead.”

Wonder Woman explains that a “puddler” is someone who works with metal to make weapons, skimming the surface of the molten metal to remove impurities. As to what it means, Batman says it means what it always means.

In the skies above, despite – or because of – the fact that they’ll both fall, Harley stabs Booster, who does what he can to save her life as they fall, and we get a sense of what they were fighting about. The gravely-wounded Booster asserts that he saw Harley kill everyone at Sanctuary, and that he fled in a panic.

Harley, meanwhile, saw Booster kill everyone.

The issue closes with Booster’s confessional.

Crises are a staple of DC stories – fittingly enough, among the comics I have that were signed for Hero Initiative is a complete set of Crisis on Infinite Earths signed by Marv Wolfman and George Perez – and though the nominally final one occurred ten years ago, it’s appropriate for this story, which is more personal than cosmic. Advanced press likened it to Identity Crisis, which no doubt prompted many to give it a pass, but while it’s an apt comparison in a broad sense, it feels very different, at least in this first issue. Yes, there are shocking deaths, and the kind of grittiness and “realism” that can often feel so utterly incongruous in stories about people who put on costumes and beat up criminals, but, particularly knowing the work of King as I do, nothing in it feels like it’s being done merely for shock value, and the weightiness of the subject matter does not feel out of place or an attempt to be edgy.

I’ve talked before about King’s ability to transform the mundane into the mythic and the mythic into the mundane, and that is on full display here, especially in the quiet moments before the violence – the violence we all know is coming – at the diner, and in the confessionals, which, like their counterparts in “reality” TV programming, help us feel a sense of connection with these characters as they seem to speak directly to us.

The fractured approach to telling the story, jumping between scenes with Booster and Harley, scenes featuring the Trinity, and the confessionals, works well building a sense of tension, and mimicking the disorienting effect of trauma. There’s a sense of dread that comes with the slow reveal of the carnage awaiting Superman at Sanctuary, as does seeing the Man of Steel so utterly shaken.

That’s part of what makes comics, and specifically super-hero comics, such a potent medium for telling stories that have heft and impact. Not just the unique features of the form and structure that allow for stories to unfold in a way that’s not possible in any other medium, but in the history, in that shared understanding of mythology. This is an event that left not only Superman and Wonder Woman shaken, but Batman as well.

The art by Clay Mann is stunning, and I’m most impressed by his storytelling in the quiet moments in the diner, which are just as dynamic, in their own way, as the action sequences. His use of body language in the confessionals adds depth to the monologues, and in the pre-fight sequences conveys the impact through Booster’s subdued posture. From that very first page it’s clear that Booster is in shock.

This was originally slated to be a seven-issue mini-series, with two supplemental books – with art by King’s brother in comics, Mitch Gerads – but it was recently expanded to nine, incorporating the tie-ins into the main series. Even though it’s just getting started, I have a feeling that long before the end arrives this story will be regarded as a modern classic.

Recommended Reading


That does it for the Spotlight for this week. Be sure to come back next week to see what it shines upon.

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).

Even though it may not feel like there is a reason to do so right now, supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.

Spotlight Sunday 9.23.18

One of the greatest pages in the history of comics means that there no escape from the spoilers ahead for…

Mister Miracle #11
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Cover: Nick Derrington
Variant Cover: Mitch Gerads
Rated M

“Never underestimate the power of a good veggie tray.”

I considered shining the Spotlight on Thor this week, as the story of the ancient King Thor fighting the Phoenix-possessed Old Man Logan in the far future, with the latter annoyed at the former for bringing back the spark of life on Earth in a dying universe that he wishes would just get on with the dying already, or Buffy, which marked the end of the Dark Horse era, the license is moving on to another as-yet undisclosed publisher.

After all, given that it’s the only remaining Bonus from the days of the long-lost Weigh In, I was going to write at least a little bit about Mister Miracle anyway.

However, none of those other comics has this…

Darkseid is…a bit peckish.

…which earned the full attention of the Spotlight.

On its own, the page is simply great, but it’s that this is in many ways a pivotal scene that ties in directly to the stories denouement and flows naturally from everything that has come before – of course Scott brought a veggie tray to Apokolips, because that’s the sort of thing we’ve learned that Scott does – that makes it so much more than it already is.

Our story begins with Scott and Barda making their preparations for their journey to Apokolips to finalize a peace agreement between the gods, and as is characteristic of this series, that larger-than-life premise is presented in the mundane scenes of ensuring that they’ve packed enough diapers and haven’t forgotten anything that are a familiar experience for any new parents taking a trip.

With teething ring, and stuff Batman, and, of course, the veggie tray in tow, they arrive in the throne room of the silent and impassive Darkseid to make the exchange. DeSaad does all the talking, and he suspects that Scott and Barda are up to something, but there’s nothing to be done other than complete the transfer of custody.

Barda hands little Jacob over to his grandfather, and Darkseid, through DeSaad, calls for the immediate withdrawal of his troops.

There remains only the small matter of the Anti-Life Equation, the knowledge of which would allow Darkseid to assume control over all living beings.

A mere detail.

Being knowledge, it’s not actually something that Darkseid can give up, but in order to effectively put knowledge into practice Darkseid requires the beams of the Omega Effect, which he releases from his eyes.

And you know what the Bible says to do if an eye offends thee..

With that out of the way, all that’s left is for Scott to say goodbye to his son.

“So don’t think about this, buddy. Don’t remember it. Just kind of know…that your father. That I… I love you, Jacob Free.”

This is, of course, part of the escape plan, and Barda busts out a weapon hidden in the bottom of Jacob’s stroller that she hopes will ensure that Darkseid isn’t.

That doesn’t go so well.

I won’t  spoil the ending to this issue, but I will mention that there is a prophecy that states that Darkseid can only be killed by his son. While the assumption has always been that this refers to Orion, throughout the series there has been some question about who the real son of Darkseid is. Biologically, of course, it was Orion, but Orion was raised by Highfather on New Genesis, while Scott was raised on Apokolips. There’s also the small matter of Orion being dead.

The ending here kind of dodges that question, in a very clever way, but also provides something of an answer to the other question that has arisen throughout the story so far: Where and how does this story fit?

As we – and poor Mitch – finally escape from the prison of the uniform nine-panel grid in which we’ve been trapped so long and find ourselves in the wide-open world of a double-page spread, we learn at last that the answer to the where part, apparently, is that…it kind of doesn’t? But in terms of the how part, it might.

“See how it’s done in the next complete issue!”

I will add that, like any good mystery story, KIng has played fair with the reader. While there are surprises contained herein, all of them fit with what we have seen, and nothing comes out of left field.

Beyond simply singling out the comic I enjoy the most in a given week, part of what motivates me in making my Spotlight selection is whether there’s any sort of connecting theme between a given story and the state of my life. This week, I suppose, the theme was looking for a way out. An escape.

Unfortunately, I’m not the world’s greatest escape artist. I don’t really have a position anywhere on any list of great escape artists, so I take what I can get in the form of escapism.

Some people doubt the value of escapism, and sniff haughtily at the very idea of it having any value. Neil Gaiman tells a great story about that value, one which I won’t attempt to – poorly – retell here, but in many ways Mister Miracle brings that story to mind, as Gaiman’s uplifting tale of escape is mired in the horrific details of that from which escape was essential.

But we need those details. We need to have that understanding.

As much as Mister Miracle is an exploration of trauma and its effects, an allegory of escaping from those personal demons, it’s also a super-hero comic book.

It’s pure escapism of the highest sort.

Yes, it’s dark, and often horrifying. It has to be, because what we’re up against is dark and horrifying.

Darkseid is.

Depression is.

Anxiety is.

PTSD is.

Familial dysfunction is.

Sometimes the best approach to facing big problems is to break them down into smaller components. Into, say, nine panels distributed upon a page.

And sometimes the best approach is to make the problems bigger, to turn them into immensely powerful evil gods who mean to rob you of your hope. To make the mundane into the mythic.

Or, as this book so often does, make the mythic into the mundane.

That all of these approaches are taken in various ways – and that it works – is the miracle at the core of this miraculous series, and as we approach the end, I realize that the impact it’s had on me is one that I can’t escape.

Recommended Reading

If you’re not reading stuff by Tom King, and don’t realize by now that I’m always going to recommend that you do so, I don’t know what else to tell you.

That does it for the Spotlight for this week. Be sure to come back next week to see what it shines upon.

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).

Even though it may not feel like there is a reason to do so right now, supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.

Spotlight Sunday 9.16.18

Repeat to yourself, “It’s just a comic; I should really just relax,” because there are spoilers ahead for…

Mystery Science Theater 3000 #1
Writer: Joel Hodgson, Harold Buchholz, Matt McGinnis, Mary Robinson, Seth Robinson, Sharyl Volpe
Artist: Todd Nauck, Mike Manley
Cover: Todd Nauck
Dark Horse

TURN DOWN YOUR LIGHTS (Where applicable)

If you’ve ever read one of my Spotlight Sunday posts, you know that there’s bound to be some rambling anecdote about my youth that is connected – often loosely – to the subject of the post before I ever get around to writing about the subject, and you won’t be surprised to learn that this post is no exception, particularly given that it’s an instance of something that’s been a part of my life for nearly thirty years mingling with something that’s been part of my life for more than forty.

Today’s ramblings take us back to the 1989…but not until after we go back a bit further than that to one evening earlier in the 1980s and a broadcast of the CBS Evening News. I would guess that it was at least 1981, as I believe Dan Rather had taken over as anchor by that time. The news on that particular evening – I was most likely half-watching it while waiting to watch whatever was on after that – had an “in lighter news” kind of segment focusing on what was deemed to be one of the worst movies of all time, a real stinker of a science fiction Grade Z movie from 1953 entitled Robot Monster.

The image of the movies titular monster, a man wearing a gorilla costume and an old-fashioned diver’s helmet with rabbit ear antennas on top of it and a clay mask behind the helmet’s glass that was apparently intended to look like a skull (it didn’t), burned its way into my memory, and was still in place however many years later when 1989 rolled around.

Then, as now, I didn’t really watch a lot of TV. We had gotten a satellite dish a couple of years earlier – the big, old-fashioned kind – so there finally more options than just the one channel we could consistently pull in with our old antenna, but we had also just moved back into the house after completing the post-fire renovations, and I had moved into my moody teen years, and for the first time in a long time I had an actual room of my own, one that I didn’t have to share with one or both of my brothers, and that wasn’t a tiny claustrophobic space like my room in the trailer we’d been living in.

My room had my books, my comics, my drawing table, and my music; why did I need TV?

Still, one Saturday afternoon found me with the house to myself, and I decided to turn on the TV to see what was on. I tuned in to the Comedy Channel – this was in the days before comedy was centralized – thinking that maybe one of the Monty Python movies would be on or something, and there, on the screen, was the be-helmeted gorilla I recalled from years earlier.

“Hey,” I said to myself, “it’s that movie!”

But it wasn’t just the movie; there were people talking over it, making jokes and funny comments about what was happening on screen. I immediately twigged to the basic concept, but I was confused about the weird little silhouettes at the bottom of the screen.

I had, of course, stumbled upon Mystery Science Theater 3000, but given that I was catching the tail-end – literally: it was the bit in the movie with the stock footage of lizards fighting each other, or as Crow T. Robot (I later learned) put it, “Gecko-Roman wrestling” – so I hadn’t caught the helpfully-expository opening credits.

Still, I was instantly hooked, and became a regular viewer for years to come. (Although there was the dark period in my life – in college, mostly – during which I didn’t get to see it, because the Comedy Channel/Comedy Central wasn’t part of any cable package where I lived.)

While I may not be the most devoted fan, I’ve seen most of the “experiments,” and have followed it to its various homes on its path from the Comedy Channel to Netflix, and now to…comics?

It’s a strange proposition indeed, but, I would contend, no stranger than my initial, contextless exposure to the show all those years ago.

So how well does it make the transition from screen to page? That’s what we’re here to find out, isn’t it?

(Sirens and flashing lights) WE’VE GOT COMICS SIGN!

First, the set-up, which is helpfully explained, albeit without the catchy tune, as the comic opens. Kinga Forrester has developed a method to allow people – and bots – to experience being inside a comic book, thanks to her “Bubulat-r.”

After performing her test run with her assistant Max – AKA TV’s Son of TV’s Frank – Kinga sends the bubbles up to the Satellite of Love to trap Jonah and the bots in the comic Johnny Jason, Teen Reporter, a comic from the 1960s put out by the long-defunct publisher Dell, that is in the public domain.

While Jonah and the others attempt, in vain, to avoid capture, Tom Servo wants to be in the comic, and dives on in.

Once inside, he takes on the role of the protagonist – the original art is modified so that Tom’s head is on Johnny’s body – and it becomes Tom Servo, Teen Reporter.

Gypsy, M. Waverly, and Growler land in different parts of the comic, but we don’t see where Jonah and Crow end up.

The story of the comic within the comic opens with a failed attempt at kidnapping a young starlet, which many believe was merely a publicity stunt. Tom, as a teen reporter, is tasked with finding the truth, and heads to the young starlet’s ranch to get to the bottom of it.

While visiting the ranch, Tom runs afoul of the ranch foreman, who is obviously jealous of the gumball-machine-headed reporter, but later becomes the life of the swingin’ teen party that breaks out that evening – at least he does after Kinga and Max pop in as part of the “ad trap” to incorporate their Totino’s Pizza Roll sponsorship to replace Tom’s head with a bowl filled with delicious Pizza Rolls – but runs afoul of someone once again.

After coming out on top in that altercation, it’s clear that the starlet is quite fond of Tom, and Tom is pleased that things are finally going his way.

Throughout the comic, a quick shot of a bot gives you a clue as to who’s doing the riffing, though there are still times during which it’s unclear who’s saying what, given that Tom himself is injecting his own commentary.

Still, it’s a fun idea, and a clever conceit for riffing a comic story, which has an obvious appeal for someone like me who is a fan of both comics and smartass commentary, and there is a lot to comment on in any given comic, between the story, the dialogue, the art, and comic book storytelling-conventions.

It would be fun to see this continue beyond the initial mini-series and expand to include crossovers with some of the bigger publishers. Imagine the possibilities of adding some riffing commentary to classic comics.

There’s not too much to say about the art – and the comic itself says some of those things – but the original comic has the perfectly-competent, if bland, style of the comics of its era, Todd Nauck handles the host segment art characteristically well, and Mike Manley inserts the new elements into the existing comic art as seamlessly as possible. I also like that the printing creates the illusion of aging and yellowing, even though the comic is printed on relatively high-quality glossy paper.

The one weakness of the format is that if a joke doesn’t land it just sits there on the page, not as readily-forgotten as it might be with the dynamic flow of movie riffing. Fortunately, there aren’t too many instances of that.

Overall, it was a fun little comic, I look forward to seeing what comes next and finding out where Jonah and Crow ended up, and it’s something to tide fans over until the new season drops.

You can check out the ashcan preview of the comic for yourself by following the link in the issue details above.

What do you think, sirs?

Recommended Reading Watching

That does it for the Spotlight for this week. Be sure to come back next week to see what it shines upon.

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).

Even though it may not feel like there is a reason to do so right now, supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.

You can follow OpenDoor Comics on social media, too, and also be sure to share links to post.

In other words, keep circulating the links.

Spotlight Sunday 9.9.18

My tendency to pick first issues and my fondness for a certain Norse goddess mean that there are spoilers ahead for…

Asgardians of the Galaxy #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Matteo Lolli
Cover: Dale Keown
Rated T+

“It beats Hel.”

In my most recent Spotlight post about Thor, I mentioned that I was interested in seeing what Jason Aaron would do with Valkyrie, as she is a personal favorite of mine. I did so having forgotten – despite the fact that there was an ad for this comic in that comic – that Val would be popping up in a book not written by Jason Aaron.


Then again, it’s not like she can’t appear in Thor…

It’s been a while since I’ve read anything in which Val has appeared – not counting her alternate universe version in Exiles – so I wasn’t up-to-date on her current circumstances, circumstances that are somewhat like the circumstances of her earliest days in the comics.

For quite some time, Brunnhilde the Valkyrie’s spirit was separated from her body and was being controlled by Amora, the Enchantress, who would periodically place Brunnhilde’s spirit into a host body that would transform to take on the Valkyrie’s powers and appearance. For quite some time, Val occupied the transformed body of a mortal woman named Barbara Norris, eventually being restored to her own body after the body of Norris died, and then her body was turned to ash, and her spirit was transported into another host body, and then she and all of the other Asgardians died.

After being restored once again, she eventually ended up in the state in which we find her now…which we’ll get to in a minute.

Not really being up on things that have happened in most Marvel comics over the past decade or so is a common theme for me when it comes to this comic, which ties in to Infinity Wars, which I haven’t been reading, and features characters with whom I’m only vaguely familiar in some cases, and not at all familiar with in others.

It starts out at some unspecified point in the recent past with two of the latter, a woman named Annabelle Riggs, a human archaeologist, and her girlfriend, an Inhuman named Ren Kimura. The two are enjoying a lovely – and, we learn, all-too rare – day together, and Annabelle is clearly about to ask Ren a very important question.

Annabelle is whisked away, and we skip from then to now, finding the rest of the Angela-assembled team on some faraway world engaging in battle with various alien menaces as Annabelle attempts to read the runes on a container to discover what their as-yet unnamed opponent had come to this planet to find.

As a troll moves in for the kill on a distracted Annabelle, we learn – although people who, unlike me, have been reading all of the other stuff already know – that there is more to Annabelle than her archaeological skills. Annabelle, it seems, has something of a timeshare arrangement with the Valkyrie, who takes over and enters the fray, in the process accidentally smashing the container.

In addition to Val/Annabelle, Angela, and the Destroyer (being controlled by an unknown pilot), the rest of the team consists of Skurge the Executioner, whom we last saw in Hel, Thunderstrike, the son of Eric Masterson (who had been Thor for a time), who wields his late father’s enchanted mace, and…

KORG, NO! Oh, never mind, that’s not Korg. No, I’m not racist for thinking that all Kronans look the same! They just do; they’re stone men!

Throg wields a hammer made from a shard of Mjolnir, and is a character who ultimately emerged from the classic storyline during Walter Simonson’s iconic run in which the Odinson had been transformed into a frog by Loki. (That wasn’t just a throwaway gag in the movie.)

We jump back in time again to shortly after Annabelle was “recruited” and find the team aboard a ship, powered by a fragment of the Rainbow Bridge, and learn that there are secrets that Angela is keeping about who’s behind this team she’s put together and what it is they’re supposed to be doing.

The discussion is interrupted by the autopilot disengaging as they reach their destination and are greeted by the site of dead Dwarves from Nidavellir floating in space, their bodies chained together, and all of their fingernails removed.

They beam down to the planet below, and that brings us nearly back to the present, where it’s revealed that their enemy is Nebula, looking much more like the movie version than I ever knew her to look in the comics.

Having gotten what she came for, Nebula, with the help of the axe provided her by the Dwarf which can cleave through dimensions in the same way that Skurge’s axe can, she takes her leave, and we find ourselves back in the now.

With their leader gone and having been routed by the Asgardian and Asgardian-adjacent members of Angela’s team, Nebula’s forces decide that cheesing it is the better part of valor.

Val takes her leave as well, transforming back into Annabelle so that the mortal woman may resume looking at the runes on the ruins of the reliquary that contained the strange horn that Nebula absconded with.

Before doing so, she asks Skurge not to tell Annabelle that she was the one who broke the reliquary.

“I tried to stop Valkyrie from destroying the stone. Alas, she was lost to a berserker fury.”

Annabelle discovers that the horn relates to the Nagflar, the Ship of the Dead, built from the fingernails of the dead.

And not just one ship, an entire armada.

It gets worse from there.

Ragnarok is a cycle of death and rebirth for the gods, but when they’re reborn, they get new bodies. Their old bodies remain as lifeless husks, waiting aboard their Nagflars for someone to take command and lead them in battle to inflict the pain and torment they’ve known in death onto mortals through the power of the horn that Nebula just absconded with.

Even worse, Asgardians don’t have a monopoly on Ragnarok. There are countless gods throughout the cosmos who have gone through their own cycles of death and rebirth countless times.

As Annabelle tells the others aboard the ship what she’s learned, and speculates about how many other similarly-shameful secrets the gods have kept throughout the ages, we see Angela discussing their next move with the mysterious pilot of the Destroyer, who is also her mysterious benefactor:

My name is Kiiiiiiiiiidddd…KID LOKI!
(Hey, at least I didn’t go with “Kid Ragnarok.”)

Given that there are so many Marvel books that I haven’t read, reading this one will likely require a lot of diving into Wikis, but I am at least passingly-familiar with everyone involved, so that makes it a bit less of a daunting task for a book that draws heavily from a deep bench of obscure, minor characters with convoluted backstories.

I’m probably least familiar with Angela, at least in this incarnation, who has an especially convoluted backstory both in fiction and in real life. Co-created by Neil Gaiman, Angela first appeared in Todd McFarlane’s Spawn. The rights to the character ended up with Marvel as part of a tangled legal case that involved not only the rights to Angela but also the rights to Miracleman (or Marvelman, as he’s known outside the US), which also ended up in Marvel’s possession.

Once brought in to the Marvel Universe, she was revealed to be the daughter of Odin and Freyja, and her introduction brought with it the revelation of a heretofore-unknown tenth realm, a place called Heven.

It’s all…well, you can’t spell complicated without comic (books).

Still, Bunn does a good job of letting you know what you immediately need to know, and the fractured, non-linear approach to the story keeps what might otherwise be an exposition-heavy infodump interesting and entertaining.

I’m generally not a fan of the body sharing trope – and honestly, what would be so bad about letting Val just have her own body? – but there is a bit of a twist on this implementation, in that prior to sharing a body Val and Annabelle had been an item, so I imagine that Annabelle has moved on and found new love will lead to some kind of tension.

(Unless, of course, that’s already been dealt with in some of those comics I haven’t read.)

I’m not familiar with Lolli, but while I like the art overall – it’s reminiscent of Marc Silvestri or Whilce Portacio – there are places in which the inking seems a bit too loose, and others where it’s a bit too clumpy.

The coloring by Federico Blee seems oddly retro, in a way, harkening back to the earliest days of digital production, and in combination with those loose/clumped inks, the whole thing looks a bit rushed.

(I say this from my own experience with inking and coloring in a hurry.)

If it were up to me, given the tone of the book and the cast of characters, Art Adams would be handling the art chores. It’s a good fit for his style, and I have a fondness for the way he draws Asgardians in general and Valkyrie in particular.

The trend of attempting to create some alignment with the movies continues here, with Nebula’s movie look – though here they retain the original granddaughter of Thanos identification – and with the scene with the slaughtered Dwarves.

It’s an auspicious – if uneven – start, and it’s enough to prompt me to pick up the next issue, though we’ll give it a couple of more issues to see whether I ultimately add it to my pull list as floppies or trade-wait.

Recommended Reading

The Simonson run on Thor, which includes the original “Frog of Thunder” storyline.

(I will never not recommend the Simonson run.)

That does it for the Spotlight for this week. Be sure to come back next week to see what it shines upon.

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).

Even though it may not feel like there is a reason to do so right now, supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.

Spotlight Sunday 9.2.18

The merry-go-round broke down, which means there are spoilers ahead for…

Harley Quinn/Gossamer Special #1
Writer: Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Sholly Fisch
Artist: Pier Brito, David Alvarez
Cover: Amanda Conner
Rated T

“Why is someone out ta get ya? Are you somebody’s pet or somethin’? Maybe a government experiment fer hair growth of aging, bald, white guys? An iconic cartoon character that no one can remember the name of?”

DC continues its series of crossover specials featuring Looney Tunes characters on the loose in the DC Universe, adding some additional pairings to last year’s roster.

I haven’t read all of them – I did two last year and two this year – but this is the first I’ve read that didn’t require a major tonal shift or change in design to fit a cartoon character into a comic book universe, which is an advantage to pairing up with Harley Quinn.

I haven’t been reading her regular series, but I have picked up a few specials here and there, so I know that the tone is generally lightly humorous with some darkness around the edges, and a focus on Harley’s nature as an agent of chaos, a nature she shares with a certain carrot-chomping rabbit.

While Gossamer is rendered at least somewhat more realistically here – inasmuch as a giant hairy monster can be – there isn’t the kind of significant overhaul to his look that some of the other Looney Tunes have gone through as they stepped into the DC Universe.

Our story begins with Harley and Ivy enjoying a day at the beach while they can; Ivy has to head back to Gotham, and Harley needs to prepare for an oncoming hurricane.

Harley tries to convince Ivy to stay and help her ride out the storm, but to no avail, and they part on a fourth-wall-breaking meta-joke about DC’s upcoming line of more adult fare.

…okay, there are some tonal shifts from cartoons, though plenty of media intended for kids contain innuendoes and the occasional double entendre designed to appeal to older audiences. In this book, it’s more a difference of degree than kind, though as you’ll see, the degree is pretty extremen.

In any case, after sleeping through the worst of it, Harley heads out to survey the damage, stumbling upon a large crate that washed up on the shore. She opens it to find Gossamer, and, being Harley, is delighted and not the least bit afraid.

She immediately befriends the monster and brings him around to meet her friends, so they can all get together for breakfast.

Harley takes him shopping for some shoes, and happens to find a place that put in a special order for size eighteens that never got picked up, and from there it’s back to her place where she proceeds to clean him up and attempts to give him a bit of a makeover, complete with some allusions to Gossamer’s iconic cartoon appearances with Bugs, and some more jokes that kids won’t get and that I’m surprised the DC censors let her get away with.

Their fun is interrupted by a giant robot that grabs hold of Gossamer, and which has a familiar smile painted on its face.

Harley and friends manage to take it down, but Harley decides that the Joker must be behind it all and decides to head to Gotham to have it out with him.

(Gossamer, meanwhile, just happily goes with the flow.)

After fruitlessly inquiring about Mistah J’s whereabouts among Batman’s rogues, she stops in to visit Ivy, who does know where the Joker can be found.

Where indeed?

We find the Joker doing that thing he does, which is to say dangling a chained-up Batman over a huge vat of acid.

Harley and Gossamer interrupt the Joker’s fun, and while the Joker denies being behind the giant robot, Harley refuses to believe him.

“Flaky fruit tart?” Is this one of the old Hostess® ads?

The fight is interrupted by the return of the giant robot, which grabs Batman and Joker and tosses them away before grabbing – and swallowing – Harley and Gossamer.

It finally dawns on Harley that maybe this never had anything to do with her, and that the robot was sent to retrieve Gossamer.

They arrive at the home of the scientist who created Gossamer – modelled after the scientist from Gossamer’s second appearance in “Water, Water Every Hare” – who explains that he and his beloved Gossamer were going on vacation and taking a trip to Italy, but Gossamer couldn’t get on a plan, as he lacks a birth certificate and was therefore ineligible for a passport, so they travelled on a cargo ship, with Gossamer as cargo. The ship sank during the hurricane, and so the scientist sent out his robots in search of his lost creation.

As a reward for Harley keeping Gossamer safe(ish), the scientist offers Harley a potion that will give her super powers for a week. Gossamer and Harley say their tearful goodbyes as he and the scientist climb into the robot to fly away for their interrupted vacation. The robot doesn’t have enough fuel to make it to Italy, but Miami is doable.

Before leaving, the scientist arranged for his driver to take Harley home, and on the way, she engages in some meta-musings about what she should do with the powers that the potion will give her.

While it’s clear to us who the driver is based on the way he talks, it all ends on a mysterious note for Harley, as she still has no idea who painted the robot to look like Mistah J.

Yes. Yes, you are.

As is the case with all of the Looney Tunes crossovers, the book is rounded out by a shorter back-up story, by Sholly Fisch and David Alvarez, that flips things around and presents the DC character in a format that is more like Looney Tunes, as we find a decidedly more cartoony Harley on the lam and in search of a place to lay low for a while.

She spots a spooky old castle and what she thinks is the silhouette of her old pal Hugo Strange and heads towards it in hopes of gaining safe haven for the night.

Instead, she stumbles upon the home of the mad scientist and Gossamer. The scientist doesn’t appreciate the interruption, and orders Gossamer to rid him of this pest, but Harley channels her inner bugs and Gossamer is amused by her antics, and so the story takes a turn as the scientist attempts to win back Gossamer’s affection.

The scientist engages in the study of the science of humor, but all of his attempts fall flat until he discovers that Gossamer is primarily amused by slapstick and by things – literally – blowing up in the scientist’s face. And so, after assenting to taking some pies and seltzer water to the face, and anvils to the head, the natural order of things are restored. Sort of.

This was a fun little diversion that, as Harley noted, marked the temporary return of husband and wife team Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner to working on Harley after recently ending their popular run on her regular title. Personally, I would have liked to have seen Conner handling the art chores on it, but she doesn’t seem to do a lot of interiors these days, which is a shame.

Not that I have any real complaints about the art. It was fine, and a good fit for the story, and I liked the style in which Gossamer was rendered, maintaining a certain cartoonishness that didn’t seem out of place with his surroundings.

I also liked the art on the back-up story, which was an update of the classic Looney Tunes style that worked well in a print medium.

Obviously, despite the presence of cartoon characters, this wasn’t really kid stuff, which has been the case with most of these crossovers. Last year’s Batman/Elmer Fudd, for example, was a pretty dark story, though that’s not really surprising, given that it was written by Tom King. Then again, almost any story featuring Elmer Fudd is generally pretty dark if you think about it. I mean, he’s usually trying to murder the story’s main character. For fun. (Also, as a kid, the whole “Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit, KILL THE WABBIT!” bit in What’s Opera, Doc? was kind of terrifying and traumatizing.)

My pulse isn’t really on the thumb of what the kids are into these days – do they still say “into?” – so I don’t really know what the current level of popularity is for the Looney Tunes cast of characters, but given that even the kids who loved Space Jam when it came out have been adults for a while already, I suspect that their appeal is more nostalgic than current, so it makes sense to have a little bit more in the way of adult fun with these crossovers.

And while the adult humor was a tad more salacious than what could be found in the classic cartoons – some carryovers from her regular series are the smutty details of the pets that Harley keeps, such as her wiener (dog), Nathan, her cock, Mike, and her beaver, which she always takes with her* – they really seem more like modern-day equivalents of the kind of things the old cartoons got away with in their own time.

Of the two DC/Looney Tunes crossovers I picked up, I chose to write about this one because I enjoyed it more, even though the other was written by Gail. Honestly, I’ve always kind of hated Tweety – and Gail didn’t really make him any more likeable – and my favorite Sylvester shorts were always the ones with him and his son.

Besides, while I don’t read her regular series, I do have a fondness for Harley, and I haven’t had a chance to write about her misadventures so far. While the story took a different path than one might have anticipated, Harley was a good pairing for Gossamer, as she is, more-or-less, the DCU equivalent of Bugs Bunny.

Recommended Reading:

Conner and Palmiotti!

That does it for the Spotlight for this week. Be sure to come back next week to see what it shines upon.

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).

Even though it may not feel like there is a reason to do so right now, supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.

*Stuffed. His name is Bernie.

Spotlight Sunday 8.26.18

Some thoughts on the nature of comic book storytelling and an interest in checking in on how things are going mean that that there are spoilers ahead for…

Action Comics #1002
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Patrick Gleason
Cover: Patrick Gleason
Rated T

“Up in the sky!”
“Oh look! Tourists!”

Between Action and Superman, Bendis is now four issues into his post-debut regular run, so I thought it was worth taking a look at how things are going.

Before I get into that, I will, of course, take a bit of a detour and discuss something seemingly unrelated, because that’s the kind of thing I do here.

As a young comic book reader, like so many others both young and old, I really liked The Uncanny X-Men. In the period during which I was reading the series, there were many different artists who worked on it for stints of various lengths, such as Dave Cockrum, Paul Smith, John Romita, Jr., and Barry Windsor-Smith, so while at any given time you were likely to find a good, fan-favorite artist working on it, the only real constant, and I would say the driving force for the book’s enduring popularity, was writer Chris Claremont.

I stopped reading the X-Men titles – by that time there were two – not long after Claremont left, but long before that I had found that my enjoyment of the series had waned. Part of it was due to my own changing tastes and personal growth, part of it was due to a loss of interest in the narrative and to some of the storytelling trends that were developing in mainstream comics, but mostly it was what I’ll call the Claremontisms.

These were some of the tics that Claremont had as a writer, a combination of recurring themes, dangling sub-plots that often seemed to go nowhere, and, more than anything, the dialogue.

Even in the early days of reading, I found certain aspects off-putting, such as the tendency for people to use expressions that no else in real life or in other media uses, and for one person to always insert the name of whoever they were speaking to into a parenthetical.

Sometimes it would be an insult rather than a name, as with…

“The phrase, dunce, is ‘fer shure.’”

…but it always followed the same pattern.

Or hey, how about this gem:

“You should’ve let him splat – serve the rude, crude, nasty boy proper ‘n right!”

In fairness, some of the tics served expository purposes intended to bring new readers up to speed, which is why we got so many reminders that Psylocke’s Psychic Knife was the focused totality of her telepathic powers, but as a long-time reader the cumulative effect just wore me down.

All writers have their tics – I certainly have plenty of my own – but some are more noticeable than others, and some have a greater impact on the reader, to the extent that the writer comes to be defined by them.

Claremont is one such writer.

Bendis is another.

But here’s the thing. When it comes to writing comics, Claremont was an absolute master of the craft. Despite everything else, he knew how to get to the emotional core of a character and knew how best to take advantage of the storytelling form.

Writing comics comes with a unique set of challenges and opportunities, and the best writers know how to work around and with them.

Throughout his career, Bendis has demonstrated such a mastery of the craft, and it’s why he’s become the fan-favorite comics superstar that he is, and why, as I mentioned in the Spotlight post on The Man of Steel, his defection to DC was such a big deal.

But…just as Claremont is Claremont, Bendis is…Bendis.

With Claremont, characters spoke in a way that was unlike the way anyone spoke, but with Bendis, characters all speak the same way, and it’s the one area in which he is less-than proficient in his mastery of his chosen medium.

Bendis dialogue is undoubtedly more naturalistic than anything Claremont ever wrote, and while the sardonic tone and cutting wit can be kind of charming and entertaining – see the opening quote – it seems, as others have noted, to be written for the stage rather than the page.

Read aloud, by actors, his dialogue would likely have more pop, and the different voices and intonations would help to alleviate the flatness and sameness that it has in print.

But this isn’t the stage, it’s the page, so we’re left with that flatness and sameness, no matter how hard we might try to give it more life and distinctiveness with our own internal voices.

With all that said, there much to recommend his work with Superman so far; Bendis has demonstrated that he as a clear understanding of the core of who Superman is, particularly in his most recent issue of Superman in which the Action Ace provides – via voiceover monologue – an explanation for how he retains his sanity despite being able hear every scream, every cry for help, and to see every disaster, every atrocity around the world. Like Mr. Rogers, he does the Superman equivalent of looking for the helpers.

It was a great bit and provided a clear and true insight into the nature of Superman.

Hey, wasn’t I supposed to be writing something about Action Comics here? Oh, yeah, I was.

The issue opens on the busy streets of Metropolis and the tourist look up to see the kind of sight that jaded Metropolitans have learned to ignore over the years, as up, in the sky, they see neither bird nor plane, but Superman…dropping a man to his death?

That’s the story according to new City Beat reporter Robinson Goode, at any rate, the one running on the front page of The Daily Planet.

Or it would be, if not for Perry pointing out that it was impossible, not simply because it’s not the sort of thing Superman does, but because it’s something that Superman couldn’t have done, given that he was in Coast City with the Justice League when the man – a low-level crook known as Yogurt – fell from the sky.

Last issue we learned that the accusation that Superman had been starting the fires plaguing the city resulted from the real culprit – who just so happens to have been Yogurt – paying the kid who made the accusation to do so.

This leads Perry to instruct Miss Goode to scrap her already-debunked story and go out and find the real story of what’s going on with these clumsy attempts at framing Superman.

Meanwhile, as he reveals he often had Lois do with Clark’s stories, Perry tells Clark to pursue the same story from a different angle, to see if he can find something that Goode is missing.

Last issue we also got a look at how organized crime operates in Metropolis, with a network of mobsters who meet in giant, sound-proof lead tank, and pay someone to keep an eye on the skies to determine whether the Big Red S is in town.

In this issue – in a scene that will be edited to remove the use of the word “autistic” as a slur in future printings – we see one of those mobsters calling in to check on Superman’s status and learning that yes, he is on his way out of town.

Whatever plans he had next come to a halt, however, thanks to the intervention of the Guardian, who Bendis seems to be merging with Gangbuster, given that the shield-carrying hero proves to be considerably more vicious – and unhinged – than Jim Harper has ever been shown to be in the past.

Guardian is very unhappy with the mobster – Boss Moxie – not only for starting fires in his city, but also for dropping dead bodies from the sky and traumatizing children.

Before Guardian can do whatever he’s planning, however, he meets a new villain we met last issue, the person who actually did drop Yogurt from the sky, Red Cloud, who is a sentient…well, red cloud.

Cut to the hospital where Maggie Sawyer and team are visiting the room in which the Guardian has ended up. He’s in rough shape, though Boss Moxie is even worse shape, having ended up in the morgue.

The initial thought is that Guardian went over the edge and killed Moxie, but the signs point to someone else, as there’s no indication that the Guardian laid a hand on him.

Barely conscious, and through gritted teeth, Guardian warns Maggie of “Rrdd! Cloudd!”

Meanwhile, Clark heads to a bar where the friends of Yogurt are gathered to mourn their lost friend.

He learns that Yogurt was the Firestarter – though he didn’t start all the fires – and that that whole point of the fires was simply to distract Superman so that he couldn’t interfere with other crimes the crooks were committing. He reports that information back to Perry, who is disgusted by the crooks’ complete indifference to the lives they put in danger just for the sake of keeping Superman distracted.

“That is some Gotham City level psychotic sociopathic nightmare. If I were Superman, I would fold this entire city up into a quesadilla.”

Instead, Superman takes his frustrations out on the asteroid belt.

Back at the Planet, Cat Grant stops by for a visit, and lets Clark in a secret that she didn’t know was a secret: Lois has finished her book.

Wait, what?

Yes, that’s right; last issue we learned that Lois is back from her jaunt into space, but left Clark in the dark about that fact.

Elsewhere, we see that Miss Goode is working with the mob, and she has one small request:

Got a pocketful of…

We get a little background on the person in charge who is “always listening,” and is a she; presumably it’s Red Cloud, about whom the only thing we do know is that in human form the cloud is a woman.

The employer says she will see what she can do about fulfilling Miss Goode’s request.

There is also some discussion about a certain reporter – whose name they don’t say out loud, for obvious reasons – who, as Miss Goode notes, seems to have a certain someone wrapped around her finger.

This leads us into the final page in which we see a woman out walking the streets with her carryout order looking up at the sky and then trying, and failing, given who she is trying to hide from, to be inconspicuous.

And so we end with another mystery, along with the mystery of “Who is Red Cloud?”

One thing I’ve noted so far in the regular run is that the mysteries don’t seem to endure for too long – the cliffhanger ending of The Man of Steel in which Superman was accused of starting the fires was resolved right away, and the attempt at framing Superman for the murder of Yogurt was resolved immediately, just as the attempt at framing the Guardian was resolved immediately.

(Per some house ad copy, the Red Cloud identity will remain mysterious for two more issues, anyway.)

I’m sure there’s some reasonable-ish explanation for Lois not telling Clark she was back – she wanted to isolate herself to work on the book would be my guess, though that doesn’t tell us where Jon is – but that will nevertheless lead to some drama, as will the continuing issue of the financial problems at The Daily Planet and the snooping around of Miss Goode.

There are a lot of little elements I like that Bendis has introduced, such as the various ways in which criminals try to operate in a city occupied by a living panopticon. It’s mostly things that others have touched upon, but that’s bound to happen with a character who’s been around for eight decades, but there’s still a lot of narrative potential to mine from the idea.

Of course, as I continue to say, Bendis is Bendis, so for every bit that I like, and every example of his mastery of the craft, there are things like this:

*gritting of teeth intensifies*

It’s interesting that he’s given Perry so much time in the *ahem* spotlight, but I don’t think he quite has a handle on the character, and while there are attempts to give him his own voice, well…you know who is you know who.

Patrick Gleason does solid work, and provides a sense of continuity, as he’s been on art duty for many of the Metropolis Marvel’s adventures over the past few years.

Overall, the Bendis run is going better than I’d expected, and that ability to reach the emotional core of the character is serving him well enough to get me to overcome my resistance to some of the other elements of his work.

I like the idea – at least, the idea as it exists in my head – that there’s sort of a war of attrition with these clumsy attempts at framing the heroes. Granted, Yogurt was killed because his attempt at deflecting attention by framing Superman for the fires served as something of a Streisand Effect, but I think the remaining members of the mob have come to see some value in it, realizing that over time, the public may lose some of its skepticism as the accusations continue to pile up. I’m not certain that’s where things are headed, but if they are, it’s a solid approach, and would lend a certain verisimilitude to the narrative.

Whatever the case, I’m sticking around for the foreseeable future.

Recommended Reading:

Something a little different this time. I’ve been reading this book and enjoying it a great deal. You might like it, too.

Comic Book Implosion: An Oral History of DC Comics Circa 1978

It’s an interesting look – from multiple perspectives – and a pivotal point in comic book history, with lots of insider information on some of the inner workings and interpersonal dynamics that provides a lot of detail on the stories behind the stories.

That does it for the Spotlight for this week. Be sure to come back next week to see what it shines upon.

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).

Even though it may not feel like there is a reason to do so right now, supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.

Spotlight Sunday 8.19.18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before Loki leaves…
After Loki leaves. Awww….

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

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

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

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

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

You’re a good boy, Thori.

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

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

Relationships are Hel, amirite?

Recommended Reading:

Jason Aaron!

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

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

Even though it may not feel like there is a reason to do so right now, supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.