The High Five Episode 8 – Quick Hit Intros To Wonder Woman

Happy Women’s Month everyone! To celebrate, I’m reflecting on one of my all-time favorite comic characters Wonder Woman! In this episode, I offer up a handful of quick hit Wonder Woman comics and graphic novels meant to usher any and all curious about the character into the wonderful world of comics!

I mentioned a few things I’ve written in the episode as well. If you’re curious, here’s the link for the Fandom Wonder Woman 1984 piece I worked on as well as the Colleen Doran CBR interview I did with her about A Distant Soil back in 2013. Oh and in the gallery above you can see the Mike Deodato Artemis sketch I mentioned!

Halloween Scene: Astro City Confession

When I first began kicking around ideas for Halloween-y books to pull off my shelves and read this season, Astro City: Confession popped into my mind almost instantly. However, when I went to said shelf, I was surprised to see that this was one of two volumes from the series’ early run that I didn’t have. To Amazon I went and now I’ve got a nice hardcover version from DC’s sadly defunct Vertigo imprint. I’m not sure it’s possible to really talk about this book without getting into spoilers, so consider yourself warned and go out and read all of the Astro City you can find!

Continue reading Halloween Scene: Astro City Confession

Trade Post: Marvels, Atlas Volume 1 & Gotham By Gaslight

marvels Marvels (Marvel)
Written by Kurt Busiek, painted by Alex Ross
Collects Marvels #0-4

Going into last weekend, I pulled out a random sampling of mostly one-off trades that I wanted to make my way through this weekend. Some I had experience with, others were brand new to me. I’m splitting the experience between two posts, but here’s how the first three went over.

When I was a kid in the early-to-mid 90s Alex Ross blew everyone’s mind in comics. He might not have been the first guy to paint comic books, but he seemed like it to me at the time. His figures were so iconic and classical looking that you just couldn’t help but pour over his pages. The fact that he and the writers he worked with liked hiding pop culture easter eggs throughout the panels also helped. Kingdom Come was the first book of his I read and it blew me away. I even picked up his next work, Uncle Sam, which I didn’t understand at the time, but definitely want to dig out of my longboxes when I have access to them. I did eventually pick up the four issues of Marvels at a garage sale where a woman was selling off her son’s collection for a buck a book.

I don’t actually remember much about that original reading experience, but I can imagine it was pretty revelatory to me. I was a hardcore DC guy growing up, so my main exposure to the Marvel U was through trading cards, action figure bios, pieces in Wizard and cartoons. At the time, I was a novice when it came to Marvel’s Golden and Silver Age history which we see through the literal lens of photographer Phil Sheldon. He’s there from the beginning, when the original android Human Torch first gets shown off to a suspicious crowd and, as a NYC journalist, sees the beginnings of the superhero world and the way people react to what he labeled Marvels.

Unfortunately, the story wasn’t nearly as fresh this time around. I’ve read a ton of Marvel comics in the meantime and even a few books about the company, so the big action scenes are pretty well-worn for me even if they were presented by Ross in his heyday. I know that’s not what the book is ABOUT, but it is what drives things forward. I appreciate the man-on-the-street perspective that Busiek uses with Sheldon, especially the way his opinions of the “mutant menace” evolves, but I felt like he did all this much better in Astro City (a complaint I realized I also had when reading Busiek’s Web of Spider-Man #81). It’s interesting to see how the writer has wanted to work with specific themes throughout his career, tried them out with Marvel books, but, in my opinion at least, was really able to nail them down in his creator-owned book.

I can’t move on without talking about Ross’s art in this book. It’s as big and bold as you’d expect, though far less pastel than you might expect if you’re more of a recent fan. You can also tell, though, that this is the guy who will evolve into the Kingdom Come painter. The characters here seem a bit lighter and less dense than they do in KC, which is still one of my all time favorites and I’ve got the itch to read it again, so look for that review soon.

atlas return of the three dimensional man Atlas: Return Of The Three Dimensional Man (Marvel)
Written by Jeff Parker, drawn by Gabriel Hardman, Giancarlo Caracuzzo, Ramon Rosanas & Parker
Collects Assault On New Olympus Prologue, Incredible Hercules (back-ups) #138-141, Enter The Heroic Age & Atlas #1-5

In writing about Agents Of Atlas: Dark Reign, AoA: Turf War and pretty much every other Jeff Parker comic I’ve reviewed here on the site, I’ve talked about how much I enjoy his ability to play within the Marvel sandbox while still adding something new to the characters. It’s a skill set that I’m always impressed by, especially in the days when it seems like creators at the big two don’t have as much freedom thanks to huge events and/or other external circumstances that have nothing to do with creating. Of course, it helps when you’re dealing with characters that are only really cool because you made them that way.

Parker launched AoA as a miniseries back in 2006 based off of an old issue of What If?! that posited a team of characters created back in the Atlas days of Marvel’s history actually became the Avengers. Forgotten by most, Parker dusted these characters off, gave them unique voices and personalities and, in the course of telling thrilling stories, hooked me forever. Since that first outing, the team has appeared in a few failed ongoings (I always said I’d like them to simply take the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. series-of-minis approach, but that wasn’t in the cards), minis and back-ups. This trade collects the team’s back-up features in Incredible Hercules which were going on at the same time as the Assault On Mount Olympus story. The team then got another shot at an ongoing simply titled Atlas, but it only made it the five issues collected in this volume.

Anyway, this volume continues all the elements about Parker’s team that I enjoy while always moving the individuals and the team itself forward. The thrust of the main story revolves around Triathalon and the gang figuring out why beings are trying to kill the original 3D Man and his brother (who was a part of that What If?! issue but no subsequent iterations). The book ends with the team searching for and finding a resolution that actually winds up helping everyone involved instead of going the easy route, which is a nice touch. At this point, I believe this is the last AoA book around. I still haven’t gotten my hands on the Gorilla Man or Marvel Boy minis, but I’m hoping somewhere down the line Parker gets to bring these guys back again and show the world why they’re rad.

gotham by gaslightGotham By Gaslight (DC)
Written by Brian Augustyn, drawn by Mike Mignola

Gotham By Gaslight is the kind of book I’ve heard about for years. Though not labeled as such on the cover of this original GN version, this was the first of the Elseworlds tales, stories taking iconic DC characters and putting them in different settings throughout time, space and, oftentimes, literature. Back in 1994 when I was 11, DC gave every ongoing book the Elseworlds treatment in that year’s annuals. It was a lot of fun, spawned one of my all time favorite stories and also sparked my imagination in a general way. So, as a fan of Elseworlds and artist Mike Mignola, Gotham By Gaslight was easily on my to-get list.

After working out a Sequential Swap, I wound up with a copy in hand and while I’m not sure if it deserved so much anticipation, it’s still a pretty good story. The idea here is that Bruce Wayne became Batman back in 1889. As it happens, he comes back to Gotham just in time to take on Jack the Ripper who has also relocated after committing his infamous crimes in London.

I think this book sounds cooler than it actually is. Batman versus Jack the Ripper drawn by Mike Mignola? That was a much different animal back in 1989 than it is today. The book isn’t bad by any means and dodges many of the elements that made some of those Elseworlds books annoying — like every single DCU supporting character coming into play in these alternate universes — but also doesn’t do a great job of creating a compelling mystery. The looming question over the story is, “Who is Jack the Ripper?” {If you want to completely avoid SPOILERS, skip the rest of this paragraph.} We’re offered a few potential suspects, but the actual culprit is really the only person it could have been, right? We’re thrown some red herrings like the creepy British people on the boat and this world’s version of the Joker, but neither of them come up ever again. Had those characters recurred more throughout the story, I would have questioned my original guess at who the killer was, but as it was, I had it pegged from that character’s first appearance in the comic.

Still, I enjoyed the comic and would be interested in checking out the follow-up which features art by Eduardo Barreto called Master Of The Future. While the main character of Bruce Wayne and Batman is basically the same as you’d expect as even a casual Batman fan, it’s cool to see how that character interacts with a world that reminds me a lot of the one seen in Sandman Mystery Theatre. Plus, that costume is just rad!

Casting Internets

Comixology‘s new Submit functionality for digital comics will change the industry, no doubt. Makes me want to find an artist extra bad.

A Super Troopers sequel might film later this year? That is amazing. (via Collider)

Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso are working on a 100 Bullets spinoff mini about Lono! (via Comics Alliance)

AstroCity_mtvgeek

On a similar note, I’m really excited to hear by way of MTV Geek that Kurt Busiek’s got an Astro City ongoing in the works at DC. I’m a big fan of that world and can’t wait to see more.

Universal is suing a porn company for making a Fifty Shades Of Grey parody. No big deal there, right? The interesting part of this THR article is that the porn company’s lawyers claim that much of Gray is actually in the public domain because 89% of the work was published on various websites as fanfic. This could turn out to be a really interesting case for digitally distributed content moving forward. How does ownership work on the internet these days, especially if you’re posting your artistic endeavors on a third party site? What will that mean for future deals like the one E.L. James got?

 A lot of mash-ups just become noise, but this one featuring Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like A Hole” and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” is brilliant.

doc savage skull island

I’m pretty curious about this official Doc Savage King Kong crossover book called Doc Savage: Skull Island. Sounds pretty rad.

I’m a sucker for a good list about creepy abandoned places, so this one from ListVerse is aces in my book.

halfmencover

I don’t follow many indie comic artists, but I’ve become a huge fan of Kevin Huizenga over the years. He posted the cover to his new book The Half Men over on his blog. No idea what it’s about, but I’ll give it a shot.

IFC keeps lining up comedies I want to check out. THR just announced that Will Ferrell and Adam McKay are working on one called The Spoils Of Babylon while Ben Stiller and Mr. Show‘s Bob Odenkirk have The Birthday Boys in the works. I don’t have IFC, but when they hit Netflix Instant, I’m all over them.

dan hipp predator trophies

Oh sweet goodness, Dan Hipp’s posting artwork again over on his blog. You can not go wrong in my brain by mashing up Predator in a smoking jacket and a video game-themed trophy room. This is now my computer’s wallpaper.

Simon West wants to remake the Burt Reynolds movie Heat with Jason Statham and Sofia Vergara. Yes, make this happen, Hollywood. (via THR)

CENTURION_2_1362725307

Feast your eyes on this fantastic Centurions Jake Rockwell custom toy by Hiss Tank contributor nath_1977. I would buy a line of toys like this.

Trade Post: Astro City The Dark Age 2

ASTRO CITY: THE DARK AGE 2 (Wildstorm/DC)
Written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by Brent Anderson
Collects Astro City The Dark Ages Book Three & Four #1-4

I had problems with Astro City: The Dark Age 1. As I mentioned in my review of the earlier AC volume Tarnished Angel, I didn’t like constant back and forth nature of the thought boxes. I thought it was cheesy and annoying, a lot like some of the more schmaltzy Superman/Batman issues written by Jeph Loeb. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember much more than that when reading the second volume while on vacation last week. See, even though I didn’t have fond memories of the first book, I know that Kurt Busiek is one of the more solid writers around and that I want to learn more about the world of Astro City, so I’m always interested in reading more about it.

Even without refreshing my memory, I did remember that the book focused on a pair of non-superpowered brothers, one who went down the criminal path, the other who was a cop. They’re both obsessed with finding the man who killed their parents. That’s pretty much what the whole second book focuses on, now that the brothers have enough experience, technology and firepower to actually go after him. While that’s going on, we also get to see the Silver Agent appear a pair of times, several heroes from the 80s and no shortage of superhero action all of which leads to one focal point that makes for a pretty great battle.

I really liked how subtly Busiek handled the 80s comic trope of grim and gritty. I actually didn’t even think about it at first. He introduced the story as being set in the 80s and then eventually showed that a few heroes had gotten a little more violent. It wasn’t like in the first few panels he showed a Batman-like character snapping a bad guy’s neck, which is about as subtle as some other similar references. The metaphor also worked for the brothers who had gotten more and more grim as the story progressed.

Dark Age 2 probably wouldn’t be the best Astro City book to pick up if you’d never read anything, but I bet you could probably enjoy it. There’s enough familiar territory for superhero fans to understand the basics right off the bat. There’s also the question of Anderson’s art, which really turns some people off. It’s not the crispest art in the world, but I don’t have any problems with it. While figures can be muddy at times, he kills it on the faces, so it balances out for me. Oh, by the way, there’s a reveal at the end of this book, which closes out the Dark Age storyline altogether as far as I know, that explains away the dialog boxes that bugged me in the first collection. I guess this is a SPOILER of sorts, so skip along if you want nothing revealed. We find out at the end that the narration was actually being done by the brothers in modern times to a writer, which was such an obvious explanation I was disappointed in myself for not thinking about it. It’s actually a pretty cool trick that Busiek played by making long time comic book fans think one thing about the boxes and then revealing them to be something else. It’s a trick that can only really be pulled in this format and it was fun.

Overall, I really liked this collection and it made me want to read the first book again, so that’s a pretty good post-reading experience, right? It also made me want to snatch up the rest of the AC books I don’t have yet. I think it’s time to compare what’s on my shelf and in the longboxes to see what I do and don’t have. I love what Busiek’s done with this world and can’t wait to see what he does with it moving forward.

Trade Post: Justice Vol. 1-3

I remember back when Justice was announced. I think it was my first week or so at Wizard. I can’t remember if I was actually there when they printed the news or if I read about it in the issue that had just come out, but they announced Alex Ross’s Justice League comic at the same time as the All Star line that would go on to include (and possibly end with) the fantastic All Star Superman and the ridiculously over the top, but still lots of fun All Star Batman and Robin. I stood outside one of the side doors of the old building while talking with someone about it. We were trying to figure out if it was just an Ultimate rip-off, but decided no, it would be interesting. Might as well make some books that don’t require 20 years of continuity knowledge for people to check out.

It’s funny how things worked out. By the time Justice finally started coming out I had forgotten that it was originally mentioned along with the All Star books and also that it was out of continuity. I remember being really confused after a few issues, especially when retro Supergirl and grown up Dick Grayson as Robin and kid of gave up on the series. I was done with Alex Ross’ obsession with the Super Friends and comics from the 70s that I haven’t read. But over time I acquired all three Justice trades and just read them all in two days and I really liked the series.

Maybe it’s that the Justice League books have been pretty lackluster for, well years now. Ever since Infinite Crisis and probably a little before that, the team hasn’t really had a sense of gravitas or stability that it deserves (and I’d rather give up the gravitas for stability, like with the JLI era). Maybe it’s that I’m sick of seeing the greatest superhero team on earths standing around, looking at pictures around a table and being forced to look at their symbols. Maybe it’s that lame events that no one cares about keep upsetting potentially interesting stories. Maybe it’s that I keep being shown HOW the team came together instead of why they exist. But Justice doesn’t seem to suffer from any of those problems.

Yes, it is steeped in Satellite-era Justice League sentimentality, but not necessarily continuity. Like I said, I’ve only read a handful of comics from that era, but I didn’t have trouble following any of the beats. Of course, I’ve been reading about these characters pretty consistently since that time, so I don’t know if this would be a great book to pass to a newbie, but it might be worth a shot. Anyway, the story follows the League’s reaction to a group of supervillains (mostly members of the Legion of Doom, not surprisingly) seemingly turning over a new leaf and helping people. It’s of course a big ruse by Brainiac, Lex Luthor and Gorilla Grodd, but it does feel like an epic story. And since it is an alternate universe or whatever you want to call it, you really don’t know what will happen to the characters.

I’ll be honest, I’m surprised with how much I liked the book. Like I said, I’m getting sick of the Super Friends nostalgia, but Ross and co-writter and penciller Jim Krueger used it is a spring board instead of a crutch. And really, that’s all on the surface. Yes it’s an old JLA team that you’re maybe not familiar with and yes, the villains are the Legion of Doom, but it’s not a goofy story by any means. Our writers also take time throughout the 12 issues series to give almost all of the big heroes their cool little moments. I really liked their take on Martian Manhunter’s society and them making Aquaman seem cool (something Peter David did a while ago, but, like I said, that was a while ago). They don’t do that thing where characters talk about how awesome a character is, instead, they show you why you should care. I think this is the one comic that really showed me why Barry Allen and Hal Jordan are cool.

Plus, you can’t talk about an Alex Ross comic without commenting on the art. While I’ve been finding a lot of his covers (especially the JSoA stuff) too rich in pastels, Justice feels like his classic 90s work. Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be as many Easter Eggs as their were in Marvels or Kingdom Come, but the figures all look very solid and impressive, which is exactly what you want in a comic filled with larger than life superheroes. We even get spreads featuring the Green Lantern Corps and the Legion of Super-Heroes, which were my wallpaper at various times when I worked at Wizard.

I also have to complement DC on putting these trades together. They probably could have been more economically put together in 6-issue arcs (or even one big 12-issue volume) as opposed to the three, but the story does seem to have been broken up into a three act structure that benefits from the breaks in the trades (though, again, economically it sucks, but if you’re not worried about economics, check out the Absolute edition on its way out, if it’s not already out). What DC should get credit for is including Batman’s “files” in the back of the trades with sketches and art by Ross. I know most/all of this stuff was included in the comics themselves, but it’s nice to see that material make it into the trades, especially if you didn’t buy the issues. If nothing else, I learned that Giganta was actually a gorilla who could grow. The silver age was weirdsville you guys.

So, if you missed out on Justice when it was first coming out, gave up on it early like I did or avoided it completely because you thought it was too retro, I’d recommend giving it another shot. It’s a great big, epic superhero story that offers up a complex story filled with twists and turns that all makes sense in the end. Oh, and the art sure is perty.

Planet Hulk DVD


PopCandy showed off the above Alex Ross DVD cover and it’s, well, not great. I’d be curious to hear what norms (non comic geeks) think about this cover. Does it make you want to watch this movie? You already had geeks like me with hello on this one anyway, but I’m not sure if the non-initiated will be drawn in by Ross’s cover. Planet Hulk is one of my all-time favorite comic runs, so I want more people to check this out and go read the comics. Luckily, the clip below makes me think that this will probably be the very best of the Marvel straight-to-DVD movies. Fingers crossed until Planet Hulk comes out in February.