I threw all my plans out the window when I got a very cool package in the mail from a cool PR person! As a result, you’ll have to wait to find out more of my favorite 2020 film experiences and instead dive into my all-time favorite body swap stories from TV, animation, movies and comics!
Much like my tour through the works of John Carpenter, my look at Grant Morrison’s DC Comics work came to a screeching halt last year. After writing about Animal Man, the first Doom Patrol collection (which doesn’t really count) and Aztek I intended to move on to the run on Flash he did with Mark Millar, but just didn’t get to it. I want to get back in action, so here we go!
The Flash: Emergency Stop (DC)
Written by Grant Morrison & Mark Millar, drawn by Paul Ryan
Collects Flash #130-135
Okay, so TECHNICALLY, Morrison launched JLA before he and Millar started working on Flash, but since this is a smaller run, I’m tackling it first. To be even more accurate, he had already finished up Aztek and done a year of JLA issues when Flash finally hit. This is actually pretty clear in the story because Wally west specifically mentions the time he and the gang fought the Key in JLA #7-9. I only mention that because part of doing these posts is to look at how connected all of Morrison’s DC books are.
Before getting into the actual stories, I just have to say how much I love this era of Flash. I came to know him as a horn dog jokester in Justice League Europe and saw him grow and mature into a family man over the years. I know he’s a fictional character, but seeing that kind of growth and depth doesn’t come often. At one point I had a subscription to Flash and tried to keep up on his adventures. These Morrison and Millar issues come right in the middle of Mark Waid’s epic run on the book (which he would pick up after they were done). It was a fun time to watch a good hero, do amazing things.
Going back to the story itself, this one starts off with a story about a killer supervillain suit, moves into the return of Mirror Master (who Grant introduced in Animal Man), a Jay Garrick solo story and the third part of a crossover with Green Lantern and Green Arrow. The first two are a lot of fun that take Silver Age-like stories and tell them in a more modern manner. They both also introduce countdown elements that quicken your pace as you read through the book, a nice trick if you can get it to work. The Jay one is a pure love letter not just to Golden Age heroes, but to amazing parent/grandparent figures (if you don’t want Jay Garrick as a mentor after reading this issue, you’re just not well) and the last gets into that very Grant headspace that looks at how a world filled with superheroes would actually work. In this case, we’re talking about law and the court system. I can’t be 100% sure because it’s been so long, but it felt like he hit on some of these themes later in the Seven Soldiers Bulletwoman story, but I’ll let you know when I get there.
The first time I read the Suit story — actually back when these issues came out circa 1997 — I thought it was a little corny. But, looking back now, I realize I was missing the context. Morrison and Millar were clearly going for a horror movie theme put on top of a superhero story. Once I latched onto that idea, I had a lot more fun with it. This story also breaks the Flash’s legs which means he wraps himself in Speed Force to create a new sort that he eventually makes look like his usual suit (though I liked the yellow one myself).
Flash: The Human Race (DC)
Written by Grant Morrison & Mark Millar, drawn by Paul Ryan, Ron Wagner, Pop Mahn, Joshua Hood & Mike Parobeck
Collects Flash #136-141, Secret Origins #50
This second book was only half co-written by Morrison, but it continues many of the themes and ideas established in the first and is generally a solid read. The first story, “The Human Race,” finds Wally racing his imaginary friend from childhood to keep the Earth from being destroyed. After playing along for a trip through time that shows us the destruction of Kyrpton and caveman Guardians of the Galaxy, Flash uses his brains instead of his feet to figure out a way to save the day. The second features the first appearance of The Black Flash (the Grim Reaper for Speedsters) who takes someone important to Wally, but comes back for more later on. Both stories continue that Silver Age-but-updated feel that takes seemingly bonkers ideas and puts weight behind them because we’ve come to care about these characters so much.
Alright, let’s get into themes. Morrison loves legacy heroes and that shows on just about every page of these books. Back in the 90s, Wally West was always hanging out with a group of younger and older heroes making him the center of a super cool, super family that also included his awesome girlfriend/fiance/wife Linda Park (I actually squealed when she appeared on The Flash this season). I loved this element and it’s clear that the writers did as well. But the legacy aspect also carries through with the villains as well with new guys picking up the old weapons and making themselves Rogues. These new relationships also showcase how different things are from when Barry was alive and the bad guys didn’t seem so bad. The idea of what makes heroes and villains chose their paths is also a constant. Why is Flash a hero? Why does Mirror Master do what he does? Why can’t Jay let the Thinker pass away? We don’t get the answers laid out for us, but through actions we get an idea of why.
Morrison is also known for putting himself in his stories. He actually appears in Animal Man and has said he modeled Invisibles‘ King Mob after himself, but he’s a little less obvious this time around. I posit that the very Scottish Mirror Master is a stand in for the writer (or possibly both writers). Why? Well, first off, no one understands Scots like Scots. But also because this villain appears to put the hero through his paces without really saying why and isn’t that the whole point of writing corporately owned superhero comics?
I mentioned above that I read this book before JLA because it’s shorter, but after finishing, I’m glad I did it this way for another reason. First off, I’ll be able to keep an eye out for any ideas that cross pollinate (like the costume I also mentioned above). It’s also nice to see how he handles two very different kinds of teams. The Flash group is a family, while the JLA is a professional group of heroes. He got to play in both of those sandboxes at the same time which must have been gratifying. It’s also nice to see him be able to take one of the characters he played with in the widesweeping super-opera that was JLA and drill down more into the character. He’d go on to do this to great effect with Superman and Batman so it’s cool to see this earlier experiment in action. Now? On to JLA!
Wonder Woman: Eyes of the Gorgon (DC)
Written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Drew Johnson, James Raiz & Sean Phillips
Collects Wonder Woman #206-213
About this time last month I made my way through Greg Rucka’s first three Wonder Woman books. It took me a little while to get the next volume from the library, but I finally did and had a ridiculously good time reading through it and the final two volumes of his run.
As I mentioned in the previous post, Rucka’s working on a longform comics story with this run and I think it’s one of the best ones I’ve read when it comes to this character. He not only had a solid take on the character, but also developed a variety of obstacles in his first few issues that all came to fruition as the series edged closer to its Infinite Crisis/One Year Later-mandated conclusion.
As you might be able to tell from this book’s title, the major obstacle this time around is the resurrected Medousa, the snake-headed Gorgon who turns people into stone if she makes direct eye contact with them (even via cameras). Medousa not only attacks Wonder Woman at the White House, but also turns the son of one of her staffers into stone before challenging her to a knock down, drag out battle for the entire world to see. In the process of defeating the inhuman monster, Diana blinds herself with hair-snake venom. The rest of this volume finds her dealing with her new condition, including a variety of tests from her teammates in the JLA.
Meanwhile, Dr. Psycho’s still causing trouble, Cheetah returns, the goddesses arrange to take over Olympus from Zeus and the United States is particularly worried about Paradise Island to the point where they won’t move their warships away.
Wonder Woman: Land of the Dead (DC)
Written by Greg Rucka with Geoff Johns, drawn by Drew Johnson, Justiniano, Rags Morales & Sean Phillips
Collects Wonder Woman #214-217, Flash #219
Land Of The Dead kicks off with a crossover with Flash that establishes a relationship between Diana’s longtime villain Cheetah and the Scarlet Speedster’s nemesis Zoom. These two baddies would go on to become a big part of Infinite Crisis as members of the Secret Society, specifically and the group that attacked and murdered most of the Freedom Fighters.
After that, though, the book circles back around to deal with its own problems, specifically Diana, Wonder Girl and Ferdinand traveling to Hell for Athena. This might be the shortest book in the bunch, but it does allow Diana to fix a few of her bigger problems. This is definitely SPOILER territory, so skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want anything ruined. First, Diana did all this so she could bring her staffer’s son back to the land of the living. Second, she gets her vision back because Athena’s so impressed with this selfless decision. Also, Wonder Girl discovers that her dad is Zeus, which was a mystery floating around since Geoff Johns relaunched Teen Titans and seemed to be hinting that it was actually Ares.
One of the interesting elements that Rucka played with in this book is comparing Diana in all her righteous, fair-headed glory to the machinations and overall pettiness of the gods themselves. This aspect is showcased in this volume, especially given Diana’s desire to fix a problem she saw herself as the source of and do the right thing by the people she cares about.
Wonder Woman: Mission’s End (DC)
Written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Cliff Richards, Rags Morales, David Lopez, Ron Randall, Tom Derenick, Georges Jeanty & Karl Kerschl
Collects Wonder Woman #218-226
This is it folks, the one where everything comes to a head! We find out the truth about Jonah (the entryway character from the first volume), Diana fights a brainwashed Superman and does what she thinks is right to stop him, she goes on trial and an army of OMACs attack Paradise Island.
Alright, so let’s break this down. More SPOILERS ahead for the next two paragraphs. As it turns out, Jonah was a Checkmate spy. I don’t remember there being any indications of this up until the previous book, but that’s where that is. Rucka also wrote the OMAC tie-in mini as well as the Checkmate comic, so maybe there’s more of that character in those books that I’m forgetting.
When Wonder Woman fought Superman it was because former Justice League backer and Blue Beetle murderer Max Lord was controlling the most powerful person on the planet with relative ease. As Lord went on about how he’d never stop coming back to take over Superman, Wonder Woman believed him and snapped his neck, which just so happened to be broadcast everywhere. From there, she turned herself in, intending to go on trial, but that all got scuttled by the OMACs attacking Paradise Island. Their leader, Brother Eye was all bent out of shape because Wonder Woman killed Lord and made her public enemy number one. A massive battle ensued that only concluded when Athena decided to leave that plane of existence and take all of the Amazons — save Diana — with her.
It’s interesting looking back at this run as a whole because, for the most part, it was a Wonder Woman story that would occasionally cross over with other characters when it made sense. But, as it wrapped up, this was fully a DCU story. Infinite Crisis rewrote some chapters in the DC book and Rucka was one of the architects involved at the time. I had forgotten some of the timeframe going into this, so that was something of a surprise, but overall I think it was all handled really well.
Above I mentioned that all of the balls Rucka got rolling felt like they were well paid off in this series, but that’s not entirely true. I realized while going back through these books for this post that Veronica Cale wound up a bit on the backburner. I think she’s a super interesting character, but probably got pushed to the side as the more major players revved up towards the series’ finale. She does show up in 52, though, which might help fill in some of the questions I have about her character.
Anyway, aside from a bit of a rushed feel at the end and the fact that I wish Drew Johnson had drawn the entire series — the multiple changes in artist per volume in these last three books is kinda crazy — I’d give this entire run of comics a huge, enthusiastic thumbs up. This is what a great example, not only of a fantastic Wonder Woman comic, but a long form sequential storytelling work that shows how solidly a writer can use the long game when plotting out his work.
My most recent batch of random comics turned out to be surprisingly good, which was a nice treat. First up, I perused Tomb Raider Journeys Starring Lara Croft #3 from Top Cow. The book came out in 2002, was written by Fiona Kai Avery, and drawn by Drew Johnson and for a video game tie-in comic, it was a lot of fun. I don’t have a lot of experience with the Tomb Raider franchise, but I did play a few of the games for the original Playstation and enjoyed them as much as those blocky, awkward games can be enjoyed.
But the basic concept of a sexy, British lady version of Indiana Jones running around, finding treasure and being awesome is a wonderful (and broad enough) one that it actually makes perfect sense for the world of comics. This issue, which seems to be a one-off story (this is my first Tomb Raider comic, so I’m not sure about how Journeys fits in with whatever else was coming out at the time) where Lara takes a job that will allow a pair of archaeologists to prove whether a potential development site is the original location of Gomorrah or not.
The comic comes packed with some historical intrigue, a few fantasy elements (skeleton army!) and an interesting way of accomplishing her goal that isn’t super obvious, but best of all, it’s all told concisely in a single issue, something you don’t see much of these days. You need to know absolutely nothing about Croft aside from what’s right there in the title to enjoy this comic, but you also get the added bonus of Johnson’s somewhat angular artwork that reminded me of mosaics or stained glass at times. Are there other Tomb Raider comics or trades worth checking out?
Much like Web Of Spider-Man #81, which I read a few weeks back, Flash #88 (1994) written by Mark Waid and drawn by the amazing Mike Wieringo is an example not of a bad comic book story, but one I’ve read plenty of times in my comic reading career. In this case, the mostly carefree Wally West comes face to face (literally) with a woman who got injured while he was working to save other people. This snaps something in him and Flash spends much of the issue pushing himself way too hard to save as many people as possible. It’s the kind of issue where, while reading (and assuming you’ve experienced a story like this before) you get it after a few panels or pages, which makes flipping through the rest of them kind of boring.
But, they’re not THAT boring because damn if Wieringo wasn’t one of the best, most interesting and dynamic artists around. I haven’t read much of his run on Flash, just issues and trades here and there, but I think this is the first book I ever experienced his artwork on. He not only kills Wally (and all the emotions he goes through both in and out of the mask), but also puts the same amount of effort in the small army of normal folks found in this issue. Sure, I wish everyone in the book had cool powers or a fun costume so he could really show off, but you can really feel Wally’s sadness when he collapses in Linda’s arms at the end as well as the emotions flowing through the surrounding crowd.
As an added bonus, this book is jam packed with house ads for DC comics I was reading at the time and will make for a ton of fun Ad It Up posts!
Of the three books, the one I was least enthused about was Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1 from Valiant (1993). I have not had great luck with the few Valiant issues I’ve read over the years (including Archer & Armstrong and Solar Man of the Atom issues from The Box) and know nothing about this property, but I wound up really enjoying this comic written by David Michelinie and drawn by Bart Sears.
I should note, that I had very little idea what was going on. Even though this is a number one issue, it is steeped (some might say mired) in whatever had just happened before this, which I think was the big Unity crossover that Valiant did around this time. However, even with a pretty low level of comprehension (they try to explain what’s going on, but I think it was all just too big to absorb as a new reader) I kept reading and had a fun time with a book about a Native American with a sci-fi bow hunting talking dinosaurs.
The comic is frontloaded with the continuity stuff, so once you’re done with that you can enjoy the story of a warrior finding a place he feels at home in for a while before his past catches up with him. It’s a standard part of the hero’s journey, but it’s told well and looks awesome as drawn by Bart Sears. I’ve mentioned before that the Valiant books were colored in a way I’m not as familiar with where it looks like they were finished with colored pencils or possibly water colors. That is done the best I’ve seen in this comic. I’d be very interested in reading more Turok comics by this team, any suggestions?
FLASH: THE HUMAN RACE (DC)
Written by Grant Morrison & Mark Millar, drawn by Paul Ryan, Ron Wagner, Pop Mhan, Joshua Hood & Mike Probeck
Collects Flash Vol. 2 #136-141, Secret Origins #50
Even though I have great respect for what Geoff Johns did with the character, my favorite version of Wally West was the crazy horn dog from Justice League Europe. He was very fun, to me he was what I always heard Spider-Man to be, cracking jokes and loving the whole superhero thing, but looking to get down whenever possible. Books like this one and Johns’ trades are swaying me more towards the dating Linda Park version of the character. Mind you, I always liked LInda and Wally when he was with her, but it always seemed like when your crazy friend starts dating someone and starts to calm down. You still like him, you just kind of miss the old version of him. Anyway, this is the second trade collecting Morrison and Millar’s run on the book, but you don’t really need to have read the previous book to understand this one. The trade collects two basic storylines, the first being Wally running across dimensions against his supposed imaginary friend from childhood for the fate of the world and the second being Wally dealing with Linda’s apparent death and the Black Flash. Both stories are great, as you might expect from the pairing of writers (though I’m no fan of Millar).
The book does a great job of showing why Wally is cool without telling you, which is something that Johns hasn’t been doing a great job of with Barry since his return in my opinion. First off, he saves the whole universe by running. It sounds simple, but it’s across time and space, so not only does it look cool, but really gets into his head in some smart ways that I really liked. Then, you see Wally at one of the lowest points of his life. He basically quits on the hero gig because he lost his speed and is devastated by Linda’s death. He does come back, though and that’s what makes him a hero. The inclusion of the Morrison-written Flash Secret Origin story is a nice extra that I appreciate for completist sake. The art in the book is kind of all over the place, but the Pop Mahn stuff really stands out for me.
HUMAN TARGET (Vertigo)
Written by Peter Milligan, drawn by Edvin Biukovic
Collects Human Target #1-4
After checking out an episode of Human Target on Fox, I wanted to read the comic to see how similar the two are. And the answer seems to be very little. I know this Vertigo take on the character probably doesn’t exclusively follow the history set up in his previous adventures, though it does seem like it would fit in, but the whole concept of the Human Target in comics is that Christopher Chance takes on the potential victim’s identity to draw out assassins and take care of them. From what I could tell of the one episode I saw (and I haven’t seen any more after that) he’s just a bodyguard, so I’m not sure why they bothered shelling out the licensing fees for just the names. Anyway, this book is okay, but not necessary for anyone to read. The plot is a bit overcomplicated with Chance’s former assistant actually taking on Chance’s identity and then that of a pastor. His problem is that he wants to be anyone but himself, which laves his wife in the lurch. Milligan handles all the twists and turns of the story well, but I felt like the story should have been more about Chance himself and not him dealing with his old protege. It reminded me of 100 Bullets, but didn’t hit me anywhere as much as that book did on a nearly monthly basis. Also, Biukovic’s art looks a lot like Eduardo Risso’s but it’s a little more rounded. So, while this book didn’t really do anything for me, I would like to check out some other Human Target comics because I like the concept. It’s such a strong concept, in fact, that they should make a TV show out of it.
BOOSTER GOLD: REALITY LOST (DC)
Written & drawn by Dan Jurgens with some Chuck Dixon issues
Collects Booster Gold Vol. II #11, 12, 15-19
This is the third trade collecting what I think has been a great run on a book starring a character I’ve had a fondness for since I first picked up Extreme Justice and some other Justice League books backin my formative years. Since his 52-era reboot, Booster’s been running around keeping time safe for humanity learning lessons about what you can go back and save and what you can’t. You might think this isn’t the best place to start, but issues #11 and 12 were written by Dixon who took over from Geoff Johns and my buddy Jeff Katz and then Jurgens takes over as writer with issues #15. I’ve gotta say that it bugs me anytime a trade like this doesn’t just collect everything in one volume. Would it really have been such a difficult task to include the two issues written by Rick Remender and drawn by Pat Oliffe? I’m not a big fan of those guys thanks to how the ruined All Star Atom at the very end, but I’d rather be able to skip some issues in a book than have to read things all out of order.
Anyway, the story starts off with what should have been a simple stopping of a crime and ends up involving several trips back to the same Killer Moth job. Dixon wrote these and while they might seem like throwaways, Jurgens uses them later on in his story which involves all kinds of time travel, past stories and two Boosters teaming up to fight a former colleague of Rip Hunter’s. The story did get a little confusing because it goes in and out of previous issues and I always wonder what happened in the issues that aren’t collected. But, it will go back on the shelf with the first two trades so I can read them all in one sitting later. Also, Jurgens has been killing it art-wise on this book as far as I’m concerned which is great because after Battle For Bludhaven, I really thought he had lost it.
Whew, I’m sure like me, you’re a bit tired of horror movies. Heck, I even sent the Netflix DVD of Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer back unwatched because it seemed super intense and I just don’t think I could watch another murder movie. So, you probably will be seeing a lot more action and comedy movie reviews and more comic stuff. I’ve been kicking around the idea of reviewing some of my all time favorite comics, movies and records throughout November, but we shall see. Hit the jump for the full story and pics!
Before getting too sick of Halloween, I had one hell of a Halloween night. Actually, it started on Halloween Eve when I got Em to actually watch two of my absolute favorite horror movies Halloween and Jaws. She even kept trying to go and read her book but Jaws kept sucking her in. The next day, before the party, Em made these awesome monster cupcakes while we watched several hours of Ghost Hunters (it’s a pretty good show actually).
As you probably know from my post the other day, I went as the Golden Age Green Lantern, but what you didn’t know is that my lovely wife went as her favorite superheroine Black Canary. We did this because our friends Amy and John had a superhero themed party (which is crazy because they’re not huge comic geeks like me and Rickey).
Rickey and Sam came to the party a little later, but looked awesome dressed as Golden Age Flash and Zatana. We apparently didn’t get a picture of them together, but we did get some rad team-up pics of Rickey and myself and then Sam and Em. Here’s the pics!
Our lovely hosts John and Amy dressed as the Joker from Dark Knight (in nurse duds) and an Arkham Asylum-inspired Harley Quinn (they’re flanking the group photo which also features Ashly as Tinkerbell and Constantina as Wonder Woman). Amy and John also dressed their dog Guinness as Krypto the Super Dog! As a matter of fact, with the exception of a really good Hellboy movie costume, everyone who dressed as a superhero or villain dressed as a DC one, which is interesting. There was even a girl there dressed as Spoiler, but we didn’t get a pic.
After pleasantries were through, we got down to the nitty gritty. And by that I mean we played some beer pong! John actually has a table he built to regulation specs. Somehow Rickey and I won three or four games in a row before tanking. He really held the team together because I only got about one, maybe two in each game. As you can see int he pic of Em doing a fantastic impression of Christopher Lloyd in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the ping pong balls all had eye balls printed on them. After Rickey and I were defeated, we split up and Sam and I played a game. I also started messing around with the fog machine in the room, which resulted in a completely smoke-filled room by the end of the night. It was epic.
Then, after we got back to our place, this happened and we got about 3 minutes into Texas Chainsaw Massacre before deciding to just call it quits and go to bed. A good time was had by all and I didn’t even drunk dial anyone (though I did play some pretty terrible Guitar Hero/Rock Band)!