Comics Ate My Brain

July 29, 2005

Old Comics, July ’05

Well, I’m back, having spent the first few days of the week in Roanoke with about a thousand other people taking the Virginia bar. Thanks for all the good wishes, both on the blogoversary and for the bar. I hope I live up to them.

I did read some comics in the few moments I wasn’t studying, and no less than Steve Lieber was nice enough to send me a couple that he had drawn. First up was Family Reunion, written by Sean Stewart. It’s evidently been out for a while, and many of you have probably already seen it, but if not, I liked it. There’s a lot of information packed into eight pages, and both Stewart and Lieber economize their efforts to good effect. I got strong senses of the handful of characters through a good selection of scenes. It’s based on a novel by Stewart, but I don’t know if I’d rather read the novel or see more comics by this team. Probably a good choice either way.

More recently, Lieber drew Flytrap Episode One: Juggling Act, from a script by his wife, Sara Ryan. Here I was impressed by the different style Lieber used — thicker lines and perhaps more “cartoony” than in Family Reunion. Although Flytrap is more of a sitcom than Family Reunion, the change in style serves it well. FR grounded its fantastic element in very realistic artwork; and Flytrap is meant to be wackier. At 14 pages, it’s almost twice as long, but it has to set up the continuing adventures of Maddy and her clients. This it did admirably, focusing more on Maddy than on said clients, but making her sympathetic enough that the clients’ eccentricity doesn’t need to be much more of a hook. I’m now officially interested in what happens next, so good job, Steve and Sara. More information about both mini-comics at Steve’s website.

Now, quick hits on the stuff I got at the comics shop.

Superman #219, Action Comics #829, Adventures of Superman #642, Wonder Woman #219, OMAC Project #4: I would have liked “Sacrifice” better if the first couple of parts had been better-executed. I think the planning was good, and in hindsight it worked well, but although I have nothing against Mark Verheiden or Gail Simone I wish Rucka could have written the whole thing. The art in Superman #219 was also rather weak. I’ve posted my thoughts on Wonder Woman’s role over on The Great Curve.

Wonder Woman #218: Lots of closure as Rucka and Ron Randall wrap up various storylines from the past couple of years. I liked the storylines and was satisfied with their conclusions — and where’s Ron Randall been, anyway?

Defenders #1: Funny stuff, if not as wacky or familiar as the “Not The Justice League” stories — and while playing the Silver Surfer as a zonked-out beach bum is inspired, it’s also not close enough to the character’s mainstream portrayal to be really satirical.

Hero Squared #1: Glad to see this again, but $4.00? I thought gas was expensive.

GLA #4: More of the wacky, less of the grim, and I did like the ending a lot.

Astonishing X-Men #11: I guess I should be glad there were no obvious NOMAD/V’Ger “The creator is a carbon-unit!” moments.

Serenity #1: Satisfactorily evocative of the TV show, which is about all one can ask, right? For the first time in a while, the Best Wife Ever was excited to read a comic. Not that she’s read this one yet, but still….

Day Of Vengeance #4: Not bad, but I was hoping the teenaged girl would be related to Amethyst or (better yet) Crazy Jane.

Villains United #3: I liked Paul Pelletier’s art, and Val Semeiks isn’t bad either — but who knew the new Rag Doll was a dude?

Rann/Thanagar War #3: Lots of yelling, fighting, ray-blasts, and explosions, but that’s not all bad.

Batman: Gotham Knights #67: The best part of this issue was the artwork, by Rick Burchett. I’m sure he doesn’t get more Bat-work because he’s “too cartoony” for the discriminating Bat-fan; but his distinctive style is always welcome. As for the story itself, Bruce gets blackmailed by a failed videographer who discovers Batman’s secret identity. This is the first part of a continued story, but its cliffhanger hinges on an event that cannot be what it seems, and so fails to build much suspense.

Batman #642: This was a gap-filler issue, not badly executed but not really saying much important either. However, I thought Chris Marrinan and Andrew Pepoy made an interesting choice to draw Batman in a bulky, blocky way, more like Dick Sprang than Frank Miller. As long as he was around, Rick Burchett should have drawn this one too.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #193: The animated Batman series of the ’90s did Mr. Freeze a huge favor by filling his origin with pathos. This story can’t hope to improve on that one. Instead, its high point is a Batman who unironically gives out business cards (!) and who’s assembling a Shadow-like group of operatives. More with this Batman in the mainline books, please.

Detective Comics #808: Another solid installment of “City of Crime.” I do like Lapham’s use of Robin, and keep hoping for more Robin in the mainline Bat-books.

Gotham Central #33: Speaking of Robin, did I ever tell you about my idea for a Batman story where the Joker takes the Donald Trump role in his own version of “The Apprentice,” kidnapping high school athletes and killing them while ostensibly training them to be Robin? That would have been pretty lame. This was the opposite of lame.

Batman: Dark Detective #s 5-6: Um, did Englehart & Rogers just decide an abrupt ending would be cool, or are they setting us up for a sequel?

Seven Soldiers: Manhattan Guardian #3: For me, this was more fun than the Subway Pirates; and Morrison and Stewart did a good job with the breakup scene too.

JLA #s 115-116: This is turning into a pretty decent storyline not just on a crossover level, but also as a Justice League adventure. I like Johns and Heinberg’s script, and Batista and Farmer’s art. I thought this would be a placeholding, gap-filling arc between “Syndicate Rules” and the aftermath of Infinite Crisis, but it’s exceeded my expectations.

JLA Classified #10: I thought Warren Ellis hated the Fantastic Four, but apparently that’s nothing compared to how he treats Perry White in this issue. Some fine Butch Guice artwork can’t make up for some weird dialogue.

Shanna The She-Devil #6: Yeah, yeah, dinosaurs, bikinis, “Kill Me!!!,” blah blah blah.

Star Wars Empire #32: Not bad as far as Luke/Leia Rebel Alliance stories go, but again, when did Leia get so tall and busty?

Firestorm #15: Still zippy and fun.

DC Special: The Return Of Donna Troy #2: I’m not sure anyone can be in quite the right frame of mind to read this book unless they have first read, and thoroughly enjoyed, the stories in the Who Is Donna Troy? paperback. The “Who Is Wonder Girl?” 5-parter from 1988 also celebrated the return of George Perez, and was infused with fanfic-levels of “You guys are my bestest friends ever in the whole universe and I love you very much!” moments. It’s as if Wolfman and Perez took Donna’s 1984 wedding issue from Tales of the Teen Titans #50, which was (seriously) a masterpiece of subtlety and careful emotional release, and decided to not take any chances and really wear their hearts on their sleeves. So far, Phil Jiminez has been dialing up the emotional manipulation in this miniseries, with this issue especially playing to the longime Titans fanboys and -girls in the audience. I understand his viewpoint — I hadn’t read Donna’s wedding issue in a good ten years before last week, and I still got misty-eyed — but this is getting to be too much. If the former New Teen Titans don’t end Donna’s destructive rampage with anything but a big teary group hug, I’ll be very surprised.

Fantastic Four #529: Lose the social worker and this would be a much better book, even with the “nanny search” subplot.

Astro City: The Dark Age #2, City Of Tomorrow #4: More of the same, and in neither case is it unwelcome.

Legion of Super-Heroes #8: Guest penciller Kevin Sharpe isn’t bad, but his figures are stiffer and more awkwardly posed than Kitson’s. Nice job by Waid on exploding all the subplots at once, though.

Incredible Hulk: Destruction #1: I bought this because it was Peter David and because “House of M” completists have robbed me of the regular Hulk issues. It’s not bad, but I have a feeling the HoM stuff is better.

Flash #224: It’s too bad that “Rogue War” has gotten good just as Johns is getting ready to leave. Coming soon to this site: a retrospective on the Johns Flash era, in which I will attempt to be fair and balanced despite his unfortunate focus on the Rogues.

Superman/Batman #21: I will gladly pay Jeph Loeb to never write Bizarro or Batzarro again.

All-Star Batman & Robin #1: Reply hazy; ask again later.

July 14, 2005

A short post after a long year

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 1:10 pm
Just popping up from bar review to announce this site’s 1-year blogoversary! Hooray! (Where’s the cake?)

Thanks to everyone who’s visited and been supportive. I honestly don’t know how many of you there are, but it’s very nice to think that out of all the big, wide Internet, you’ve chosen to spend some time here. Sometimes I do forget the common courtesies, so I hope you’ll forgive me for that.

Anyway, I’m not going to get too profound or sappy here, because I really need to study. Still, it’s been a good year, and I’m glad you were all part of it. See you in two weeks!

July 8, 2005

Ba-Ba-Ba, Ba-Bar Exam

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 2:44 am
(Since it’s summer, a little — very little — Beach Boys humor….)

I’m taking a break from blogging, both here and on The Great Curve, until the end of the month, because the Virginia bar exam looms on July 26 and 27. My 1-year blogoversary is in a week, on July 14, so I may post something then. No promises, though.

Also, although others are more eloquent than I am in these kinds of situations, I have been thinking about the people of London today. This site has had at least one British reader (Iamza, whose page is in the links column), and while I don’ t think she’s in London, that may be small comfort. Regardless, my heart goes out to all those affected. A few little words on a computer screen may not mean a lot, but somewhere out there is more tangible comfort and peace, and I hope it finds you soon.

Thanks for stopping by these past 51 weeks. We’ll talk again before too long.

July 4, 2005

Happy Birthday To Us

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 2:38 am
No comics talk today, sorry. I thought about saying how various superheroic icons represented different parts of the American character, but that just didn’t come together like I wanted. Today you get the Declaration of Independence.

For a statement of defiance and rebellion against a global superpower, it seems pretty understated. The first paragraph basically clears its throat, saying “We’re going to do this thing, and there’s nothing you can do about it, but we’re going to explain ourselves before we do it, if you’d like to pay attention.”

The second paragraph is a marvel of deathless prose — a mission outline that describes not only the rationale for breaking away from the British Crown, but also the foundation of a radical new political entity. Again, it takes pains to note that governments — even this new one, about to come into being — shouldn’t be changed lightly, but trust us, the situation has gotten that bad.

Then there’s a list of the various offenses committed against the colonists. While I wouldn’t blame you for stopping at the end of paragraph 2, I think they’re worth reading just to see how bad things had gotten. Besides, it’s a good transition into the last paragraph, where after the signers pray they’re doing the right thing, they stake their lives, their fortune, and their sacred honor on this bold venture. Nobody fit these words to the tune of an old drinking song, nor was a cartoon constructed around them, but they form the foundation of the greatest single experiment in democracy this old planet may ever have seen.

America exists because a group of colonists stood up to the oppressions of a distant king and told him that the power to govern wasn’t exclusive to royal bloodlines. They knew that the divine — in whatever form — had given to each person the full measure of human dignity, and they built a government based on protecting that dignity. While their documents weren’t perfect, they kept tweaking and fine-tuning, and 229 years later we still haven’t gotten it completely right. Nevertheless, we keep trying, just as they did. I’d like to think we each work always for the other’s good, but sadly I know better.

Regardless, that’s the goal. We should never stop striving for it, and never stop questioning whether what we do still serves it. Like the flag over Fort McHenry, the ideal of America should never be out of sight. And it all started with these words:

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. –Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refuted his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred. to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. –And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Have a great holiday!

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