January 9th, 2012

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We're Men! We're Men Of War! We Roam Around The Forest Looking For Fights!

Men of War

Ah, the war comic. One of the biggest non-superhero genres in comics, and among the oldest. However, since the 80s, it has been almost completely absent in the medium. There have been a few here and there, but nothing from the mainstream. Until now.

The new 52 gives us a war comic, another anthology series. Unlike the others, there doesn't seem to be a central protagonist or star of the series, with other stories filling out the comic. And there's another twist, in that these soldiers going to war have to deal with a world full of super powered people who could wipe out mortal armies with an afterthought. But there are also normal soldiers going into battle and having to deal with much more mundane kind of military threats. The kind you'd get in more traditional war comics from the 40s to the 70s. Although I do hope we get a few more wild stories, like the War that Time Forgot--any comic book with dinosaurs would be worth a look, I think.

I can't recommend this one as strongly, though it is really well written. Why? Because there isn't a central protagonist. I thought it was going to focus on a new Sergeant Rock, but it doesn't look like there will. It's a more traditional anthology, which means that each issue will probably have its own focus. While serialized stories might get stretched over several issues, there seem to also be single issue shorts. So if one issue doesn't grab you, wait a month, maybe the next one will.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque; also the Navy SEALs story shouldn't have been as long as it was . . .
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He's Terrific, Thanks For Asking

Mister Terrific

I go back and forth on this one.

On the one hand, it's not good. On the other hand, it is kind of fun. But it's so not good.

One of the big problems is that the series has an over-reliance on really bad technobabble that not only doesn't mean anything, it makes Mr. Terrific look like an idiot. He's supposed to be one of the top 3 smartest people on Earth, and he doesn't use science to solve his problems, he essentially uses fucking magic.

That's the main problem with technobabble. The layman doesn't fully understand science, maybe somewhat, but anything that "sounds" like science gets a pass with them. But technobabble does whatever the hell the writer needs it to do, whereas science--even fakey comic book science--is somewhat consistent, and there are (or should be) actual limitations on what science--even fakey comic book science--can do.

But technobabble, with its inconsistency and "does whatever the writer wants" methodology, masks actual science and makes it so that not only the layman but actual experts in the field don't know what it means, and so it just comes off as narrative fiat, and since technobabble includes "babble," it just pads out the pages with talky scenes in which nobody says anything.

Also, the art for the first two issues, was really bad. Everyone looked encephalatic and wall-eyed, which made them look really stupid. And the supporting cast is rather unlikable.

So what's good about it? Well, when the writing isn't overdoing the technobabble, it's actually kind of tight and managed to be thrilling in a couple of places. And the main character actually manages to have at least one heroic moment per issue. The villain for the opening arc was satisfyingly evil and it was very nice to have him get beaten. And it was actually an interesting threat, at first, with him making people super-intelligent but unempathetic, and then stealing their smarts. That was rather clever.

There's also a hint at an overarching storyline, but right now it's just a hint, and an uninteresting hint at that. In all, Mister Terrific has all the seeds to be a great comic book, but is hampered by its own presentation.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque; there's also Karen Starr, the secret identity of Power Girl, but she doesn't seem to have her powers so I don't know what's going on there.
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It's Adventure Time, Come On Grab Your Friends

My Greatest Adventure

This is both a miniseries and an anthology. Three series are showcased, a new Robotman made up more of nanomachines, Garbage Man (a sort of low-rent Swamp Thing), and Tanga--a superpowered valleygirl in a sci-fi pulp setting.

I think the latter two might have been introduced in something done last year, but if so it flew completely under my radar, so I'm taking it like this is their first appearance, because for me? It is.

Robotman, in previous incarnations a member of the Doom Patrol (which made their debut in the original anthology series My Greatest Adventure) is former stunt driver Cliff Steel, who barely survived a failed stunt by being remade into a robot. Hence the name, Robotman. Kind of straightforward. This looks like it'll be a fairly traditional zombie story, with the added twist of Robotman being immune to the typical zombie tricks, and able to rebuild his body after being ripped apart. It's quite fun.

Garbage Man, former corporate attorney Richard Morse, is sort of a street-level Swamp Thing, without any of the mystical or cosmic stuff. This one is the weakest of the three stories, but only because the pace is rather slow (and you probably have to know what happened in his previous story, though you get enough flashbacks to grasp it all), but there's nothing really wrong with it. I'd probably like it better if I read his initial appearance. Oh well. Sometimes you miss comics, it happens.

Tanga is a lot of fun. Imagine someone with Superman's power but the attitude of a typical valley girl from the 80s. Yeah. This is a light-ish story, meant for pure entertainment, and it delivers. She's carefree, and doesn't really understand the circumstances surrounding her, but her power level and attitude is what makes it interesting. Add a cool sci-fi pulp setting (by which I mean, Mos Eisley from Star Wars times at least 100, if not more), and you've got plenty of opportunity for Tanga to show off.

All in all, probably the best anthology series, or at least most fun. Too bad it's just a mini.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque; also too bad the Doom Patrol seems to be retcon'd out of existence. Boo.
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Because The Nightwing Belongs To Us

Nightwing

The biggest change to the Batman mythos is that he started his career a nebulous 5 or so years ago. Which means that Batman had Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, and Damian Wayne--at the least--as his partner Robin in 5 years.

Which is BULLSHIT of the highest order. It means that Dick Grayson is now 21-ish, started as Robin at 16? Bullshit! Bullshit!

But that doesn't have much if anything to do with this series (except that Dick Grayson's older age means he had a bigger connection to Haley's Circus). Dick has grown up, spent his time as Batman while Bruce Wayne was believed dead, and returned to his own identity as Nightwing.

And then Haley's Circus arrives in town, and Dick is drawn back into the soap opera of the circus life and mystery of how the circus made its money and why its owner was murdered and why he gave the circus to Dick.

And someone's trying to frame Dick Grayson as the greatest assassin in the world.

There's some fake drama with a new love interest I'm not all that interested in, but Dick Grayson is his normal likable self, and the mysteries are interesting enough to sustain a longer story. This one gets my vote.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque; despite the red on the new Nightwing costume. What the hell are they thinking with that?
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Often Many Analysts Cry: OMAC

O.M.A.C.

Oh dear God.

This is AWESOME!

I love the old One Man Army Corps, Jack Kirby's demented super-science super-pulp super-series of dullard Buddy Blank gaining ultra-power from the mega-satellite Brother Eye and journeying across the World Of Tomorrow! It's a classic action series, and makes over-the-top seem tame by comparison. It's just Kirby doing what he does best, nearly nonstop action with absurdly awesome premises and the kind of bad-ass protagonist who isn't all that bad-ass, he's just BAD-ASS!!!

Once Kirby was no longer working on O.M.A.C. . . . things never reached the heady heights, and for some reason it was given a loose connection to the Kamandi series (also created by Kirby). And then Batman was put at his most paranoid and created the Brother Mk. I satellite, which was appropriated by a bad guy and turned into Brother Eye and a bunch of "OMAC" cyborg things were sent out . . .

Bad times.

Until now.

Now, the fun is back. The awesome is back. Regular research scientist Kevin Kho gets zapped by Brother Eye and turned into OMAC, and while the satellite has its own agenda and tries to influence Kevin as much as possible, Kevin's good nature still shines through. Add gonzo super villainy and Brother Eye trying to manipulate the world around Kevin as much as possible, and it's a nearly nonstop action ride of AWESOME!!!

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque; love it!
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March of the Penguin

Penguin: Pain And Prejudice

I don't know what it is about Oswalt Cobblepot, but he's a fascinating character. He often gets the most detailed backstory of all of Batman's rogues, and even though he's actually the silliest concept for a supervillain (he's a short, fat guy who dresses nice and carries umbrellas and has a fixation with birds!!!), he's almost always given the most respect out of all of them. He's not a psychopathic killer, he doesn't have an over the top gimmick, he's just a suave and calculating criminal mastermind.

And Penguin: Pain and Prejudice continues the trend.

Oh, sure, he's never going to get one over on Batman, at least for long, but he's the emperor of his little empire, and it's fascinating looking into one way this guy became a kingpin (or perhaps emperor penguin) of crime.

I almost don't want to talk more about this deranged little mini, because it's such a good series. But fair warning: this is some sick stuff. Deranged. At one point, the Joker makes a cameo, and in just one panel, it's the most demented and disturbing he's been in years (yes, that's counting having his face removed in Detective Comics #1). And we delve deep into the psyche of the Penguin, who might not be the craziest of Batman's bad-guys, but he's twisted in his own way.

So yeah. This is a good one. Maybe wait until it's collected, but I don't think this should be missed.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque; okay, he was silly and goofy on the live-action TV show, but so was everyone.