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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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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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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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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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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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How It All Began

Legion: Secret Origin

So the Legion of Superheroes is the most rebooted franchise in comics.

And now that the whole line has been rebooted, it's been rebooted again!

Yay!

I'm not going to get into the whole rigamarole, but in one previous version of the Legion's origin, the first few members of the group got together when they saved the life of R. J. Brande, one of the richest guys in the galaxy. In gratitude, Brande decides to form the teens into a team and becomes their "adult advisor."

In my opinion, it's not the best origin, but whatever. This is the version they chose to go with when they told the rebooted Legion origin. But there's more stuff going on in the galaxy that, if you know anything about other members of the Legion, and various bits of Legion lore, hint at various bits of "future" stories the Legion will have to deal with. But I'm only talking about the first three months of the new 52, and since this is a miniseries, it didn't start until the second month, so there's only two issues to talk about, here.

It's . . . okay? One of the problems that the regular Legion book had was too many characters and not enough room. Well, this mini has fewer Legion members to deal with, but then a bunch of other people get caught up in these events, and the same problem begins. Just to a lesser extent.

One really good thing is that this does have the feel of a historical drama, just in the future instead of the past. I admit I haven't read much historical fiction, but this seems to fit seemlessly with the genre.

There's nothing here that's objectionable, so if you want to learn sort of the cliff's notes of how the Legion got together, pick it up.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque; and it builds up Brainiac 5 as the smartest person in the universe. As it should be.
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One Thousand Years Is A Millennium

Legion of Superheroes

I love the Legion. Love, love, love the Legion. They're a club of super powered teenaged rebels from a thousand years in the future, but instead of being your typical wastoid, self-absorbed teenagers who are too busy whining about their minor problems to do anything . . . they model their lifestyle after the heroic exploits of Superboy and other heroes from more contemporary times.

They are, however, the most rebooted series in comics.

It's not their fault, not entirely. They're from the future, so when the present day stories suddenly do something that terrifically contradicts their previously established "future history," they kind of get stuck in a corner.

For instance, originally, they were inspired to heroism by the career of Superboy. Clark Kent grows-up-to-be-Superman-himself, Superboy. But not historical legends of Superboy, but they actually traveled to the past and had adventures with Superboy and even took him to the future for some fun and adventures.

So when Crisis on Infinite Earths happened and the history of Superman was rewritten and now he was never Superboy, the Legion needed a fix, quick. There have been other things, too, involving the Legion growing up to be adult superheroes, as well has having stories about their contemporary teen-age selves (it's confusing, and I'm not getting into it now because it's not worth it, really), and then when another Superboy popped up, a semi-clone of Clark Kent, the Legion's history was again rewritten to allow him to be a part of the Legion . . . and then came the "Threeboot" Legion, aka the fifth volume of Legion of Superheroes.

See, there was this crossover with the Teen Titans coming out of that, a new version of the Legion appeared. Once again, they were teenagers in the future who had superpowers and used those powers to help people. This time, they weren't inspired by any single superhero or the like, but were, in short, comic book nerds. They patterned themselves after the goofy comic books that had survived to the 31st century. This version of the Legion is my favorite--everyone has their's--because a) it really feels like a fully developed setting, b) it's inclusive, c) the characters are simply but effectively portrayed so that you feel like you know these guys even if you've never read the series before, even if you've never heard of them before. It was after I got into this version that I looked into the Legion and became a huge fan. So partly, it's familiarity and partly it's appreciation that this is my favorite. Whatever the reason, I still think this version of the Legion is the most accessible.

Which brings us to the current volume of the Legion of Superheroes. This one kind of had a similar issue where I felt disoriented after reading the first issue, but not to the same degree. The main problem with this version is that there are so many characters, the issues zip through them so quickly, you just feel like you've almost caught your breath before being inundated with a half dozen other characters. It settles down relatively quickly, but the Legion has had better stories. This just feels mediocre in comparison to other, better stories.

Which is the main problem with the reboot. I might have mentioned.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque; oh, and the Legion was created before Star Trek, and went farther in the future than it did, meaning it was more optimistic, during the Cold War! . . . Sure . . .
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Maybe It's BECAUSE The Legion Is Lost That It's So Disorienting

Legion Lost

And audience lost, too.

There's a storytelling device known as medias res, where the story begins in the middle of the action, typically explaining the context later or as the drama unfolds. As a struggling writer, it's a device I have used myself, as well as being used in plenty of notably things you'll have actually heard of. The point is, it's done a lot, and it's usually not a bad idea. It gives the audience a nice jolt to get into the story, and clues them in that they're in for a bit of a ride.

But when it's done badly, it can leave the audience completely disorented and off balance and not sure of what the hell they're getting into.

So, there's this fugitive from the future, who has infected himself with a virus that causes people to take on the characteristics of various alien species. And it's up to a team from the Legion of Superheroes--teen heroes from a thousand years in the future--to try to catch the patient zero guy and prevent an outbreak . . . and barring that, contain the epidemic.

This is probably the most improved series of the new 52, because the first issue? Was unbelievably balls. You get the impression that there was a bunch of stories leading up to the first issue, but no*. It's a completely new story, not really related to anything that has gone before.

I'm a fan of the Legion. I enjoy stories of future guys coming to the present and the culture shock and the advanced technology gadgets and everything. Time Trax (anyone remember that?) Time Cop. This has been done lots of times, and it's generally a pretty good version of the tale. So this should have been a great contender for a series, to me.

But that first issue. I always try to give a new series a couple, three issues before completely writing it off, but after Legion Lost #1, I was dreading reading the second issue. Because it was not a good introduction to the characters, the story, the setting . . . I actually felt physically disoriented after reading it. I'd recommend skipping the first issue, and picking up from the second, because it does a much better job of introducing those elements. It's not a perfect introduction, but it won't leave you physically ill.

Or at least, it shouldn't.

*Well, sort of. There are no previous issues to read to prepare you for what's going on in the first issue, but writer Fabien Nicieza (whose name I will never know how to pronounce) did some promotional text pieces viral marketing stuff. They don't help. I'm sorry, I really like Nicieza as a writer, but he dropped the ball with the first issue of this series.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque; also, their mission is doomed from the get-go, and I enjoy heroes struggling against impossible odds, which actually isn't easy with super-powered characters.
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Are You Afraid Of The Justice League Dark?

Justice League Dark.

So most of the heroes on the Justice League are science based. Or, well, more SCIENCE! based. But what do you do when the threats are more magic based?

Well, according to Justice League Dark, you throw a bunch of sorcerers and mystical-themed characters at them and hope for the best.

So far, this seems more a loose coalition than a real team, but maybe that's just because the team hasn't officially formed? Madame Xanadu has decided to up her enigmaticness and is guiding the mad witch known as the Enchantress into doing something dangerous. What, exactly, we don't know. All we know as that it involves her split personality, known as June Moone, manifesting an independent body for herself, and Enchantress wants it back. The interference or perhaps separation anxiety, is causing magical, mystical backlash across the globe, and various people are investigating.

So far, it's John Constantine, a low-rent British wizard-for-hire, his onetime girlfriend Zatanna, a powerful sorceress and practicing stage magician, Deadman Boston Brand, and Shade the Changing Man, but the version that was revamped by writer Peter Milligan for the Vertigo imprint, which was a mature horror/independent creator imprint published by DC Comics. I'm not a big fan of the Vertigo Shade the Changing Man, or any of the Vertigo versions of DC characters (except for Swamp Thing and Sandman, but they don't really count, as they were DC characters that were shunted to Vertigo with little to no change, not recreated for Vertigo with lots of changes). I just prefer the original Steve Ditko series, a short-lived but high concept frenetic romp of comic book adventure with more untapped potential than this version of the character.

Partly because of that, and partly because the team hasn't met yet, I'm not feeling very strong about this series yet. It's not exactly mediocre, but it's certainly not wow-ing me.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque; also, Zatanna isn't wearing her familiar fishnets, and that's just disappointing.
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Heroes Without Borders

Justice League International.

Now this here is a good introduction to the team. First, it gets the whole group together immediately, and sends them all against a mysterious threat.

The plot is that some guy in the U.N. is jealous of the success of independent super-teams like the Justice League, and wants to get some international heroes under the banner of the U.N. as a hybrid public relations stunt/actually useful team. Booster Gold, Fire, Ice, Rocket Red (a member of a Russian team who wear powered armor, like Iron Man) Guy Gardner Green Lantern (Guy Gardner: the only name a hero needs), Vixen, August General in Iron, and Godiva make up this team, with Booster Gold chosen as the leader, because he's the most photogenic and the U.N. guy thinks he'll make a great figurehead. Guy, being Guy, quits in a huff when he's not chosen as team leader, but eventually comes back to try to show that without him, the team would be nothing. They're sent to investigate a missing team in what is hoped would be a softball introductory mission, but a couple things go wrong with that.

First, Batman hitches a ride for his own reasons. Second, the missing science team stumbled upon a network of alien giants who have just woken up and are ready to do . . . something to the Earth. Booster shows he's more concerned with the safety of the team than looking good, and signals a retreat and regroup, but only a temporary one, and then--when it becomes obvious the U.N. is more interested in good headlines about the team--formulates a plan involving the team splitting up and taking down the various worldwide giants.

This is a fun book, and my favorite of the Justice League books. The disparate personalities play off of each other in surprising ways, but that still make sense, and it's great seeing Booster play a more straight hero than he usually does. Also, Batman's on the team, self-appointed as a sort of unofficial supervisor, and he manages to give Booster really good advice. I just like it when Batman plays nice with other heroes. I say, until the next arc of Justice League anyway, focus on this series, unless you prefer more mature fair (then read the next Justice League book, which will be discussed in the next article).

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque; Godiva is kind of a weak link, as she doesn't add much to the team, but she knows it and doesn't try to be more than she thinks she is.