Log in

entries friends calendar profile Previous Previous Next Next
And where does the newborn go from here?
The net is vast and infinite.
(NOTE: This is a repost of a review I wrote on the BMMB a few years ago, with some minor cleanup done. I'm re-posting it here in anticipation of a review for a related movie; this way, I don't have to re-cover the basics for those not familiar with the series.)

“Where there is light, shadows lurk and fear reigns. Yet by the blade of knights, mankind was given hope.”

Such is how each episode of GARO begins, before taking us into the opening credits. GARO, for those here who’ve never heard of it (which is probably everyone but me), is a Japanese live-action tokusatsu (special effects) superhero series, similar to the Ultraman or Kamen Rider franchises, created by character designer and director Keita Ameyima, who also directed the two Zeiram movies, the utterly-bizarre-but-really-fun Mechanical Violator Hakaider, a short Kamen Rider movie called Kamen Rider ZO, and several other works. Now, while I’ve generally enjoyed what I’ve seen of Amemiya’s work, I’m not really sure I’d call most of it good, per se; Kamen Rider ZO and Hakaider had some pretty cool suits, effects, and action scenes, but were pretty short on…well, everything else. I haven’t yet had the fortune of seeing the Zeiram movies, but I understand they’re pretty fun, too. GARO, however, is an exception to the Amemiya standard of “fun to watch, but kind of hollow”; this is a very, very cool series.

(And yes, the show’s title is usually written in all capital letters; I’m guessing that’s because it’s written in katakana, and for whatever reason, when translated to English, words written in katakana are usually in all caps. I could be wrong about that, though; my knowledge of the Japanese language, in either its spoken or written form, is pretty limited.)

GARO focuses on Saejima Kouga (whose given name, I believe, means “Wolf” or something related to wolves), played by Konishi Hiroki. Kouga is the son of Saejima Taiga, a legendary Makai (Magic) Knight who wore golden armor and carried the title of Garo, the most respected rank among the Makai Knights. The Knights are a group of mystical warriors who hunt down creatures called Horrors – monsters born from, and which feed upon, the negative emotions of humanity. When he was a child, Kouga saw his father killed while battling a Horror, and grew up focused upon nothing but becoming a Makai Knight; this was his sole reason for existing, his only passion in life. As such, he became an extraordinarily accomplished Knight at a fairly early age, already having earned the title of Garo for himself by the time the series begins.

Things begin to change for Kouga, however, when he rescues an adorable young painter named Mitsuki Kaoru (Mika Hijii) from a Horror. During the battle, Kaoru is spattered with the Horror’s blood – and when that happens, the person who came in contact with the blood becomes a magnet for Horrors; the smell attracts them (although the way most episodes are structured, it seems more and more like the opposite is the case; that she’s drawn to Horrors, rather than the other way around). And even if the person manages to survive the constant attacks by Horrors, after 100 days, they’ll die on their own in fairly agonizing fashion. So, understandably, the standard operating procedure for Makai Knights, when they encounter someone who’s come in contact with a Horror’s blood, is to kill them immediately; it is, really, the most merciful thing to do, because breaking the curse imposed by the blood is extraordinarily difficult – almost impossible. Kouga, however, lets Kaoru live – at first, just to use her as bait for the Horrors, but…well, his reasons change over the course of the series.

We’ll also be introduced to another Makai Knight named Suzumura Rei, who can summon silver armor and become Zero, the Silver Knight. Rei, as it turns out, has a vendetta against Kouga because he believes Kouga to be responsible for the murder of the woman he loved.

GARO is looked at in tokusatsu fandom as something of a turning point for the genre; billed as a “Hyper Midnight Action Drama,” GARO was aired – as its billing would suggest – at midnight, and apparently in Japan, when a show is aired at or after midnight, the creators can get away with pretty much anything, and GARO takes complete advantage of that; the show features fairly graphic violence, intense fight scenes, and even some nudity every so often. Some of the weekly villains are also a bit unsettling; it’s worth noting that humans, when they work willingly with Horrors rather than simply being controlled by them, are usually far more frightening than the actual monsters. The show was very much influenced by horror movies, but for all that, it never loses the bright edge and sense of heroism and hope that a superhero story needs. The series, as you can probably gather, was aimed at adults and older teenagers, and it’s this changing of the target audience that marks it as a turning point – most toku shows are aimed at kids, and mostly exist to sell toys (which isn’t, of course, to say that there aren’t any toys for GARO; because apparently, there's quite a few).

For a significant portion of the American audience, the main representation of the tokusatsu genre is the Power Rangers shows. If anyone watches GARO expecting something along those lines, they’re in for quite a surprise; not only is GARO a fairly dark series, but the special effects are actually pretty decent, especially for a TV budget. There are numerous sequences done entirely in CG, and these sequences usually look, while not on par with similar sequences in big-budget theatrical films, at least on par with the cutscenes in a pretty good next-gen video game. The suits also look great, especially the armors for Garo and Zero. What really stands out in this series, however, is the fight choreography; many, if not all, of the show’s fights are on par with a pretty cool Hong Kong kung fu movie. The wirework (and while many deride it, wire fu is my favorite kind of kung fu) is all very well done, and the cuts between stunt doubles and actors are quite smooth. My two favorite fights probably came in episodes nineteen and twenty-one; without giving away too many spoilers, episode nineteen concerns Kouga trying to enchant a piece of fruit obtained in the underworld in order to break Kaoru’s curse; while the fruit is in the process of being enchanted, however, he has to kung fu fight with someone who’s trying to stop the process and prevent Kaoru from being saved. Not only is the actor playing Kouga’s opponent, Mark Musashi, a consummate wushu practitoner (he also pulls off some decent capoeira stuff in a later episode), but the choreography – which has both combatants trying to grab the piece of fruit and get it out of one another’s hands while kicking and punching each other at the same time – may be on par with some of Jackie Chan’s best fight work. (Well, okay – not Drunken Master II or Wheels on Meals, but at worst, I'd say it’s on par with the stuff he’s done just a couple steps below that.) Episode twenty-one has Kouga fighting a bunch of Horror-possessed street punks armed with guns that fire magic bullets, and the way his fight with the punks is handled is just brilliant; smooth, fast, and creative, just like a good fight scene should be. The quantity of the action in most of the episodes is also pretty impressive; GARO is a half-hour show, so without commercials, the average episode comes to a little more than twenty minutes, and most episodes contain a minimum of ten minutes of pure ass-kickery – which I found quite welcome after having watched some of the new Kamen Rider shows, which are honestly kind of boring. (Lots of scenes of the characters sitting around talking about how mysterious everything is, and having wacky misadventures that have nothing to do with monsters or superheroes, then a perfunctory two-minute fight scene tacked on at the end; sorry, but that’s not what I want from a superhero show.)

Of course, for all the praise I’m giving the show, it’s certainly not without its flaws. Most of these flaws lie in the fact that, ultimately, the show – in terms of content – is nothing we haven’t seen before, and numerous times. A sword-wielding monster hunter with a gruff exterior meets a pretty young woman who teaches him to laugh, and love, again; villains who seek to take over/destroy the world/amass great power by summoning ancient evils; wire-assisted martial arts fights; and a super-powered hero with multiple forms, each more powerful than the last (a common trope in Japanese sci-fi and fantasy, especially superhero shows). Like I said – nothing new. But it all works anyway, largely because of the show’s earnestness, and its visual style; one thing that can always be said for Keita Amemiya’s works is that they have a very distinctive visual flair , and GARO is no exception. The show just looks cool (even if the Makai Knights do dress kind of silly when not in their armor), and that – combined with the fact that it’s all done pretty well, and just a lot of fun to watch – makes me willing to forgive its lack of originality.

The depth of the characters, too, is a bit of a flaw; specifically, they don’t have a lot. They have enough that we care about them, and they grow over the course of the series, but none of them are really completely three-dimensional. Still, the show is essentially a live-action comic book (and I mean that in the most positive way possible), and its storytelling style is very much comic book storytelling; what we’re here for is action, so that’s what the show delivers on, while slowing down just long enough to give us some quick glimpses of character along the way. It works, and I’m certainly not going to suggest that the show should’ve stretched itself out to an hour to accommodate everything, but it still would’ve been nice for the characters to be a little deeper.

So, is GARO worth checking out if you’re a fan of tokusatsu shows? Oh, most definitely. But is it worth checking out if you’re not? I would say yeah, it probably is. It may not be the best introduction to the genre as a whole (if you start with this, you’re going to be very disappointed when you start watching other shows in the genre and they’re not like this), but it’s definitely worth a look.

Tags: ,

Leave a comment

...I think that if you enjoy something, you must see some redeeming value in it, and thus there's no reason to feel guilty about liking it. Take, for instance, my favorite retarded movie ever - Showdown in Little Tokyo. It's an awful movie, without question - predictable, stupid, cliched, silly, etc. But it also has Dolph Lundgren at his Dolph Lundgreniest, an entertaining performance from Brandon Lee, and some of the dialogue is genuinely enjoyable. (Note I said "some," not "all.") Also, it has my sensei's sensei playing the guy Brandon Lee kung fu fights at the end. So I feel no shame for loving Showdown in Little Tokyo, and neither should anyone else.

But if I did believe in guilty pleasures, I think the new Mr. Terrific series that DC launched as part of their "New 52" could count. I really like this title, though. I'm not counting it as a "Comic Everybody Should Be Reading" because...well, compared to things like Xombi or even Captain America Corps, it leaves a lot to be desired. The dialogue is passable, the author is obviously trying to write a genius character despite being smart, but not himself a genius (and showing all of the associated problems), the art is uneven (the action scenes tend to look pretty good, but during the dialogue scenes, the artist seems to kind of lose interest), and turning Karen Starr/Power Girl into Michael Holt's non-powered girlfriend was unquestionably a mistake. The book is certainly not without its flaws. So why do I like it so much? Because writer Eric Wallace is trying - he's putting forth a real effort to make an awesome superhero book, and while it doesn't always work, I'd much rather read a failure with its heart in the right place than yet another iteration of "Geoff Johns mutilates third-stringers (P.S. Hal Jordan is great)."

That said, I really don't think Mr. Terrific is a failure. Like I said, a lot of it doesn't work, but there are things that it does quite right. To wit:
- Being Mr. Terrific is awesome -  This is a key element in having a superhero book that's really enjoyable: no matter how shit the hero's life is out of costume, being a superhero should be exhilarating. Take Spider-Man: Peter Parker’s life, for most of the series, is not one anybody would want. He has endless money troubles, his boss is an asshole, he’s considered completely unfuckable by most of the women around him (at least in the early issues), he lives with his infuriatingly overprotective aunt, and oh yeah, his uncle’s murder was 100% his fault. It’s no wonder he got an ulcer in the ‘70s: being Peter Parker sucks. But being Spider-Man is (if you’ll pardon the choice of words) so amazing that it makes up for all of that. Every bit of suffering Peter Parker experiences is worth it, because at the end of the day, he gets to put on that mask, enjoy a kind of freedom most people can only imagine, and save lives. Being a superhero would be an incredible thing, and I think that’s something that a lot of writers currently working in the genre have forgotten about. And while multi-billionaire super-genius Michael Holt doesn’t have things nearly as hard as Peter Parker, the writer and artist get it pretty right when it comes to how cool being Mr. Terrific would be: his base of operations is a lab he built in the ninth dimension, he flies by standing on his T-spheres (frequently in great poses somewhat reminiscent of those struck by the Silver Surfer mid-flight and Spider-Man mid-swing), and he gets to match wits against alien super-geniuses. Who doesn’t think that would be awesome?

- Mr. Terrific is a hero, not just a crimefighter – Too often the role of the superhero is boiled down simply to “fighting crime.” And while that’s usually the main thrust of what we see them doing, the real motivation for someone like, say, Superman is really to make the world better. And certainly impeding crime is a part of that; but what Superman does that’s even more important than “fighting crime” is that he is a symbol – a figure of inspiration, meant to spark hope in people and instill us with the drive to be something greater than what we are, even if it’s only in our own, small ways. Mr. Terrific is trying to do the same; he’s not simply punching out muggers because “DEY KILLED MAH (X).” Yes, he’s using his intellect to stand in the way of criminals, but he’s also trying to educate people, and – like Superman – to inspire them. One of the nice details of the new origin for the character is that, when he reached his lowest point after his wife’s death and was contemplating suicide, he received a brief visit from his future son, telling him, “Don’t give up.” Michael Holt had someone shine a light into the darkness and inspire him when he needed it most; now he’s trying to do the same for others. Because that’s what a hero does. This point also goes hand-in-hand with the next one:

- The book is not trying to be gritty, or dark, or edgy – There are entirely too many people who think that loading your superhero comic books down with rape, mass murder, and nonstop misery makes them “mature.” Of course, all it ever really does is make them more ridiculous than they ever were before. Wallace seems to understand this; he seems to want you to come away from each issue with a sense of wonder and joy, not gloom and grief.

- Nor is it trying to be realistic – Armagideon Time’s Eric Weiss sums up my position on this idea perfectly in the last two paragraphs of this entry:

“Superheroes are, on the most basic level, a goofy idea rooted in children’s power fantasies and simplistic views of good and evil. While a good creator with a good concept can transcend that inherent goofiness, they can’t outright wish it away. Watchmen is about as sophisticated as a superhero story could ever hope to become, but Moore and Gibbons were up front in acknowledging the absurity (sic) of costumed crimefighters and juxatposed (sic) that silliness with the unsettling consequences of their actions. Ditto Veitch’s Brat Pack or Mills & O’Neill’s Marshal Law.

While the genre can sustain a degree of sophistication (and I’m all for seeing more of it),  there’s an inescapable core of escapist childhood wonder and wish-fulfillment which underpins superhero stories and has to be addressed (by embracing it, refuting it, or channeling it).  There’s no shame in appreciating it on those terms, then striking out from there.  Half-assed attempts to bury it under the conceit of ‘realism’ (or ‘mature content’) only serve to emphasize the silliness while sacrificing its underlying charm.”

Again, Wallace gets this: as mentioned before, Mr. Terrific’s “lair” is a super-lab in the ninth dimension. At the beginning of issue 2, Michael resolves a situation by creating a “sonic black hole” – a singularity that pulls in sound, but nothing else. How is that possible? Who cares? He’s a genius, that’s how. Superheroes are a fantasy genre; in this case, science-fantasy, but still fantasy. And having a fantasy universe that’s hidebound by narrow concepts of what’s “possible” or “real” is, quite frankly, boring.

So. Mr. Terrific: far from the best book on the stands, and not even my favorite of the New 52 (that would be Action Comics), but a book I really enjoy in spite of its flaws; it’s at least making the effort to do what I want superhero comics to do, and there are few enough titles even trying for such a thing right now that when one comes along, even if it’s not perfect – I’m still willing to stand by it. Mr. Terrific is a book that I’ll stand by. And I hope others are willing to do the same.

(Oh, yeah - it also helps that the book is essentially positing that science can solve all of our problems. It's like I was the title's sole target audience.)

Tags: ,

Leave a comment
So today, I bought this:
Captain America Corps #1
Captain America Corps #1

This is a five-issue mini-series about 1940s-era Steve Rogers getting pulled out of the timestream and teaming up with four of his successors: his former sidekick, Bucky Barnes (who had been using the Captain America identity until just recently, and is the Cap pictured on the cover), American Dream, USAgent, and "Commander A," a mixed-race inheritor of the legacy from the 25th century "United Americas." They're brought together because someone has been going around the multiverse and pulling the various incarnations of Steve Rogers out of the histories of these other Earths, thereby altering the development of those Earths drastically. In issue 1, the force(s) responsible for this remain unknown; I'm sure it's going to end up being the Red Skull or Baron Zemo or some other pretty standard Cap villain, but there's something introduced in the first issue that I really hope ends up being what the whole series is about:

About halfway through issue 1, the five Caps demand that the cosmic being who brought them together (an Elder of the Universe) prove what he's saying about the different Earths having been deprived of Captains America. So, to verify his claims, the Elder takes them to the modern day of an Earth where Cap vanished before he could be thawed out. They arrive in Times Square, where the jumbotron and all the other video billboards and such now display things like, "Our Nation, Not Theirs"; "Real Americans First"; "Our Way," etc. The jumbotron then starts broadcasting a "We-the-People Rally" where this Earth's "patriotic heroes," Broad Stripe and Bright Star, thank the people for helping to "take back our God-blessed America!" (To which Steve's response is, "'Take back the nation'? From whom? Were we invaded?")

So at least part of this series is five versions of Captain America vs. the Tea Party. And that's pretty awesome; awesome enough, in fact, that I'm really hoping the villain turns out to be a new character who wants to spread bullshit Tea Party "ideals" across all the Americas in the multiverse, and realizes that the only way to do that is to nullify the living symbol of the American spirit and replace it with their own. It's a heavy-handed commentary, sure, but it's also still much better than the so-called commentary in something like Civil War, which was pretending to reflect modern-day social issues and Important Concerns, but was really just a great big pile of boring horeshit. And if you're going to do ham-fisted social commentary, at least make it entertaining ham-fisted social commentary; that was what superhero comics were doing in the '70s and '80s, when they first started trying to be relevant, and comics then were way more fun than their modern descendants. Part of the reason I liked this issue, in fact, is because it feels like a return to things like the period where Steve became "Nomad, the Man Without a Country!" and Richard Nixon turned out to be a Skrull - you know, back when the approach that the pulpy genre of superhero adventures took to reflecting the real world was to reflect it through a funhouse mirror smeared with wood pulp, rather than to overreach their grasp and just become self-important and boring.

Speaking of heavy-handed, while I really liked this issue, it does have some flaws. The art, while mostly competent and pretty solid during the action sequences, isn't all that great (Steve's face in one panel looks almost alien), and USAgent's characterization is pretty one-note and blatant ("You expect me to believe that two 'future Caps' are a girl and some - what? Asian-Hispanic?"). My guess, if the series develops in the way I said above that I wanted it to develop, is that Walker will end up defecting from the Corps to help the Not-the-Tea-Party villain(s), thereby giving Commander A an excuse to throw down on him while Steve and Bucky fight the big bad; and that's fine (even if it does devolve into the kind of "us vs. them" mentality that the Tea Party perpetuates), but surely there's a better way to handle the set-up for it than that?

I knew absolutely nothing about this series until I picked up the first issue today; my reason for getting it was that it's written by Roger Stern - Stern is a writer who cut his teeth back in the aforementioned '70s and '80s, and he's one of the few writers who continues to write comics in that vein. So, I try to support his work wherever I can in the hopes of getting more actual enjoyable comics, instead of the dull, gray, joyless mess that most titles are now. I recommend that everybody who reads mainstream comics pick up Captain America Corps; it's a really enjoyable, old school-flavored Captain America book, and while I quite like what I've read of Brubaker's stuff, I'd really rather have more things like this. Plus, guys like Roger Stern and Tom DeFalco just don't get as much work in the modern day as they should, and I think that supporting their stuff is always worthwhile, because it rarely fails to entertain.


Leave a comment
"Your bouncers here, the Sisterhood of Blood Mummies? They're badass, I'll give you that, but I've gone up against them before, and guess what? I'm still standing, and these ladies are the only ones of their kind left."

Last time I wrote about Xombi back in May, I predicted that it would last a year and then get cancelled. As it turns out, I was wrong.

It lasted six months, and then got canelled.

Fortunately, it was at least allowed to see out its first story arc, "The Ninth Stronghold," and bring it to a satisfying conclusion (remember when those happened in mainstream comics? Man, good times). It was entirely too short-lived, but at least while it was running, we got six months of monsters, a superhero book that was actually about honest-to-god adventures, and the kind of out-and-out, gleeful weirdness that used to be commonplace in the genre. (Issue six has golems with jetpacks and laser guns, people. Golems! With jetpacks and laser guns! How is this a book that failed?!)  I expect that from now on, we'll be seeing David Kim make frequent cameos in all of Geoff Johns' event crossovers, where he'll get killed in increasingly horrifying ways every time he appears. Hooray.

On the upside, on his blog, John Rozum has said that this weekend he'll "relate [his] plans for what [he's] thinking of doing," and "have a bit of Xombi news." He has explicitly stated that it's not going to be a new series, so I'm hoping this turns out to be a paperback collection of the original Milestone run, which I've found to be frustratingly difficult to get hold of, at least around here.


Leave a comment
Hey, gentlemen! Do you ever wish you could live the glamorous life of a killer-for-hire who inevitably dies a tragic-but-sometimes-noble death as comeuppance for your sins? Do you look at the Grendel Legacy started by Hunter Rose and say, "Why not me?"

Well, if you do, you're kinda fucked up. But I've got good news for you nonetheless! Now you, too, can partake (indirectly) in the Devil's Heritage with new Grendel-themed cologne! Because when I read Matt Wagner's comic, the first thing that springs to my mind is, "I want to smell just like these people!"

In all seriousness, I support the Hero Initiative 100%: they provide a good, valuable service (financial support to comic book creators in dire monetary straits), and I wish them nothing but good fortune with all their endeavors. But come on. It's a cologne based on Grendel. How can you not make fun of that?

Tags: ,

1 comment or Leave a comment
The Captain America movie made me so fucking happy.


1 comment or Leave a comment
...don't. I just recently purchased five of the eight issues (non-consecutively) that have been published, and so far I'm pretty thoroughly unimpressed.

THUNDER Agents, for those who came in late, was a comic published in the '60s by Tower Comics and drawn (perhaps written, too? I don't recall offhand) by industry icon Wally Wood. It came about when Wood and one of his cohorts were bandying about ideas, and hit upon the concept of, essentially, combining the Justice League with the Man From UNCLE. The result was a series about The Higher United Nations Defense and Enforcement Reserves Agents, a team made up of employees from all levels of the Higher United Nations, given devices that granted them superhuman powers in order to fight a mysterious madman called the Warlord - and later, an evil organization called SPIDER. The original THUNDER Agents was a classic-style, high-energy, "let's-have-an-adventure" sort of book that would feature things like Dynamo (the team's strongest, and probably most iconic, member) fist-fighting with a T-rex, or (SPOILERS!) the Warlord turning out to be a reptilian mutant from the center of the Earth.

So when DC did their relaunch, of course, they decided that what was needed was an edgy, more realistic take on the team. So now, while the team is still made up of people who are given devices that give them superpowers, the powers those devices grant are slowly killing them. Because that's fun, right? And instead of a light-hearted story of high adventure, we get a first issue that opens with the previous (unnamed) team of THUNDER Agents being killed in a fight with SPIDER goons. We get a first story arc that lasts six issues (because you've got to fill out that paperback collection, son!), and most of those six issues are taken up with either the team's handlers talking amongst themselves, or flashbacks to the backstories of the newly-recruited replacement Agents. Oh, and I guess the team's on some kind of mission during this story, too, but that kind of takes a backseat to the development of great, multi-layered characters like "African guy who likes to run." And apparently, having your bad guy be a lizard-man from Earth's core isn't realistic enough for modern comics, so the new leader of SPIDER is basically just the guy from The Social Network. And he bought the remains of the original organization so he could use their tech to ask the world's leaders an incredibly pretentious question ("Why did God harden Pharaoh's heart?"). Thrilling.
The cover to THUNDER Agents #2. Looks cool, right? Yeah, nothing remotely like this happens in the issue.

The worst thing the series does, though, is something I touched on earlier: most of the "screentime," as it were, goes to the team's non-superpowered handlers. The majority of each issue that I've read so far is taken up primarily by these two bullshitting, frequently about how they feel bad about recruiting people to this team just so they can get killed. (Then maybe you should stop fucking doing it.) Because who would want to read a comic book about, say, Iron Man, when instead you can read about the adventures of Tony Stark's secretary, Mrs. Arbogast? Thrill as she answers the phone! Will it be a legitimate business call? Will it be a telemarketer? Or could it be one of Tony's passel of illegitimate children? Find out this month! (I'm kidding, of course; I doubt Mrs. Arbogast is in the current Iron Man book, and if she is, she probably has her own powersuit by this point.) I think it's safe to say that what we have here is yet another modern comic book writer with zero interest in writing a superhero comic, but who lacks the integrity to say "no" when made an offer - so instead, he just takes a superhero book and tries to turn it into something else, with predictably-unreadable results.

So, DC, you can keep publishing this book for as long as it's profitable to do so, and you can keep calling it THUNDER Agents for as long as people are willing to keep buying it under that title - but this is absolutely not a THUNDER Agents book. There is not a single thing about this title that captures the feeling or spirit of the original series. Like so many of your other titles, this is a bleak, depressing slog with no heart, no imagination, no energy, and worst, no joy. So, I suppose, it fits right in with your current slate of comics. Honestly, I'm surprised Geoff Johns isn't writing it.

Now, to make us all feel a little better after that, here's a pretty sweet drawing from John Byrne of the original THUNDER Agents fighting the Mad Thinker and his Awesome Android:

Awwwwwwwwww, yeah. Now that's what I'm talking about!

Tags: ,

2 comments or Leave a comment
With DC Comics primed and ready for a new implosion, we've been getting a seemingly-endless stream of announcements for the 52 new titles that DC will be debuting in September. As is to be expected, some of these could be alright, while others OH GOD WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS I CAN'T EVEN

Okay, now that I'm done shaking and choking on my own vomit, let's take a look at a small selection of the new titles DC has announced:

Justice League Dark: First of all, can we never, ever use the word "Dark" in a comic book title again? Second, the premise - a version of the Justice League made up of DC's supernatural heroes - is kind of neat, but I call bullshit on the whole endeavor because it doesn't have Etrigan (or at least Jason Blood) or Zatanna.

Demon Knights: Hey, speak of the devil (so to speak)! It's a medieval fantasy book, so I shouldn't really give a shit, but it's about Etrigan and it's written by Paul Cornell, from whom I'll read just about anything.

Grifter: Look, it's a TOUGH, EDGY guy with GUNS! He's like no character you've ever seen before!

Stormwatch: Oh, shit, Paul Cornell is writing this. God dammit.

Blue Beetle: Hooray for Jaime! On the other hand, the first volume of this book struggled from issue one, but this time it'll do better, right? It's not like this could ever possibly get lost in the flood of new titles and go completely unnoticed.

Static Shock: I like Static well enough, so I'll probably check it out. And it's written by Xombi scribe John Rozum! (Speaking of, I have no idea what effect this whole reboot thing is going to have on Xombi, but I have a sinking feeling that no matter what the answer is, I'm going to be super pissed.)

Mister Terrific: Well, I like Mister Terrific. I'm not really sure he needs his own series, but what the hell, right?

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.: Oh, fuck yes.

BatgirlI've got no problem with Gail Simone, but Barbara going back to being Batgirl is kinda dumb.

Hawk & Dove: Really? You guys gave Rob Liefeld a job again? Really?

Also, this is a joke, right? I have no real fondness for Deathstroke, but please tell me that's a joke.

Tags: ,

3 comments or Leave a comment
I write an awful lot on here about comics, but I don't write much about comics that I like. That is, unfortunately, because there simply aren't that many comics out there anymore that I really like - certainly not many that I like enough to write about them. I like the two Power Man (with and without Iron Fist) mini-series that we've gotten so far, but I don't really have much to say about them. The Unwritten is fantastic, but there's plenty of other people who've written about that one.I think the last time there was a series that I was really excited about, to the point where I wanted to tell people how damn good it is, was The Immortal Iron Fist. And that series was, unquestionably, the jam. But I'm not here to talk about Iron Fist today; rather, I want to talk about Xombi.

Despite what it's title may make it sound like, Xombi is not a rip-off of Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead. Rather, it's a superhero book about David Kim, a scientist doing nanotech research who got attacked by a supernatural entity and very nearly killed. His partner, however, shot Kim up with his own nanites, which then rebuilt Kim...but used the partner for the raw materials of Kim's new body. Now, he has become what's  referred to within the book's universe as a xombi: "an immortal being created through artificial means." Somehow, this process also had the effect of making Kim a "weirdness magnet," which means that being completely unkillable is extremely useful, as he's now constantly getting swept up in bizarre occurrences, along with his allies Catholic Girl and Nun of the Above.

And when I describe some of the stuff in this book as "bizarre," I don't mean it in the sense of "Wow, there's vampires and werewolves and elves and stuff in this universe! Isn't that wacky?!" I mean that there is genuinely bizarre stuff he comes up against. And that's part of what makes me love the book: the first two issues alone are absolutely loaded down with ideas. Here are a few:
- A Parada Assutadora ("The Startling Parade"): a cult in Brazil run by demonic rod-puppets papier-mâchéd out of the religious and political tracts you find littering the streets in some South American cities
- A prison where the inmates are "condensed" at a molecular level, reducing the space between their molecules and effectively shrinking them down to a few inches in height.
- A supporting character named Nun the Less who can shrink, and whose superhero origin is: "When she was sixteen years old, she ate some bad shrimp. She was able to [shrink down] at will ever since." (Which, for my money, is the best origin ever.)
- A copy of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that was riddled with "semicolon cancer," and caused the person who read it to develop a monstrous Mr. Hyde persona of their own.

And there's way more on top of that. As you can probably tell, this book is 100-proof crazy, and that makes it pretty great to read. (I never read the original Milestone series, but I've been told it featured a character named "Manuel Dexterity" who was a giant hand. Brilliant!) The creator of the original series, John Rozum, has returned to write this one, and he's obviously having a lot of fun with it, which helps the book's enjoyability a lot. It also helps the series stand out among the gray, joyless morass that makes up the rest of DC's superhero output. Unlike, say, Blackest Night, Xombi never deliberately tries to make you feel stupid for reading superhero comics.

My one complaint about the book is that the color is all handled in a largely-monotone fashion; the book isn't in black-and-white, but rather, scenes are "color-coded" to their locations, and practically the only color in many scenes is the one to which they're coded. This is disappointing not only because it's kind of lazy and just doesn't look all that great, but also because the writing is so imaginative, and it would've been nice to see the coloring match that imagination.

That aside, though, Xombi is a pretty damn good book, and honestly, it kind of plays out like exactly the kind of comic book I would write: weirdness thrown in mostly just because weirdness amuses me, some horror overtones, and a lot of really stupid jokes that only I would find funny. The main difference is that mine would have more kung fu and ninjas. Regardless, though, everybody should check out Xombi; I've left this deliberately brief because I'm hoping to whet people's interest in the book by giving tidbits of the stuff in it, rather than explicitly describe, say, what threat David is facing in this story arc. Xombi is a book that deserves to be read and appreciated by a large number of people, rather than the fate that it's probably already doomed to face: that of being brilliant, but getting cancelled after a year and becoming a footnote in the history of the DC Universe.


Leave a comment
This is an actual excerpt from the Wikipedia entry on DC Comics hero Black Lightning:

"The original candidate for DC Comics' first headlining black superhero was a character called the Black Bomber, a black hero who was actually a white racist and later described by comics historian Don Markstein as 'an insult to practically everybody with any point of view at all.'"


Tags: ,

4 comments or Leave a comment