Saturday, July 31, 2010

Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman's anniversary issues

With the exception of anything written by Paul Dini and reading Final Crisis, I’m not a consistent Batman reader. As far as Superman and Wonder Woman, I only know what I’ve read in either Wizard or Previews. I decided to get the anniversary issues and the following issues to see if they were good stories and good jumping on points for me. Here’s what I found.

Batman #700 & #701

Batman #700 had one story, “Time and The Batman” by Grant Morrison, Tony Daniel, Frank Quitely, Scott Kolins, Andy Kubert, and David Finch. This offbeat story features the Maybe Machine, which is a device that allows someone to time travel. We get to see a cameo from the Terry McGuiness Batman as well as other alternate realities. It was fun seeing the Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne version of Batman & Robin having fun beating up bad guys.

I knew that ‘killing’ Bruce Wayne was temporary and that it was inevitable that he’d come back but, seeing the new Batman & Robin in action makes me wish that return was a few years away. It would be nice to see this new team really make a mark so that Bruce’s return is more of a transition for Dick (maybe not Damian because Tim will probably stay Red Robin for a while).

Batman #701 goes back to the RIP story arc where Bruce has just escaped from Doctor Hurt and gets called in by Superman to take a look at the spot where Orion was killed at the start of Final Crisis.

Batman #700 was kind of confusing. I wasn’t always sure of what was real and what was part of the time travel (or alternate reality). With the exception of a few moments, the rest was either confusing or boring.

Batman #701 should have been an opportunity to capitalize on the increased demand for Batman #700 by introducing a new story arc instead of closing out a story arc that gives us details on events that happened recently. With Bruce Wayne returning I think readers could use more Dick Grayson Batman stories. When Bruce returns, that’s when you drop the final RIP chapter. In any case, I won’t be getting Batman #702.

Superman #700 & #701

Superman #700 has 3 stories:

The Comeback by James Robinson & Bernard Chang

Parasite is chasing after Lois Lane when Superman saves her. Apparently he was gone for a long time and this is the first time they’re seeing each other. Nice interaction between the two of them after a long absence.

Geometry by Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund

This is a tale from Superman’s past, back when Dick Grayson was still Robin. While Bruce Wayne is at a Wayne Industries function, Robin decides to take on gunrunners and gets an assist from Superman. Robin is disobeying Bruce’s order to stay in the mansion and Superman helps him slip back in. This story had me laughing at the end. It’s great to see Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund telling great stories with the character they contributed so much to.

Grounded by J. Michael Straczynski & Eddy Barrows

Superman returns to Metropolis where he’s inundated by politicians and reporters who question his allegiances. Unable to come up with anything he felt was sufficient to answer their questions, Superman decides to literally walk among the people he abandoned. It is Superman’s way of rededicating himself to Earth and reconnecting with its people again.

In Superman #701, “Grounded Part 1” by J. Michael Straczynski & Eddy Barrows continues where #700 left off. Superman continues walking around and connecting with everyday people. The most interesting part of the issue is when Superman talks a jumper out of committing suicide. Throughout the issue, when someone asks him a question, Superman answers each one thoughtfully. I don’t know if it’s my imagination but did Peter Parker make a cameo in this issue?

Every story in Superman #700 was worth getting the issue for. I like this ‘ground-zero’ approach to Superman and will add this to my pull list to see how it develops.

Wonder Woman #600 & #601

Wonder Woman #600 has five stories:

Valedictorian by Gail Simone & George Perez

When Ivo’s Cyber-Sirens attack The White House, Wonder Woman and a few dozen of DC’s female heroes show up to stop them. Their combined might makes short work of the villains which is good news because Diana rushes off to watch Vanessa graduate high school. It’s a good story that lets the readers see Vanessa again and reminds us of who she is to Diana. The Diana/Vanessa conversation is meat of this story but the opening action between the DC ladies and villains makes me wish George Perez was doing something monthly. It’s a good story and the only story worth buying the issue for.

Fuzzy Logic by Amanda Connor

After Power Girl and Batgirl help Wonder Woman take down Egg Fu, Power Girl needs Wonder Woman’s advice. Unfortunately Power Girl wants advice on her cat. Moving on…

Firepower by Louise Simonson & Eduardo Pansica

Nikos Aegeus vs Wonder Woman & Superman in a by-the-numbers team-up against a foe clearly out of his league.

The Sensational Wonder Woman by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins

This is a sort of origin story with 2 unknown narrators talking about Wonder Woman before she goes through a doorway to “Let the odyssey begin.”

Odyssey Prologue: Culture Shock by J. Michael Straczynski & Don Kramer

Wonder Woman’s new costume (and it is cool) debuts as she takes on a few thugs who self-destruct. She goes to see the Oracle for information and she shows Wonder Woman what Paradise Island looks like. The Oracle is funny and I enjoyed their interaction. The only thing that bothered me (and this is nit picky) is when one of the robed people (I don’t know who they were – but she had to talk to them to get access to the Oracle) talked to her and Wonder Woman responded, “Don’t EVEN go there with me.” Wonder Woman is someone of few words unless she’s talking to a friend in warm, cultured language. Wonder Woman doesn’t use slang.

In Wonder Woman #601 (by J. Michael Straczynski & Don Kramer) “Past Imperfect, Present Tense,” we’re given an alternate version of what happened on Paradise Island. She has visions of herself in the old costume then we find out that she can’t fly anymore. What’s most disturbing is that she’s told she can’t fly YET, not that she can’t fly anymore. It looks like Straczynski is retconning the character as though she’s brand new. If so then she doesn’t know the other heroes of the DCU or Vanessa and it erases all past history which would be unfortunate.

I like the new costume but the new direction is annoying – I don’t need yet another alternate history for the character. Wonder Woman #600 was worth getting but I won’t be buying #602.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Paula Garces presents Aluna

While at the Comic Con this year I got a few autographs from Paula Garces. She starred alongside Jesse Bradford in Clockstoppers and more recently appeared alongside Michael Chiklis. She was selling a package with her new comic book and an autographed photo. I read the comic book, Aluna, and here are my thoughts.

The book starts in 1520 with our protagonist, Aluna, running for her life from Spaniards. From the moment she gets off the boat to confront the Spaniards, she feels strange. While being chased she discovers she has power over nature (creating lightning and wind). At one point she is injured and flowers sprout up in the blood trail.

There’s a familiar feel to the character (think the X-Men’s Storm in 1520) but that gives me something to identify with. Also, in the midst of running for her life, a native saves her life, tells her that he knows she has power, then tries to kill her so he can take her power (the cliché is someone running in to tell her about her destiny and helping her escape then bonding with her).

The writing is a little clunky. The story begins with her on the run then backs up to show how she got there but there’s no reference to what country Aluna and the people on her boat are from – am I supposed to look it up on Wikipedia – or what their beef with the Spaniards are and who they’re killing. And besides Aluna, there aren’t any other developed characters. I don’t even know what Aluna is fighting for and having her leave the boat while everyone’s sleeping and run into a group of Spaniards on purpose without any weapons (she doesn’t know she’s powerful at that point) seems a ridiculous way to isolate her to stage a chase scene.

The art is pretty good. With the exception of a few panels, I understood what was happening (there are two panels where she trips the native to the ground where I had no idea what was happening until he hit the ground). But I do love the action scenes where, on one panel, there are several pictures of the same person tumbling through the air. I miss artists doing that – now you only see that kind of thing in a Flash panel.

Aluna isn’t a bad independent book and it may be worth getting #2 to see how the story develops. Hey, it’s a two issue mini-series so why not?

Paula Garces
Aluna #1
She's also promoting something called themun2 look which premieres August 21, 2010
Paula from Clockstoppers

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Comic Con International 2010

As I do every year, I went to Comic Con. A lot of you were there (or have already read tons about the experience).

For me, the coolest thing at Comic Con wasn’t inside the convention center – it was a few blocks away. Disney built the ‘Tron Experience’ in a warehouse in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter. Above the doorway said “Flynn’s” which looked like the neon sign about Flynn’s arcade in the original movie.

When you walk in, the first room is a small arcade with the original Tron game and games like Ms. Pac-Man. On one wall were flat panel TVs where the upcoming Tron Legacy game was being played on an X-Box 360, PS3, and Wii. I don’t have a Wii but that’s what I ended up on, playing a friend on the light-cycle level. It was a blast – the new game is going to rock. There was a vending machine in a corner with nothing but Coke Zero. The best part of this room was that the Coke Zero and the video games were all free.

The second room had props from the original movie including the digitizer. It didn’t have much to see so people moved on pretty quickly to the third room.

In the third room was a perfect recreation of a bar from the movie Tron Legacy (the picture I have on this blog is from an on-set visit, the one in the Tron Experience is the same minus the camera). Behind the bar in the included picture, covering the entire wall, is a screen playing a preview every few minutes. Around the sides of the room is a place where a mannequin with the new uniform is displayed. On the other side is a small bar where Coke Zero is handed out and there are Tron-related products on display (including AWESOME 3.75” figures that light up and lightcycles). I must have spent about 45 minutes lounging in that room watching the previews and the woman in the white Tron outfit who would slowly walk back and forth while the preview played.
The third room was this set - without the cameras and crew. And all the deep blue behind the bar was a screen.
Tron girl walked around slowly and at the end of the trailer, took photos with anyone who asked. Very cool.

On the way back I spent a few minutes watching the protest outside the convention center. Protest…at Comic Con? About a dozen members of the Westboro Baptist Church led, as always, by their minister Fred Phelps. If you aren’t familiar with that group, they’re the wack jobs who go to soldier funerals with signs that say the soldier is going to hell for fighting. They came out to Point Loma a few months ago to protest something at the Rock Church. Phelps’ group is extreme (check out what the kid’s t-shirt says).

Phelps' itty-bitty group
Including this poor kid (can't be more than 8)
Our nerd force!
Cool signs

Comic Con is that one magical time of the year when nerds and geeks with all different interests and beliefs come out and there was a hefty contingent of them (by hefty I mean about 60) who counter protested with signs that were irreverent and hilarious. It was a peaceful demonstration but what do you expect from a bunch of people who continually bump into one another in the crowded isles of the convention center and immediately (and usually at the same time) say, “sorry” to one another?

James Marsters was signing (that was a strange transition - let's push on) at the Lightspeed Fine Arts booth – his was one of one 4 autographs I got this year (I was really selective – actually I’d seen most of these folks at Wizard World Anaheim or last year). He’d only been at the booth a few minutes and I’d gotten my autograph ticket the day before so we got to talk for a few minutes. I don’t remember what we talked about – I’m sure I asked about what panels he’d be on and if he’d be at the Creation Con in November (he said he wouldn’t) and told him to have a good con.

I also scored my very first autograph from Alaina Huffman at the Official Pix booth. I haven't seen her work on Stargate Universe but I'm a big fan of Smallville (from season 7 on) and got a signed picture of her as Black Canary. I'm a sucker for autographs from people who have played super-heroes. It was fun talking Smallville with her. She wants to do season 10 if the stories call for Black Canary and she encouraged me to go to the Smallville panel. Alaina's really cool and I hope one day there will be Creation Smallville conventions. I have a feeling she'd be very interesting on stage as well.

Alaina Huffman

I was there at the Joss Whedon Experience (the annual Joss Whedon panel where he updates everyone on what he’s doing and takes questions. The last question was from a disguised Nathan Fillion who asked him who his favorite actor to work with was. That was a lot of fun and really exciting for the crowd. Count on Nathan Fillion to inject more fun into everything.
Joss taking a question; preparing to be brilliant

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Spudtrooper Adventure

For my birthday this year, a co-worker gave me a Spudtrooper. That's a Mr. Potatohead in a Stormtrooper uniform. I started thinking of ways to display him - should I pair him with 3 3/4" figures? Then I went to Wizard World Anaheim 2010 and they had a lot of cheap figures and I imagined them in funny situations with the Spudtrooper so I picked a few up. Then I got a few more cheap figures at Southern California Comics (my homebase for comics) - I was starting to assemble a cast.

I wanted it to look like a strip in Toyfare but I don't have the space or skill to pull that off so I did the best I could. I gave my co-worker this strip for her birthday.