Archives for posts with tag: Voodoo

thenew52ends

After weeks of ambiguity regarding the fates of their titles after moving their offices from New York to California, DC Comics cleared things up somewhat with a statement this week. The simple answer: The New 52 is dead! Long live the New 52! The truth: DC Comics is removing the label New 52 and making continuity less of a concern if favor of greater diversity in story-telling. DC is not simply shedding the label, but also an ideological commitment to an experiment. The experiment? A new (err..rebooted) and thoroughly connected (err…though filled with holes) universe (err…multiverse)! Originally planned as 52 titles a month published in sync, following a universal timeline, the New 52 was a lofty ambition. For the experiment to work, creators had to work within a tight framework not only in narrative, but in artistic style- prompting the oft-used terms “DC house-style” or “Jim Lee house style.” These rules allowed a pretty cohesive fictional universe to thrive, but also alienated many creators and readers who wanted stories outside the framework of the larger experiment. By abandoning the New 52 and their ideological commitment to the New 52 experiment, DC Comics will be opening itself up to new, smaller experiments. The publisher’s lineup will be more chaotic this June not only because many titles will leave and many new titles will arrive, but those new titles and even the continuing titles will draw from a larger creative arsenal- new creators, new styles, new impressions on the characters, and new impressions on what super-hero comic books can do. To be fair, DC Comics continued to publish an assortment of books outside of the New 52 such as Lil Gotham and all those video game-related titles. Now new books like Bat-Mite and Bizarro promise to approach comics without the baggage of the New 52 experiment. The official word from DC suggests the end of the New 52 is motivated purely by creative ambitions, but it’s obvious to most readers that DC has found an awkward but workable solution to several concerns: 1) the move to California 2) the stress of managing the big continuity 3) the desire to attract more casual comics readers (the ones reading Image titles) 4) the New 52 is destroying itself.

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That 4th one can be broken down to specific problems within the New 52. I believe the beginning of the end came when the original creative team of J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman left Batwoman over creative differences on whether or not Batwoman would marry. While this was not the first dispute-driven departure of a respected creator during the New 52, this departure, unlike George Perez leaving Superman, shook up something that most people believed the New 52 was doing right. Fans and critics alike couldn’t say enough nice things about the work being done on that book. The rush to replace Williams and Blackman with not only a talented creator, but one with a little LGBT cred to ease PR concerns, left Batwoman in the hands of Marc Andreyko and the book got noticeably worse. After Geoff Johns and associates completed their run on the Green Lantern titles, DC found a new creative team, but things fell apart and they again found themselves scrambling the fill some roles. Luckily they found a sort of dream team to take over those titles. Most problematic about the Green Lantern creative team shift, Geoff Johns wrote an epilogue in his final issue of Green Lantern, an epilogue whose authenticity would come immediately into question as the new creative team found ways to destroy all the love stories in that blossomed in that epilogue. Other books saw transitions. The success and failures of titles in transition were surprising. I really expected Chew’s John Layman to write a better Detective Comics while Jeff Lemire wrote a Green Arrow story unlike anything else he’d ever written, reinforcing what his run on Animal Man had suggested- the guy who draws those creepy picture book also has a visionary take on the super-hero model. Another reason why I see the Batwoman shift as the beginning of the end can be seen in the fifth collected volume of the title-  an inconsistency that runs along the spine, singling out the volume among all other New 52 titles as the unmentionable yet obvious stain on the whole endeavor.

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Look at that tiny little five! How embarrassing that must be for Batwoman Vol. 5: Webs! The other book that sticks out in a complete New 52 collection is Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family because it’s white instead of black. While it may still drive the obsessive and compulsive a bit mad to look at, the change is obviously intentional. The tiny 5 on Batwoman Vol. 5 appears to be a Freudian slip, a subconscious expression of shame in ruining one of the New 52’s best titles.

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Since the official announcement of the New 52’s end, I’ve tried to figure what the New 52 really has been. Despite all the Convergence hype, it feels like the experiment is going out with more a whimper than a bang. There’s no real story to tie up as far as I can figure. So the question remains what was the New 52?

Here are 52 things I think made the New 52:

1) The Court of Owls

2) Wonder Woman’s new origin story

3) introduction (and reintroduction) of Vertigo characters into the DC universe

4) Superman-Wonder Woman love story

5) Triumphant revitalization of Aquaman (Throne of Atlantis arc)

6) Titles created just to foster the continuity experiment (Blackhawks, Team 7, OMAC, Threshhold)

7) Crime Syndicate and Forever Evil

8) Darkseid’s destruction of Earth-2 and Superman’s subsequent reign

9) Death of Damian Wayne

10) Skinny Lobo

11) Rotworld arc

12) Justice League Dark formation

13) Central role for The Phantom Stranger

14) Central role for Pandora

15) Future’s End

16) Joker cut off his face

17) Muslim Green Lantern

18) Gay Green Lantern

19) Young Green Arrow

20) Walking Barbara Gordon

21) Brother-killing Batgirl

22) Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham

23) Penguin takes control and loses control and regains control of Gotham criminal underworld

24) Catwoman takes control of Gotham criminal underworld

25) The Riddler brings Gotham to its knees

26) Batman Eternal and Jim Gordon’s blues

27) The most sophisticated Mr. Mxyzptlk story in DC history

28) Guy Gardner became a Red Lantern

29) The Guardians of the Universe were replaced by new Guardians of the Universe after proving themselves fascist tyrants one too many times

30) Kyle Rayner continued to become more messianic

31) Hal Jordan became the leader of the Green Lantern Corps

32) Superboy was a clone of Superman’s wicked son Jonathan Lane Kent from the future and also there were other Superboys

33) Cyborg Superman is… Supergirl’s father?

34) Lucius Fox’s son becomes Batwing

35) Harley Quinn did it with Deadshot

36) H’el on Earth (and Krypton)

37) The Culling of Teen Titans and Ravagers and a general feeling that Scott Lobdell was going to end up writing every title in the DC universe

38) Short lives of good titles (I, Vampire; Voodoo; Mr. Terrific; Captain Atom; Dial H)

39) Huntress and Power Girl, the World’s Finest of Earth-2, arrived on the primary Earth

40) Daniel West is the Reverse-Flash

41) Bad futures depicted in Justice League 3000, Future’s End, Superboy, Teen Titans, and the Legion of Super-heroes

42) Aimless movement from the Legion of the Super-heroes

43) Two heavy-handed comics nobody liked (The Green Team and The Movement)

44) Martian Manhunter with Stormwatch, Martian Manhunter without Stormwatch

45) The return of Lyssa Drak and a Sinestro-led Sinestro Corps

46) Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE and other Dark titles

47) Trinity War

48) Lights Out, Relic, and the draining of the emotional spectrum

49) Trying to figure out what to do with Darkseid

50) Trying to figure out what to do with Deathstroke

51) The Rogues with super-powers

52) Company-wide campaigns particularly in Septmember- 3D covers, MAD variants, Scribblenauts, Robot Chickens, Zero Year, etc.

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Phantom Stranger 1,1 cover

I found out last week that I will be presenting at this year’s Comics and Popular Arts Conference at Dragon Con. Last year I presented on Cold War ideologies in the Silver Age Green Lantern. This year I will be discussing how different religions have been employed in the world-building of the New 52. In preparation, I’ve been reading some back issues on the Phantom Stranger- trying to figure out who he was before he became the Judas Iscariot doppelganger that is his present form.

The Phantom Stranger v1 issue 2

I’ve seen other blogs showcase cover galleries before. Much of my aimless internet searching arrives at such places and I enjoy the art I stumble upon. As a bit of a payback for the folks out there regularly posting galleries from old comics, I thought I could share the covers from The Phantom Stranger’s first series back in 1952 and a few from his second series which began in 1969. Despite these two series being published nearly 20 years apart, the Phantom Stranger has changed very little. In fact, many of the first stories in the second series are simply reprints from the first series.

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Unlike his more metaphysical modern day counterpart, this Phantom Stranger is into science. He spends most of his time exposing frauds who employ scientific knowledge to deceive the innocent.

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You can see some of the changes in the overall look of comics, horror comics, DC Comics, etc. as we look at the covers from the 1969 series.

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It’s been a pretty good week here at The World’s Second Greatest Detective. My mind has been consuming some great content- I got to hear Ashley Anderson talk about his Memory Beach project; thoroughly enjoyed Justice League: War ; and met some great folks at the Atlanta Comic Convention,where I may have also picked up a few good books. Most excitingly, my new role with Wonder Root’s library led to Valiant Entertainment sending the arts center a box full of trades, the inaugural donation to the comics portion of the library. A perk of my role is reviewing the material before it’s cataloged, which I will also do.

So far I’ve read two of them, Shadowman: Birth Rites by Justin Jordan, Patrick Zircher, and Brian Reber and X-0 Manowar: By The Sword by Robert Vendetti, Cary Nord, Stefano Gaudiano, and Moose Baumann. I choose to start with these two works for two reasons. 1) Justin Jordan and Robert Vendetti can both be considered local treasures. 2) Jordan and Vendetti are both currently writing Green Lantern titles. Followers of this blog should already be appear of my fascination with the Green Lantern universe.

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Shadowman: Birth Rites is pretty good. The art is phenomenal and I would recommend the book to anyone who enjoys the sort of superhero horror found in DC’s Dark family of titles. The color and detail in the horror elements are outstanding, especially the main villain Mr. Twist. I find it interesting that Shadowman’s story stems from receiving an amulet, Luther Strode’s story stems from receiving a book, and Kyle Rayner’s story stems from receiving a ring and that while Justin Jordan has written all these stories, those three characters and their stories couldn’t be more different. There’s a talking monkey that demonstrates some self-awareness in regards to racial undertones that would be impossible for a modern audience to ignore. It’s a good book.

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X-0 Manowar: By The Sword has the charm of not only the original series, but also of those classic science fiction comics that ruled the day before superhero multiverses, somewhere around the time of romance comics and breaking the sound barrier. The book travels through time at a breakneck pace, posing constant questions about the how of it all. The book moves quickly, but coherently and invests the reader in multiple conflicts without skimping on character development.

Final Opinion: Of the two books, Shadowman has the better art while X-0 Manowar has the better story. Perhaps more importantly, Valiant Comics should be recognized for their generosity towards Wonder Root and the Reynoldstown community. I wish the Wayne Xiaolong bump was as powerful as the Colbert bump because Valiant Comics really deserves for sharing their comics and expressing such interest in helping comics programming at Wonder Root grow. Good comics from good people? No, great comics from great people.

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This is the third installment of Bests and Worsts of the New 52, following the first and the second ,where I mostly praised the work being done at DC even when nominating books for Worsts. This entry will continue in that tradition. Also I am describing the first 52 or so collections, not the issues on the stands or titles like Earth-2 or World’s Finest which haven’t been collected yet. A few of the Bests and Worsts here will deal with sexuality in the New 52. It is an undeniable characteristic of this universe, geek culture, and real life. If sexuality makes you uncomfortable, that’s totally normal and you just try to deal with it as best you can. In the collage above, I included elements from panels that celebrate feminine features.

Best and Worst of the Young Justice Family of Titles

Best: Teen Titans Teen Titans is a fun book. The characters are all very distinct. I especially like the new characters. As a gay Mexican immigrant, Bunker is relevant and liberating, yet condescending and slightly offensive- I love it. Bunker might be my favorite new hero of the New 52- not my favorite new character, because that would probably the Court of Owls. Bunker, Kid Flash, and Wonder Girl bring a lot of humor to the book. The Superboy story is reliable Superboy narrative and ties in smoothly with this book. Scott Lobdell also writes Red Hood and the Outlaws, which is also a team book featuring a non-Nightwing former Robin, but wildly different than Teen Titans. Tim Drake has probably lost the most agency in the New 52. In this book, he reminds me a lot of the Robin rip-off in The Uniques, which is a fun independent superhero book about the emotional and physical battles of young white superheroes.

Worst: Legion of Super-Heroes. Brainiac-5’s cheesy hair.

Best and Worst Fishnet Reboot

Best: Zatanna in Justice League Dark. Zatanna has lost the traditional magician (magician’s assistant?) costume and embraced a very goth, very Vertigo Death look. The look changes her dramatically. No longer does she hint of potentially pulled rabbits and endless scarves. She wears her fishnets on her arms now, perhaps to hide the track marks because she’s become just that rock n roll. I’m super-excited about Guillermo del Toro’s alleged movie version of Justice League Dark and anticipate falling in love with the actresses who play Madame Xanadu and Zatanna. Justice League Dark and Hellboy have a lot in common and both Hellboy movies were incredible.

Worst: Black Canary in Birds of Prey. What happened to Dinah Lance? She’s a character in name only on Arrow, never exhibiting metahuman powers or donning fish nets. On Smallville, she did not fall in love with Oliver or stay true to the Black Canary comic couture. On the Birds of Prey television program, she was nigh a child. On the pages of Birds of Prey, she’s wearing the worst rebooted outfit of the New 52. It doesn’t make sense- which has never been a problem for super-ladies before. It’s not fashionable – which has also never been a problem for super-ladies before. It robs Black Canary of her working class roots- this is a problem. Black Canary is supposed to the biker chick badass next door and now she looks like space army Barbie.

Best and Worst News for Fans of Semi-Nude Cosplay

Best: White Rabbit in Batman- The Dark Knight. I think she’s also the most scantily clad new villain of the New 52. I might be wrong about that. If I am, please correct me. The New 52 has no shortage of exposed flesh. It also abounds in varieties of woman’s underthings.

Worst: Poison Ivy in Birds of Prey. As Harley Quinn abandons the bodysuit in favor of less conservative attire, Poison Ivy has chosen a new costume that would deny convention peepers the always popular string of leaves.

best&worst

One of the reasons I took the internet and started this site is my hypothesis that superhero comic books are a uniquely democratic art form that has become increasingly democratic with the rise of internet communication. Superhero comic books have traditionally solicited the opinion of their readers. The industry has engaged in all sorts of gimmicks to find out what their audience likes and dislikes. The internet has allegedly made this process easier for the producer and consumer alike. Comic books are magic capitalism, right?

I’ve really enjoyed reading the first round of trades for DC Comics’ New 52. I’ve read nearly all of them and feel confident speaking on those I’ve read. Today I finished Men of War, which will probably be the last of the first round of New 52 trades that I will read. I’ve been wanting to share my thoughts on the reboot with a list of bests/worsts and Men of War sparked the spark, compelling me to finally publish my list of bests/worst, to proclaim my demands and evaluations as a client, to cast my ballot across multiverses in a vain last minute attempt to influence the big decisions like which book gets cancelled (I’m too late) and which authors and artists should get raises. The truth is that I enjoyed every single one of these trades, so the ‘worst’ shouldn’t be taken too seriously except in the first case (Worst Line of Dialogue). The meaning of ‘best’ and ‘worst’ will surely change from category to category.  Sometimes ‘worst’ means ‘failed to live up to my expectations’ and my expectations are higher for Detective Comics than Hawk and Dove.

Best and Worst Lines of Dialogue

Best Line:  In DC Universe Presents Deadman, Deadman and the Son of Morning are playing twenty questions. I’m fond of one of the Son of Morning’s answers to Deadman’s run-of-the-mill philosophical questions.

“God has earned the right to ignore you.”

Worst Line: In the story “NAVY SEALs: HUMAN SHIELDS” in Men of War, Soldier Ice says to Soldier Tracker:

“I got out of the Peace Corps ‘cuz it made realize if you want to do good, it helps to have an assault rifle.”

Well, Jonathan Vankin, the author of the worst story in Men of War, has some interesting street cred. He’s written a bunch of conspiracy books and  edited Tony Bourdain’s comic. He’s an advocate of underground icon Harvey Pekar and he contributed to a shit ton of Verigo stuff and  participated in Brightest DayIf I see Jonathan Vankin’s name on a comic again, I won’t buy it. During my Peace Corps service and most of my life, I’ve found if you want to do good, people will assault rifles are a big fucking inconvenience.

Best and Worst Story Lines from Men of War

Best: “Frankestein and G.I. Robot: Dead Man Flying” by Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, and Tom Derenick

Worst: The aforementioned “NAVY SEALs: HUMAN SHIELDS

Best and Worst Male Title Character

Best: Robin in Batman & Robin. Damian Wayne is one of my favorite characters and my favorite Robin of all time. I’d really love to see DC produce an animated film of Damian’s arrival into Bruce’s life. Peter J. Tomasi captures what makes Damian different from the other Robins and there’s a lot of difference between Damian and the previous Boy Wonders. Throughout the first trade, Damian and his tortured genius develop alongside Nobody’s nefarious plot, creating one of the more compelling story arcs of the New 52.

Worst: Green Lantern in Green Lantern: New Guardians. Kyle Rayner is the worst Green Lantern and by far the worst lantern in Green Lantern: New Guardians. The book could’ve been called Orange Lantern: New Guardians and avoided the dubious honor of Worst Male Title Character. I don’t mind hating Kyle Rayner too much, so if I was to issue one complaint about the book, I would request more attention be paid to Bleez. She’s a great character, really tears it up in Red Lanterns.

Best and Worst Female Title Character

Best: Batgirl in Batgirl. This is one of the hardest to choose because so many of the best titles in the New 52 are titles featuring female characters. Sorry, Wonder Woman. Sorry, Batwoman. Sorry, Voodoo. The return of Barbara Gordon to the identity of Batgirl brought me much joy. Gail Simone really used the landscape of Gotham, Barbara’s relationships with classic characters, and superb villainous foils to make the narrative of Barbara’s return to Batgirl meaningful.

Worst: Catwoman in Catwoman.

Best and Worst Team Title:

Best: Justice League. Yeah, everybody knows why Justice League is great. Geoff Johns and Jim Lee are geniuses. It’s the cornerstone of the New 52, so let me talk about how great Red Lanterns is. In Red Lanterns, Peter Milligan tells the story of a corps in crisis and through that story, he visits the origin stories of many of the Red Lanterns. The artwork is explosive, especially if you like red. As I mentioned before, Bleez is incredible in this book. Her rage and the rage of the other Red Lanterns distinguish this corps from the others and prove why the Red Lanterns, more than any other corps besides the Greens, deserve their own title.

Worst: Stormwatch While I found Stormwatch engrossing and found several of the characters appealing, it lacks the magic that the other team titles possess. Martian Manhunter has traditionally been one of my favorite characters, but his direction in the New 52 leaves me wanting. Where is his personality? Does he just hate everybody now? He was an environmentalist in Brightest Day, Clark’s sort of 2nd round godfather on Smallville, down with M’Gann J’onnz despite their different colors, and a green Harlem Globetrotter for much of his career- you know, he was likeable. I like my Martian Manhunter with a little naivete, a little child-like wonder. Now he’s a super-cop, which is contemporary comics go-to archetype.

Best and Worst Legion of Super-Heroes Title

Best: Legion Secret Origin. I entered the New 52 with only a scant knowledge of the Legion of Super-Heroes. I knew they were from the future and hung out with Superman and Brainiac. I had also read a handful of articles about how the title tried with varying success to deal with race issues. Honestly, I’m pretty ignorant about these characters and feel them to be less important and less interesting than other characters in the DC universe. Because the stated goal of the New 52 is to help introduce new readers to these characters, I hoped this reboot would help me make sense of the scores of characters involved in the Legion. The mini-series Legion Secret Origin does a good of that. It gives these iconic characters as sense of youth, a sense of adventure that may have dwindled under the bureaucracy of the Legion.

Worst: Legion of Super-Heroes. As someone who is not a Legion of Super-Heroes expert, I felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of characters I was introduced to. After a few issues, I was able to ascertain which characters figured more prominently in the story and the Legion itself. I like Brainiac-5. I think the story in Legion Lost is more easily understood than Legion of Super-Heroes and deals with time travel more directly.

Best and Worst Member of S.H.A.D.E.

Best: Bride. First of all, Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. has been one of the best titles to come out of the New 52 and my heart is broken that it has been cancelled. I really fell in love with Frank and his wife during Flashpoint. The characters in this title are each really special, so choosing one would be hard if Mrs. Frankenstein wasn’t on the team.

Worst: Warren Griffith. He’s a great character, just not as great as the others.

Best and Worst of the Seven Families of Titles (Justice League, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, The Edge, The Dark, Young Justice)

Best: Batman, with The Dark a close second. Because each family of titles has a different numbers of books in it, I’ve imagined an averaged level of quality, rather than which family has the best or largest amount of titles. Batman has a lot of titles and some are more connected than others. The Night of Owls and Batman, Inc. stories kept the family tightly pretty closely together.

Worst: Young Justice. Besides Teen Titans, none of the Young Justice titles really stood out.

Best and Worst of the Justice League

Best: The Flash, with Wonder Woman a close second. By far, The Flash features the funnest art in the New 52. A handful of New 52 titles exhibit particularly innovative art (Wonder Woman, Batwoman, I, Vampire) and the innovations in the visual representation correspond with the essence of the character being depicted; this is no truer than in The Flash, where speed is translated through blurs, fractures, bursts, and shatters.

Worst: Justice League International. This book is pretty offensive. It perpetuates the misconception that Africa is a country- superhero comic books seem to have an especially hard time dealing with this. General August in Irons represents an impossible China where their highest ranking military officials have never eaten a hot dog- seriously? Chinese people eat a variety of sausages, including hot dogs. Rocket Red perpetuates the same Cold War stereotypes he perpetuated before the reboot.

Keep your bat eyes bat-peeled for part 2, same bat-site, same bat-internet.

 

secret

I’m posting a crossword puzzle that I made based on characters from DC Comics. Hopefully it proves to be a fun and challenging distraction for some of you. Click here or at the crossword link on the top of the page to have a try. Following the link will allow you to see the clues.

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