22
Jan
09

Ex Machina #40

Script by Brian K. Vaughan Pencils by Tony Harris

The fact that Ex Machina has a mere ten issues and one special left to it’s run makes me nervous on a monthly basis. In a medium where we know the JLA will never really be killed off or end a finite series seems so alien. As Vaughan’s previous series, Y The Last Man, was winding down readers all over the country were slowly forced to confront the hard truth: the book is going to end and it’s going to end on Vaughan’s preplanned terms. Much like Y, Ex Machina is a work of staggering genius, a work that builds upon the propensity of Alan Moore and the character work of Harvey Pekar while maintaining a real sense of early 1960’s Marvel mythology. I haven’t read anything about Stan Lee reading the series but I could only imagine that he’d enjoy it thoroughly.

The concept of Ex Machina is fairly simple; it’s about New York and anything Brian K. Vaughan sees as New Yorkish. It becomes more complicated from there. Mitchell Hundred, a civil engineer, has half of his face blown off by a strange glowing device near the Brooklyn Bridge and upon regaining consciousness, can talk to and control every machine he is in a close vicinity to. He becomes the world’s first superhero, inspired by DC heroes and Superman. He later retires from being a superhero, realizing he’s changing nothing, runs for mayor of New York City and wins.

By making comic heroes a very real fiction in Ex Machina BKV has begun a dialogue in the book about comics themselves, which is what this stand alone issue is all about. Thus far the only single issue story among tightly-plotted five issue story arcs counting down to the 50th issue, this issue seems immediately special and it certainly is. In the issue Mitchell Hundred decides he wants to make a memoir in the form of a graphic novel and two of the people who audition for him are Brian K. Vaughan and, yes, Tony Harris. The portrayal of Vaughan is especially interesting in this issue as a kind of frightened, neurotic writer who is scared of looking like an idiot while the very laid back and impressive Harris hits on secretaries and generally enjoys himself while in Gracie Mansion. Vaughan’s interview in the comic is an interesting one, a dissection of his loyalty to New York, how he hasn’t been able to leave it since September 11th, an event that has been integral to both the plot of Ex Machina and the life of Mitch Hundred and his former alter ego, The Great Machine. This issue appears to be very much about Vaughan and New York, though it’s not done in a way where Vaughan is celebrating himself, instead he seems to be celebrating his faults and weaknesses. And his love of NYC.

The idea of meta-fiction isn’t new by any means, during the second year of Fantastic Four Jack Kirby and Stan Lee has the FF meet them in their studio and it’s not nearly as subtle or meaningful. Reading it last year in the great Fantastic Four Omnibus Volume 1 was a fantastic treat but it borders on crass and is a definite walk into the jokey and goofy world of Lee’s absolutely non-serious writing. Vaughan does a much better of walking that fine line between telling a story about the characters that are based on you and telling a story celebrating you by showing just how great you think you are. But of course, there’s that whole bit about standing on the shoulders of giants. Because of his love

21
Jan
09

Batman #684

If you were on the fence about buying this issue of Batman after two years of non-stop LSD-induced Grant Morrison fun, just take a look at the cover, enjoy it and buy something else. It’s not really worth reading this last part of a two part story trying to wrap things up while extending them at the same time.

Dennis O’Neil was the editor of Batman for something like 15 years through the eighties and nineties(in fact the batman trade I’m reading right now is edited by him) and did a good amount of work writing the book back in the 1970’s before Frank Miller showed up and turned everything on it’s head. I’ve found his 70’s work, which is being reprinted in full this winter in hardcover, to be okay. Not good, not bad, but just…that’ll do, pig. This time around it’s just a step down. Nothing horrible but certainly not really worth your 15 minutes either.

There’s apparently an alternative cover. I liked it more just for the great Nightwing thinks Batman is dead shot.

I can’t decide if it’s O’Neil’s fault or not. The basic idea is to make everyone real sad because post RIP batman might be dead or he might not be. But everyone is sad and lonely and kind of afraid of the future. So in this issue you get the cops being bummed out that they actually have to do their jobs and you get nightwing sulking around, which is a shame because lately I think I’m the only person who sees the amazing potential in Nightwing becoming an astounding interesting character. I think we have one issue of Batman left before all of the bat books go on hiatus until battle for the cowl(which I am very doubtful of) begins. Then we’ll get Andy Kubert and Neil Gaiman on a two part Batman story ripping the title off of an Alan Moore Superman story from the 80’s. I’ll keep buying Batman because I love the character and I’m excited about reading “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader” and seeing Gaiman write something that isn’t a derivative children’s book that’s actually for high school goth girls.

21
Jan
09

Green Lantern #36

Sometimes I think about quitting superhero comics and just reading good indie stuff and human interest stuff and focusing more on reading traditional novels, devouring some classics in my spare time. Then I see things like this:

and I say, “ah, fuck it. Tolstoy can wait”

The complete mindfuck of the green lantern books has been that a year ago after the epic that was essentially empire strikes back of Geoff Johns’ GL trilogy ended, the final page basically said “oh, in 2009 the dead will rise, create their own army and go to war with all of the living. your loved ones are not safe.”

and so it goes on and on and the different corps are established and armies are built, strongholds are made, the book of Oa is rewritten and slowly and surely with major character development and fantastic art and action, we get to march towards mount fucking doom with Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis.

If you aren’t reading green lantern you are fucking with destiny.

24
Sep
08

Bob Howard

Three months ago Dark Horse started up a new Conan series called Conan the Cimmerian. I usually will check out new series from reputable publishers, so I picked it up not really knowing anything about Conan other than he hits things. The series was actually quite good and I’ve picked up the other issues that have come out, three in all. The narrative has mostly focused on Conan’s grandfather who is from a land called Cimmeria, though I’ve yet to find out it it’s actually supposed to be set in the lands the Cimmerians were really from, which would be what is now known as the Ukraine from 8 to 7 B.C. What I did find is that Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan, wrote a poem called Cimmeria, essentially about the land of the same name, which the characters of his Hyborean World. Upon further research of the word Hyborean, I discovered that Howard had actually created a massive sword and sorcery fictional universe that was published in the pulp magazines in the 1930’s, which instantly makes him cool. I then found out that this guy was friends with H.P. Lovecraft. so okay, I’m on board.

Apparently Howard created multiple universes of pulp characters before killing himself in 1936. I was looking through Amazon, trying to find a good way to start reading him and it took a long time to coordinate what stories where were because he produced such a massive body of work. The man published hundreds of stories which amounted to dozens of thick novels of various genres. Then, nearing the end of my research when I was really liking the guy, I found that when he died he was only 30. Way to make a dude feel unproductive. Then I read about how H.P. Lovecraft was racist and I felt pretty good. I might not be talented, motivated or interesting, but I’ve never been vocal about the need of Aryan man to rise above the challenge of society.

Although pessimism permeates every pore of my body, it’s times like these that make me so happy and feel so lucky to be living in a time where we have such easy access to recorded entertainment in such vast quantities. So as soon as I have $9 I’ll probably start reading up on Howard’s stuff

24
Sep
08

X-Factor #35

Publisher: Marvel – $2.99

Written by Peter David

Art by Larry Stroman

Though it didn’t occur to me until lately, X-Factor is Peter David’s best work and although it’s lacking lately because of Marvel’s annoying need for crossovers, it’s still the best X-Men related title to be published since Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men around the turn of the century. Fallen Angel is a fantastic piece of work that’s approaching it’s 50th issue and has built a small following, but it’s probably the second strongest outing by David as a long term writer that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him complete but it’s just not as great as far as characterization and pacing as X-Factor.  Where Fallen Angel has a great story, great characters that have grown with the story and a definite vision of a future(as opposed to the unfortunately usual habit of just walking into the abyss without evidence of an ending) David consistently produces a great character book, but that’s not the miracle of X-Factor.  What he’s done that is so special is take a half dozen regular character who have existed for decades and made his own incarnations of them to the point that David, as a storyteller and monthly writer, owns the book to an extent that even the most talented writer taking over the book where he leaves it will create disappointment and disjointed movements for the characters.

This issue really isn’t proof of that greatness, but we’re coming up on three years of consecutive work on this title and if you were to sit down with all of the issues, which if you want to do so, come on over and read them, I’ll let you, you’ll see a fantastic group of characters who grow and live, who are funny and conflicted and, when Marvel isn’t fucking it up for everyone, make a fine plot move quite well.

This issue is, annoyingly and unfortunately so, a Skrull-pushing Secret Invasion tie-in, but it’s really quite readable if you’re not reading SI(and I’m certainly not) because David banks on the reader knowing the characters.  You’re given the information that Skrulls have invaded Earth, they can look like people and are impersonating important players in the Marvel universe, and we move on to the story.  Like I said, it’s not great, but it’s okay and considering this is all being done while being forced to abdicate to the big Marvel cross-over, it’s really better than okay.  This also marks a good six months or so of David not being able to do what he does because of Marvel.  First you had Messiah Complex, which was good but cost X-Factor two of it’s most dynamic characters, my favorite – Layla Miller – ended up stranded in the future in a concentration camp, and one of the most dynamic and interesting characters, Raine Sinclaire, was taken away to take part in the mediocre X-Force.  David tried as best as he could to bounce back from that and then Secret Invasion came along.  For this, I’m giving him a free pass on development until this is all over.

What I didn’t care for was the serious decrease in art quality on this issue.  Larry Stroman illustrated the majority of Peter David’s run on this very same title in the 90’s, a run that I really enjoyed and originally bought as a kid and then enjoyed once again earlier this year.  Stroman’s art wasn’t great then, but it worked to move the story along in a fashion that was slightly more interesting and creative than his contemporaries.  I don’t feel like that’s the case in this situation.  His pencils come off as sloppy and results in characters that seem almost blurry or detached from the scenes.  I hope he’s not staying on for long or, if he is, he gets his shit together.  I’d hate to see a great series get derailed by half-hearted artwork.  I want this series to last for a very long time to see what Peter David is capable of.

21
Sep
08

shameless self-promotion

hey, I’m selling stuff on Ebay to try to pay my rent and generally be more economically powerful.

if you know some emo kids who don’t know that emo means electric guitars, I’m selling 15 Bright Eyes CDs.

Right Here

If you like Cosmic Police enforcing the universe and sometimes getting to sit back and have a beer, I’m selling 3 Green Lantern books

All three Green Lantern Corps trade paperbacks

If you like zombies, bad ass suspense writing and really good characterization, I’m selling five Walking Dead trade paperbacks

The first 30 issues collected in five trades

If you like Joss Whedon or Brian K. Vaughan, I’m selling Whedon’s entire run and some of Vaughan’s work on Runaways

Runaways Volume 2 issues 19-30

if you like the Justice League or Brad Meltzer(whose book I was pimping just last month), I’m selling a whole bunch of Justice League comics by him and Dwayne McDuffie and right now it’s dirt cheap.

JLA comics are good for you

or if you like Warren Ellis, fucked up science fiction or horror comics, I’m selling two Strange Killings books

9 issues collected in two books

Feel free to pass that info on to anyone you know who is a nerd.  The auctions end around midnight tomorrow and I’m trying to bank enough money off of ebay sellings to pay this month’s rent.

12
Sep
08

Important news about the lord

Arthur Suydam, the fantastic artist and only good thing about Marvel Zombies(sorry Kirkman and Phillips, I like your other work), has completed a new cover for Alternacomics rerelease of Jesus Hates Zombies, their first anthology of Jesus and his zombie fighting adventures. This release should come out in time to coincide with the release of the second anthology, which is supposed to feature a time traveling werewolf slaying Abraham Lincoln.

If you have any sense at all, you’ve shit your pants from excitement.

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