Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Batman #683 (SPOILER ALERT)

Well, didn't those pieces fall nicely into place? Wow...

SPOILERS AHEAD...

I loved how Bruce just reaappears in the Batcave, lamenting to Alfred over the loss of his dad's bat-costume that Hurt was wearing, and never even explaining how he survived the helicopter explosion - of course, Alfred's the last person who should be surprised by that.

It was so nonchalant - I can just imagine Grant saying "of course he didn't die in the helicopter explosion - who seriously thought he did? I just spent all of #681 emphasizing that he's prepared for anything, and you expect a little boom-boom to take him out? Please..."

So I gather that, since he appears in Final Crisis after the explosion (as shown in this issue), everyone knows he didn't die then, and his real disappearance will take place in Final Crisis #6 (next month). Let's see...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mark Waid chat at CBR - fantastic!

You must read the chat with Mark Waid at Comic Book Resources - it is fantastic. His comments on the Legion re-boot and the "Lightning Saga" alone are worth the price of admission.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Comprehensive Batman history at CBR

Comic Book Resources just wrapped a three-part history of Batman (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) - well worth looking at. It discusses the various pop culture incarnations of Batman, as well as the changing tone of the comics over the years.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thoughts on Secret Invasion/Dark Reign (SPOILERS)

I have very mixed feelings about the "resolution" of Secret Invasion and the transition into Dark Reign. BEWARE - SPOILERS FOLLOW.

First, why did Janet have to die? Did there have to be a "big death"? Couldn't they take Hank? Or when he came off the Skrull ship, couldn't they just throw him back? I may not be a Marvel zombie, but even I realize how important the Wasp is to the heart of the Marvel Universe. You already took Steve, you ripped Peter and MJ apart - enough already. (At least Reed and Sue's kids survived - can't be so sure about Luke and Jessica's, though - really liked the latest New Avengers, by the way.)

Second, I think it seems a bit drastic to pile everything that happened on Tony. The Skrull plot was in place for years before Civil War. And even if the Civil War did open the door for the invasion, it is by no means obvious that he is to blame for the war, much less everything that occured afterwards. (This is actually part of the topic of my planned chapter for Iron Man and Philosophy.)

But even if people do blame Tony, fine, get rid of him. But... Norman? Just because he shot the big bad? Hello?

All that said, I'm somewhat curious about some of the contents in the Dark Reign preview - though I'm very reluctant to buy Dark Avengers at $3.99 for 32 pages. (I may buy the first two issues, leading up to New Avengers #50 and the apparent big throwdown between New and Dark, but it's probably trades after that.)

In general, I'm really not looking forward to months/years of darkness in the Big Two comics universes. Evil won in DC, darkness reigns at Marvel. It's enough to make a guy read Donald Duck.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Batman #682 (SPOILER ALERT)

Wow, it's Batman weekly, at least for two weeks. (Wouldn't it have been great if "R.I.P." had appeared weekly?)

This frankly blew my mind (again). It definitely raises a lot of new questions about what's been going on with Bruce Wayne - in both Batman and Final Crisis - as well as what will happen with him in the near future. But the most fascinating part of it was the historical survey of Batman - we saw his early persona (with the wider ears), his early days with Robin, his cartoonish days (incorporating elements from the Adam West TV series), Alfred's temporary death, up to his move out of Wayne Manor and into Gotham City proper. It covers his original experience with Doctor Hurt, as well as the always-shifting persona of the Joker.

Best of all (or worst of all, depending on how you look at it), it introduces an old flame into current continuity - I won't spoil that. You must read this.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thoughts on Batman #681 (R.I.P. conclusion) - SPOILERS!!!

Just read Batman #681, the much-anticipated conclusion to Grant Morrison's "Batman R.I.P." storyline (and his entire run on Batman to this point). And I thought it was very good - it confirmed some suspicions, tied up a few loose ends, but at the same time left enough dangling threads to be picked up later, and definitely gives readers some things to think about (which is high praise for any comic).

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!

Probably my greatest relief is that Batman does not "die" from getting beaten down by the Black Glove. He escapes from live burial (with some particularly inspiring, and seriously bad-ass, internal dialogue), and, with the help of Nightwing, Robin, and the Club of Heroes, fairly easily defeats the Black Glove (including Jezebel Jet - big surprise there). (Oh, and Damian may have killed the Joker with the Batmobile - almost forgot.) Batman's apparent death occurs while pursuing Hurt, after Hurt messes with Bruce's mind a bit, claiming to be Thomas Wayne (which I don't buy for a minute - it is a brilliant ruse, though villains have tried to soil his memory of the senior Waynes before). Add to that some additional insight into his experience at Nanda Parbat, and this issue was an extremely enjoyable and intriguing read.

(Great art too - Daniels seemed to be channeling Neal Adams at points - though some of the surprises could have been better placed, such as Nightwing's escape from lobotomy, placed in the last panel of a page instead of a splash panel on the next. (Now let's see how he writes "Battle for the Cowl"...)

So... is he dead? Come on - no body, no death, simple as that. They almost made it too easy to bring him back, since we have to believe Batman can escape something as simple as an exploding helicopter. (Bringing back Steve Rogers, now that'll be more of a challenge, and it better not involve Mephisto or a cosmic cube.) The point with Batman is not when they'll bring him back, but how, and the stories they'll tell in the meantime.

Let's just hope they're good ones.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Action Comics #870 (no spoilers)

Wow.

I may just be a old softie, but my eyes certainly welled up at the end of Action Comics #870, and I already knew what was going to happen ("thanks" to the spoilers at the New York Daily News).

Geoff Johns and Gary Frank - wow, just wow.

Even if you're not a Superman fan, even if you haven't been following the current "Brainiac" storyline in Action Comics, do yourself a favor and pick up this issue. Grab some Kleenex while you're at it - if you're human, you'll need it.

UPDATE: I just re-read it, and the tears came back. Incredible.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Final Crisis - remember that?

I think it's safe to say that Final Crisis has lost its momentum. Only one FC-related title was released in September (Requiem), and the next issue of FC proper won't be out until October 22 (according to the current schedule). The last issue came out when, 2006? Seems like it.

The decision by DC to minimize the FC tie-ins within its ongoing titles (instead confining them to dedicated miniseries such as Requiem, Rogues' Revenge, etc.) certainly seemed like an admirable goal at the time (to the readers, as well as to the DC brass). But in actuality, it contributed to the current stalled feeling. If you aren't reading any of the official FC books (and ignored the house ads), you would have no idea that evil has won. At least in the good ol' days of Crisis on Infinite Earths, you had the infamous "red skies" in the ubitiquitous crossover books. The books may not have had much to do with COIE, but you couldn't miss the fact that some major sh*t was going down.

On the other hand, Secret Invasion seems to be striking the balance perfectly (not to mention that the main SI title ships very regularly). The main story is contained in SI, with backstory given in New Avengers and Mighty Avengers, and several tie-in miniseries (SI: X-Men, SI: Fantastic Four, etc., plus Front Line) emphasize the pervasiveness of the Skrull threat. And there is a scattered SI presence in other books as well, such as Ms. Marvel and (very recently) Iron Man Director of SHIELD. A few books are completely immune, such as the rest of the X-Men books, Captain America, Daredevil, and The Immortal Iron Fist, but overall it's hard to ignore or forget that the Skrulls are definitely here (and they're... uh... green).

Hopefully, Final Crisis will pick up again in October, when approximately 207 FC-related books are released (and that's just on October 15). But in trying to have a relatively self-contained event, which at the same time doesn't ship regularly (or even have a FC title released every week, or at least every other week), I think DC has minimized the feeling of a multiverse-wide threat that FC was presumably meant to have.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Metallica's Death Magnetic impressions (off-topic)

Just wanted to share my impressions of the new Metallica album, Death Magnetic, which was released last Friday, and to which I finally had a chance to listen today. (Besides comics, I'm a huge metal and jazz fan, so I may occasionally comment on these things as well.)

I have seriously mixed feelings about this album.

First off, it is Loads better than the last three albums. It is definitely metal, and some of it is even thrash (more on that later).

The CD is recorded wonderfully - drums sound great, guitars sound great, bass was almost there, even James gets his old sneer back once in a while.

But it just doesn't sound like Metallica to me. The first and last tracks are definitely the best, and reminded me of the old Metallica, especially the last track. Songs #2 and #8 were also very good (I wasn't paying attention to the songtitles while in the car). So the album starts and ends well, and it goes a bit off in the middle.

I tried to imagine this being the follow-up to the "Black Album" instead of Load. I think people would have been disappointed, but not betrayed as with Load. I think it would have given the impression of a tired band, which ironically may have eased the way for Load, in the spirit of trying something new. But as it is, it is definitely a step in the right direction - after I heard the last song, I thought they should have scrapped the first nine songs, and wrote nine new ones in the spirit of #10 (pretending, of course, that the songs were written and recorded in the running order).

It's actually very similar to the recent "return to form" albums by Megadeth (The World Needs a Hero) and Slayer (Christ Illusion), neither of which were great, but assured metal fans that the bands were back, and would (hopefully) get better. Megadeth did with The System Has Failed and United Abominations, and Slayer has yet to record a follow-up. But both of these albums were more consistently close to the respective bands' classic styles, while Death Magnetic is up and down in that respect.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hawkman R.I.P. Update

This past weekend at the Toronto Fan Expo, Dan Didio had this to say about the recent Hawkman special:
The executive editor also said the recent “Hawkman” Special by Jim Starlin was an effort to test the waters for the character. “It was to create an air of mystery around the character and to create questions around the character. With the chance that people might get interested and discuss the character and want to read about him further down the line.”
So it seems there may already be a retcon, or just a plain old "oh, that story? We forgot about that one" in the works.

Or maybe the Demiurge was just messin' with 'im... come on, he quoted Plato...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Podcast on Batman and Philosophy

The folks at Psychjourney Podcast were nice enough to invite me to talk about Batman and philosophy - you can find my interview in particular here.

While you're there, check out some of the other podcasts - they've interviewed some fascinating people (plus me).

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hawkman R.I.P. (Spoilers - no, not in the title!)

They broke my Hawkman. The Hawkman that became one of my favorite characters after he was brought back in JSA and began his own series. The Hawkman that has lived for centuries, literally has lifetimes of experience and perspective, and is old-fashioned when it comes to music, movies, and the ladies; the Hawkman that pulls no punches in battle, and is fiercely loyal to his comrades. The Hawkman with ancestral ties to Hawkgirl, Black Adam, the Marvels, and Dr. Fate (whoever he or she may be). The Hawkman that forms the fourth cornerstone of the JSA (along with Uncles Jay, Alan, and Ted). My Hawkman. Carter Hall. R.I.P.

I'm curious - how is Geoff Johns (who was partly responsible for Hawkman's "rebirth") going to do deal with this in JSA? Are we going to see Kendra react to it in JLA? What's Ollie going to say? Or Ray Palmer?

Don't get me wrong - I grew up with the Katar Hol Hawkman in the pre-COIE days - I have nothing against him. But there wasn't much to him. On the other hand, I thought that the reincarnated-Hall-with-elements-of-Hol was perfect. He could operate on Earth, from the alleys of St. Roch to the pyramids of Egypt, or in space with Adam Strange and the Spacebuddies. Was his backstory convoluted? Sure. But did it have endless possibility for great stories? Absolutely!

Raise a glass for Carter Hall, my friends. At least we have the JSA and Hawkman trades to remember him by.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Batman R.I.P. reviews (spoilers)

No issue of Batman this week, true, but we did get three comics bearing the "Batman R.I.P." logo, some closer to Morrison's tale, some less. But all were great books, and serve to make me more anxious for next week's installment of the main title.

Robin #176 was the closest tie-in, as Tim struggles with the possibility that Batman--his father, since Face the Face--may be going insane, and that he may have to bring him down. The conclusion to the two-parter begun in the last issue, this story has shown the effects of whatever Bruce is going through on his closest associate (well, other than Alfred, maybe - maybe we need an Alfred one-shot). Spoiler plays an important role in this issue, making me raise my expectations for her resurrection. Fabian Nicieza continues to show that he is set to be one of the great Batman-family writers, hinted at in his Nightwing issue that tied into the Ra's al Ghul crossover, as well as his recent Trinity contribution with Dick, Tim, and Babs. And apparently, this story leads right into next week's Batman - let's hope this pays off.

Nightwing #147 had virtually nothing to do with R.I.P., but it didn't need to, as this title has been excellent since Peter Tomasi took it over a storyline ago. Along with Don Kramer's incredible pencils, Dick is portrayed as smart, strong, and capable - the imagery of him heading into the windshield of the kidnapper's car was inspired. Sure, he's not looking too good at the end, but he's human - at least he didn't fall down until he saved the day.

Detective Comics #847 is tangentially tied into R.I.P., if only because Hush wants to be the one to make that title real, and the Black Hand is referenced several times. Not so much Batman here - not because he's M.I.A., R.I.P., or S.O.L. - but to make room for fleshing out Hush's backstory. Dini is performing much needed service here, as I loved the character of Hush from day one, but was never given much background (other than childhood friend who handled the death of a parent a little differently than Bruce did - another play on the Wrath theme, but who's counting). As a result, I can't wait for more details on Tommy's past.

That may be the main purpose of this arc, but the emphasis of the female characters in the Bat-universe in recent issues of Detective has also been fantastic - in this issue it's Catwoman (as Selina) confronting Zatanna on the street, asking her about her relationship with Bruce, getting catty about Jezebel Jet, and sharing some romantic grief. Terrific with a capital T - it's not often we see the women in Batman's life interacting like this - maybe they should form a support group (with Bruce in secret attendance, like Matt Murdock in Decalogue).

Next week - Batman #679!

P.S. Cool Batman moment of the week - sneaking up on Wally West in Trinity #10 - classic...

Friday, August 1, 2008

Two-Face drives the trolley... (Spoilers for Joker's Asylum)

SPOILER ALERT!!!

This week's Joker's Asylum: Two-Face (#1 is just redundant) had Two-Face setting up a trolley situation for his would-be counselor (the therapeutic kind, not the legal kind), with several interesting twists. Very nicely done, I thought.

Aside from the philosophical touch, I was impressed by the whole Joker's Asylum mini-series - of course, abysmally low expectations didn't hurt. After the lackluster first issue featuring the Clown Prince himself, the rest were quite good.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Say it isn't so - Secret Invasion #3 (SPOILERS)

Just one comment on Secret Invasion #3 (SPOILERS AHEAD): Bendis did a fantastic job with the Spider-Woman/Iron Man scene, as far as leaving it open whether Tony is or is not a Skrull.

Let me throw in my two cents - please, PLEASE don't reveal "our" Tony Stark to have been a Skrull all this time. Since Civil War, the character of Iron Man has acquired tremendous depth (in addition to what he already had). I realize many longtime Shellhead fans want the "classic" Tony Stark back, but I am of the opinion that his recent actions are well in line with his overall character and motivation. To reverse all of his growth and development at this stage would be tragic - and far too easy an "out" for the creators involved.

Please don't pull a Brand New Day on Tony!

(See here for a great scene-by-scene breakdown of Secret Invasion #3 with Bendis.)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

News and reviews (Detective #845, Trinity #1 - SPOILERS)

It seems all I've done with this blog lately is post news about my edited books - nothing wrong about that - but that's really not how I wanted it to end up. I barely have time to read my comics nowadays, much less write about them, but I'm going to try...

(By the way, Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul comes out soon - make sure to check it out, and let me know what you think!)

I did want to mention two releases this week (SPOILER ALERT):

Detective Comics #845 - Another great entry from Paul Dini, but this one was special for several reasons. First and foremost, there was some much-needed catching up between Bruce and Selina (both in costume), with Selina commenting on the other women in Bruce's life, namely Jezebel Jet (from Batman) and Zatanna (from Detective). (Frankly, I was really pulling for Bruce to spend more time with Zee - he needs to date outside his inner circle or Gotham socialites.) Second, it showed Batman relying on an amateur detective chat room to generate ideas about a murder case - a nice way to tap into the collective knowledge of his community - open source crime-solving, if you will. (And it was even cooler to have some familiar faces among the other chatters.) Third, Dustin Nguyen fits this title more each month, and his varying styles to show flashbacks is fantastic. I wasn't crazy about his Superman/Batman arc, and was skeptical about his Detective run - but I have been proven wrong, and happily so.

Trinity #1 - Now this is how a weekly should be done! (I don't see why this even has to be limited to 52 issues - 52 and Countdown both had reasons to be a year long, but unless there's something we don't know, Trinity has the potential to be ongoing.) In contrast to the Big Three's conference in an other-dimensional cubbyhole in the JLA HQ in the last issue of Justice Leage of America, here they simply meet for coffee on a pier, and the way they order drinks from the waitress tells us as much about their personalities as anything has to this point. Kurt Busiek nails their voices perfectly (and Wally West, to boot), and the issue sets up the nature of the threat very well. Mark Bagley's fairly new to me, not having read Ultimate Spider-Man, but he does a great job - if he can keep this up for the next 51 weeks, I'll be more than happy.

But that's only half the issue - the second half, written by Fabian Nicieza with Busiek, didn't thrill me as much, consisting of the introduction of several baddies (one new, one generic) with way too much exposition. Scott Daniel's pencils looked fine, but he needed more to do (check out his old issues of Nightwing, recent Green Arrow, or the short-lived Richard Dragon series, to see what he can do). The "back-up," for lack of a better term ("parallel storyline"?) didn't get off to as rousing a start as the main story, but I'm sure it will pick up with time.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Iron Man and Philosophy: Call for Abstracts

Call for Abstracts


Iron Man and Philosophy

Edited by Robert Arp and Mark D. White

The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series

Please circulate and post widely.
Apologies for Cross-posting.

To propose ideas for future volumes in the Blackwell series please contact the Series Editor,
William Irwin, at wtirwin@kings.edu.

Abstracts and subsequent essays should be philosophically substantial but accessible, written to engage the intelligent lay reader. Contributors of accepted essays will receive an honorarium.

Possible themes and topics might include, but are not limited to, the following:
Virtue ethics, Iron Man, and the superhero as moral inspiration; Communism vs. capitalism in Iron Man stories; S.H.I.E.L.D. and the justification of counter-terrorist rights infringement; Iron Man’s revelation of his identities, contractual agreements, and contractual loopholes; The Illuminati, paternalism, and liberalism; The Superhuman Registration Act and the limits of privacy; Iron Man, Plato’s Philosopher King, and the Noble Lie; Genius, invention, and creativity; Role/responsibility of a futurist; If science can do it, should science do it? Weapons of mass destruction and the ethics of technology; Vengeance on my kidnappers: Is revenge ever justified?; Time travel in Iron Man stories, the Butterfly Effect, and determinism; God is dead: Iron Man as the replacement god; Human suffering, the Problem of Evil, and Iron Man as savior; Merging the two Starks (Pocket and Marvel universes) and the question of what counts as personal identity; Iron Man’s “living armor” and the possibility of artificial intelligence; Depictions of Masculinity: Iron Man and Iron John; Robotics, Heidegger, and technology; Capturing consciousness in computer: Mind as computer (Hypervelocity); Iron Man and Captain America: The pragmatist and the idealist; Stark’s alcoholism and the possibility of freedom for the addict; Social pressure and self-deception in Iron Man stories; Civil War: Are (bad) decisions judged by their intentions or consequences?

Submission Guidelines:
1. Submission deadline for abstracts (100-500 words) and CV(s): August 15, 2008.
2. Submission deadline for first drafts of accepted papers: February 1, 2009.

Kindly submit by e-mail (with or without Word attachment) to:
Robert Arp: rarp@buffalo.edu

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Watchmen and Philosophy: Call for Abstracts

Call for Abstracts
Watchmen and Philosophy

Edited by Mark D. White

The Blackwell Philosophy and PopCulture Series


Please circulate and post widely.
Apologies for Cross-posting.


To propose ideas for future volumes in the Blackwell series please contact the Series Editor, William Irwin at wtirwin@kings.edu .


Abstracts and subsequent essays should be philosophically substantial but accessible, written to engage the intelligent lay reader. Contributors of accepted essays will receive an honorarium.

Possible themes and topics might include, but are not limited to, the following:
How Watchmen Revolutionized Comics; The Graphic Novel as Serious Literature; Superheroes and the State: The Keene Act and the legal suppression of superheroes; The Amorality of the Comedian; A Man without a Face: Rorschach and Identity; Superheroes and Warfare: Dr. Manhattan and the Comedian in Vietnam; The Comedian and “Protecting People from Themselves”: Should We Cede Responsibility to Authority?; Superheroes and Capitalism: The Branding of Ozymandias; The Silk Spectre: Woman as Sexualized and Peripheralized in the Hero Narrative; Legacy Heroes and Identity: Will the Real Silk Spectre Please Step Forward?; Homosexuality and Superheroes: Should Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis Have Been Out?; Is There a God?: Is the world really “a clock without a craftsman?”; Determinism and Dr. Manhattan’s Knowledge of the Future; Kitty Genovese and Good Samaritan laws; Dr. Manhattan and the Philosophy of Time Travel; Responsibility for Character: Rorschach’s childhood; Watchmen and Deconstruction of the Superhero; Rorschach and the Ethics of Vigilantism; The Ring of Gyges and the Responsible Use of Superpowers; Rorschach and Rand: Objectivism, Individualism and Sacrifice; Veidt and the Will to Power; Dr. Manhattan, Veidt, and the √úbermensch; Camus, Dr. Manhattan and the Absurd; “Existence is random, has no pattern”: So what’s the meaning of life? Tales of the Black Freighter: Metafiction in the Watchmen

Submission guidelines:

1. Submission deadline for abstracts (100-500 words) and cvs: March 31, 2008
2. Submission deadline for first drafts of accepted papers: June 16, 2008
3. Submission deadline for final papers August 11, 2008

Kindly submit by e-mail (with or without Word attachment) to:
Mark D. White profmdwhite@hotmail.com