Critical Blast talked with Michael over the weekend about the upcoming Tarzan story and the state of the comics retail industry.
Critical Blast talked with Michael over the weekend about the upcoming Tarzan story and the state of the comics retail industry.
I’d said that I’d do a round-up review of the series I followed (or briefly followed) last year, and, well, here it is!
Scott Snyder’s Justice League Stuff – I enjoyed Metal a lot, and despite the promises of the short-lived New Age of Heroes that were “Taken from the pages of Metal”, the real follow-up to the event was Snyder’s new sprawling Justice League story. It started out promising, with Justice League: No Justice, but I felt like the wheels were falling off by the time his new Justice League title started; I dropped it after #2, because frankly it was too bloated and dull. Which surprised me because I thought he’d handled a large ensemble fairly well in No Justice. But the start of Justice League was just so sloppy I skipped out on everything else.
The Immortal Men – Slow, pretentious, and utterly beautiful–the art wasn’t enough to make up for the plodding attempt to cram all of the Immortal Men mythos into what ended up being a six-issue mini-series due to its cancellation. I picked this book up because “Oh, hey, Batman Who Laughs is here!” and I was curious what he was up to after Metal. Well, it turned out he was mostly just standing around behind some other villain whose name I forget so they could put him on the cover and trick people like me into following the title.
The Brave and the Bold – If not for Kings of Fear, this would be my book of the year. A Celtic / Dunsanian fantasy fairy tale murder mystery that Wonder Woman and Batman have to solve. The art was gorgeous and story compelling, and it was wonderful to see this kind of fantasy story being told today.
The Terrifics – I love the Terrifics, and due to the hiccups at DC, it’s as close as I’ll be getting to the Outsiders for some time. It was a bit slow early on, but it really hit its stride with issue 5 and hasn’t really let up since. This has been my favorite ongoing since I got back into comics, and the price is right at 2.99.
Raven: Daughter of Darkness – This one started out slow, and it’s not a take on Raven that I’m a huge fan of, but it got better after a few issues; while it’s not great, I don’t regret my decision to not drop the title.
Catwoman – I love Joelle Jones’ art style; I just wish she was better at pacing her story. I think the first story could’ve been told in 3 issues instead of 6, but that’s really a problem with contemporary comics in general. I almost dropped this after the first arc, because even though I enjoyed it, I’m not invested in Catwoman beyond her place in the Bat-o-sphere. Then Penguin showed up in issue 7, so I’m sticking around, even if he really should’ve shown up several pages earlier to offer her the gig instead of at the end of the book; again, pacing.
Batman – I’ve done a complete 180 on Tom King and his Batman. Yes, I raved about his cozy Batman stories, but when he’s not doing cozy Batman, his stuff was terrible. I got tired of watching Batman lose and not save anybody, and the lead-up to the wedding was egregious. I could’ve stuck out the Batrayal or the price hike, but not both.
Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome – This is a gem I picked up on a whim and ended up not only following the 4-issue series, I’ve got a few issues from an earlier run, as well. Great art, fun and intriguing story. I hear there’s an omnibus collecting all of Britannia up through this, so I’ll be nabbing that.
Batman: Kings of Fear – Book of the year, right here. (Sorry Brave & Bold; you were fantastic and beautiful and sublime and all, but this is ImportantTM)
Kings of Fear blew up the post-modern approach to the Batman mythology with two tons of TNT and is easily one of the best Batman stories ever written.
Batman gets hit with an abnormally large dose of Scarecrow gas, and Doctor Crane tries to analyze Batman to see what makes him tick.
It turns out that Batman’s greatest fear is that the contemporary post-modern approach to writing and critiquing Batman as a rich crazy guy who is probably just making things worse by his crime-fighting is true.
And if this were a contemporary post-modern Batman story where Batman is a loser, doesn’t save anyone, and creates more supervillains than he stops, his fears would be reality.
Only it’s not, and they aren’t. Spoilers: This Batman saves lives. Not only does Batman save the lives of people targeted by criminals, Batman saves the lives of criminals, too. It turns out that the recidivism rate of criminals who are stopped by Batman is only 2% (pretty much his rogues and their most devoted henchmen); criminals stopped by Batman turn their lives around: they go to jail, learn trades, get out, start families, and keep their shit together.
Both the tone and aesthetic of this book hearken back to a time when Batman was still a winner–a good guy who saves the day. So, while Batman is letting randos get murdered in Batman, and Leslie Thompkins just got killed by the Joker in the current Detective Comics countdown to #1000, at least one Bat-book from the last year has a real goddamn Batman who saves the day and makes Gotham a better and safer place.
Which means new reads! And new games!
Honestly, part of the reason why I’ve been hard pressed for blogable content has been that I’ve spent the last couple months reading the 156 stories we received in submissions.
The other part has been that most of my reading that hasn’t been for Castalia House has been in the form of Churchill’s History of the English Speaking People. Which has been absolutely fantastic, but just hasn’t been great for blog-fodder, at least insomuch as I can’t easily relate it to D&D or the Pulps. Not that Churchill’s hot takes haven’t gotten me in a bit of trouble. But that’s neither here nor there.
I’m hoping that by the new year I’ll be finished with it and be able to plunge headlong into some Jack Vance. PC Bushi has been kicking my ass in the Vance area and by now has probably read more than me! I’ll need to catch up.
I’ve also been steeped in Battle for Wesnoth, which DolusMiles recommended to me, and OMG, this is up my alley. I’ve been working my way through the core campaigns, but I may have stalled out late-game in the first really big elf campaign.
Asshole elf-brother: Now that we’ve exhausted our forces fighting orcs, it’s time to exact additional retribution on the lizardmen that we fought once. By the way, I am totally not turning evil from that philtre of invisibility extracted from the blood of lich that we used to assassinate the Orc Warchief.
Healer: This is messed up, dude. I’m going home and taking all of the fairies, sorceresses, and ents with me.
Lizardmen: Please don’t murder us! ::sends a bunch of max level sorcerers and spearmen to slaughter my meager forces::
I don’t think I did well enough in the previous mission, because I’m starting with too little gold to recruit enough troops to hold off lizardmen in a mission with a)no healers and b)no friendly villages to recover health at. Of course, it’s a cascading issue.
The Human Alliance mission has infinite Trolls, and a little over half-way through, I did what I could to fall back but I lost a few really good units. The next mission in the ice fields, I won, but I had too little gold and too few troops to get a lot of bonus gold by finishing early. So, I’d need to go back two or more battles to substantially improve my situation. Oh, well…
I’ve been savoring Outsiders Vol 2, and I think I’m putting off finishing it because it’s been one of the best Outsiders titles I’ve read so far. I may do a cap on it here once I’m done.
Batman & the Outsiders Vol 3 has been postponed until at least March, which had me hopping mad when I first heard about it, but honestly, since issue 5, Terrifics has been giving me just about everything I could want from an Outsiders title except for having more than one actual Outsider in it.
Amusingly, I’m back in a spot where I’m hardly buying any new comics except for the Wal-Mart giants; quite the shift from about this time a year ago, when I’d been following Metal, Batman and followed Snyder’s story into the Justice League. I may post a full on breakdown of my comic reading at some point, but I went from all-in on Tom King’s Batman to done with both him and Snyder’s arc, which lost momentum hard after No Justice.
The best contemporary comic books I’ve read this year have been Valiant’s Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome and DC’s Brave and the Bold and Batman: Kings of Fear mini-series.
The lineup for Cirsova 2019 is almost finalized. We have one outstanding offer that needs to be resolved, and I need to see that people who asked for checks received them, but we should be able to make our official announcement pretty soon.
No. We won’t.
Recently it was revealed that not only had Kickstarter blocked Richard Meyer’s Jawbreakers campaign for alleged TOS violations [it was, as I understand an apolitical comic, and despite being mildly too salty for people with emotional hypertension, Richard is a fairly apolitical guy], they leaked their communications with him to Richard Pace who dumped them all over Twitter.
Now, IndieGoGo decided to tank Chuck Dixon’s Alt-Hero Q project after it had finished funding for nebulous claims that it had violated their terms of service. Backers have been refunded their money, but there’s nothing on the project page that would seem to violate the terms of service. IndieGoGo pulled the plug on Alt-Hero Q the same day that a Bleeding Cool article featuring an in-depth interview with Vox Day was posted. Following the outcry of their lunatic readers, Bleeding Cool took down the article and issued an apology. This is certainly not a coincidence.
Cirsova has never really NEEDED to crowdfund. All of our projects are finished and paid for by the time that the Kickstarters have gone live, which is how we’ve been able to ship out as soon as the money clears. Before the Alt-Hero Q incident, we had considered moving to IndieGoGo; we even have an extensive Illustrated Stark project page setup and waiting for us to flip the go-live switch. This changes things, however. Going forward, we plan on taking our products straight to print, making them available on Amazon and through retailers without spending a month flogging a crowdfunding event.
We hope you will stick with us despite no longer using these platforms.
[Disclosure: While I backed for Chuck Dixon’s Alt-Hero: Avalon on Freestartr, a platform that was recently murdered by its payment processor, I was not a backer of either Jawbreakers or Alt-Hero Q.]
Now that I got a solid, consecutive run, I’ve started on Outsiders Vol. 2! I’m glad I waited until I had both #1s and #3 to start it, because the opening of this story is a hot chaotic mess. Like, even starting at #1, I feel like I missed something, and the Suicide Squad “Dragon’s Hoard” arc did NOT fill anything in like I’d hoped it would.
There’s clearly a case of typical DC timeline reset/telescoping, even though Zero Hour hadn’t happened yet, because the events of Millennium are suggested to have happened just a few months in the past for Katana, who is still watching over the comatose Gaby.
From a throwaway line of dialogue explaining that he was busy and couldn’t attend Brion’s nephew’s christening, it’s revealed (to me, at least) that Metamorpho is alive.
The last few issues of Outsiders vol.1 did something really weird where Atomic Knight showed up for the event for a couple issues before the end of the run, and rather than just having him as a guest, he got listed as a member of the Outsiders and is included in the ‘remember when we were a team?’ splash. He was a dull late edition, and they’re teasing him showing up, but he’s not made it to Markovia just yet.
Technocrat shows up practically out of nowhere, giving off the feeling that he’d come in from another title with the amount of backstory that’s implied but never mentioned—the first minor villain is a guy who has a past with him who his wife sent to have him assassinated. But sure enough, this is the first time he makes his appearance.
No one behaves around Faust like he’s a guy everyone just met who’s turned someone into a werebear—it’s weird.
Eradicator even shows early on as one of the first supers to try to “punish” the Outsiders for the crimes they were alleged to have committed.
Anyway, Outsiders 2 picks up in Markovia, which is now overrun with vampires. A vampire king has gained control of the throne, framed Brion for the murder of his sister the queen, and framed the Outsiders for atrocities against the Markovian people.
The first issue had a weird gimmick; I’m not sure I’m okay with it—there were two #1s, and each had a more or less different story, except for about half a dozen pages where the stories intersect which were the same. Confusingly, it would make more sense to read #1 “Omega” before #1 “Alpha”, because the Omega issue has more details catching you up on what’s happened since Vol. 1 ended. Not to mention, it shows how Halo gets revived. Anyway, Looker dies, which is great, except I know that she comes back as a vampire in 8 or 9 issues. Oh well.
The art is better than okay. Even though the aesthetic isn’t really comparable to Jim Aparo’s, I like it better than Alan Davis’s and it’s miles above Erik Jensen, who filled in on the last few issues and drew GeoForce with a chin a mile long.
I don’t like that they went with Davis’ ‘squished head’ interpretation of Katana, but at least they made her cute (I think they wanted to give her a younger look, which again kind of goes to ‘soft continuity’ that I think Vol. 2 is using). I’m not a fan of the body-suit version of her costume; it looks and feels more generic super-heroey.
I still hate Looker, but at least her design is no longer an on obvious Dazzler knock-off and at least she looks more feminine and less drag-queenish.
Halo looks terrible, and I wish that they’d let her hair grow out while she was in her coma.
GeoForce looks solid, and the rest of the new characters are pretty good.
While I don’t think the Outsiders will ever look better than they did in the two-issue Convergence tie-in, this is probably the best of the rest of the non-Aparo stuff.
Over the weekend, I managed to link up a pretty good run of Outsiders that I hadn’t yet started on. Outsiders Vol2. #3 has been out of stock from most places where I could have bought it at a reasonable price, and I’ve been reticent to pay ebay prices (especially S&H) for a single issue, when I knew that if Midtown had it in stock, it would’ve only cost maybe a dollar [and I’d just fill in some other gaps to make the S&H worth it]. But, the guy at one of the local flea markets finally got his booth organized [and kind of sorted!—almost unheard of for flea market comic booths], and while ain’t nobody is paying his prices for some random-ass Rai & the Future Force issues, I was ready to pay $3.25 for the issue of Outsiders I’d been looking for since this spring.
But this is a post about Bryan Edward Hill’s upcoming Batman & the Outsiders Volume 3.
Back in the summer of last year, Scott Snyder teased a return of the original Outsiders lineup in The Forge [the prelude to the Metal event]. It was just a tease—a holo-dossier image of the team with the quip “Batman has a black ops team?” And then we got nothing, until the No Justice epilogue of Metal when Batman tells Black Lightning he could use someone working from the Outside.
It’s pretty clear that whatever’s going to happen with the team, it’s not going to jibe with how the team was originally teased [all 5 original members, a team that had been together for some time in the background, just without their exploits featured in any current Rebirth titles or the Geoff Johns version that is appearing in Doomsday Clock], but right now, I’m okay with that.
Bryan Edward Hill was given the reins of Detective Comics for an unfortunately brief 5-issue run which will lead into his book: Batman & The Outsiders Vol. 3. All of my fears and trepidation about the quality of an upcoming Outsiders book have melted away in the wake of this series.
One of the complaints I’ve seen about recent Detective is not just that it’s a Bat Family book, but that the Bat Family has gotten rather crowded. It’s strange that the lone-wolf Dark Knight seems up to his elbows in teenagers who “dilute” the Batman brand. At least in the Detective books, Wayne Manor is overrun by unruly teenagers. Hill runs with this idea, with a villain intent on targeting Batman’s weakness: the young Bat Family members who he’s relied on.
Batman realizes that the kids need to be reined in. To this end, Bats brings in Jefferson Pierce, Black Lightning. Why? Because Pierce was a high school teacher [now principal, IIR] with years of experience working with troubled teens who have issues with authority. Oh, and Katana’s back!
So what have we got here?
-A new Batman & the Outsiders team with fan-favorites Black Lightning and Katana at the core with some of the new Bat Family kids having a chance to shine without it having to be in Bat’s books.
-New Bat-villains with ties to Markovia; Karma, the main villain of this 5 issue arc was a terrorist that Batman severely injured in Markovia—which definitely feels like a callback to 80s Mike Barr callous asshole Batman—who would be worthy of recurring in other Bat stories, if writers could figure out how to make him more than a one trick pony. Other new main villain will be explored more in the opening story of the new BatO, which will likely see the team back in Markovia to investigate.
-80s fans who were constantly writing in saying that Black Lighting or Katana should be leading the team are finally getting their wish. Geoforce was a good dude but a poor team leader. It always made sense that Katana, who was already “mom” for the team or Black Lightning, who had both practical street smarts and leadership experience as a teacher, should be leading the team. When Batman was around, cases could be made that either of them were his “second”. But with Batman gone and only Markovian financial backing to keep the team going, the job fell to Brion Markov—and it went about as well as you’d expect: the team went from one screw-up to the next until Batman showed up and took over again.
-No Looker. I am more than okay with this.
What we’re probably not getting:
-We’re in the Rebirth continuity and Dr. Jace was never reintroduced Post-Crisis. There has never been a Dr. Jace in the current continuity. This is a good thing for Dr. Jace fans. I thought she was a cool character, and I hate that she got thrown under the bus for the Millennium event [all DC writers were instructed that they had to throw one character from their book under the bus to be a Manhunter sleeper agent; in the case of the Outsiders, it was decided that the woman who had given the team leader his powers and acted as the chief science advisor and almost defacto leader would suddenly betray the Outsiders for no reason, get Metamorpho killed, and be buried without honors as a traitor. It was terrible]. There is a chance we could have Dr. Jace back and all of that “she was a Manhunter sleeper all along” could be wiped out. I don’t think this is a real possibility, but I can cross my fingers.
-I’ve never liked the modern look for Katana. It’s ugly and dumb, and the association of the Rising Sun iconography with her because of her ethnicity is double so with a character whose ethnicity was not her defining characteristic. Sure, the orange and gold costume was garish [though I prefer it to even the crimson/maroon and gold she had in later stories], but it had a charm that’s thoroughly lacking in her black & white get-up she’s had for the last several years. IIRC, one of the rules of Suicide Squad was “no costumes”, so maybe that’s part of the justification for the look, but I’ve always though it was drab and made worse by the one spot of color being that lampshade hung on her race. The new look is a more streamlined, though slightly more colorful version of her look from New 52. She’s drawn “sexy”, which, while not a problem in and of itself, feels out of place for Katana, as she was an inversion of the “dragon lady” trope. The unflattering nature of the original costume vs. what was typical of female comic characters underscored this.
Hill can tell an exciting story and has shown that he can add some reflective depth to the characters; one of the things that always kept me sticking with the Outsiders was the potential that these characters had to show some real depth—we got flashes of it with Barr writing, but I think that under Hill’s writing, we’ll finally see some of them really living up to that potential.
I’m completely stoked for this, and at this point, I don’t care that the origins of the team may contradict how Snyder set them up. The wheels fell off Snyder and at this point, I’m done with him. Hill, on the other hand, I’m open to and see loads of potential, and I am looking forward to his run—I can hardly wait until the new book launches.