Monday, June 29, 2009

Detective Comics # 854

Detective Comics # 854
Writer:Greg Rucka
Art: J.H. Williams III, Cully Hamner (second feature)
Colors: Dave Stewart, Laura Martin (second feature)
Letters: Todd Klein, Jared K. Fletcher (second feature)
Asst. Ed: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Published by DC

To say this is the best Bat-book I've read in some time, is one hell of an understatement. It starts off pretty typical of a Bat-related title. Though, this time around it's not BatMAN interrogating thugs, but Batwoman, Kate Kane. Right off the bat (pardon the pun) we notice Williams' incredibly stellar art and interesting panel construction. The flow of the story reminds me of something Steranko might have pulled off in his heyday. Batwoman is trying to figure out the new leader for some covens and their religion of crime and during her investigation she runs into the new Batman. They talk shop and she actually corrects him on the number of covens in the city. It made me think she got that information because she was a woman and he couldn't have done that otherwise. Sort of empowering if you think about it.

Next morning, Kate stops for breakfast with a woman (I'm sure by now, you've heard that Kate is a lesbian) who is rather upset with her for being late, among other things. The woman leaves frustrated with Kate and accusing her of tomcatting around and whatnot. The woman also says she should have never gotten involved with some one "so privileged". I think Rucka did a great job of paralleling that with the life of Bruce Wayne. Later, we see Kate at her home. We see her, not just as a civilian, we see her as the real Kate Kane. The Kate who was nearly killed by the Crime Bible. Kate Kane who is trying to balance things between being Batwoman and alternative socialite. The dialogue is just fantastic and incredibly strong. By the end of the issue, it's really difficult for the reader to NOT like Kane. She's living with some sort of father figure, I'm not sure who he is, who acts as her sort of Oracle as well. He even mentions a "Bette". Hrm. Interesting since this could be something to do with my personal Batgirl theories.

I digress.

So, she finally hunts down the covens and in some pretty cool stylized pages too, I might add. One would think this book is called "Ass-Kicking Comics" as opposed to "Detective Comics" because of amount of vigilante justice being thrown around. Eventually, Batwoman is face-to-face with a woman called Alice, the new leader of the cult, and she is down-right creepy looking. Sort of like a Victorian noble and a porcelain doll and in addition has a peculiar vernacular. The story ends with Batwoman pulling out a gun and fires it! Now, I don't think it actually fires bullets, maybe some sort of pellets. Interesting to see somebody with a Bat-mantle using a gun. Love the cliffhanger angle.

Also featured in this book is a second story (entitled "Pipeline") starring the Question, Rene Montoya and I must say it's a nice compliment to Batwoman’s story. It seems we’re going to get less capes and cowls and more street-level style attitude. Cully Hamner (Black Lightning, Blue Beetle) and Laura Martin (Thor, Astonishing X-Men) may not be Williams and Stewart, but they’re deserving of a fair amount of praise for the same reason: the art is captivating yet gritty. This feature shows more of the "detective" side of the book's title. For the first few pages, it's dialogue heavy, but the remaining pages have hardly any words at all, it's mainly Question, as I mentioned earlier, doing some actual detective work and the art tells the story by itself. She's on the look out for a Mexican immigrant's sister who had crossed the border illegally and now has gone missing. Though finding her maybe harder than she had originally intended.

This book is easily worth the $3.99 price tag. My one complaint is that in the Batwoman story, she has an older man as her "Oracle", as is the same deal with the Question. It doesn't take me out of the story, I just would have thought Rucka would have been slightly more careful about not sounding repetitive with dealing with two different characters in the same book. Bottom line though, get it. No question about it. Sorry to end on a pun.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

20 years ago today

June 23rd 1989, Batman opened and became the biggest movie of the year and a pop culture phenomenon. I was 6 and saw it at least three times. The first time running out of the theater being scarred at when the Joker killed Antoine and fried him to a skeleton. The other two times, I was a little bit more behaved.

Sneak Peek: Berserker #1

Berserker #1 (sneak preview)
Created and Written by Rick Loverd
Art by Jeremy Haun
Colors by Dave McCaig
Letters by Troy Peteri
Published by Top Cow

The first I remember hearing about this was at New York Comic Con this past year and it finally hits stands this coming Wednesday, June 24th.Beginning with a massive car wreck and going backwards in time to set the plot and characters, to call this book "intense" is almost an understatement. There a few clich├ęs along the way but they don't hinder the book: a handful of individuals with devastating powers and secret organizations that want to help them or use them as weapons.

The first of these powered individuals we are introduced to is Aaron, a teenager who is kicked off his wrestling team. Not because he hits his opponent with a steel chair, but more like he snaps his arm off and almost decapitates the kid with a right hook to the face for talking trash about Aaron's girl. All the while he's being watched by a mysterious stranger that has some sort of symbol on the back of his neck that resembles pitchforks making a circle.

Elsewhere we meet our next character: Farris Jorn, waking up from a bad dream and throwing a lamp right through the wall of his bedroom. The girlfriend is annoyed and just adds it to the list of stuff to do around the house. Personally, I would have reacted a bit differently. And of course, there is another stranger outside the house. Cutting back to Aaron and his girlfriend, we learn that they've decided to skip town tomorrow after Aaron ties up some loose ends with his white trash mother.

When we get back to Farris we see he can't even stand up to his own boss. He needs his job, which is working at some sort of metal-works shop, and we find out he's seeing a therapist about his rage, but it's not working. Meanwhile, Aaron confronts his mother and he tells her the events about him getting kicked off the wrestling team and why. His mother is furious and insists he has his father's rage, "the Devil's temper" she calls it, and he storms out.

We eventually meet the stranger that was outside of Farris' place, Rowena. Apparently she is an agent of an organization called Migard, and she is confronted by an agent from what we assume is a rival organization called Asgaard, Ray. The two get into their, I guess, "berserker" mode and duke it out. Jeremy Haun's art leaves little to the imagination as it is seriously bloody and gory. It's sort of weird too since there's no dialogue during the fight, which is three pages long, it's just an all-out brawl with Rowena walking away to talk to Farris about his abilities and how she can help.

The next day at work, Farris' boss discovers that Farris has been dating a girl he's fancied for quite some time. And you know how Farris never stood up for himself? That changes mighty quick as Farris rips off his boss' arm, tossing him through a window and into a car! Needless to say, everybody runs the hell away from Farris, still holding his boss' torn arm.

We see Aaron and his girl, Courtney, on their way out of town and on to New York, however there is some trouble brewing as the friends of the guy Aaron almost killed cause Aaron and Courtney to have a car crash.

Now the ending I won't give away because it's THAT insane. Not necessarily negative, but it is a little too over the top for my tastes. I could have sworn I heard the Mortal Kombat theme play after I read the final splash page. If anything, it's a good set up for a series that will appeal to fans of the ultraviolence, I'm just not one of them.

Jeremy Haun's art is strong, I just wish Rick Loverd's dialogue had been on the level, though I'm confident things will pick up. I'm curious on where things will go from here. If you see it at your local comic shop, take a gander, just be sure not to show it to a youngster.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Let's talk about chicks, man: Zatanna Zatara

Now it's no secret I have a thing for leggy, magical brunettes. Zatanna, of course, being my favorite DC heroine, so let's shine a little spotlight on her for a moment, shall we?

Okay, where to begin? I guess the beginning is as good a place to start if anything. She was created in 1964 by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson. Her first appearance was in Hawkman #4, which I am proud to say I own. In the story she is looking for her father, the great Zatara, Master of Magic. Zatara actually made his debut along with Superman in a little thing called Action Comics #1. What's most interesting about her is that if you take a look at the characters around that time, everybody was given a more scientific origin. Take Alan Scott for example, the Golden Age Green Lantern. When Green Lantern was repackaged, it was Hal Jordan and his ring wasn't magical but actually connected to sort of space-police. Barry Allen, the Flash? Same deal, lab accident involving lightning and chemicals. And of course around this time Marvel had started what is known as the "Atomic Age". x-Men, Hulk, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Spider-Man...all of course made possible due to an act of science.

Now let's talk about heroes being repackaged. Green Lantern, the Flash, the Atom, Hawkman...all originally based on heroes from the Golden Age, but when comics began being hot again in the 60's they were brought back, but just a little different. That's what makes Zatanna so unique. Instead of the writers just bringing back John Zatara, they created a whole new character instead: Zatara's curvy, cute daughter that shared his magical abilities. Now I know some of you may counter this discussion with "Well, Dr. Strange was created in the 60's, and Dr. Fate never went away and they're both magical." Yes they are. However, Strange was created as a b-story character and Fate actually was revived in the 60's, too. Though, like I said, comics were serious business again and DC brought back almost everybody. Though, Strange and the rest of the super-natural of Marvel really thrusted in the spotlight in the 70's with the huge horror boom.

I digress.

Another interesting fact is that when she was introduced, she was looking for her father and actually was the first person to be involved in first major cross over. She appeared in Green Lantern, Batman, Superman, Justice League, The Atom (and of course Hawkman when she debuted). That makes her a pretty important character in the DC mythos. She is 98% of the time connected to Batman somehow. Ever since Paul Dini started writing Detective Comics a few years back, he's integrated her a lot in the Batman mythology. God bless him for that. Though a few years back, she did a heinous crime against Bruce and it took time for his wounds to heal. They teamed up a few years back to solve the murder of some magician's assistants and Bruce was extremely cold towards her. Though it seemed by the end of the arc, they had made a sort of amends.

It's also no secret I have a pretty impressive Zatanna art collection. Even Allison Sohn, Adam Hughes' girlfriend, gave me props for my "impressive Z lovin'". I don't plan on stopping anytime soon, either. She's had some interesting costume changes over the years but my favorite (as I'm sure it's also the fan favorite and most well-known) is the tux and fishnets, you know, sexy standard magician attire. She's also been in animated in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, though she was just an illusionist, compared to her stint on JLU where she was a full-blown sorceress.

This past year, she finally made her live-action debut on "Smallville", portrayed pretty well by Serinda Swan. They touched on many levels of her origin from her missing father, to her home in Shadowcrest. Needless to say, I had a huge fangasm and actually did the review for that episode for Newsarama.

Zatanna is currently seen in the pages of Justice League of America and soon to have her own series this fall by Paul Dini and Stephane Roux. *giggity*

Next time on "Let's talk about chicks", Jean Grey, aka Marvel Girl aka Phoenix.

Batman: The Brave and The Bold -- "The Last Bat on Earth"

Batman: The Brave and The Bold
"The Last Bat on Earth"

"It is not treachery to fight for the right of all species, Father." -- Tuftan

Talk about massive amounts of Jack Kirby love! Now it's no secret that the creators of this show are huge Kirby fans, and this episode touched on two of his creations: 1) the Fourth World, with Mr. Miracle, Big Barda and Oberon in the introduction, and 2) Kamandi, the last boy on Earth, who aids Batman in the main story. In the introduction, we see Batman and Mr. Miracle are on some sort of roller coaster and locked up tight. "Only the great Mr. Miracle can get me into a mess like this," Batman quips, and what a mess it is! Dodging darts, hammers and flame-throwers, they're so cavalier about the whole thing, surprisingly. Of course they escape just in the nick of time, and as it turns out, they're escaping for the city's orphan fund. Batman even signs autographs for the kids! The Silver Age just oozes out of this show. What was even cuter was when Mr. Miracle tries to boast to Barda, but she just replies with "You know what would be a real miracle? If you finally cleaned out the garage." Gotta love domestic bliss.

After the theme song, we see things aren't so good in the distant future. It's a world in chaos where intelligent animals are at war with one another and use humans as livestock and slaves. The tiger army (no, not THAT Tiger Army) led by Caesar, clashes with the ape army, all the while, Kamandi and Dr. Canus looking onward, waiting for a moment to free the slaves. Just then, Kamandi witnesses his friend, Prince Tuftan (son of Caesar) being surrounded by apes and Kamandi dives in to help while Canus is yelling for him to come back since he'll jeopardize their mission. Kamandi saves Tuftan and they escape on horseback, which makes me question why horses haven't evolved into intelligent being as well. Anyway, Caesar sees his son leave with a human and summons more troops. Subsequently the ape army retreats, much to the ape general's chagrin. Caesar also fears he's lost his son since he has seen where the prince's loyalty lies.

Back at the ape camp, the ape general is berating his troops about their retreat until a familiar voice speaks up about how the general is the one who is incompetent. It is none other than Gorilla Grodd (voiced by Futurama's John DiMaggio, as well as this series' Aquaman)! Elsewhere in the past (or present, depending on how you look at it), Batman investigates a robbery involving a Professor Nichols and his time machine. Apparently Grodd knew of the professor's temporal experiments and was forced to send him to the future. Batman tells Nichols to send him to go after Grodd and he's given a device so he can return to his time when he's done with the deed. Nichols wishes Batman luck, and with that, Batman is transported to the future. Too bad Jonah Hex didn't have a similar device so he could get back to his own time, right?

Cut again to the ape base where Grodd challenges the general for leadership via brute strength and easily wins. Under his command, he promises to show the world the meaning of "gorilla warfare." Oh, the puns! Meanwhile, Kamandi and Prince Tuftan are observing a new slave shipment and sneak attack the tiger guards, while Canus tries to free the slaves. Too bad the humans have sort of devolved and hardly speak to understand what Canus is saying. Canus, Kamandi and Tuftan are all netted until Batman shows up to save the day. Kamandi is grateful for his assistance, but puzzled on why he would ever go back to that time again. Batman then explains about Grodd being in Kamandi's time. The two heroes fend off the guards until Tuftan and Canus are captured and unless Batman and Kamandi surrender, their friends and the slaves will be killed. Not really given an option, the two heroes step down and go quietly.

Later, in prison, Caesar visits Kamandi and Tuftan and says that it is over for the both of them. Caesar doesn't understand why his son would betray him like this and condemns him to stay in the dungeon and sentences Batman and the rest to be executed. Batman speaks up and offers his service to Caesar but is rejected since he still sees Batman as a lowly human. Batman tries to explain that Grodd has come to their time and is a terrible threat. Caesar blows off the threat, since he feels that the gorillas are no threat. He soon is forced to eat those words as Grodd and his army are at the Tiger Empire's gates. Caesar goes to investigate and angers Grodd by calling him a dirty monkey. Grodd orders his officers to fire some sort of sonic cannon which renders Caesar and his guards weak. Grodd then siezes the opportunity to summon some kind of ape-beast named Tiny to smash the gates to the Tiger Empire and soon, there is a full invasion.

Back at the dungeon, Batman melts his bars with an acid pellet and takes down the remaining guards with Kamandi. Once outside, Tuftan leads them through the back alleys of the city but halt after crossing the path of Grodd. Grodd recognizes Batman's scent and attacks! Batman and his cronies are outnumbered and make a run for it, escaping the gorilla guards after hiding under the sewer. Kamandi disagrees with this tactic since he thinks that they should be fighting and not running. Turns out Batman has led them to a familiar place: the Batcave. Too bad it is now inhabited by the Man-Bat tribe. They attack Batman, Kamandi & Dr. Canus for invading their home (and because they perceived that Batman was mocking them with his costume). Batman defeats the Man-Bat leader and orders them to get out his cave. Batman & Co. now level the playing field with Grodd by repairing his now-old Batjet.

We return to Grodd and his army marching and now using the tigers as slaves. They halt as they see approaching brigades of lions, bears, snakes, and rats led by Prince Tuftan who taunt Grodd and his army by calling them chimpanzees. Of course then Grodd fires his sonic cannons again, and Tuftan's collective army is weakened while Grodd's army charges. In the nick of time, Batman swoops in via Batjet and blows up the cannons and ejects from the plane with Kamandi and Canus in tow. The falling Batjet crashes into the side of a canyon and causes a rockslide on top off the ape army. While Batman, Kamandi and Canus parachute back to the ground, they are joined by the Man-bats who see Batman as one of them and join the fray.

The ape army is no match for Tuftan's troops and Grodd is easily beaten once Tiny is taken out by Kamandi and the Man-bats. Caesar offers Batman and Kamandi his gratitude, apologizing for his actions toward them the human race, in the process making amends with his son (good Fathers Day timing!). With that, Caesar frees the slaves. Kamandi and Batman say their goodbyes and Kamandi hopes Batman doesn't have to come back even though he honors their friendship. Batman jokes with Kamandi about maybe one day, Kamandi will be visiting him.

"The Last Bat on Earth" wasn't exactly the strongest of the season, but it most certainly isn't the worst. This is the second time they've used Kamandi and I'm glad the people behind this show have been true to their word about using lesser-known characters of the DC universe. I especially loved the way Kamandi and Mr. Miracle were drawn in the distinctive style of Kirby.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Duel of the Double Crossers

Batman: The Brave and the Bold
"Duel of the Double Crossers"

"Now, I always took you for a civilized fella, 'cept for that goofy getup you parade around in." -- Jonah Hex

This episode starts out with Batman and the Outsiders teaming up to fight one DC's biggest baddies, Despero. Batman is directing the Outsiders on how to handle the situation, but they're still having a bit of a problem, especially when it comes to keeping collateral damage at a minimal. Batman then instructs them on strategy and teamwork. Black Lightning blasts Despero into a bridge, then Katana strikes it down with her sword and it collapses. Though, just after Black Lightning exclaims on how that was too easy, we really see how much of a mess they made of the city. They don't have to worry about cleaning it up since we soon see that it was actually all holographic images. Batman makes them repeat the training until they get it right.

After the title sequence and that jazzy intro theme, we see Jonah Hex (voiced by Phil Morris, Martian Manhunter from Smallville) riding in the desert and into some sort of alien saloon. He sits down at a table and soon gets into a brawl with a red, one-eyed alien named Arges, whose name is on Jonah's bounty list. At first, Jonah is outmatched, but soon uses his iron horse as a decoy to punch out Arges and then transports himself, horse and Arges to Warworld. As Arges is being taken away, we are introduced to Mongul (voiced by Gary Anthony Williams, Uncle Ruckus from The Boondocks) where we learn that he is using Jonah as a bounty hunter to capture warriors for his arena. Mongul gives Jonah immense praise, but Jonah spites it since he's doing Mongul's work so he can be sent back home to his own time. Mongul agrees to send Jonah home after one more job: to capture Batman.

Cut to Batman fighting Zebra-Man. With a quick punch to the face from Batman, Zebra-Man flies into a building and is knocked out. Now, how Batman got so strong, I'll never know, and of course this is followed by the quip "Looks like you'll never change your stripes." (Diedrich Bader kills with these lines) Then Jonah shows up and explains his situation, though Batman states "Don't mistake my patience for compliance, Hex" and soon the two have at it. Batman tries to use his batarangs, but Jonah easily shoots them down. Then, they get into a sort of a shootout. Batman tries escaping using some kind of bat-jetpack, but Jonah has a laser lasso and takes Batman down.

Back on Warworld, Jonah turns in Batman to Mongul and His Yellowness is beyond impressed. When Jonah asks for his reward, Mongul refuses, saying that Jonah is too much of a great bounty hunter to just be let go. Just when Jonah is about to shoot Mongul, Mongal (Mongul's sister, and also voiced by Williams) shows up and stops him because she loves humiliating Mongul in the Warworld games. At this point we are also introduced to Mongal's Furies, Lashina and Stompa. Jonah is taunted by Lashina and he quietly steps down and walks away while Mongal is pleased with the capture of Batman, she questions how he would fare against her champion, Steppenwolf. So, of course, Batman is teamed up with three other aliens that Jonah had captured (one of them being Arges) and he tries to tell them that there is strength in numbers and strategy is the key (a reflection of the intro to the episode with the Outsiders). However, his "comrades" don't feel as optimistic about that idea. Then, we are introduced to Steppenwolf (voiced my Kevin Michael Richardson, the Joker from The Batman) and he starts fighting Batman and the captured aliens, and is quite brutal. What else would you expect from Darkseid's uncle?

Cut to Mongal, trying to woo Jonah into working for her. He is weary about dealing with her, but can't resist an offer to take him back to his own time. Back to the arena, Steppenwolf is still beating Batman and his fellow fighters. Steppenwolf taunts his challengers, but then Batman uses a bolo on Steppenwolf and he signals Arges to fire his optic blast until...Arges runs away. Assistance in an alien battle arena is so hard to find these days, apparently. Steppenwolf laughs off Batman and his faith in his fellow competitors, but then Jonah shows up and they team up against Steppenwolf. Jonah shoots Steppenwolf's axe out of his hand and keeps firing (even breaks Steppenwolf's force shield), but is uppercutted a few dozen feet in the air and into a pole. As Steppenwolf boasts, Batman comes back with enhanced brass knuckles and the two get into a fist fight. It goes back and forth for a while until Batman gets the best of Steppenwolf. Batman and Hex make a break for it while Mongul reveals to his sister that he had known about her double-cross with trying to send Jonah away.

Meanwhile Batman and Jonah are still trying to escape to the time tunnel, but are stopped by Mongal and her Furies. Batman takes down Stompa while Lashina has called Jonah (with whom she also has some sort of infatuation) as her opponent. Then, Mongal shows up and then gets tied and dragged to Jonah's iron horse. The two heroes find the containment center with all the bounty Jonah has captured and not surprisingly him and Batman aren't too popular. Jonah wants to set the prisoners free and explains that he's going after to Mongul for what he's done. Surprise, surprise -- Mongul finally appears and easily outmatches the two. Being quick, Batman sets the prisoners free to actually turn on Mongul, but having set the prisoners free, Jonah can't get back to his own time since it fried the time tunnel's circuits. Jonah approaches Batman with another time-traveling device and gives it to Batman so he can go back to his own time. Lashina then shows up and her and Hex ride off together.

Now this episode was interesting on a couple of notes. One being that there wasn't a whole lot of humor in it. Sure, there were a fewer zingers and quips, but it had some strong action scenes. Then again, Warworld and any of Darkseid's kin aren't really a laughing matter. Don't get me wrong, I liked the action and it was truly fast-paced... I guess I was just surprised by this. This is the second episode in a row that's been really deep emotionally and action-oriented, maybe they are going in a different direction for a time. Last week's episode of the Tornado Tyrant was extremely moving for this show. I thought the sexual tension between Lashina and Hex was okay, but almost out of character for her since she's always been a Lil Miss Bad Ass. The voice acting was superb, especially with Williams being both brother and sister, and I hardly recognized Phil Morris at all.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Letterman vs Palin

Example A

Hrm. Letterman will "RAPE" my "children with his mouth". I see.

Now, Example B

Top 10 reasons why Palin's outrage is late and misplaced

Do I really have to share the planet with this goons?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Post-birthday stash Part One and procrastination.

This past weekend was my birthday and I mean this whole weekend was my birthday! The actual day was the 12th, which was Friday. I was surprised by this little bit: Thor shirt (which I have never seen), the JSA Sandman figure, a Spider-Man clock, the anime Zatanna I've wanted for a LONG time now, Silk Spectre (Sally Jupiter) figure, and The Graveyard Book. Amanda and Eric did good!

This is just part one. I have some more stuff to take pictures of, but I'll get to it later.

I'm so behind in columns and pages, it's almost full-blown retarded. So today while I have Trueblood in the background, I'll be working on my Batman: Brave and the Bold review.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

First look: Mickey Rourke as Whiplash

Take a look here with Mickey Rourke as Whiplash. Interesting enough though, they made him Russian (hence the Russian prison tattoos and the rumors about him playing Crimson Dynamo). Mr. Comeback Kid has also stated that his dialogue in the movie is more than half in Russian. Talk about dedication. We’re not quite sure what’s going on in the picture, it sort of seems like a weapons display. Him being in his prison attire maybe we are to assume he’s used as a guinea pig for the weapons. He looks pretty damn gangster.

Trinity: Blood on the Sands

Trinity: Blood on the Sands
Writer: Phillip W. Smith II
Art: Sheldon Mitchell, Admira Wijaya, Tom Grindberg, Joe Weems V
Colors: Arif Prianto, Sunny Cho
Letters: Troy Peteri
Published by Top Cow

Last week, Newsarama showcased a 5-page preview of the Top Cow trinity one-shot, Trinity: Blood on the Sands. To be quite honest, there is a lot of story in this 25-page issue. It doesn't have just one story, but three self-containing ones that are sure to please Top Cow fans. It features the bearers of the Darkness, Witchblade and Angelus trinity during the 14th Century in the Arabian desert. Now first off, the character design is phenomenal. From the Darkness' (Idris) iron horse to the bearer of the dark half of the Witchblade (Amali), it's all really well done.

The whole issue is narrated by Idris, the bearer of the Darkness, and he sort of has an almost Shakespearean vernacular. While he doesn't actually give his origin, he does go through the Witchblade bearers (rival sisters Amali and Amani) and the Angelus (Abdul Salaam). I especially thought the Witchblade's story (entitled "Assahiya") was interesting for numerous reasons. One, being the art. Admira Wijaya's art is spectacular. Actually, calling it even that is an understatement. There is such drama and expression behind it and reminds me of the Hildebrandts. What's also interesting is how it's told. It's almost entirely in narration with maybe one or two actual speech balloons. It's tragic, yet reflects the current War of the Witchblades. It gives you something to think about.

The Angelus story's ("Chermera") art is done by Tom Grindberg, who I'm a big fan of. At first, this story didn't make a whole lot of sense, since Smith used a lot foreign terms. However, I later noticed that he included a glossary, which is a great asset with these sorts of stories. All of the titles to the chapters mean something significant, ie "Chermera" is the site of an ancient temple is Norther Iraq. Smith did his homework and it adds a little something special to the issue.

It's definitely not for the kiddies though, but I'm sure if you're familiar at all with these characters you were aware of that. There's plenty of action played out, it sort of feels like an old Conan story. Bottom line: I say pick it up if you're a Top Cow fan, or just willing to try something a little out of the ordinary.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Let's talk about chicks, man: Velma Dace Dinkley

Orange being my LEAST favorite color of the spectrum, it's hard to fathom I would have such a crush on this character who is smothered in it. She doesn't always have the best lines, but she's always the one who usually solves the mystery. I guess that's where the attraction comes from. Just like Donatello from TMNT. Not to say I have a crush on him, but he was always my favorite turtle because he was the brains of the operation. I just thought there was just something incredibly sexy growing up about her. Yeah, I'm weird, but we all know that.

Little known fact about her, Scooby is actually HER dog. I can't remember where I read that, but I remember reading it a few years ago and was somewhat astonished thinking he was always Shaggy's pooch.

It has been long rumored that she is fact a lesbian. I can see why people would think so. It was hinted about the sexual tension between Daphne and Freddie, and Shaggy and Scooby were just potheads, so they weren't interested in sex as much as hallucinating and scoring free meals. Hanna-Barbara has denied this and actually gave her a love interest in the live-action sequel with the oh-so hot Linda Cardelini as Ms. Dinkley. I don't think she's gay at all. I just think she's just strictly business about solving mysteries and a bit tomboyish, but definitely not gay.

This picture sums it up quite well, actually. She epitomizes the type of girl I'm attracted to. I mean, if you have seen my girlfriend you'd know what I'm talking about. Between the cheerleaders and the bookwork, I like my girls brainy. It just sucks she's the butt of the glasses joke ("I can't see without my glasses"). We get it, you're hella nearsighted, but damn, orange knee socks and a sweater never looked so good.

Point made. Next time, I'll cover DC's Mistress of Magic: Zatanna Zatara!

Zenescope Presents: Dante's Inferno

Later this year, Zenescope’s Grimm’s Fairy Tales gets an expansion as Mercy Dante returns.

Fans of the series know that Dante committed an unspeakable act of violence in issue #29, and in August, Dante returns to the series in issue #41, a lead-in to the five issue, Grimm Fairy Tales: Dante’s Inferno

Described by Zenescope’s Ralph Tedesco as “Jacob’s Ladder meets Resident Evil,” the five issue miniseries promises to follow the Zenescope model of keeping the themes of a known story, while adding its own devious twists.

We spoke with Tedesco and Raven Gregory for more.

Newarama: So guys, can you tell us what the premise is of Grimm Fairy Tales: Dante's Inferno? Is it similar to the beginning of the Divine Comedy or does it just happen to share the name?

Raven Gregory: It's a much more modern take on the allegorical poem. There's a woman, an assassin, Mercy Dante, last seen in Grimm Fairy Tales #29, who shares a lot of qualities with the original Dante. This is a woman who commits an unforgivable crime that haunts her to this very day. Something so bad it is quite literally driving her insane and she's helpless to do anything to stop it until Sela offers her a chance at redemption.

NRAMA: Now how many issues will this consist of?

Ralph Tedesco: Well Grimm #41 is a prequel story to the "Dante's Inferno" mini-series. The mini-series will be five issues though.

NRAMA: Can you tell us something about the artists working this?

RG: We have a couple guys lined up. Some really incredible talent. One who has worked on Grimm Fairy Tales before and a brand new artist that I think people are really gonna dig. I don't want to say who yet until we get a couple issues under our belt but I think fans will be really pleased.

NRAMA: Would you consider this book more horror-oriented or action?

RT: It's part horror, part psychological thriller and definitely part action. It wraps all three into one which makes for a fun ride and something a little bit different too.

NRAMA: So would you guys say it's still in the style of the material Zenescope is known for or does it branch off a bit?

RT: Actually it's like taking the different styles we're already kind of known for and rolling them up into one.

RG: But there's definitely some new surreal styles we're working into this one. Some stuff readers won't see coming from a mile a way that we've never tried before. It's very exciting stuff that I think will have people talking for some time to come.

NRAMA: You guys over at Zenescope always seem to have some sort of horror influence in your works. Not that Hell isn't horrific enough, but is there any other source you tapped into for this arc?

RG: There's a truly disturbing sense of realism we're bringing into the mix with this tale. The idea that, sometimes, there's something that's looming just beneath the surface. Something that, if we're lucky, we never have to deal with. But that doesn't mean it's not there or that we don't breathe a sigh of relief that it happened to pass us by. But for Mercy, one wrong choice is all is takes to step out of the light and into the darkness.

RT: This series will have a little bit more action than our GRIMM fans are used to, that's one thing. We're definitely influenced by horror with the Grimm series but we also are always influenced by other genres as well and that's what we hope keeps our readers interested and on their toes.

Grimm Fairy Tales #41, the lead-in to Dante’s Inferno hits stands this August

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Legends of the Bat-Mite

Batman: The Brave and the Bold
"Legends of the Bat-Mite"

"Batman's rich history allows him to be interpreted in a multitude of ways. To be sure, this is a lighter incarnation, but it's certainly no less valid and true to the character's roots as the tortured avenger, crying out for mommy and daddy. And besides, those Easter bunnies looked really scary, right??" -- Bat-Mite

Of all the characters to give a speech like that, it had to be Bat-Mite? Wow. Funny, because this show has polarized fans and his speech really gives voice to what I've been thinking or feeling rather nicely. I mean, this episode WAS written by Paul Dini after all. Anyways. . . onto the recap and review.

At the start of the episode, we see Catman trying to auction off a rare tiger to poachers and. . . a chef. Batman shows up and puts an end to the animal cruelty and fights off the mob. Then Catman unleashes the tiger. Batman tries going up against the tiger, and he summons Ace the Bat-Hound for assistance! Ace shows up and takes out the tiger. Good boy, now that's one mighty mutt! Ace then hunts down Catman and actually chases him up a tree. Batman tells Catman that there will be a cage awaiting for him at Blackstone Prison and awards Ace with a bat-shaped dog snack. Now where can I get those for my dog?

After the title sequence, we see a bank robbery that is sort of unusual. We have the cliche hoodlums robbing a safe, but there is a narration running in the background telling the robbers what to do. The situation gets weirder when Batman shows up and then the two hoodlums turn into a multitude of hoodlums with machine guns... then THOSE become ninjas! That's right, ninjas. So, of course, Batman fights the gang of ninjas-- until he has had enough and Bat-Mite finally introduces himself. Batman tries to get away, but Mite keeps up via teleportation.

Batman swings down to the Batmobile, but Bat-Mite finds him there too. He explains that he is there to make sure Batman secures his legacy as the greatest hero of all time... but first, Mite thinks Batman needs a costume change. What follows are nods and fanfare that I absolutely loved. First, Mite transforms Batman into the vampire creature from Batman: Red Rain, then something that looks like Batman from another nation, then the Adam West costume (with Mite stating it's too campy, naturally), after that the infamous bat-nipple suit, the Bat-Zebra costume, and finally the Dark Knight Returns attire. Batman seizes Mite and tells him he doesn't fight crime for the glory, he does it because there are criminals that are too dangerous for the police to handle. Well, that gives Mite the idea to summon such a criminal: Gorilla Grodd... who then becomes Solomon Grundy! A few seconds later Grundy becomes the Shaggy Man, then finally Calendar Man.

The use of B and C-list villains is just awesome. The redesign for Calendar Man is not really to my liking, but it's so out there! Mite then transforms Calendar Man into the Calendar King! Now, the Calendar King has an even more ridiculous costume, but has some pretty impressive powers. He summons jack-o'-lantern monsters, biker Santas, and goon-like Uncle Sams. I'd never thought I'd ever see anything like this. Batman gets tossed around a bit, especially by the biker Santas, and then the King summons mutated Easter bunnies.

Wait... Easter bunnies? Yes, Easter bunnies.
Mite doesn't really know what to think of that, so he suddenly appears at some sort of 5th Dimension Comic Con with fans costumed as different versions of Batman. Bat-Mite even takes a question from a fan who complains about how Batman is best suited as the gritty, urban crime fighting detective and how Batman fighting Santas and Easter bunnies just isn't his Batman. Sound familiar to anyone? Mite delivers his speech (see above quote) and we even see a cameo of Paul Dini and Bruce Timm in the audience as Harley and Joker! Classic!

Batman continues to fight the rabbits until he takes down King. Then Batman tries to reason with Bat-Mite and to make him leave this dimension and go home. While Batman retreats back to the Batcave, he thinks he's outsmarted Bat-Mite and has sent him home. In actuality, Batman gets outsmarted. Bat-Mite feels insulted and sends Batman to an alien planet to face off with alien monsters. Classic 1950's stuff here, gang. Mite tells Batman that he is his new toy and will play with him until he breaks! So, Batman tangles with the alien beings but quickly figures out that Bat-Mite would never really hurt him and doesn't fight anymore. Batman suggested that Bat-Mite had the power to be Batman... so why shouldn't he be? Live the dream, Batman tells him. So now we have Batman narrating an adventure with Bat-Mite... as Batman. Yes, I realize this episode is VERY trippy. There is another nod to Batman: The Animated Series as the adventure begins. Batman has Bat-Mite go against Gorilla Grodd and Mite must outsmart him, which he does in an ironic way by using a banana peel. That was almost too easy, though.

So Mite falls through this black hole and is surrounded by Batman's classic villains. The Joker, Penguin, Two-Face, Mad Hatter, Mr. Zero (that was Mr. Freeze's first incarnation), Killer Moth, Riddler... you get the picture. The best part for me was that they were all in their Silver Age attire. I mean, Two-Face looked like he literally jumped from a Dick Sprang drawing. It's fantastic! Mite starts running from them, with Batman telling him to concentrate, but Mite's imagination has gotten out of control. There is some other pretty weird imagery here, like miniature Kite-Men diving off of Mad Hatter's head, Catwoman as the Sphinx -- just some vividly surreal stuff. Then, Polka Dot Man (yes, that IS a real villain) starts making portals that stop Bat-Mite in his tracks and out of them pop random villains. They eventually surround him again and Bat-Mite breaks down and asks Batman for his help.

Of course Batman takes the villains down one by one, and Bat-Mite finally gets a grip and uses his powers to wipe them all out, transporting him and Batman to a sort of limbo where Mite confesses he could never be the hero Batman is, but Batman insists he could still be a hero. Mite transports Batman back to the robbery from the beginning of the episode and easily takes down the unarmed hoods, going back to the Batcave where he explains to Ace his really weird day.

Cut to Copperhead robbing a jewelry store and being stopped by the Green Arrow, but all of a sudden we hear in a tiny voice "I'm your biggest fan," and sure enough, we have an. . . Arrow-Mite? The episode ends with Bat-Mite popping out of a drum a la Porky Pig: "That's all folks!" Really good stuff here. It's no secret I love this show, and this episode broke the fourth wall and then some talking to all the haters and naysayers of the show and it being "superhero stupid". Like I mentioned, the episode was written by Paul Dini and if he's okay with the show, where is there a problem? Paul Reubens nailed the voice of Bat-Mite perfectly and I loved the cameo by Ace. This has easily been my favorite episode of the show so far.